Category: Guest Post

The Queen Of Second Chances by D.M. Barr | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr Banner

The Queen of Second Chances

by D.M. Barr

July 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr
Carra’s memoir-writing class teaches seniors to resolve the regrets of their past. But to win over elder attorney Jay, will she follow her own advice?

Carraway (Carra) Quinn is a free-spirited English major confronting an unreceptive job market. Desperate for cash, she reluctantly agrees to her realtor stepmother’s marketing scheme: infiltrate a local senior center as a recreational aide, ingratiate herself with the members, and convince them to sell their homes.

Jay Prentiss is a straitlaced, overprotective elder attorney whose beloved but mentally fragile Nana attends that center.

More creative than mercenary, Carra convinces Jay to finance innovations to the Center’s antiquated programming. Her ingenuity injects new enthusiasm among the seniors, inspiring them to confront and reverse the regrets of their past. An unlikely romance develops.

But when Carra’s memoir-writing class prompts Jay’s Nana to skip town in search of a lost love, the two take off on a cross-country, soul-searching chase that will either deepen their relationship or tear them apart forever.

Reviews:

Charming, funny, and heartwarming, The Queen of Second Chances is not just a love story where two people discover each other, it is a story of self-discovery. Like all good romances, this one starts with the two main characters loathing each other before slowly realizing that they are perfect together. But before either Jay or Carra can come to that realization, they have to work through their personal shortcomings. Carra feels like a failure and is unable to get past her mother’s desertion of her as a child. Jay, while his helping people who desperately need rescuing demonstrates his fundamental goodness, puts a little too much emphasis on wealth and status. Helping a group of seniors find fulfillment is the catalyst that allows both the main characters to embrace changing their own lives and then ultimately embrace each other. A joy to read, The Queen of Second Chances is the perfect mood lifter in these stressful times.

– S. Lee Manning, author of the critically acclaimed thriller, Trojan Horse
FIVE STARS!

The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr is a beautifully written story of two lost souls brought together by fate. Carra was such a wonderful character, her warmth and kindness towards others were admirable. She also put others’ needs before her own safety and this was highlighted during the car scene outside the Garrison house. She was perfectly matched to Jay. Although he seemed to enjoy a materialistic lifestyle, I feel he had a really good heart and when he met Carra, he found the missing piece in his life. My absolute favorite character was Helen; she was extremely insightful and wise even though she was suffering from the onset of dementia. Her words of wisdom throughout were poignant and powerful, especially her views on looking back in life: “It’s more important to heed the present because that’s what it is, a gift. Nothing lasts long in this life, which is why every moment matters. You can’t take anything or anyone for granted.” I found the relationship between Jay and Carra developed gradually and the dialogue exchanges between them were very realistic. I loved the twist towards the end concerning Jay’s background and the nail-biting ending was brilliant. I feel there are so many underlying messages throughout too. For example, live for the moment, never be afraid to chase your dreams, and forgive yourself for mistakes you have made in your past. I highly recommend this novel.

– Lesley Jones, for Readers’ Favorite
FIVE STARS!

The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr is a lovely, deftly written romantic comedy that fans of the genre will love.

– Edith Wairimu for Readers’ Favorite

Book Details

Genre: Contemporary Sweet Romance, Romcom, Chicklit
Published by: Champagne Book Group
Publication Date: June 7th 2021
Number of Pages: 204
ISBN: 2940165375545 (ASIN B094GFWG3K)
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

I couldn’t take my eyes off the man. He came barreling into the recreational center at SALAD—Seniors Awaiting Lunch and Dinner, Rock Canyon’s answer to Meals on Wheels—as I sat in the outer office, awaiting my job interview. He was tall, but not too tall. His expensive suit barely concealed an athletic physique that fell just shy of a slavish devotion to muscle mass. Early thirties, I estimated, and monied. Honey-blond curly hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones, chiseled features, gold-rimmed glasses, and of course, dimples. Why did there always have to be dimples? They were my kryptonite, rendering me powerless to resist.

I nicknamed him Adonis, Donny for short, lest anyone accuse me of being pretentious. He was the stuff of every girl’s dreams, especially if that girl was as masochistic as yours truly. Men like that didn’t fall for ordinary girls like me, gals more Cocoa Puff than Coco Chanel, more likely to run their pantyhose than strut the runway. I leaned back on the leather couch, laid down my half-completed application, and prepared to enjoy the view. Then he opened his mouth, and the attraction withered like a popped balloon.

“I want to speak to Judith. Now. Is she here?” The sharpness of his voice put Ginsu knives to shame. It was jagged enough to slash open memories of my mother’s own barely contained temper when refereeing sibling disputes between Nikki and me. Well, at least until she prematurely retired her whistle and skipped town for good.

The attendant working the main desk looked fresh out of nursing school and had obviously missed the lecture on dealing with difficult clients. She sputtered, held up both hands in surrender, and retreated into the administration office, reemerging with an older woman whose guff-be-gone demeanor softened as she got closer. Her name tag read, “Judith Ferester,” the woman scheduled to conduct my interview. She took one look at Donny, sighed as if to say, Here we go again, and plastered on her requisite customer service smile.

“Mr. Prentiss, to what do we owe the honor of this visit?” she asked in a tone sweet enough to make my teeth hurt.

“Judith, I thought we had this discussion before. I trust you to take care of my nana, but day after day, I discover goings-on that are utterly unacceptable. Maybe we shouldn’t have added the senior center, just limited SALAD to meal delivery. Last week you served chips and a roll at lunch? That’s too many carbs. This week, I find someone is duping her out of her pocket change. No one is going to take advantage of her good nature, not under my watch.”

I half-expected him to spit on the ground. Was such venom contagious? I didn’t want my prospective employer in a foul mood when she reviewed my application. I really, really needed this job.

“Mr. Prentiss,” Judith answered, her patronizing smile frozen in place, “I assure you that your championing of our senior center was well founded. The reason your nana isn’t complaining is that she receives the utmost care. She is one of our dearest visitors. Everyone loves her.”

“Tell me then, what is this?” Donny—scratch that, Mr. Prentiss—drew a scrap of paper from his pocket and flung it onto the counter. I leaned forward to make out the object of his disdain. Then, thinking better of it, I relaxed and watched as this melodrama played itself out.

Judith glanced down at the paper. “This? It’s a scoresheet. They play gin for ten cents a hand. We monitor everything that goes on here; your grandmother is not being conned out of her life savings. You have my word.”

Prentiss shook his head so vigorously his gold-rimmed glasses worked their way down to the tip of his perfect nose. He pushed them back with obvious annoyance. Even when he was acting like a jerk, his dimples were captivating. Would they be even more alluring if he smiled? Did he smile…like, ever?

“It’s not the amount that worries me. It’s the act itself. Many seniors here are memory impaired. How can you condone gambling between people who aren’t coherent? Could you please keep a closer eye on things? Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll have to take my nana—and my support—to the center I’ve heard about across the river.”

Without waiting for Judith’s response, Prentiss departed as brusquely as he’d arrived. Ah, the entitlement of the rich. Walk over everyone, then storm off. He never even noticed my presence. Just as well, considering my purpose for being there. Even if I wasn’t sorry to see the back end of his temper, his rear end was pleasant enough to watch as he exited, I noted with a guilty shudder.

Judith shook her head, rolled her eyes, and let out a huff. Then she noticed me. “I’m so sorry you had to overhear that. I’m the director here. How can I help you?”

“I’m Carraway Quinn. Everyone calls me Carra. I have an appointment for the recreational aide position.”

Judith typed a few keystrokes into the main desk’s computer. “Ah yes, Ms. Quinn. Carraway, like the seed?”

“Something like that,” I said with a smile.

They always guessed, but no one got it right. Some man would, one day. That’s what my mother said a million years ago, when she still lived within earshot. One man would figure it out, and that’s how I’d know he was the one for me. Not that it mattered right now. I had bigger problems than finding a new boyfriend.

“Tell me, would I have to deal with people like that all day?” I tilted my head in the direction of Prentiss’s contrail.

“What can I say? He loves his nana.” Judith shrugged, staring at the door. “Though I’ve never seen him lash out like that before. He’s usually so calm.” She quickly shifted into public relations mode. “Jay Prentiss is one of our biggest contributors. It’s only because of his generosity that we have this senior center and can afford to hire a recreational aide.” She beckoned me into the inner office. “Shall we proceed?”

I followed, but I had my doubts. I belonged in the editorial office of a magazine or on a book tour for my perennially unfinished novel, not at a senior center. This job was my stepmother’s idea, not mine. Calling it an idea was being generous; it was more like a scheme, and the elderly deserved better than someone sent here to deceive them. I was the embodiment of what Jay Prentiss worried about most.

The interview lasted less than ten minutes, as if Judith was going through the formalities but had already decided to hire me. I was to start my orientation the following day. I shook her hand and thanked her, all the while wishing I were anywhere else.

Afterward, I wandered into the recreation area, where I’d be spending most of my time. The room was dingy, teeming with doleful seniors watching television, playing cards, or staring off into space. A few complained among themselves about a jigsaw puzzle they were unable to finish because the last pieces were missing. I wondered how many had lost their spouses and came to the center out of loneliness, their children too busy with their own lives to visit. It was a heartbreaking thought.

Jay Prentiss was complaining about carbs and gambling when he should have been concentrating on ennui. The seniors’ dismal expressions told me they were visiting SALAD more out of desperation than opportunity. It was clear they needed an injection of enthusiasm, not some aide looking to unsettle their lives. It came down to my conscience. Could it triumph against my stepmother’s directives and my plummeting bank account?

Excerpt from The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr. Copyright © 2021 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.

Guest Post

How do you keep your written world from encroaching on your life?

That is such a great question because I borrow from my life for my books, rarely the other way around.
For my first book, Expired Listings, it’s the story of a town where all the REALTORs are being murdered and no one really cares—the other realtors see it as less competition, the citizens see it as a public service. I was a REALTOR, so I knew exactly what people thought of us, and also where the bodies are buried, so to speak.

In Slashing Mona Lisa, the book is about fat shaming and body positivity and I’ve yoyoed with my weight all my life so writing that book was like slitting my wrists and letting the blood pour over the page. I was also a magazine writer at one point, as is the protagonist in the book, and I managed to give bit parts to all of my dueling piano playing friends.

In Saving Grace, it’s an allegory about a woman of a certain age who doesn’t feel listened to—again, me. And in The Queen of Second Chances, my latest, again, there is someone who works in real estate, and I did, in the past, volunteer at both Glengariff Nursing Home on Long Island, as well as Meals on Wheels.

My next book, Simple Tryst of Fate, the first of the Tryst series, is based on one of my press trips when I was a travel writer—my worst press trip, as a matter of fact, but I turned it into my best because I make an amazing love connection. If only it had been true!

As for the actual question, writing IS my life. When I’m not writing, I’m editing. When I’m not editing, I’m marketing, promoting, and selling my work. When I’m not doing that, I’m volunteering my time as the president of the Hudson Valley Romance Writers of America and also co-vice president of Sisters in Crime, New York/Tri-State. Occasionally, I say hi to my husband and two adult kids as we pass each other in the hall, but they’ve long given up on me. Since COVID, I’ve returned to competitive trivia and bore my teammates with my writing tales as well. My rescue Pitador Harley, half-Pit Bull and half-Lab—she is willing to listen to my endless querying, synopsis-writing, and editing struggles. For her, I am eternally grateful. 😊

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, as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings or offed anyone at my local diet clinic. And I haven’t run away from home in fear that my husband was planning to off me.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t wanted to…

Find Our Author Online:

DMBarr.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @DMBarr
Twitter – @AuthorDMBarr
Facebook – @AuthorDMBarr
Instagram – @AuthorDMBarr

Tour Host Participants:



Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for D.M. Barr. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs July 1, 2021 through August 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you for your interest in this tour!

Find Your Next Great Read at Providence Book Promotions!

Kill Shot by Blair Denholm | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

Kill Shot by Blair Denholm Banner

Kill Shot

by Blair Denholm

July 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Kill Shot by Blair Denholm

Violent crimes. Missing people. Dark secrets. Only one driven detective can unearth the truth.

Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon travelled halfway round the world to escape his troubled past. Mutilated bodies were never part of the plan.

A body found in the mangroves at first appears to be evidence of a frenzied crocodile attack. But it soon becomes obvious this is a horrific murder.

And when a popular MMA fighter disappears, police now face a possible double homicide. The list of suspects grows longer, but no one in the closed fighting community is talking.

Can hard-nosed ex-boxer Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon solve the mystery before the panicked town of Yorkville goes into total meltdown?

Join DS Lisbon and his partner Detective Claudia Taylor on a heart-thumping ride through the steamy tropics of Northern Australia as they hunt for a killer out of control.

Justice served with a side order of vengeance.

 

What readers are saying about Kill Shot:

“Head spinning twists and gritty crisp dialogue make Kill Shot a must read for the gruff mystery thriller crowd out there!”
– Goodreads reviewer

“I would overwhelmingly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime fiction, thriller, who-done-it or the like.”
– Booksprout reviewer

“Denholm is a masterful story teller with realistic facts and hardcore action scenes throughout! Readers looking for a real page-turner have found it here!”
– Goodreads reviewer

“The story is so well written and full of action, that it is impossible to put down.”
– Voracious Readers reviewer

“With the heat, crocodiles, press speculation, and lack of progress, the pressure is on for a fast resolution. A cracking police procedural and a highly enjoyable read. I look forward to the subsequent adventures of the promising crime fighting duo.”
– Booksprout reviewer

“There are some surprising twists and turns along the way, one which I couldn’t even imagine which made this read a sheer delight. I struggled to keep this book down. I look forward to reading more of Denholm’s work.”
– Goodreads reviewer

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: December 9th 2020
Number of Pages: 212
ISBN: 979-8733882802
Series: The Fighting Detective, Book 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from Kill Shot:

Chapter 1

The searing heat prickled, nipped and stung. Beads of moisture dribbled from his forehead, infiltrated clenched eyelids and lashes. Fluids in his aching body were heating up. Humidity crushed like a ton of lead. Take shallow breaths; stay still to keep the core temperature down.

Bright tropical sunlight bore through the window, combined with the ambient swelter to turn Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon’s bedroom into a torture chamber. Remember to close the venetian blinds next time, moron. And get the air conditioner serviced. Lying in bed now unbearable, he stood, wobbled a fraction. In his semi-delirium, he determined to take a cold shower before the Good Lord claimed him.

Lisbon tottered towards the bathroom. He rubbed his eyes softly as he went, wondered how red they’d be after last night’s binge. He’d stayed more or less sober for three years with the odd gentle tumble off the wagon. Last night’s call with his ex-wife had a bigger impact on him than he could have imagined. After he’d hung up the phone on Sarah, he cracked a bottle of Bundaberg Rum, intended as a gift for a colleague. He’d demolished half of it in an under an hour and headed off into the balmy night to continue the party.

At least that’s how he remembered it.

Bathroom reached, he turned the cold tap on full blast, splashed water on his face and neck, over his chest and under the armpits. The shock of the cold water took his breath away. He repeated the process two times. He must have looked like a tired elephant dousing itself.

Thoughts again turned to Sarah.

Why wouldn’t she let me speak to Skye?

His daughter was seven now, she needed contact with her father. Jack loved and missed her achingly. He’d turned his life around full circle. From alcoholic bent cop to paragon of virtue. Kept his ugly busted nose clean and earned rapid promotion, in a foreign country if you please.

What was the point of Sarah’s bloody-minded recalcitrance? She and the kid were a million miles away from him, far from his destructive influence, safely tucked away in their council flat in Peckham, South London. What harm would there have been in chatting with his daughter, for heaven’s sake? He was at his wit’s end with the situation and had no idea how to get Sarah to see reason. Constantly contacting her on the phone or Internet could be deemed stalking if she made a complaint. The last thing he needed was trouble with the job. It took four years to settle into life in Australia, now at last he was starting to feel at home. Don’t jeopardise it, Lisbon.

He pulled aside the mould-flecked plastic shower curtain, stepped over raised tiles into the small cubicle and reached for the cold tap. Relief would be like an orgasm.

Make that a delayed orgasm.

The mobile phone on his bedside table burst into life. The ring tone was The Clash’s driving punk anthem “London Calling”. A reminder of the life he left behind, his beloved job, a copper with the world famous London Metropolitan Police. He retraced his steps to the bedroom, snatched at the mobile. Sweat beaded on his brow like condensation on a bottle. ‘Yeah, wot?’

‘Is that how a senior officer with the Queensland Police answers the phone? How long have you been in Yorkville?’ Constable Ben Wilson’s poorly disguised voice was chirpy as ever. Jack usually appreciated the cheeky geniality, this morning it merely aggravated his hangover.

‘Long enough to know it’s you on the other end, Wilson.’ Jack scratched an armpit, scrabbled in his coat jacket for nicotine lozenges. He popped one into his dry mouth and started sucking like a hungry baby. Headed back to the cool refuge of the bathroom. ‘And watch the familiar tone, sunshine.’

‘Sorry, sir.’

‘Apology accepted. Bear with me one moment, will you?’

Headache worsening, Jack sat the phone down and spat the lozenge into a tissue. He fussed about in the bathroom drawers, flung little cardboard boxes, disposable razors and condoms about to reach their use-by date out of the way until he found what he needed. He picked up the phone, cradled it between neck and chin as he tore aspirin from its foil packaging, dropped two white disks into a glass of water.

‘Go ahead, Wilson. Why the hell are you disturbing me? I’m not rostered on until this afternoon.’

A cough on the other end of the line followed by a gulping sound. ‘Just so you know, sir, you’re on loud speaker. Detective Constable Taylor’s listening.’

‘Understood. Now answer my question. What’s going on?’

‘A car’s been found abandoned.’

‘Where?’

‘Connors Road, edge of the industrial estate near the mangroves. Five clicks heading west, just after the point where it turns into a gravel track.’

‘An abandoned vehicle heading bush is no reason to get excited. Probably joy riders got sick of it and dumped the car when it ran out of fuel.’

‘Not likely. The keys were left dangling from the ignition, engine running, radio on and no one within cooee. Also, what the caller thought might be blood stains on one of the seats. Suspicious as all get out.’

Jack took a deep breath, pinched the bridge of his nose. ‘Right. Anything else?’

‘No, sir. DC Taylor and I are en route to the scene. The tip off came via the hotline.’

‘Has forensics been despatched?’

‘No.’ It was the voice of Detective Constable Claudia Taylor, sultry to match the weather. ‘We haven’t established a crime’s been committed. Could be an innocent explanation for it.’

‘Then why does it take three of us to check it out? Two’s plenty for preliminary work.’

‘I’m bringing Wilson along for the experience. He’s been stuck on desk duty for weeks and things are a bit quiet in the old town. Besides, I think he could become a good detective later in his career.’

‘Should I care?’ A short uncomfortable silence after his sarcastic remark. Make amends, Lisbon. ‘Sorry, I’m not feeling a hundred percent today. It’s great the lad wants to better himself. Most laudable.’

There’d been no baffling crimes in Yorkville for a while. The chance to investigate something unusual could be an interesting diversion. Even with the annoying Constable Wilson tagging along. ‘I’ll get there as soon as I can.’

‘Better hurry,’ said Taylor above the soft crackle of the two-way. ‘There’s a thunderstorm forecast.’

‘If a cool change comes with it, I don’t care if it’s a bloody cyclone.’ The cruel weather in the far north enervated the body like nothing Jack had ever experienced. Three years pounding the pavement as a uniformed cop in sub-tropical Brisbane was bad enough. Then he got the promotion he’d worked like a dog for in the capital: plain clothes detective. Only trade off, it was up here in the sweltering furnace of hell. The humidity was a killer, but he was gradually acclimatising. At least the fishing was good.

