Category: Misc

Mailbox Monday

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Mailbox Monday

According to Marcia, “Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

Friday: (02/18/22)

Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie~ Kindle from Atria Books via NetGalley

Tuesday: (02/22/22)
Speed Reading by Kam Knight ~ TPB personal purchase

 

#Review | THE MARRIAGE SECRET by Carey Baldwin

The Marriage Secret by Carey Baldwin
Genre: Psychological Thriller
My Rating: 5

Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: February 11, 2022
ASIN: B09M79VMSK
Pages: 306
Review Copy From: Publisher via NetGalley
Edition: Kindle

Synopsis (via GR)

He married me despite my darkest secret. But am I safe now that I know his?

From the outside, my marriage to Zach was perfect: dream home, a perfect baby girl and passionate, all-consuming love. When we met, I confessed my darkest secret to him and he never judged me for it. Instead, he vowed to always protect me whatever the cost.

But as I cradle my gorgeous baby, I have to accept that the husband who used to be my everything, has changed. At first it was little things: expecting me to keep to a strict schedule, picking out my clothes for me. Now, he controls every aspect of my life: from how much money I have, to when I leave the house and who I can see.

One fateful night, a young woman is found murdered and Zach is a potential suspect. Turning towards me, a look of warmth returning to his eyes, he swears he’s innocent, and I realize there is only one solution. If I agree to be his alibi, he will keep my secret and our daughter can grow up in a loving home. In that moment, I do what any faithful wife would do: I stand by him.

But I know deep down, only one of us will make it out of this marriage alive.

My Thoughts

WOW!!!! What a read!! But then, I’m not surprised.

I have been a fan of this author since reading Notorious in 2016 and have read every one of her books since.

According to Holly, she and Zach, an OB-GYN, have the perfect marriage, especially after the birth of their beautiful daughter, Jolene. In spite of the secrets that they know about each other and have promised never to tell. Or she thought.

Not long after, things changed. Holly started to have strange incidents and hallucinations. Holly denied it all but Zach saw the changes. And because of that, Zach felt he need to be aware and controlling because he was afraid for their daughter.

Is the obvious always the obvious?

This was a nail-biting read!!! I thoroughly thought so!!!

I pictured every single thing in my mind, so for me, this was like a movie in my head and sitting on the edge of my chair.

The ending! THE ENDING!!!!! Or should I say the endings? It left me breathless!!!!

No pressure Ms. Baldwin…….BUT…….when will the next book be in my hands?

I received a complimentary copy from (Bookouture via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest opinion.

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

REVIEW DISCLAIMER

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

    #Review | The Last House On The Street by Diane Chamberlain

    The Last House On The Street by Diane Chamberlain
    Genre: Historical Fiction; Women’s Fiction
    My Rating: 5

    Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
    Publication Date: January 11, 2022
    ASIN:B092T7TFP2
    Pages: 346
    Review Copy From: Publisher via NetGalley
    Edition: Kindle

    Synopsis (via GR)

    From bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel that perfectly interweaves history, mystery, and social justice.

    When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.

    My Thoughts

    Phenomenal!!!!

    Plot/Story Premise

    The story alternates between the years of 1965 and 2010.
    In 1965 Ellie, is a young woman who decides to help with the cause for allowing African Americans the right to vote. However, the residents of this small town are against her decision and have started harassing her, her family, and the other volunteers.
    In 2010, Kayla has moved into the new house that she and her husband designed but while building there was a horrific accident in the house that caused the death of her husband. Has she made a mistake moving in since there seems to be someone or a group of people trying to torment her into moving out? Why? What is it that this house is causing such a disturbance including one night when the Ku Klux Klan decided to show up on her property?
    How are these two women connected, besides having only the 2 houses on the street, as construction is moving along for more houses in this development?

    Characters

    I was so engrossed within the story that I felt that I was there in this little town in North Carolina. I felt the emotions and sensibilities of each and every one of the characters.

    Setting

    There were different settings in the story but I could picture every one of them, Ellie’s parent’s house, the Church where the volunteers would come together, the families and shanties that the volunteers would stay with for a few days, the houses that the volunteers knocked on doors to explain why it is so important to vote, etc.

    Ending/Conclusion

    WOW!!!! There were stories within the story and as each page revealed one of those “stories” my jaw dropped. I turned the page and needed to pick up my jaw because it was going to fall again!!!!

    Overall opinion

    Not only was this an amazing story it was also an eye-opening education for the reader about the history of segregation in the south during the 1960s..
    As a long-time reader, as I am sure a lot of you are, if we are honest with ourselves, we have read hundreds+ of books but there are some books read that we probably can’t remember what it is about. But I can promise you, this is a story that will stay with you for years to come.
    The narrative is perfection whereas the reader will be kidnapped and become a part of it. A book that you will find any excuse to take you away from adulting and to pick it up and continue reading. A book that is definitely one where you will be telling yourself, just one more chapter and we all know how that goes!!!!
    Engaging!! Riveting!! Provocative!! Heart pounding!! Intoxicating!!

    I received a complimentary copy from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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

    REVIEW DISCLAIMER

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

    #Review | Somebody’s Home by Kaira Rouda

    Somebody’s Home by Kaira Rouda
    My Rating: 4
    Genre: Domestic Thriller

    Published by Thomas Mercer
    Publication Date: January 18, 2022
    ASIN: ‎ B08Y8JXZFZ
    Pages: 299
    Review Copy From: Publisher via NetGalley
    Edition: Kindle

    Synopsis (via GR)

    A quiet neighborhood. A lovely home. A promising new beginning. In a heartbeat everything can change in this propulsive novel of suspense by USA Today bestselling author Kaira Rouda.

    Julie Jones has left her suffocating marriage. With her teenage daughter, Jess, she’s starting over. Their new house in Oceanside is the first step toward a new life. Even if it does come with the unexpected. The previous owners, a pastor and his wife, have left something—or rather someone—behind…

    Tom Dean has a bitter hatred for the father who considers him a lost cause, and for the woman who’s moved into their family’s house. The only home he’s ever known. He’s never going to leave. She thinks he’ll be gone in three days, but Tom has the perfect plan.

    For a newly single mother and her daughter, a fresh start is the beginning of a nightmare. Before the weekend is over, somebody is going to get exactly what they deserve.

    My Thoughts

    Ms. Rouda is one of my go-to authors.

    The time frame of this story is one weekend involving 2 families and each chapter is the POV of one of the characters. The characters were 3 dimensional whereas I could vividly picture them in my mind.

    I found that the story was intriguing as it, in my opinion, touched upon issues in today’s climate. The suspense relating to those issues had me turning the pages.

    I did find the book to be an entertaining read.

    I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Mercer via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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

    REVIEW DISCLAIMER

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

    My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle || #Review

    My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle
    My Rating: 5
    Genre: Domestic Thriller
    Publisher: Park Row
    Publication Date: December 28, 2021
    ISBN-10: ‎ 0778312119
    ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0778312116
    Pages: 336
    Review Copy From: Publisher/NetGalley
    Edition: TPB/Kindle

    Synopsis (via GR)

    Bestselling author of DEAR WIFE and THE MARRIAGE LIE, Kimberly Belle returns with her most heart-pounding thriller to date, as a masked home invader reveals the cracks in a marriage.

    Everyone is about to know what her husband isn’t telling her…

    Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple with two adorable kids, a spacious home and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

    Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.

    With riveting twists and a breakneck pace, My Darling Husband is an utterly compelling thriller that once again showcases Kimberly Belle’s exceptional talent for domestic suspense.

    My Thoughts

    I’m sure we all have that list of authors that we just have to get our hands on their newest book as soon as we can. And in the meantime, we wait patiently, well, at least try to. But when I see that the author is in the edits phase, the excitement just builds, and waiting patiently doesn’t exist anymore. Kimberly Belle is one of the authors on that list.

    Plot/Story Premise

    I know some people don’t read the Acknowledgments but I tend to and this time I was glad I did. Ms. Belle states that the premise of this story happened to someone that she knows so it made it feel even more real for me.

    Characters

    The characters were so life-like. I could feel my heart pounding as the time was slipping away until the ransom money was delivered. The narrative of each chapter was by different characters’ POVs. The time was also noted as the time clicked down. I was so engrossed that I found that I was clenching my fists due to Jade’s anxiety and fear. I even found myself checking my watch in the middle of a chapter.

    Setting

    I was able to visualize the house, Cam in his truck riding around trying to find someone who could loan him the ransom amount, which was an odd amount in itself, $734,296.00, and neither Jade nor Cam could figure out why.

