Jan 082018
 

The Swedish Girl

by Alex Gray

on Tour January 8 – February 12, 2018

Synopsis:

The Swedish Girl by Alex Gray

Another gripping Lorimer novel from Alex Gray, evoking Glasgow like no other writer can

When Kirsty Wilson lands a room in a luxury Glasgow flat owned by Swedish fellow student Eva Magnusson she can’t believe her luck. But Kirsty’s delight turns to terror when she finds the beautiful Swedish girl lying dead in their home and their male flatmate accused of her murder. Kirsty refuses to accept that he is guilty and, inspired by family friend Detective Superintendent Lorimer, sets out to clear his name.

Meanwhile, Lorimer calls on trusted psychologist Solly Brightman to help unravel the truth behind the enigmatic Eva’s life and death. But it is not long until another woman, bearing a marked resemblance to Eva, is brutally murdered. Horrified, Lorimer realises that Kirsty could be right. Is it possible that Glasgow’s finest detective has put the wrong man behind bars? And is there a cold-blooded killer out there orchestrating the death of the next innocent victim?

MY Thoughts


5 stars

If you follow my blog/reviews, you may have noticed that I have been reading a lot of books in this series. I admit I’m addicted!!

THE SWEDISH GIRL is the 10th book in the DCI Lorimer series but easily reads as a stand-alone.

Eva Magnusson, the Swedish girl has come to Glasgow to attend the University. Her father, a multi-millionaire has purchased a luxury apartment for her and 4 other roommates that he has hand picked to live there. Soon after, Eva is found dead. One of the roommates is suspected of the killing and sent off to prison. However, while imprisoned, there are other murders and the victims all resemble Eva. Have the police arrested the wrong man?

Thus starts the nonstop suspense! Ms. Gray’s writing style grabs the reader and doesn’t let go to the very end. With this book, I kept going back and forth as to who I thought the murderer was. Did I figure it out?

A riveting and entertaining page turner! I had trouble putting this one down….and then…..!

WAIT! WHAT!!! The killer is WHO!!?? And then Ms. Gray drops the other shoe..WHOA! A jaw dropping ending! To answer the question…no I hadn’t figured it out!

I highly recommend not only this book but the series!! Will be starting the next book in the series, THE SILENT GAMES in the very near future! Can’t wait!

Check out my reviews for other books in this series! THE RIVERMAN, PITCH BLACK, GLASGOW KISS, FIVE WAYS TO KILL A MAN.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: January 9th 2018
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780062659255
Series: A DCI Lorimer Novel, #10 (Stand Alone)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | HarperCollins 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

From Chapter 9

December

Kirsty turned the key in the door and closed it behind her with a sigh. The hall was in darkness and there
was no sound coming from the living room. Her shoulders moved up and down in a shrug of resignation; she was alone in the flat again. Then she remembered. Wasn’t there some party that Eva had mentioned? They’d all be there, wouldn’t they? Pulling off her thin raincoat and hanging it on the old-fashioned wooden coat stand, Kirsty sauntered into the bedroom next to the front door, unbuttoning her jacket. It was fair handy having this big room to herself, especially when she was working late shift at the hotel. Nobody would be disturbed by her comings and goings. She took off her shoes and tossed her jacket, bag and mobile phone onto the bed. Oh, it was good to be home. A wee cup of hot chocolate and some of her own gingerbread would go down well, she thought, already imagining her teeth sinking into a thick slab of treacly cake.

She stopped for a moment, listening. There was a swish then a click as the front door opened and closed again. Then, nothing.

‘Colin? Is that you back already?’ Kirsty wandered out into the hall, her bare feet sinking into the pile of the hall carpet, still thick and soft despite all their winter boots tramping back and forth. Eva’s father had spared no expense in doing up this flat for his daughter and Kirsty Wilson was grateful for those small luxuries that were absent from most of her friends’ student flats.

Frowning slightly, Kirsty padded down the unlit corridor, one hand out ready to flick on the light switch as she reached the kitchen. But something made her turn left into the living room instead, just to see if anyone was at home after all.

At first she imagined the girl had fallen asleep, sprawled out in front of the television.

‘Eva?’

Kirsty moved forward and bent down, expecting the girl to sit up and yawn. One hand reached out to touch the back of her head but then she drew back as though guided by some inner instinct.

She stood up again and stepped around the recumbent figure, unaware that she was holding her breath.

Then, as Kirsty saw the expression in the dead girl’s eyes, the thin wail escaping from her open mouth turned into a scream of terror.

* * *

Detective Superintendent Lorimer crouched over the body, aware of the sounds of voices coming from the hall. The dead girl was lying on her back, one arm flung out, the fist curled tightly in the moment of death. Her head was bent to one side, blond hair partly obscuring her features, but Lorimer could see enough to make him wonder about the cause of death.

‘Manual strangulation?’ he asked, glancing up at the consultant pathologist who was kneeling on the other side of the girl’s body. The on-duty pathologist tonight was his friend, Dr Rosie Fergusson. He glanced at her with his usual admiration for her calm efficiency, knowing how different she could be at home as a doting mother and as the wife of Professor Brightman, an eminent psychologist and sometime criminal profiler who had worked with Lorimer in the past.

‘Looks like it,’ Rosie murmured, her gloved hands smoothing the hair from the victim’s face, letting Lorimer see for the first time what Kirsty Wilson had found earlier that night.

Eva Magnusson still had that ethereal quality in death that had captivated those who had gazed upon her: Lorimer saw the perfect oval face with flawless skin and bow-shaped lips that were slightly parted as though she had been taken by surprise. He watched as Rosie reached out to close the dead girl’s eyelids, seeing for the final time those pale blue Scandinavian eyes staring out at a world that had proved less than kind.

***

Excerpt from Swedish Girl by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2018 by Alex Gray. Reprinted by permission of Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 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.

Catch Up With Alex Gray On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, & Twitter 🔗!

Tour Participants:

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


Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alex Gray and Witness Impulse. There will be 3 winner of one (1) eBook copy of Alex Gray’s A Pound of Flesh. The giveaway begins on January 8 and runs through February 14, 2018.

