Dec 072016
 

Feliz Navidead

by Ann Myers

on Tour November 20 – December 31, 2016

Synopsis:

Feliz Navidead by Ann MyersHolly, jolly, and downright deadly—the third Santa Fe Café mystery unwraps surprises both naughty and nice… It’s the most picturesque time of the year in Santa Fe, and Chef Rita Lafitte of Tres Amigas Café hopes the twinkling lights and tasty holiday treats will charm her visiting mom. Rita is also planning fun activities, such as watching her teenage daughter, Celia, perform in an outdoor Christmas play.

What she doesn’t plan for is murder.

Rita discovers a dead actor during the premier performance but vows to keep clear of the case. Sleuthing would upset her mom. Besides, there’s already a prime suspect, caught red-handed in his bloodied Santa suit. However, when the accused Santa’s wife begs for assistance—and points out that Celia and other performers could be in danger—Rita can’t say no. With the help of her elderly boss, Flori, and her coterie of rogue knitters, Rita strives to salvage her mother’s vacation, unmask a murderer, and stop this festive season from turning even more fatal.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery, Christmas
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: October 25th 2016
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0062382322 (ISBN13: 9780062382320)
Series: Santa Fe Cafe Mystery #3

Feliz Navidead Can Be Found on: HarperCollins 🔗, Amazon 🔗, Barnes & Noble 🔗, and Goodreads 🔗.

Read an excerpt:

Mom stopped mid-stroll, thumping one hand to her chest, gripping a hip-high adobe wall with the other.
“I need to catch my breath, Rita,” she declared, rather accusatorily.
I murmured, “Of course,” and issued my best good-daughter sympathetic smile.
I did, truly, sympathize. At seven thousand feet above sea level, Santa Fe, New Mexico, can literally take your breath away, and my mother had flown in only a few hours earlier from the midwestern lowlands. Adjusting to high altitudes takes time. About a week, the experts say, although I’ve called Santa Fe home for over three years and still blame the paltry oxygen when I pant through my morning jog and puff under overladen burrito platters at Tres Amigas Cafe, where I’m a chef and co-amiga. I’ve even postulated that the thin air makes my thighs look larger. Lack of atmospheric compression, that unscientifically tested theory goes. The more likely culprit is my steady diet of cheesy chiles rellenos, blue corn waffles, green chile cheeseburgers, and other New Mexican delicacies.
Mom took deep breaths beside me. I wasn’t too worried. If Mom was at risk of anything, it was overacting. I strongly suspected she was making a point, something she likes to do indirectly and with drama.
Things Mom doesn’t like? High altitudes, dry climates, hot chiles, and disturbance of her holiday routine. I knew she wasn’t thrilled to spend Christmas away from home. My goal was to win her over, and lucky for me, I had Santa Fe’s holiday charm on my side.
I leaned against the wall, enjoying the warmth of solar-heated adobe on my back. A group of carolers strolled by, harmonizing a bilingual version of “Feliz Navidad.” String lights and pine boughs decorated the porticos along Palace Avenue, and pinon smoke perfumed the air. To my eyes, the self-proclaimed “City Different” looked as pretty as a Christmas card. Once Mom got over the initial shock of leaving her comfort zone, she’d come around.
I hoped . . . Mom reached for a water bottle in her dual-holstered hip pack. “Hydration,” she said, repeating a caution she’d first raised nearly two decades ago, when I embarked for culinary school in Denver and its mere mile-high elevation. In between sips, she reminded me that proper water intake was the key to fending off altitude-induced illnesses ranging from headaches to poor judgment. She tilted her chin up and assessed me through narrowed eyes.
“You’re not drinking enough, Rita. I can tell. Your cheeks look dry. Your hands too. And your hair…”
Mom made tsk-tsk sounds. “Perhaps a trim would keep it from getting so staticky. You do look awfully cute when it’s short.”
I patted my shoulder-length locks, recently cut into loose layers that emphasized my natural staticky waves. I could use a drink. A tart margarita on the rocks with extra salt would do. My mouth watered. Behave, I chastised myself. It wasn’t even two in the afternoon, way too early for tequila. Plus, I loved my mother and her cute silver-flecked pixie cut. Most of all, I was delighted that she’d come to visit me and my teenage daughter, Celia. It was nice of Mom. No, more than nice. The visit bordered on maternal sacrifice.
As far as I knew, my mother, Mrs. Helen Baker Lafitte, aged sixty-eight and three quarters, of Bucks Grove, Illinois, had never left home for Christmas before, nor had she wanted to. Mom is a retired high school librarian, a woman of card-catalog order and strict traditions, otherwise known as doing the same thing year after year. Under usual circumstances, Mom keeps our “heirloom” artificial Christmas tree perpetually decorated and stored in the garage until the day after Thanksgiving, when she takes it out, dusts it off, and installs it to the left of the living-room fireplace. She places electric candles in each front window, hangs a wreath on the door, and wraps the holly bush in tasteful, nonflashing white lights. All of her holiday cards are mailed by the twelfth of December. Food traditions are similarly strict. The Christmas Day lunch begins promptly at noon and is typically attended by my Aunt Sue, Uncle Dave, Aunt Karen, and younger sister Kathy and her family. Kathy’s husband, Dwayne, watches sports in the den, while their three kids hover between completely exhausted and totally wired from their morning gift frenzy. My mother and aunts whip up a feast of roasted turkey and stuffing, scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole with mini-marshmallows, Tater Tot hot dish, amazing monkey bread, Aunt Sue’s famous (or infamous) Jell-O surprise featuring celery and cheese cubes, and my favorite dish: pie, usually apple, mincemeat, and/or pumpkin. It’s a lovely meal, which I truly miss when I can’t attend. However, I also love Santa Fe and want to make my own traditions here.
“That’s one benefit for your sister,” Mom said, polishing off her second water bottle. I swore I heard her stomach slosh. “The beach is at sea level.”
“Yep, that’s the beach for you,” I replied in the perky tone I vowed to maintain for the rest of Mom’s visit. “Kath and the kids must be loving it. What a treat! A holiday to remember!”
“I warned Kathy about jellyfish,” Mom said darkly. “Rip currents, sharks, sand, mosquitoes. . . . It simply doesn’t seem right to be somewhere so tropical for Christmas, but Dwayne went and got that package deal.”
Mom’s tone suggested Dwayne had purchased a family-sized case of hives. I gave Mom another sympathetic smile, along with the extra water bottle she’d stashed in my purse. Of course she was out of sorts. Once the kids learned that they’d get to open their presents early and go to Disney World and the beach, Mom and the holiday hot dish hadn’t stood a chance. I, meanwhile, saw my chance to get Mom to Santa Fe. I employed some of the guilt she usually ladled on me, telling her truthfully that Celia and I couldn’t get away this year between my work and Celia’s extracurricular activities.
Mom, the master of loving manipulation, countered with how much my Illinois relatives would miss us. I was also single, she needlessly pointed out, implying that I could easily uproot. Furthermore, I lived in a casita, a home with tiny in its very name. She wouldn’t want to put me out, she said. Mom then played her wild card, namely Albert Ridgeland, my junior prom date. Wouldn’t you know, Mom had said. She’d recently run into Albert and he was divorced just like me, and with his own successful dental clinic and a mostly full head of hair and he sure would love to catch up. Mom might be indirect, but she’s never subtle. Ever since my divorce from Manny Martin, a policeman with soap-opera good looks and accompanying philandering tendencies, Mom’s been after me to move back “home.” She sends me clippings of employment ads and monitors eligible bachelors. Peeved that Mom had dragged a divorced dentist into the debate, I went for the guilt jugular, reminding Mom that she was retired yet hadn’t visited in nearly two years.
My tactic worked, possibly too well. Mom was staying for nearly three weeks—to get her money’s worth out of the flight—and I’d feel terrible if she didn’t have a good time. I looked over and saw Mom eyeing a brown paper lunch sack perched a few feet down the adobe wall. The bag was open at the top and slightly singed on the sides. I could guess the contents. A votive candle nestled in sand. Mom stepped over to peek inside.
“It’s a wonder this entire state doesn’t burn down,” she declared. “Remember when your middle school band director, Mr. Ludwig, put on that world Christmas festival in the gymnasium? He almost set the bleachers on fire with one of these . . .” She paused. “What do you call them?”
“A farolito,” I said, proud to show off my local knowledge. “Some people call them luminarias, but Santa Feans are very particular about terminology. Here, luminaria refers to small bonfires. Farolitos are the candles in paper bags. There are electric farolitos too. You’ll see a lot of those along the rooflines of hotels and businesses. They’re pretty but nothing compared to the real ones on Christmas Eve. You’ll love it, Mom. You’ve never seen anything like it.”
Mom shuddered, likely imagining Santa Fe bursting into a spontaneous inferno rather than aglow with thousands of flickering lights. I decided not to tell her about the amazing three-dimensional paper lanterns I’d once seen soaring above the adobe city, lifted by the energy of the candles burning inside them. I needed to work on Mom before I exposed her to flying flames or peppers for breakfast. Mom was rooting around in her hip pack.
“I thought I had a granola bar. This time change and the lack of air are making me light-headed. You need to keep eating too, Rita.” Eating, I always had covered. I also had a better idea than a squished fanny-pack snack.
“It’s the holidays, Mom. Let’s get some pie.”