    Ending/Conclusion

    Whiplash!!! And now I could finally breathe and have my pulse return to normal!!!

    Overall opinion

    Another page-turning thriller by an extraordinary author!!! A bone-chilling read!!

    Negatives

    Just one! Trying to be patient while waiting for her next book. Oh, did I happen to mention, patience is not one of my virtues?

    I received a complimentary copy from Park Row Books (TPB and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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

    REVIEW DISCLAIMER

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

    Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith | #Twentymile @cmattwrite #Thriller #PoliceProcedural #Interview #Showcase

    Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith Banner

    Twentymile

    by C. Matthew Smith

    November 15 – December 10, 2021 Tour

    Synopsis:

    Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith

    When wildlife biologist Alex Lowe is found dead inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it looks on the surface like a suicide. But Tsula Walker, Special Agent with the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch and a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, isn’t so sure.

    Tsula’s investigation will lead her deep into the park and face-to-face with a group of lethal men on a mission to reclaim a historic homestead. The encounter will irretrievably alter the lives of all involved and leave Tsula fighting for survival – not only from those who would do her harm, but from a looming winter storm that could prove just as deadly.

    A finely crafted literary thriller, Twentymile delivers a propulsive story of long-held grievances, new hopes, and the contentious history of the land at its heart.

    Praise for Twentymile:

    “[A] striking debut . . . a highly enjoyable read suited best to those who like their thrillers to simmer for awhile before erupting in a blizzard of action and unpredictability . . .” Kashif Hussain, Best Thriller Books.

    “C. Matthew Smith’s original, intelligent novel delivers unforgettable characters and an irresistible, page-turning pace while grappling with deeply fascinating issues of land and heritage and what and who is native…. Twentymile is an accomplished first novel from a talented and fully-formed writer.” James A. McLaughlin, Edgar Award-winning author of Bearskin

    Twentymile is packed with everything I love: A strong, female character; a wilderness setting; gripping storytelling; masterful writing. Smith captures powerfully and deeply the effects of the past and what we do to one another and ourselves for the sake of ownership and possession, for what we wrongfully and rightfully believe is ours. I loved every word. A beautiful and brutal and extraordinary debut.” Diane Les Becquets, bestselling author of Breaking Wild and The Last Woman in the Forest

    Book Details:

    Genre: Procedural, Thriller
    Published by: Latah Books
    Publication Date: November 19, 2021
    Number of Pages: 325
    ISBN: 978-1-7360127-6-5
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Latah Books

    Read an excerpt:

    HARLAN

    CHAPTER ONE

    May 10

    The same moment the hiker comes upon them, rounding the bend in the trail, Harlan knows the man will die.

    He takes no pleasure in the thought. So far as Harlan is aware, he has never met the man and has no quarrel with him. This stranger is simply an unexpected contingency. A loose thread that, once noticed, requires snipping.

    Harlan knows, too, it’s his own fault. He shouldn’t have stopped. He should have pressed the group forward, off the trail and into the concealing drapery of the forest. That, after all, is the plan they’ve followed each time: Keep moving. Disappear.

    But the first sliver of morning light had crested the ridge and caught Harlan’s eye just so, and without even thinking, he’d paused to watch it filter through the high trees. Giddy with promise, he’d imagined he saw their new future dawning in that distance as well, tethered to the rising sun. Cardinals he couldn’t yet spot were waking to greet the day, and a breeze picked up overhead, soughing through shadowy crowns of birch and oak. He’d turned and watched the silhouettes of his companions taking shape. His sons, Otto and Joseph, standing within arm’s length. The man they all call Junior lingering just behind them.

    The stranger’s headlamp sliced through this reverie, bright and sudden as an oncoming train, freezing Harlan where he stood. In all the times they’ve previously made this journey—always departing this trail at this spot, and always at this early hour—they’ve never encountered another person. Given last night’s thunderstorm and the threat of more to come, Harlan wasn’t planning on company this morning, either.

    He clamps his lips tight and flicks his eyes toward his sons—be still, be quiet. Junior clears his throat softly.

    “Mornin’,” the stranger says when he’s close.

    The accent is local—born, like Harlan’s own, of the surrounding North Carolina mountains—and his tone carries a hint of polite confusion. The beam of his headlamp darts from man to man, as though uncertain of who or what most merits its attention, before settling finally on Junior’s pack.

    The backpack is a hand-stitched canvas behemoth many times the size of those sold by local outfitters and online retailers. Harlan designed the mammoth vessel himself to accommodate the many necessities of life in the wilderness. Dry goods. Seeds for planting. Tools for construction and farming. Long guns and ammunition. It’s functional but unsightly, like the bulbous shell of some strange insect. Harlan and his sons carry similar packs, each man bearing as much weight as he can manage. But it’s likely the rifle barrel peeking out of Junior’s that has now caught the stranger’s interest.

    Harlan can tell he’s an experienced hiker, familiar with the national park where they now stand. Few people know of this trail. Fewer still would attempt it at this hour. Each of his thick-knuckled hands holds a trekking pole, and he moves with a sure and graceful gait even in the relative dark. He will recognize—probably is just now in the process of recognizing—that something is not right with the four of them. Something he may be tempted to report. Something he might recall later if asked.

    Harlan nods at the man but says nothing. He removes his pack and kneels as though to re-tie his laces.

    The hiker, receiving no reply, fills the silence. “How’re y’all do—”

    When Harlan stands again, he works quickly, covering the stranger’s mouth with his free hand and thrusting his blade just below the sternum. A whimper escapes through his clamped fingers but dies quickly. The body arches, then goes limp. One arm reaches out toward him but only brushes his shoulder and falls away. Junior approaches from behind and lowers the man onto his back.

    Even the birds are silent.

    Joseph steps to his father’s side and offers him a cloth. Harlan smiles. His youngest son is a carbon copy of himself at eighteen. The wordless, intent glares. The muscles tensed and explosive, like coiled springs straining at a latch. Joseph eyes the man on the ground as though daring him to rise and fight.

    Harlan removes the stranger’s headlamp and shines the beam in the man’s face. A buzz-cut of silver hair blanches in this wash of light. His pupils, wide as coins, do not react. Blood paints his lips and pools on the mud beneath him, smelling of copper.

    “I’m sorry, friend,” Harlan says, though he doubts the man can hear him. “It’s just, you weren’t supposed to be here.” He yanks the knife free from the man’s distended belly and cleans it with the cloth.

    From behind him comes Otto’s fretful voice. “Jesus, Pop.”

    Harlan’s eldest more resembles the men on his late wife’s side. Long-limbed and dour. Quiet and amenable, but anxious. When Harlan turns, Otto is pacing along a tight stretch of the trail with his hands clamped to the sides of his head. His natural state.

    “Shut up and help me,” Harlan says. “Both of you.”

    He instructs his sons to carry the man two hundred paces into the woods and deposit him behind a wide tree. Far enough away, Harlan hopes, that the body will not be seen or smelled from the trail any time soon. “Wear your gloves,” he tells them, re-sheathing the knife at his hip. “And don’t let him drag.”

    As Otto and Joseph bear the man away, Harlan pockets the lamp and turns to Junior.

    “I know, I know,” he says, shaking his head. “Don’t look at me like that.”

    “Like what?”

    Harlan sweeps his boot back and forth along the muddy trail to smooth over the odd bunching of footprints and to cover the scrim of blood with earth. He’s surprised to find his stomach has gone sour. “No witnesses,” he says. “That’s how it has to be.”

    “People go missing,” Junior says, “and other people come looking.”

    “By the time they do, we’ll be long gone.”

    Junior shrugs and points. “Dibs on his walking sticks.”

    Harlan stops sweeping. “What?”

    “Sometimes my knees hurt.”

    “Fine,” Harlan says. “But let’s get this straight. Dibs is not how we’re going to operate when we get there.”

    Junior blinks and looks at him. “Dibs is how everything operates.”

    Minutes later, Otto and Joseph return from their task, their chests heaving and their faces slick. Otto gives his younger brother a wary look, then approaches Harlan alone. When he speaks, he keeps his voice low.

    “Pop—”

    “Was he still breathing when you left him?”

    Otto trains his eyes on his own feet, a drop of sweat dangling from the tip of his nose.

    “Was he?”

    Otto shakes his head. He hesitates for a moment longer, then asks, “Maybe we should go, Pop? Before someone else comes along?”

    Harlan pats his son’s hunched neck. “You’re right, of course.”