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REVIEW DISCLAIMER

This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
DISCLAIMER

I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review.
No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM

I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Dec 272017
 

One Red Bastard

by Ed Lin

on Tour November 20 – December 31, 2017

Synopsis:

One Red Bastard by Ed Lin

It’s the fall of 1976, and New York’s Chinatown is in turmoil over news that Mao’s daughter is seeking asylum in the U.S. Robert Chow is a detective in training, and he is thrilled when his girlfriend Lonnie scores an interview with the Chinese representative of Mao’s daughter. But hours after the interview, the man is found dead. Lonnie, the last person to see him alive, is the main suspect.

As Lonnie is subjected to increasing amounts of intimidation from his fellow policemen, who want to close the case, Robert is tempted to reach into his own bag of dirty tricks. Will he stay on the right side of the law, or will his loyalty to Lonnie get the better of him? Find out in this exciting and fast-paced mystery set in one of New York’s most fascinating neighborhoods.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: November 21st 2017
Number of Pages:
ISBN: 0062444204 (ISBN13: 9780062444202)
Series: Detective Robert Chow #3
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Ed Lin

Ed Lin:

Ed Lin, a native New Yorker of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards and is an all-around standup kinda guy. His books include Waylaid and This Is a Bust, both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively. Snakes Can’t Run and One Red Bastard, which both continue the story of Robert Chow set in This Is a Bust, were published by Minotaur Books. His latest book, Ghost Month, a Taipei-based mystery, was published by Soho Crime in July 2014. Lin lives in Brooklyn with his wife, actress Cindy Cheung, and son.

INTERVIEW

Welcome!
On Writing and Reading:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

I would say both. Even though One Red Bastard is set in 1976, when I look back through the lens of today to the past, I like to find a way to comment on today’s issues by showing similar events back then. My own take on things is the filter I write through, so my personal experiences and opinions are embedded with the story.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

I actually go from the beginning to the end, but as I near the end, I jump ahead to write the ending and then backtrack a bit. I’m just so anxious to get the ending right, I want to jump there and get a first crack at that last line as soon as I can!

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

All of my characters are based on me. You know what they say about dreams, that every person you meet is really you. That’s what my books are like.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I don’t have a routine anymore–having a child will do that to you! Whenever I can clear an hour to work, I will. I made a point years ago to not have any “writing rituals” I needed to get out of the way because it was simply more procrastinating. I do, however, do my writing on vintage Macintosh laptops because I like the feel of the older keyboards, not the super-quiet newfangled ones.

Tell us why we should read this book.

This book will blow your mind with its surprising twists and turns. You will also never be able to look at Chinese people the same way.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Some of my favorite dead writers are Charles Willeford, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Hughes, Shirley Jackson and Chester Himes.

What are you reading now?

I am reading The Butcher’s Wife, which features the title novella and a few short stories by Li Ang, a Taiwanese writer. It’s quite ugly and violent but acts as an indictment against misogyny.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I also write a mystery series set in Taipei for Soho Crime. I’m currently writing the third book, the follow-up to Ghost Month and Incensed.

Fun questions:

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

I can’t do this. My wife is an actress and so many of our friends are in the acting community, which is rather tight among Asian Americans–these are the people who would populate the film version of the book. Let’s just say that I would try to get all my friends into it!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I really enjoy video games and reading, of course. I play bass, too, but I haven’t been able to round up people to be in a band for years.

Favorite meal?

Anything with decent fries, and by that, I mean real potatoey fries–none of that dry, mummy-meat sticks.
Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Read an excerpt:

The woman was standing in a pool of wet ashes, her hands at her sides. She was about five seven but that was with heels on. Her thick black hair cascaded over her ears and shoulders, and she did something to it to make it shiny. A light brown coat stopped above a skirt that stopped midway down two taut thighs in stockings with a dull glow.

I smirked because I was sure that she had spent some time thinking about how she wanted to look from the rear. To men.

But this was no time for amusement. I came in close to her forehead and growled under my breath, “Barbara, what the hell are you doing here!”

When she turned around I saw my head and torso in her two black, sparkling eyes. Her face was long and not too narrow and came down to a chin that fairy princesses had. Her red lips, usually curved like a little blossom, were pulled taut into a wide smile.

She grabbed my arm and said, “Robert!”

“This is a crime scene! Now let’s get out of this thing!”

“I’m so sorry!”

She continued to hold on to me as we stepped over the tape together, matching leg for leg. I had lost part of my mind in Nam, but she had lost a lot more. Barbara used to be the prettiest girl in Chinatown. Now she was its prettiest widow.

“You know anything about the fire, Barbara?” I looked into her face. There was lightning behind her dark eyes.

“No. I don’t. Can we stop whispering now?”

“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter at this point,” I said in full voice.

“Look, I didn’t mean any harm. I just had to see the place up close. Artie Yee published my first story, back when I was in grade school.”

“I didn’t know about that.”

“I brought it into school to show everybody. Don’t you remember?”

“How am I supposed to remember that one thing? You always had something to show off in school. If it wasn’t a story you wrote, it’d be a story about you.”

She snorted.

“Did you stay in touch with Artie over the years?” I asked.

“I’d run into him from time to time.”

“Were the two of you friends?”

“Oh, no, no. I learned to keep my distance from that one. Did you know that he asked me to marry him when I turned eighteen?”

“He wasn’t much better looking back then, was he?”

“He looked like a younger walrus.”

“You’re not enemies with Artie, though, are you?”

“I’m not one of them, but he has many enemies,” she said. “You know that.”

“He did his part in pissing off all areas of Chinatown.”

“Artie doesn’t respect authority. That’s a good thing for a journalist.”

“Then how come you didn’t keep writing for him?”

“Artie doesn’t respect women.” She shivered and then slapped my arm. “I heard Paul got into that program at Columbia.”

“Thanks to you,” I said.

“Thanks in part to me, anyway.” She paused. “Doesn’t that mean you’ll take me to dinner?”

“Maybe Paul should.”

“Get serious. Actually, maybe Paul should come and meet my youngest sister. You know she’s up at Columbia because she got into Barnard early. Maybe she should stick to Chinatown boys, like I should have.”

“Hey, Barbara, let’s talk about this later. I have to get back to work here.”