‘You know how to get here, sir?’ said Wilson.

‘Ever hear of GPS?’

‘Of course. See you soon.’

The ritual morning home gym work out and run would have to wait. Lifting weights and punching the bag would have been painful anyway, so the early call out was an excuse to skip it, at least until the afternoon.

He guzzled a can of icy diet cola to accelerate the effect of the aspirin. On went a lightweight cotton suit. Locked doors. In the car. Gone.

‘Nice change you joining us in the pub last night, Jack. It was a huge surprise seeing you lumber through the door half an hour from closing.’ Lisbon’s partner DI Claudia Taylor, crossed the road with a carboard tray containing two cups.

It was a surprise to Jack too. He didn’t remember meeting colleagues at the pub. Fuck. ‘Ah, yeah…’

‘Don’t worry. You didn’t do anything you’d regret.’

Thank God. Reputation intact.

‘You don’t look anywhere near as jovial as you did last night.’ She handed Jack a coffee. ‘Get this into you.’

‘Are you kidding? It’s too hot for coffee.’ He grunted and waved it away.

‘Come on. Don’t be ungrateful. It’ll put a spring back in your step.’

Jack took a sip, spat it straight out. ‘Jesus, I understand you have to sweeten service station coffee to make it drinkable, but seriously, how much effing sugar did you put in it?’ He handed her back the cup. ‘I’d be a diabetic by the time I finished that.’ The only spring caffeine induced in Jack was the desire to spark up a match and light a cigarette. The lozenges he consumed and the patches he wore under the suit helped; no tobacco for three weeks. He sucked in his guts, patted firming stomach muscles under his shirt. Don’t go back to your bad habits, son.

‘Whatever.’ She frowned as she tossed the contents of the second cup on the grassy verge, replaced the empty cup in the tray. ‘Here, you can’t refuse these.’ She handed him a pair of sky-blue surgical gloves and donned a pair herself.

‘Who called it in?’ Jack tugged on the gloves, wiped sweat from his forehead with a shirt cuff.

‘A truckie heading north to fetch a load of bananas.’ Constable Ben Wilson appeared from behind the abandoned vehicle. ‘Called the info line.’

‘Did he leave his name?’

‘Yeah. Don Hawthorne. Gave us some basic info. Got his number if you want to follow up.’

Jack nodded, scuffed black leather shoes in the dirt. He looked up. Dark cumulonimbus clouds were gathering in the east, the promised storm was building nicely. They’d have to work the scene fast. ‘Probably won’t be needing him further. Let’s have a closer look at the vehicle. You,’ he pointed at Wilson. ‘Check the immediate area for anything odd.’

‘Such as?’

‘Use your initiative, Constable. You want to be a detective, don’t you?’

Wilson trudged off in a huff.

‘He’s keen,’ said Taylor. ‘Give him a chance.’

‘Whatever. He was rude to me on the phone this morning.’

‘I’m sure he didn’t mean it.’

The statement hung in the air without comment as Jack opened the driver side door of the late model maroon Mazda 6 sedan.

The first thing to catch his eye was a dark stain on the passenger seat. ‘What do you reckon?’ he called over his shoulder. ‘Blood?’

Taylor peered inside the car. ‘Could be. Want me to get forensics down here? The whole scene looks dodgy.’

Jack shook his head. ‘Spidey senses tingling, are they Taylor? No, I’d like to know who the owner is first before we run at this like a bull at a gate. Have you called in the registration and VIN number?’

‘Not yet.’ Jack sensed a trace of annoyance in her reply, but she could suck it up. ‘I was busy getting the coffee you didn’t want.’

‘Do it now.’ Jack had learned to give commands like they were polite requests. If you stick the Australian rising inflection on any statement you can turn it into a kind of question. ‘I’ll have a shoofty through the interior.’

‘Can you pull the lever so I can find the VIN, please?’ Taylor’s tone was now brusque and businesslike.

Jack’s answer was the sound of the bonnet popping.

‘Thanks.’ She said something else Jack didn’t catch. With her head under the hood, Taylor sounded like she was underwater.

The first thing Jack examined was the dashboard, littered with receipts, dockets and assorted papers. He pressed a button to open the glove box, more papers fluttered out like falling leaves. He scanned a few but nothing grabbed his attention. It’d take hours to go through them all thoroughly; he’d leave them to the forensics team if he and Taylor decided it was worth calling them in. What else? On the floor, take-away wrappers, most from a famous fried chicken outlet, grease-stained white paper bags you get hot chips in. Maybe the mark on the seat was old tomato ketchup?

‘Got the number, Jack.’ Taylor dropped the bonnet with a thunk, walked around to the wound-down driver window and peered in over the top of a pair of designer glasses. ‘Just calling in now with the rego and VIN.’

‘It’s a wonder the officer who took the call didn’t ask the truckie for the number plate. We could have had the details before we even got here. Might have even spared us a trip.’ And I’d be lying on the couch watching classic title fights on YouTube.

‘Apparently the truck driver was already back on the road when he rang it in.’ Taylor ran fine fingers through her hair. ‘Didn’t bother to take note of the plates. Said he didn’t have time to hang around ‘cos his boss was riding his arse about deadlines. He’d seen the driver door wide open and no one inside or near the vehicle, so he stopped to check no one was sick or whatever.’

‘Haven’t there been attacks on women in this area lately?’ Jack asked.

‘You’re right. Maybe the truckie knew that too and it spurred him to do his civic duty.’

‘Maybe.’ Jack looked up from the debris. ‘Or he was seeing if there was anything in the car worth stealing.’

‘You’re a bloody cynical bastard.’

‘I grew up in South London, luv. Shaped my outlook somewhat.’

‘I’ve got a little more faith in people. According to the call transcript, the guy discovered keys hanging from the ignition and the engine idling. Had a quick look about, saw nothing else suspicious and thought the driver had headed into the scrub to ah…, how can I put it, evacuate their bowels.’

A laugh escaped Jack’s lips. ‘For God’s sake, Claudia. Can’t you just say take a shit?’

Taylor mumbled something.

‘Pardon?’ A receipt lay among the junk food debris. Jack held it up and squinted to read the faded ink. A generic cash purchase, unknown vendor, not paid for by credit or debit card. Not helpful.

‘I said no need to be crude.’

‘You think that’s crude? You should hear me when I lose money on a boxing match. I lose my fucking rag.’ Jack wrinkled his nose as he came up for air. The floor of the car gave off a mouldy smell to match the rubbish.

She ignored his remark. ‘Anyway, once the truckie was on the road again, he had second thoughts, wondered if the stain on the seat might be blood, and called it in. Hang on, I’m about to get the name of the vehicle’s owner.’

‘I’ll keep digging in this mess.’ Jack knew from long experience nine times out of ten a car left on the side of the road wasn’t a big issue. Usually it’s been nicked and the thieves scarper when the petrol runs out or they get bored. A sticker gets slapped on the windscreen and the owners are notified to come and pick it up. After a specified amount of time if no one collects, it’s towed away, sold at auction if it’s in good condition or crushed at the wreckers if it’s unroadworthy. Something felt wrong about this car, though.

Jack grabbed the lever under the driver seat and tugged, slid the seat back and peered underneath. More rubbish. A rummage in the front and rear passenger seats and floor spaces rendered nothing but more detritus. He stepped out of the car, popped the boot. Inside, a broad blobby stain on a piece of old carpet that looked like a Rorschach test. Could be blood.

‘Got a name.’ Taylor ended the call. ‘Terrence Bartlett.’

‘Say again?’ Jack’s inner voice told him he’d heard that name before.

‘Bartlett. Terrence Brian Bartlett.’

Yes. Jack did remember the name.

***

Excerpt from Kill Shot by Blair Denholm. Copyright 2020 by Blair Denholm. Reproduced with permission from Blair Denholm. All rights reserved.

 

Guest Post

Five things you didn’t know about Jack Lisbon

1. Detective Jack Lisbon was a proficient middle-weight boxer as a teenager, advised by a number of top trainers to turn professional. After he suffered an amateur championship defeat to a much bigger and heavier opponent at the age of 17, Jack decided to hang up his gloves and join the police force, motivated by a desire to clamp down on corruption. He found out there was a lot of money wagered on the fight he lost and people benefitted financially at his expense. Jack bears a scar under his bottom lip from this bout. Jack entered the London Metropolitan Police force with a fierce determination to seek out and punish wrongdoers, especially those preying on weaker victims. Unfortunately, while working as a Detective Inspector in the Met, Jack succumbed to temptation himself, a decision that led him down a dark path.

2. Jack is allergic to onions. As a child he had an anaphylactic response to a meal at a barbecue which nearly killed him. He always has to mention his allergy when eating at restaurants etc. He hates this affliction because he loves the smell of onions cooking.

3. He took a course in Portuguese at night school but gave up when he found it too hard. Jack’s father was a Portuguese mechanic who migrated to Great Britain in the late 1960s (Jack’s surname is the Anglicized version of Lisboa, Portugal’s capital). He regrets this because he wants to understand more about his heritage and reconnect with his roots. His mother only spoke English at home and his father had little input in raising his son. Jack has visited the Algarve region in southern Portugal on summer holidays and has made a promise to himself to keep trying to learn the language.

4. Jack met his ex-wife, Sarah, in Jamaica during a cricket fans’ tour of the West Indies. In his late 20s at the time, he’d never had a serious girlfriend before and fell head over heels for the exotic Jamaican beauty. Sadly, the romance died after Sarah gave birth to their daughter, Skye.

5. He suffers a mild form of dyslexia. He’s embarrassed by it but has figured out ways to cover up. For this reason he often tasks his partner, Claudia Taylor, to do the research required to track down criminals while he conveniently finds something else to do.

Five things you didn’t know about Claudia Taylor

1. Claudia’s parents met at a Bachelor and Spinster Ball (known colloquially as a B&S Ball). These are traditional dances held in rural areas of Australia, infamous for wild drinking and all-night partying. She doesn’t like to talk about it because she was conceived the night her mother and father met.

2. Claudia has a Pastry Chef Diploma. Claudia worked in a number of restaurants in Northern Queensland before realizing she wanted to joint the police force. Her cousin Robyn, a detective in Brisbane, convinced Claudia to abandon her culinary career and become a cop. Claudia still practices her cooking skills at home, surprising her friends with cakes and pies.

3. Claudia has an abject fear of heights. One of her proudest achievements was abseiling down a cliff face near the Mossman Gorge. She screamed from start to finish, but demanded a second go, which she accomplished in silence.

4. She has a brother, Ian, who is a police officer in Auckland, New Zealand. Ian moved there after his wife got a job as an adviser to the Kiwi prime minister and he was able to join the local force. Unlike Claudia, Ian has a cushy desk job in administration and never faces danger.

5. Claudia was married for two years to a man named Rafael Taylor. One day, without warning, Raf announced he was gay and moved in with another man, Derrick. Claudia was grief-stricken for a week before joining an online dating site and relishing the single life. She’s not sure if she’s attracted to Jack Lisbon or not.

Author Bio:

Blair Denholm

BLAIR DENHOLM is an Australian fiction writer and translator who has lived and worked in New York, Moscow, Munich, Abu Dhabi and Australia. He once voted in a foreign election despite having no eligibility to do so, was almost lost at sea on a Russian fishing boat, and was detained by machine-gun toting soldiers in the Middle East. Denholm’s new series, The Fighting Detective, starring ex-boxer Jack Lisbon, is now up and flying with the first two installments, Kill Shot and Shot Clock. The series is set in tropical North Queensland, Australia, and features heavy doses of noir crime with a vigilante justice twist. Expect at least six novels with Detective Lisbon, his fellow cops and a host of intriguing characters.

Denholm’s debut crime novel, SOLD, is the first in a thrilling noir trilogy, featuring the detestable yet lovable one-man wrecking ball Gary Braswell. The second exciting book in the series, SOLD to the Devil, was released in June 2020. The final episode, Sold Dirt Cheap, will see the light of day in 2022.

Finally, Denholm is working on a crime series set in Moscow just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Captain Viktor Voloshin is a hard-boiled investigator who has to fight the establishment in order for justice to be served, in his own special way. The first in this series, Revolution Day, will be published in October 2021.

Blair currently resides in Hobart, Tasmania with his partner, Sandra, and two crazy canines, Max and Bruno.

Catch Up With Blair Denholm:
BlairDenholm.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @BlairDenholm
Instagram – @blairdenholm
Twitter – @blairdenholm
Facebook – @blairdenholm

 

 

 

 

 

Kill Shot Book Tour Participants:

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

 

 

Giveaway:

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

STATUS-6 by W. Craig Reed | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

Status-6 by W. Craig Reed Banner

STATUS-6

by W. Craig Reed

May 1 – 31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Status-6 by W. Craig Reed

Deep beneath the Arctic Ocean, a covert team of Chinese operatives uses stolen U.S. technology to capture Russia’s newest attack submarine. Loaded with 100-megaton nuclear torpedoes, the sub is headed west. The Americans want to sink her, the Russians want her back, and the Chinese claim they’re not responsible.

NCIS agent Jon Shay is a former SEAL Team Two operator. Still shattered by the murder of his wife a year earlier, he places the barrel of a revolver against his temple, spins the cylinder, and squeezes the trigger. He hears only a click—and the chime of his phone. Activated for a mission in the Arctic, Jon pairs with British scientist Kate Barrett to battle a ticking clock, trained operatives, and top government officials. Together, they must find and stop the world’s most lethal submarine. The stakes are raised when they learn that the Russian sub is controlled by an infected AI system bent on completing its mission to create a nuclear winter.

Praise for Status-6:

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 is my vote for Thriller of the Year. The protagonist is Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan meets Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.” — Grant Blackwood, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy’s “Under Fire

“W. Craig Reed’s latest novel, Status-6, is the best book I’ve read this year—a ripped-from-the-headlines military technothriller that literally left me awake at night, fearful of where we’re headed as a nation and a species. What’s next after the nightmare coronavirus pandemic? Don’t miss this first book in the NCIS Special Ops series that promises to shatter the thriller genre.” — James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Demon Crown (Sigma Force)”

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 grabs you from page one and doesn’t let you go. The global security crisis revealed in this book is all-too-real and could well be tomorrow’s headlines. The characters are well-nuanced and provide a powerful urge to root for or against them. Don’t read this thriller before going to bed—you’ll be awake all night!” — George Gladorisi, New York Times bestselling author of the Tom Clancy Op Center series

Status-6 Book Details:

Genre: Military Thriller
Published by: Post Hill Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 1682619354 (ISBN13: 9781682619353)
Series: Status-6 is the first book in the NCIS Special Ops Thriller series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt from Status-6:

With his legs sore and lungs burning from the cold, Jon arched his back and stretched when the group finally stopped marching thirty minutes later. To his right, about a quarter-mile distant, the bright blue stripes covering the mess tent signaled the location of the ICEX camp. Two holes, three feet in diameter, had been carved into the ice a few feet from where the group now stood. Jon surmised they were the spent practice torpedo holes drilled by Navy Divers. Liang and company must have parked the ASDS nearby and used the holes as infiltration points. Also, Liang must have had some inside help to deactivate the intruder detection system surrounding the holes. But who? Rinaldo? When would she have had access to that system? More unanswered questions.

Rinaldo approached and said, “Since you’re the former Navy SEAL, why don’t you help our female guest suit up?”

Jon crossed his arms. “This has gone far enough. Time for some answers, Rinaldo.”

Rinaldo pointed her M-16 at Kate’s head. “How’s this for an answer—she suits up or dies.”

Jon uncrossed his arms and fought to quell the ire-stoked coals in his chest. He turned toward Kate. “Are you a certified diver?”

Kate’s nose and cheeks were red. She shivered. “I hate water.”

“Drinking or swimming?” Jon said, hoping to diffuse Kate’s angst.

It didn’t work. Kate looked like a small child being forced to brave a dark alley. “I can’t do this.”

While donning a dry suit, Rinaldo cocked an ear. “What’s the problem?”

Kate stared at the hole in the ice. Frigid blue water lapped against the sides. She backed up and turned away.

“I think she has a water phobia,” Jon said.

“Get her over it,” Rinaldo said.

Jon bristled. The muscles in his face tightened. He grabbed Kate’s suit and brought it to her. Facing her back, he said, “Turn around.” Shaking, Kate remained facing away.

“Please, turn around.”

Kate turned.

“Good,” Jon said. “Now look at me.”

Kate’s eyes met his. Though full of fear, they were riveting, like a blue morning sky touching the edges of a Nebraska corn field. Jon felt his heart flutter. He tried to hold on to the feeling, but it refused to linger. A year had come and gone since he’d lost his wife, but the pain in his chest still held the high ground.

“I’m not setting a foot in that water,” Kate stammered. Her eyes burned with defiance.

“What about a toe?”

Kate crossed her arms and said nothing.

“Just put on the suit to keep the witch happy while I think of something,” Jon said.

“Something?”

“Yeah, something.”

“Like what, mate?”

Rinaldo called over from the other side of the ice hole. “Five minutes, Shay.”

Jon held up the suit. “Just put it on, please. I promise I’ll think of something.”

Kate rolled her eyes and held out her arms. “Fine, but you’d better not be lying to me.”

“Who’s your colleague?” Jon asked as he moved in close to help Kate don the dry suit.

“Bobby Ruppert. He’s a bit rough around the edges and goes into panic mode in stressful situations, but he’s a brilliant engineer.”

While Jon zipped up Kate’s dry suit, the scent of her perfume conjured a memory. He shivered.

“Now what?” Kate said. Her bottom lip quivered. Annelia had also done that when she was frightened.

Jon pulled on his suit. He stepped toward Kate and said, “Let’s just put on our SCUBA gear and then I’ll make my move.”

“Your move?” Kate shot back.

Jon said nothing as he helped Kate into a BC vest, saddled up her tank, and held a Kirby Morgan diving mask in her direction. “Put this on.”

Kate’s tone turned urgent as she grabbed the mask. “You said you’d think of something.”

“Just follow my lead.” Jon pulled on his tank and ran through a system check. The action felt like a visit from an old friend and reminded him of dozens of missions survived.

Kate shook her head in defiance as she sucked in a breath. The hiss of compressed air echoed off nearby shards of ice pushed skyward by Mother Nature.

One by one, Liang’s men entered the water. Jon watched Kate recoil with each splash.

Rinaldo approached. “Ready?”

Kate’s eyes widened. She held her palms up as if to say, “Something?”

Now fully suited, Jon led Kate toward the water. He had to drag her the last few feet. He turned toward her, lifted up his mask, and said, “I’ll hold your hand all the way. This will all be over in five minutes.”

Her eyes still wide, Kate tried to step backward but Jon held onto to her hands and gently kept her in place.

“Just follow me,” Jon said. “I’ve done this hundreds of times.”

Kate shook her head as she dug her heels into the ice.

Rinaldo slapped Jon’s back. The gesture did not feel friendly.

Jon slowly guided Kate toward the hole’s edge. She fought to pull away. He held on tight and looked into her eyes, assuring her in silence that she could do this. Tears streamed down Kate’s face and dripped onto the mask’s rubber lining. Her breathing was erratic. Jon’s heart ached with compassion and guilt. He felt like a jailor forcing an innocent victim into a torture chamber. The bitter taste of choler filled his mouth as he stole a glance at Rinaldo. The beast in his gut grumbled and demanded to be set loose. Jon closed his eyes and slowly breathed in and out to quell the angst.

He opened his eyes, lifted his mask again, and focused on Kate. Softening his voice, he said, “Close your eyes.”

Kate stared at him through her mask. Jon could tell she wanted to trust him, but fear remained her master. He had seen this kind of panic before on the faces of green wannabe SEALs learning how to dive the Navy way. None of them had ever made it through training. For sure, none of them would have survived a dive in Arctic waters.