Ann Myers

More About Ann:

Ann Myers writes the Santa Fe Café Mysteries. The first book in the series, Bread of the Dead (2015), introduced café chef and reluctant amateur sleuth, Rita Lafitte. Rita and her friends stir up more trouble in Cinco de Mayhem (March 2016) and Feliz Navidead (October 25, 2016). Ann lives with her husband and extra-large house cat in southern Colorado, where she enjoys cooking, crafts, and cozy mysteries.

Q&A with Ann Myers

Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

Hi, Cheryl. Thank you so much for having me as a guest!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
The first three Santa Fe Café Mysteries all feature holidays, Day of the Dead, Cinco de Mayo, and Christmas, respectively. The holidays can be stressful, but thankfully I’ve never found a body or taken on killers. However, I do draw inspiration from the setting, Santa Fe, and its history, culture, and wonderful culinary scene. Like me, my protagonist Rita isn’t a native of New Mexico or the Southwest. However, we’re both enchanted by the “Land of Enchantment,” and I’ve incorporated some of my experiences, favorite things, and “discoveries” into her story.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
When I start plotting a book, I tell myself to first identify the killer and what sparked the crime. It never happens. To get started, I need to know the initial situation for my protagonist. What time of year is it? What is she worried or happy about? What’s she cooking? Then I can figure out what happens to her and the other characters.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Some characters have bits of real people in them. There’s a dash of my grandmother in Flori, my protagonist’s tush-pinching octogenarian friend, boss, and sleuthing companion. And my mother swears she’s the visiting mom in Feliz Navidead. Not really. She and the fictional mom merely share common worries about dehydration in the desert and the fire hazards of farolitos, outdoor Christmas candles in paper bags.

My beloved family aside, I also keep notes of distinctive traits, like gaits or manners of speaking. Difficult people are useful too. It’s calming to think this if you’re stuck with one. Just repeat to yourself good material, good material…

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I usually write best in the morning. My only idiosyncrasy might be enforced sitting at the computer. (If my mother is reading this and worried I’ll die of sitting-induced blood clots, I do get up and stretch.) When I’m writing a first draft, I try to forge through quickly and meet word-count or scene goals for the day.

Tell us why we should read this book.
I love the characters and hope you will too! Rita isn’t perfect. But while she might flub up dancing or spill soup on customer’s laps, she’s always there for her friends and family. Flori and her Senior Center pals get into fun trouble in each book too, from deadly tai chi to rogue knitting. Then there’s the food. Rita and her friends whip up some fabulous dishes and you can too. Each book contains recipes for a complete meal, including treats like anise-spiced pan de muerto in Bread of the Dead, a yummy green chile and cheese soufflé in Cinco de Mayhem, and pumpkin pie with gingersnap crust in Feliz Navidead. Oh there’s also chocoflan cake, which might be my favorite cake ever (and I have a LOT of favorite cakes).

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Diane Mott Davidson’s wonderful culinary cozies were my first cozy-mystery loves. I also adore Kate Carlisle’s delightful Bibliophile Mysteries and the Cajun Country Mysteries by Ellen Byron. For regional flavor, there’s the incomparable Tony Hillerman. I also enjoy Martha Grimes’s Richard Jury series and Ann Cleeve’s Shetland mysteries.

What are you reading now?
Speaking of Martha Grimes, I realized I hadn’t read some of her early Jury novels. I’m reading the first book in that series, The Man with a Load of Mischief.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’d love to write more Santa Fe Café Mysteries and have ideas for plots. While waiting to hear how the first three books do, I’m working on a mystery/thriller set in a fictional Colorado town. The heroine is inspired by a friend, a social worker who helps kids. Crimes are already underway…a missing foster child, a murdered social worker, and soon another killing.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
This was actually a hard one! I’m terrible with names of actors and rarely see movies. But it turned out okay because my aunt and I undertook Google research on “hunky male actors in their forties.” After making a list including Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig (with brunette hair dye), we chose Bradley. For Rita, we barely had to search: Amy Adams or Jenna Fisher would be perfect!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love baking, especially bread. But I can’t do that every day unless I take up extreme exercise on the side, and who has time for that? I also enjoy dabbling in crafts. I’ve tried a lot, from soldering to sewing, but haven’t found “The One” yet. Recently, I’ve been into embroidery, paper-cutting, and rudimentary blacksmithing. By rudimentary, I mean three hours of pounding on hot steel to achieve a wobbly twist.

Favorite meal?
Easy. Lasagna, especially cheesy, gooey, saucy versions.

Thanks! This has been such a fun interview!

You can find Ann online on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AnnMyers.writer/; and her website http://www.annmyersbooks.com/

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Ann Myers and HarperCollins. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) set of CINCO DE MAYHEM and BREAD OF THE DEAD by Ann Myers. The giveaway begins on Noveber 18th and runs through January 3rd, 2016.

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Jun 202014
 

WELCOME BRIAN McGILLOWAY

Brian McGilloway

Brian McGilloway is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin series. He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he is currently Head of English.

His first novel, Borderlands, published by Macmillan New Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2007 and was hailed by The Times as ‘one of (2007’s) most impressive debuts.’ The second novel in the series, Gallows Lane, was shortlisted for both the 2009 Irish Book Awards/Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2010. Bleed A River Deep, the third Devlin novel, was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of their Best Books of 2010.

Brian’s fifth novel, Little Girl Lost, which introduced a new series featuring DS Lucy Black, won the University of Ulster’s McCrea Literary Award in 2011 and is a No.1 UK Kindle Bestseller. The follow-up novel, Hurt, will be published in late 2013 by Constable and Robinson.

Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife, daughter and three sons.
Connect with Brian at these sites:

WEBSITE        TWITTER   

Q&A with Brian McGilloway

 
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
A mixture of the two, I think. I tend to read or hear about current events and take the kernel of an idea form that, which then allows me to examine issues which are important to me and to integrate elements of my own experiences.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I start at the start. Generally, I have an idea where one plot strand might end up, but the ending changes for me as I write. I take much comfort in Doctorow’s comment that writing is like driving at night in the fog; you can only see as far as the end of your head light, but you still make it home safely that way.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
My routine has changed since I’ve gone full time. I leave the kids to school at 9 am and write through until about 12.30. I stop then and am doing school runs all afternoon. Depending on deadlines, I might do some more in the evenings. I aim to do around 1000 words a day and find I can manage that in a few hours each morning. Idiosyncrasies? – I always need to have a cup of tea when I’m starting. Never coffee.

Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
It is now. I was a teacher of English until last year when I took a career break. I loved teaching very much and had a lot of fun working with the kids but it got to the point where I was so stretched that I was worried I’d not be doing justice to either my students nor those who are kind enough to read my books (never mind my own wife and children) if I continued trying to balance them all.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Too many to mention. James Lee Burke will always stand head and shoulders above in the genre for me in terms of prose style and sheer humanity in his writing.

What are you reading now?
Bad Blood by Arne Dahl. I’m interviewing Arne next week in the Dublin Writers’ Festival and am very much looking forward to it.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m editing it at the moment. It’s working title is Sticks and Stones and it’s another Lucy novel about the discovery of a dead body in the River Foyle which has already been embalmed and prepared for burial.