“You’re going to call me?”

“I’ll get in touch.”

She walked off and I returned to my post.

Years ago, Barbara and her three younger sisters were the four little princesses of Chinatown. She liked to say that her parents never did get that son, but the truth was her parents learned to love all their daughters to death. They all had beauty and smarts, and because of that you knew they’d get out of Chinatown and never come back.

But Barbara did return after her husband was killed in Khe Sanh. The oldest, the prettiest, and the smartest of the sisters, she moved back alone into their old family home to find some comfort, I guess.

There was a brief period when I thought she was the love of my life, but it was a while ago and it ended embarrassingly enough. Thinking about it again put me in a bad mood.

“Hello Sunshine,” said Vandyne.

“It was Barbara,” I said.

“Oh! What the hell was she doing there?”

“She wanted to see the place up close. Artie published one of her stories back when she was a smart, little girl.”

“Seriously, though, could she have had anything at all to do with this?”

“Her? No way, man!”

“Do you know that for sure?”

“Yes,” I said. “I would bet my soul on it.”

***

Excerpt from One Red Bastard by Ed Lin. Copyright © 2017 by Ed Lin. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

Tour Participants:

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Ed Lin and Witness Impulse. There will be 5 winners of one (1) small incense box with a Chinese opera mask. The giveaway begins on November 20th and runs through December 30, 2017.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Dec 212017
 

The Body in the Casket

by Katherine Hall Page

on Tour December 4, 2017 – January 12, 2018

Synopsis:

The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page

The inimitable Faith Fairchild returns in a chilling New England whodunit, inspired by the best Agatha Christie mysteries and with hints of the timeless board game Clue.

For most of her adult life, resourceful caterer Faith Fairchild has called the sleepy Massachusetts village of Aleford home. While the native New Yorker has come to know the region well, she isn’t familiar with Havencrest, a privileged enclave, until the owner of Rowan House, a secluded sprawling Arts and Crafts mansion, calls her about catering a weekend house party.

Producer/director of a string of hit musicals, Max Dane—a Broadway legend—is throwing a lavish party to celebrate his seventieth birthday. At the house as they discuss the event, Faith’s client makes a startling confession. “I didn’t hire you for your cooking skills, fine as they may be, but for your sleuthing ability. You see, one of the guests wants to kill me.”

Faith’s only clue is an ominous birthday gift the man received the week before—an empty casket sent anonymously containing a twenty-year-old Playbill from Max’s last, and only failed, production—Heaven or Hell. Consequently, Max has drawn his guest list for the party from the cast and crew. As the guests begin to arrive one by one, and an ice storm brews overhead, Faith must keep one eye on the menu and the other on her host to prevent his birthday bash from becoming his final curtain call.

Full of delectable recipes, brooding atmosphere, and Faith’s signature biting wit, The Body in the Casket is a delightful thriller that echoes the beloved mysteries of Agatha Christie and classic films such as Murder by Death and Deathtrap.

My Thoughts
4 stars

This is the first book I have read by this author, which I am embarrassed to say, since this is the 24th in the Faith Fairchild series. Having said that, it easily read as a stand alone.

Faith Fairchild, owner of a catering company and amateur sleuth, has been hired for a 70th birthday weekend party. Max Dane, noted producer of plays, is planning and hosting his own party after receiving a casket prior to his birthday. The guests on the list were all part of his last play, Heaven or Hell, thinking the suspect will be among them since some of them haven’t had much of a career because he shut it down early.

As the weekend nears, two of his guests won’t be attending, due to their demise. Do their deaths have something in common? Is Max not the only one who on the suspect’s list? Does Max Dane survive the weekend? And does Faith Fairchild solve the mystery? I’m not saying, you will have to read for to find out.

An enjoyable read! Rich in character development and the suspense flows throughout the story.

Warning!! Don’t read this when you are hungry. The food described had my mouth watering. The author shares some of the recipes at the end of the book, which I plan on making one day.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: December 5th 2017
Number of Pages: 238
ISBN: 0062439561 (ISBN13: 9780062439567)
Series: Faith Fairchild, 24
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

“Have Faith in Your Kitchen,” Faith Fairchild said, answering the phone at her catering firm. She’d been busy piping choux pastry for éclairs onto a baking sheet.

“Mrs. Fairchild?”

“Yes? This is Faith Fairchild. How may I help you?”

“Please hold for Max Dane.” The voice had a plummy, slightly British tone, reminiscent of Jeeves, or Downton Abbey’s Carson. The only Max Dane Faith had heard of had been a famous Broadway musical producer, but she was pretty sure he’d died years ago. This must be another Max Dane.

She was put through quickly and a new voice said, “Hi. I know this is short notice, but I am very much hoping you are available to handle a house party I’m throwing for about a dozen guests at the end of the month. A Friday to Sunday. Not just dinner, but all the meals.”

Faith had never catered anything like this. A Friday to Sunday sounded like something out of a British pre-World War II country house novel—kippers for breakfast, Fortnum & Mason type hampers for the shoot, tea and scones, drinks and nibbles, then saddle of lamb or some other large haunch of meat for dinner with vintage clarets followed by port and Stilton—for the men only. She was intrigued.

“The first thing I need to know is where you live, Mr. Dane. Also, is this a firm date? We’ve had a mild winter so far, but January may still deliver a wallop like last year.”

A Manhattan native, Faith’s marriage more than 20 years ago to the Reverend Thomas Fairchild meant a radical change of address— from the Big Apple to the orchards of Aleford, a small suburb west of Boston. Faith had never become used to boiled dinners, First Parish’s rock hard pews and most of all, New England weather. By the end of the previous February there had been 75 inches of snow on the ground and you couldn’t see through the historic parsonage’s ground floor windows or open the front door. Teenage son Ben struggled valiantly to keep the back door clear, daily hewing a path to the garage. The resulting tunnel resembled a clip from Nanook of the North.

“I’m afraid the date is firm. The thirtieth is my birthday. A milestone one, my seventieth.” Unlike his butler or whoever had called Faith to the phone, Max Dane’s voice indicated he’d started life in one of the five boroughs. Faith was guessing the Bronx. He sounded a bit sheepish when he said “ my birthday,” as if throwing a party for himself was out of character. “And I live in Havencrest. It’s not far from Aleford, but I’d want you to be available at the house the whole time. Live in.”