“Close your eyes and trust me,” Jon said. “Don’t open them until we’re out of the water.”

Trembling, Kate closed her eyes. Jon pulled on her fins and helped her into a seated position with her legs dangling into the water. He did all this with slow movements so as not to make a splash. Rinaldo stood by and watched with impatient indifference. Jon slipped into the hole…

***

Excerpt from Status-6 by W. Craig Reed. Copyright 2021 by W. Craig Reed. Reproduced with permission from W. Craig Reed. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

W. Craig Reed

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction military and business books including Spies of the Deep: The Untold Story of the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War and the critically acclaimed Red November (HarperCollins). Also, The Seven Secrets of Neuron-Leadership (Wiley), an award-winning business book, and Tarzan, My Father (ECW) co-written with the late Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.

Reed served as a U.S. Navy submariner and diver during the Cold War and earned commendations for completing secret missions, some in concert with SEAL Team One. Reed’s military experience and inside contacts help infuse his writing with intrigue and realism, and inspired his next non-fiction book, Also, this novel: STATUS-6 about a former SEAL Team Two operator turned NCIS agent that teams with a British female scientist to stop a Russian submarine controlled by an infected artificial intelligence.

Reed holds an MBA in Marketing and was a former vice president and board director for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association. Reed is the co-founder of Us4Warriors, an award-winning Veterans Non-Profit and serves on the Board of Aretanium, a wellness firm that leverages the neuroscience he wrote about in his leadership book to provide personalized wellness and professional development programs to accelerate brains, careers, and relationships.

Guest Post

How is the Indonesian Submarine Tragedy
Similar to the Russian Kursk Incident?

As the author of Red November, Spies of the Deep, and other submarine / military books, and as a former U.S. Navy Diver and submariner, I have access to “inside information” about the lost Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala 402. The 1977-vintage German-built Cakra-class diesel (non-nuclear) submarine disappeared on Wednesday, April 21. It’s a smaller boat, only 195 feet long by 20 feet wide, with four diesel engines that recharge a bank of batteries to provide a few days of power while submerged. The sub then needs to come shallow to “snorkel” by running its engines to recharge batteries and ventilate the air.

The Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces reported that the Nanggala had gone missing in waters about fifty nautical miles north of Bali. The Indonesian navy verified that the sub requested permission to dive prior to test firing two Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) torpedoes. An hour later, the training task force commanding officer authorized the shots, and the ocean went silent while the Nanggala flooded its torpedo tubes. The Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Navy said the Nanggala fired both an unloaded practice and a live torpedo before contact was lost.

What might have happened to the Indonesian submarine that led to its demise? How is this incident similar to the loss of the Russia Kursk submarine in August 2000? The Indonesian navy relayed that the Nanggala may have had battery power issues after submerging in waters more than 2,000 feet deep, which exceeds the sub’s crush depth by 400 feet. Torpedo test firings can also be hazardous and led to the loss of the Russian submarine Kursk in August 2000.

The Nanggala had 53 people on board, including 49 crew members, three weapons specialists, and the sub’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Heri Oktavian. The commander of 2nd Fleet Command submarine unit was the highest-ranking naval officer aboard, who was accompanied by an officer from the Weapons Materials and Electronics Service. The latter was aboard to observe the test firings of the 1967-built AEG SUT 264 torpedoes, which are 21-inch heavyweight wire-guided weapons of German design.

On the 25 April, three separate parts of the Nanggala were found and the entire crew of 53 were confirmed dead.

Until the evidence can be examined, we can’t know why the submarine was lost, but there are similarities to the Argentinian ARA San Juan and Russian Kursk disasters. Older model diesel submarines are plagued by propulsion system malfunctions, such as battery shorts, fires, and explosions. Similar to the Kursk, the Nanggala was conducting torpedo firing exercises, so a weapons malfunction may be an even more plausible scenario.

On August 12, 2000, the bow compartment on the Russian Kursk submarine exploded, killing all but 23 survivors. The Russians claimed that during a test firing of an outdated Type 65 torpedo, an unstable propellant caused the initial explosion. They suggested that the torpedo was loaded into an unclean tube moments before the scheduled firing, and the irritants ignited the fuel. Any torpedoman, whether NATO or Russian, knows that torpedoes are loaded and ready in clean tubes hours before a test-firing. Also, two civilian experts from the Dagdizel military plant were in the torpedo room monitoring the exercise and would not have allowed an unstable weapon to be mishandled.

Several high-ranking officials aboard the Kursk and the target warship, the Peter the Great, observed the exercise. The two vessels were thirty miles apart. A Type 65 torpedo at top speed would have taken thirty minutes to reach the target and would have run out of fuel before arriving—an event not likely to attract an audience of senior military personnel. Recent evidence reveals that the Kursk was not test firing an old Type 65 weapon, but rather a newer top-secret Shkval rocket torpedo. To observe the exercise, the USS Toledo spy sub snuck in close. The tragic events that unfolded were covered up by Russian and NATO officials for almost twenty years.

Interviews with numerous experts and officials have verified that a Shkval became lodged in the tube during the firing exercise. After the firing mechanism was triggered, the Shkval was programmed to light off the rocket engine. Unable to leave the tube, the torpedo blew off the aft torpedo tube door, and two minutes later, the fire ignited the fuel in other torpedoes and caused the second, catastrophic explosion. Interviews with submariners aboard the Toledo also intimate that a scrape or near-collision with the Kursk may have inadvertently caused the Shkval to become lodged in the tube.

The secondary explosion disintegrated the forward sections of the Kursk, but the aft compartments remained intact. Twenty-three survivors awaited a rescue that never arrived. New evidence revealed by the dive teams involved in the rescue attempt show that the Russians, while using antiquated rescue vehicles, may have accidentally flooded the aft escape trunk on the Kursk, which led to the demise of the survivors.

If a practice torpedo became lodged in the tube of the Nanggala, or the weapon experienced a “hot run” where the propeller spun up before leaving the tube, or there was a malfunction with the tube or firing system, this could have resulted in serious flooding that sent the sub to the bottom. Regardless of the reason, the demise of any submarine is always catastrophic, and the loss of life is devastating to the families of the crew. For those of us in the submarine community, this tragedy ignites a host of nightmares, and our prayers go out to those who are suffering during this time of mourning.

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of the award-winning book RED NOVEMBER and SPIES OF THE DEEP: The Untold Truth About the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War. This book reveals shocking new evidence about what really happened to the Russian submarine Kursk, lost in August 2000, and why Presidents Putin and Clinton covered up the truth about the incident. Reed is a former U.S. Navy submariner and diver and co-founder of Us4Warriors.org, an award-winning veteran’s non-profit.

Catch Up With W. Craig Reed:
WCraigReed.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @wc14
Instagram: @wcraigreed
Twitter: @wcraigreed
Facebook: @wcraigreed

 

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

 

Enter the Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for William Craig Reed. There will be ONE (1) winner who will receive TWO (2) physical William Craig Reed books (including The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership AND Spies of the Deep). The giveaway begins May 1, 2021 and ends on June 1, 2021. This giveaway is available only for shipping addresses located in the US, UK, and Canada. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

DEATH IN TRANQUILITY by Sharon Linnéa | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

Death In Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa Banner

Death In Tranquility

by Sharon Linnéa

February 1-28, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Death In Tranquility by Sharon Linnea

No one talks to the cops. Everyone talks to the bartender. And Avalon Nash is one hell of a bartender.

Avalon is on the run from her life in Los Angeles. Having a drink while waiting to change trains in the former Olympic town of Tranquility, New York, she discovers the freshly murdered bartender at MacTavish’s. A bartender herself, she’s offered the position with the warning he wasn’t the first MacTavish’s bartender to meet a violent end.

Avalon’s superpower is collecting people’s stories, and she’s soon embroiled in the lives of artists, politicians, ghost hunters and descendants of Old Hollywood.

Can Avalon outrun the ghosts of her past, catch the ghosts of Tranquility’s past and outsmart a murderer?

The first book in the Bartender’s Guide to Murder series offers chills, laughs, and 30 of the best drink recipes ever imbibed.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Arundel Publishing
Publication Date: September 29th 2020
Number of Pages: 323
ISBN: 9781933608 (ISBN13: 9781933608150)
Series: Bartender’s Guide to Murder, 1 (Click here to check out other books in the series!)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Bookstore Plus | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Sharon Linnea

Sharon Linnéa wrote the bestselling Eden Series (Chasing Eden, Beyond Eden, Treasure of Eden and Plagues of Eden) with B.K. Sherer, as well as the standalone These Violent Delights, a movie murder series. She enjoyed working with Axel Avian on Colt Shore: Domino 29, a middle-grade spy thriller. She is also the author of Princess Ka’iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People about the last crown princess of Hawaii which won the prestigious Carter Woodson Award, and Raoul Wallenberg: the Man Who Stopped Death. She was a staff writer for five national magazines, a book editor at three publishers, and a celebrity ghost. She lives outside New York City with her family. In Orange County, she teaches The Book Inside You workshops with Thomas Mattingly.

Guest Post by Sharon Linnéa

10 Things the Reader Doesn’t (Yet) Know about Avalon Nash

+ Avalon’s favorite bird is the bluebird.

+ She’s a bartender but she actually doesn’t drink very much

+ She’s a natural public speaker, perhaps because she doesn’t care about it so it doesn’t make her nervous. Could also be because her mom is an actor/comedian and her dad is a preacher

+ Her dad used to read her before bed before he left. She has a memory of only one book but she sometimes recites it to herself.

+ Her favorite song with her dad was You Are My Sunshine. They shortened the sentiment to its initials–“YAMS”—and they used that as a greeting.

+ She now hates her father and misses him very much.

+ If she could be an animal, she’d choose to be a dolphin because they’re brilliant and they can “fly swim” or an otter because otters love to play and to annoy beavers who are type A workers

+ Her friend Often wrote a song about her before he died. Often’s stepbrother, who is in a famous band, recorded it and it became the band’s biggest hit. Neither the stepbrother nor Avalon knows the song is about her.

+ She has synesthesia and sees numbers and some words as having specific colors.

+ She loves fishing but hates catching fish.

Catch Up With Sharon On:
www.SharonLinnea.com
BartendersGuidetoMurder.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Death in the Afternoon

“Whenever you see the bartender, I’d like another drink,” I said, lifting my empty martini glass and tipping it to Marta, the waitress with teal hair.

“Everyone wants another drink,” she said, “but Joseph’s missing. I can’t find him. Anywhere.”

“How long has he been gone?” I asked.

“About ten minutes. It’s not like him. Joseph would never just go off without telling me.”

That’s when I should have done it. I should have put down forty bucks to cover my drink and my meal and left that magical, moody, dark-wood paneled Scottish bar and sauntered back across the street to the train station to continue on my way.

If I had, everything would be different.

Instead I nodded, grateful for a reason to stand up. A glance at my watch told me over half an hour remained until my connecting train chugged in across the street. I could do Marta a solid by finding the bartender and telling him drink orders were stacking up.

Travelling from Los Angeles to New York City by rail, I had taken the northern route, which required me to change trains in the storied village of Tranquility, New York. Once detrained, the posted schedule had informed me should I decide to bolt and head north for Montreal, I could leave within the hour. The train heading south for New York City, however, would not be along until 4 p.m.

Sometimes in life you think it’s about where you’re going, but it turns out to be about where you change trains.

It was an April afternoon; the colors on the trees and bushes were still painting from the watery palate of spring. Here and there, forsythia unfurled in insistent bursts of golden glory.

I needed a drink.

Tranquility has been famous for a long time. Best known for hosting the Winter Olympics back in 19-whatever, it was an eclectic blend of small village, arts community, ski mecca, gigantic hotels and Olympic facilities. Certainly there was somewhere a person could get lunch.

Perched on a hill across the street from the station sat a shiny, modern hotel of the upscale chain variety. Just down the road, father south, was a large, meandering, one-of-a-kind establishment called MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage. It looked nothing like a cottage, and, as we were inland, there were no seas. I doubted the existence of a MacTavish.

I headed over at once.

The place evoked a lost inn in Brigadoon. A square main building of a single story sent wings jutting off at various angles into the rolling hills beyond. Floor-to-ceiling windows made the lobby bright and airy. A full suit of armor stood guard over the check-in counter, while a sculpture of two downhill skiers whooshed under a skylight in the middle of the room.

Behind the statue was the Breezy, a sleek restaurant overlooking Lake Serenity (Lake Tranquility was in the next town over, go figure). The restaurant’s outdoor deck was packed with tourists on this balmy day, eating and holding tight to their napkins, lest they be lost to the murky depths.

Off to the right—huddled in the vast common area’s only dark corner—was a small door with a carved, hand-painted wooden sign which featured a large seagoing vessel plowing through tumultuous waves. That Ship Has Sailed, it read. A tavern name if I ever heard one.

Beyond the heavy door, down a short dark-wood hallway, in a tall room lined with chestnut paneling, I paused to let my eyes adjust to the change in light, atmosphere, and, possibly, century.

The bar was at a right angle as you entered, running the length of the wall. It was hand-carved and matched the back bar, which held 200 bottles, easily.

A bartender’s dream, or her undoing.

Two of the booths against the far wall were occupied, as were two of the center tables.

I sat at the bar.

Only one other person claimed a seat there during this low time between meal services. He was a tall gentleman with a square face, weathered skin, and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. I felt his cold stare as I perused the menu trying to keep to myself. I finally gave up and stared back.

“Flying Crow,” he said. “Mohawk Clan.”

“Avalon,” I said. “Train changer.”

I went back to my menu, surprised to find oysters were a featured dish.

“Avalon?” he finally said. “That’s—”

“An odd name,” I answered. “I know. Flying Crow? You’re in a Scottish pub.”

“Ask him what Oswego means.” This was from the bartender, a lanky man with salt-and-pepper hair. “Oh, but place your order first.”

“Are the oysters good?” I asked.

“Oddly, yes. One of the best things on the menu. Us being seaside, and all.”

“All right, then. Oysters it is. And a really dry vodka martini, olives.”

“Pimento, jalapeño, or bleu cheese?”

“Ooh, bleu cheese, please.” I turned to Flying Crow. “So what does Oswego mean?”

“It means, ‘Nothing Here, Give It to the Crazy White Folks.’ Owego, on the other hand means, ‘Nothing Here Either.’”

“How about Otego? And Otsego and Otisco?”

His eyebrow raised. He was impressed by my knowledge of obscure town names in New York State. “They all mean, ‘We’re Just Messing with You Now.’”

“Hey,” I said, raising my newly delivered martini. “Thanks for coming clean.”

He raised his own glass of firewater in return.

“Coming clean?” asked the bartender, and he chuckled, then dropped his voice. “If he’s coming clean, his name is Lesley.”

“And you are?” I asked. He wasn’t wearing a name tag.

“Joseph.”

“Skål,” I said, raising my glass. “Glad I found That Ship Has Sailed.”

“That’s too much of a mouthful,” he said, flipping over the menu. “Everyone calls it the Battened Hatch.”

“But the Battened Hatch isn’t shorter. Still four syllables.”

“Troublemaker,” muttered Lesley good-naturedly. “I warned you.”

“Fewer words,” said Joseph with a smile that included crinkles by his eyes. “Fewer capital letters over which to trip.”

As he spoke, the leaded door banged open and two men in chinos and shirtsleeves arrived, talking loudly to each other. The door swung again, just behind them, admitting a stream of ten more folks—both women and men, all clad in business casual. Some were more casual than others. One man with silvering hair actually wore a suit and tie; another, a white artist’s shirt, his blonde hair shoulder-length. The women’s garments, too, ran the gamut from tailored to flowing. One, of medium height, even wore a white blouse, navy blue skirt and jacket, finished with hose and pumps. And a priest’s collar.

“Conventioneers?” I asked Joseph. Even as I asked, I knew it didn’t make sense. No specific corporate culture was in evidence.

He laughed. “Nah. Conference people eat at the Blowy. Er, Breezy. Tranquility’s Chamber of Commerce meeting just let out.” His grey eyes danced. “They can never agree on anything, but their entertainment quotient is fairly high. And they drive each other to drink.”

Flying Crow Lesley shook his head.

Most of the new arrivals found tables in the center of the room. Seven of them scooted smaller tables together, others continued their conversations or arguments in pairs.

“Marta!” Joseph called, leaning through a door in the back wall beside the bar.

The curvy girl with the teal hair, nose and eyebrow rings and mega eye shadow clumped through. Her eyes widened when she saw the influx of patrons.

Joseph slid the grilled oysters with fennel butter in front of me. “Want anything else before the rush?” He indicated the well-stocked back bar.

“I’d better hold off. Just in case there’s a disaster and I end up having to drive the train.”

He nodded knowingly. “Good luck with that.”

I took out my phone, then re-pocketed it. I wanted a few more uncomplicated hours before re-entering the real world. Turning to my right, I found that Flying Crow had vanished. In his stead, several barstools down, sat a Scotsman in full regalia: kilt, Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and a fly plaid. It was predominantly red with blue stripes.

Wow. Mohawk clan members, Scotsmen, and women priests in pantyhose. This was quite a town.

Joseph was looking at an order screen, and five drinks in different glasses were already lined up ready for Marta to deliver.

My phone buzzed. I checked caller i.d. Fought with myself. Answered.

Was grabbed by tentacles of the past.

When I looked up, filled with emotions I didn’t care to have, I decided I did need another drink; forget driving the train.

The line of waiting drink glasses was gone, as were Marta and Joseph.

I checked the time. I’d been in Underland for fifteen minutes, twenty at the most. It was just past three. I had maybe forty-five minutes before I should move on.

That was when Marta swung through the kitchen door, her head down to stave off the multiple calls from the center tables. She stood in front of me, punching information into the point of sale station, employing the NECTM—No Eye Contact Tactical Maneuver.

That’s when she told me Joseph was missing.

“Could he be in the restroom?”

“I asked Arthur when he came out, but he said there was nobody else.”

I nodded at Marta and started by going out through the front hall, to see if perhaps he’d met someone in the lobby. As I did a lap, I overheard a man at check-in ask, “Is it true the inn is haunted?”

“Do you want it to be?” asked the clerk, nonplussed.

But no sign of the bartender.

I swung back through into the woodsy-smelling darkness of the Battened Hatch, shook my head at the troubled waitress, then walked to the circular window in the door. The industrial kitchen was white and well-lit, and as large as it was, I could see straight through the shared kitchen to the Breezy. No sign of Joseph. I turned my attention back to the bar.

Beyond the bar, there was a hallway to the restrooms, and another wooden door that led outside. I looked back at Marta and nodded to the door.

“It doesn’t go anywhere,” she said. “It’s only a little smoker’s deck.”

I wondered if Joseph smoked, tobacco or otherwise. Certainly the arrival of most of a Chamber of Commerce would suggest it to me. I pushed on the wooden door. It seemed locked. I gave it one more try, and, though it didn’t open, it did budge a little bit.

This time I went at it with my full shoulder. There was a thud, and it wedged open enough that I could slip through.

It could hardly be called a deck. You couldn’t put a table—or even a lounge chair—out there.

Especially with the body taking up so much of the space.

It was Joseph. I knelt quickly and felt for a pulse at his neck, but it was clear he was inanimate. He was sitting up, although my pushing the door open had made him lean at an angle. I couldn’t tell if the look on his face was one of pain or surprise. There was some vomit beside him on the deck, and a rivulet down his chin. I felt embarrassed to be seeing him this way.

Crap. He was always nice to me. Well, during the half an hour I’d known him, he had been nice to me.

What was it with me discovering corpses? It was certainly a habit of which I had to break myself.

Meanwhile, what to do? Should I call in the priest? But she was within a group, and it would certainly start a panic. Call 911?