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
I don’t know because I don’t tend to see the main character’s faces. My wife thinks Michael Fassbender would be a fine Devlin (but I think she may have her own reasons for that choice.) I met a Derry born actress last year called Laura Pyper who I thought would make a great Lucy Black.

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
My notes are always hand written on various note books and scraps of paper. I always type my manuscript though. Much easier to revise and much easier for everyone involved to have to read.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Walking the dogs with my kids, watching a good movie with my wife, reading a good book on my own.

Favorite meal?
I’m a coealic so something gluten free. Gluten Free Lasagne, perhaps.

 

About the book

Lucy Black must protect the young and vulnerable…but can she protect herself? Late December. A sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on a train line. Detective Sergeant Lucy Black is called to identify the body. The only clues to the dead teenager’s last movements are stored in her mobile phone and on social media – and it soon becomes clear that her ‘friends’ were not as trustworthy as she thought. Lucy is no stranger to death: she is still haunted by the memory of the child she failed to save, and the killer she failed to put behind bars. And with a new boss scrutinizing her every move, she is determined that – this time – she will leave no margin for error. Hurt is a tense crime thriller about how, in the hands of a predator, trust can turn into terror.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Women Sleuths, Police Procedurals, Suspense
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Number of Pages:
ISBN: 9780062336705

PURCHASE LINKS:

       

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DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

May 192014
 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Lance Underphal was devastated by his wife’s death, and now, the down-and-out crime-scene photographer can’t let her go. He wakes up plagued by premonitions. The double shooting of an Arizona real estate developer and his mistress/bookkeeper immerse Underphal in a world of incomprehensible phenomena.
Frank Salmon, the homicide detective on the case, does his best to blow off Underphal’s “visions.” But the murders keep piling up and the visions are all too real.
Salmon pursues Underphal’s clues from a popular strip club to a failing community bank, adding a blackmailing stripper to the body count.
Underphal struggles mightily with his psychic curse, teetering on the brink of insanity. His only hope for redemption is the voice in his head, the voice of his dead wife. Stumbling through dark vortexes of murderous intrigue, he comes to realize his visions will either kill him or lead to the capture of a killer—maybe more than one.

Read an excerpt:
Whiting runs a trembling hand through thinning hair, his scalp hot and moist. They’ve got to do something about these numbers. Short stubble on raw cheeks twitches as he anxiously works his jaws. They could lose the whole damn project. Thirty million! He can’t believe it, he’s bet everything on this project. And with the hard-money loan, they’ve got a bigger nut than ever. Shit! Those hard-money bastards, they’re Rodriguez’s contacts. Of course they had to have the money to finish—all the construction cost overruns. Fucking Rodriguez. His fingers manically drum on the hardwood desktop, their nails ragged, bitten to the quick. They’re in way too deep to quit now.
Chewing his bottom lip, Whiting redials Rodriguez’s cell.
Rodriguez sounds out of breath, frustrated. “Damn Gary, whaddaya want?”
“Mike, we need to go over some numbers. Ya got a minute?”
Rodriguez gives a short chuckle then lowers his voice, “I’m kinda in the middle of somethin’.”
“Yeah, but . . .” Gary hears a thump, then a woman’s muffled words. “Hey, are you at the office? Who’s with you?”
“Yeah, like I said, we’re kinda in the middle of somethin’ here.”
Whiting hears giggling in the background.
To Diane, Rodriguez says, “Stop that.” To Gary, he says, “Diane’s never done it on the desk before.”
Whiting can almost hear Rodriguez’s leering grin.
In the background Diane laughs then says, “Do I get overtime for this?”
Now they’re both laughing.
“Damn . . . Mike, you guys . . . in the office?”
“Hey, don’t sweat it. It’s almost seven, no one’s around, yard gates are locked, lights are off. No one’s gonna know.”
Whiting hears Diane coo and then more giggling.
Rodriguez speaks closer into the phone, “That is, as long as you keep your mouth shut.”
“Hey, no problem. I don’t care what you do with Diane. She’s your bookkeeper.”
Diane lets out a short yelp and says “What was that?”
“Shit!” Rodriguez whispers, “Shit.”
“Mike, what’s going on?”
“Hold on, I think someone’s here.”
Whiting hears grunting, rustling, probably scrambling for clothes, the metallic snap of window blinds.
Under his breath, Rodriguez says “Who’s that?” He whispers to Diane, “Get your panties on.”
Whiting hears Diane whine, “I’m trying.”
He hears Rodriguez whispering to himself, “Who is that? Is that . . ? I’ll get that bastard.”
Rodriguez says, “Gary, hold on, I gotta take a picture with this thing, hold on.”
“Okay.” Whiting hears the blinds clacking.
He hears Rodriguez talking to himself, “Damn, it’s dark . . . but I think I got ‘em.”
“Mike . . . Mike?”
“Yeah, I’m back, hold on. Gotta check this out.”
Whiting clutches the phone in a sweaty hand, pressed hard against his ear. He hears a loud bang. A door slamming the wall? Too weird. He needs a Valium.
Diane screams. Rodriguez yells, “You, you asshole! What the fuck do you want!?!”
Whiting hears POP, POP! Screeching, a low grunt, loud thumps . . . POP, POP, POP! “Uh, uh, uh . . .” Guttural gasps. A long wail. High-pitched keening, its otherworldly echo raising every hair on goose flesh. Whiting drops the receiver, horrified. The plastic handset bounces off the desktop as it sinks in. They’ve been shot!
BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Telemachus Press
Publication Date: 11/19/2012
Number of Pages: 382
ISBN:
978-1-938701-94-8 ebook
978-1-938701-95-5 paperback

PURCHASE LINKS:

           

 

MICHAEL ALLAN SCOTT

Born and raised at the edge of the high desert in Kingman, Arizona, Michael Allan Scott resides in Scottsdale with his wife, Cynthia and their hundred-pound Doberman, Otto. In addition to writing mysteries and speculative fiction, his interests include music, photography, art, scuba diving and auto racing.
Connect with Michael at these sites:

WEBSITE        TWITTER   

Q&A with Michael Allan Scott

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Both. The Lance Underphal mysteries are loosely based on real life experiences over a backdrop of current events at the time.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?  I have a basic story idea and rough out the bones of the plot and characters in notes, then let ‘er rip. I compare it to jazz composition. Once I have the basic structure down, I improvise and let it take me where it will.

Your routine when writing?
Simple, really. I schedule my writing time for the week ahead, then do my best to adhere to my schedule. I track my progress weekly based on word count.

Any idiosyncrasies?
Hmm … depends on who you ask. I rarely write more than an hour straight, taking breaks and short walks when the mood hits to stay fresh. Sometimes I’ll listen to a particular piece of music to establish the emotional tone I want to achieve.

Is writing your full time job?
Yes, one of them. Sixty/seventy hour work weeks are common for me.

If not, may I ask what you do by day? 
Of course I write and market my writing. Additionally, I own and operate a commercial real estate company.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
When it comes to mystery, James Lee Burke and Michael Connelly come to mind. And of course, Edgar Allan Poe.

What are you reading now?
I read several books at a time—keeps me from getting bored. The paperbacks include: The Death Artist by Jonathan Santlofer, The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald, Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo, and collection of Poe short stories edited by Michael Connelly titled In the Shadow of the Master. On my Kindle, I’m reading: Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn and Reconing by R.S. Guthrie. BTW, this list should not be taken as a recommendation.

Are you working on your next novel?
I just finished the first draft.

Can you tell us a little about it?
If I can’t, who can? 🙂 Titled Grey Daze, it’s the third Lance Underphal Mystery and is due out this summer. Like its predecessors, it is a hardcore contemporary mystery/thriller with a paranormal twist. Lance and his friends find themselves tracking down a crime ring that preys on the elderly. They find the killers and then it gets hairy.

Here’s an excerpt:
“It’s all white except for naked trees and grey light. Still and frozen like a perfect image etched in frosted glass. The snow, crystalline powder piled up in mounds, spreads along the riverbanks like a sparkling blanket of diamonds—the river, a mirror of blue ice. A hush as thick as the snow. Tiny flakes of icy fluff fill the air before my eyes. The only sounds are the hiss of my blades slicing virgin ice and my lungs pumping frosty breaths into a streaming cloud behind me like a quietly thundering locomotive. Pushing, my eyes water with the cold, blood pounding in my ears as my thighs burn. I glide into its beauty, nature’s elements in perfect balance, exhilarated as I rush into the outstretched arms of God.

