May 112017
 

Code Blood

by Kurt Kamm

on Tour April 1 – May 31, 2017

Synopsis:

Code Blood by Kurt Kamm

Colt Lewis, a rookie fire paramedic, is obsessed with finding the severed foot of his first victim after she dies in his arms. His search takes him into the connected lives of a graduate research student, with the rarest blood in the world and the vampire fetishist who is stalking her. Within the corridors of high-stakes medical research laboratories, the shadow world of body parts dealers, and the underground Goth clubs of Los Angeles, Lewis uncovers a tangled maze of needles, drugs and maniacal ritual, all of which lead to death. But whose death? An unusual and fast-paced LA Noir thriller.

Stop by tomorrow to read my review

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Vampire
Published by: MCM Publishing
Publication Date: October 2012
Number of Pages: 233
ISBN: 0979855136 (ISBN13: 9780979855139)
Series: Code Blood is a Stand Alone Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Code Blood Literary Awards:

  • Writer’s Type – First Chapter Competition. January 2011- First Place
  • 2012 International Book Awards – Fiction: Cross Genre Category – First Place
  • National Indie Excellence Book Awards – Faction (fiction based on fact) – Winner of the 2012 Award
  • The 2012 USA Best Book Awards – Fiction: Horror – Winner
  • LuckyCinda Publishing Contest 2013 First Place – Thriller
  • Reader’s Favorite 2013– Finalist – Horror Fiction
  • Knoxville Writer’s Guild – 2011 Novella or Novel Excerpt – 2nd Place

Read an excerpt:

Colt heard a small chopper. It sounded like a lawnmower. He knew it couldn’t be the AirSquad and looked up. A news helicopter circled overhead. He saw another coming up the coast from Los Angeles. In minutes, news crews in vans would arrive, extend their satellite transmission poles, broadcast pictures of the accident and fan out to find people to interview. In the process, several spectators would have a moment of fame on Los Angeles network television. The accident would be a good lead-in on the 11:00 p.m. Sunday night news, but the anchors would be disappointed that a Malibu celebrity wasn’t involved.

Moose joined them with the backboard and laid it down next to the girl’s body.

Brian checked the C-spine. “Ready guys? On my count.”

The men prepared to roll the girl on her side.

“Be careful,” Colt said.

Brian gave Colt a quick look and said, “One, two, three.”

In unison, they rolled her onto her side, Moose pushed the board in toward her and the men laid her back onto it.

Colt thought he heard her utter a faint moan. While Brian secured the head brace and straps across her body and prepared her for transport across the beach, he looked at her bloodied leg again. “Where’s the foot?” he shouted. “Does someone have her foot?” She still wore one delicate leather sandal.

“We can’t find the sucker,” one of the deputies told Colt.

“Can’t find it? How’s that possible?” Colt said. The girl needed her foot. They had to ice it down before the tissue started to die. It might be reattached. “It has to be here somewhere.” He went over to the damaged pickup.

The driver of the truck sat with his head down, behind the metal screen in the back seat of a black and white. A sheriff’s deputy stood outside, questioning him through the window and writing on his notepad. Colt interrupted. “Where’s the foot?” He was met with a shrug and a blank stare from the deputy. Colt looked at the driver of the pickup, a man about his own age, and hated him.

Colt walked around the pickup. Glass shards from a headlight and pieces of plastic lay on the ground. He knelt in a pool of green coolant dripping from the smashed radiator and looked under the front of the truck. The foot wasn’t there. He stood up and looked around.

Thirty or forty people stood in the parking lot watching the activity.

Excerpt from Code Blood by Kurt Kamm. Copyright © 2012 by Kurt Kamm. Reproduced with permission from Kurt Kamm. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Kurt KammMalibu, California resident Kurt Kamm has written a series of firefighter mystery novels which have won several literary awards. He is also the author of The Lizard’s Tale, which provides a unique look inside the activities of the Mexican drug cartels and the men dedicated to stopping them.

Kurt has used his contacts with several California fire departments, as well as with the ATF and DEA to write fact-based (“faction”) novels.

In his chilling and suspenseful multi-award winning novel, Code Blood, Kurt takes the reader into the connected lives of a fire paramedic, a Chinese research student with the rarest blood type in the world, and the blood-obsessed killer who stalks her.

Colt Lewis, a young Los Angeles County fire paramedic responds to a fatal accident. The victim dies in his arms. Her foot has been severed but is nowhere to be found. Who is the woman, and what happened to her foot? During a weeklong search, Colt risks his career to find the victim’s identity and her missing foot. His search leads him to a dark and disturbing side of Los Angeles…an underworld of body part dealers and underground Goth clubs. He uncovers a tangled maze of drugs, needles, and rituals.

Emergency medicine, high-tech medical research, and the unsettling world of blood fetishism and body parts make for an edgy L.A. Noir thriller.

Kurt has built an avid fan base among first responders and other readers. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Law School, Kurt was previously a financial executive and semi-professional bicycle racer. He was also Chairman of the UCLA/Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Foundation for several years.

Q&A with Kurt Kamm

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences?
My first writing instructor said, “write what you know.” I have found that you can ”know” a lot more by doing research. Today on the Internet, you can research anything, and see pictures of everything. In Code Blood, I have a scene at a funeral home. It would be easy to imagine one, but I searched for pictures until I found a unique looking place, a large house, which was much better than I could have ever imagined. Similarly, I have a scene at night on the Santa Monica Pier, and standing there at 10:00 P.M. after the shops closed, I saw and saw some pretty strange things. Also, joining chat rooms on various topics is very instructive. For Code Blood, I visited several very weird discussions where people were obsessing about vampires, discussing blood types, tattoos, and some things I would never have imagined. Personal experience can take you only so far, research and the Internet can take you anywhere.

When I finished Code Blood I had to laugh at some of the characters I had created, personalities who were not in my knowledge base when I began.

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 heard that some mystery authors outline every chapter, some even every paragraph, before they begin their novels. I’ve never even been able to list my chapters when I start a novel. I begin with an idea and a couple of vague characters and just start writing. There are adjustments, and some deleting and pasting along the way, but my characters lead me. They live their own lives and tell me what to write.

In the case of Code Blood, a paramedic at a fire station near my house on Pacific Coast Highway told me a true story about responding to an accident where the victim’s foot had been severed. It took him almost 30 minutes to find it, lodged beneath a pickup truck which was involved in the accident. That started me thinking….what if some weirdo walked out of a nearby restaurant, saw the foot and picked it up? What if it was the paramedic’s first accident and he became obsessed with finding the foot. Voila, a plot.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
I think all my characters have personality traits or quirks which I have seen in my lifetime, but no character is specifically based on a single person I have known. Again, in Code Blood, I would be embarrassed to admit I know some of the characters.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I try to write 2-3 hours most days. I write in the afternoon, and need complete silence. From my kitchen window, I can look out on the Pacific Ocean. Years ago, I was a competitive cyclist, and still do very hard, 3 hour rides every other day. During those rides, my mind can just drift. I often solve plot problems, and advance the story while I am riding. It’s a very creative time, the challenge is to remember what I have thought about by the time I get home, exhausted. Also I keep paper and pen by my bed, because sometimes in the middle of the night I will wake up with an idea which will be gone in the morning if I don’t write it down.