    The four grunt and sway as they re-shoulder their packs. Wooden edges and sharp points dig into Harlan’s back and buttocks through the canvas, and the straps strain against his burning shoulders. But he welcomes this discomfort for what it means. This, at last, is their final trip.

    This time, they’re leaving for good.

    They fan out along the edge of the trail, the ground sopping under their boots. Droplets rain down, shaken free from the canopy by a gust of wind, and Harlan turns his face up to feel the cool prickle on his skin. Then he nods to his companions, wipes the water from his eyes, and steps into the rustling thicket.

    The others follow after him, marching as quickly as their burdens allow.

    Melting into the trees and the undergrowth.

    PART I:

    DRIFT 

    TSULA 

    CHAPTER TWO

    October 26

    By the time the two vehicles she’s expecting appear at the far end of the service road, Tsula is already glazed with a slurry of sweat and south Florida sand so fine it should really be called dust. She hasn’t exerted herself in the slightest—she parked, got out of her vehicle, waited for the others to arrive—but already she longs for a shower. She wipes her brow with an equally damp forearm. It accomplishes little.

    “Christ almighty.”

    Tsula grew up in the Qualla Boundary—the eighty square miles of western North Carolina held by the federal government in trust for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians—and had returned to her childhood home two years ago after a prolonged absence. This time of year in the Qualla, the mornings are chilly and the days temperate, autumn having officially shooed summer out of the mountains. In northern Wyoming, where she’d spent nearly two decades of her adult life, it takes until mid-morning in late October for the frost to fully melt. Tsula understands those rhythms—putting on layers and shedding them, freezing and thawing. The natural balance of it. But only miles from where she stands, in this same ceaseless heat, lies the Miami-Dade County sprawl. It baffles her. Who but reptiles could live in this swelter?

    Tsula raises her binoculars. A generic government-issued SUV, much like her own, leads the way. An Everglades National Park law enforcement cruiser follows close behind.

    She looks down at her watch: 11:45 a.m.

    Tsula flaps the front of her vented fishing shirt to move air against her skin. The material is thin, breathable, and light tan, but islets of brown have formed where the shirt clings to perspiration on her shoulders and chest. She removes her baseball cap, fans her face, and lifts her ponytail off her neck. In this sun, her black hair absorbs the heat like the hood of a car, and she would not at all be surprised to find it has burned her skin. For a moment, she wishes it would go ahead and gray. Surely that would be more comfortable.

    The vehicles pull to a stop next to her, and two men exit. Fish and Wildlife Commission Investigator Matt Healey approaches first. He is fifty-something, with the tanned and craggy face of someone who has spent decades outside. Tsula shakes his hand and smiles.

    “Special Agent,” he says, scratching at his beard with his free hand.

    The other man is younger—in his late twenties, Tsula figures—and dressed in the standard green-and-gray uniform of a law enforcement park ranger. He moves with a bounding and confident carriage and thrusts out his hand. “Special Agent, I’m Ranger Tim Stubbs. Welcome to Everglades. I was asked to join y’all today, but I’m afraid they didn’t give me much other info. Can someone tell me what I’m in for?”

    “Poachers,” Healey answers. “You’re here to help us nab some.”

    “We investigate poaching every year,” Stubbs says, nodding toward Tsula. “Never get the involvement of the FBI.”

    “ISB,” she corrects him. “Investigative Services Branch? I’m with the Park Service.”

    “Never heard of it,” Stubbs says.

    “I get that a lot.”

    Whether he knows it or not, Stubbs has a point. The ISB rarely, if ever, involves itself in poaching cases. Most large parks like Everglades have their own law enforcement rangers capable of looking into those of the garden variety. Federal and state fish and wildlife agencies can augment their efforts where necessary. At just over thirty Special Agents nationwide, and with eighty-five million acres of national park land under their jurisdiction from Hawaii to the U.S. Virgin Islands, this little-known division of the Park Service is too thinly staffed to look into such matters when there are suspicious deaths, missing persons, and sexual assaults to investigate.

    But this case is different.

    “It’s not just what they’re taking,” Healy says. “It’s how much they’re taking. Thousands of green and loggerhead turtle eggs, gone. Whole nests cleaned out at different points along Cape Sable all summer long. Always at night so cameras don’t capture them clearly, always different locations. They’re a moving target.”

    “We’ve been concerned for a while now that they may be getting some assistance spotting the nests from inside the park,” Tsula adds. “So, we’re keeping it pretty close to the vest. That’s why no one filled you in before now. We don’t want to risk any tip-offs.”

    “What would anyone want with that many eggs?”

    “Black market,” Healey says.

    “You’re kidding.”

    Healey shakes his head. “Sea turtle eggs go down to Central America where they’re eaten as an aphrodisiac. Fetch three to five bucks apiece for the guy stateside who collects them. Bear paws and gallbladders go over to Asia. All kinds of other weird shit I won’t mention. And, of course, there are the live exotics coming into the country. Billions of dollars a year in illegal animal trade going all over the world. One of the biggest criminal industries besides drugs, weapons, and human trafficking. This many eggs missing—it’s like bricks of weed or cocaine in a wheel well. This isn’t some guy adding to his reptile collection or teenagers stealing eggs on a dare. This is commerce.”

    Tsula recognizes the speech. It’s how Healey had hooked her, and how she in turn argued her boss into sanctioning her involvement. “Sure, most poaching is small-potatoes,” he told her months ago. He’d invited her for a drink that turned out to be a pitch instead. “Hicks shooting a deer off-season on government land and similar nonsense. This isn’t that. You catch the right guys, and they tell you who they’re selling to, maybe you can follow the trail. Can you imagine taking down an international protected species enterprise? Talk about putting the ISB on the map.”

    “So maybe that’s what’s in it for me,” Tsula said, peeling at the label on her bottle. “Why are you so fired up?”

    He straightened himself on his stool and drew his shoulders back. “These species are having a hard enough time as it is. Throw sustained poaching on top, it’s going to be devastating. I want it stopped. Not just the low-level guys, either. We put a few of them in jail, there will always be more of them to take their place. I want the head lopped off.”

    Tsula had felt a thrill at Healey’s blunt passion and the prospect of an operation with international criminal implications. Certainly, it would be a welcome break from the child molestation and homicide cases that ate up her days and her soul, bit by bit. It took three conversations with the ISB Atlantic Region’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge, but eventually he agreed.

    “This better be worth it,” he told her finally. “Bring some people in, get them to tell us who they’re working for. We may have to let the FBI in after that, but you will have tipped the first domino.”

    Their investigation had consumed hundreds of man-hours across three agencies but yielded little concrete progress for the first several months. Then a couple weeks ago, Healey received a call from the Broward County State Attorney’s office. A pet store owner under arrest for a third cocaine possession charge was offering up information on turtle egg poachers targeting Everglades in a bid for a favorable plea deal. Two men had recently approached the store owner, who went by the nickname Bucky, about purchasing a small cache of eggs they still had on hand. It was toward the end of the season, and the recent yields were much smaller than their mid-summer hauls. Since many of the eggs they’d gathered were approaching time to hatch, the buyers with whom the two men primarily did business were no longer interested. The two men were looking for a legally flexible pet store owner who might want to sell hatchlings out the back door of his shop.

    Tsula decided to use Bucky as bait. At her direction, he would offer to purchase the remaining eggs but refuse to conduct the sale at his store. The strip mall along the highway, he would explain, was too heavily trafficked for questionable transactions. But he knew a quiet place in the pine rocklands near the eastern border of the park where he liked to snort up and make plans for his business. They could meet there.

    “Do I really have to say the part about snorting up?” Bucky had asked her, scratching his fingernails nervously on the interrogation room table. “I really don’t want that on tape. My parents are still alive.”

    “You think they don’t know already?” Tsula said. “You don’t like my plan, good luck with your charges and your public defender here. How much time do you figure a third offense gets you?”

    At his lawyer’s urging, Bucky finally agreed. The plan was set in motion, with the operation to take place today.

    “So how are we looking?” Healey asks.

    “Bucky’s on his way,” Tsula says. “I met with him earlier for a final run-through, got him mic’d up. We’re going to move the vehicles behind the thicket over there and wait. I’ve scouted it out. We’ll be concealed from the road. The purchase will take place about 12:30. As soon as Bucky has the eggs, we make our move.”

    “I’ll secure the eggs,” Healy says. “You guys reel in some assholes.”

    Tsula looks at Stubbs. His jaw is clenched, his eyes suddenly electric. “I’ll ride with you when it’s time, if that’s alright,” she says. “Keep it simple.”