Smiling and spent, I circle back and head for home, convinced this is as much of God as I’ll ever know. I soon see our cabin up ahead, buried up to the window frames in drifted snow. Its roof, a steeple of purest white—a curl of smoke drifting up from its chimney to disappear into the haze. It’s early, I wonder if she’s up yet. I want to tell her how beautiful it all is. Beaming, I lean into it. Can’t wait to see her.

I quietly hang my skates on a peg in the mudroom, careful not to wake her. Cringing as the hinges creak, I try to be quiet. Something’s wrong. As I pad softly across the cold flagstone, I hear her weeping. She’s on her knees, hunched over in the middle of the room, her back to me, facing the fireplace. Something’s very wrong. I want to rush to her, but I can’t. I force myself to take a step closer, then another. In a hoarse whisper, I say, “Callie?” She lets out a mournful wail from deep within as she turns to me, our infant son in her arms, blue and still. I reel from the blow. How can this be? We don’t have a son!”

Your novel will be a movie.  Who would you cast?
Of course, I’m expecting all my books will be made into movies. In fact, the writing style is more visual than typical novels, custom-built for movie adaptation. That said, for the first book, Dark Side of Sunset Pointe, I envision Jack Nicholson or John Travolta as Lance Underphal and Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt as Detective Frank Salmon.

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard? 
All on a word processor. I can barely type fast enough to keep up.  Hand written, OMG can you imagine?

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love auto racing, scuba diving and photography. I do my best to work in photography with whatever I’m doing. I have a little more than 25 hours of Hammerhead and White Tip shark video from the last dive trip to Cocos Island.

Favorite meal?
A large T-Bone steak, thick and rare; real mashed potatoes oozing real butter; and a big slice of chocolate layer cake with dark chocolate icing. (okay, guess I’d throw in a salad, if I had to – a fresh Wedge salad with real blue cheese, bacon, fresh tomatoes and iceberg lettuce.) And the last time I had a dinner like this was at least ten years ago. Ah well … at least I can dream.

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I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

 

May 132014
 

THE RICH AND THE DEAD by Liv Spector
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date:
ISBN: 9780062258397
Pages: 320
Review Copy from: Publisher
Edition: TPB
My Rating: 4

Synopsis:
To solve the crime of the century, she’ll have to go back in time….

Welcome to Star Island, where Miami’s wealthiest residents lead private lives behind the tall gates of their sprawling mansions. It’s a blissful escape from the hot and dirty city—or it was, until New Year’s Day 2015, when twelve of the most powerful people in the world were found murdered in the basement of a Star Island mansion.

The massacre shocked the nation and destroyed the life of investigator Lila Day. Her hunt for the Star Island killer consumed her. But the case went unsolved, resulting in her dismissal from the Miami PD.

Now, three years later, life hands Lila an unexpected second chance: reclusive billionaire Teddy Hawkins approaches Lila and asks her to solve the case. But how do you investigate a crime when all the leads have long ago gone cold? The answer, Teddy tells her, is to solve the case before it happens. He’s going to send Lila back in time.

With nothing left to lose, an incredulous Lila travels back to 2014, determined to find the Star Island killer once and for all. But as she goes undercover among the members of Miami’s high society, she finds herself caring for—and falling for—people who are destined to die that fateful night. Now she must either say good-bye or risk altering the future forever.

My Thoughts and Opinion:
As in the synopsis, The secret Janus Society members, all twelve of them are murdered. But why? Why would someone want to murder the rich philanthropic organizational members that give so much? Detective Lila Day tried to answer these questions and arrest the suspect but that wasn’t to be and she was asked to leave the force. Fast forward three years and Lila is given a second chance to solve this cold case.

After the last word was read, my first thoughts on this book was it was a page turning read. One that had me guessing until the end, and not until the last few pages was the suspect revealed. The characters realistic, the settings visualized. The writing was impeccable.

But there was more to this book, elements that included science fiction and time travel capability. I am not a fan of these genres but felt that it did not take away from the story. At first, I thought that the science fiction would be the forefront but that wasn’t the case. The suspense was, because it was so palpable, that I was on the edge of my seat. This book held me captive. Highly recommend!

Liv Spector

Liv Spector was raised on Cape Cod and now lives in Canada. She has worked as an oyster shucker, dancer, farmhand, journalist, and teacher. A graduate of McGill University in Montreal, she received her MFA from Brooklyn College.
Connect with Liv at these sites:

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Read an excerpt

PROLOGUE Star Island, Florida, is not so much a location on the map as a fantasy come to life. The hundred or so people lucky enough to live on its man-made shores exist as if in a waking dream— a dream as seductive, dangerous, and illusory as a mirage.

Nestled upon the turquoise waters of Biscayne Bay, a mere stone’s throw away from that wild and wicked boomtown, Miami Beach, Star Island has been home to movie stars, corporate titans, drug runners, and even a cult leader named Brother Louv, all of whom prized both its opulence and its isolation. But today, Star Island is synonymous with one thing, and one thing only.

The massacre.

All of the sins and scandals that took place on the island before the murders now seem like nothing more than child’s play.

By now, the details of the crime have been fervently hashed and rehashed so many times, on TV talk shows, around kitchen tables, and over cubicle walls, that everyone in the world knows the intricacies of the murders: On New Year’s Day 2015, twelve bodies were discovered on the Star Island estate of hotel magnate Chase Haverford, whose body was recovered among the dead. The victims were all, like Chase, high-profile fixtures in Miami’s social scene. Each had been murdered execution-style with a single bullet shot directly through the forehead.

The moment the news broke, the Star Island massacre took over the attentions of the world like a collective fever. From Tampa to Tokyo, from Kentucky to Kenya, the international media were breathless with talk about what many called the crime of the century.

For months, the hunt for the Star Island killer consumed the best and brightest investigators across the country and around the world. The CIA and the FBI each devoted a team to the case. A $10 million bounty offered by the father of one of the victims inspired countless home-brewed investigations. Yet even with the entire world on the hunt, the identity of the killer remained unknown.

And then, like any fever, the obsession with the Star Island massacre eventually broke. The press turned its attentions to another scandal. The cadre of investigators, tired of insurmountable dead ends and anxious to flee Miami before the summer humidity made the city unbearable, went off looking for new bloodstained bogeymen.

Long after everyone else had moved on, one local detective was left following leads, checking and rechecking evidence, and searching for a break in a case so cold even she knew there was little hope in catching the killer. Only one detective was foolish enough to care, and it nearly cost her everything.

CHAPTER ONE

The instant Lila Day knocked on the door to room 3746, the yelling from inside stopped. On the other side of the door, she could hear the hustle of loud whispers and shuffling feet—the sound of bad behavior being frantically covered up.

“Security!” Lila bellowed as she pounded on the door.

She looked at her watch: 4:13 a.m. “Figures,” she muttered under her breath as she knocked again, landing three sharp strikes upon the door. “Open up, now!”

One thing all her years as a cop had taught her, and this crap hotel security job had merely confirmed, was that the hour from 4:00 to 5:00 a.m. was always when the ugliest shit went down. By four in the morning, most of the partyers, drunks, and fun-seeking idiots had passed out, and the early birds were still asleep in their beds. Anyone awake at this ungodly time was, without fail, up to no good.

Lila had been working night security at the Hotel Armadale for the past eight months, and in that time, not one notable thing had happened. Usually her job meant busting hotel guests smoking cigarettes in the stairwell, or searching under couch cushions for watches reported as stolen. Tonight, though, things were different. She felt it in her gut.

A sharp and sudden smash came from inside the room. Once again, Lila banged on the door.

“Hotel security. Open the door!” she shouted.

She reached down for her weapon, an automatic impulse after years on the force. But there was no gun there—nothing but a flashlight. Hotel security officers were strictly prohibited from carrying weapons. Bad for business, her manager said.

“Christ,” Lila muttered. She settled for her flashlight, which she could use as a stand-in bludgeon if it came to that.

She banged on the door a final time. Then she heard a muffled cry, followed by what sounded like a heavy object being dragged along the floor. Someone was in danger. In an instant, Lila had swiped her universal key across the touch-screen door lock, kicked the door open, and stepped cautiously inside the room.