Tell us why we should read this book.
I think it is a fun read, filled with interesting characters. Markus, a strange kid who thinks he’s a vampire, will be someone you will love to hate. Colt, the dedicated paramedic is someone you will love. The Russian body parts dealers? Well, let’s just say I had a ball imagining them. You will also get a good look at emergency medicine, high tech medical research, rare blood types, and the underside of Los Angeles.

Who are some of your favorite authors?/What are you reading now?
I have read everything by Hemingway and F Scott. I like Ewan McGregor, James Salter and Stuart O’Nan. Recent books, which I really liked include: The North Water, The Lost City of the Monkey God, Night of Fire, and The Devils of Cardona.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
After 6 novels in 10 years, I’m taking a break.

Your favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I am an exercise freak. Riding my bike and weight workouts are a must. I also (surprise) read a lot.

Favorite meal?
I’m glad you asked. Markus’ favorite meal would simply be a tiny vial of dark red Bombay Blood, the rarest blood type in the world. He empty a few drops at a time onto his tongue, letting it rest there while he imagined all the incredible things it would do inside his body. (Poor Markus, what a fool.) As he swallowed, he would think of how valuable Bombay Blood is, and how much money he could get if he sold it.

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

Visit his author website at kurtkamm.com 🔗 & on Facebook!

Tour Participants:

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kurt Kamm. There will be 1 winner of one (1) $20 Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on March 30 and runs through May 1, 2017.

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Apr 262017
 

Big City Heat: A Brack Pelton Mystery

by David Burnsworth

on Tour April 24 – May 26, 2017

Synopsis:

Big City Heat: A Brack Pelton Mystery by David Burnsworth

Lowcountry bar owner and ex-Marine Brack Pelton heads to Atlanta in the wake of a panicked 3 AM phone call. A woman is missing and Brack’s friend Mutt is in danger. Brack’s old flame, investigative news correspondent Darcy Wells, now lives there and is set to marry another man. If Brack was honest with himself, and he usually wasn’t, he’d realize that the missing woman isn’t the reason for his visit. His Semper Fi buddy Mutt can handle himself just fine.

When Brack and Mutt team up to find the woman, the Atlanta underworld revolts, the two biggest players target them, and people start dying. Most people would size up the situation, call it impossible, and walk away. But most people are not Brack Pelton. Impossible situations are his specialty. He made it through Afghanistan and when the military commanders mistook suicidal tendencies for leadership qualities they promoted him. Can Brack succeed at finding the woman, protecting his friend, and winning the girl without destroying the Capital of the South? Not since Sherman’s march across Georgia has the city of Atlanta been in this much danger.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Number of Pages: 212
ISBN: 9781635111996
Series: A Brack Pelton Mystery Book, 3
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…
Psalm 23:4

Atlanta, Georgia, Wednesday night, Mid-May

Brack Pelton waited in his Porsche by a no-parking zone in a very bad part of the city and watched someone he thought he knew well climb out of an old Eldorado convertible. The man entered a ramshackle building with a neon beer mug shining through its one dirty window.

Easing away from the red-marked bus stop, Brack found a better location down the block and pulled in. Before getting out of the Porsche, he woke Shelby, his tan mixed-breed dog slumbering in the backseat, and pulled a forty-five from the glovebox. He verified a round was chambered.

Shelby licked his lips and gave a quick bark as Brack slid the pistol down the back waistband of his cargo shorts.

Patting his dog on the head, Brack asked, “Ready?” A needless question. Another bark affirmed Shelby’s stand on things.

“When we get inside, your job is to find Mutt. Okay?” Shelby licked his face. Brack knew that as long as their target hadn’t escaped out some back door, Shelby would find him. Mutt was one of his favorite people. Brack’s too. That was why tracking him like this went against everything he believed in doing.

Mutt was the one who often rode shotgun with Brack as they’d right Charleston’s wrongs. Now Mutt was the one in the crosshairs. Thanks to an early morning phone call from Cassie, Mutt’s girlfriend, a life depended on answers his friend would give. The forty-five wouldn’t come out unless trouble came up.

The barroom’s rusty screen door screeched open. Shelby darted ahead, already focused on his objective. Brack entered a time warp. Uncanny how even the sour bar wash fragrance and cigarette smoke were the same. Through the old familiar haze, he imagined Mutt standing behind a peeling Formica counter pouring drinks to patrons who could barely afford their rent. Somehow, Mutt had managed to replicate his termite-infested watering hole three hundred miles west of where his original joint stood before some spoiled neighborhood brat burned it down.

“You lost?” A very large African-American man wearing a soiled wife-beater chalking a pool cue confronted the white newcomer.

Meeting his gaze, Brack said, “No. I’m looking for a loudmouth Marine named Mutt. If he’s here drinking, the rounds are on me. If he owns this place, I’m going to beat the life out of him.”

“Big talk coming from someone in yo’ shoes,” he said. Four other men flanked him, two on each side, all with arms folded across their meaty chests. Five soiled wife-beaters in a row. A worn-out AC unit clicked and sputtered, failing to condition the polluted air in the establishment.

Shelby seemed to take longer than usual to find Mutt. Only one thing could sidetrack him. But no women had ever been present in the original Mutt’s Bar in Charleston. They’d been afraid to enter the place.

Maybe Atlanta women were different. Casually Brack removed the half-smoked cigar he’d been saving in his pocket and lit it. The only faithful friend he had left at the moment was his own adrenaline. Brack was angry at Mutt and wouldn’t mind working it out of his system on these five gentlemen facing him.

Three more joined them. Okay, these eight gentlemen.

Brack felt more gather behind him. His wayward dog better have a real good excuse for not warning him.

Taking a drag on the stogie, he exhaled a cloud of smoke to add to the carcinogenic fog. “It’s going to be a bad day for some of you.”

Chuckles echoed around the room, undoubtedly at his expense.

Mutt pushed his way through the gathering mob. A few inches over six feet, he’d replaced his boxed Afro with a close trim since the last time Brack had seen him. His clothes were of a more recent vintage, another change, and to Brack’s untrained eye, quite stylish.

“Opie, you always got to do things the hard way, don’t ’cha?” Brack couldn’t decide if he wanted to punch him or shake his hand. The fact that his friend sported a bridge that replaced his missing front teeth also caught him off guard.

Shelby was not with Mutt. From behind, Brack heard the gruff words, “You want us to take this cracker out back, Mutt?”

Mutt knew as well as Brack did that they were greatly outnumbered. But Brack figured Mutt also knew that a few of his patrons would spend the next few weeks in the hospital if things went south.

Before either of them could say anything, a husky female voice came from somewhere in the crowd. “You got the prettiest dog.”

All the men turned in the direction of the voice. Through a break in the undershirt line, Brack observed a heavyset black woman in a way-too-tight purple body suit. Clearly she’d fallen in love with his dog. Her extra-long orange day-glo fingernails scratched behind his ears.