Yes, that would be good. That way they could decide to call the hospital or the police or both.

My phone was back in my purse.

And, you know what? I didn’t want the call to come from me. I was just passing through.

I pulled the door back open and walked to Marta behind the bar. “Call 911,” I said softly. “I found Joseph.”

It took the ambulance and the police five minutes to arrive. The paramedics went through first, then brought a gurney around outside so as to not freak out everyone in the hotel. They loaded Joseph on and sped off, in case there was anything to be done.

I knew there wasn’t.

The police, on the other hand, worked at securing the place which might become a crime scene. They blocked all the doorways and announced no one could leave.

I was still behind the bar with Marta. She was shaking.

“Give me another Scotch,” said the Scotsman seated there.

I looked at the bottles and was pleasantly surprised by the selection. “I think this calls for Black Maple Hill,” I said, only mildly surprised at my reflexive tendency to upsell. The Hill was a rich pour but not the absolute priciest.

He nodded. I poured.

I’m not sure if it was Marta’s tears, or the fact we weren’t allowed to leave, but local bigwigs had realized something was amiss.

“Excuse me,” the man in the suit came to the bar. “Someone said Joseph is dead.”

“Yes,” I said. “He does seem to be.”

Marta swung out of the kitchen, her eyeliner half down her face. “Art, these are your oysters,” she said to the man. He took them.

“So,” he continued, and I wondered what meaningful words he’d have to utter. “You’re pouring drinks?”

It took only a moment to realize that, were I the owner of this establishment, I’d find this a great opportunity.

“Seems so,” I said.

“What goes with oysters?” he asked.

That was a no-brainer. I’d spied the green bottle of absinthe while having my own meal. I poured about three tablespoons into the glass. I then opened a bottle of Prosecco, poured it, and waited for the milky cloud to form.

He took a sip, looked at me, and raised the glass. “If I want another of these, what do I ask for?”

As he asked, I realized I’d dispensed one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite libations. “Death in the Afternoon,” I replied.

He nodded and went back to his table.

It was then I realized I wasn’t going to make my train.

* *

Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon

Ingredients

• 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) absinthe
• ½ to ¾ cup (4 to 6 ounces) cold Champagne or sparkling wine

Method

Hemmingway’s advice, circa 1935: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

Chapter 2

No Known Address

Since I found the body, I got to talk to the lead investigator.

He was in his mid-thirties, just under six feet, walnut skin, black hair cut short. He would have benefitted from a beard. He looked ripped; the king of ripped you got from taking out your frustrations in the gym. His demeanor was no-nonsense.

“Investigator Spaulding,” he said, and he pulled out a notebook. “State Police.”

“State Police? Isn’t that the same as State Troopers? Don’t you manage highways?”

He stopped writing in his small, leather-covered notebook and looked up.

“Common misconception. The local P.D. is small—only 9 on staff. When something big happens, they ask for assistance.”

“They ask?”

“It’s a dance.”

I wasn’t a suspect (yet), so he didn’t need to write down my stats, but I could read upside down as he made notes. He asked my name, and began guessing at the rest. Nash, Avalon. Female. Caucasian. Blonde hair. 5’7 was his guess at my height. The next thing he wrote down could go seriously south, so I said, “healthy weight.”

He looked up.

“5’7” and at a healthy weight,” I supplied. “If I’m charged with something, we’ll get more specific.”

“Age?”

Did he really need to know all of this? “Twenties,” I said, waiting to see if he’d have the gall to object. He didn’t.

“Best way to reach you?”

I gave him my cell number.

“Permanent address?”

“I don’t have one.”

He looked up.

“I’m in the process of moving from California to New York. I’m only in town to change trains. I don’t have a New York address yet.”

“A relative’s address?”

I held up my phone. “This is your golden ticket,” I said. “If you want to reach me, this is it.”

I saw him write ‘no known address.’ Yep, that pretty much summed it up. I glanced at my watch. Seven minutes until my train pulled into—and, soon after, departed from—the station.

“Um, Detective,” I started.

“Investigator Spaulding,” he corrected.

“Investigator Spaulding, my train is about to arrive. I don’t know anything except what I’ve told you. I came in for a drink and helped Marta find the bartender, whom I hope died of a massive heart attack—well, of natural causes. You know what I mean.”

At that point, his phone buzzed and he gave me a just-a-minute finger. He answered, listened for a while, and started to write. Then he hung up, flipped his notebook shut and said, “I can’t let you leave. He was murdered.”

“Great,” I said, the tone somewhere between rueful and intrigued, as I headed back toward Marta, then I turned back toward Investigator Spaulding. “Can I continue to pour drinks?”

He considered less than a moment. “By all means, serve truth serum to anyone who will imbibe.”

Then he turned and walked toward the other officers.

I went to stand with Marta behind the bar. In my imagination, I heard the train chug in across the street.

Investigator Spaulding cleared his throat, and the room went silent. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This is now a homicide investigation.” He had to pause as everyone shuffled or gasped, or cried out. “Please do not leave until we have taken your statement.”

A woman in her fifties came and sat down in front of me at the bar. Her hair was in a no-fuss bob, she wore a free-flowing skirt with a linen jacket, both of which were in style twenty years ago, but they worked on her. “Got anything stronger than those Death things?” she asked. “I’m not big on Champagne.”

“Sure.” I said. I sized her up. “Layers in a martini glass work for you?”

“Honey, it’s the strength, not the glass.” She looked shaken and sad. I went for the rums and found Malibu Black, the stronger brother of the original. What a bartender Joseph must have been! I decided to try something new. Malibu Black, mango pineapple vodka, and pineapple juice. I mixed it over ice, shook, and poured. I sank some Chambord and topped it with Jägermeister Spice.

“See if this does it,” I said.

Her hand shook slightly as she held up the glass, appreciated the layers, and then took a sip. The jury was out. She took another. She nodded and smiled.

It occurred to me that everyone in the room knew Joseph. They’d lost one of their own.

Another woman in skinny white pants and a white shell with a fancy pink sports jacket came and sat next to her. They were about the same age, if I had to guess, but the new woman was thin as a rail, muscular, and with her blonde hair in a ponytail. I was guessing she colored her hair not from a darker shade, but to cover the white. The two women embraced. “Suzanne,” said the new arrival.

“Gillian,” said no-fuss-bob Suzanne. Then, “Can’t believe it.”

“I can’t, either,” replied hard-bodied Gillian. She had the remains of an Eastern European accent. They sat a respectful moment. “What are you drinking?”

Suzanne looked at me. “No Known Address,” I said.

“Okay,” Gillian said. “I’ll have one.” She then turned and I was dismissed to my task.

“I can’t believe it. One of the only straight, available guys between forty and crotchety, and he’s gone!” said Suzanne.

“There’s Mike,” Gillian said, tilting her head toward the state police investigator. “And I’m not sure Joseph was available.”

“First, really? Maybe if he worked out. Second, you or I crook our little fingers and get a guy away from Sophie.” They both looked back, shooting daggers toward one of the three women in the center wall booth. I knew which must be Sophie, as one of them was crying copiously while the other two petted her solicitously.

“And do we have a suspect?” asked pink jacket Gillian.

This time, they looked at a younger woman who sat at a table with two newly arrived Chamber men. She was gorgeous—skin the color of chai latte and hair as dark as a sky at new moon. She was staring off into space.

I almost said, “You know I can hear you.” But maids, taxi drivers, and bartenders… well, we’re invisible, which is partly how we get the good gossip.

They stopped talking abruptly as two men approached. “Can we get some food?” asked the first. He was in a polo and navy blue slacks.

I heard snuffling and saw that Marta was in the shadows, leaning back against the wall. “Hey,” I said, “would you ask the chef if we can continue to order food?”

She nodded and swung through the kitchen door.

Arthur, the man in the suit who had ordered earlier, accompanied the newcomer in the polo. Arthur addressed his companion in an audible hiss. “I’m telling you… we can’t let word of this get out. Tranquility has to be considered a safe haven. For everyone. For…the festival folks. It’s part of what lures them here. Change of pace.”

“How do we not let the word get out? It’s a matter of record! And everyone in town knows about it—or will, within minutes.”

From the furious pace of thumbs texting throughout the room, it was clear he was correct.

“I mean, don’t print this as front-page news.”

“It is front page news, Art. And, the film festival folks are already committed. They’ve submitted their films. They’ll come.”

Marta returned with a positive nod. I slapped down two menus. “Marta will be out to take your order,” I said. As they turned, I added. “And if it’s a film festival, you don’t need to worry. Film people eat news like this for breakfast.”

Arthur looked at me in surprise, but gave a raised-eyebrows look that inferred I could have a point.

They left with the menus and I turned back to Marta, trying to help get her mind on something other than her boss’s death. “Can you help me add these drinks to people’s tabs?” I nodded toward the POS.

For the record, I hate point of sale machines. Each one hates humans in its own unique way. I pointed at people and she pulled up their tabs and showed me how to input the drinks I’d served.

I only had the Scotsman’s tab left undone when the man in the artist’s shirt stopped right before me. He was likely late 40s and had a face that was long but not unattractive. His shoulders were unusually broad, and he exuded self-confidence and a self-trained impishness. His shirt had one too many buttons left undone.

“Okay,” he said, “I wasn’t going to drink, but Joe…”

“You weren’t going to drink because it’s late afternoon, or because you’ve been sober for seven months?” I had no interest in tipping someone off the wagon.

He laughed. “I haven’t been drinking because this isn’t my favorite crowd,” he said. “And I don’t usually drink. But murder seems an excuse, if there ever was one.” He extended his hand. “Michael Michel,” he said, and smiled, waggling his eyebrows as if this should mean something to me.

I took his hand and shook. It was apparent I didn’t recognize him.

“The Painter Who Brings You Home,” he said, and the trademark practically bled from the words.

“Right,” I said, trying to sound impressed. “Nice to meet you. I’m Avalon. What’ll ya have?”

“Vodka tonic lime.”

“Care which vodka?”

He shook his head while saying, “Whatever you’ve got. Grey Goose.”

Ah, a fellow who pretended not to drink, who knew exactly what he wanted.

I poured and went for the garnish tray. The limes were gone. I looked at the back bar and found lemons and oranges. No limes, though clearly there had been some. I walked along the front bar and found, below patron eye level, a small cutting board with a lime on it. The lime was half-cut, some of them in rounds, a few in quarters. Some juice was dripping down onto the floor.

I reached for a wedge, and then I stopped short.

Joseph never would have left this on purpose. It was obviously what he’d been doing when he was interrupted by death—or someone who led him to his death. Or by symptoms that eventually spelled death.

I leaned down and sniffed.

It was lime-y. But there was something else, also.

I backed away. I walked over to Marta and said, quietly, “Don’t let anyone near that end of the bar.”

Then I walked over to Investigator Spaulding, where he sat at a booth interviewing someone. “Investigator?” I said. “Sorry to interrupt, but this is important.”

He looked at me, squinting, then seemed surprised, since I’d made such a point of being Ms. Just-Passing-Through.

He stood up and stepped away from the booth.

“I believe I’ve found the murder weapon,” I said.

As we walked together, I realized that the door to the smoker’s porch sat open. It was crawling with half a dozen or so more crime scene people.

Together we walked to the limes. I said, “Don’t touch them. If this is what Joseph was doing when he died, if they are poisoned, my guess is that the poison can be absorbed through the skin.”

Investigator Spaulding looked at me like, Of course I knew that, but he stepped back. As another officer and two crime scene investigators came over, I backed away, removing myself as far as possible from the action.

I returned to the Artist Shirt. “I think today we’re going with a lemon and a cherry,” I said. I smelled them before putting them in the drink.

It struck me then that perhaps Joseph hadn’t been the intended target. Maybe there was someone who consistently ordered a drink garnished with lime, and the murderer had injected the poison into the lime, not realizing it could be absorbed as well as ingested.

Like, for instance, the man before me, Mr. Vodka Tonic Lime.

Still, this was a pretty non-specific way of poison delivery. The limes could have been served to half a dozen people before anyone realized they were toxic. Who would do something like that?

The police were letting people go once they had been interviewed. I asked Investigator Spaulding if I could go. He nodded, adding, “Please stay in town until tomorrow morning, in case we have any further questions.”

As if I had a choice. All the trains had gone, except the 11 p.m. to Montreal.

The bar had been sealed off with crime-scene tape, a welcome relief as I didn’t relish closing a dead man’s station on the night of his murder. Why would I even think that? I didn’t work here. But my need to leave a bar in pristine condition ran down to bone and marrow.

As I headed for my bag, which I’d left on my original stool, I saw I wouldn’t even be allowed to access the POS machine.

The only patron whose drink I hadn’t input was the man in the kilt. I looked around the emptying room to find he’d moved to a pub table over to the side. “Sorry, sir,” I said. “I wasn’t able to enter your drinks into the machine. I guess you’re on the honor system to pay up another day.”

He gave a small smile. “Lass,” he said, “I’m Glenn MacTavish. Owner of this place. Seems I’m out a bartender and will be needing another. You have any interest?” he asked.

I stopped and stared. “There’s really a MacTavish?” I asked.

“Aye, and you’re looking at him.”

“But… you don’t know anything about me.”

“You keep a clear head and you know what you’re doin’. That’s all I really need to know. Besides, you don’t know anything about me, either.”

“I, well—thank you for the offer. It’s a beautiful bar. Can I think on it overnight? I’ve been told not to leave town.”

“Aye,” he said. “You can tell me in the mornin’ if you might be stayin.’ And while you’re decidin’, I could pay you for your services tonight with a room here at the hotel.”

That seemed fair. The Hotel Tonight app was offering me a room at a local chain. Staying at MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage for free seemed infinitely more attractive. “All right,” I said. “I should probably let you know they’re expecting me in New York City.”

“All right,” he said. “I should probably let you know Joseph isn’t the first bartender to work here who’s been murdered.”

* *

No Known Address

Ingredients

• ½ oz. Malibu black
• 2 dashes Chambord
• ½ oz. mango pineapple vodka
• 2 dashes Jägermeister Spice
• 1 oz. pineapple juice

Method

Shake pineapple vodka, Malibu Black and pineapple juice over ice and strain evenly into martini glasses.

Sink a dash of Chambord into each flute by running it down the side of the glass.

Layer a dash of Jägermeister Spice in each glass.

***

Excerpt from Death in Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa. Copyright 2020 by Sharon Linnéa. Reproduced with permission from Sharon Linnéa. 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 Sharon Linnéa. There will be SIX (6) winners: ONE (1) winner will receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and FIVE (5) winners will each receive one (1) copy of Death In Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa (These five (5) winners will have their choice of eBook or Print edition however print editions will only be shipped to U.S. addresses). The giveaway begins on February 1, 2021 and runs through March 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

TWO MURDERS TOO MANY by Bluette Matthey | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

Two Murders Too Many by Bluette Matthey Banner

 

 

Two Murders Too Many

by Bluette Matthey

December 1-31, 2020 Tour

Synopsis:

Two Murders Too Many by Bluette Matthey

Barn burning in a sleepy farming community is a serious enough matter, but a grisly murder or two in a small midwest town is a showstopper. Throw in a serial blackmailer who has his claws in some of the town’s leading citizens and you have one big recipe for disaster.

Charlie Simmons, newly sworn in as Shannon’s policeman, takes on the challenge of investigating this cauldron of crimes in stride, untangling one thread after another from the fabric of the town of Shannon to find the simple truth.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Blue Shutter Publishing
Publication Date: October 21st 2020
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 978-1-941611-16-6
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Bluette Matthey

Bluette Matthey is a product of the melting pot of America’s settlers, with her ancestry rooted in the Swiss, German, and English cultures. She is a keen reader of mysteries who loves to travel and explore, especially in Europe. Bluette currently lives in Béziers, France, with her husband and band of loving cats. Other books by Bluette Matthey include the Hardy Durkin Travel Mystery series: Corsican Justice, Abruzzo Intrigue, Black Forest Reckoning, Dalmatian Traffick, and Engadine Aerie.

Guest Post

10 Things The Reader Doesn’t Know About Charlie Simmons

1) Charlie Simmons was raised on a farm on the outskirts of Shannon and was educated in a one-room country schoolhouse. The school, located not far from the Simmons farm, was known locally as the Simmons School. He graduated at the end of his senior year.

2) Charlie has a second breakfast every morning which consists of a piece of pie and mug of steaming black coffee. His favorite pie is rhubarb custard.

3) Charlie was run out of a bar in a neighboring town once, depriving him of the cold beer he sought. He filled one of his long woolen socks with rocks and, swinging it like a deadly flail over his head, he went back in the bar, chased out the local bullies, and had his beer.

4) Charlie loves reading Rex Stout mysteries about Montenegrin detective Nero Wolfe.

5) Charlie’s pet cat, Lion, is a trusted confidant to Charlie. He discusses the events of the day with Lion who is sometimes an attentive listener and, at other times, completely aloof.

6) Charlie is one of twins. His younger-by-one-minute brother died in childbirth.

7) Charlie had his tonsils removed when he was eleven years old. He sat on the kitchen table at home and held a slop pan under his chin while the doctor removed his tonsils. They eventually grew back, and he had to have them cut out again.

8) Charlie learned to play the piano from his mother, who was quite gifted. He plays by ear, picking out the popular tunes of the day.

9) Charlie is a crack shot with a rifle and can shoot the eye out of a squirrel from 100 yards.

10) Although Charlie has never been more than 70 miles from Shannon, he has a considerable understanding of human nature.

Catch Up With Bluette Matthey On:
BluetteMatthey.com, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Blanche Gruman sprawled on the park bench in front of the Presbyterian Church Monday enjoying the afternoon sun, her long, tanned legs stretched out on the sidewalk in front of the bench. She looked serene, with her face turned sunward, eyes protected by aviator sunglasses. Her blonde hair was almost white, bleached by the sun, and she wore it long and loose.

“Afternoon, Blanche,” Charlie said as he made his way toward town hall.

Blanche turned her head to see who had spoken. “Well, hey, Charlie!” she replied. She quickly sat up, pulling her bare legs primly under the edge of the bench. It was a lady-like move; just what you would expect from Blanche. A broad smile, showing perfect pearl-white teeth lit up her face.

Blanche Gruman owned and operated a successful hair salon in town. For Shannon, it was an exclusive salon. Blanche was an excellent cutter and stylist, and her flamboyant but tasteful sense of style attracted the cream of Shannon’s women to her salon, as well as some of the more prominent men. She had expanded her business over the course of a decade, hiring additional staff, but she was the queen bee, and closely guarded her select clientele.

Blanche had never married, though she’d had a fairly constant parade of suitors. Rumor had it that when someone had once asked her why she had never married she had flippantly replied, “Why marry one man when I can make so many happy?” Whether or not this was true, it was generally agreed that Blanche had a less traditional approach to relationships with men than her female contemporaries, and it was speculated that many of her female devotees who religiously came to Blanche for hair treatment did so as a means of keeping an eye on her latest paramour, primarily to make sure it wasn’t a wayfaring husband.

“You look mighty pleased with yourself,” Charlie said. He stood in front of her, blocking the sun from her eyes. She removed her sunglasses, hooking one of the templates on the V-neck of a snug knit top that accented her generous curves.

“It’s a great day to celebrate life,” she told him, “and that’s just what I’m doing.” Clearly, she was enjoying herself.

Charlie changed the subject. “You hear about what happened to Otto Hilty the other night?”

His question soured Blanche’s mood noticeably. Her voice took on a hard edge when she responded. “That SOB …” she began. “I don’t truck with what happened to Otto,” she said, “but I’ll not shed any tears for him.” She put her sunglasses on and stood, facing Charlie. “Like I said … it’s a great day to celebrate.” She walked off leaving Charlie standing, literally, with his mouth agape.