It was one of the hotel’s most expensive suites, with jaw-dropping ocean views and sleek furniture. Even on an off-season night like tonight, mid-July in Miami, when the vast majority of tourists were long gone, this room went for $5,200. But tonight, the suite looked like a war zone. A TV had been torn off the wall and smashed against the dining room table. The white marble floor was covered in broken glass and empty booze bottles. A chartreuse raw silk curtain had been ripped off the window.

Slowly, Lila skirted along the perimeter of the room, keeping her back to the wall.

She heard a door slam on the west side of the suite and followed the sound into the bedroom, where she saw a long trail of blood staining the white carpet. The blood stopped at the closed bathroom door. From behind the door, she could hear rushing water and heavy footfalls.

“Hotel security. Open the goddamned door!” There was no response.

With all of her strength, Lila slammed the butt end of her flashlight repeatedly into the doorknob until the metal ripped away. She took a deep breath and then, using all 125 pounds of her body weight, shouldered her way into the bathroom.

Two men, stripped down to their underwear, stood frozen in a Jacuzzi tub at the far end of the cavernous marble bathroom. A woman’s bare legs, tapering down to a pair of leopard-print high heels, hung limply over the tub’s side. The crimson trail of blood continued across the floor toward the tub.

One man was quite short, no more than five four, with a bleached Mohawk and a muscular gym body. The other was a hulking presence, about a foot taller than his friend, paunchy and covered in thick tufts of body hair.

A strong smell of vomit hung in the air. The sink and tub faucets poured with steaming hot water.

“Hands up,” Lila shouted.

“We weren’t doing nothing,” the short man said in a thick accent that Lila couldn’t quite place. He raised his hands slowly and stepped out of the tub. He took several steps toward Lila, close enough that she could smell the soured alcohol escaping from every pore on his body.

“Don’t move,” Lila warned, standing her ground. The small man stopped within arm’s reach of her. From his red-rimmed eyes and raw nostrils she could tell he’d been buried in drugs for hours. The woman’s legs had not moved.

“This has nothing to do with you,” the large man said in a tone so calm and measured that it made Lila’s skin crawl. “You should turn around and go.”

“That’s not going to happen, sir,” Lila said. If that woman was still alive, the water flowing into the tub would drown her within seconds. “Now, can you tell me if the woman is still breathing?”

The large man stepped out of the tub. “Everything is under control,” he said.

“That’s not what it looks like from here.” She inched closer to the tub, her hand wrapped around the flashlight.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the short man said, grabbing her left arm.

“Hands off !” Lila snapped. She tried to pull her arm away, but the man only tightened his grip, burrowing his fingers deep into the muscle of her biceps.

Lila could see from his eyes and the tense twitch of his jaw that the man had no intention of letting her go. She glanced over at the taller man, who was now standing shoulder to shoulder with his buddy. Two against one. If she was going to get the upper hand, she would have to strike first.

In one swift movement, she spun around, using the momentum of her torqued body to crack the flashlight across the short man’s cheekbone. He let go of her as he fell diagonally, clutching his face. Then she darted to the side as the larger man lunged for her, bringing her foot down on his leg, right above the ankle. She heard the stomach-churning sound of his bone breaking.

Howling in pain, the man collapsed to the floor, and Lila ran to the tub. The woman was naked, her arms akimbo like those of a rag doll. Her long blond hair was wet and hung in clumps around her bloody face. Grabbing the woman’s lifeless arms, Lila attempted to hoist her from the tub, but her wet, unresponsive body slipped out of Lila’s grasp. The woman crumpled to the floor with a thud.

Lila called 911 for help. Her boss had been more than clear that calling the cops was absolutely the last resort. Even though this was a matter of life or death, she knew he’d still give her shit for it. “This is hotel security requesting police and EMT at Hotel Armadale, room thirty-seven forty-six. I have a medical emergency and two detained suspects.”

As she was talking, she pressed her fingers to the inside of the woman’s wrist and was relieved to find a pulse. She was still alive, but she wasn’t breathing.

Just then, the short man got to his feet, stooping down to help his larger friend.

Lila shot back up, ready for round two. But the men weren’t coming toward her. They were shuffling frantically away in the direction of the door.

“Freeze!” Lila shouted. They stopped, looked at her, looked at each other, and took off for the hallway as quickly as they could, the large man dragging his mangled leg behind him.

Lila hesitated for a split second. Should she chase after the men, or try to get this woman breathing again?

“Fuck it,” Lila said. She brushed the blond hair from the woman’s face, used a wet towel to wipe away the blood and vomit, and bent down to hold the woman’s nose closed as she blew two long breaths into her lungs.

By the time the EMTs arrived, the men were long gone, and the woman was barely responsive. But at least she was breathing again.

After the woman had been placed on a stretcher and taken to the hospital, a couple of fresh-faced cops arrived on the scene. They were young enough that Lila didn’t know them from her years in the Miami Police Department; and if they knew of her, they didn’t say. For that, she was thankful.

Her cell phone rang while she was in the middle of giving the police a description of the men who’d fled the crime scene. It was her boss. “Get to my office, now.”

“I’m talking to the police,” she replied. “I’ll be down when I’m done.”

“Which is right this minute. Get your ass here, now.”

She took the elevator down to the basement, where her supervisor had his small office just off the kitchen. When she opened his door, he was on the phone.

“I got it. It’s taken care of. Not a problem,” he said, waving Lila in. She knew from the throbbing vein in the middle of his beet-red forehead that she was in deep shit.

“Yes, thank you, sir,” he said into the phone, glaring at Lila.

“Sorry that you had to be disturbed in the middle of the night over this.”

Danny Ramirez, her superior, was an unshaven smudge of a man with a phlegmy cough and an allergic reaction to hard work.

Like Lila, and most of the other shlubs who worked hotel security, he was an ex-cop. The difference was that he was retired with full pension, while Lila had been asked to leave the force. It was a distinction he never let her forget. He was a kiss-up, kick-down kind of guy. In other words, a complete prick.

Lila sat stiffly on a metal stool wedged between a wet vac and a fifty-gallon drum of olive oil, waiting for him to get off the phone.

“That’s right, sir. I’ll handle it. Yes, my pleasure.” Danny hung up the phone, then let out an enormous sigh, rubbing the heel of his meaty hand across his forehead. “Do you have any idea who that was?” he asked Lila.

She shook her head no.

“Thanks to you, I just had the distinct pleasure of getting my ass chewed out by none other than Jonathan fucking Golding, the owner of this very fine establishment. Do you know how many times he’s called me? Just guess.”

Lila shrugged. Saying anything right now would only be digging herself deeper into whatever hole she was currently in.

“In my six years of working here, I’ve only spoken to that man once before tonight. And that was on the day he hired me.”

“You’re acting like I did something wrong.”

“Do yourself a favor and shut your mouth!” he shouted. “I’ll take bullshit from Golding ’cause that’s my job. But I won’t take it from you. Do you have any idea whose fucking ankle you broke tonight?”

“I don’t know. A rapist’s? A murderer’s? I walked in on him and his little friend trying to kill a woman. If I wasn’t there, you’d have a homicide on your hands right now. Is that what you want?”

“She’s a whore who overdosed. That’s the end of the story.

The cops that are with her down at the hospital right now told me she’s not pressing charges. She’s staying very tight-lipped about the whole thing. Poor girl is just trying to keep out of jail herself. On the other hand, those guys you had so much fun bashing around already have their lawyers calling Jonathan fucking Golding demanding that you be brought up on aggravated assault charges.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you. And now I’ve got Golding up my ass saying how bad this looks for the hotel. He’s trying to keep the whole thing contained. If this is leaked to the press, it’ll be a total shit show.” Lila sat there stunned. The worst she had expected was to be called out for letting the guys get away. But this wasn’t the first time she’d been read the riot act for simply doing her job. “I was warned not to hire you. But did I listen?” Danny shook his head. “You were a good cop. And you needed work, so I did what I thought was right and gave you the job.”

“And I’m grateful for that. Really I am.” Lila gave Danny a forced smile. “What I did tonight is part of the job you hired me to do.”

“For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve had a rotten habit of fucking with the wrong people,” he said.

“You mean rich people.”

“That’s one way to put it. Most people just call them the boss. And most people learn early to play nice with the guys who call the shots. It seems to me those are the folks you like to go after.”