Sitting on his haunches with closed eyes, Shelby flapped his tongue and panted in what Brack recognized as pure bliss. Two other women wearing similar attire also gave Shelby their full attention. Brack was about to get pummeled by eight or more hulks itching to right the wrongs of their world, yet his dog had managed to pick up what looked like all the women in the establishment.

The spokesman for the wife-beater ensemble said, “We ain’t finished wit you, white boy.”

Brack turned back to him. Mutt got between them. “Easy, Charlie. He’s my brother.” The men looked at each other as if Mutt and Brack could possibly be related. Of course, they weren’t in the traditional sense.

“Summertime” by Billy Stewart began to play somewhere in the room. A real classic.

Circling Shelby, the women moved their ample hips to the beat. The dog, in plus-sized heaven, spun around, not sure which lady to kiss first.

A fourth woman Brack hadn’t noticed until now came from behind the bar to stand beside Mutt. Almost as tall as Brack, with dark brown skin, a buzzed haircut, and toned figure bordering on muscular. Her inked-up arms momentarily distracted Brack.

The man Mutt called Charlie said, “I don’t care who you think he is. He ain’t got the juice to come in here talking about beatin’ you up.”

Mutt turned to his old friend. “You said you was gonna beat me up?”

“Something like that.” Brack cocked his head. “I get a call begging me to drive here from Charleston. It’s Cassie. She’s scared half to death because some men threatened her, and she doesn’t know what you do when you leave her house late at night. Put yourself in her shoes.”

The woman bartender looked at him. “You must be Brack.” Mutt interrupted. “Opie, I’ma tell you like I tol’ Cassie. What I do is my bidness. She ain’t got no right to ask.”

Charlie moved in like he was about to throw a punch. Before Brack could react, the toned female bartender grabbed Charlie by the shirt collar and said, “You really don’t want to do that.”

Mutt said, “Easy there, Tara. We all friends here.” She didn’t let go. Charlie backed off. Brack dropped what was left of his cigar on the floor, crushed it with his foot, and turned back to Mutt. “You better tell me what’s going on, or I will beat the ever-living daylights out of you.”

***

Excerpt from Big City Heat: A Brack Pelton Mystery by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2017 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.

David Burnsworth

Author Bio:

David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. He is the author of both the Brack Pelton and the Blu Carraway Mystery Series. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.

Q&A with David Burnsworth

Do you draw from personal experiences and / or current events?
Great question! I get ideas from both. For personal experiences, I wait until there’s been some distance. For current events, it comes down to what interests me. In BIG CITY HEAT, animal poaching plays a minor role. Profiting from the killing of endangered species angers me. Killing elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns are things that need to stop.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I normally don’t have a plan and don’t know where the characters will take me. It’s their story and I do my best to stay out of the way and let them tell it.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
I do my best not to use people I know as characters in my books. Sometimes mannerisms or physical similarities show up, but I don’t want to offend anyone by getting too close to reality. But, there have been a few friends and family members that have expressed interest in seeing themselves in my books.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosycrasies?
I have a day job, so my writing life revolves around it. My wife goes to work before I do so I have about an hour in the mornings to myself and then I have some time in the evenings. We don’t have children so that leaves me some time during the weekends as well. Other than that, I have found that I can write anywhere on any laptop or CPU. Although I do prefer the desk in my office and write there when I can.

Tell us why we should read this book.
My books are my kids. I’m proud of all of them. BIG CITY HEAT came about because I spent my teenage years in Atlanta and wanted to visit the place that had the most impact on my life. If you like hardboiled / noir mysteries, I believe you will like my books.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly, Mickey Spillane, John Sanford, Lee Child, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.J. Box, Stieg Larsson, Spenser Quinn, to name a few.

What are you reading now?
I just finished THE HOBBIT on audio, a book I hadn’t read in years. And I’m reading one of Spenser Quinn’s YA books. I’m on the waiting list at my local library for the latest from C.J. Box and John Sanford.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m working on a new series also based in Charleston, SC. The first book in this new series, IN IT FOR THE MONEY, releases in September. I am in the middle of final edits for it and am about a third of the way into writing the first draft of the second book in the series which will be out in 2018. The series is based on a middle aged PI named Blu Carraway who handles mostly difficult and extremely dangerous jobs. To keep himself from crossing over to the dark side, he has a small island with wild horses that he takes care of.

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Brack Pelton, my protagonist, is perpetually suntanned because he lives on the Isle of Palms and spends time at the beach when he isn’t hunting a killer or, for BIG CITY HEAT, in Atlanta. He’s mid-thirties, six feet tall, and about two-hundred and ten pounds. In the previous book, BURNING HEAT, another character describes Brack as looking “so much like that guy from mad men that I call dibs.”
Darcy Wells, Brack’s love interest is a lot like Elizabeth Shue in her twenties.
Mutt (Clarence Alexander) could be played by Denzel Washington.
Brother Thomas is a fifty-year-old African American preacher who stands tall at six-three and wide at three-hundred-and-fifty pounds.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
When I’m not working or writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Patty. We love vacation and plan and discuss our next adventure when flying home from the end of one. I enjoy reading and some television. And I am a car fanatic. I just wish I had the space and fundage for a garage full of classics.

Favorite meal?
When I lived in Charleston, it was peel-and-eat shrimp. My wife has since converted me to steaks, chops, and pasta.

Cheryl, thanks so much for what you do! God bless!

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Tour Participants:



Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for David Burnsworth and Henery Press. There will be 1 winner of one (1) $15 Amazon.com Gift Card and 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Big City Heat by David Burnsworth. The giveaway begins on April 22, 2017 and runs through May 29, 2017. This giveaway is for US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.

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Apr 202017
 

Her Secret

by Shelley Shepard Gray

on Tour April 17 – 28, 2017

Synopsis:

Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray begins a new series—The Amish of Hart County—with this suspenseful tale of a young Amish woman who is forced to move to a new town to escape a threatening stalker.

After a stalker went too far, Hannah Hilty and her family had no choice but to leave the bustling Amish community where she grew up. Now she’s getting a fresh start in Hart County, Kentucky…if only she wasn’t too scared to take it. Hannah has become afraid to trust anyone—even Isaac, the friendly Amish man who lives next door. She wonders if she’ll ever return to the trusting, easy-going woman she once was.

For Isaac Troyer, the beautiful girl he teasingly called “The Recluse” confuses him like no other. When he learns of her past, he knows he’s misjudged her. However, he also understands the importance of being grateful for God’s gifts, and wonders if they will ever have anything in common. But as Hannah and Isaac slowly grow closer, they realize that there’s always more to someone than meets the eye.

Just as Hannah is finally settling into her new life, and perhaps finding a new love, more secrets are revealed and tragedy strikes. Now Hannah must decide if she should run again or dare to fight for the future she has found in Hart County.

Book Details:

Genre: Amish Fiction
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: March 14th 2017
Number of Pages: 272
ISBN: 006246910X (ISBN13: 9780062469106)
Series: The Amish of Hart County #1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 2

Someone was coming. After reeling in his line, Isaac Troyer set his pole on the bank next to Spot, his Australian shepherd, and turned in the direction of the noise.