***

Excerpt from Two Murders Too Many by Bluette Matthey. Copyright 2020 by Bluette Matthey. Reproduced with permission from Bluette Matthey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Giveaway!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Bluette Matthey. There will be five (5) winners for this tour. Each winner will receive an eBook of Two Murders Too Many by Bluette Matthey. The giveaway begins on December 1, 2020 and runs through January 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

LIFE FOR LIFE by JK Franko | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

Life for Life

by JK Franko

on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020

Synopsis:

Life for Life by JK Franko

What would YOU do if someone threatened your family?

Roy Cruise and his pregnant wife Susie barely survived an assassination attempt in their own home. The police now have them under surveillance. Meanwhile, Kristy Wise is a loose cannon—she knows too much and is trying to “set things right.”

What goes around comes around. And in this case, Roy and Susie may have pushed things too far. There are too many dead bodies. Too many foes plotting against them.

Roy and Susie must outwit the police and neutralize their enemies once and for all. If not, their days of retribution may end behind bars… or six feet under.

Life for Life is Book Three of the Talion crime thriller series which begins with the Eye for Eye Trilogy.
Eye for Eye
Tooth for Tooth
Life for Life

If you like smart, fast-paced thrillers with unexpected twists, then you’ll love J.K. Franko.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime, Legal
Published by: Talion Publishing
Publication Date: July 31st, 2020
Number of Pages: 396
ISBN:978-1-9993188-2-6
Series: Talion Series, #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Death is always several seconds and a few footsteps away. Look around you, wherever you are right now. How many things are there within five feet of you that could kill you? An improperly grounded electrical outlet plugged into your tablet. A slippery, wet bath tile that sends your head smashing into the side of the tub. An invisible virus silently multiplying in your lungs.

From the moment of conception, we fight to cheat death. The majority of what parents do for most of a child’s life is simply keep them from dying. And much of what parents teach kids, from avoiding strangers to keeping their fingers out of their mouths, is about staying alive.

Although the odds are stacked against us, we get very good at cheating death. So good that, maybe out of misplaced pride or just to maintain our sanity, we tell ourselves that death is far off.

But it never is. And it comes for us all.

Given my profession, I have always feared death at the hands of a patient. For years, I imagined an unhinged, unmedicated client lashing out at me. Hopefully with a gun, not a knife. When I met Susie and Roy, that changed somewhat. I feared death at their hands not because they were unstable, but because I was expendable.

I must say that after the murder of former Congressman Getz, I believed that I finally had that situation under control. Susie, Roy, and I—and all of our incentives—were finally aligned. We were on the same team, so to speak. I foolishly believed that my life could simply return to normal.

But as I look back on everything now, with twenty-twenty hindsight, I can see that even as Roy was drowning Jeff Getz in the Bay of Pollença in Spain, the rough outlines of our tragic ending had already been sketched—all of the pieces were in place. Death was watching, and planning.

As you must appreciate by now, my story is inextricably intertwined with the stories of others. This is, of course, fundamental to the human condition. We are all part of a larger whole. Seemingly unrelated people and events, distant in time and location, weave their way in and out of our lives like the threads of a tapestry.

I have told you two stories from the past that directly impacted me, Susie, and Roy. I shared with you the tragic tale of little Joan’s death and how she was finally avenged. And, I shared with you the evil done to Billy Applegate and how Jeff Getz paid the ultimate price for that crime.

To complete the circle, for you to understand everything that happened to us, and so that you can take from all this the same cautionary lessons that I have learned, I need to share one final story with you. It is about a woman whose life was irreversibly impacted by our actions.

It is a story about love and death. And, in this case, depending on your point of view, you might even say that her story had a happy ending.

PART ONE

Rebecca Forsyth Turks and Caicos 2020

My work as a therapist requires imagination. To help someone, to really get inside their head, you have to have some sense of what they are going through. If you haven’t experienced what your patient is suffering firsthand, you must imagine.

For example, I have never had a panic attack. But then, only five percent of humans will experience a panic attack during their lifetimes. A pretty low number. So, how can I relate?

I must imagine.

From what my patients tell me, a panic attack closely resembles the feeling of claustrophobia. This is something that I have experienced. What gets me there instantly is that scene from Kill Bill—the one when the heroine Beatrix is buried under six feet of dirt in a coffin and left to die. Do you know it?

Indulge me.

Imagine that you wake up and open your eyes, but you can’t see anything. It’s pitch dark. So dark, you’re not sure your eyes are even open. You’re lying on your back. The air you’re breathing feels warm and slightly humid, the way it does when you’re sleeping with your head under the sheets.

You don’t know where you are, but you don’t hear the usual sounds you would hear in your bedroom. No ceiling fan. No A/C blowing. Everything is silent around you. Muffled.

You try to sit up and immediately feel a thump as your forehead hits something. Your hands automatically react and reach up, discovering that something dry and smooth—heavy, immovable—is laying on top of you, just inches above your body. Right above your face, your torso, your legs.

You try to stretch your arms out to either side, and you feel the same barrier just inches away from your elbows, from your shoulders. You move your legs, spreading them apart and lifting them up. They are able to move only inches before, again, you feel something boxing you in.

Your nose itches, but you can’t reach your face to scratch it. You clear your throat and can hear that the sound doesn’t travel. It’s close to you, stifled by the box you’re in. The box is made of wood. There’s maybe six inches between you and the box, all around your body. It’s so close you can smell it. Damp wood. You can also smell soil.

You’re in a box that’s been placed in a hole, six feet deep. On top of it, and on top of you, are six feet of dirt. That much dirt weighs over two thousand pounds. One ton.

The weight of the dirt prevents you from opening the box. The lid won’t budge. And even if you could break out of the box somehow, the dirt above you would fall into it, suffocating you before you could dig your way up to air.

There is no way out. No hope.

As you realize this, your heartbeat accelerates—firing more rapidly. Your breathing speeds up. You struggle to take in air. You’re not sure if you’re already running out of oxygen or simply panicking. You can feel the silent, blind weight of two thousand pounds of earth above you crushing down onto your body. Your legs are tight, anxious. Your body fights for more space… to move, to stretch out, to stand, to run. But on every side you are closed in. You know that out there, everywhere, there is air, freedom. A universe of wide-open space.

But not for you.

You scream. The sound is muffled by the box. The only one who can hear it is you, and you know it. And you remember, as you scream, that there is a very small supply of oxygen in the box. With each breath, you are depleting it, converting it into CO2.

You’re going to suffocate. And there is no way out.

That feeling of being closed in, of paralysis, of heart-racing suffocating hopelessness, is what a panic attack feels like. Just like being trapped in a coffin.

My patients say that this is how you will feel when you’re about to die.

When I try to imagine how Rebecca must have felt, 120 feet underwater with an empty scuba tank strapped to her back, I draw on this image.

* * *

Rebecca Forsyth was floating, weightless. Free as a bird. The feeling was otherworldly. And the view was breathtaking. Above her in every direction stretched a majestic canopy of bright blue. Looking heavenward, her eyes traced dancing beams of sunlight up and away until they converged into a round disc of shimmering white firmament. As she gazed downward, the world fell away from her—the bright blue and the light fading, everything becoming darker the further she looked. The only sound she could hear was the too-close, too-loud in-and-out of her own breathing, which she tried to control—relaxing, breathing slowly.

In: one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten. Out: one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten.

She reached up, pinching her nose, and gently blew, equalizing the pressure in her ears—the Valsalva Maneuver.

Scuba diving was something Rebecca enjoyed, to a point. She was no expert, though she was open water certified and dove several times a year. She loved the feeling of weightlessness. And she liked being able to explore the ocean without having to bob up and down for air. She’d never quite mastered using a snorkel—she always had trouble clearing it of water. Scuba was much more convenient. No bobbing up and down. That being said, she had not done many deep dives.

Today was different.

Alan, Rebecca’s husband, had talked her into diving a wreck. A sunken ship. It was all perfectly safe. Alan was an extremely experienced diver. A certified instructor. He had spent numerous summers working as an instructor and had logged hundreds of hours. In fact, he was the one who had gotten Rebecca into the sport.

The plan was for Rebecca and Alan to follow standard protocol and stay close to one another, buddy diving in case of an emergency. As Rebecca floated about 40 feet underwater, Alan was signaling for her to follow him down toward the wreck, which at its deepest was 165 feet below the surface. They weren’t planning to go down that far. The bow of the ship was at about 110 feet.

Although Rebecca wasn’t crazy about diving so deep, she reluctantly followed. They were on vacation, trying to relax. Trying new things to reinvigorate their marriage. After five years married, they’d hit a rough patch. They’d had some issues. Nothing insurmountable, she would have told you.

Part of their problems stemmed from the way they approached things. Rebecca was more conservative in her thinking. Alan was more of a risk-taker. Of course, for her to have chickened out of this dive would only have served to underscore the differences between them.

She checked the air pressure in her tank and noticed that it was dropping a little faster than normal for her, given the amount of time they’d been underwater. But, she knew that she was stressing over the fact that they were going to dive so deep, and she was breathing a little more rapidly than usual. She reached up and slightly reduced the buoyancy of her BCD, then gently frog-kicked her legs to conserve energy and air, following her husband down into the dark blue depths.

Rebecca swam about ten feet behind Alan and a bit to his left. The bow of the wreck still lay another 70 feet below them and hadn’t come into view. Rebecca couldn’t see it yet. She also couldn’t see that, in addition to the bubbles that drifted up and away from her each time she exhaled, a stream of tiny bubbles trailed behind her. Air was escaping from her scuba tank through a small leak in the line to her backup regulator. As she descended into the depths, the water pressure around her grew, increasing the rate at which air was bleeding from her only tank.

Rebecca followed after Alan, taking in the immensity of the ocean floor that lay before her. The vastness of it was almost overwhelming. She tried to focus on keeping pace with her husband, and on breathing slowly.

In: one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten. Out: one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten.

She scanned beyond him, hoping that the wreck would soon come into view as she gently kicked and followed. As they descended, they were following the natural slope of the ocean floor off the coast of the island. The seabed was spotted with seagrass, kelp, small fish, and here and there a lobster. She saw several lionfish as well.

Rebecca enjoyed fish-watching. Although, for her it was always secondary to keeping an eye out for sharks. The Caribbean is home to a great many species—nurse sharks, lemon sharks, reef sharks—which are generally harmless. But now and again, you will see more aggressive bull sharks and hammerheads.

Rebecca followed behind Alan, staying close, but she couldn’t help being entertained admiring the seascape. She regularly pinched her nose to clear her ears. After what felt like just a few minutes, a shape began to take form ahead of them. Alan stuck his arm out to his side and gave her a thumbs-up. It was the wreck. A few more kicks, and she could clearly see the silhouette of the freighter sitting on the ocean floor below.

It was a tranquil day and the water was clear. There was still very good visibility as they passed 100 feet, though at that depth the water filtered out most of the reds and yellows in the color spectrum. Everything was draped in shades of blue and green.

Rebecca and Alan were diving just off the coast of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The wreck they were approaching was the W.E. Freighter, a 100-ton ship that was purposely sunken just north of Turtle Cove to create an artificial reef. The plan for the reef had been for the ship to settle in somewhat shallow waters to create an attraction for recreational divers. The ship had unfortunately ended up much deeper than intended and required a bit of expertise to reach.

Once at the bow of the freighter, Alan stopped and gave Rebecca the “okay” sign. She responded in kind, indicating that she was fine. She checked her depth gauge and saw that they were at 110 feet, just what the guidebook had promised. Alan and Rebecca had agreed on the surface not to go inside the vessel. There was always danger of collapse or of getting trapped due to gear catching on something. There was also the risk of getting cut since what remained of the ship was decaying metal that tended to be sharp and jagged. A cut meant blood in the water. And blood in the water attracted sharks.

They hovered for a moment by the bow of the wreck.

As they looked about them, a small school of fish swam out of the boat through a hole in the hull. They were silver with what appeared to be yellow fins and tails, though the color was muted and dull due to the depth. Most were about two feet long. Rebecca recognized them as horse-eye jacks. They shimmered in the water as they swam past the husband and wife, less than three feet away. Alan reached out and touched one of the fish as it went by. It didn’t seem to notice or care.

Rebecca watched the school of fish briefly, then her focus shifted. Always scanning for sharks, she’d seen a shadowy movement not far from them—maybe forty feet. Whatever it was had whipped its body and quickly disappeared into the dark, murky distance. She kept scanning as the small school of fish swam away from them.

Suddenly, her peripheral vision registered a rapid movement coming from their left. She focused just in time to see sparkling glints of silver—a large barracuda rocketed in from the murkiness and sank its teeth into one of the jacks as the remainder of the school scattered. Thin wisps of black blood trailed behind the barracuda as it swam off, chomping and chewing on its prey. In the wake of the attack, the remaining jacks re-grouped and continued on as if nothing had happened.

It was not the first time that Rebecca had seen a predator make a meal of another fish. It never ceased to amaze her how an underwater scene could turn from completely tranquil to suddenly violent and bloody, and then return once again to the prior calm as though nothing had happened. She turned to Alan, who was shaking a hand back and forth as if to say, “Holy crap!” She gave him a thumbs-up in reply.

Rebecca continued to scan. Now there was blood in the water. And she was nervous—looking for sharks. As she looked around, Alan drifted a bit deeper examining the wreck. Rebecca was about to follow when a strange shape on the seafloor caught her eye. She felt her belly tighten and reached for her dive knife. She froze and watched carefully. Her patience was rewarded.

A sludgy-looking grey rock, which had apparently been laying low waiting for the barracuda incident to pass, decided that the coast was clear. Rebecca marveled as the rock changed color and texture, turning back into an octopus. The little guy half-swam half- crawled away, in the opposite direction of the barracuda. Rebecca smiled to herself. She loved those smart, creepy, eight-legged mollusks.

The octopus gone, she turned and saw that Alan had drifted about twenty feet away from her, deeper, exploring the hull of the wreck. He looked back at her and waved her towards him. Apparently, he’d found something of interest. Rebecca gave him a thumbs-up, and as she began to move, she looked down at her depth gauge.

Still at 110 feet.

They had agreed not to go below 130 feet, which was the official cut-off for recreational divers. Realizing it had been a while since she’d checked, she also took a look at her air pressure gauge.

Red.

A cold claw of panic squeezed Rebecca’s chest when she saw that the needle was in the red zone, between 200 PSI and zero. Almost empty. The gauge had to be wrong. She and Alan had both checked her tank in the boat. It was full then. And they’d not been diving that long—certainly not long enough for her to have used up a full tank of air.

She tapped on the gauge with a gloved finger. The needle didn’t move. Still red.

She carefully reached back behind her head with one hand to make sure the tank was fully open. Sometimes a not fully open tank would give a bad reading on a gauge. She turned the air valve in one direction and the flow of air stopped. Then she turned it in the other direction, fully opening the valve, and air flowed. She checked the gauge. Still red.

Rebecca looked up and saw that Alan had swum farther away from her, about thirty feet. And he was still moving. She fought down the panic and breathed out slowly: one-two-three-four-five-six- seven-eight-nine-ten.

Then in: one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten.

She had two choices.

She could try to ascend. If she did, she’d be abandoning Alan—leaving him at risk. She also had no idea if the air in her tank would get her to the surface. If it didn’t, she’d have to make a “controlled emergency ascent.” She remembered from her training what that meant. Possible decompression sickness. Possible pulmonary barotrauma—essentially her lungs exploding. And, of course, she could drown.

Her other option was to get Alan’s attention and return to the surface using his backup regulator—an “alternate air source ascent.”

She had to choose quickly. Given her options, Rebecca decided she had to get to Alan. She frog-kicked gently, trying not to accelerate her heart rate or breathing, conserving air, swimming down deeper into the cold sea after her husband. As she swam after him, she removed her dive knife from its sheath and used the metal ball on the end of the hilt to bang on her tank, making a high- pitched metallic clink clink clink hoping to get Alan’s attention.

Alan continued to descend. He was too far away to hear her.

She was still breathing. She still had air.

But her brain began to work against her. Fear gripped her throat like a noose slowly tightening. As Rebecca swam deeper into the sea, the ocean began to collapse in on her. Tunnel vision. Panic began to rise in her belly. She felt boxed in.

Trapped.

She fought the fear, trying to keep her breathing slow. Kicking gently, trying to get to her husband. He had air. He was only thirty feet away.

Life was only thirty feet away.

She began to feel desperation. To lose hope.

Is this it?

Is this how I die?

Alan didn’t hear the continued and more desperately rapid clinking of her knife on her tank. He wasn’t turning. He was swimming deeper, and she was barely gaining on him. She began to kick harder, knowing that her heart rate would increase. And her breathing as well. She had to get to him. He was still too far away.

Rebecca kicked and breathed. Kicked and breathed.

Kicked and…

…she breathed in, and three quarters of the way through the breath she hit a wall—it was like she was sucking on a rubber hose that was closed at one end. There was nothing. She was out of air.

She couldn’t fight the panic any longer. Sheer panic.

The feeling of being closed-in, of paralysis, of heart-racing suffocating hopelessness hit Rebecca Forsyth like a brick wall.

***

Excerpt from Life for Life by JK Franko. Copyright 2020 by JK Franko. Reproduced with permission from JK Franko. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

JK Franko

J.K. FRANKO was born and raised in Texas. His Cuban-American parents agreed there were only three acceptable options for a male child: doctor, lawyer, and architect. After a disastrous first year of college pre-Med, he ended up getting a BA in philosophy (not acceptable), then he went to law school (salvaging the family name) and spent many years climbing the big law firm ladder. After ten years, he decided that law and family life weren’t compatible. He went back to school where he got an MBA and pursued a Ph.D. He left law for corporate America, with long stints in Europe and Asia.

His passion was always to be a writer. After publishing a number of non-fiction works, thousands of hours writing, and seven or eight abandoned fictional works over the course of eighteen years, EYE FOR EYE became his first published novel.

J.K. Franko now lives with his wife and children in Florida.

Guest Post

Seven Challenges to Writing a Series

There are some distinct advantages to writing a series. To begin with, once you have laid out who your characters are and what kind of conflicts they typically get into, you can focus on plot. For example, if you think about Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, after reading the first book, your reader knows who the hero is and what kind of messes he gets into. They know what to expect and, if they liked what they read, they will keep coming back for more. So, what challenges do you face in keeping a series interesting for readers?

1. Change the stakes. Many guides to writing a series say that each book should continually raise the stakes. That’s impossible. If you follow that advice, by book three your protagonist will be saving the world from some sort of apocalypse—nuclear, biological, financial. And you will be left with nowhere to go from there. Rather, each book should change the stakes. The stakes should always be high—that’s what makes for good conflict in any plot—but they need to be high for the hero—not necessarily for the rest of us.

2. Supporting cast. If you think about any Bond film, there are two types of supporting characters. The one that are always there—M, Moneypenny, Q. And then there are the ones that are always there, but change—each Bond film has the villain and the villain’s sidekick (usually an assassin with a unique killing style), for example. Bond films are very formulaic, which is why they make for an easy example. But, this concept applies to any series. You need to surround your hero with characters that the readers get as attached to as your main man/woman.

3. Know what works. If readers are returning to read your book two and three, then you know you’ve got something. What you have to figure out is what that “something” is and make sure you deliver it in each book in the series. It could be a formula—like the Bond film structure. It could be a main character that readers are invested in and want to see through to the end—like Harry Potter. It could be a world that you’ve created that is fascinating—like Star Wars. You need to understand what your readers love about your series and make sure to give them more of that.

4. Continuity. Be sure that you clearly map out character details and series events and stay true to them. This goes for protagonists, villains, and supporting cast members. I use Excel to track birth dates, ages, parents, places lived, and character details—likes and dislikes—for all characters. As far as events, I maintain an extensive timeline of all series events to make sure future events are consistent with past.