Danny stood up, walked around his desk, and stopped in front of Lila. “I’ll need your hotel ID. Leave your uniform and flashlight in your locker. You’ll get a final check sent to you at the end of the month. As of right now, you are no longer an employee of Hotel Armadale.”

Lila sat silent for a moment, studying her boss. Under the fluorescent lights, his face looked slack-jawed and exhausted.

There was a mustard stain on his tie. He had always been sloppy, as a man and as a cop. All he ever really cared about was covering his own ass. The priorities of a coward.

Good riddance, she thought, standing up. She slapped her ID and flashlight on the table.

“You’ll land on your feet, kid.” Danny’s voice was a little strained from this attempt at positivity, but also relieved. She knew he’d been worried she would make a scene. But she wouldn’t give him the pleasure of seeing her protest. It was pointless. Instead, she just nodded as she left his office and closed the door behind her.

The moment Lila walked out of the Armadale for the last time, a wall of humidity hit her, the sun mercilessly bright overhead. It was only 7:30 a.m., and already the temperature was unbearable. Two thousand eighteen was proving to be the hottest year on record—and the worst year of Lila’s life.

Thoughts of her late mother’s hospital bills, her overdue car payments, her rent, and her frozen credit cards descended on Lila like the oppressive weather, making it almost impossible to breathe. She was broke, she was in debt, and now she was unemployed.

She was crossing the parking lot toward her car, her mind listing one worry after another, when a rapid clicking noise interrupted her thoughts. She looked up and saw an old man on the other side of the street, sitting in a midnight-blue Bentley and pointing a long-lensed camera in her direction. She swiveled around to see what he was photographing, but there was nothing behind her except the empty parking lot. Was he taking pictures of her?

Just as she turned back to the man, the car pulled away and disappeared around the corner. Lila stood glued to the same spot, staring blankly at where the car had been. Its exhaust fumes still hung suspended in the morning air. There was something about that old man, about this specific moment in time, that seemed intensely familiar to Lila, almost as if this had happened before.

She shook herself out of her momentary daze and climbed into her already sunbaked car, which felt something like climbing into a furnace. Déjà vu, she thought with a shrug.

The sun had only been up for an hour, and Lila’s day, as far as she was concerned, was already done

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REVIEW DISCLAIMER
This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review.
No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Mar 112014
 

Confession

by Carey Baldwin

BOOK BLAST on March 11th

on Tour April 2014

 

CAREY BALDWIN

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.
Connect with Carey at these sites:

WEBSITE        TWITTER   

ABOUT THE BOOK

For fans of Allison Brennan and Karen Rose comes Carey Baldwin, a daring new name in suspense, with the story of a serial killer out for blood—and the only woman who can stop his reign of terror.
They say the Santa Fe Saint comes to save your soul—by taking your life.
Newly minted psychiatrist Faith Clancy gets the shock of her life when her first patient confesses to the grisly Saint murders. By law she’s compelled to notify the authorities, but is her patient really The Saint? Or will she contribute to more death by turning the wrong man over to the police? Faith is going to need all her wits and the help of a powerful adversary, Luke Jericho, if she’s to unravel the truth. But she doesn’t realize she’s about to become an unwitting pawn in a serial killer’s diabolical game: For once he’s finished with Faith, she’ll become his next victim.

READ AN EXCERPT

Prologue

Saint Catherine’s School for Boys
Near Santa Fe, New Mexico
Ten years ago—Friday, August 15, 11:00 P.M.
I’M NOT afraid of going to hell. Not one damn bit.

We’re deep in the woods, miles from the boys’ dormitory, and my thighs are burning because I walked all this way with Sister Bernadette on my back. Now I’ve got her laid out on the soggy ground underneath a hulking ponderosa pine. A bright rim of moonlight encircles her face. Black robes flow around her, engulfing her small body and blending with the night. Her face, floating on top of all that darkness, reminds me of a ghost-head in a haunted house—but she’s not dead.

Not yet.

My cheek stings where Sister scratched me. I wipe the spot with my sleeve and sniff the air soaked with rotting moss, sickly-sweet pine sap and fresh piss. I pissed myself when I clubbed her on the head with that croquet mallet. Ironic, since my pissing problem is why I picked Sister Bernadette in the first place. She ought to have left that alone.

I hear a gurgling noise.

Good.

Sister Bernadette is starting to come around.

This is what I’ve been waiting for.

With her rosary wound tightly around my forearm, the grooves of the carved sandalwood beads cutting deep into the flesh of my wrist, I squat down on rubber legs, shove my hands under her armpits and drag her into a sitting position against the fat tree trunk. Her head slumps forward, but I yank her by the hair until her face tilts up, and her cloudy eyes open to meet mine. Her lips are moving. Syllables form within the bubbles coming out of her mouth. I press my stinging cheek against her cold, sticky one.

Like a lover, she whispers in my ear, “God is merciful.”

The nuns have got one fucked-up idea of mercy.

“Repent.” She’s gasping. “Heaven…”

“I’m too far gone for heaven.”

The God I know is just and fierce and is never going to let a creep like me through the pearly gates because I say a few Hail Marys. “God metes out justice, and that’s how I know I will not be going to heaven.”

To prove my point, I draw back, pull out my pocketknife, and press the silver blade against her throat. Tonight, I am more than a shadow. A shadow can’t feel the weight of the knife in his palm. A shadow can’t shiver in anticipation. A shadow is not to be feared, but I am not a shadow. Not in this moment.

She moves her lips some more, but this time, no sound comes out. I can see in her eyes what she wants to say to me. Don’t do it. You’ll go to hell.

I twist the knife so that the tip bites into the sweet hollow of her throat. “I’m not afraid of going to hell.”

It’s the idea of purgatory that makes my teeth hurt and my stomach cramp and my shit go to water. I mean what if my heart isn’t black enough to guarantee me a passage straight to hell? What if God slams down his gavel and says, Son, you’re a sinner, but I have to take your family situation into account. That’s a mitigating circumstance.

A single drop of blood drips off my blade like a tear.

“What if God sends me to purgatory?” My words taste like puke on my tongue. “I’d rather dangle over a fiery pit for eternity than spend a single day of the afterlife in a place like this one.”

I watch a spider crawl across her face.

My thoughts crawl around my brain like that spider.

You could make a pretty good case, I think, that St. Catherine’s School for Boys is earth’s version of purgatory. I mean, it’s a place where you don’t exist. A place where no one curses you, but no one loves you either. Sure, back home, your father hits you and calls you a bastard, but you are a bastard, so its okay he calls you one. Behind me, I hear the sound of rustling leaves and cast a glance over my shoulder.

Do it! You want to get into hell, don’t you?

I turn back to sister and flick the spider off her cheek.

The spider disappears, but I’m still here.

At St. Catherine’s no one notices you enough to knock you around. Every day is the same as the one that came before it, and the one that’s coming after. At St. Catherine’s you wait and wait for your turn to leave, only guess what, you dumb-ass bastard, your turn is never going to come, because you, my friend, are in purgatory, and you can’t get out until you repent.

Sister Bernadette lets out another gurgle.

I spit right in her face.

I won’t repent, and I can’t bear to spend eternity in purgatory, which is I why I came up with a plan. A plan that’ll rocket me straight past purgatory, directly to hell.

Sister Bernadette is the first page of my blueprint. I have the book to guide me the rest of the way. For her sake, not mine, I make the sign of the cross.

She’s not moving, but her eyes are open, and I hear her breathing. I want her to know she is going to die. “You are going to help me get into hell. In return, I will help you get into heaven.”

I shake my arm and loosen the rosary. The strand slithers down my wrist. One bead after another drops into my open palm, electrifying my skin at the point of contact. My blood zings through me, like a high-voltage current. I am not a shadow.

A branch snaps, making my hands shake with the need to hurry.

What are you waiting for my friend?

Is Sister Bernadette afraid?

She has to be. Hungry for her fear, I squeeze my thighs together, and then I push my face close and look deep in her eyes.

“The blood of the lamb will wash away your sins.” She gasps, and her eyes roll back. “Repent.”

My heart slams shut.

I begin the prayers.
Chapter One

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Present Day—Saturday, July 20, 1:00 P.M.

Man, she’s something.