    They move their vehicles behind the wall of climbing fern and ladies’ tresses. Tsula exits her SUV, takes a concealed vantage point behind the brush, and raises her binoculars. To her left, a breeze has picked up and is swaying the distant sawgrass. A golden eagle circles effortlessly on a thermal, its attention trained on something below. Directly beyond the thicket where she stands, a large expanse of grass spreads out for a quarter mile before giving way to a dense stand of pine trees. To her right, that same open field stretches perhaps two miles, bordered by the service road on which Healy and Stubbs had just come in. All is silent but the soft hum of the breeze.

    Bucky’s rust-colored compact bounces up the road around 12:15 and disappears as it passes on the opposite side the thicket. Minutes later, a mud-flecked pickup on oversized tires proceeds the same direction up the road, dragging a dust plume like a thundercloud behind it.

    Tsula turns, nods to Healey, and climbs quietly into Stubbs’s cruiser. She inserts her earpiece and settles into the seat. Stubbs looks over at her expectantly, his hand hovering over the ignition.

    Tsula shakes her head. “Not yet.”

    ***

    Excerpt from Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith. Copyright 2021 by C. Matthew Smith. Reproduced with permission from C. Matthew Smith. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Author Bio:

    C. Matthew Smith

    C. Matthew Smith is an attorney and writer whose short stories have appeared in and are forthcoming from numerous outlets, including Mystery Tribune, Mystery Weekly, Close to the Bone, and Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir Vol. 3 (Down & Out Books). He’s a member of Sisters in Crime and the Atlanta Writers Club.

    Q&A with C. Matthew Smith

    What was the inspiration for this book?

    It was the conjunction of three different narrative sparks. First, I’ve loved the setting of the book, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for nearly three decades, and I’ve often thought how great a setting it would be for a novel. Second, I’d been toying for a while with the idea featuring a “good guy” character on the run from “bad guys” in difficult terrain, and the conflict between them arising out of being some sort of dispute over land use. (Were the bad guys poaching? Did they manage a hostile takeover of public lands like the Ammon Bundy situation?) Third, I found an article in 2018 in the magazine Outside profiling the National Park Service’s own FBI-type law enforcement organization, the Investigative Services Branch. Based on my research, no prior novel has featured an ISB special agent, and I realized this was an opportunity for a compelling and unique “good guy.”

    What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

    Being patient–with myself, with my writing, with the whole process of querying and publication. It takes a long time to write a good book, and when that’s done, you’re still only like halfway there.
    What do you absolutely need while writing?

    Quiet and time. Writing takes all of my attention, so I need a distraction free zone.

    Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

    Tsula Walker is my favorite. She’s a flinty woman doing a tough job and dealing with complications at home. She’s far from perfect, but her heart is in the right place. I almost feel bad for what I put her through in the story.

    Tell us why we should read your book.

    I wrote a book I’d want to read, and I doubt I’m terribly unique in my tastes. I enjoy crime novels and outdoor adventure stories, and Twentymile has a bit of both. In addition, my favorite novels are those whose themes and subtext run deep, give me something to chew on long after the resolution. Twentymile, I hope, raises important questions about the history of its setting, about what “home” means, and about the stories we tell ourselves about our history.

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

    I’ll go with the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch, which I had no idea even existed until 2018. It’s a group of about three dozen special agents that investigate the most serious crimes committed in our national parks. They’re like the FBI, except they’re far fewer in number and often work alone in remote locations. It takes a particular kind of person to want to do that.

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

    I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to read Twentymile. I know how little time we all have and how many other books choices you had. I hope you enjoy it!

    Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

    I’ve loved books since I was a child, and when I entered college in 1993, I swore I was going to be a writer. I ended up going to law school instead of graduate school, and I’ve spent twenty years in practice. I still have the day job, but I finally had an idea for a novel that wouldn’t leave me alone, so I started writing three years ago. The result is Twentymile. Outside of work and writing, I’ve been married to my wife, Cindy, for nearly two decades, and we have a fifteen-year-old son, Everett. My hobbies include all manner of outdoor activities, but especially fly-fishing and spending time in the woods.

    What’s next that we can look forward to?

    I’m already at work on another novel, which is quite different from Twentymile. Think “crime in the early gig economy.” I figure it’ll take me a couple of years to finish, but in the meantime, a short story I’m pretty proud of will appear in the anthology Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir Vol. 3 next fall.

    Catch Up With C. Matthew Smith:
    www.cmattsmithwrites.com
    Twitter – @cmattwrite
    Facebook

     

     

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    Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato | #CliffDiver @authorcarmenamato #Mystery #PoliceProcedural #Interview #Showcase

    Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato Banner

    Cliff Diver

    by Carmen Amato

    November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

    Synopsis:

    Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato

    Acapulco’s first female police detective dives into an ocean of secrets, lies, and murder when she investigates her own lieutenant’s death.

    In this explosive start to the award-winning Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco, Emilia beat the odds to become the resort city’s first female police detective. But she’s living in a pressure cooker. Other detectives are scheming to push her out and the police department is riddled with corruption and drug cartel influence.

    When the lieutenant is murdered, Emilia is assigned to lead the investigation. Soon the man’s sordid sex life, money laundering, and involvement in a kidnapping double-cross combine to create an ugly mess no one wants exposed. The high profile murder case could wreck Emilia’s career. When another detective–Emilia’s worst enemy in the squadroom–emerges as the prime suspect, keeping her job might be the least of her worries.

    Readers who love international mystery series crime fighters including Armand Gamache, Harry Hole, Guido Brunetti, and the Department Q series will also love Detective Emilia Cruz’s complex plots, pulse-pounding suspense, and exotic location. Perfect for lovers of detective fiction by Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo, and Peter May, as well as Don Winslow’s Mexican cartel and border thrillers.

    “Consistently exciting”
    Kirkus Reviews

    “A wonderful crime mystery”
    — MysterySequels.com

    Poison Cup award, Outstanding Series 2019 and 2020
    — CrimeMasters of America

    Book Details:

    Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural
    Published by: Laurel & Croton
    Publication Date: September 2021 (first published January 27, 2013)
    Number of Pages: 302
    ISBN: 1482308045 (ISBN13: 9781482308044)
    Series: Emilia Cruz Mysteries #1
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

     

    Read an excerpt:

    The two newcomers surveyed the squadroom. One of them looked vaguely familiar, as if he’d been in the newspaper lately. He was in his late thirties, with longish dark hair slicked back from a high forehead and the sort of angular cheekbones that spoke of a strong indio heritage. He wore a black leather blazer over a black tee shirt and cuffed pants. There was a slight bulge under the left arm.

    Emilia stopped typing. The man exuded power.

    The other man was bigger and blockier, with a square chin and a nose that had been broken too many times. He was also well dressed in expensive casual clothing.

    “I’m looking for a Detective Cruz,” the black-clad man announced.

    Emilia felt all eyes shift to her. But before she could say anything Silvio crossed the room. “Detective Franco Silvio,” he said to the man in black.

    “I know who you are,” the man replied. “I’m here to talk to Cruz.”

    Emilia slowly stood up.

    “In the office.” The man jerked his chin at Emilia and then he and his cohort pushed past Silvio and headed into el teniente’s office.

    Silvio swung over to Emilia. “What the fuck’s this?” he hissed.

    “I don’t know,” she flashed back. Rico came to stand next to her and Silvio gave him a what-the-fuck-do-you-think-you’re-doing look but Rico stood his ground.

    The three of them went into the office. The man in black sat in el teniente’s chair and jiggled the locked desk drawers. “Shut the door,” he said without looking up.

    Silvio complied and the man came out from behind the desk.

    “Do you know who I am?” he asked Emilia.

    Emilia gave her head a tight shake. With five people in the room it felt crowded and Emilia felt that cold spurt of wariness she always did when she was the only woman in a crowd of unfriendly men. “I’m sorry, señor.”

    “I’m Victor Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of Guerrero,” he announced. “This is my deputy, Miguel Villahermosa.” The other man didn’t acknowledge the introduction but it was clear Obregon had not expected him to do so. “We’re here to make sure that the investigation into Fausto Inocente’s death is handled properly.”

    Rico bristled, as if he was offended that the union would butt in. Emilia waited for him to say something stupid but Silvio shot him a murderous glare and Rico kept his mouth shut.

    “We’re barely two hours into the investigation,” Silvio said, obviously making an effort to keep his temper. It had been less than 40 minutes since the call to the chief of police. “It came in as a routine dispatch call. Cruz and Portillo were given the assignment, made the discovery, locked down the scene, and notified the next of kin.”