Leaving her family for three days was not something Faith did often, especially since Sunday was a workday for Tom and all too occasionally Saturday was as he “polished” his sermon. (His term, which she had noticed over the years, could mean writing the whole thing.)

Ben and Amy, two years younger, seemed old enough to be on their own, but Faith had found that contrary to expectations, kids needed parents around more in adolescence than when they were toddlers. Every day brought the equivalent of scraped knees and they weren’t the kind of hurts that could be soothed by Pat The Bunny and a chocolate chip cookie. She needed more time to think about taking the job. “I’m not sure I can leave my family…” was interrupted. “I quite understand that this would be difficult,” Dane said and then he named a figure so far above anything she had ever been offered that she actually covered her mouth to keep from gasping out loud.

“Look,” he continued. “Why don’t you come by and we’ll talk in person? You can see the place and decide then. I don’t use it myself, but the kitchen is well equipped—the rest of the house too. I’ll email directions and you can shoot me some times that work. This week if possible. I want to send out the invites right away.”

Well, it wouldn’t hurt to talk, Faith thought. And she did like seeing other people’s houses. She agreed, but before she hung up curiosity won out and she asked, “Are you related to the Max Dane who produced all those wonderful Broadway musicals?”

“Very closely. As in one and the same. See you soon.”

Faith put the phone down and turned to Pix Miller, her closest friend and part-time Have Faith employee.

“That was someone wanting Have Faith to cater a weekend long birthday celebration—for an astonishing amount of money.” She named the figure in a breathless whisper. “His name is Max Dane. Have you ever heard of him?”

“Even I know who Max Dane is. Sam took me to New York the December after we were married and we saw one of his shows. It was magical—the whole weekend was. No kids yet. We were kids ourselves. We skated at Rockefeller Center by the tree and…”

Her friend didn’t go in for sentimental journeys and tempted as she was to note Pix and Sam skated on Aleford Pond then and now, Faith didn’t want to stop the flow of memories. “Where did you stay? A suite at the Plaza?” Sam was a very successful lawyer.

Pix came down to earth. “We barely had money for the show and pre-theater dinner at Twenty-One. That was the big splurge. I honestly can’t remember where we stayed and I should, because that’s where—” She stopped abruptly and blushed, also unusual Pix behavior.

“Say no more. Nine months later along came Mark?”

“Something like that,” Pix mumbled and then in her usual more assertive voice, added “You have to do this. Not because of the money, although the man must be loaded! Think of who might be there. And the house must be amazing. We don’t have anything booked for then and I can keep an eye on the kids.”

The Millers lived next door to the parsonage and their three now grown children had been the Fairchilds’ babysitters. Pix played a more essential role: Faith’s tutor in the unforeseen intricacies of childrearing as well as Aleford’s often arcane mores. Faith’s first social faux pas as a new bride—inviting guests for dinner at eight o’clock— had happily been avoided when her first invite, Pix, gently told Faith the town’s inhabitants would be thinking bed soon at that hour, not a main course.

Faith had started her catering business in the city that never slept before she was married and was busy all year long. Here January was always a slow month for business. The holidays were over and things didn’t start to pick up until Valentine’s Day—and even then scheduling events was risky. It all came down to weather.

Pix was at the computer. Years ago she’d agreed to work at Have Faith keeping the books, the calendar, inventory—anything that did not involve any actual food preparation.

“We have a couple of receptions at the Ganley Museum and the MLK breakfast the standing clergy host.”

The first time Faith heard the term, “standing clergy”, which was the town’s men and women of any cloth, she pictured an upright somberly garbed group in rows like ninepins. And she hadn’t been far off.

“That’s pretty much it,” Pix added, “except for a few luncheons and Amelia’s baby shower—I think she baby sat for you a couple of times when she was in high school.”

“I remember she was very reliable,” Faith said.

“Hard to believe she’s the same age as Samantha and having her second!” Pix sounded wistful. She was the type of woman born to wear a “I Spoil My Grandchildren” tee shirt. Faith wouldn’t be surprised if there were a drawer somewhere in the Miller’s house filled with tiny sweaters and booties knit by Pix, “just to be ready.” Mark Miller, the oldest, was married, but he and his wife did not seem to be in a rush to start a family.

Samantha, the middle Miller, had a long-term beau, Caleb. They were living together in trendy Park Slope, Brooklyn and Sam, an old-fashioned pater familias, had to be restrained from asking Caleb his intentions each time the young couple came to Aleford. Pix was leaning that way herself, she’d told Faith recently, noting that young couples these days were so intent on careers they didn’t hear the clock ticking.

Faith had forgotten that Amelia—who apparently had paid attention to time— was Samantha’s age and quickly changed the subject to what was uppermost in her mind—the Dane job. “Where is Havencrest?” she asked. “I thought I knew all the neighboring towns.”

“It’s not really a town so much as an enclave between Weston and Dover. I don’t think it even has a zip code. I’ve never been there, but Mother has. You can ask her about it. The houses all date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I believe there’s a gatehouse at the entrance. It’s an early equivalent of the mid century modern planned communities like Moon Hill in Lexington. Havencrest wasn’t a bunch of architects like that one though. Just very rich Boston Brahmin families who wanted privacy and plenty of space. I wonder how Max Dane ended up there? From what Mother has said, the houses don’t change hands, just generations.”

“I think I’ll check my email and see if there’s anything from him yet,” Faith said. “And maybe drop by to see Ursula on my way home.” Stopping to visit with Ursula Lyman Rowe, Pix’s mother, was no chore. The octogenarian was one of Faith’s favorite people. She turned back to the éclairs, which were part of a special order, and added a few more to bring to her friend.

“I know you’ll take the job,” Pix said. “I’m predicting the weekend of a lifetime!”