Luke Jericho halted mid-stride, and the sophisticated chatter around him dimmed to an indistinct buzz. Customers jamming the art gallery had turned the air hot, and the aromas of perfume and perspiration clashed. His gaze sketched the cut muscles of the woman’s shoulders before swerving to the tantalizing V of her low-back dress. There, slick fabric met soft skin just in time to hide the thong she must be wearing. His fingers found the cold silk knot of his tie and worked it loose. He let his glance dot down the line of her spine, then swoop over the arc of her ass. It was the shimmer of Mediterranean-blue satin, illuminated beneath art lights, that had first drawn his eye, her seductive shape that had pulled him up short, but it was her stance—her pose—that had his blood expanding like hot mercury under glass.

Head tilted, front foot cocked back on its stiletto, the woman studied one of Luke’s favorite pieces—his brother Dante’s mixed-media. A piece Luke had hand-selected and quietly inserted into this show of local artists in the hopes a positive response might bolster his brother’s beleaguered self-esteem.

The woman couldn’t take her eyes off the piece, and he couldn’t take his eyes off the woman. Her right arm floated, as if she were battling the urge to reach out and touch the multi-textured painting. Though her back was to him, he could picture her face, pensive, enraptured. Her lips would be parted and sensual. He savored the swell of her bottom beneath the blue dress. Given the way the fabric clung to her curves, he’d obviously guessed right about the thong. She smoothed the satin with her hand, and he rubbed the back of his neck with his palm. Ha. Any minute now she’d turn and ruin his fantasy with what was sure to turn out to be the most ordinary mug in the room.

And then she did turn, and damned if her mug wasn’t ordinary at all, but she didn’t appear enraptured. Inquisitive eyes, with a distinct undercurrent of melancholy, searched the room and found him. Then, delicate brows raised high, her mouth firmed into a hard line—even thinned, her blood-red lips were temptation itself—she jerked to a rigid posture and marched, yeah, marched, straight at him.

Hot ass. Great mouth. Damn lot of nerve.

“I could feel your stare,” she said.

“Kind of full of yourself, honey.”

A flush of scarlet flared across her chest, leading his attention to her lovely, natural breasts, mostly, but not entirely, concealed by a classic neckline. With effort, he raised his eyes to meet hers. Green. Skin, porcelain. Hair, fiery—like her cheeks—and flowing. She looked like a mermaid. Not the soft kind, the kind with teeth.

“I don’t like to be ogled.” Apparently she intended to stand her ground.

He decided to stand his as well. That low-back number she had on might be considered relatively tame in a room with more breasts on display than a Picasso exhibit, but there was something about the way she wore it. “Then you shouldn’t have worn that dress, darlin’.”

Her brow arched higher in challenge. “Which is it? Honey or darlin’?”

“Let’s go with honey. You look sweet.” Not at the moment she didn’t, but he’d sure like to try and draw the sugar out of her. This woman was easily as interesting and no less beautiful than his best gallery piece, and she didn’t seem to be reacting to him per the usual script. He noticed his hand floating up, reaching out, just as her hand had reached for the painting. Like his mesmerizing customer, he knew better than to touch the display, but it was hard to resist the urge.

Her body drew back, and her shoulders hunched. “You’re aware there’s a serial killer on the loose?”

Luke, you incredible ass.

No wonder she didn’t appreciate his lingering looks. Every woman he knew was on full alert. The Jericho charm might or might not be able to get him out of this one, but he figured she was worth a shot. “Here, in this gallery? In broad daylight?” He searched the room with his gaze and made his tone light. “Or are you saying you don’t like being sized up for the kill?” He patted his suit pockets, made a big show of it and then stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I seem to have misplaced my rosary somewhere, I don’t suppose you’ve seen it?”

Her shoulders eased back to a natural position.

“Seriously, do I look like someone who’d be called The Saint?”

If the glove doesn’t fit…

Her lips threatened to curve up at the corners. “No. I don’t suppose you do.” Another beat, and then her smile bloomed in earnest. “Looking a little is one thing, maybe it’s even flattering…but you seem to have exceeded your credit line.”

He turned his palms up. “Then I’d like to apply for an increase.”

At that, her pretty head tipped back, and she laughed, a big genuine laugh. It was the kind of laugh that was a touch too hearty for a polished society girl, which perhaps she wasn’t after all. It was also the kind of laugh he’d like to hear again. Of its own accord, his hand found his heart. “Listen, I’m honest-to-God sorry if I spooked you. That wasn’t my intention.”

Her expression was all softness now.

“Do you like the painting?” he asked, realizing that he cared more than he should about the answer.

“It’s quite…dark.” Her bottom lip shivered with the last word, and he could sense she found Dante’s painting disturbing.

Always on the defensive where his brother was concerned, his back stiffened. He tugged at his already loosened tie. “Artists are like that. I don’t judge them.”

“Of course. I-I wasn’t judging the artist. I was merely making an observation about the painting. It’s expressive, beautiful.”

Relaxing his stance, he pushed a hand through his hair.

She pushed a hand through her hair, and then her glance found her fancy-toed shoes. “Maybe I overreacted, maybe you weren’t even staring.”

Giving in to the urge to touch, he reached out and tilted her chin up until their eyes met. “I’m Luke Jericho, and you had it right the first time. I was staring. I was staring at—” He barely had time to register a startled flash of her green eyes before she turned on her heel and disappeared into the throng of gallery patrons.

He shrugged and said to the space where her scent still sweetened the air, “I was staring at your fascination. Your fascination fascinates me.”

Saturday, July 20, 1:30 P.M.

Faith Clancy strode across her nearly naked office and tossed her favorite firelight macaron clutch onto her desk. After rushing out of the gallery, she’d come to her office to regroup, mainly because it was nearby.

She could hear Ma’s voice now, see her wagging finger. “Luke Jericho? Sure’an you’ve gone and put your wee Irish foot in the stewpot now, Faith.”

Well, it was only a tiny misstep—what harm could possibly come of it? She braced her palms against the windowsill. Teeth clenched, she heaved with all her might until wood screeched against wood and the window lurched open.

A full inch.

Swell.

Summers in Santa Fe were supposed to be temperate, and she hadn’t invested in an air conditioner for her new office. She sucked in a deep breath, but the currentless summer air brought little relief from the heat. Lifting her hair off the back of her damp neck with one hand, she reached over and dialed on the big standing fan next to the desk with the other. The dinosaur whirred to life without a hiccup.

That made one thing gone right today.

The relaxing Saturday afternoon she’d been looking forward to all week had been derailed, thanks to Luke Jericho. Okay, that wasn’t even half fair. In reality, the wheels of her day had never touched down on the track to begin with. She’d awakened this morning with a knot in her stomach and an ache in her heart—missing Danny and Katie.

Walk it off, she’d thought. Dress up. Take in the sights. Act like you’re part of the Santa Fe scene and soon enough you will be. Determined to forget the homesick rumbling in her chest, Faith had plucked a confidence boosting little number from her closet, slipped on a pair of heels and headed out to mingle with polite society. Even if she didn’t feel like she fit in, at least she would look the part. But the first gallery she’d entered, she’d dunked her foot in the stewpot—crossing swords with, and then, even worse, flirting with the brother of a patient.

Rather bad luck considering she had just one patient.

Her toe started to tap.

Her gaze swept the office and landed on the only adornment of the freshly-painted walls—her diplomas and certificates, arranged in an impressive display with her psychiatric board certification center stage. A Yale-educated doctor. Ma and Da would’ve been proud, even if they might’ve clucked their tongues at the psychiatrist part. She blinked until her vision cleared. It wasn’t only Danny and Katie she was missing today.

She kicked off her blasted shoes and shook off her homesick blues…only to find her mind returning to the gallery and her encounter with a man who was strictly off limits.

There was no point chastising herself for walking into the art gallery in the first place, or for refusing to pretend she didn’t notice the man who was eyeing her like she was high tea in a whorehouse, and he a starving sailor.

Care for a macaron, sir?

Had she realized her admirer was Luke Jericho, she would’ve walked away without confronting him, but how was she to know him by sight? It wasn’t as if she spent her spare time flipping through photos of town royalty in the society pages.

She’d recognized his name instantly, however, and not only because she was treating his half-brother, Dante. The Jericho family had a sprawling ranch outside town and an interest in a number of local businesses. But most of their wealth, she’d heard, came from oil. The Jerichos, at least the legitimate ones, had money. Barrels and barrels of it.