    “So let’s hear it,” Obregon said and flapped a hand.

    Silvio nodded at Rico.

    “We got a report of a drifting boat,” Rico began. “It was off the beach at the Palacio Réal hotel–.”

    “No,” Obregon interrupted. He folded his arms. “Cruz.”

    Emilia stole a look at Rico. His face was like thunder. She swallowed hard. “As my partner said, the call was to investigate a drifting boat off the beach at the Palacio Réal. The hotel chef and manager saw it from the beach early this morning, thought there were bloodstains on the side. We met Water Patrol at the hotel and they towed in the boat.” She took another breath and tried to sound as professional as possible. “Lt. Inocente was in the bottom of the boat, with his head encased in a plastic bag. It was pulled tight and knotted around his neck. When the crime scene technician opened the bag it appeared that the back of his head was caved in. We’ll know more when the coroner examines the body.”

    Obregon nodded. “Any other injuries?” he asked her.

    She shook her head. “No bullet holes in the hull of the boat, no evidence of a struggle. Blood on the deck under the body, likely from the head wound. Blood had also soaked through his shirt and there was some on the upper edge of the boat hull. Technicians took samples but they’ll probably all come back as his.”

    “Anything else?”

    “The boat is his. His wife gave us the registration papers.” Emilia paused, discomfited by Obregon’s stare. The tension in the room was palpable. She glanced at Rico and plowed on. “They live in the same area as the hotel. The wife wasn’t much help regarding his whereabouts last night. The last person who could pinpoint his whereabouts last night was their maid. Said he got a phone call late in the evening and went out. Took the boat keys but nothing else.”

    “Wife didn’t see him?”

    “She had gone out to a charity event,” Emilia said. “Of course, we’ll be checking to verify her story.”

    Obregon tipped the chair back. A thin silver chain showed inside the loose neck of the tee. His skin was smooth and his jaw was tightly defined. He looked like someone who worked out a lot. And liked showing off the results.

    “So, Cruz, tell me how you’re going to proceed,” he said, as if Rico and Silvio weren’t even in the crowded office.

    “We’ll set up a hotline and get detectives out talking to everyone at his apartment building and the hotel to see if we can piece together his last hour. He was apparently close to his brother. We’ll talk to him as well. Look at his phone records to see if we can find out who the late night caller was. Coroner’s report. Forensics on his laptop. See if we get any prints off the boat.”

    Obregon nodded and straightened the chair. Even that simple movement belied grace and power and focused intent. “This is how the investigation is going to go.” He pointed at Emilia. “You’re appointed acting lieutenant. Do whatever you want with these clowns”–he snapped his fingers at Silvio and Rico–“and the other cases you’ve got but I want you to personally head the Inocente investigation.”

    Both Silvio and Rico froze as if they couldn’t believe what they’d just heard.

    “Chief Salazar has already been notified. You’ll report directly to my office every few days until this thing is over.” Obregon indicated Villahermosa who’d remained by the door during the entire conversation, like a large, menacing statue. Obregon’s deputy was even bigger than Silvio, with legs the size of tree trunks. Another former boxer, no doubt. “Villahermosa will be on call to assist as well.”

    The tension in the room was now tinged with menace. Emilia struggled to keep breathing normally.

    “Cruz is a junior detective.” Silvio’s voice was tight. “She doesn’t have the experience or the seniority to be acting lieutenant.”

    “Cruz has my full support,” Obregon said.

    “With respect,” Silvio said. “We understand that. But she’s not the senior detective here.”

    “Nobody’s asking for your fucking opinion,” Obregon blazed. His eyes drilled into Silvio. “Cruz is in charge as of now. Thanks for coming.”

    Villahermosa pulled open the door and jerked his chin at Silvio and Rico. They both walked out.

    Emilia stood rooted to the spot as her mind jumped around. Why had he chosen her? Did the union have the authority to put her in this position?

    Obregon motioned to Villahermosa and the man left the office, too. And then it was just Obregon and Emilia. He walked round the desk again and rifled through a few of the papers on the desktop.

    “The mayor has a press conference tomorrow and she’ll want to say something about the Inocente investigation,” Obregon said as he looked through the papers. “Be nice if you could have this all wrapped up by then.”

    Emilia felt as if she’d been gutted. She forced a single word out around the tightness in her throat and the dryness in her mouth. “Sure.”

    She must have sounded sassier than she felt because he looked up and laughed. “At any rate, we’ll meet beforehand to review what you’re going to tell her. Let’s say tomorrow 4:00 pm.”

    He glanced at his watch, an expensive-looking silver job with three knobs on the side. “That gives you more than 24 hours to come up with something significant.”

    Emilia licked her lips. “I won’t even have the phone records by then.”

    “You’ll have something for the press conference,” Obregon said nastily. “Some nice sound bite about the diligence of the Acapulco police and how they’re sad but determined.”

    “You want me to say this to the mayor?”

    “Inocente was as dirty as they come.” Obregon turned his attention back to the overflowing inbox. “You’re going to turn up a lot of bad things. When you do, you tell me or Villahermosa. Not the other detectives and not the chief of police. You don’t arrest anybody, you don’t get yourself shot, you don’t do anything. I’ll take care of that part.”

    Emilia’s heart hammered like a warning bell in her chest. “I think Silvio should be in charge of this investigation. He’s the senior detective.”

    “If you find that the wife popped him,” Obregon went on. “And you know it beyond a shadow of a doubt, go ahead and arrest her. Otherwise come to me first. Nobody else.”

    “Did you hear what I said?” Emilia said.

    “I’m trying to clean up the police in this state,” Obregon said as he plucked a folder out of the box. As he flipped it open his hands knotted with veins, as if he had a lot of practice clenching and unclenching his fists. “I’m sick of the corruption and men like Inocente making deals with the cartels. People like him protect their empires, feed it with drugs and private armies. When you find out who killed Inocente we can probably roll up whatever cartel he was in bed with.”

    “Why me?” Emilia asked. She was talking to his bent head as if he couldn’t be bothered to look her in the eye. The warning bell was deafening and Emilia knew she had to get herself out of this situation. Silvio should have this job. Or Loyola. They’d know how to deal with Obregon as well as how to conduct a major murder investigation. “You heard what Silvio said. Almost all the detectives out there are senior to me. There will be a lot of resistance. From all the other detectives. Enough to keep the investigation from going forward.”

    “You’ll handle it.” Obregon read something else out of the inbox.

    “You don’t understand.” Emilia slammed her hand down on the desktop to get his attention.

    “Good,” he said, finally looking up from whatever he’d been reading. “You’ve got a fire in the belly. You get those detectives talking to everybody in that fucking hotel. Everybody who lived near him. Whoever even heard of Fausto Inocente. And if the boys don’t do what you say, shoot one of them. The rest will fall in line.”

    He was serious.

    “I don’t know who you think I am, señor,” Emilia gulped. “But I’ve only been a detective for two years. Mostly I’ve handled the crap cases. You need a seasoned investigator on this one. Get one of the other detectives to be acting lieutenant.”

    “You’ve made quite a mark in two years, whether you know it or not,” Obregon said. “Recovering the Morelos de Gama child was a big deal.”

    “The media made it out to be more than it was,” Emilia parried. “The case was handled in Ixtapa, not here.”

    “We’ve been watching you.” He tossed the file onto the desk and regarded her. “Our girl detective. You’re a hungry one. You want to get someplace.”

    “I’m sorry,” Emilia said. “Not this.”

    “You’re the only woman here.” Obregon’s glance was searing.

    “This is because I’m a woman?”

    “Yes. Everybody knows women are less corrupt.” Obregon came around the side of the desk and Emilia resisted the urge to shrink away from him. “You do this or you won’t even be able to be hired on as the lowliest transito cop in any police force in this state.”

    He leaned down and put his face close to hers. “You know he was corrupt. Up to his neck in shit. Well, I’m the person putting an end to it in the state of Guerrero, and you don’t get to choose sides.”

    Emilia didn’t move. It was hard to breathe. He smelled like leather and cigarettes and an unexpected whiff of spicy cologne.

    “I’ll be calling you on this office phone so you’d better move in today.” Obregon stepped back and ran an appraising eye down Emilia’s body. “And look good tomorrow. You want the mayor to take you seriously.”

    “I’m junior around here,” Emilia said stubbornly. “You want a fast result, you get Silvio.”