He wasn’t worried about encountering a stranger as much as curious to know who would walk through the woods while managing to disturb every tree branch, twig, and bird in their midst. A silent tracker, this person was not.

Beside him, Spot, named for the spot of black fur ringing his eye, pricked his ears and tilted his head to one side as he, too, listened and watched for their guest to appear.

When they heard a muffled umph, followed by the crack of a branch, Isaac began to grow amused. Their visitor didn’t seem to be faring so well.

He wasn’t surprised. That path was rarely used and notoriously overrun with hollyhocks, poison oak, and ivy. For some reason, wild rosebushes also ran rampant there. Though walking on the old path made for a pretty journey, it also was a somewhat dangerous one, too. Those bushes had a lot of thorns. Most everyone he knew chose to walk on the road instead.

He was just wondering if, perhaps, he should brave the thorns and the possibility of rashes to offer his help—when a woman popped out.

The new girl. Hannah Hilty.

Obviously thinking she was completely alone, she stepped out of the shade of the bushes and lifted her face into the sun. She mumbled to herself as she pulled a black sweater off her light-blue short-sleeved dress. Then she turned her right arm this way and that, frowning at what looked like a sizable scrape on it.

He’d been introduced to her at church the first weekend her family had come. His first impression of her had been that she was a pretty thing, with dark-brown hair and hazel-colored eyes. She was fairly tall and willowy, too, and had been blessed with creamy-looking pale skin. But for all of that, she’d looked incredibly wary.

Thinking she was simply shy, he’d tried to be friendly, everyone in his family had. But instead of looking happy to meet him or his siblings, she’d merely stared at him the way a doe might stare at an oncoming car—with a bit of weariness and a great dose of fear.

He left her alone after that.

Every once in a while he’d see her. At church, or at the market with her mother. She always acted kind of odd. She was mostly silent, sometimes hardly even talking to her parents or siblings. Often, when he’d see her family in town shopping, she usually wasn’t with them. When she was, he’d see her following her parents. With them, yet separate. Silently watching her surroundings like she feared she was about to step off a cliff.

So, by his estimation, she was a strange girl. Weird.

And her actions just now? They seemed even odder. Feeling kind of sorry for her, he got to his feet. “Hey!” he called out.

Obviously startled, Hannah turned to him with a jerk, then froze.

Her unusual hazel eyes appeared dilated. She looked scared to death. Rethinking the step forward he’d been about to do, he stayed where he was. Maybe she wasn’t right in the mind? Maybe she was lost and needed help.

Feeling a little worried about her, he held up a hand. “Hey, Hannah. Are you okay?”

But instead of answering him, or even smiling back like a normal person would, she simply stared.

He tried again. “I’m Isaac Troyer.” When no look of recognition flickered in her eyes, he added, “I’m your neighbor. We met at church, soon after you moved in. Remember?”

She clenched her fists but otherwise seemed to be trying hard to regain some self-control. After another second, color bloomed in her cheeks. “I’m Hannah Hilty.”

“Yeah. I know.” Obviously, he’d known it. Hadn’t she heard him say her name? He smiled at her, hoping she’d see the humor in their conversation. It was awfully intense for two neighbors having to reacquaint themselves.
By his reckoning, anyway.

She still didn’t smile back. Actually, she didn’t do much of anything at all, besides gaze kind of blankly at him.

Belatedly, he started wondering if something had happened to her on her walk. “Hey, are you okay? Are you hurt or something?”

Her hand clenched into a fist. “Why do you ask?”

Everything he wanted to say sounded mean and rude. “You just, uh, seem out of breath.” And she was white as a sheet, looked like she’d just seen a monster, and could hardly speak.

Giving her an out, he said, “Are you lost?”

“Nee.”

He was starting to lose patience with her. All he’d wanted to do was sit on the bank with Spot and fish for an hour or two, not enter into some strange conversation with his neighbor girl.

“Okay, then. Well, I was just fishing, so I’m going to go back and do that.”

Just before he turned away, she took a deep breath. Then she spoke. “I’m sorry. I know I’m not making any sense.”

“You’re making sense.” Kind of. “But that said, you don’t got anything to be sorry for. It’s obvious you, too, were looking for a couple of minutes to be by yourself.”

“No, that ain’t it.” After taking another deep breath, she said, “Seeing you took me by surprise. That’s all.”
Isaac wasn’t enough of a jerk to not be aware that seeing a strange man, when you thought you were alone, might be scary to a timid girl like her.

“You took me by surprise, too. I never see anyone out here.”

Some of the muscles in her face and neck relaxed. After another second, she seemed to come to a decision and stepped closer to him. “Is that your dog?”

“Jah. His name is Spot, on account of the circle around his eye.”

“He looks to be a real fine hund.” She smiled.

And what a smile it was. Sweet, lighting up her eyes. Feeling a bit taken by surprise, too, he said, “He’s an Australian shepherd and real nice. Would you like to meet him?”

“Sure.” She smiled again, this time displaying pretty white teeth.

“Spot, come here, boy.”

With a stretch and a groan, Spot stood up, stretched again, then sauntered over. When he got to Isaac’s side, he paused. Isaac ran a hand along his back, then clicked his tongue, a sign for Spot to simply be a dog.

Spot walked right over and rubbed his nose along one of Hannah’s hands.

She giggled softly. “Hello, Spot. Aren’t you a handsome hund?” After she let Spot sniff her hand, she ran it along his soft fur. Spot, as could be expected, closed his eyes and enjoyed the attention.

“Look at that,” Hannah said. “He likes to be petted.”

“He’s friendly.”

“Do you go fishing here much?” she asked hesitantly.

“Not as much as I’d like to. I’m pretty busy. Usually, I’m helping my father on the farm or working in my uncle’s woodworking shop.” Because she seemed interested, he admitted, “I don’t get to sit around and just enjoy the day all that much.”

“And here I came and ruined your peace and quiet.”

“I didn’t say that. You’re fine.”

She didn’t look as if she believed him. Actually, she looked even more agitated. Taking a step backward, she said, “I should probably let you get back to your fishing, then.”

“I don’t care about that. I’d rather talk to you.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh?”

“Jah. I mean, we’re neighbors and all.” When she still looked doubtful, he said, “Besides, everyone is curious about you.”

“I don’t know why. I’m just an Amish girl.”

He thought she was anything but that. “Come on,” he chided. “You know what I’m talking about.”

Looking even more unsure, she shook her head.

“First off, I’ve hardly even seen you around town, only on Sundays when we have church. And even then you never stray from your parents’ side. That’s kind of odd.”

“I’m still getting used to being here in Kentucky,” she said quickly.

“What is there to get used to?” he joked. “We’re just a small community in the middle of cave country.”

To his surprise, she stepped back. “I guess getting used to my new home is taking me a while. But that doesn’t mean anything.”

Aware that he’d hurt her feelings, he realized that he should have really watched his tone. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I was just saying that the way you’ve been acting has everyone curious. That’s why people are calling you ‘The Recluse.’ ”

“ ‘The Recluse’?”