***

Excerpt from The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page. Copyright © 2017 by William Morrow. Reproduced with permission from William Morrow. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Katherine Hall Page

Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-three previous Faith Fairchild mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story “The Would-Be Widower.” The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic, she has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Macavity Award. She lives in Massachusetts, and Maine, with her husband.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Tour Participants:

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


Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Katherine Hall Page and Witness Impulse. There will be 3 winners of one (1) physical copy of Katherine Hall Page’s The Body in the Casket. The giveaway begins on December 4, 2017 and runs through January 14, 2018. This giveaway is open to US addressess only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Dec 112017
 

Jennifer A. Payne’s

WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR

OF

EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: What We Leave Behind

Tour Begins November 27th, 2017!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Would God floss? Do spiders sing? Can you see the Universe in your reflection? Find the answers to these questions in more in this new book by Connecticut writer Jen Payne. Her poems in EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND investigate the human condition and its folly, the beauty of our natural world, and the possibility of divine connection. 80 original and vintage photographs include a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the book’s title.

ALA Notable Book author Dale Carlson calls the book “a brilliantly incisive commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.”

EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING speaks to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet. It asks us all to consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Three Chairs Publishing

Publication Date: October 1, 2017

ISBN-10: 0990565114

ISBN-13: 978-0990565116

Pages 180

PURCHASE LINKS:


Author photo by Christine Chiocchio (Branford, CT)

Jennifer A. Payne

Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Her writing serves as witness to these in the form of poetry, creative non-fiction, flash fiction and essay. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these offer the clearest path to finding balance in our frenetic, spinning world.

Very often, her writing is accompanied by her own photography and artwork. As both a graphic designer and writer, Jen believes that partnering visuals and words layers the intentions of her work, and makes the communication more palpable.

In 2014, she published LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, a collection of essays, poems and original photography. Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind is her second book.

Jen is the owner of Three Chairs Publishing and Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, based in Branford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, the Guilford Poets Guild, and the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Installations of her poetry were featured in Inauguration Nation an exhibition at Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven (2017), and Shuffle & Shake at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven (2016). Her writing has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

You can read more of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing, http://www.randomactsofwriting.net.

Connect with Jennifer at these sites:

WEBSITE TWITTER

GUEST POST

FINDING INSPIRATION

When I told a friend last spring that I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, she asked me how I found the inspiration for 30 poems.

“It’s like rummaging around in a junk drawer,” I told her. “You’re bound to put your hands on something!”

And sure enough, in April, I found inspiration from a seagull, bugs, a haiku class, a trip to the Dollar Store, and pizza. Among other things. (See the full tally here: https://wp.me/PKhyg-3lf)

Now granted, they are not all masterpieces. But that’s not the point. Like any writing challenge— NaNoWriMo, HistNoWriMo, SciFiWriMo — the goal is simply to get into the habit of writing.

“Simply” of course being somewhat of an issue if you are lacking inspiration. Which brings us back to that junk drawer. There are so many things in your junk drawer – think about it!

the first time you rode a bike
your best friend from kindergarten
your mother
what you had for breakfast
your first kiss
last night’s dream
what you saw on a hike last weekend
your favorite painting
the song you can’t get out of your head (and why)
an object sitting on your coffee table

So, GO! Rummage around — see what you can find. Reach way far back if you have to…and then CREATE! Describe, elaborate, enumerate, paint a picture with words (or even paint if you are so inclined). It doesn’t have to be perfect…as Nike says, JUST DO IT!

Here is some evidence of rummaging. This quirky little poem showed up from a post-it note I found on my desk one morning:

(Chinese Food)

The note says (Chinese Food)
but it is random
out of context on a piece of paper
in a stack of papers
at least 2 months passed

my past included (Chinese Food)

but what?
and with whom?
and what is the purpose
of this little clue
set out for me to follow
too early even for General Tso,
though I never met him personally

rumor has it, he was a press man…

as a proponent of the written word
do you think he rose early
to consider form and function,
rhyme, reason and rice —
like this poet now hungry
for the pork fried variety at 6?

But a fair warning about rummaging…you have to be brave. You have to be brave because you never know what you’re going to find in that drawer. Sometimes, it will be as benign as a post-it note about Chinese take-out. Other times, you may pull out a ghost, some long lost memory that needs to see the light of day.

Hans Christian Anderson is credited with saying: “Everything you look at can become a fairy tale, you can get a story from everything you touch.”

Ultimately, isn’t that our job as creatives? Telling the story. No matter our medium — poetry, painting, prose — we are charged with the task of putting our hands on the story and sharing it with others.

So, get in there! Rummage around for the inspiration. Reach way far back if you have to…and then TELL THE STORY!

Praise:

“The poems in Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind are a brilliantly incisive
commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.” — Dale Carlson, ALA Notable Book author

“In Jen Payne’s exquisite introduction to Evidence of Flossing, she provides the purpose of this book: to illustrate, poem by poem, the very fraught relationships which define us, human to human, human to earth and animal, and human to the unifying spirit, which may or may not be her lower case “god.” She is sober, admonitory, enraptured and antic by turns, her illustrative photographs always a source of pleasure or irony — often both. This is a most unusual book, richly thoughtful and sorely, sorely needed.” — Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely, author, Letter from Italy, 1944

“It’s uncanny how Jen Payne grabs hold of seemingly ordinary strands of life — then surprises us with new meaning. A master at storytelling, Jen brings us to the realization that the stories she shares are actually ours. An engaging, thought provoking and masterful reflection on our collective legacy in this world.” — Mary O’Connor, author, Life Is Full of Sweet Spots and Dreams of a Wingless Child

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

Dec 072017
 

Strong to the Bone by Jon Land Banner

Strong to the Bone

by Jon Land

on Tour December 4, 2017 – January 31, 2018

Synopsis:

STRONG TO THE BONE by Jon Land

1944: Texas Ranger Jim Strong investigates a triple murder inside a Nazi POW camp in Texas.

The Present: His daughter, fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, finds herself pursuing the killer her father never caught in the most personal case of her career a conspiracy stretching from that Nazi POW camp to a modern-day neo-Nazi gang.

A sinister movement has emerged from the shadows of history, determined to undermine the American way of life. Its leader, Armand Fisker, has an army at his disposal, a deadly bio-weapon, and a reputation for being unbeatable. But he s never taken on the likes of Caitlin Strong and her outlaw lover, Cort Wesley Masters.