    “Maybe I wasn’t clear enough for you, Cruz.” Obregon’s voice was flat. “If the union puts you and your mother out on the street you won’t work as a whore in this town much less as a transito. So you show up and be nice to the mayor and tell her something clever for her little television press conference. How you’re working night and day to solve this terrible crime and keep Acapulco safe for the tourists.”

    They stared at each other for a long moment.

    You and your mother struck home for Emilia, as no doubt it was intended to.

    “I want doors on the stalls in the detectives’ bathroom,” Emilia heard herself say. “And a copier that works. And paper for it. And ink.”

    The corner of Obregon’s mouth twitched. “Anything else?”

    “I’ll let you know,” she said tightly.

    Obregon handed Emilia a card. There were two cell phone numbers printed on it. “You only use these numbers to get in touch with me,” he said.

    Before she could respond he pulled open the door and shouted “Attention.”

    Emilia followed Obregon as far as the doorway. The detectives were all there, as was Villahermosa. Obregon strode to the center of the squadroom, commanding everyone’s attention.

    “Most of you know me. I am Victor Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of Guerrero.” He revolved slowly and most of the detectives stood a little straighter as his eye rested on them for a moment, creating the same malice-tinged tension he’d first brought into the squadroom. “As you know, Lt. Inocente was found dead this morning. His death will be investigated as a homicide by this unit until his murderer is found and dealt with.”

    There was a low sound of shuffling feet. Somebody coughed.

    Obregon jerked his chin in the direction of Lt. Inocente’s office where Emilia leaned awkwardly against the doorjamb. “Detective Emilia Cruz will be acting lieutenant for the duration and in charge of the investigation into Lt. Inocente’s death.”

    Eyes swiveled to Emilia. Rico was openly shocked as he sat on the end of his desk. Silvio’s face was like granite. He was the only one who kept his gaze on Obregon.

    Emilia didn’t acknowledge the stares. She kept her eyes on the ancient copier.

    Several of the detectives shifted uncomfortably in the silence. “One of our own has died,” Obregon said. “And we will conduct a thorough investigation, find whoever did this, and punish them according to the full measure of Mexican law.”

    He nodded at Emilia. “See you tomorrow, Cruz. Four o’clock.” His eyes revealed nothing. “Good luck.”

    Obregon and Villahermosa walked out. As soon as the door shut behind them the squadroom erupted into a bedlam of shouting.

    ***

    Excerpt from Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato. Copyright 2021 by Carmen Amato. Reproduced with permission from Carmen Amato. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Author Bio:

    Carmen Amato

    Carmen Amato turns lessons from a 30-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency into crime fiction loaded with intrigue and deception.”

    Her award-winning Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series pits the first female police detective in Acapulco against Mexico’s drug cartels, government corruption, and social inequality.

    Described as “A thrilling series” by National Public Radio, the Detective Emilia Cruz series was awarded the Poison Cup for Outstanding Series from CrimeMasters of America in both 2019 and 2020 and has been optioned for television.

    Originally from upstate New York, Carmen was educated there as well as in Virginia and Paris, France, while experiences in Mexico and Central America ignited her writing career.

    Her family tree includes a mayor, a Mensa genius, and the first homicide in the state of Connecticut with an automatic weapon. The perpetrator, her great-grandfather, eluded a state-wide manhunt after killing two people–one of whom was his wife. He was never brought to justice. Carmen is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

    Grab a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library at CarmenAmato.net.

    You’ll see why Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp wrote: “For pure entertainment and a gripping story likely resulting in nail biting, read Carmen Amato’s addictive prose. She knows this territory like a jaguar!”

    Q&A with Carmen Amato

    What was the inspiration for this book?

    CLIFF DIVER is the first novel in the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series about the first female police detective in Acapulco.

    After living in Mexico and Central America for many years, I wanted to create a female character who faced all the pressures that region of the world brings to bear on women. Making her a police detective meant that she lives in a pressure cooker created by drug cartels, official corruption, and Mexico’s culture of machismo.

    Add a relationship with Kurt Rucker, manager of Acapulco’s most luxurious hotel, and it’s a receipt for not only secrets, lies, and murder, but a little romance, too.

    What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

    The biggest challenge has been to loosen up my writing. As an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency for 30 years, I learned to write intelligence reports focusing on truth, predictions and precision. Those reports use qualifiers like “almost certainly” and “reportedly.”

    But in fiction you make things up! I’ve learned to leave those qualifiers behind.

    Writing fast-moving fiction dialogue, especially the arguments between Emilia and senior detective Franco Silvio has been terrific fun. They’re constantly pushing each other’s buttons and reveling in the reaction.

    What do you absolutely need while writing?

    The first is sticky notes, which I use to create outlines and jot reminders.

    The second is writing time without interruption. Much harder to find.

    For years, my kids dropped in so frequently while I was trying to write that I always had a spot for them. When they were in high school we called it the therapy chair!

    Now one of our 3 dogs keeps me company. Dutch is a great sleeper, so he is always welcome to spend the afternoon curled up by my desk.

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

    I write 3-4 hours a day. I always have a work-in-progress, plus blog posts or a newsletter to finish.

    If I get stuck, I hit the pool or walking trail. A fresh idea or approach always shakes loose.

    Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

    Emilia Cruz is the main character in the series (CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, DIABLO NIGHTS, KING PESO, PACIFIC REAPER, 43 MISSING, RUSSIAN MOJITO, NARCO NOIR) and she’s the most iconic character I’ve ever created.

    Host of NPR’s ALT.Latino radio show Felix Contreras wrote that “Carmen Amato has created a character that deserves to be recognized as an equal alongside well known favorites by created by Hammett, Larson and Padura. I can’t wait to spend more time with Detective Cruz.”

    That sort of commentary makes me sure that Emilia and I are on the right track.

    She’s a woman in a male-dominated field, in a country where women lag far behind men when it comes to almost every indicator like salary, education, and senior-level jobs. But Emilia is smart, daring, and a little bit dishonest, as she clings to a tough but critical job; even as she deals with family secrets and her own frustrating inability to commit to a close personal relationship.

    Tell us why we should read your book.

    If you love mystery series with a strong female main character, then CLIFF DIVER and the rest of the Detective Emilia Cruz series is for you!

    Readers who enjoy international crime fiction by Jo Nesbo, Peter May, Ann Cleeves, and Louise Penny, as well as Mexico-themed books like AMERICAN DIRT love the Detective Emilia Cruz series.

    To give you an idea of reader reaction to the series, CLIFF DIVER has over 400 reviews with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Kirkus Reviews called it “Consistently exciting.”

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

    Some of the action in CLIFF DIVER takes place at the fictional Palacio Real hotel on the east side of Acapulco Bay. The hotel is a combination of my three favorite hotels in Mexico: Hacienda los Laureles in Oaxaca, the Sheraton Maria Isabel in Mexico City, and the Camino Real in Acapulco.

    The hotel’s Pasodoble Bar is to the series what Olivier’s Bistro is to the Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny. A gathering place where mysteries are plotted and solved over great food and drinks.

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

    You can get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library on my website at https://carmenamato.net/starter-library/

    You’ll get The Beast, the story that describes how Emilia landed her job as the first female police detective in Acapulco. It was originally published in Huffpost’s Fiction 50 Showcase.

    Next, you’ll get The Angler, a story based on a true murder in Mexico City in 2007. The victim was my parish priest.

    Finally, you’ll get the exclusive Who’s Who Guide to the series.

    Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

    I spent 30 years as an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, retiring as head of one of the national intelligence tradecraft schools. I write about my career from time to time on my blog at https://carmenamato.net/shop-talk.

    Writing the Detective Emilia Cruz series is my second career and I’m loving every minute of it.

    What’s next that we can look forward to?
    In addition to more books in the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco, I’m working on a 3-book Galliano Club thriller series based on my grandfather’s tales of working as a deputy sheriff of Oneida County, New York, during Prohibition. I have his ledgers from his time as City Marshall of Rome, New York, as well.
    It’s hard to get a beer in 1926 but there’s plenty of murder, blackmail, and revenge on tap at the Galliano Club!
    The Galliano Club thrillers will be released in mid-2022.

    Catch Up With Carmen:
    CarmenAmato.net
    Goodreads
    BookBub – @CarmenAmato
    Instagram – @authorcarmenamato
    Facebook – @authorcarmenamato

     

     

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    The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Garner | #Thriller #Showcase #Interview

    The Last Speaker of Skalwegian

    by David Gardner

    November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

    Synopsis:

    The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner

    Professor Lenny Thorson lives in a defunct revolving restaurant, obsesses over word derivations, and teaches linguistics at a fourth-rate college with a gerbil for a mascot. Lenny’s thirty-four years have not been easy—he grew up in a junkyard with his widowed father and lives under a cloud of guilt for having killed another boxer as a teenager.