“Well, jah. I mean you truly are an Amish woman of mystery,” he said, hoping she’d tease him right back like his older sister would have done.

She did not.

Actually, she looked like she was about to cry, and it was his doing.

When was he ever going to learn to read people better? Actually, he should knock some sense into himself. He’d been a real jerk. “Sorry. I didn’t intend to sound so callous.”

“Well, you certainly did.”

“Ah, you are right. It was a bad joke.”

“I better go.”

Staring at her more closely, he noticed that those pretty hazel eyes of hers looked kind of shimmery, like a whole mess of tears was about to fall. Now he felt worse than bad.“Hey, are you going to be okay getting home? I could walk you back, if you’d like.”

“Danke, nee.”

Reaching out, he grasped Spot by his collar. “I don’t mind at all. It will give us a chance to—”

She cut him off. “I do not want or need your help.” She was staring at him like he was scary. Like he was the type of guy who would do her harm.

That bothered him.

“Look, I already apologized. You don’t need to look at me like I’m going to attack you or something. I’m just trying to be a good neighbor.”

She flinched before visibly collecting herself. “I understand. But like I said, I don’t want your help. I will be fine.”

When he noticed that Spot was also sensing her distress, he tried again even though he knew he should just let her go. “I was done fishing anyway. All I have to do is grab my pole. Then Spot and I could walk with you.”

“What else do I have to say for you to listen to me?” she fairly cried out. “Isaac, I do not want you to walk me anywhere.” She turned and darted away, sliding back into the brush. No doubt about to get covered in more scratches and poison ivy.

Well, she’d finally said his name, and it certainly did sound sweet on her lips.

Too bad she was now certain to avoid him for the rest of her life. He really hoped his mother was never going to hear about how awful he’d just been. She’d be so disappointed.

He was disappointed in himself, and was usually a lot more patient with people. He liked that about himself, too. And this girl? Well, she needed someone, too. But she seemed even afraid of her shadow.

Excerpt from Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray. Copyright © 2017 by Shelley Shepard Gray. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Shelley Shepard Gray

Author Bio:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.

Q&A with Shelley Shepard Gray

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I rarely write anything that I’ve had personal experience with, beyond being able to identify with the emotions the characters might be feeling. For my Amish novels especially, I incorporate the setting and the area into the plot. For example, Hart County, KY is riddled with abandoned caves and lots of isolated, hilly farmland. It seemed a perfect place to stage a series.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
As much as I yearn to be an organized plotter, I’m definitely a writer who starts a book with only the bare minimum in mind. It makes for a frustrating process, but it’s also a lot of fun for me.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
No. I always make up my characters. I almost always write about people who I would want to know, however. It’s rare for me to develop a particularly awful character. Usually even my antagonists have a lot of redeeming qualities.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I try my best to write ten pages a day Monday through Friday. I write another five on Saturday or Sunday. Yep, I definitely have an idiosyncrasy! I write down the ten page numbers I hope to get to each day and cross them off as they’re accomplished. I literally have a dozen notebooks filled with numbers and X’s. On a positive note, it’s very helpful for my family to see how my day is going. If I only have 2 Xs at four o’clock, they know it’s going to be a long night.

Tell us why we should read this book.
I love to write books about the Amish that are unexpected. HER SECRET is a mixture of mystery, suspense, and romance. It’s all interwoven with a thread of inspiration and features well-researched Amish characters. Nothing makes me happier than hearing that the book surpassed a reader’s expectations.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I really love to read and I read a lot. I love to read fiction. My favorite mystery author is Anne Perry. I’m also a fan of Anne Cleeland. I’ve also been a longtime fan of Linda Howard, Lorraine Heath, and Karen Kingsbury. Boy, I could probably name another 20 authors. If I find an author who makes me care about the characters, I’m happy.

What are you reading now?
I just judged the RITAs, so I’ve been reading a slew of romances from all different genres. I’m also reading Sisters of Sugarcreek by Cathy Liggett.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I always write more than one book at a time. I’m currently writing HIS RISK, which is the fourth book in the Hart County Series. I’m also working on a contemporary single title romance for a brand new series. The next novel in the Hart County series is called HIS GUILT. It releases in July and features an Amish man who returns to Hart County with a dark past. I’m excited about it!

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie.
Oh, I’m never good at naming actors! I think Chris Pratt would be a terrific Isaac and a young Anne Hathaway for Hannah.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
We are dog people, so I love taking our dachshunds out for a long walk. I also love to bake.

Favorite meal?
I grew up in Texas, so my favorite dinner is always steak and a baked potato. Beyond that, I’m always up for a really good slice of coconut cream pie.

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

Thank you for inviting me, Cheryl! This was a lot of fun!

Catch Up With Ms. Gray On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Tour Participants:



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Apr 182017
 

Pitch Black

by Alex Gray

on Tour: March 20 – April 20, 2017

Synopsis:

Pitch Black by Alex Gray

DCI Lorimer is back in the next gripping atmospheric police procedural by international bestselling author Alex Gray.

When Chief Inspector Lorimer returns from holiday on the island of Mull, he feels a welcome sense of calm. But that doesn’t last long. Kelvin Football Club’s new star midfielder is found brutally stabbed to death in his own home, and with his wife apprehended trying to leave the country, a seemingly straightforward new case begins. But the grisly murder of a referee after a Kelvin match throws light on some dark secrets. And when the newest player who signed to the club becomes the latest victim in a string of killings, Lorimer knows there’s a serial killer on the loose—one that’s only beginning to show his true colors. As lies emerge and tensions build, Lorimer must discover the truth before one of the players or managers become the next Kelvin fatality.

MY REVIEW

5 stars

I recently read THE RIVERMAN by Alex Gray and loved it giving it a 5 star review. So when I had the opportunity to read the next book in this series, I jumped at it. However, I was a bit leery, as I always am when I read a 2nd book by the same author, will it be as good or better? The answer….YES…bring on the next book!!!

Even though this is the 5th book in the series, it reads easily as a stand alone.

DCI Bill Lorimer is back and this time is investigating the murders of Kelvin Football (soccer) Organization. Two players and a referee are killed and another player is missing. And a journalist investigating the case has been shot in broad daylight. Who is the Kelvin Killer?

Alex Gray has a very descriptive writing style, which allows the reader to vividly create images, and in this book, even dialect.

Once again, the suspense had me turning the pages trying to guess who the suspect was. And once again, the ending was surprising.

Another great read by AlexGray!!! Highly recommend!

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery & Detective
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780062659149
Series: A DCI Lorimer Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 3

The dust motes swirled round, captured in the one beam of light that filtered through a gap in the blinds. Behind him an insect buzzed drowsily against the window, seeking to escape from the confines of the room. Listening to its feeble struggles, Lorimer felt some empathy for the tiny creature. At that moment he would have given a great deal to walk out into the warm air of the city streets. Before him on the videoscreen were pictures of the deceased, not happy snaps at all. The scene-of-crime photographer had managed to convey each and every aspect of the man’s death, from the bread knife sticking out of his chest cavity to the open-mouthed grimace portraying that final scream of agony. Close-ups of blood spatters surrounded the main pictures, adding graphically to the image.