To prevent an unspeakable cataclysm, Caitlin and Cort Wesley must win a war the world thought was over.

**Read my review HERE and enter the giveaway**

Strong to the Bone is another fine effort by Jon Land, who manages to mix character development with gripping, page-turning plots. This is his best novel yet.”
StrandMagazine

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0765384647 (ISBN13: 9780765384645)
Series: Caitlin Strong Novels (Volume 9)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗| Macmillan 🔗

**Q&A with Jon Land**

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Definitely from current events. I call myself a sponge in that I’m not only always looking for obvious fodder for my thrillers, but also for the less than obvious. For example, STRONG TO THE BONE features, as a Maguffin, a groundbreaking discovery of a new anti-rejection drug that could change the lives of transplant patients. That sprang directly from an article in the New York Times about the developmental progress of such drugs. That’s the equivalent of the light bulb going on and then burning even brighter once I figure out how to weaponize this potentially life-changing discovery because, hey, I write high-stakes thrillers, right? Outside of setting scenes in places I’ve visited, I never draw on my own personal experiences because, truth be told, almost all of mine are mundane or boring.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

I start at the beginning and let the story takes me where it needs to and let my characters do their share of the heavy lifting. Knowing too much of a book before you start lends the final product a formulaic feel, whereas spontaneity implies that if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, the reader can’t possibly know. I like to let my stories develop organically from the inside out. In STRONG TO THE BONE again, for instance, the villain doesn’t have a nefarious plot to wreak havoc on mankind when the book opens—that plot develops in the course of the story because of something that happens in the course of the story.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

I find inspiration in real people or situations, mostly to build villains more than good guys but almost never from those I know personally, because then it doesn’t feel like fiction anymore. In STRONG TO THE BONE, the evil Davey Skoll is a thinly disguised version of Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical tycoon prone to jacking up prices astronomically on commonly-used drugs. And the neo-Nazi villain Skoll hooks up with, Armand Fisker, is based on a story I once read of towns in California and elsewhere that are actually controlled and run by lawless biker gangs.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I write in two shifts, each 2-3 hours; say, from 12-3 in the afternoon and then in the evening maybe from 10-midnight. I’ve always been a late night person, so sometimes I work even later. The key is to always feel like the writing is fresh, kind of like when you’re a runner and want to push yourself just hard enough. I have two idiosyncrasies that have become kind of staples. The first is that I always try to leave off in the middle of something so I have a running start the next day when I pick up the work. The second is I’ll have some books set aside by my favorite authors to read to get into the proper mindset before I start writing. Nothing gets me in the right frame of mind better than that!

Tell us why we should read this book.

Oh, lots of reasons! It’s got all the hallmarks—action, suspense, a great puzzle, history—that all the Caitlin Strong books have. But it’s also the most personal of any title in the series. That’s because instead of just tracking a random bad guy, this time out Caitlin finds herself on the trail of the man who sexually assaulted her eighteen years before and has now resurfaced. So at long last she gets to finally slay the dragon. But that gives her cause for concern because she’s not sure she really wants to catch him. What if that costs Caitlin her edge? What if this horrible experience from her past is the primary driver of who she is, her very sensibility? So what happens after she slays the dragon.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Lee Child, James Lee Burke, James Rollins, Steve Berry, David Morrell, Stephen King, James Hall, Brad Meltzer, Stephen Hunter, John Hart—the list goes on and on!

What are you reading now?

I’m finishing GONE DARK by James Hall, in the middle of G-MAN by Stephen Hunter, and have just started THE MIDNIGHT LINE by Lee Child.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I’m just starting STRONG AS STEEL, the next in the Caitlin Strong series which will be published in December of 2018. All I can tell you, because it’s all that I know, is that involves skeletal bones being uncovered in the Texas desert where something else was also dug up out of the ground. Something with the potential to be world changing, maybe in more ways than one. Check back with me in a couple months and I might be able to tell you more!

Fun questions:

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Anyone who gets the movie made!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I love working out at the gym and following Brown University football for which I serve as vice president of the Brown Football Association.

Favorite meal?

Nothing beat a great steak, although a great lobster comes close!

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

Author Bio:

Jon Land

Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 43 books, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller, and Strong Light of Day which won the 2016 International Book Award for Best Thriller-Adventure, the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller, and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery. Strong Cold Dead became the fourth title in the series in a row to win the International Book Award in 2017 and about which Booklist said, “Thrillers don’t get any better than this,” in a starred review. Land has also teamed with multiple New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham on a new sci-fi series, the first of which, The Rising, was published by Forge in January of 2017. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Austin, Texas

What the hell?

Caitlin Strong and Cort Wesley Masters had just emerged from Esther’s Follie’s on East 6th Steet, when they saw the stream of people hurrying down the road, gazes universally cocked back behind them. Sirens blared off in the distance and a steady chorus of honking horns seemed to be coming from an adjoining block just past the street affectionately known as “Dirty Sixth,” Austin’s version of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

“Couldn’t tell you,” Cort Wesley said, even as he sized up the scene. “But I got a feeling we’re gonna know before much longer.”

* * *

Caitlin was in town to speak at a national law enforcement conference focusing on homegrown terrorism, and both her sessions at the Convention Center had been jam-packed. She felt kind of guilty her presentations had lacked the audio-visual touches many of the others had featured. But the audiences hadn’t seem to mind, filling a sectioned-off ballroom to the gills to hear of her direct experiences, in contrast to theoretical dissertations by experts. Audiences comprised of cops a lot like her, looking to bring something back home they could actually use. She’d focused to a great extent on her most recent battle with ISIS right here in Texas, and an al-Qaeda cell a few years before that, stressing how much things had changed in the interim and how much more they were likely to.

Cort Wesley had driven up from San Antonio to meet her for a rare night out that had begun with dinner at Ancho’s inside the Omni Hotel and then a stop at Antone’s nightclub to see the Rats, a band headed by a Texas Ranger tech expert known as Young Roger. From there, they’d walked to Esther’s Follies to take in the famed Texas-centric improve show there, a first for both of them that was every bit as funny and entertaining as advertised, even with a gun-toting woman both Caitlin and Cort Wesley realized was based on her.