    Desperate to save his teaching career, Lenny seizes the opportunity to document the Skalwegian language with its last living speaker, Charlie Fox. Life appears to have finally taken a turn for the better…

    Unfortunately for Lenny, it hasn’t. He soon finds himself at war with Charlie, his dean, a ruthless mobster, and his own conscience.

    A genial protagonist will keep readers enticed throughout this amusing romp.
    ~ Kirkus Reviews

    Book Details:

    Genre: Humorous Thriller, Academic Setting
    Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC
    Publication Date: September 8th 2021
    Number of Pages: 308
    ISBN: 164599239X (ISBN13: 9781645992394)
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

     

    Book Trailer:

     

    Read an excerpt:

    “Why document the Skalwegian language?” Charlie Fox asked. “The answer to your question should be obvious: I want to save the language of my Scandinavian ancestors and preserve their culture for future generations. I’m no longer young, and if I don’t act soon, Skalwegian will disappear forever. And give Professor Lenny Thorson a lot of the credit. He’s a linguist—I sure couldn’t do the job without him.”

    The Last Speaker of Skalwegian, Newsweek

    Chapter 1

    Weegan

    A word in the Skalwegian language loosely translated as butthead (impolite usage)

    Lenny Thorson watched the red pickup roar into the parking lot, a statue propped up in back. It was the Ghurkin College mascot, an eight-foot-tall gerbil.

    Charlie nudged Lenny. “You sure you want tenure at a college with a rat for a mascot?”

    “It’s a gerbil. And yes, I do. Jobs are scarce.”

    Gerry Gerbil stood on his hind legs and stared into the distance, a football clutched in his right front paw, his rat-like tail draped over his left. He looked hot and humiliated.

    Lenny too felt hot and humiliated, and he guessed that Gerry hated parades as much as he did. Lenny tugged his sweaty shirt away from his chest. It was a sunny September afternoon, with heat waves shimmering off the blacktop in front of the building where he lived. He badly wanted the day to be over.

    The pickup swung around with a screech of tires and backed up to Lenny’s beat-up Chevy. Two college students in matching black muscle shirts stepped out. Brothers, Lenny guessed. They were a wide-shouldered pair with mussy brown hair and long ears.

    Lenny reached out his hand. “I’m Lenny Thorson and this is Charlie Fox.”

    “Yeah, I know,” the taller one said, glanced at Lenny’s outstretched hand, then climbed onto the back of the pickup and untied the statue.

    Lenny and Charlie dragged the wood-and-papier-mâché gerbil from the bed of the pickup, boosted it atop Lenny’s car and stood it upright.

    One brother thumbed his phone while the other fed ropes through the open doors and around the mascot’s ankles.

    The boy was careless as well as rude, Lenny told himself, and he was tempted to order him to untie the ropes and start over, but Lenny hated confrontation. Once he was around the corner and out of sight, he would stop and retie the knots. He didn’t want anything bad to happen to Gerry Gerbil.

    On second thought, did he really give a damn?

    Charlie threw his right leg over his motorcycle, gripped the handlebars and bounced once in the saddle. He wore jeans and a T-shirt that read ‘So Are You!’ He nodded toward Gerry. “He looks like a weegan, and so will you when you parade him through the center of town.”

    Lenny hadn’t yet learned that word in Skalwegian. “Weegan?”

    “‘Butthead.’”

    Lenny nodded. He was a weegan.

    Charlie looked particularly worn and shrunken today, Lenny thought, especially astraddle his beefy black Harley. His hair was gray, his skin leathery, his chin neatly dimpled from Iraqi shrapnel. He was fifty-one—seventeen years older than Lenny—and eight inches shorter.

    At six feet four, Lenny was always embarrassed by his size. He wished he could go through life unnoticed. He wondered if Gerry Gerbil ever felt the same.

    The shorter brother slapped the mascot’s foot. “Have fun at the parade, professor.”

    Both brothers laughed.

    Lenny didn’t expect to have fun. His gut told him that the day would go badly.

    * * *

    Bob One wasn’t happy about whacking a professor. He specialized in crooked bookies, wise guys who’d flipped, and casino managers caught skimming. But never a civilian. Bob One believed in upholding the ethics of his profession.

    He parted the tall tan grass at the side of the road, pinched a mosquito off the tip of his nose and peered westward. No cars yet, but the guy who’d hired him had said his target always took this route on his way into town and would have to slow to a crawl here at the switchback. Bob One figured he’d have plenty of time to pop up, rush forward, blast the guy at close range, then get the hell back to Chicago where he belonged.

    * * *

    Lenny eyed the brothers, now slouched against his car’s front fender, both lost in their phones. He couldn’t remember ever seeing them on the Ghurkin College campus, the fourth-rate institution an hour west of Boston where he taught French and linguistics. “I didn’t catch your names.”

    The taller one glanced up. “You don’t know who we are?”

    Lenny shook his head.

    The boys exchanged puzzled looks. The taller one said, “I’m Tom Sprocket, and that’s my brother Titus.”

    The names sounded familiar, but Lenny didn’t know where he’d heard them. He could memorize entire pages of the dictionary in one sitting, but he was terrible with names.

    Tom pocketed his phone and looked Lenny up and down. “Did you play football in college?”

    “No,” Lenny said.

    Tom snickered. “Afraid of getting hurt?”

    “I was afraid of hurting someone else.”

    Tom snorted. “Man, that’s all the fun.”

    No, it’s wasn’t, Lenny told himself. Hurting someone wasn’t fun at all. Twenty-one years ago, while fighting underage with a fake name, he’d killed an opponent in the boxing ring. Guilt still clung to Lenny, ate into his soul.

    Tom gestured with a thick thumb over his shoulder toward the office building behind the parking lot. “You live on top of that thing?”

    Lenny nodded.

    “You’re weird, man.”

    Lenny stiffened. He did feel weird for living in an abandoned rotating restaurant atop a ten-story insurance building, but didn’t particularly enjoy being told so.

    But in spite of Tom’s rudeness, Lenny wouldn’t let himself get angry with the boy or even with Dean Sheepslappe who, for some reason, insisted he participate in the Gerry Gerbil Alumni Day Parade, even threatening to block his tenure if he refused. Lenny had grown up angry, had fought with rage in the ring, but after that last fight, he’d promised himself he would never again lose his temper. Some people found this strange, Lenny knew, some sweet. Others used his good nature as a way to take advantage of him. Lenny knew that too.

    Titus Sprocket smirked and said, “I heard the place starts up running sometimes all on its own.”

    The Moon View Revolving Restaurant had failed financially in just six months, when its motor took to speeding up at random moments, knocking staff off their feet and sending diners sliding sideways off their booths and onto the floor. Lenny moved in shortly afterwards. He was paying minimal rent in the abandoned restaurant in return for serving as its live-in caretaker. He found it oddly comforting to be the world’s only linguist who inhabited a rotating restaurant. “Sometimes it makes a couple of turns in the middle of the night,” Lenny said, “then shuts down. It’s no problem.”

    It was in fact a problem. When the deranged motors and gears got it into their head to noctambulate, they did so with a terrific bellow and jolt that made Lenny sit up wide awake, and which frightened Elspeth so badly that she’d stopped staying overnight.

    But Lenny wasn’t bothered by the smirking Sprockets. In fact, he felt sorry for the boys, regarding them as underprivileged lads from some sunbaked state where children ran barefoot across red clay all summer and ate corn pone for breakfast.

    Lenny wondered what corn pone tasted like and—more importantly—what was the origin of the word pone? A Native American term? Spanish? Skalwegian even?

    He turned to Charlie, astride his motorcycle and fiddling with one of its dials. “Is pone a word in Skalwegian?”

    “It sure is,” Charlie said without looking up. “It means ‘He who makes a big weegan of himself by driving an eight-foot rat through the center of town.’”

    “You’re no help.”

    “I’ve heard that before.”

    Lenny drifted off to ruminate on pone. The campus newspaper had labeled him the most distracted member of the faculty—misplacing his briefcase, forgetting to show up for class, walking into trees. But he’d also been one of the most popular until he’d flunked a pair of star football players. The school newspaper excoriated him, and fans called him a traitor. A few students considered him a hero, however. Lenny wanted to be neither.