‘It was hot,’ Mitchison commented, somewhat unnecessarily, releasing the stills and letting the film pan in on the body. The black patches around the wound showed a moving mass of flies. Lorimer could almost smell the scent of corruption and was glad for once that he had not been first on the scene. But now Mitchison’s peremptory call had stolen the final day of Lorimer’s break and he had to be brought up to speed if he were to take charge of this case.

‘We’ve got the woman in custody and she’ll appear in court in the morning,’ the superintendent began, ‘but there are some problems.’

Lorimer raised his eyebrows.

‘She says she didn’t do it, of course, despite the fact she drove all the way up to the Hebrides…’ Mitchison’s drawl tailed off.

‘So, the problems are . . . ?’

‘We need to have some forensic evidence to connect her to the crime. There’s been nothing on her person and we couldn’t find anything else in the house. Either she was extremely forensically aware and managed to remove any traces of blood from the scene, or she’s telling us the truth.’

Lorimer, fixing his gaze on the images of a man who had bled to death, wondered what had provoked the attack. ‘What’s your own opinion, sir?’

Mitchison frowned. ‘She certainly had the means to do it. There was a huge rack of knives on one of those magnetic strips. It was one of these that was the murder weapon. No prints, I’m afraid. No residual traces, either. And the door was locked. There was no sign of a forced entry.’

‘Just circumstantial evidence, then?’

Mitchison nodded and screwed up his eyes in the half-light, then blinked. He’d probably been working through the night, Lorimer realised.

Method, means and opportunity, a familiar voice intoned in Lorimer’s head. It had been old George’s mantra. A wave of nostalgia for his former boss washed over him just then. Weary or not, George would never have delegated a case like this. He’d have ferreted away at it, looking for something more than the obvious. Though a runaway wife was a fairly obvious place to begin, Lorimer had to admit to himself. The method was straightforward enough and, despite his level of athleticism, the victim might have been taken by complete surprise. His expression alone was testament to that theory. She’d had the means easily to hand. And the opportunity? Who could say? Knife attacks were usually random affairs undertaken in a moment of frenzy.

‘What d’you reckon, then? A domestic gone wrong?’

The super made a face. ‘Janis Faulkner’s saying nothing. No plea for mitigating circumstances. Just a persistent refusal to admit she’d had anything to do with her husband’s death.’

‘Anything else suspicious?’

Mitchison paused for a moment then looked past Lorimer. ‘What would I call it? A strange absence of grief, I suppose.’

Lorimer gave a non-committal shrug. You couldn’t charge the woman for failing to mourn her dead husband, but still . . . His thoughts wandered for a moment to the sight of Janis Faulkner’s face as she’d glanced up at him on Fishnish pier. Had she been showing remorse? That haunted look had stayed with him since he’d seen her yesterday.

‘What do we know about her own movements before she scarpered?’

‘Says she was down at the gym. We’ve checked and her signing in and out times tally with her story. But as for simply setting off afterwards and not returning home first, well that was fairly unlikely, don’t you think? A few rounds on an exercise bike then she suddenly decides to leave her husband. It doesn’t make sense.’

‘So she’ll be charged?’

‘Yes, first thing tomorrow. There’s not another shred of evidence to show anyone else was in the house. I don’t care what Janis Faulkner claims; she did it, all right.’

Lorimer looked at his boss. The vehemence in Mitchison’s tone surprised him. Or was it simply that he was afraid Lorimer would see things in a different light, take away his prime suspect and cause problems? There was a past between these two senior officers that had never been adequately resolved. Mitchison had been promoted to superintendent when everyone’s expectations had been on Lorimer stepping into his old boss’s shoes, but it was their different attitudes to police work that had been the real cause of friction between them. Mitchison did everything by the rule book, creating masses of paperwork for everyone, while his DCI preferred a more handson approach. Lorimer remained silent. He was being officially designated as SIO and unless something new emerged, Janis Faulkner’s guilt or otherwise remained a matter for the jury.

‘Her solicitor is bound to ask for bail to be granted, pending a full investigation. We’ll see what happens in court tomorrow, but I have my doubts.’ Mitchison passed over the case file. ‘Don’t expect you’ll have too much bother with this one.’

Famous last words, Lorimer told himself as Mitchison left the room. Whether it was that quirk of fate placing him at the scene of her arrest on Mull or the victim’s high profile, the DCI had a strong feeling that this case was going to be anything but straightforward.

The woman had been brought back from Mull and placed in the police cells for one more night until she could be brought to court and officially charged with Nicko Faulkner’s murder. Lorimer waited outside as the duty officer unlocked the cell and stood aside. The first thing he noticed was the smell. It wafted towards him, a mixture of stale sweat and something more pungent that he recognised as menstrual blood. He’d smelt it before from women banged up over long weekends without any facilities to shower or change their clothes. Janis Faulkner was sitting in a corner of the bunk, feet together, head down and clutching her stomach. A movement as the cell door was opening made him realise she had looked up for a split second but now her expression was hidden under that curtain of damp hair.

‘Anyone thought to give her some paracetamol?’ he asked the uniformed officer.

‘Hasn’t asked for it,’ the man shrugged. ‘What’s she want it for anyway?’

‘Just go and get some,’ Lorimer told him, ‘and a drink of cold water.’ He let the man close the cell door behind them and stood waiting for the woman to look his way.

‘Feeling bad?’ he asked, as if she were an old acquaintance and not a stranger who was also his prisoner. He heard the sigh first, then Janis raised her head and looked at him. There was a brightness in her eyes that spoke of unshed tears. Her little nod and a flicker of recognition were all Lorimer needed to know he’d begun to win her confidence.

The door clanged open and the uniform strode in, proffering a tumbler of water and a strip of foil containing two painkillers. Both men watched as she unwrapped them, her fingers shaking as she clutched the glass and tilted back her head, then swallowed.

‘Thanks,’ she said, her voice hoarse. But it was to Lorimer that she spoke, to Lorimer that she handed back the empty tumbler.

‘You’ll have been told that we have to keep you here till tomorrow?’ he asked quietly, a hint of apology in his voice. She nodded again, but her head had drooped once more and Lorimer sensed she was withdrawing into herself, just as Mitchison had described. ‘You can talk to me if you want to,’ he told her. There was no response at all this time and as the minutes ticked past he realised that there was little point in trying any longer.

As he turned to leave, the silence inside that cell was redolent of misery.

Excerpt from Pitch Black by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2017 by Alex Gray. Reproduced with permission from WitnessImpulse. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Alex Gray

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Health, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English.

Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles, and commissions for BBC radio programs. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.

A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, she is the author of thirteen DCI Lorimer novels. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.

Q&A with Alex Gray

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I draw from both personal experience and current events. I think all writers use their own experience of life to a greater or lesser extent.

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 from the beginning and see where it takes me.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Most of my characters are imaginary but Maggie Lorimer is rather like my best friend and she also has some of my own personality. George parsonage, the Riverman of the same title, is however, a real person.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I begin early in the morning and sometimes get up during the night to make notes if an idea strikes me. No real idiosyncracies except sometimes don’t get dressed for hours! The neighbours are used to seeing me in my PJs and dressing gown!