Fortunately, no one else in the audience made that connection and they managed to slip out ahead of the rest of the crowd. Once outside, though, they were greeted by a flood of pedestrians pouring up the street from an area of congestion a few blocks down, just past 8th Street.

“What you figure, Ranger?”

“That maybe we better go have ourselves a look.”

CHAPTER 2

Austin, Texas

Caitlin practically collided with a young man holding a wad of napkins against his bleeding nose at the intersection with East 7th Street.

“What’s going on?” she asked him, pulling back her blazer to show her Texas Ranger badge.

The young man looked from it back to her, swallowing some blood and hacking it up onto the street. “University of Texas graduation party took over all of Stubb’s Barbecue,” he said, pointing in the restaurant’s direction. “Guess you could say it got out of hand. Bunch of fraternities going at it.” He looked at the badge pinned to her chest again. “Are you really a Texas Ranger?”

“You need to get to an emergency room,” Caitlin told him, and pressed on with Cort Wesley by her side.

“Kid was no older than Dylan,” he noted, mentioning his oldest son who was still on a yearlong leave from Brown University.

“How many fraternities does the University of Texas at Austin have anyway, Cort Wesley?”

“A whole bunch.”

“Yeah,” she nodded, continuing on toward the swell of bodies and flashing lights, “it sure looks that way.”

Stubb’s was well known for its barbecue offerings and, just as much, its status as a concert venue. The interior was modest in size, as Caitlin recalled, two floors with the bottom level normally reserved for private parties and the upstairs generally packed with patrons both old and new. The rear of the main building, and several adjoining ones, featured a flattened dirt lot fronted by several performance stages where upwards of two thousand people could enjoy live music in the company of three sprawling outdoor bars.

That meant this graduation party gone bad may have featured at least a comparable number of students and probably even more, many of whom remained in the street, milling about as altercations continued to flare, while first responders struggled futilely to disperse the crowd. Young men and women still swigging bottles of beer, while pushing and shoving each other. The sound of glass breaking rose over the loudening din of the approaching sirens, the whole scene glowing amid the colors splashed from the revolving lights of the Austin police cars already on the scene.

A fire engine leading a rescue wagon screeched to a halt just ahead of Cort Wesley and Caitlin, at the intersection with 7th Street, beyond which had become impassable.

“Dylan could even be here, for all I know,” Cort Wesley said, picking up his earlier train of thought.

“He doesn’t go to UT.”

“But there’s girls and trouble, two things he excels at the most.”

This as fights continued breaking out one after another, splinters of violence on the verge of erupting into an all-out brawl going on under the spill of the LED streetlights rising over Stubb’s.

Caitlin pictured swirling lines of already drunk patrons being refused admittance due to capacity issues. Standing in line full of alcohol on a steamy night, expectations of a celebratory evening dashed, was a recipe for just what she was viewing now. In her mind, she saw fights breaking out between rival UT fraternities mostly in the outdoor performance area, before spilling out into the street, fueled by simmering tempers now on high heat.

“You see any good we can be here?” Cort Wesley asked her.

Caitlin was about to say no, when she spotted an anxious Austin patrol cop doing his best to break up fights that had spread as far as 7th Street. She and Cort Wesley sifted through the crowd and made their way toward him, Caitlin advancing alone when they drew close.

“Anything I can do to help,” she said, reading the Austin policeman’s nametag, “Officer Hilton?”

Hilton leaned up against an ornate light pole that looked like gnarled wrought iron for support. He was breathing hard, his face scraped and bruised. He noted the Texas Ranger badge and seemed to match her face to whatever media reports he’d remembered her from.

“Not unless you got enough Moses in you to part the Red Sea out there, Ranger.”

“What brought you boys out here? Detail work?” Caitlin asked, trying to account for his presence on scene so quickly, ahead of the sirens screaming through the night.

Hilton shook his head. “An anonymous nine-one-one call about a sexual assault taking place inside the club, the downstairs lounge.”

“And you didn’t go inside?”

Hilton turned his gaze on the street, his breathing picking up again. “Through that? My partner tried and ended up getting his skull cracked open by a bottle. I damn near got killed fighting to reach him. Managed to get him in the back of our squad car and called for a rescue,” he said, casting his gaze toward the fire engine and ambulance that were going nowhere. “Think maybe I better carry him to the hospital myself.”

“What about the girl?”

“What girl?”

“Sexual assault victim inside the club.”

Hilton frowned. “Most of them turn out to be false alarms anyway.”

“Do they now?”

Caitlin’s tone left him sneering at her. “Look, Ranger, you want to shoot up the street to get inside that shithole, be my guest. I’m not leaving my partner.”

“Thanks for giving me permission,” she said, and steered back for Cort Wesley.

“That looked like it went well,” he noted, pushing a frat boy who’d ventured too close out of the way, after stripping the empty beer bottle he was holding by the neck from his grasp.

“Sexual assault victim might still be inside, Cort Wesley.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

“Got any ideas, Ranger?”

Caitlin eyed the fire engine stranded where East 7th Street met Red River Avenue. “Just one.”

CHAPTER 3

Austin, Texas

Four firemen were gathered behind the truck in a tight cluster, speaking with the two paramedics from the rescue wagon.

“I’m a Texas Ranger,” Caitlin announced, approaching them with jacket peeled back to reveal her badge, “and I’m commandeering your truck.”

“You’re what?” one of the fireman managed. “No, absolutely not!”

The siren began blaring and lights started flashing, courtesy of Cort Wesley who’d climbed up behind the wheel.

“Sorry,” Caitlin said, raising her voice above the din, “can’t hear you!”

* * *

The crowd that filled the street in front of Stubb’s Barbecue saw and heard the fire truck coming and began pelting it with bottles, as it edged forward through the congested street that smelled of sweat and beer. What looked like steam hung in the stagnant air overhead, either an illusion or the actual product of so many superheated bodies congealed in such tight quarters. The sound of glass braking crackled through Caitlin’s ears, as bottle after bottle smashed against the truck’s frame.