    Charlie tightened his helmet and slipped the key into the ignition. “I got to get back to the farm because Sally must have lunch ready by now. Besides, I don’t want to stick around and watch my good buddy make a big weegan of himself.”

    “Can you come over tomorrow? We got only halfway through the G verbs this morning.”

    “Tomorrow I got to work on the barn roof. Maybe the day after. Or the day after that.”

    Charlie started the engine, leaned into the handlebars and roared away in a blast of blue smoke.

    Lenny watched him go. There were times when Lenny felt like quitting the project. Charlie used him as resource—“What’s a gerund? Where do hyphens go? What in hell is a predicate complement?”—but had given him no real role in documenting the language itself. Although this was frustrating and puzzling, it was never quite enough to force Lenny to drop out. He took great pride in helping save a language, not to mention that it was a hot topic in linguistic circles and would go a long way toward saving his teaching job.

    Tom and Titus simultaneously tucked their muscle shirts into their waistbands. Titus said, “We was football players.”

    “Oh?” Lenny said. He paid no attention to team sports but closely attended to subject/verb conflicts.

    “Yeah, that’s right,” Titus said. “But we got cheated and ain’t never going to get our whack at the NFL.”

    Distracted, Lenny tugged on Gerry’s ropes. Yes, they’d definitely need retying. It pleased him to hear someone say ain’t so naturally and not merely to make an ironic point. He said over his shoulder, “NFL—that would be the National Federation of… uh…?”

    “Holy shit on a shingle!” Titus said. “I’m talking about the National Football League—big money, fame and all the poontang a guy could ever want.”

    Lenny had read somewhere that poontang descended from New Orleans Creole, from putain, the French word for prostitute, but he wasn’t absolutely sure. He would look into this later, along with pone. He turned to the brothers. “Something went wrong?”

    The Sprockets looked at each other in wonder. “Yeah, you could say that,” Titus said. “We got screwed.”

    “Yeah, screwed,” Tom repeated.

    Lenny said, “That’s a shame.”

    “Yeah, well, we’re gonna get payback,” Titus said and patted Gerry’s foot.

    Lenny climbed into his car and eased out of the parking lot. Ropes squeaked against the door frames, the statue’s base creaked on the Chevy’s roof, and Lenny was sure he heard Gerry groan in anticipation of the dreadful day ahead.

    In his rearview mirror, Lenny watched the diminishing Sprocket brothers waving and laughing. What an odd pair, he thought.

    Lenny decided to take his usual route through the arboretum on his way downtown. The beauty and isolation of the place soothed him. He hoped it would today.

    * * *

    Bob One spotted a car approaching and got to his feet. It was an old black Chevy with a maroon right front fender. Don’t all professors drive Priuses?

    But it had to be the guy on account of the statue on top like he’d been told to look for. What was that thing? A squirrel? A rat? Look at how the damn thing wobbles! About ready to tip over.

    Bob One slipped closer to the road, crouched behind a bush, pulled his pistol from his belt and slapped a mosquito off his forehead. He examined the bloody splotch on his palm. Shit, stick around much longer, and the damn insects would suck him dead.

    * * *

    Lenny was scared.

    In two days, he had to go on live television with Charlie and discuss their Skalwegian project—not easy for someone wanting to go through life invisible. Would he make a fool of himself? Say dumb things he’d later regret?

    Probably.

    Lenny’s thoughts turned back to the Sprocket brothers. Strange last name. Scholars could trace sprocket back as far as the mid-sixteenth century as a carpenter’s term but hadn’t yet located an ancestor.

    Tom and Titus Sprocket!

    Of course!

    He’d flunked them in first-year French because they never showed up for class, which cost them their eligibility to play football. The dean had been furious with him but not with the errant guard and tackle. Jocks normally took Spanish with Juan Jorgenson—the other candidate for the language department’s one tenured slot. Juan automatically gave A’s to athletes just for registering.

    Lenny reached over and cranked up the radio for the boisterous ending of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, then glanced up to see he was driving much too fast into Jackknife Corner.

    Panicked, he jammed on the brakes and twisted the steering wheel hard left.

    He felt the car tilt to the right and heard a loud Thunk! just as Beethoven’s Fifth swelled to a crescendo. Puzzled, Lenny drove on, with the Chevy pulling to the right. Probably something to do with tire pressure, Lenny guessed. He’d have that checked later.

    * * *

    Bob One lay on the side of road. Blood flowed out his left ear and down his cheek. His head buzzed, and his eyes slipped in and out of focus. He pulled himself to his feet, wobbled, then toppled into the ditch. He crawled into the marsh, still gripping his unfired handgun. Puddles soaked his knees and elbows. A possum trotted past. An airplane roared low overhead. Or was that inside his skull?

    Bob One’s left temple hurt like a son of a bitch. That damn rat had toppled over and whacked him on the side of the head. Or was it a guinea pig?

    Bob One curled up beside a bog. Half-conscious, he watched a fat snapping turtle waddle toward him, stop two feet from his nose, look him up and down, then open its jaw. Shit, Bob One said to himself, the thing’s got a mouth the size of a catcher’s mitt. Bob One didn’t like animals or much of anything else in nature. He tried to crawl away, but things started going dark—warm and dark—not such a bad feeling, actually.

    Bob One awoke to see the turtle biting his right forefinger off at the second joint. Bob One felt no pain and noticed that one of his shoes was missing. As Bob One slipped comfortably into his final darkness, he wondered if a missing trigger finger would hinder him professionally.

    * * *

    Lenny reached the parade route late and swung in behind the school bandsmen in their sky-blue uniforms with “Skammer’s Fine Meats” embroidered in bright yellow across the back.

    Spectators to Lenny’s right shouted and pointed. Some ducked, some knelt, some even dropped to their stomachs. Lenny shook his head in disbelief. Had students and townspeople taken to prostrating themselves before the college mascot? Did he really want tenure at a batty place like this?

    At the end of the block, a policeman holding a Dunkin’ Donuts cup stepped into the street, raised his palm, and forced Lenny to brake.

    As Lenny stepped from his car, he realized that he’d forgotten to retie the ropes.

    Gerry Gerbil lay sideways across the car’s roof, projecting five feet to the right, the ankles tied precariously in place. Someone took a photo. Someone fingered the slack ropes and spoke of slip knots. Lenny touched a patch of something red and damp on the mascot’s forehead. Lenny rubbed thumb against forefinger. The stuff looked like blood.

    Since when did gerbil statues bleed?

    ***

    Excerpt from The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner. Copyright 2021 by David Gardner. Reproduced with permission from David Gardner. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Author Bio:

    David Gardner

    David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry. He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller” and “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian” (both with Encircle Publications, LLC). He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

    Q&A with David Garner

    What inspired you to write this book?

    I was reading an article about dying languages and was astonished to learn that, of the 6,000-to-7,000 languages in the world, they are dying out at the rate of about once every two weeks. That means that at least half the world’s languages will have disappeared by the end of this century, taking with them their songs, traditional stories and communal memory.

    What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

    I somehow got it into my head that I needed to make up the Skalwegian language, at least a few hundred words and a simple syntax. This turned into an enormous task.

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

    I read about dying languages, but mostly I winged it.

    How did you come up with the title?

    I thought that “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian” would make people curious. Looking back, I wish I’d have come up with a word that’s easier to pronounce than ‘Skalwegian.’ In my head, it rhymes with ‘Norwegian,’ but I don’t care how others pronounce the word, just as long as they buy the book. Better, a copy and a spare.

    Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

    I either write or outline every day. By noon, I’m exhausted. I worked as a technical writer for a number of years and got used to just sitting down and writing.

    Tell us why we should read your book?

    I’ll feel really awful if you don’t. Seriously—or not so seriously—I hope you’ll get some laughs and enjoy the plot, setting and quirky characters.

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

    I’ve started writing a sequel to “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian” and am taking copious notes for the third of the trilogy.

    Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?
    I’d cast Emma Stone as the love interest and Adam Driver as the protagonist, but only if he’d promise to smile. (A movie/tv agency has in fact approached my publisher for the manuscript. Fingers crossed. Very long shot.)

    Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

    I bike and hike, fool around with astrophotography and play the keyboard with no discernable talent whatsoever.

    Favorite foods?

    Blueberry shortcake (much better than strawberry, and blueberries are a super food). Also, anything with cheese in it (I grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm). As a joke, my wife Nancy once bought me a Green Bay Packers cheese head, which, it turned out, didn’t taste a bit like cheese.

    Catch Up With David:
    DavidGardnerAuthor.com
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    Instagram – @davidagardner07
    Facebook

     

     

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