Luke’s name was on the lips of every unattached female in town—from the clerk at the local Shop and Save to the debutant docent at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum:

Single.

Handsome.

Criminally rich.

Luke Jericho, they whispered.

When she’d turned to find him watching her, his heated gaze had caused her very bones to sizzle. Luke had stood formidably tall, dressed in an Armani suit that couldn’t hide his rancher’s physique. The gallery lights seemed to spin his straw-colored hair into gold and ignite blue fire in his eyes. She could still feel his gaze raking over her in that casual way, as if he didn’t wish to conceal his appetites. It was easy to see how some women might become undone in his presence. She eased closer to the fan.

“Dr. Clancy.”

That low male voice gave her a fizzy, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, like she’d just downed an Alka-Seltzer on top of the flu. When you’re all alone in a room, and someone else speaks, it’s just plain creepy.

It only took a millisecond to recognize the voice, but at a time when someone dubbed The Santa Fe Saint was on a killing spree, that was one millisecond too long. Icy tendrils of fear wrapped themselves around her chest, squeezing until it hurt her heart to go on beating. The cold certainty that things were not as they should be made the backs of her knees quiver. Then recognition kicked in, and her breath released in a whoosh.

It’s only Dante.

She pasted on a neutral expression and turned to face him. How’d he gotten in? The entrance was locked; she was certain of it.

“Did I frighten you?”

She inclined her head toward the front door to her office, which was indeed locked, and said, “Next time, Dante, I’d prefer you use the main entrance…and knock.”

“I came in the back.”

That much was obvious now that she’d regained her wits. “That’s my private entrance. It’s not intended for use by patients.” Stupid of her to leave it unlocked, but it was midday and she hadn’t expected an ambush.

To buy another moment to compose herself, she went to her bookcase and inspected its contents. Toward the middle, Freud’s “Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis” leaned haphazardly in the direction of its opponent, Skinner’s “Behavior Therapy”. A paperback version of “A Systems Approach to Family Therapy” had fallen flat, not quite bridging the gap between the warring classics.

Dante crossed the distance between them, finishing directly in front of her, invading her personal space. “Quite right. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

She caught a blast of breath, pungent and wrong—a Listerine candle floating in a jar of whiskey. In self-defense, she took a step back before looking up at her patient’s face. Dante possessed his brother’s intimidating height, but unlike Luke, his hair was jet black, and his coal-colored eyes were so dark it was hard to distinguish the pupil from the iris. Despite Dante’s dark complexion and the roughness of his features—he had a previously broken nose and a shiny pink scar that gashed across his cheekbone into his upper lip—there was a distinct family resemblance between the Jericho brothers. Luke was the fair-haired son to Dante’s black sheep, and even their respective phenotypes fit the cliche.

Dante took a step forward.

She took another deep step back, bumping her rear-end against wood. With one hand she reached behind her and felt for the smooth rim of her desktop. With the other hand, she put up a stop sign. “Stay right where you are.”

He halted, and she edged her way behind her desk, using it as a barrier between herself and Dante. Maybe she should advise him to enroll in a social skills class since he didn’t seem to realize how uncomfortable he was making her. Though she knew full well Dante wasn’t on her schedule today—no one was on her schedule today—she powered on her computer. “Hang on a second while I check my calendar.”

“All right.” At least he had the courtesy to play along.

When he rested his hand on her desk, she noticed he was carrying a folded newspaper. She’d already seen today’s headline, and it had given her the shivers. “Any minute now.” She signaled to Dante with an upheld index finger.

He nodded, and, in what seemed an eternity of time, her computer finished booting. She navigated from the welcome screen to her schedule, and then in a firm, matter-of-fact voice, she told him, “I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake. Your appointment isn’t until Monday at four pm.”

As he took another step closer, a muscle twitched in his jaw. He didn’t seem to care when his appointment was. Gesturing toward the leather armchair on the patient side of her desk, she fended him off. “Have a seat right there.” If she could get him to sit down, maybe she could gain control of the situation; she really ought to hear him out long enough to make sure this wasn’t some sort of emergency.

Dante didn’t sit. Instead, from across the desk, his body inclined forward. Her throat went dry, and her speeding pulse signaled a warning. If this were an emergency, he most likely would have tried to contact her through her answering service, besides which, he’d had plenty of time already to mention anything urgent. He must’ve known he didn’t have an appointment today, so what the hell was he doing here on a Saturday?

Dante had no reason at all to expect her to be here. In fact, the more she thought about it, the less sense his presence made. Pulling her shoulders back, she said, “I am sorry, but you need to leave. You’ll have to come back on Monday at four.”

The scar tissue above his mouth tugged his features into a menacing snarl. “I saw you talking to my brother.”

He’d followed her from the art gallery.

Even though Dante’s primary diagnosis was schizotypal personality disorder, there was a paranoid component present, exacerbated by a sense of guilt and a need to compensate for feelings of inferiority. His slip and slide grip on reality occasionally propelled him into a near delusional state. She could see him careening into a dark well of anxiety now, and she realized she needed to reassure him she wasn’t colluding with his half-brother against him. “I wasn’t talking to your brother about you. In fact, I didn’t have any idea I had wandered into your brother’s art gallery until he…introduced himself.”

“I don’t believe you.”

As fast as her heart was galloping, she managed a controlled reply. “That hardly bodes well for our relationship as doctor and patient, does it? But the truth is, we were discussing a painting.”

“Discussing my painting, discussing me, same difference.”

His painting?

That bit of information did nothing to diminish her growing sense of apprehension. That painting had had a darkness in it like nothing she’d ever seen before. A darkness that had captivated her attention, daring her to unravel its mysterious secrets.

Then Dante dropped into the kind of predatory crouch that would’ve made a kitten roll over and play dead.

But she wasn’t a kitten.

Defiantly, she exhaled slow and easy. If she didn’t know better, she’d think Dante was intentionally trying to frighten her. “I’m happy to see you during your regular hour, and we can schedule more frequent sessions if need be, but for now, I’m afraid it’s time for you to go.”

He returned to a stand. “You’re here all alone today.”

A shudder swept across her shoulders. He was right. No one else was in the building. She shared a secretary with an aesthetician down the hall, and today Stacy hadn’t been at her post. The aesthetician usually worked Saturday mornings, but she must’ve finished for the day and gone home. Home was where Faith wanted to go right now. She wished she’d kept her clutch in hand. Her phone was in that clutch. “We’ll work on that trust issue on Monday.”

With Dante’s gaze tracking hers, her eyes fell on her lovely macaron bag, lying on the desktop near his fingertips. He lifted the clutch as if to offer it to her, but then drew his hand back and stroked the satin shell against his face.

The room suddenly seemed too small. “I don’t mean to be unkind. We’ve been working hard these past few weeks and making good progress up to this point, and I’d hate to have to refer you to another psychiatrist, but I will if I have to.” She paused for breath.

“You’re barefoot.” Slowly, he licked his lower lip.

Feeling as vulnerable as if she were standing before him bare-naked instead of bare-footed, she slipped back into her shoes. Jerking a glance around the room, she cursed herself for furnishing the place so sparsely, as if she didn’t plan on staying in Santa Fe long. It wasn’t like she had anywhere else to call home anymore, and now here she stood without so much as a paperweight to conk someone on the head with if…The window was open, at least she could scream for help if necessary. “We’re done here.”

“I’m not leaving, Dr. Clancy.” He opened her purse, removed her cell and slid it into his pants pocket, then dropped her purse on the floor.

Her stomach got fizzy again, and she gripped the edge of her desk. Screaming didn’t seem like the most effective plan. It might destabilize him and cause him to do something they’d both regret. For now at least, a better plan was to stay calm and listen. If she could figure out what was going on inside his head, maybe she could stay a step ahead of him and diffuse the situation before it erupted into a full-scale nightmare. “Give me back my phone, and then we can talk.”

Here came that involuntary snarl of his. “No phone. And I’m not leaving until I’ve done what I came here to do.” Carefully unfolding the newspaper he’d brought with him, he showed her the headline:
Santa Fe Saint Claims Fourth Victim.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Psychological Thrillers, Suspense
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780062314109 / 0062314106

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