Tell us why we should read this book.
Read this book as it is a real page turner and (I am told) well written. I refuse to write rubbish and edit like crazy just to get the right word or phrase. My own standards are pretty high.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love loads of writers but current favourites include Louise Penny and Christopher Brookmyre.

What are you reading now?
Right now I am reading “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Scottish debut author, Les Wood. It is utterly hilarious.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I am working on book 15 in the Lorimer series and am about three quarters way through. It is set in Glasgow and involves people trafficking and a disputed murder.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
My novel a movie? Hm, Is Gerard Butler available to play Lorimer? He is a local boy, you know, and came from Paisley, near to where I live.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Favourite leisure? Reading of course but also gardening and cooking. I enjoy watching crime dramas on TV during the winter months and birding all year round.

Favorite meal?
Favourite meal? Lobster with a nice glass of (very) chilled Chablis.

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

Connect with Alex Gray on her Website 🔗 & on Twitter 🔗.

Tour Participants:



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Apr 092017
 

Secrets of Death

by Stephen Booth

on Tour April 3 – 30, 2017

Synopsis:

Secrets of Death by Stephen Booth

Residents of the Peak District are used to tourists descending on its soaring hills and brooding valleys. However, this summer brings a different kind of visitor to the idyllic landscape, leaving behind bodies and secrets.

A series of suicides throughout the Peaks throws Detective Inspector Ben Cooper and his team in Derbyshire’s E Division into a race against time to find a connection to these seemingly random acts — with no way of predicting where the next body will turn up. Meanwhile, in Nottingham Detective Sergeant Diane Fry finds a key witness has vanished…

But what are the mysterious Secrets of Death?

And is there one victim whose fate wasn’t suicide at all?

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Fiction
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: April 4th 2017
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 0062690353 (ISBN13: 9780062690357)
Series: Cooper & Fry #16 (Each is a Stand Alone Novel)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

And this is the first secret of death. There’s always a right time and place to die.

It was important to remember. So important that Roger Farrell was repeating it to himself over and over in his head by the time he drew into the car park. When he pulled up and switched off the engine, he found he was moving his lips to the words and even saying it out loud – though only someone in the car with him would have heard it.

And he was alone, of course. Just him, and the package on the back seat.

There’s always a right time and place to die.

As instructed, Farrell had come properly equipped. He’d practised at home to make sure he got everything just right. It was vital to do this thing precisely. A mistake meant disaster. So getting it wrong was inconceivable. Who knew what would come afterwards? It didn’t bear thinking about.
Last night, he’d experienced a horrible dream, a nightmare about weeds growing from his own body. He’d been pulling clumps of ragwort and thistles out of his chest, ripping roots from his crumbling skin as if he’d turned to earth in the night. He could still feel the tendrils scraping against his ribs as they dragged through his flesh.

He knew what it meant. He was already in the ground. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Wasn’t that what they said at your graveside as they shovelled soil on to your coffin? The dream meant his body was recycling back into the earth. In his soul, he’d already died.

Farrell looked around the car park. There were plenty of vehicles here. Although it was the middle of the week, a burst of sunny weather had brought people out into the Peak District in their droves. They’d come to enjoy the special peace and beauty of Heeley Bank, just as he had.

Of course, in many other ways, they weren’t like him at all.

He let out a sigh of contentment. That was the feeling this scenery gave him. The green of the foliage down by the river was startling in its brightness. The farmland he could see stretching up the sides of the hills was a glowing patchwork between a tracery of dry-stone walls. Cattle munched on the new grass in the fields. Further up, a scattering of white blobs covered the rougher grazing where the moors began.

The sight of those sheep made Farrell smile. He’d always associated them with the Peaks. This landscape wouldn’t be the same without sheep. They’d been here for centuries, helping to shape the countryside. And they’d still be here long after he’d gone.

It really was so green out there. So very green.

But there’s always a right time and place.

A silver SUV had pulled into a parking space nearby. Farrell watched a young couple get out and unload two bikes from a rack attached to their vehicle. One of the bikes had a carrier on the back for the small girl sitting in a child seat in the car. She was pre-school, about two years old, wearing a bright yellow dress and an orange sun hat. Her father lifted her out, her toes wiggling with pleasure as she felt the warm air on her skin. The family all laughed together, for no apparent reason.

Farrell had observed people doing that before, laughing at nothing in particular. He’d never understood it. He often didn’t get jokes that others found hilarious. And laughing when there wasn’t even a joke, when no one had actually said anything? That seemed very strange. It was as if they were laughing simply because they were, well . . . happy.

For Roger Farrell, happy was just a word, the appearance of happiness an illusion. He was convinced people put on a façade and acted that way because it was expected of them. It was all just an artificial front. Deep down, no one could be happy in this world. It just wasn’t possible. Happiness was a sham – and a cruel one at that, since no one could attain it. All these people would realise it in the end.

With a surge of pity, Farrell looked away. He’d watched the family too long. Across the car park, an elderly man hobbled on two sticks, accompanied by a woman with a small pug dog on a lead. She had to walk deliberately slowly, so that she didn’t leave the man behind. The pug tugged half-heartedly at its lead, but the woman yanked it back.

These two had probably been married for years and were no doubt suffering from various illnesses that came with age. Did they look happy? Farrell looked more closely at their faces. Definitely not. Not even the dog.

He nodded to himself and closed his eyes as he leaned back in his seat. His breathing settled down to a steady rhythm as he listened to the birds singing in the woods, the tinkle of a stream nearby, the quiet whispering of a gentle breeze through the trees.

As the afternoon drew to a close, he watched the vehicles leave one by one. People were taking off their boots, climbing into cars and heading for home. All of them were complete strangers, absorbed in their own lives. They could see him, of course. An overweight middle-aged man with a receding hairline and a distant stare. But they would never remember him.

A few minutes later, a young man jogged past on to the woodland path, checking his watch as he ran, as if he knew the time was approaching. A black Land Rover eased into a spot opposite Farrell’s BMW, but no one emerged.

And finally, the lights went off in the information centre. A woman came out and locked the front doors. She took a glance round the car park, seemed to see nothing of any interest to her, and climbed into a Ford Focus parked in a bay reserved for staff. Farrell watched as she drove away.

When it was quiet and there were only a few cars left, he leaned over into the back seat and unzipped the holdall. Carefully, Farrell lifted out the gas canisters, uncoiling the plastic tubing as it writhed on to the seat. He placed the canisters in the footwell. They looked incongruous sitting there, painted in fluorescent orange with their pictures of party balloons on the side.

It had taken him a while to find the right brand of gas. Some manufacturers had started putting a percentage of air into the canisters, which made them quite useless for his purpose. That was when things went wrong, if you didn’t check and double-check, and make sure you got exactly the right equipment.

Still, you could find anything on the internet, as he well knew. Information, advice, someone to talk to who actually understood how you were feeling. And the inspiration. He would be nothing without that. He wouldn’t be here at Heeley Bank right now.