The crowd clustered tighter around the fire engine, cutting off Cort Wesley’s way backward or on toward Stubb’s. The students, their fervor and aggression bred by alcohol, never noticed Caitlin’s presence atop the truck until she finally figured out the workings of the truck’s deck gun and squeezed the nozzle.

The force of the water bursting out of the barrel nearly knocked her backward off the truck. But she managed to right and then repositioned herself, as she doused the tight cluster of students between the truck and the restaurant entrance with the gun’s powerful stream.

A wave of people tried to fight the flow and ended up getting blown off their feet, thrown into other students who then scrambled to avoid the fire engine’s surge forward ahead of its deafening horn. Caitlin continued to clear a path for Cort Wesley, sweeping the deck gun in light motions from side to side, the five hundred gallon tank still plenty full when the club entrance drew within clear view.

She felt the fire engine’s front wheels mount the sidewalk and twist heavily to the right. The front fender grazed the building and took out a plate glass window the rioting had somehow spared. Caitlin saw a gap in the crowd open all the way to the entrance and leaped down from the truck to take advantage of it, before it closed up again.

She purposely didn’t draw her gun and entered Stubb’s to the sight of bloodied bouncers and staff herding the last of the patrons out of the restaurant. Outside, the steady blare of sirens told her the Austin police had arrived in force. Little they could do to disperse a crowd this large and unruly in rapid fashion, though, much less reach the entrance to lend their efforts to Caitlin’s in locating the sexual assault victim.

She threaded her way through the ground floor of Stubb’s to the stairs leading down to the private lounge area. The air felt like it was being blasted out of a steam oven, roiled with coagulated body heat untouched by the restaurant’s air conditioning that left Caitlin with the sense she was descending to hell.

Reaching the windowless sub-level floor, she swept her eyes about and thought she heard a whimpering come from a nest of couches, where a male figure hovered over the frame of a woman, lying half on and half off a sectional couch.

“Sir, put your hands in the air and turn around slowly!” Caitlin ordered, drawing her SIG-Sauer nine-millimeter pistol. “Don’t make me tell you twice!”

He started to turn, without raising his hands, and Caitlin fired when she glimpsed something shiny in his grasp. Impact to the shoulder twisted the man around and spilled him over the sectional couch, Caitlin holding her SIG at the ready as she approached his victim.

She heard the whimpering again, making her think more of the sound a dog makes, and followed it toward a tight cluster of connected couch sections, their cushions all stained wet and smelling thickly of beer. Drawing closer while still keeping a sharp eye on the man she’d shot, Caitlin spotted a big smart phone lying just out of his grasp, recognizing it as the object she’d wrongly taken for a gun. Then Caitlin spied a young woman of college age pinned between a pair of couch sections, covering her exposed breasts with her arms, her torn blouse hanging off her and jeans unbuttoned and unzipped just short of her hips.

Drawing closer, Caitlin saw the young woman’s assailant, the man she’d just shot in all likelihood, must’ve yanked them down so violently that he’d split the zipper and torn off the snap or button.

“Ma’am?” she called softly.

The young woman tightened herself into a ball and retreated deeper into the darkness between the couch sections, not seeming to hear her.

“Ma’am,” Caitlin said louder, hovering over the coed while continuing to check on the man she’d shot, his eyes drifting in and out of consciousness, his shirt wet with blood in the shoulder area from the gunshot wound.

Caitlin only wished it was her own attacker lying there, from all those years before when she’d been a coed herself at the Lone Star College campus in West Houston. Some memories suppressed easily, others were like a toothache that came and went. That one was more like a cavity that had been filled, forgotten until the filling broke off and raw nerve pain flared.

Caitlin pushed the couch sections aside and knelt by the young woman, pistol tucked low by her hip so as not to frighten her further.

“I’m a Texas Ranger, ma’am,” she said, in as soothing a voice as she could manage. “I need to get you out of here, and I need you to help me. I need to know if you can walk.”

The young woman finally looked at her, nodded. Her left cheek was swollen badly and one of her arms hung limply from its socket. Caitlin looked back at the downed form of the man she’d already shot once, half hoping he gave her a reason to shoot him again.

“What’s your name? Mine’s Caitlin.”

“Kelly Ann,” the young woman said, her voice dry and cracking.

Caitlin helped her to her feet. “Well, Kelly Ann, I know things feel real bad right now, but trust me when I tell you this is bad as they’re going to get.”

Kelly Ann’s features perked up slightly, her eyes flashing back to life. She tried to take a deep breath, but stopped halfway though.

Caitlin held her around the shoulders in one arm, SIG clutched in her free hand while her eyes stayed peeled on the downed man’s stirring form. “I’m going to stay with you the whole way until we get you some help,” she promised.

The building suddenly felt like a Fun House Hall of Mirrors. Everything distorted, perspective and sense of place lost. Even the stairs climbing back to the ground floor felt different, only the musty smell of sweat mixed with stale perfume and body spray telling her they were the same.

Caitlin wanted to tell Kelly Ann it would be all right, that it would get better, that it would all go away in time. But that would be a lie, so she said nothing at all. Almost to the door, she gazed toward a loose assemblages of frat boys wearing hoodies displaying their letters as they chugged from liquor bottles stripped from the shelves behind the main bar on the first floor. How different were they from the one who’d hurt her, hurt Kelly Ann?

Caitlin wanted to shoot the bottles out of their hands, but kept leading Kelly Ann on instead, out into the night and the vapor spray from the deck gun now being wielded by Cort Wesley to keep their route clear.

“’Bout time!” he shouted down, scampering across the truck’s top to retake his place behind the wheel.

Caitlin was already inside the cab, Kelly Ann clinging tight to her.

“Where to, Ranger?”

“Seton Medical Center, Cort Wesley.”

Before he got going, Caitlin noticed Officer Hilton and several other Austin cops pushing their way through the crowd toward the entrance to Stubb’s.

“Don’t worry, Officer, I got the victim out safe and sound,” she yelled down to him, only half-sarcastically. “But I left a man with a bullet in his shoulder down there for you to take care of.”

“Come again?”

“I’d hurry, if I were you. He’s losing blood.”

***

Excerpt from Strong to the Bone by Jon Land. Copyright © 2017 by Jon Land. Reproduced with permission from Jon Land. All rights reserved.

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