5. Mix it up. Don’t be afraid to bring in new characters, plot devices, or even play with story structure. If a reader is on book four of your series, they are there because they like what you’ve done in the past. But don’t be afraid to experiment and throw them a curve ball here and there. Readers enjoy surprises.

6. Plan ahead. Map your series out as far ahead as you can. This allows you to drop clues in earlier books that you can later come back to. It also helps you to avoid “blockers”—details or events that you write in an earlier book that prevent you from going a direction you’d like to in a subsequent book due to continuity issues.

7. Have an end in mind. Many series go on, and on, and on. Which is great. But you should have a clear idea of how you want your series to end. This doesn’t mean knowing specifically that Book 10 will be the last. But it does mean having a clear idea of what will happen to your hero and cast in that final book. You want your series to “go out” like Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series ended, not like George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

Copyright 2019 JK Franko

Catch Up With JK Franko On:
jkfranko.com, Goodreads, Instagram, Bookbub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

 

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 JK Franko. There will be Six (6) winners for this tour. Two (2) winners will each receive a $10. Amazon GC. Two (2) winners will each receive LIFE FOR LIFE by JK Franko (Print ~ US and Canada Only) and Two (2) winners will each receive LIFE FOR LIFE by JK Franko (eBook). The giveaway begins on August 1, 2020 and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION by Gary McAvoy | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy Banner

 

 

The Magdalene Deception

by Gary McAvoy

on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020

Synopsis:

The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy

For two thousand years, believers have relied on Christ’s Resurrection as the bedrock of Christian faith. But what if the Vatican had been blackmailed into suppressing a first-century manuscript revealing a very different story about what happened after Christ’s death—and that long-hidden document suddenly reappears?

Michael Dominic, a young Jesuit priest expert in the study of ancient writings, is assigned to the Vatican as an archivist in the Church’s legendary Secret Archives. Hana Sinclair, a reporter for a Paris newspaper whose privileged family owns a prominent Swiss bank, is chasing a story about Jewish gold stolen by the Nazis during World War II—millions of dollars in bullion that ended up in the vaults of the Vatican Bank.

When Dominic discovers a long-hidden papyrus written by Mary Magdalene—one that threatens the very foundations of Christianity—he and Hana, aided by brave Swiss Guards, try to prevent sinister forces from obtaining the manuscript, among them the feared Ustasha underground fascist movement, Interpol, and shadowy figures at the highest levels of the Vatican itself.

Based on illuminating historical facts—including the intriguing true story of Bérenger Saunière, the mysterious abbé in the French village of Rennes-le-Château; and the Cathars, fabled keepers of the Holy Grail—“The Magdalene Deception” will take readers on a gripping journey through one of the world’s most secretive institutions and the sensitive, often explosive manuscripts found in its vaults.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Literati Editions
Publication Date: July 1st 2020
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0990837653 (ISBN-13: 978-0990837657)
Series: The Magdalene Chronicles (Book 1)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

The Magdalene Deception Trailer:

 

Author Bio:

Gary McAvoy

Gary McAvoy is a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur, and author of “And Every Word Is True,” a sequel to Truman Capote’s landmark book “In Cold blood.” “The Magdalene Deception” is his fiction debut, and is the first in a series called The Magdalene Chronicles.

Guest Post

Topic: Your book is based on historical facts, what were the most challenging and easiest items that you encountered in your research.

Like many authors, research is often the most fun part of writing (sometimes the only fun…). I love researching. As a lifelong reader I’ve often put down a book to further explore what the author had just described, which in most cases is something I’d never heard or known about before and piqued my interest. In research for The Magdalene Deception, I already knew a great deal about the legendary Cathars, fabled keepers of the Holy Grail, and the unusual story of Bérenger Saunière, the mysterious 19th-century abbé of the village of Rennes-le-Château in southern France. Those two topics are somewhat linked in history, so I read several books about both which gave me a deeper understanding of each. But it did present challenges in firming up the historical relationships, and wading through the stories of real individuals associated with these legends required intense mental departmentation. There were so many people instrumental in forging these tales that it all got to be rather perplexing. I didn’t want my readers to be confused, so I had to cull only the most relevant people—and that took a lot of historical cutting and pasting.

As for which topics were easiest, the Vatican itself stands out as the one topic I had no trouble writing about. I’ve visited Rome a couple times and had a full day in the Vatican (still not enough time), so I recall the visceral feel of history within its walls, the awe-inspiring artworks and architecture, the lush gardens, and the ever-present colorful Swiss Guard. Supplementing that personal experience, I read more than a dozen books on the institution itself, from every angle possible, and watched several documentaries and films featuring the Church and its power structure inside the Vatican. I also made contact with people who actually lived and worked in Vatican City, and their firsthand stories were invaluable.

Researching World War II, including the Holocaust and the fascist Ustasha government of the Independent State of Croatia, was a mix between challenging and easy. As a Baby Boomer myself I grew up in the later post-war years, so I heard a lot about it from relatives who served in the military. That sparked my interest and I’ve been drawn to the topic ever since. I’d actually never heard of the Ustasha before, though, so learning about that vile movement—the Croatian version of the Nazis—was at times a tough slog.

Whether challenging or not, researching this book was a great experience, and will be useful as I move into other books in the same series.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
GaryMcAvoy.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

1
Southern France – March 1244

The relentless siege of the last surviving Cathar fortress, perched strategically on the majestic peak of Montségur in the French Pyrenees, entered its tenth month.

The massive army of crusaders dispatched from Rome, thirty thousand strong, were garbed in distinctive white tunics, their mantles emblazoned with the scarlet Latin cross. Knight commanders led hordes of common foot soldiers, some seeking personal salvation, others simply out for adventure and the promise of plunder. They had already devastated most of the Languedoc region of southern France in the years preceding. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children had been slain, regardless of age, sex, or religious belief. Entire villages were burned, rich crops destroyed, and the fertile land which yielded them was poisoned, in a cruel, single-minded quest to root out and extinguish a small and peaceful, yet influential mystic order known as the Cathars.

The defeat of the impregnable Montségur remained the ultimate prize for the Church’s troops. Rumors of a vast treasure had reached the ears of every soldier, stirring up the passion with which these feared European mercenaries carried out their holy mission. As was the customary practice during a crusade, whatever pillage remained after the plundering—spolia opima, the richest spoils for supreme achievement—could be claimed by the victor. That temptation, bonded by the personal assurance of the pope that all sins would be forgiven and their paths to heaven assured, was enough to seduce anyone, nobleman or peasant, to take up cudgel, pike, or arrow in the name of God.

In 1209 Pope Innocent III had ordered a Holy Crusade to crush the spirit, and if necessary, the life of each and every dissident in the Languedoc region bordering France and Spain.

This independent principality had distinguished itself by fostering an artistic and intellectual populace well beyond that of most northern European societies at the time. The people of the Languedoc practiced a religious tolerance that encouraged spiritual and secular diversity. Schools teaching Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic languages and the customs which accompanied them flourished, as did those espousing the Cabala, an occult form of Judaism that dated from the second century.

Most settlers in the Languedoc viewed Christianity with the utmost repugnance; at the very least its practices were perceived as being more materialistic than godly in nature. The irreligious of the region passed over Christianity in large part due to the scandalous corruption exhibited by its local priests and bishops who, unable to influence the heathens within their provinces, came to prefer the rewards of commerce and land ownership over the tending of a meager flock.

Consequently, the authorities in Rome felt compelled to deal with this unforgivable heresy once and for all, in towns such as Toulouse and Albi within the Languedoc area.

Consigning his troops to their commanders, Pope Innocent III invoked a special benediction to all, lauding the divinity of their mission. Asked how they might distinguish their Christian brethren from the heretics, however, the crusaders were simply told, “Kill them all. God will spare His own.”

And so the Albigensian Crusade began.

The new moon cast no light over Montségur as night fell on the first day of March 1244, obscuring not only the hastened activities of its occupants, but the lingering threat conspiring outside its walls. A dense alpine fog had settled over the mountain, and the castle that straddled its inaccessible peak had withstood nearly a year of unceasing battle.

Weakened by the tenacity of their predators and yielding to the hopelessness of their situation, Raymond de Péreille, Lord of Château du Montségur and leader of the remaining four hundred defenders, commanded his troops to lay down their arms, and descended the mountain to negotiate terms of their capitulation.

Though offered lenient conditions in return for their surrender, de Péreille requested a fourteen-day truce, ostensibly to consider the terms, and handed over hostages as an assurance of good faith. Knowing there was no alternative for their captives—nearly half of whom were priest-knights, or parfaits, sworn to do God’s work—the commanders of the pope’s regiment agreed to the truce.

Over the next two weeks, reprieved from the constant threat of attack they had been enduring for months, the inhabitants of Montségur resolved to fulfill their own destiny before relinquishing their fortress—and their lives—to the Inquisition.

On the last day of the truce, as if guided collectively by a single will on a predestined course, the surviving members of the last Cathar settlement made special preparations for their departure.

Four of the strongest and most loyal of the parfaits were led by Bishop Bertrand Marty, the senior abbé of the fortress, as they descended deep within the mountain down a long, stepped passageway carved into alternating layers of earth and limestone. The end of the passage appeared to be just that, as if the original tunnelers had simply stopped work and retreated without finishing the job. But, while the others held torches, Abbé Marty withdrew a large rusted key-like wedge from beneath his cassock, thrusting it into a hidden cavity near the low ceiling.

The abbé manipulated the key for a few moments. A muffled sound of grating metal from beyond the stone wall echoed through the tunnel, and the seemingly impenetrable granite slid inward slightly, revealing a door.

Aided by the parfaits, the door swung open into a small dank chamber filled with an enormous cache of riches—gold and silver in varied forms, gilded chalices and bejeweled crosses, an abundance of gems and precious stones, sagging bags of coins from many lands.

And, in a far corner removed from the bulk of the treasure itself, stood a wide granite pedestal on which rested an ornately carved wooden reliquary, crafted to hold the most holy of relics, next to which sat a large book wrapped in brown sackcloth.

Standing before the legendary treasure of the Cathars—glittering and hypnotic in the dim torchlight—would prove seductive for most men. But the Albigensians held little regard for earthly goods, other than as a useful political means to achieve their spiritual destiny. Ignoring the abundant wealth spread before them, the abbé fetched the sackcloth while the other four parfaits hoisted the ancient reliquary to their shoulders, then they left the room and solemnly proceeded back up the granite stairway. In the thousand-year history of the Cathars, these would be the last of the order ever to see the treasure.

But the most sacred relic of the Christian world would never, they vowed, fall into the unholy hands of the Inquisition.

Emerging from the stone passage, Abbé Marty led the parfaits and their venerable cargo through the hundreds of waiting Cathars who had assembled outside, forming a candlelit gauntlet leading to the sanctuary. All were dressed in traditional black tunics, all wearing shoulder length hair covered by round taqiyah caps as was the custom of the sect.

Once inside, the parfaits lowered the reliquary onto the stone altar. The abbé removed the ancient book from the sackcloth and began the sacred Consolamentum, a ritual of consecration, while the four appointed guardians prepared themselves for their special mission.

Armed with short blades and truncheons, the parfaits carefully secured the reliquary in the safety of a rope sling, then fastened taut harnesses around themselves.

“Go with God, my sons,” Abbé Marty intoned as he gave them his blessing, “and in His name ensure this sacred reliquary be protected for generations to come.”

The four men climbed over the precipice and, assisted by their brothers gripping the ropes tied to their harnesses, gently and silently rappelled hundreds of meters down the escarpment. Sympathizers waiting at the base of the mountain assisted the parfaits in liberating their holy treasure, guiding them away from the danger of other troops and hiding them and the reliquary deep in one of many nearby caves.

Throughout the night, those remaining at Montségur celebrated their brotherhood, their holy calling, and their last hours alive. Descending the mountain the next morning, in a state of pure spiritual release from the material world, Abbé Marty led the last of the Cathars as they willingly marched into the blazing pyres awaiting them, martyrs to their cause.

The holy reliquary of the Cathars has never since been found.

2
Present Day

Rounding the northern wall of the Colosseum with a measured stride, a tall young man with longish black hair glanced at the Tag Heuer chronometer strapped to his left wrist. Noting the elapsed time of his eighth mile, he wiped away the sweat that was now stinging his eyes.

Damn this Roman heat. Not even sunrise, and it’s already a scorcher.

Approaching the wide crosswalks flanking the west side of the immense Colosseum, he wondered if this was the morning he would meet God. Dodging the murderous, unrestrained traffic circling the stadium became a daily act of supreme faith, as the blur of steel sub-compacts, one after another, careened around the massive structure on their way, no doubt, to some less hostile place. Since his arrival here he had discovered that this was the way with Italian motorists in general, though Roman drivers excelled at the sport. Veteran observers could always tell the difference between natives and visitors: a local would cross the road seemingly ambivalent to the rush of oncoming traffic. Non-Romans, who could as likely be from Milan as from Boston or Paris, approached the threat of each curb-to-curb confrontation with a trepidation bordering on mortal terror.

Crossing the broad Via dei Fori Imperiali, his route took him through the Suburra, the most ancient inhabited area of Rome and off the beaten path of most tourists. As a newcomer to a city whose normal pulse was barely evident beneath the confusing ambiguities of new and old, the runner felt most comfortable here in the Suburra, a semi-industrial working-class neighborhood, much like the one he only recently left in New York. In the summer, people got up early to tend their gardens before the real heat forced them indoors. The early morning air was thick with alternating scents of Chilean jasmine, honeysuckle, and petrol fumes.

He ran another five miles, long blooms of sweat accentuating a lean, muscular frame beneath a gauzy white t-shirt as he burst into a sprint up the final few blocks, past the empty trattorias and shuttered shops whose merchants were just beginning their morning rituals.

Slowing to a cool down pace as he crossed the Sant’Angelo bridge spanning the Tiber River, he turned left up Via della Conciliazione as the massive dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica loomed suddenly ahead. Though it could be seen from almost anywhere in Rome, this approach always gave him the impression that the dome seemed to tip backwards, being swallowed up by the grand facade of the church the closer he got to it.

“Buongiorno, padre.” Several female voices, almost in unison, broke the cobblestone pattern of his reverie.

Father Michael Dominic looked up and smiled politely, lifting his hand in a slight wave as he swiftly passed a small cluster of nuns, some of whom he recognized as Vatican employees. The younger girls blushed, leaning their hooded heads toward each other in hushed gossip as their eyes followed the handsome priest; the older women simply bobbed a chilly nod to the young cleric, dutifully herding their novitiates into obedient silence on their way to morning Mass.

Though he had only been in Rome a couple of weeks, Michael Dominic’s youthful exuberance and keen intellect had become known quickly throughout the cloistered population of Vatican City, setting him apart from the more monastic attitudes prevalent since the Middle Ages.

But despite the fusty parochialism and an atmosphere of suspended time he found within its walls, Dominic still felt the intoxication of privilege at having been assigned to Rome so early in his religious career. It had not been even two years since he lay prostrate at the altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, ordained by his family friend and mentor Cardinal Enrico Petrini.

It was no secret to Vatican insiders that the eminent cardinal’s influence was chiefly responsible for Dominic’s swift rise to the marbled corridors of ecclesiastic power now surrounding him. The young priest’s scholarly achievements as a classical medievalist were essential to the work being done in the Vatican Library. But the progressive cardinal was also grateful for the vitality Dominic brought to his vocation, not to mention the charismatic ways in which he could get things accomplished in an otherwise plodding bureaucracy. Though Dominic could not account for his mentor’s vigorous inducement that he come to Rome—and knowing this particular prince of the Church so well, it was surely more than a familial gesture—he had trusted Enrico Petrini completely, and simply accepted the fact that this powerful man had believed in him strongly enough to give him an opportunity which he most certainly would not have had otherwise.

Pacing slower now, Dominic drew in rhythmic gulps of searing air as he neared the Vatican. A block or so before reaching the gate, he stepped inside the Pergamino Caffè on the Piazza del Risorgimento. Later in the day the cramped room would be filled with tourists seeking postcards and gelato, but mornings found it crowded with locals, most nibbling on small, sticky cakes washed down with a demitasse of thick, sweet coffee.

Across the room Dominic spotted Signora Palazzolo, the ample wife of the proprietor, whose wisps of white hair were already damp with perspiration. Seeing the priest approach, the older woman’s face broke into a broad, gap-toothed smile as she reached beneath the counter and withdrew a neatly folded black cassock Dominic had dropped off earlier, which she handed to him with deliberate satisfaction.

“Buongiorno, padre,” she said. “And will you take caffè this morning?”

“Molto grazie, signora,” Dominic said, accepting the cassock graciously. “Not today. I’m already late as it is.”

“Okay this time,” she said with a gently scolding tone, “but it is not healthy for a strong young man to skip his breakfast, especially after making his heart work so hard in this unforgiving heat.” Her hand reached up to wipe away the dampness as she spoke, coifing what little hair she had left in a vain attempt to make herself more attractive.

Heading toward the back of the shop, Dominic slipped into the restroom, quickly washed his face and raked his hair into some semblance of order, then drew the cassock over his head and buttoned it to the starched white collar now encircling his neck. Emerging from the restroom minutes later and making for the door, he glanced back to see the signora waving to him, now with a different look on her face—one beaming with respect for the clergyman he had suddenly become, as if she herself had had a role in the transformation.

Of the three official entrances to the Vatican, Porta Sant’Anna, or Saint Anne’s Gate, is the one generally used by employees, visitors, and tradesmen, situated on the east side of the frontier just north of Saint Peter’s Square. Although duties of security come first, guards at all gates are also responsible for monitoring the encroachment of dishabille into the city. Dominic learned from an earlier orientation that casual attire of any sort worn by employees or official visitors was not permitted past the border. Jeans and t-shirts were barely tolerated on tourists, but the careless informality of shorts, sweatpants, or other lounging attire on anyone was strictly forbidden. An atmosphere of respect and reverence was to be observed at all times.

Vatican City maintains an actual live-in population of less than a thousand souls, but each workday nearly five thousand people report for duty within the diminutive confines of its imposing walls—walls originally built to defend against the invading Saracens a thousand years before—and the Swiss Guards at each gate either recognize or authenticate every person coming or going by face and by name.

One of the Guards whom Dominic had recognized from previous occasions, dressed in the less formal blue and black doublet and beret of the corps, waved him through with a courteous smile as he reached for his ID card.

“It is no longer necessary to present your credentials now that you are recognized at this gate, Father Dominic,” the solidly built young guard said in English. “But it is a good idea to keep it with you just in case.”

“Grazie,” Dominic responded, continuing in Italian, “but it would be helpful to me if we could speak the local language. I haven’t used it fluently since I was younger, and I am outnumbered here by those who have an obvious preference. You know, ‘When in Rome….’”

The guard’s smile faded instantly, replaced by a slight but obvious discomfort as he attempted to translate, then respond to Dominic’s rapid Italian.

“Yes, it would be pleasure for me, padre,” the young soldier said in halting Italian, “but only if we speak slowly. German is native tongue of my own home, Zurich, and though I speak good English, my Italian learning have only just started; but I understand much more than I speak.”

Dominic smiled at the younger man’s well-intended phrasing. “It’s a deal then. I’m Michael Dominic,” he said formally, offering a sweaty palm.

“It is an honor meeting you, Father Michael. I am Corporal Dengler. Karl Dengler.” Dengler’s face brightened at the unusual respect he was accorded, extending his own white-gloved hand in a firm grip. Recently recruited into the prestigious Pontificia Cohors Helvetica, the elite corps of papal security forces more commonly known as the Swiss Guard, Dengler had found that most people in the Vatican—indeed, most Romans—were inclined to keep to themselves. It was never this difficult to make friends in Switzerland, and he welcomed the opportunity to meet new people. He also knew, as did everyone by now, that this particular priest had a powerful ally close to the Holy Father.