And this is the first secret of death. There’s always a right time and place to die.

Farrell said it again. You could never say it too often. It was so important. The most important thing in the world. Or in his world, at least.

He reached back into the holdall and lifted out the bag itself. He held it almost reverently, like a delicate surgical instrument. And it was, in a way. It could achieve every bit as much as any complicated heart operation or brain surgery. It could change someone’s life for the better. And instead of hours and hours of complicated medical procedures on the operating table, it took just a few minutes. It was so simple.

With black tape from a roll, he attached the tubing to the place he’d marked on the edge of the bag, tugging at it to make sure it was perfectly secure. Everything fine so far.

Farrell had spent days choosing a piece of music to play. The CD was waiting now in its case and he slid it out, catching a glimpse of his own reflection in the gleaming surface. He wondered what expression would be in his eyes in the last seconds.

Despite his reluctance to see himself now, he couldn’t resist a glance in his rearview mirror. Only his eyes were visible, pale grey irises and a spider’s web of red lines. His pupils appeared tiny, as if he were on drugs or staring into a bright light. And maybe he was looking at the light. Perhaps it had already started.

The CD player whirred quietly and the music began to play. He’d selected a piece of Bach. It wasn’t his normal choice of music, but nothing was normal now. It hadn’t been for quite a while. The sounds of the Bach just seemed to suit the mood he was trying to achieve. Peace, certainly. And a sort of quiet, steady progression towards the inevitable conclusion.

As the sun set in the west over Bradwell Moor, a shaft of orange light burst over the landscape, transforming the colours into a kaleidoscope of unfamiliar shades, as if the Peak District had just become a tropical island.

Farrell held his breath, awed by the magic of the light. It was one of the amazing things he loved about this area, the way it changed from one minute to the next, from one month to another. Those hillsides he was looking at now would be ablaze with purple heather later in the summer. It was always a glorious sight.

For a moment, Farrell hesitated, wondering whether he should have left it until August or the beginning of September.

And then it hit him. That momentary twinge of doubt exploded inside him, filling his lungs and stopping the breath in his throat until he gathered all his strength to battle against it. His hands trembled with the effort as he forced the doubt back down into the darkness. As the tension collapsed, his shoulders sagged and his forehead prickled with a sheen of sweat.

Farrell felt as though he’d just experienced the pain and shock of a heart attack without the fatal consequences. His lips twitched in an ironic smile. That meant he was still in control. He remained capable of making his own mind up, deciding where and when to end his life. He was able to choose his own moment, his own perfect location.

There’s always a right time and place to die.

Roger Farrell took one last glance out of the window as the light began to fade over the Peak District hills.

The place was here.

And the time was now.

***

Excerpt from Secrets of Death by Stephen Booth. Copyright © 2017 by Stephen Booth. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Stephen BoothA newspaper and magazine journalist for over 25 years, Stephen Booth was born in the English Pennine mill town of Burnley. He was brought up on the Lancashire coast at Blackpool, where he attended Arnold School. He began his career in journalism by editing his school magazine, and wrote his first novel at the age of 12. The Cooper & Fry series is now published by Little, Brown in the UK and by the Witness Impulse imprint of HarperCollins in the USA. In addition to publication in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, translation rights in the series have so far been sold in sixteen languages – French, German, Dutch, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Czech, Romanian, Bulgarian, Japanese and Hebrew.Stephen left journalism in 2001 to write novels full time. He and his wife Lesley live in a village in rural Nottinghamshire, England (home of Robin Hood and the Pilgrim Fathers). They have three cats.

In recent years, Stephen Booth has become a Library Champion in support of the UK’s ‘Love Libraries’ campaign, and a Reading Champion to support the National Year of Reading. He has also represented British literature at the Helsinki Book Fair in Finland, filmed a documentary for 20th Century Fox on the French detective Vidocq, taken part in online chats for World Book Day, and given talks at many conferences, conventions, libraries, bookshops and festivals around the world.

Q&A with Stephen Booth

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Both, I think. Everything is material for a writer. I spent 25 years as a newspaper journalist covering all kinds of stories – and meeting a lot of police officers. But I also want to make my books as contemporary as possible and deal with current issues.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Definitely the latter. When I start a new book, I don’t know how it will end, or even much of what’s going to happen in the plot. I start with the characters (and a place the belong to, since the locations are very important). Then I devise a situation which puts them under pressure, with a murder happening or a body being found, and I watch how they behave. So the characters create the story, and what subsequently happens might surprise even me. For me, that’s a much more interesting and exciting way of writing than knowing what’s going to happen all the time. Of course, I rely heavily on Cooper and Fry and their police colleagues to do their part of the job and find out what happened. After all, they’re the detectives and I’m just the writer!

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
I think there’s a bit of me in every character. And of course everyone I meet is likely to influence me too. When we create a character, we use aspects of several people, including ourselves, to produce something new and hopefully unique.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I’m sure everyone is different, but this process works for me. I write a book a year, and in the early stages I might not be putting many words on the page because I’m developing the characters and locations, and the themes of the book. The actual writing can happen quite quickly later on. Although I may be at my desk during the day, there are lots of other things involved in being a writer other than the actual writing. My most creative time is in the evening and late at night, when there are fewer distractions. I work from home, but I’ve converted part of a stable block into an office. So I do physically leave the house to go to work, though I only have to cross the yard!

Tell us why we should read this book.
I think it explores series issues we might not have thought about too much, but in a gripping story that involves mystery, intrigue and some fascinating characters, all set in a beautiful and atmospheric location.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
There are so many. One of my great crime writing heroes was Ruth Rendell, who we lost a couple of years ago. She had the ability to come up with someone fresh and exciting, no matter how long she’d been doing it. I like series with a strong central character, so I’d include on my list Peter Robinson, John Harvey, Michael Connelly, Ann Cleeves, and Laurie King. There are lots of wonderful new authors coming through too.

What are you reading now?
Deborah Crombie’s ‘No Mark Upon Her’. I’m afraid I’ve fallen behind a bit on her Kincaid and James series!

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
There’s a new Cooper and Fry novel already written, called ‘Dead in the Dark’. I like to keep the dynamic between the characters moving forward, and there are changes ahead for both Ben and Diane. A lot of readers have been hoping for good news for Ben, and I think he’s finding some happiness now. Diane is always living on the edge, and with the return of her sister Angie into her life I’m afraid she has a crisis coming! Meanwhile, I’m starting work on number 18 in the series, so I’m anxious to see how Diane deals with that crisis

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
We’re in development for a Cooper and Fry TV series at the moment, so I’m often asked about casting. I thought Aidan Turner might make a good Ben Cooper. Diane Fry is much more complex and difficult…

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Walking in the Peak District national park (where my books are set)
And I’m just learning to play the guitar!

Favorite meal?
Chinese Probably a nice Dim Sum.

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

Thank you for inviting me! It’s been a pleasure.

Catch Up With Stephen Booth On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Stephen Booth and WitnessImpulse. There will be 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Secrets of Death by Stephen Booth. The giveaway begins on March 30 and runs through May 1, 2017.

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