“An honor for me as well, Corporal,” Dominic said a bit more slowly, yet not enough to cause the young man further embarrassment. “And my apologies for soiling your glove.”

“No problem,” Dengler said as he smiled. “With this heat it will be dry in no time. And if you ever want a running partner, let me know.”

“I’ll take you up on that!” Michael said with a wave as he passed through the gate.

Already the Vatican grounds were bustling with activity. Throngs of workers, shopkeepers, and official visitors with global diversities of purpose made their way along the Via di Belvedere to the myriad offices, shops, and museums—any indoor or shaded haven, in fact, that might offer escape from the heat of the rising sun.

Another Swiss Guard stood commandingly in the center of the street—looking remarkably dry and cool, Dominic thought, despite the obvious burden of his red-plumed steel helmet and the traditional billowy gala uniform of orange, red, and blue stripes—directing foot and vehicular traffic while smartly saluting the occasional dignitaries passing by.

To any observer, Vatican City appears to be in a state of perpetual reconstruction. Comprising little more than a hundred acres, the ancient city state is in constant need of repair and maintenance. Architectural face-lifts, general structural reinforcement, and contained expansion take place at most any time and in various stages, manifested in the skeletal maze of scaffolding surrounding portions of the basilica and adjoining buildings. Sampietrini, the uniquely skilled maintenance workers responsible for the upkeep of Saint Peter’s, are ever-present throughout the grottoes, corridors, and courtyards as they practice time-honored skills of the artisans who have gone before them, traditionally their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. It was quite probable, in fact, that a given sampietrino working on, say, a crumbling cornerstone of the basilica itself, could very well be shoring up work that was originally performed by his great-great-grandfather more than a century before him.

Dominic walked to the end of the Belvedere, then turned right up the Stradone dei Giardini and alongside the buildings housing the Vatican Museums, until he reached the northern wall of the city.

A priest learns early that his life will suffer many rituals, and in at least one secular aspect, Michael Dominic’s was no different. Every day he ended his morning run with a meditative walk along the inner walls surrounding the immaculately maintained papal gardens. The fact that many of the same trees which lined the paths have been rooted here for centuries—serving the contemplative needs of whichever pope might be ruling at the time—gave Dominic a more natural feeling of historical connectedness, in subtle contrast to other abundant yet more imposing reminders of where he now happened to be living and working.

“Ah! Good morning, Miguel.” It was a gentle breeze of a voice, yet Dominic recognized it clearly in the early warm quiescence of the Vatican gardens.

“Buongiorno, Cal!” Dominic said brightly. Brother Calvino Mendoza, prefect of the Vatican Archives and Dominic’s superior, was approaching the entrance to the building. Clad in the characteristic brown robe and leather sandals of his Franciscan order, Mendoza was a round, timorous man in his seventies—quite pleasant to work with, Dominic thought, if a little indiscreet in his obvious affection for men.

“You are up early today,” Mendoza said in heavily accented English, furtively appraising Dominic’s form beneath the cassock. “But then, defying the wicked heat and traffic of Rome is best done before sunrise, no?”

“It is, yes,” Dominic laughed easily, his damp hair glistening in the sun as he shook his head in amusement, “but in another hour or so I expect the pavement to start buckling.”

Dominic had come to enjoy Mendoza’s fey demeanor and playful flirting. Nearly everyone he had met here seemed overly stern and impassive to be really likable, and Dominic was naturally drawn to people he found more hospitable anyway. This gentle man had a quick mind for humor and was never, Dominic found, lacking for a proverb appropriate to the moment. It was also common for Mendoza to call many on his staff by the Portuguese equivalent of their name, maintaining an affectionate cultural touchstone to his native home of Brazil. As for the subtle intimations, Mendoza grasped early on that Dominic’s vow of chastity was not likely to be compromised, and particularly not by another man.

“You’ll get used to it,” Mendoza nodded, smiling. “It is worse in the mornings, to be sure, but come late afternoon we are blessed by the ponentino, a cool wind off the Tyrrhenian Sea.

“And besides,” he quipped, “’To slip upon a pavement is better than to slip with the tongue—so the fall of the wicked shall come speedily.’” He finished by glancing around the garden with mock suspicion, as if every word were prey to overcurious but unseen ears.

“‘Ecclesiastes,’” Dominic responded. “And thanks for the admonition.”

Pleased that the young priest indulged his occasional whimsy, Mendoza shuffled up the few steps of the entrance to the Archives.

“Now come, Miguel, your days of orientation are over. Let’s get on with the real work,” he said dramatically, his arms nearly flapping as his large body moved up the steps into the Archives. “Today is a very special day.”

“I’ll catch up with you shortly, Cal. I’ve got to take a quick shower first. But why is today so special?”

From the top of the steps, Mendoza turned around to face Dominic and, like a child with a tantalizing secret, whispered with barely contained excitement, “The treasures we are about to exhume have not been seen by any living soul for several hundred years.”

Clearly a man who enjoyed his work, Calvino Mendoza’s eyes gleamed with anticipation as he lifted one heavy eyebrow in an arch, then spun as quickly as his heavy frame would allow and disappeared through the heavy wooden door.

As Dominic walked back to his apartment at the Domus Santa Marta, the resident guesthouse just south of Saint Peter’s Basilica, two men in a golf cart were heading in his direction, both dressed in the familiar black and red garb of cardinals. The cart stopped directly in his path, and one of the men stepped out, approaching him.

“Father Dominic, I presume?” The heavyset man had a thick Balkan accent, with an intelligent face bearing an inscrutable mask of expression.

“Yes, how can I help you?” Dominic said.

“I am Cardinal Sokolov, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I simply wanted to extend a hand of welcome on behalf of those of us who have been expecting you.”

Dominic recognized the cardinal’s department, better known as the infamous Office of the Holy Inquisition before someone came up with a less intrusive name.

“Good to meet you, Your Eminence,” he said, surprised by the comment. “I didn’t realize anyone was actually expecting me, though.”

“Oh, yes,” Sokolov said, holding Dominic’s hand in an uncomfortably firm grip as they shook. “Having Cardinal Petrini’s endorsement carries a great deal of influence here. But it also comes with certain expectations. First and foremost, keep to yourself. Do not expect to make many friends here. One is surrounded by vipers masquerading as pious souls.

“Secondly, know that you are being watched at all times. Conduct yourself appropriately and you may survive your time here. There are many who were vying for your job as scrittore in the Secret Archives, and they will seek any opportunity to displace you.

“Lastly,” the cardinal said scowling, his eyebrows a black bar across his fleshy face, “come to me directly if you witness or suspect anyone of illicit or unbecoming activities. Such careful scrutiny will be viewed with admiration by His Holiness, for whom I speak in this regard.”

Dominic was dumbfounded by the man’s audacity, hardly the kind of welcome he would have imagined, one that shed a darker light on his exhilaration at now working and living in the Vatican.

“I will keep all that in mind, Eminence,” he said, forcibly pulling back his hand from the cardinal’s cloying grasp.

Sokolov stood a moment longer appraising Dominic’s face, then turned and shuffled himself back into the golf cart, which pulled away with a mounting whine as it headed into the papal gardens.

Troubled by the encounter, Dominic returned to his apartment, the fresh burdens expected of him weighing on his mind. What have I gotten myself into, he thought, stepping into the shower.

***

Excerpt from The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy. Copyright 2020 by Gary McAvoy. Reproduced with permission from Gary McAvoy. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Giveaway!!:

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

DEAR DURWOOD by Jeff Bond | #Showcasse #GuestPost #Giveaway

Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond Banner

 

 

Dear Durwood

by Jeff Bond

on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020

Synopsis:

Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond

Book two in the epic Third Chance Enterprises series, Dear Durwood is a standalone mystery pitting uncompromising principle against big city greed.

Durwood Oak Jones is a man of few indulgences. One he does allow is a standing ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine soliciting “injustices in need of attention.”

This month’s bundle of letters includes one from Carol Bridges, mayor of the dusty, blue-collar town of Chickasaw, Texas. For nearly a century, Chickasaw has relied on the jobs and goodwill of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Now East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. The citizens of Chickasaw fear it may be acquired or bankrupted, leading to massive layoffs — effectively destroying the town.

Durwood and his trusty bluetick coonhound, Sue-Ann, fly to Texas to see what can be done. They find a young CEO born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Factory workers with hammers. A good woman, Carol Bridges, who knows her town is being cheated but can’t get to the bottom of how. And lawyers.

Dirty, good-for-nothing lawyers.

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure / Western Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books
Publication Date: June 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 215
ISBN: 1732255296 (ISBN13: 9781732255296)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises
Purchase Links: Amazon | Third Chance Stories | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond

Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have been featured in The New York Review of Books, and his 2020 release, The Pinebox Vendetta, received the gold medal (top prize) in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

Guest Post

Writing in Different Genres

A common piece of advice given to aspiring authors is to write what you enjoy reading. If you’ve logged hundreds of hours reading time-travel romance, you’re going to have an intrinsic feel for how to portray the magic, how early to start the love story, what sorts of complications readers expect from the genre.

(I’ve only read Outlander myself so I’m clueless about all these.)

The advice never helped me because I loved reading everything. Margaret Truman’s Murder At series and Clive Cussler, but also The Corrections and Big Little Lies, and classics like Deliverance and War and Peace. I loved the potboilers’ adrenaline rush, but the literary titles introduced me to characters so real it felt like the authors were reaching across oceans or centuries and plucking thoughts straight from my own head, then turning them around and showing me.

When I first began writing my own stories, I had the thought to do both — tell a breakneck story with perfectly true-to-life characters. It took me several years and many rotten attempts to craft a book that I believed came close: The Winner Maker. I released the book in 2018 and it’s been well-received, but its appeal is somewhat bifurcated. Some love the character setup at the start and wish the twisty-turny second half had more depth; others feel they have to slog through the first hundred pages before the going gets good.

For my second book, Blackquest 40, I had a very specific plot idea for a Die Hard-like story. The idea happened to involve technology, so I found myself in the position of writing a technothriller. My third book, The Pinebox Vendetta, also stemmed from a particular idea — dueling political clans who fight at an Ivy League reunion. This would need to be a political thriller, but as I fleshed out the characters, I found myself weaving in a love story and cold-case murder mystery, too, the end result being a sort of genre mishmash.

There was no grand plan for these books. I just followed whichever story was calling out the loudest to me at the time. For my next two, Anarchy of the Mice and Dear Durwood — books one and two in the Third Chance Enterprises series — I had a more defined strategy. I’d been feeling that readers, particularly readers of indie titles, didn’t quite know how to think about books like The Winner Maker and The Pinebox Vendetta. I wanted to distill the action elements of my previous work into some stories that would be big, thrilling, unabashedly plot-driven.

And what’ll come next? Not surprisingly, something different. I’m kicking around a middle-grade space opera, possibly the result of being locked in a house with my elementary-age daughters for five months. I’ve gotten a taste for romance in writing Pinebox and the Third Chance books, which both feature a side of happily-ever-after, and have been working on more of a pure romance title called Two Teachers. I enjoy the challenge of teaching myself “the rules” for a new genre — a fun process that, for me, just involves binge-reading the biggest names in the genre: Nora Roberts, Diana Gabaldon, Debbie Macomber. Some of their styles I love and can imagine myself writing in. Others not so much, but it’s still a blast taking a tour of other writers’ toolsets.

Over the long run, I have aspirations of writing some large ensemble books in my Franklin series (more literary/slice-of-life than Third Chance Enterprises) that would give readers a bit of everything: maybe a central crime mystery paired with a love story to root for, plus a thread centered around an issue like parenting or ambition or finding happiness. Books like this without a dominant genre can be hard for readers to discover on their own — hopefully by the time I write them, I’ll have a large enough built-in readership for them to succeed. I should definitely have enough experience with different genres to pull it off.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond On:
JeffBondBooks.com
BookBub
Goodreads
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Dear Mr. Oak Jones:

I am Carol Bridges, mayor of Chickasaw, Texas. We are located in the western part of the state, Big Bend Country if you know it. I thank you in advance for considering my injustice.

Chickasaw is the home of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Hogan employs 70 percent of able-bodied adults in Chickasaw, and its philanthropy has sustained the town for ninety years. It’s due to the Hogan family we have an arts center and turf field for youth football.

Recently, East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. Multi-million dollar claims have been filed, accusing Hogan of putting out defective parts. It’s rumored the company will be acquired or liquidated outright. Massive layoffs are feared.

My constituents work hard, Mr. Jones. They have mortgages and children to feed. I have tried to find answers about the Hogan family’s intentions, to see whether I or the town can do anything to influence the course of events. Jay Hogan, the current CEO, does not return my phone calls—and is seen dining at sushi restaurants in El Paso (85 miles away) more often than in Chickasaw. I have gotten the runaround from our state and federal representatives. I believe it’s their fundraising season.

As mayor, I have a duty to explore every possible solution to the challenges we face. I do not read Soldier of Fortune regularly, but my deputy police chief showed me your ad soliciting “injustices in need of attention.” I feel certain injustice is being done to Chickasaw, though I can’t as yet name its perpetrator and exact nature.

Alonso (our deputy chief) knows you by reputation, and assures me these details won’t trouble you.

Thank you sincerely for your time,

Carol Bridges
Mayor of Chickasaw, TX

Chapter One

Durwood got to the Chickasaw letter halfway through the sorghum field. He was flipping through the stack from the mailbox, passing between sweet-smelling stalks. Leaves brushed his bluejeans. Dust coated his boots. He scanned for clumps of johnsongrass as he read, picking what he saw. The first five letters he’d tucked into his back pocket.

The Chickasaw letter he considered longer. Steel-colored eyes scanned left to right. He forgot about the johnsongrass. An ugliness started in his gut.

Lawyers.

He put the letter in his front pocket, then read the rest. The magazine forwarded him a bundle every month. In September, he’d only gotten three. At Christmas time, it seemed like he got thirty or forty. Folks felt gypped around the holidays.

Today, he read about two brothers who didn’t steal a car. About a principal who got fired for being too aggressive fighting drugs in his school. About a bum call in the Oregon state Little League championship twenty years ago. About a furnace warranty that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

Durwood chuckled at the Oregon letter. This one had been writing in for years. Maybe he figured Durwood didn’t read them, figured some screener only put a couple through each go-round and one of these days they’d sneak his through.

But Durwood did read them. Every last one.

He put the letter about the principal in his front pocket with the Chickasaw letter.

Off his right side, Sue-Ann whimpered. Durwood turned to find the bluetick coonhound pointing the south fenceline.

“I see,” Durwood said, of the white-tail doe nosing around the spruces. “Left my gun back at the house, though.”

Sue-Ann kept her point. Her bad hip quivered from the effort. Old as she was, she still got fired up about game.

Durwood released her with a gesture. “What do you say to some bluegill tonight instead? See what Crole’s up to.”

Durwood called Crole from the house. Crole, his fishing buddy who lived on the adjacent sixty acres, said he was good for a dozen casts. They agreed to meet at the river dividing their properties. Durwood had a shorter walk and used the extra time to clean his M9 semiautomatic.

Leaving, he noticed the red maple that shaded the house was leafing out slow. He examined the trunk and found a pattern of fine holes encircling the bark.

That yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Durwood wondered if the holes were related to the tree’s poor vigor.

Out by the river, Crole limped up with his jug of moonshine, vile stuff he made from Jolly Ranchers.

They fished.

Sue-Ann laid in the mud, snoring, her stiff coat bristling against Durwood’s boot. The afternoon stretched out, a dozen casts becoming two dozen. Then three. In the distance, the hazy West Virginia sky rolled through the Smokies. Mosquitoes weren’t too bad, just a nip here and there at the collar.

Durwood thought about Chickasaw, Texas. He thought about East Coast lawyers. About the hardworking men and women who’d elected Carol Bridges to be mayor and stick up for them.

He thought about that CEO picking up raw fish with chopsticks in El Paso.

He thought, too, about the principal who’d been fired for doing right.

Crole said, “Got some letters today?”

Durwood said he had.

Crole grinned, showing his top teeth—just two, both nearly black. “Still running that ad in Soldier of Fortune?”

Durwood lowered the brim of his hat against the sun. “Don’t cost much.”

“They give a military discount?”

Durwood raised a shoulder. He’d been discharged from the Marines a decade ago. He didn’t accept handouts for his service.

Crole nodded to the bulge in his pocket—the letters. “Anything interesting?”

“Sure,” Durwood said. “Plenty.”

They fished into twilight. Durwood caught just five bluegill. Crole, twenty years his senior and luckier with fish, reeled in a dozen, plus a decent-size channel cat despite using the wrong bait. The men strung their catches on a chain. The chain rippled in the cool, clear water.

The Chickasaw job appealed to Durwood. The opportunity to fight crooked lawyers, do something about these Wall Street outfits that made their buck slicing up American companies, putting craftsmen out of work until every last doodad was made in some knockoff plant in China.

Still, Durwood had trouble imagining the case. What would he do, flip through documents? Sit across a folding table from men in suits and ask questions?

Then he thought about the principal. About those gangs the letter had mentioned, how you could look out the windows of the dang school and see drug dealers on street corners. Intimidators. Armed thugs.

Durwood had an easy time imagining that case.

The sky had just gotten its first purple tinge when Durwood lost his bait a third time running.

“These fish.” He held his empty hook out of the water, shaking his head.

Crole said, “There’s catfish down there older than you.”

“Smarter, too,” Durwood said.

Still, the five bluegill would be enough for him and Sue-Ann. Durwood unclipped the fishes’ cheeks from the chain and dropped them in a bucket.

Back at the house, Durwood spotted the yellow-bellied sapsucker climbing the red maple. Not only was he pecking the tree, the ornery creature kept pulling twigs from the gray squirrels’ nest, the one they’d built with care and sheltered in the last four winters.

“Git down!” Durwood called.

The sapsucker zipped away to other antics.

Inside, Durwood scaled and beheaded the bluegill. Then he fried them in grease and cornmeal. Sue-Ann ate only half a fish.

Durwood moved the crispy tail under her nose. “Another bite?”

The dog sneezed, rattly in her chest.

Durwood rinsed his dishes and switched on a desktop computer. He looked up Chickasaw. There was plenty of information online. Population, land area. Nearly every mention of the town made reference to Hogan Consolidated. It looked like Hogan Consolidated was Chickasaw, Texas, and vice versa.

On the official municipal website, he found a picture of Carol Bridges. She wore a hardhat, smiling among construction workers.

Handsome woman. Warm, lively eyes.

Next, Durwood looked up the fired principal. The man lived and worked in upstate New York. For a few weeks, his case had been all over the local news there. A city councilman believed he’d been railroaded. Nineteen years he’d served the school district without prior incident. The only blemish Durwood found was a college DUI.

Durwood hadn’t started with computers until his thirties. His calloused fingers regularly struck the keys wrong, but he managed. This one he’d gotten from the Walmart in Barboursville, forty-nine bucks on Black Friday. It had its uses. A tool like any other.

“Well?” he said aloud, even though Sue was out on the porch. “Looks like a tossup.”

Durwood changed computer windows to look again at Carol Bridges. Then changed back to the principal.

At the bottom of the news story about the principal, he noticed a bubble with “47 comments” inside. He knew people who spouted off online were unreliable and often foolish. He clicked anyway.

“Good riddance, got what he deserved!”

“TOTAL RACIST WINDBAG, glad they fired him.”

Durwood read all forty-seven comments. Some defended the man, but most were negative.

It was impossible to know how much was legitimate. Durwood left judging to Him, and Him alone.

But Durwood did know that the petitioner, the one who’d written the letter to Soldier of Fortune, was the principal himself. Not some third party. Not an objective observer.

What had seemed like a case of obvious bureaucratic overreach suddenly looked less obvious.

Now Sue-Ann loped in from the porch. Appalachian air followed her inside, nice as perfume. Sue settled at Durwood’s feet, wheezing, rheumy eyes aimed up at her master.

He said, “What do you say, girl. Up for seeing the Lone Star State?”

The dog sat up straight, responding to the action in his voice. The effort made her mew. That hip.

Durwood laid his thumb down the ridge of the dog’s skull. He felt pained himself, thinking of documents, folding tables, and men in suits.

Chapter Two

It was a healthy drive, nearly two thousand miles, to see this Carol Bridges. Doubts remained in Durwood’s mind. Petitioners he met through the Soldier of Fortune ad fell through sometimes. It would turn out their letter was misleading or flat false. Other times the injustice had taken care of itself by the time Durwood arrived.

Once he’d driven clear to Nebraska to help a man whose pride and joy, a 1917 Ford Bucket T he’d restored from salvage by hand, had been denied roadworthiness by some city councilman with a grudge. When Durwood knocked on his door and asked about the hot rod, the man said, “The Ford? Guy made me an offer, I sold her a few weeks back.”

Durwood decided it was worth the trip to hear Carol Bridges out. If he didn’t like what she said, he’d tip his hat, get back in the Vanagon, and drive home.

Crole observed, “You could call.”

Durwood was humping supplies into the van. “Folks can say anything on the phone.”

The older man looked to the horizon, where the sun would rise soon. His pajamas dragged the dirt, and he held his jug by two fingers. “They can say anything to your face, too.”

Durwood whistled to Sue-Ann.

“It’s different,” he said as the dog climbed in. “Lay off that shine, hm?”

Crole looked down at his jug as though surprised by its presence.

He answered, “Don’t kill anyone you don’t have to.”

With a wave, Durwood took out. The van wheezed over mountain switchbacks and chugged steadily along interstates. By afternoon, Sue was wincing on the bare metal floor. Durwood bought her a mat next time he stopped for gas.

They reached Chickasaw the following morning. Crossing the city limit, they saw fields of wheat and corn, and grain elevators, and dry dusty homesteads. Factories burped smoke farther on. Billboards shilled for some dentist, somebody else who wanted to be sheriff.

Downtown Chickasaw was a grid, eight blocks square. Durwood saw the turf field mentioned in the letter and smiled. A boarded-up building with a sign reading, Lyles Community Outreach Center. A fancy hotel that looked out of place.

Next door to City Hall, Durwood’s destination, was a coffee shop called Peaceful Beans. The logo showed the name written along the stems of the peace sign. The light bulbs inside had those squiggly vintage filaments.

Durwood knew that these towns, rural or not, had all types. You got your vegan yoga instructors living next to redneck truckers—sometimes married to each other.

City Hall itself was a stone structure, two stories high. A sign indicated the municipal jail was located in the basement.

Durwood parked. His bones creaked as he stepped from the van and stretched.

The woman working reception cooed at Sue, who’d rolled over on her back. The big ham. Durwood stated their business, declared his M9, and passed through a metal detector before being shown to the mayor’s office.

Carol Bridges stood from her desk with a humble smile. “Mr. Oak Jones, thank you for traveling all this way for our town.”

“You’re welcome,” he said. “Call me Durwood, please.”

She said she would and handed him a business card with her personal number circled. Durwood placed the card in his bluejeans pocket. The mayor gestured to an armchair whose upholstery had worn thin. Durwood, removing his hat, sat.

“My dog goes where I go, generally,” he explained. “She can sit outside if need be.”

“Don’t be silly.” The mayor reached into a drawer of her desk for a biscuit. “If I’d known, I’d have brought in my German Shepherd.”

She didn’t just toss the biscuit at Sue, as some will. Carol Bridges commanded the dog to sit first.

Sue sat.

The mayor squatted and offered the treat, palm up, her knees pinching below a dark skirt. Sue wolfed it down.

Durwood said, “We saw the factories on the way in. How many employees?”

“Forty-four hundred on the floors themselves,” she said. “Plus another eight thousand in support roles.”

“And it’s all going away? Vamoose?”

Carol Bridges crossed one leg over the other. “That’s how the winds are blowing.”

She expanded upon what the letter had said. For the better part of a century, Hogan Consolidated had produced parts for various household products. Brackets. Pot handles. Stepladder hinges. Nothing sexy, Carol Bridges said, but quality components that filled a need higher up the supply chain.

Five or six years back, Wall Street began taking an interest in the company. They believed Hogan was underleveraged and growing too slowly.

Durwood stopped her. “What does underleveraged mean?”

“As I understand”—the mayor fluffed her dark red hair dubiously—“it means you aren’t taking enough risks. Your balance sheet is too conservative.”

“Too conservative?”

“Right. You’re not expanding into new markets. You’re not inventing new products.”

Durwood rolled her words around his head. “Suppose you’re good at what you do, and that’s it.”

Carol Bridges looked out her window toward a pair of smokestacks. “Not good enough for Wall Street.”

Thoughts of finance or economics usually gave Durwood a headache, but he made himself consider the particulars of the case now.

“But Hogan’s a family-owned company,” he said. “Can’t they tell Wall Street to go to hell? Pardon my French.”

“They were family-owned up until 1972, when they sold out.”

Durwood sat up in his chair, recalling her letter.

She seemed to read his thoughts. “They’re a family-run company. The CEO’s always been a Hogan, but the equity is publicly traded.”

“Hm.” Durwood’s head wasn’t aching, but it didn’t feel quite right either. “I read your letter different.”

“I apologize, I didn’t mean to be unclear.” The mayor took a step out from behind her desk. “I hope you don’t feel I brought you here on false pretenses.”

They looked at each other. The woman’s face tipped sympathetically and flushed, her eyes wide with concern. On the wall behind her hung the Iraq Campaign Medal and the striped ribbon indicating combat action.

“It’s fine,” Durwood said. “And they’re facing lawsuits, you said?”

“Correct,” the mayor said. “A class-action suit has been filed by customers claiming injury as a result of faulty Hogan parts.”

“What happened?”

“A woman in New Jersey’s toaster exploded. They’ve got two people in California saying a bad Hogan hinge caused them to fall. One broke her wrist.”

“Her wrist.”

Carol Bridges nodded.

“Falling off a stepladder?”

She nodded again.

“What’re the Hogans doing?” Durwood asked. “They have a strategy to stomp out this nonsense?”

“No idea. I hear, just scuttlebutt from the cafe, that the company’s going bankrupt.” The mayor flung out an arm. “Somebody else says they’re selling out to a private equity firm—one of these outfits that buys distressed companies for peanuts and parts ’em out, auctions off the assets and fires all the workers.”

Durwood leaned over the thighs of his bluejeans. “You mentioned the CEO in your letter. Eats sushi.”

The woman smiled. “Jay Hogan, yes. He’s only twenty-eight, and I don’t think he likes living in Chickasaw much. He went to college at Dartmouth.”

“Whereabouts is that?”

“Dartmouth?”

Durwood nodded. He’d once met an arms supplier in Dortmund, Germany, the time he and Quaid Rafferty had stopped a band of disgruntled sausage vendors from bombing ten soccer stadiums simultaneously. He’d never heard of Dartmouth.

Carol Bridges said, “New Hampshire.”

“If he doesn’t like the place,” Durwood said, “why didn’t he stay east? Work a city job?”

She crossed her legs again. “I doubt he could get one. Around here, he was a screw-up. They got him for drunk driving regularly. I was with the prosecutor’s office back then. The police winched him out of the same gully four different times in his dad’s Hummer.”

“Why’d they pick him for CEO?”

“He’s an only child. When the father had his stroke, Jay was next in line. Only pitcher left in the bullpen.”

Durwood drew in a long breath. “Now the fate of the whole town rests on his shoulders. Fella couldn’t keep a five-thousand-pound vehicle on the road.”

Carol Bridges nodded.

Durwood felt comfortable talking to this woman. As comfortable as he’d felt with a woman since Maybelle, his wife and soulmate, had passed in Tikrit. Carol Bridges didn’t embellish. She didn’t say one thing but mean another—leaving aside the misunderstanding over “family-run,” which might well have been Durwood’s fault.

Still, comfort didn’t make a case.

“I sympathize, Miss Bridges,” Durwood said. “I do. But I’m a simple man. The sort of business I’m trained for is combat. Apprehending suspects. Pursuing retribution that can’t be pursued within the confines of the law. This situation calls for expertise I don’t have.”

He’d delivered bad news, but Carol Bridges didn’t seem upset. She was smiling again.

“I have to disagree,” she said.

“You need somebody knows their way around corporate law. Knows how to—”

“You’re not a simple man. There’s a lot up there”—her warm eyes rose to his head—“that doesn’t translate into words.”

Durwood held her gaze a moment. Then he looked down to Sue-Ann.

The dog was sleeping.

He said, “America is changing. For better or worse. A town like Chickasaw doesn’t get the better end of it, I understand. There’s injustice in that. But it’s not the sort I can stop.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting you can deliver us back to the 1970s.”

Carol Bridges laced her fingers over her dark red hair. A funny thing was happening with her mouth. Was she chewing gum? No, that wasn’t it. Using her tongue to work a piece of food out from between her teeth? Durwood didn’t think so either.

She was smirking.

“All I’m asking,” she said, “on behalf of my town, is this: talk to Jay Hogan. Get a straight answer out of him. I can’t, I’ve tried. The rest of the Hogans live in Vail or Tuscany. We need somebody who can cut through the bull and find out the truth.”

Durwood repeated, “The truth.”

“Yes. If the jobs are going away, if I need to retrain my citizenry to…” She searched around her desktop for some example—pencils, folders, a stapler. “Heck, answer customer-service calls? I will. But we want to know.”

Sue-Ann snored and resettled against Durwood’s boot.

He said, “Talk to Jay Hogan.”

The mayor clasped her hands hopefully over her chest. “That’s all I’m asking. Find out where we stand.”

Durwood thought about the crop fields he’d seen riding into town. The dusty homesteads. The billboards—the dentist, man who wanted to be sheriff. He thought of the factories still putting out smoke. For now.

The stakes were lower than what he fought for alongside Quaid and Molly McGill with Third Chance Enterprises. The planet itself was not imperiled. He wasn’t likely to face exotic technologies or need to jump from moving aircraft. So it went with these injustice cases—with injustice in general. Ordinary folks suffering ordinary hardship.

“We did drive a couple thousand miles,” he said. “I suppose it makes sense to stay and have a word with Mr. Hogan.”

Carol Bridges rushed forward and pressed his calloused hands in her smooth ones. She gave him the address of Hogan Consolidated from memory.

Chapter Three

Hogan’s main factory and corporate headquarters were in the same building. Durwood parked in a Visitors spot, and he and Sue walked up to the fifth floor where the executive offices were—over the factory. Stairs were murder on the dog’s hip, but she persevered. Durwood stopped every few steps for her.

Through the stairwell’s glass wall, he watched the assembly line. Men and women in hardhats leaned into machine handles. A foreman frowned at a clipboard. Belts and treads and rotors turned. Even behind glass, Durwood could smell grease.

Nothing amiss here.

On the fifth floor, Durwood consulted a directory to find Jay Hogan’s office.

His secretary wore nicer clothes than Carol Bridges. Looking at her neat painted fingernails, Durwood doubted she kept dog biscuits in her desk.

“You—you honestly thought bringing a dog to see the chief executive of Hogan Consolidated was acceptable?” the woman said, looking at Sue’s spots like they were open sores. “OSHA would have a field day if they showed up now.”

Sue-Ann laid her chin on her paws.

Durwood said, “She can stay here while I see Mr. Hogan.”

The woman’s nameplate read Priscilla Baird. Durwood suspected she’d be taller than him if she stood. Her lips were tight, trembling like she was about to eject Durwood and Sue—or flee herself.

“I don’t know that you will see Mr. Hogan today,” she said. “You’re not on his schedule. Jones, did you say?”

She checked her screen.

“Won’t find me in your computer,” Durwood said. “Is he here?”

Priscilla Baird glanced at her boss’s door, which was closed.

“He is…on site. But I’m not at liberty to say when he’d be available to speak with arbitrary members of the public.”

“I’m not arbitrary. I’m here on authority of the mayor.”

“The mayor?”

“Of Chickasaw, yes ma’am. Carol Bridges.”

Priscilla Baird rolled her eyes at this. Durwood thought he heard, “Getting desperate” under the woman’s breath.

Durwood waited. After thirty minutes, he tired of Priscilla Baird’s dirty looks and took Sue-Ann out to the van. She didn’t like dogs, fine. He wouldn’t be difficult just for the sake of it.

He returned to wait more. The lobby had an exposed beam running down its center—pimpled, showy. Folks built like that nowadays. Slate walls displayed oil paintings of the company’s executives. Sitting out on tables were US Weekly and Field and Stream. Durwood read neither. He spent the time thinking what questions to ask Jay Hogan.

All told, he waited an hour and a half. Others entered and were admitted to see Hogan. Men wearing pinstripes. A made-up woman in her late forties with a couple minions hustling after her. Some kid in a ballcap and shorts carrying two plastic bags.

The kid left Hogan’s office without his bags.

Durwood caught him at the door. “Pardon, youngster. What did you drop off?”

The kid ducked so Durwood could read his hat.

Crepes-a-Go-Go.

An involuntary growl escaped Durwood’s mouth. He crossed to Jay Hogan’s door.

“Excuse me,” Priscilla Baird said. “Mr. Hogan’s schedule today is terribly tight, you’ll need to be patient if—”

“It just opened up,” Durwood said.

He jerked the knob and blew inside. Jay Hogan was stuffing a crepe into his face with a plastic fork. Ham and some cheese that stank. The corner of his mouth had a red smear, either ketchup or raspberry jam.

Probably jam.

“The hell is this?” Hogan said. “You—what…Priscilla…” He placed a hand over his scrawny chest and finished swallowing. “Who is this person?”

Priscilla Baird rushed to the door. “I never admitted him, he went himself. He forced his way in!”

Durwood stood in the center of the office. He said to Hogan, “Let’s talk, the two of us.”

The young CEO considered the proposal. He was holding his crepe one-handed and didn’t seem to know where to set it down. He looked at his secretary. He looked at Durwood. His hair was slicked back with Pennzoil, skin alabaster white—a shade you’d have to stay inside to keep in southwest Texas.

Durwood extended his hand. “I can hold your pancake.”

Jay Hogan stiffened at the remark. “Who are you?”

“Name’s Durwood Oak Jones.”

Hogan tried saying it himself. “Duuurwood, is it?”

“Correct.” Durwood assumed Jay Hogan, like the mayor, wasn’t a Soldier of Fortune subscriber. “I’m a concerned party.”

“What does that mean?” Hogan said. “Concerned about what?”

“About this town. About the financial standing of your company.”

As Priscilla Baird excused herself, Durwood explained his contact to date with Carol Bridges and the capacity in which he’d come: to investigate and combat injustice. There was no reason he and Jay Hogan shouldn’t be on the same side. If the lawyers were fleecing Hogan Consolidated or Wall Street sharks were sabotaging it, Durwood’s help should be appreciated.

But Jay Hogan wasn’t rolling out the welcome wagon.

Injustice?” he sneered. “The company’s in a crap situation, a real hole. Not my fault. I didn’t build those hinges. I didn’t, you know, invent P/E ratios or whatever other metrics we aren’t hitting.”

Durwood glared across the desk. Every not and didn’t stuck in his craw.

He said, “What do you do, then?”

“I chart the course,” Hogan said. “I set the top-line strategy.”

“Top-line?”

“Yes. Top-line.”

Durwood resettled his hat on his head. “Thought the bottom line was the important one.”

Jay Hogan made a sound between flatulence and a pig’s snort. “Look—we’ve held the line on wages, kept the unions out. Done everything in our power to stay competitive.”

Durwood asked what his strategy was on those lawsuits.

“Chester handles legal matters,” Hogan said.

“Who’s that?”

“Chester is the COO.”

Durwood raised a finger, counting out letters. “Now what’s the difference between CEO and COO?”

Jay Hogan made impatient motions with his hands. “The COO is the operating officer. He’s more involved in day-to-day business.”

“Who deals with Wall Street? The money men?”

“Chester.”

“Who handles communication? Getting word out to the citizens of Chickasaw about what’s going on?”

Hogan picked up his crepe again. “Chester.”

He said the name—which was prissy to begin with—in a nasal, superior tone.

Durwood’s fist balled at his side. “Fella must be sharp, you trust him with all that.”

“Chester’s extremely smart,” Hogan said. “I’ve known him forever—our families go back generations. We attended all the same boarding schools.”

“Boyhood chums?”

Hogan frowned at the question. “Something like that.”

“He’s about your age, then?”

Hogan nodded.

“Couple twenty-eight-year-olds running a company that dictates the fate of a whole town.” Durwood folded his arms. “Sound fair to you?”

The CEO’s pale cheeks colored. “They’re lucky to have us. Two Ivy League graduates blessed with business instincts. Chester Lyles was president of our fraternity, graduated magna cum laude. We could be founding startups in Seattle or San Francisco where you don’t have to drive a hundred miles for decent food.”

That name rung a bell somewhere for Durwood.

Lyles.

Recalling what Carol Bridges had said about the gully, he said, “You graduate magna cum laude?”

“I don’t need to defend my qualifications to you or anyone.”

Durwood nodded. “Must’ve just missed.”

Jay Hogan stood up a snit. He looked at his crepe again in its tissue-paper sleeve and couldn’t resist. He took a quick bite and thrust a finger at the door, mouth full.

“I’m done answering your questions,” he said. “As CEO, I’m accountable to a shareholder-elected board of directors, which includes presidents of other corporations, a former Treasury Secretary of the United States, and several other prominent executives. They’re satisfied with my performance.”

“How many of them live in Chickasaw?”

Hogan barked a laugh. “They understand the financial headwinds I’m up against.”

“How about those bad hinges? From what I hear, Hogan used to make quality parts.”

“Another Chester question. I don’t deal with quality control.”

That’s for sure.

Durwood saw he would get nowhere with Jay Hogan. This Chester was who he needed to find. Asking this one how the town of Chickasaw was going to shake out was like inspecting your John Deere’s hood ornament to judge if you needed a new tractor.

Hogan was still pointing at the door. Finally, Durwood obliged him.

On the way out, he said, “You got families counting on this company. Families with children, mortgages, sick grandmas. They’re counting on you. Hogans before you did their part. Now be a man, do yours. Rise to your duty.”

Hogan didn’t answer. He had more crepe in his mouth.

Walking down to the parking lot, Durwood passed the factory again. It was dark—the shift had ended while he’d been waiting for Hogan. His boots clacked around the stairwell in solitude.

He considered what ailed Hogan Consolidated and whether he could fix it. He wasn’t optimistic. Oh, he could poke around and get the scoop on Chester Lyles. He could do his best working around the lies and evasions he’d surely encounter. Maybe he would find Chester’s or Jay Hogan’s hand in the cookie jar.

The likeliest culprit, though, was plain old incompetence. Jay Hogan belonged in an insurance office someplace—preferably far from the scissors. Instead, he sat in a corner office of a multi-million dollar company.

Did that rise to the level of injustice? Maybe. Maybe, with so many lives and livelihoods at stake.

Durwood didn’t like cases he had to talk himself into.

He was just imagining how he’d break the news to Carol Bridges if nothing much came of Chester when four men burst from the shadows and tackled him.

***

Excerpt from Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. 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 Jeff Bond. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2020 and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours