Mar 202020
 

No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane Banner

 

 

No Stone Unturned

by Andrea Kane

on Tour March 16 – April 17, 2020

Synopsis:

No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane

WHAT IF YOU FOUND YOUR FRIEND DEAD AND FEARED YOU’D BE NEXT?

Jewelry designer Fiona McKay is working on her latest collection of Celtic-inspired jewelry. She’s excited by the possibilities uncovered by Rose Flaherty, the antiquities dealer helping her research the heirloom tapestries inspiring her new collection. So when Rose calls to tell her she has answers, Fiona hurries to meet her. But her artistic world is shattered when she finds the lifeless body of the elderly woman.

Why would anyone kill such a harmless person? And what if Fiona had arrived just a few minutes earlier? Would she have been killed as well? Unnerved, she heads for her brother’s Brooklyn apartment seeking advice and comfort.

Ryan McKay, Forensic Instincts’ technology wiz is not amused by his little sister interrupting his evening with his girlfriend and co-worker, Claire Hedgleigh. But when Ryan and Claire hear the details of Rose’s murder, they fear that Fiona could be next, and quickly assume the role of her protectors. What they’re unaware of is how many people are desperately seeking the information now buried along with Rose.

A former IRA sniper. A traitorous killer who worked for the British. Two vicious adversaries taking their epic battle to America. A secret Irish hoard as the grand prize in a winner takes all fight to the death.

As the story woven into the tapestries passed down from McKay mother to daughter unravels, Forensic Instincts realizes that Fiona and her family are in grave danger. Together, the team must stay one step ahead of two rival assassins or risk Fiona’s life and the McKay family tree.

MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW

5 stars

If you are an avid reader, like I am, then I’m sure you have an “authors to read” list that you wait patiently for their next book to get your hands on. And even better, if it’s an ARC!!! For me, one of those authors is Andrea Kane!!! So receiving a signed ARC from the author was both exciting and honored!!!!! Now that I have finished reading it, this book will be placed in a special bookcase where I proudly store my signed editions. Family and friends know not to touch these books nor even breathe near them!!!!

The Forensic Instinct team, a highly sophisticated PI firm, is back and this time the case involves one of the member’s sister, Fiona McKay. As the synopsis states, Fiona is a jewelry designer and creates her pieces on Celtic art via tapestries that her family has inherited ​that were ​passed down from generations past.

Rose Flaherty, an elderly antique dealer/expert is working with Fiona to aide her with the research. Until that night Fiona and Rose were meeting because Rose had important and exciting news to share. Upon entering the shop, Fiona found Rose dead and it is being ruled a homicide. And within days, Fiona’s apartment was broken into and was ransacked. Nothing was taken so what were they looking for? Will Fiona be the next victim? The Forensic Instinct team will not let that happen so they are on the case but they soon find out that there are some unsavory men that could be the killer but also want the hoard that is hidden in those tapestries.

Why do I love Ms. Kane’s books, you ask. For many reasons!!!

The story and suspense flow and is gripping and consuming from the very first word to the last. I find myself submerged and caught up in the narrative. The characters are well developed and realistic. The action was electrifying. The writing is descriptive, so much so, that I could create vivid images in my mind as if I was watching a movie. And the in-depth research is phenomenal whereas I became more informed about things I didn’t know much about, like Celtic tapestries, Celtic art, the IRA and much more.

A page turner that was hard to put down!!!! And the reason she is on my “authors to read” list because it was another book by her that I devoured!!!

Bonus: Check out Fiona McKay’s
Designs HERE

UPDATE

After reading this book, I was intrigued by the Celtic jewelry. So when Fiona McKay / Andrea Kane, launched the jewelry site, I had to have a piece of jewelry. I chose the Tree Of Life necklace which symbolizes strength, family, and resilience. I just received it and the picture does not do it justice. It is gorgeous!!!

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC
Publication Date:
Number of Pages: March 17, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-68232-039-
Series: Forensic Instincts
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Slowly, Rose Flaherty made her way over to the front window of her Greenwich Village antique shop, leaning heavily on her cane as she did. Preoccupied with the ramifications of her research findings, she barely took note of the passersby on Bedford Street, most of them headed home for the evening. A few of them glanced in her window, their unpracticed eyes seeing none of the beauty attached to the treasure trove of antiques and antiquities, instead seeing only the dusty surfaces, the random pieces, and odd assortment of furnishings that bespoke unwanted junk from the past.

At seventy-nine years old, Rose had long ago stopped caring what people thought. She knew who and what she was. And she knew it was no accident that her established clientele, many of whom were wealthy and educated in the realm of ancient civilizations—including Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman, Byzantine, Greek, and her beloved Celtic—came to her for her expertise as well as her one-of-a-kind offerings. Her knowledge was vast, her list of contacts vaster still.

The levels of research she performed were always a labor of love. However, her current project was even more than that. It was a thrilling adventure, a fascination of possibilities that transcended anything she’d dealt with in the past.

She couldn’t wait to delve deeper.

Impatiently, she squinted at her watch, barely able to make out the hands without the aid of her glasses, which she’d left somewhere. Ah. Five fifteen. Forty-five minutes to go.

Given the magnitude of her findings, there was just one way to pass the time.

She limped her way over to her Chippendale desk, sliding open the bottom drawer and pulling out the bottle of rare, old Irish whiskey she kept on hand for special clients. It was sinfully expensive. How fortunate that one of her prominent clients, Niall Dempsey, was a wealthy real estate developer who also appreciated fine Irish whiskey and who had been kind enough to gift this to her.

She poured the whiskey into a glass, making sure to put out a second for her client. They certainly had something to toast to. She would just get a wee bit of a head start.

“Rose?” Glenna Robinson, Rose’s assistant, poked her head out of the back room. Glenna was studying archeology at NYU and thoroughly enjoyed her part-time job at the shop. The fragile, white-haired owner was an intellectual wonder. Learning from her was an honor—even if she was becoming a bit more absentminded as she neared eighty. Absentminded about everything except her work. In that precious realm, her mind was like a steel trap.

“Hmmm?” Rose lifted her lips from her glass and turned, initially surprised to see Glenna was still here. Ah, but it wasn’t yet five thirty, and Glenna never left before checking in, so she should have expected to see her shiny young face. Such was the level of Rose’s absorption with the task at hand. “Yes, dear?”

Glenna’s gaze flickered from the glass in Rose’s hand to its mate, sitting neatly beside the whiskey bottle on the desk. “Do you need me to stay late? You mentioned an evening appointment, obviously an important one… even if it’s not in the calendar.”

“It was last minute.” Rose smiled, giving a gentle wave of her hand. “There’s no need for you to stay. This is a meeting, not a transaction. If you’d just collect the mail and drop it off, you can go and enjoy your evening.”

Glenna smiled back, trying not to look as relieved as she felt. Her friends had invited her to join them for pizza and beer. After a long week, that was exactly what she needed. But she wouldn’t leave Rose in the lurch.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Positive. Now run along.”

“Thank you. See you tomorrow afternoon.” Glenna blew Rose a kiss, then retraced her steps into the small back room—the business office, as she and Rose laughingly called it. It was barely larger than a closet, but it served its purpose. Glenna used it to answer phone calls, schedule appointments, email invoices, do reams of paperwork, and keep track of the countless Post-its Rose stuck on every inch of available surface space. She called it Glenna’s to-do list, but Glenna was well aware that the reminders were really for Rose, not for her. All part of Rose’s charm. The Post-it-spotted room contained a jam-packed file cabinet, a rusty metal desk, an on-its- last-legs photocopier, and a computer that Glenna had nicknamed Methuselah because it was older than time. Still, it was enough for their needs and Rose didn’t know how to use it anyway. That was part of Glenna’s job. She’d been doing it since she was sixteen, and she had no desire to go elsewhere.

She scooped up the stack of mail and was about to leave when she spotted a manila envelope propped up against the outbox with the name of the addressee penned on it in Rose’s neat hand. No street address. No postage.

Typical forgetful Rose.

Recognizing the client’s name, Glenna quickly scanned their contacts list, found the requisite address, printed it on a label that she adhered to the envelope, and carefully marked the parcel: hand cancel. She’d take care of the postage at the post office. Jimmy would move the process along. He was an efficient postal worker with a wild crush on her. She’d be in and out in a flash.

After tucking the envelope beneath the rest of the mail, she shut down Methuselah for the night, then grabbed her lightweight jacket and left the shop.

The tinkling sound of the bells over the door echoed behind her.

Twenty minutes later, they tinkled again.

Rose had been sitting in a chair midway in the shop, her back turned to the entrance as she sipped her whiskey and stared idly at the marble fireplace that stayed lit year-round to ward off dampness and mildew. Hearing the bells, she reached for her cane and came to her feet, surprised but delighted. Her client was early.

She turned, a greeting freezing on her lips.

It wasn’t a client who had come for her.

***

Excerpt from No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane. Copyright 2019 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Andrea Kane. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Andrea Kane

Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty novels, including sixteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles. With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully-researched stories, pushing them to the edge―and keeping her readers up all night.

Kane’s first contemporary suspense thriller, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, became an instant New York Times bestseller. She followed with a string of bestselling psychological thrillers including NO WAY OUT, TWISTED and DRAWN IN BLOOD.

Her latest in the highly successful Forensic Instincts series, NO STONE UNTURNED, showcases the dynamic, eclectic team of maverick investigators as they solve a seemingly impossible case while narrowly avoiding an enraged law enforcement frustrated over Forensic Instincts’ secretive and successful interference in a murder case. The first showcase of Forensic Instincts’ talents came with the New York Times bestseller, THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE, followed by THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE, THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, THE SILENCE THAT SPEAKS, THE MURDER THAT NEVER WAS, A FACE TO DIE FOR, and DEAD IN A WEEK.

Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include MY HEART’S DESIRE, SAMANTHA, ECHOES IN THE MIST, and WISHES IN THE WIND.

With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages. Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She’s an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan.

Catch Up With Andrea Kane:
AndreaKane.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Enter The Giveaway!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Andrea Kane. There will be 6 winners for this tour. One winner will receive (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and 5 winners will receive No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane (eBook). The giveaway begins on March 16, 2020 and runs through April 19, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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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.
  • 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.
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Mar 192020
 

The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist's Solution by Lisa de Nikolits Banner

 

 

The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution

by Lisa de Nikolits

on Tour March 1-31, 2020

Synopsis:

The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist's Solution by Lisa de Nikolits

The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is about a couple experiencing a crisis. The husband, Lyndon, loses his job as editor of a financial magazine. Neither are happy with aging. Lyndon has gotten by with charm and frozen emotions. The wife, Margaux, has no idea how angry she is with him for his detachment. It is her idea to sell the house and just travel. But he is not coping well with retirement, so he simply walks off a ferry in Australia and leaves her. He steals a cat (well, he steals an expensive SUV that happens to have a cat onboard) and he flees Sydney, ending up in Apollo Bay, a few hours south-west of Melbourne, where he falls in with a group of anarchists and punk rockers in a tattoo parlour, planning revolution.

Meanwhile, Margaux sits tight in Sydney with no idea of where her husband might be or what happened. She moves into the red-light Kings Cross area, befriending the owner of the hostel, a seventy-year-old ex-cop drag queen from Saint John, New Brunswick, and waits to hear from her husband.

When she learns that her husband is fine, she is consumed by wrath and she invokes the angry spirit of an evil nurse, a key player in the terrible Chelmsworth sleep therapy in which many patients died (historical fact). While Lyndon gets in touch with his original career ambition to become an artist and wrestles with anarchism versus capitalism, Margaux learns to deal with her rage.

A serio-comedic thriller about a couple who embark on an unintentionally life-changing around-the-world adventure, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is about the meaning of life, healing from old wounds, romantic love at all ages, and how love and passion can make a difference, at any age.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series
Publication Date: September 30th 2019
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 1771336498 (ISBN13: 9781771336499)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Margaux

My husband has fallen overboard into the black sea of the Sydney Harbour. Panic stops my breath as if a cork has been shoved down my throat and I run from one side of the ferry to the other and back, but, just like the last time I checked, he’s not there.

It’s close to midnight and the Sydney Harbour is a tar pit of roiling waves, churning and chopping. I lean over the railing, trying to see him in the water, searching for an out-stretched arm but the ferry is moving too quickly. Half a dozen people onboard look at me curiously and I can see them thinking nuts, she’s nuts, don’t make eye contact. I can’t breathe for panic and I am panting like a dog, making horrible sounds.

I grab the deckhand by the arm. I try to form words but I can hardly talk and all I can say is husband, gone, must have fallen overboard and I point towards the thick molasses water.

The deckhand is kind. He doesn’t call me a raving lunatic. He helps me check the ferry from stern to bow, starboard to port, not once but twice. He asks for my husband’s cell phone number and he dials it on speaker. It goes straight to messages. I’ve already tried, with the same response. Hiya, Lyndon here, do the necessary or forever hold your peace.

“He’s fallen overboard,” I say. “We have to send out a rescue party. We have to find him.”

***

Lyndon

I’m driving on the wrong side of the road. Except of course for them, it’s the right side. I am driving a stolen car and I must concentrate, I can’t afford to get into an accident.

For the most part, this car just about drives itself. I got lucky, what kind of idiot leaves a brand-new Jeep running while she gets a coffee? I was standing there, about to sip my skinny flat white when this rich suburban ditz comes along, parks right in front of me, leaps out and rushes into the coffee shop. It’s not like I was looking for a car to steal, of course not, but when she showed up, I knew what I had to do.

I sidled around the car, opened the door and shot into the driver’s seat, quickly pulling the door closed. The air con was an arctic blast and I was chilled in seconds. Where was the off-switch? But more importantly, I had to get the hell out of Dodge.

I pulled out into the traffic, bracing for sirens, flashing lights and my imminent arrest but there was just the usual Sydney gridlock. I threaded in between the cars, glancing in the rearview mirror and looking for a furious blonde in hot pursuit, shaking her fist and dialling 911 but there was no sign of her.

I fumbled with the car’s buttons and levers, driving with one hand, and I managed to turn off the air con. I opened my window and let the warm summer wind blast into the car, washing it clean of the cold, burnt air.

But where was I going? A quick decision was necessary. I called up a map of Australia in my mind. I’d studied it long enough before this trip, losing myself in the tongue-twisting Aboriginal names like Woollara, Woolloomoolo and Wollongong and wishing that I didn’t have to go at all. But, here I was, and I had a choice. I could go north east or south west. But the north east Gold Coast sounded cheap and nasty so Melbourne won the coin toss.

I was about to take the turnoff for the Hume highway when I realized that highways might have cameras, whereas the smaller roads would not and I decided to navigate by the compass on the dashboard and stay off the radar as much as possible. I had the sudden worry that the car might have a tracker but I figured that if it did, there wasn’t much I could do about it. I felt strangely free and yet resigned at the same time.

I checked the gas tank. Full. I didn’t have to worry about that. In fact, for the first time in ages, I didn’t have to worry about anything at all. I was free. Free from all the societal and familial shackles and manacles. I pounded the steering wheel with my fist and I grinned a Jack Nicholson crazy-man smile – yes, I’m doing the Jack-man proud! I’ve been bowed and beaten and nearly broken but not for one second longer! I’ve finally taken control.

I released all the windows in the car to get the full volume of the sweet-scented, hot Australian summer and I leaned back in my luxurious seat to savour my moment of triumph. I didn’t let the bastards grind me down!

I reached for my skinny flat white and took a satisfying gulp. Say what you will about the Australians, they make great coffee. I took another slug and nearly choked because at that moment, a scream pierced my eardrums and my scrotum clenched so far back in my body I was convinced I’d lost my balls for life. I choked down the mouthful of coffee and shoved the cup into the holder.

Another ungodly ear-piercing howl filled into the air and I nearly swerved off the road. I white-knuckled the car into submission and tried to steady my heart which was pounding so hard that my eyeballs were popping. What in god’s name was that? There was a demon in the car? Oh my god, don’t tell me it’s a baby. I stole a car with a baby in it, didn’t I? I glanced into the back, fully expecting to see a baby staring at me with accusing eyes. It’s one thing to be a car thief – which, I’ll have you know I am not – but a kidnapper? My insides sloshed back and forth as if I’d swallowed the green mush that Margaux made me eat instead of breakfast, hoping to get my weight gain under control. I have that same bitter taste in my mouth now as I prepare to meet the gaze of the stolen baby. The baby strapped into the car seat, pursing its little Chuckie-doll monster mouth and getting ready to let loose another of those horrifying screams. But there is no baby. There is no car seat. No Chuckie. Relief washes over me and my balls ungrip a millimeter. At least I am not a child thief, I am not a kidnapper. I can breathe again. Thank god. There is, however, a large grey box on the back seat. A cat box.

I take my eyes off the road for a moment and swing around to look at the box. Yes, it’s a cat box. I have kidnapped a cat. I have catnapped. I am a cat-thieving felon. I am sixty years old and I am a cat thief. It is one thing to steal a car, but it is quite another to steal a cat. You do not steal cats. Top of the range Jeeps, yes, that is somewhat acceptable, although of course, I am not a car-thief by profession or nature although deep down, I must be one, since I appropriated the car with such natural ease. I have been a car thief for my entire life, only I never knew it until now. But I am not, nor ever will be, a cat thief.

Thoughts fill my mind like dust devils and whirling dervishes and I force my eyes back onto the road. I must focus. Self-recriminations and internal philosophical debates are of little use to me now, I must think. But another eardrum-destroying howl fills the car, as if a hundred geese are being mauled by a pack of wild dogs. And then, pigs are tortured and they squeal and honk and attack each other in a frenzy and it’s all I can do to keep the car moving in a straight line. My hands are shaking and sweat pours off me and I am stuck to the leather seat I was admiring only moments before. What in the blazers is that box? Is a cat even capable of making sounds like that? I need to pull over and dump the box. Nothing in the world should make a noise like that, not even Lizzie Borden’s family as they were chopped up by her nasty axe-wielding little hand. And why is the cat suddenly so distraught when it was utterly silent when I made off with the car? Why is it howling now, a good half an hour later?

I scramble for solutions, which is pretty hard to do when devilish sounds are turning the mushy insides of my bowels to ice despite the summer heat which is flooding the car. Ice… which in turn which makes me recall the air con – the car was like a refrigerator when I took it – could it be that the creature wanted the air conditioning back on?

Another yowl fills the tiny area and I’m about to pull over and pitch the box out but there are cars in front of me and behind me and I can’t stop – where did all this traffic suddenly come from? Pulling over is not an option.

I fumble with the buttons on the steering wheel and manage to close the windows. I punch the air con up to the max, full blast. The cat is still squealing and hissing and I pound the steering wheel with my fist.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up, cat,” I shout into the back of the car and I give a low growling moan, trying to quell the beast into submission. I can’t count the years since I’ve raised my voice. I’ve never raised my voice to my children, or my wife and certainly not my staff members. “Shut up! Shut up!”

I increase the volume of my chant and my growl turns into a scream which sounds rusty at first, a bit squeaky and I’m certainly no match for the cat who is still putting me to shame. “Shut up! Stop it, eyyyyyyy yayyyyy!” I put some force behind it and soon I am reaching down into my lungs and my gut and it feels fantastic and I grin like Jack while I scream. It takes me a while to notice that the cat has gone quiet and the only sound in the car is coming from me. Feeling remarkably stupid, I stop shouting and all I can hear is frigid air blasting into the confines of the car. I am covered in goose bumps but the cat is silent. I was correct. The cat loves the air con.

I clear my throat and readjust my body in the seat and try to reorganize my thoughts and myself after my unexpectedly exhilarating screamfest. I wonder if I should carry on screaming for the fun of it but I have lost momentum.

The car is as cold as mortuary’s freezer. That’s why the woman left the car running when she went to get her coffee. To keep the cat happy. That must be some cat.

***

Excerpt from The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution by xx. Copyright 2019 by Lisa de Nikolits. Reproduced with permission from Lisa de Nikolits. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Lisa de Nikolits

Lisa de Nikolits is the internationally-acclaimed, award-winning author of nine novels: The Hungry Mirror, West of Wawa, A Glittering Chaos, The Witchdoctor’s Bones, Between The Cracks She Fell, The Nearly Girl, No Fury Like That, Rotten Peaches and The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution (all Inanna) No Fury Like That was published in Italian in 2019 by Edizione Le Assassine under the title Una furia dell’altro mondo. Her short fiction and poetry have also been published in various anthologies and journals across the country. She is a member of the Mesdames of Mayhem, the Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and the International Thriller Writers. Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits came to Canada in 2000. She lives and writes in Toronto.

Catch Up With Lisa de Nikolits On:
LisadeNikolitsWriter.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & 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 Lisa de Nikolits. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on March 1, 2020 and runs through April 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Feb 262020
 

Death and Betrayal by Seeley James Banner

 

Death and Betrayal

by Seeley James

on Tour February 17 – March 20, 2020

Synopsis:

Death and Betrayal by Seeley James

Jacob Stearne, ex Army Ranger and current Sabel Security operative, is about to propose to his girl when he discovers that “next generation” weapons are being shipped to our enemies. Some factions in the US government ask him to find the perpetrators while others work to make sure he fails. His intended fiancé does not understand his disappearance and he can’t give an explanation. When Jacob sets out to expose the billionaire intending to auction off national secrets, he is fired, expelled, and hunted by the government that once awarded him medals. If he ever wants to return to his homeland, he must insert himself into the dangerous world of technology smugglers. It’s a place where only the aggressive and ruthless survive. In the cutthroat world of modern-day pirates, every breath he takes may be his last. He must ask himself, can he outsmart the most corrupt billionaires in history before democracy is destroyed? Can he lose the woman he loves to save the nation?

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Machined Media
Publication Date: February 18th 2020
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1-7333467-2-6
Series: Sabel Security Thriller #8
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Seeley James

Seeley James’ near-death experiences range from talking a jealous husband into putting the gun down to spinning out on an icy freeway in heavy traffic without touching anything. His resume ranges from washing dishes to global technology management. His personal life ranges from homeless at 17, adopting a 3-year-old at 19, getting married at 37, fathering his last child at 43, hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim at 59, and taking the occasional nap.

Seeley’s writing career began with humble beginnings including publishing short stories in The Battered Suitcase leading to being awarded a Medallion from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Seeley is best known for his Sabel Security series of thrillers featuring athlete and heiress Pia Sabel and her bodyguard and operative, veteran Jacob Stearne. One of them kicks ass and the other talks to the wrong god.

Seeley’s love of creativity began at an early age, growing up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. He carried his imagination first into a successful career in computer technology sales and marketing, and then to his real love: fiction.

GUEST POST

10 facts about Jacob Stearne the reader doesn’t know

1. Hometown – Donnellson, Iowa which is in the middle of the state that is the heartland of the country.

2. Siblings – He has an older sister, Joyce. After a coin toss, Joyce inherited the family farm and Jacob found a life in the US Army.

3. School – Jacob was accepted to Iowa State University and completed his freshman year when the War on Terror began. He enlisted in the Army and volunteered for the Ranger school, where he is enshrined in the Ranger Hall of Honor.

4. Career – Due to the nature of special operations missions, Jacob is not allowed to talk about his eight tours of duty until 2045. That may be extended. He now works for Sabel Securities as a Senior Operative.

5. Friends – His best friends are Miguel Rodriguez and Tania Cooper, his pals from the service who followed him to Sabel Security. The company owner, Pia Sabel, considers him the brother she never had, but their relationship is strained

6. Food – In an alternate universe, Jacob would have gone to cooking school and become a chef. He still loves to cook and eat what he cooks, favoring James Beard Foundation recipes.

7. Movies – He doesn’t have good luck with movies. Last time he went, a bomb went off. He tries to spare the general public from the assassins who track him down.

8. Books – He is a big fan of Seeley James, keeping a novel on his nightstand in case he can’t get to sleep. A Seeley James novel makes a guest appearance in every book.

9. Car – Jacob had a VW Jetta, but it was destroyed by terrorists. Pia Sabel gave him a Ferrari, but it was destroyed by terrorists. In fact all of his cars have been blown up. He has given up and is currently without wheels and relies on his (understandably reluctant) friends to drive him around.

10. Music – Jacob plays the sax and loves Jazz.

Catch Up With Seeley James On:
SeeleyJames.com, Instagram,Twitter, Goodreads, BookBub, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

The man they called Ra stood on the Savannah’s main deck, staring hatred into the eyes of the general’s emissary. The smug bastard needed to learn a hard lesson about respect. Ra took several deep breaths, tamping down his growing agitation without betraying his emotions. The general had a good deal of money to spend. Ra held the emissary’s gaze as he cooled off. He said, “We’re talking about an auction for the most advanced weapon system the world has ever seen. An auction the general could easily win. What concerns could he possibly have?”

Ra resisted the urge to glance over the sea toward Monaco’s harbor. He was dying to see if his darling’s tender was on its way back from town, but he wouldn’t allow himself to be distracted.

“The general does not believe you have what you claim.” The emissary said in his heavily accented English. He gestured with his arms wide, encompassing Ra’s superyacht. “I do not see it here on your little skiff.”

Behind his left shoulder, the emissary’s sycophantic lieutenant made an insolent face to match his boss.

The dig was childish. Ra had the biggest yacht in Monaco, a present to himself after making billions in commodities. Too big to dock in the harbor. Sure, it was post-season, and the Numina would drop anchor due east of him in a few weeks. Until then, the Savannah reigned supreme. He felt like gutting the slimy emissary for his rudeness. Instead, he smoothed his Kiton sport coat and puffed up his thin frame.

“Don’t be a fool,” Ra sneered. “If I kept Alvaria onboard, sleezy generals from around the world would send commandos to take it from me. In case that’s what you’re thinking, rest assured, I have security. We call them ‘the dogs.’ You’ve met two of them.” He gestured to two bulky men in black suits standing close by. “Fido and Rover. Spot keeps watch with a rifle in case someone approaches uninvited. There are more. I have a whole kennel.”

Ra turned his back on his guests and checked the harbor. He couldn’t wait for his darling to return but he needed to conclude this delicate business before then. He didn’t want her to see the kind of men he dealt with. The emissary wore a ludicrous uniform without insignia yet festooned with medals. His black hair was greased straight back with what might’ve been motor oil. The lieutenant dressed and groomed himself to match. The very definition of a toady.

“The general does not believe the system can do what you claim,” the emissary said.

“Oh, my misguided friend. Alvaria is the stuff of autocrats’ dreams.” Ra laid his hands on the railing, keeping his focus out to sea. “Imagine what it can do. At the push of a button, a hundred drones leap into the air, locate their target, and annihilate whoever you choose. Each drone on a single-purpose mission, never stopping until one of them achieves the objective.” He straightened up and turned to face the emissary. “No more political rivals. No more annoying reporters asking inconvenient questions. No more adversaries across your western border. Everyone doing as they’re told, all under the general’s control. As it should be. It’s science fiction—and it’s here today. If your general doesn’t want to bid on it, he won’t get to see the show we have scheduled.”

“The general is skeptical you can obtain this system.” The emissary crossed his arms and widened his stance. “The Americans have impenetrable security.”

“I stand on my reputation. Many times your poor general has failed to pay me in a timely manner, yet I have never failed to deliver what he needs. From rocket launchers to automatic rifles, they arrived on time and under budget. He would still be a lieutenant were it not for me making good on my promises. He knows damn well my word is gold. My plan has been in the works for years. I have all the right people in all the right places. Alvaria will fall into my hands at exactly the right moment. If he does not believe me, he won’t see the demonstration.” Ra paused before making a sympathetic face. “Until his rival uses it to target him.”

To his credit, the emissary didn’t flinch.

“Think about this,” Ra said. “If Iran acquires Alvaria, they could destroy the ruling classes of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in an afternoon. The next morning, they could annihilate Iraq’s parliament. Then, they invade. The price of oil skyrockets because they would control 24% of the world’s production. Sanctions are lifted under threat of an oil embargo. And just like that, the Persian Empire is reborn.”

The emissary thought while he took a long, deep breath. He pressed a finger to his lips and looked at the deck. After a long moment, he lifted his finger and shook it at Ra. “The general does not like the glimpses of the future you have illuminated. He does not want to participate in your auction. Instead of bidding for it, he will report you to the Americans. That way, no one will have this system.” He paused and smiled. “There will be no resurgent Persian Empire.”

Ra flicked a quick glance at Fido, who sprang into action. To the emissary, Ra said, “I am most disappointed to hear you say that. On a different subject, do you recall meeting my man Bonham in a café last month? Bonham is my second-in-command. He offered you money to turn against the general. Ah, I see from your surprise that you do recall the encounter vividly. Well, sport, the problem for you is that when you turned him down, your lieutenant did not.”

As the emissary’s surprise turned to shock, his gaze swiveled to his lieutenant. At that moment, Fido knelt at the emissary’s feet and clamped leg irons on his ankles. In disbelief, the emissary looked down at his shackles, then followed the attached chain to find Rover standing at the railing, holding a very large, very heavy stone. “Do you think you can scare—”

“You’ve been paid,” Ra said to the emissary’s lieutenant. He held out an old, razor-sharp dagger. “Slit his throat.”

The lieutenant stared at Ra in disbelief. “Now?”

“Yes, now. Or die with him. Your choice. Ah. You’ve seen the light. Good man. Right here, above the collar. Stand behind him so you don’t get blood on yourself.”

As the young man weighed the knife in his hand and moved behind his former boss, Ra took out his phone, set it to video, and pressed record. The knife slashed through the stunned and wordless emissary’s neck. Blood sprayed forward. Rover dropped the rock overboard. The chain’s slack disappeared and yanked the emissary’s body with it, over the railing and into the deep.

The young man looked up at Ra, who kept the video rolling. The psychological weight of his first murder began to contort the young lieutenant’s expression. As he pondered his rapidly changing allegiances, he looked down to find Rover placing leg irons on his ankles. Behind him, Fido stood at the railing with another rock. He looked back at Ra and squeaked, “Why? I did what—”

“I think it’s obvious, isn’t it?” Ra asked. “You can’t be trusted.”

Over his shoulder he saw the tender bearing his darling returning from shore. She would be onboard in five minutes. No time for long goodbyes.

He turned back to face the lieutenant as Rover slit the young man’s throat. “There are four more of your kind in the general’s private guard. He’ll be dead by morning, so you’ll be in good company.”

The stone dropped. The chain tightened. The lieutenant’s body flew over the railing into the deep.

Ra looked at the pool of blood covering the deck. He snapped his fingers. A steward appeared. “You see this ugly mess? Scrub it clean.”

***

Excerpt from Death and Betrayal by Seeley James. Copyright 2020 by Seeley James. Reproduced with permission from Machined Media. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Feb 202020
 

The Vampire Next Door

The True Story of the Vampire Rapist

by JT Hunter

on Tour February 1-29, 2020

Synopsis:

The Vampire Next Door: The True Story of the Vampire Rapist by JT Hunter

While he stalked the streets hunting his unsuspecting victims, the residents of a quiet Florida town slept soundly, oblivious to the dark creature in their midst, unaware of the vampire next door.

John Crutchley seemed to be living the American Dream. Good-looking and blessed with a genius level IQ, he had a prestigious, white-collar job at a prominent government defense contractor, where he held top secret security clearance and handled projects for NASA and the Pentagon. To all outward appearances, he was a hard-working, successful family man with a lavish new house, a devoted wife, and a healthy young son.

But he concealed a hidden side of his personality, a dark secret tied to a hunger for blood and the overriding need to kill. As one of the most prolific serial killers in American history, Crutchley committed at least twelve murders, and possibly nearly three dozen. His IQ eclipsed that of Ted Bundy, and his body count may have as well.

Book Details:

Genre: True Crime
Published by: RJ Parker Publishing
Publication Date: October 11th 2014
Number of Pages: 365
ISBN: 1500909491 (ISBN13: 9781500909499)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 2: You were a vampire…

Nineteen-year-old Christina Almah was still a virgin, and a bit naïve when it came to matters of sex, but like most teenaged girls on the verge of womanhood, she enjoyed receiving attention from good-looking, romantically inclined men. Yet, even she was surprised when, after a handsome, slightly older man took an interest in her, she found herself traveling all the way across the country to see him again.

Christina first met twenty-two-year-old Carl Von Bane several months earlier while he was visiting a friend near her hometown of Westminster, California. She immediately noticed him when he walked into the Drug Emporium where she had been working for the past year as a clerk, and they had quickly hit it off. His rugged, bad-boy looks and confident disposition combined to render her fully smitten. But the budding romance had barely begun before “Von” returned home to Florida. Their brief time together had passed much too quickly for the love-struck Miss Almah.

Since Von’s departure, they had continued their blossoming relationship by telephone racking up steep long distance bills. All the while, Christina had meticulously saved her meager Drug Emporium pay so that she could afford to purchase a plane ticket to visit him. When Von had called her a few weeks ago, Christina hinted at wanting to see him again by casually mentioning that she had some vacation time that needed to be used. When he suggested that she catch a flight to Florida to visit him, she had immediately agreed. After all, this was not some fly by night infatuation. She thought that she might be in love.

Christina had been counting the days until this trip—a weeklong vacation certain to be a memorable one if for no other reason than the fact that it would be the first time she had ever traveled alone. She booked a direct flight on Eastern Airlines from Los Angeles to Orlando International Airport, and Von had picked her up there nearly a week ago. Since then, she had been staying with Von in his mother’s mobile home at Lot 12 of the Enchanted Lakes Mobile Home Park on Malabar Road, near the eastern edge of the City of Palm Bay in southern Brevard County.

Named for the lush palm trees that lined the bay at the mouth of Turkey Creek, the nearly 100-square-mile Palm Bay had experienced a period of rapid growth in recent years fueled by an influx of retirees, northern transplants, and space industry workers. As part of the “Space Coast,” Palm Bay benefited from its proximity to Cape Canaveral, home to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space shuttle program. To the west of Palm Bay, just past Interstate 95, a vast expanse of swamps and marsh grass stretched beyond the horizon, home to an endless assortment of flora and fauna. Under the blinding gaze of the eternal Florida sun, cold-blooded creatures swam silent and unseen as they had for ages past, ancient predators stalking their unsuspecting prey.

Immediately to the east of Palm Bay sits the Town of Malabar, a small, quiet community only thirteen square miles in size. Its eastern edge meets the Intracoastal Waterway in a subtropical paradise of palm trees, sailboats, and spectacular sunsets. The area’s abundant seafood, perennial sunshine, and constant sea breeze reminded Christina of her favorite parts of California. That familiarity was reassuring. It felt comfortable. She felt safe.

A petite girl standing about five feet, four inches tall and weighing a little less than 110 pounds, Christina was not a beauty queen, but she was not unattractive either. Indeed, her green eyes and brown hair combined in an inviting way that most men found sensual and appealing, and she had enjoyed her fair share of suitors. Although she had shared a few intimate moments with boys in high school, she had never found one with whom she felt comfortable enough to sacrifice her virtue. Still sexually inexperienced, she had the classic Libra traits of compassion, innate gentleness, and a genuine caring for others, traits that were sometimes misconstrued by men. Still, it never dawned on her that Von’s testosterone-driven brain would expect something more than a kiss hello, or that he would interpret her willingness to fly across the country to visit him as a green light for sleeping together. Von had tried to take that next step during her first night in Florida, and when she told him that she was not ready, he had reluctantly played the part of the understanding boyfriend, but he could not wholly hide his irritation and mounting frustration.

Von worked at Gator Chrysler in nearby Melbourne, and he had to leave Christina alone for much of the day. That had been the routine for most of the week, and the excitement of staying with someone in another state had long-since faded away. On this particular morning, she passed some time by listening to a worn down cassette tape of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” album, popping it into the cherry red Sony Walkman that Von had given her. She played several songs, rewound the tape, and played them again, but after a while she tired of listening to the provocative singer purr about being “touched for the very first time.” She tried watching television after that, but quickly lost interest in the mindless game shows and melodramatic soap operas that dominated the channels. Growing bored, she decided to walk to Melbourne a few miles away to visit several friends that she had met through Von. She would be flying back to California the next morning and wanted to say her good-byes and make the most of her final day of vacation. Wearing blue jeans, sandals, and a black t-shirt with a Harley-Davidson insignia splashed across the front, she left the trailer shorty after 1:00 p.m. It was the twenty-first day of November, 1985.

As she walked out of the entrance of the mobile home park, a light rain began to fall. She could see dark clouds gathering in the distance and a westerly wind promised that they would soon be present. Somewhere beyond the visible horizon, thunder rumbled ominous and angry, its source hidden behind an approaching wall of grey and black clouds.

Christina turned left and started walking faster as the rain increased, heading east on Malabar Road toward U.S. 1 and the Intracoastal. She planned to stop at the Jiffy Mart at the corner of Malabar Road and U.S. 1 to buy a pack of cigarettes before walking north into Melbourne. She had not gone far when a small, light-colored car pulled up beside her.

Behind the wheel of the two-door automobile sat a clean-shaven man wearing a stylish, navy-blue sports coat, a black-and-white striped tie, and a nice pair of dress slacks, not the cheap K-Mart kind, but the higher quality cloth and cut of a more fashionable men’s store. The man looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties. He had loafer style shoes, but he was not wearing them while he drove. Christine thought it slightly odd that the well-dressed man’s bare foot operated the gas and brake pedals, but she gave it no more than a fleeting thought. She had certainly seen much stranger things during her time in Florida. The man’s eyes were concealed behind darkly tinted sunglasses and his face was framed by a mane of medium-length, dirty blonde hair. He had a thin build, and though slightly pale in complexion, his handsome facial features held an undeniable allure. She could not help feeling an attraction to him.

Flashing a broad, inviting smile, he leaned over, rolled down the passenger door window, and greeted her in a friendly, reassuring voice.

“It’s a bit wet today for a walk, isn’t it?” he asked with a wry, disarming smile. “Can I give you a lift?”

Although Christina was initially wary of his invitation, he looked harmless enough and it was the middle of the day in broad daylight in a public place, so she did not wait long before responding.

“Well,” she said, deliberately drawing out her reply as she decided how much to trust the seemingly friendly stranger. “I’m on my way to Melbourne to meet some friends. Are you going anywhere near there?”

“Sure, I have to go that way to get to my office. I just need to stop by my house real quick to pick up a notebook for work, but it’ll only take a minute or two. Go ahead and hop in.”

She hesitated for just a moment, studied her Good Samaritan one last time, and then grabbed the passenger side door handle of the car. As she opened the door, she heard Sting’s new song, “Russians,” playing on the car’s radio.

The country had long since fallen into the depths of the Cold War, and the perpetual threat of nuclear holocaust loomed in the back of most people’s minds like some amorphous boogieman lurking in the shadows. As Christine pulled the door closed, Sting’s voice flowed out of the car’s speakers, echoing what seemed to be the universal mood in America and Western Europe, the growing fear of a nuclear attack by the Russian-controlled Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The song sought to appeal to the good in what President Reagan dubbed the “Evil Empire,” expressing a desperate hope that the Russian leaders loved their children enough to avoid the horror of a nuclear holocaust.

Suffering from the same state of uneasiness expressed in the song, Christina found herself captivated by the sense of calm that seemed to radiate from the man behind the wheel. They drove for a little while making small talk. While they chatted, she caught a glimpse of the man’s eyes behind his sunglasses. Their azure shade of blue added to the aura of assuredness he projected, and it seemed to Christina that the man’s eyes had the power to peer into her very soul, not in any unsettling way, but in an understanding, comforting manner that disarmed her naturally cautious disposition. He seemed genuinely interested in learning about her, and she was impressed with how articulately he expressed himself. He was charming, witty, and exuded self-confidence, and Christine felt relieved that he seemed to be normal. Some of Von’s friends that she had met were more than a little on the odd side.

After about five minutes, the man turned his car onto a bumpy, dirt road, and then continued on for a few minutes more before exiting onto a gravel driveway obscured by a tall row of hedges. Planted across the inner edge of the yard, the hedges had grown high enough to block a clear view of whatever was behind them. As the car continued down the driveway, a well-kept lawn, dotted sporadically with pine and oak trees, came into view. At the far end of the lawn stood a redbrick, Colonial style house with four white columns framing a large front door painted the same shade of white as the columns. The gravel driveway ended at a double-length carport on the left side of the house. The man pulled into the carport and parked. Two motorcycles stood at the opposite end of the parking area.

“I’ll be right back,” the man told her as he took the key out of the ignition and slipped on his shoes.

He stepped out of the car and walked to the side door of the house, where he paused and glanced back at her.

“Hey, you want to come inside for a drink?”

She smiled politely.

“Oh, no thanks, my friends are expecting me and I don’t want them to worry.”

“Suit yourself,” he said, before unlocking the door and disappearing into the building.

After a few minutes, the man emerged and announced with an embarrassed laugh that the notebook was not in the house after all.

“It must be in the back of the car,” he said, an amused smile spreading across his face as if he had just remembered an irresistibly funny joke.

He walked to the passenger side of the car and opened the door, flashing her the same smug alligator smile. He crawled into the back seat and began looking around, grinning all the while.

Suddenly, the back of Christina’s seat shot forward, slamming her violently against the dashboard. Stunned by the force of the impact and shocked by the unexpected attack, she was barely able to register the sound of something rustling behind her.

Then something brushed against her forehead. Before she could react, her neck jerked back painfully, and she began to choke. Frantically, she reached for her purse, attempting to grab something – anything – to try to defend herself. Her fingers brushed against the top of a can of OFF insect repellant. Desperate, she thought that if she could spray her attacker in his eyes, she might be able to blind him long enough to get away.

But as her fingers closed around the spray can, the man’s voice, angry and powerful, startled her into submission.

Stop it or I’ll kill you!”

As her initial impulse of self-defense gave way to a paralyzing feeling of despair, her hand retreated out of her purse and her arm fell numbly to her side.

Then the rope tightened and everything went black.

***

Excerpt from The Vampire Next Door: The True Story of the Vampire Rapist by JT Hunter. Copyright 2014 by JT Hunter. Reproduced with permission from JT Hunter. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

J.T. Hunter

J.T. Hunter is an attorney with over fourteen years of experience practicing law, including criminal law and appeals, and he has significant training in criminal investigation techniques. He is also a college professor in Florida where his teaching interests focus on the intersection of criminal psychology, law, and literature.

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Feb 182020
 

 

 

Dangerous Ground

by Susan Hunter

on Tour February 17, 2020 to March 20, 2020

Synopsis:

Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter

A Murder Among Friends …

Everyone is anxious to connect with actor Ryan Malloy when he returns to town for his 15-year high school reunion. Everyone except crime writer Leah Nash. She doesn’t have many fond memories of Himmel High’s golden boy. But it turns out she’s not the only one who isn’t a fan. Before the weekend is over, Ryan Malloy is murdered.

The hard-headed but soft-hearted Leah is unwillingly drawn into investigating his death by the pleading of Ryan’s terminally ill mother. She soon discovers that Ryan’s self-absorbed journey through life trampled on the dreams of a number of people. His old girlfriend, his best friend, his own brother, a local businessman—there’s no shortage of suspects—or secrets. But the solution eludes Leah, until the past and the present collide in a dangerous confrontation that threatens one life and ends another.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Himmel River Press
Publication Date: November 19, 2019
Number of Pages: 364
ISBN: 1698530994 (9781698530994)
Series: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 6
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

I parked my bike just inside the cemetery gates. It took only a few steps down the tree-lined path for the heat and humidity of a mid-summer Wisconsin day to slide away into the cool dark shade. Overhead, the soft murmur of thousands of leaves stirring in the light breeze accompanied me as I walked slowly toward my sister’s grave. Both of my sisters are buried in the cemetery just a few miles outside of Himmel, Wisconsin. My father is as well. But today it was Annie I’d come to visit.

My heart beat a little faster as I neared the gravesite. I’m not afraid of the dead. It’s the memories they leave behind that haunt me. Quiet Annie with her soft voice and big blue eyes, too shy to join the other laughing, shouting kindergarteners at recess—but the first to run over to comfort a little boy struggling not to cry on the first day. Imaginative Annie, commandeering our wide front porch as a sailing ship for her and her cat, Mr. Peoples, to travel around the world. Kind-hearted Annie, sharing her Halloween candy with me when I’m forced to surrender my own treats as penalty for talking back. Sweet, brave, compassionate, eight-year-old Annie, who ran into a burning house to save Mr. Peoples twenty-two years ago, and never came back.

Over all the years since, people—my mother, my aunt, my therapist (yes, I went that route once), my best friend—have reassured me that her death wasn’t my fault, that I was just a child. But, I was older. I should have been watching over her. I should have seen her slipping back to the house after we’d all escaped. In my deep heart’s core, I can’t ever forget that.

Now and then, and always on her birthday, I go to the cemetery to see her. I know that she isn’t really there. But her grave is an anchoring spot for me. I catch her up on the good, the bad, and the ugly happenings in my life. She knows what hurts me, and she knows what frightens me—secrets I don’t share with anyone else. I tell her what our mother is up to, and how others she knew in life are doing. I say all the things to her that I would if she were still here. I try to make up for the fact that I’m alive, and she isn’t. But, of course, I never can.

When I’m talking to her at the cemetery, it feels as though she can really hear me. And I know that she answers. Not right there, at the grave, but later, in unexpected ways. Sometimes, I hear Annie speak to me through a chance remark a stranger makes, or a phrase that leaps out at me from a book, or a sudden flash of insight on a problem I’m wrestling with. I don’t share that belief with very many people. If I did, I might be forced to resign my membership in the Doubting Thomas Society, to which all good journalists should belong. But I can’t accept that those occurrences are just coincidental. I really can’t.

So, on the anniversary of her birth, once again I sat down on the bench in front of her grave and told her how sorry I was that she had died. That I hadn’t saved her. That I still missed her. And then I told her what was really going on in the seemingly successful life of Leah Nash, former small-town reporter, current true crime author, and soon-to-be business failure.

***

When I say I talk to Annie, I mean that literally. I have a one-sided, out-loud conversation with her, though only when I’m sure I’m alone. Some people already think I’m crazy. No need to give them additional proof. On this particular day, I had a serious problem weighing on my mind.

Not long before, I had made what seemed, at the time, like a brilliant decision. The Himmel Times Weekly, the paper where I’d started out in journalism, and where I’d found a home again after a self-inflicted career injury, was closing. I decided to buy it. I asked a wealthy, community-minded, local attorney, Miller Caldwell, to invest with me. And then I asked a lot of other people—reporters, an editor, stringers, office and sales staff—to work very hard, for very little money, in the hope that together we could keep the Himmel Times alive.

It was exhilarating at first. But it had become an increasing source of anxiety for me. Just as we were getting off the ground, Grantland County Online, a digital-only news site (and I use the term “news” loosely), had gotten a major infusion of capital and a new publisher. Now GO News, as it’s more commonly known, was kicking our butt.

“The scariest thing, Annie,” I said, “is that we’re barely keeping our heads above water, while GO News keeps getting bigger. They don’t have the expenses we do—no print edition, no delivery costs, and they don’t spend a lot of staff time fact-checking. Plus, they started Tea to GO. Did you know that the cool kids say, ‘spill the tea,’ when they mean ‘what’s the gossip?’

Tea to GO is full of ‘What married school official was seen in Milwaukee with a very attractive staff member last Thursday night? Did we say late, last Thursday night?’ That kind of garbage. It’s almost all blind items—the better to avoid lawsuits, my dear. But people are eating it up. Every time you go into the Elite Café, someone is trying to figure out who the latest gossip is about.”

I paused for a bit of a wallow in self-pity. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried to shake things up at the Times, to get us moving ahead, but so far nothing I’d done had made much difference.

“We have a good team. Miguel is much happier since he gave up the managing editor job. He really didn’t like bossing people. And Maggie McConnell is doing great in that spot. She’s got the instincts, the skills, and forty-five years in the news business behind her. If she could only spin straw out of gold, she’d be perfect. But since she can’t, we’re making do with a budget so lean it might as well be made out of turkey burger.

“I gave Allie Ross—you remember, I told you about her. She’s the high school kid we’ve been using as a stringer. Anyway, I gave her a part-time job for the summer in the office. She’s doing the routine stuff, obits and inside pages copy—weddings, anniversaries, club news. She’s got promise, but she’s only fifteen. Troy, the other reporter besides Miguel, is a little bit of a suck-up—and his news judgment isn’t quite there yet. Still, he’s a hard worker. The stringers are a pretty mixed bag.

“Now, here’s a twist I bet you didn’t see coming. I hired Mom to take April Nelson’s place as office manager. I know, I know, it’s a dicey move. But she’s smart, and efficient, and she gets the job done. Plus, she comes cheap. It’s been a little challenging, I admit. Remember when I used to get mad at her and say, ‘You’re not the boss of me!’ and she’d send me to my room?

“Well, now I’m the boss of her, only I don’t get to send her to her room. Yes, OK, I’m not supposed to be doing the day-to-day. That’s Maggie’s job. I understand that. But I can’t just hide away in my office and write my next book if the paper is falling apart two floors below me, can I?

“Everybody took a leap of faith when we reopened the Times, and everyone is putting everything they have into it. I can’t let them down. I have to find a way to keep us afloat. I just didn’t know it would be so hard, Annie.”

I paused for a breath before I wrapped things up.

“And then there’s Gabe. I don’t know. I like him as well—no, probably better than—anyone I’ve gone out with in a long time. He makes me laugh, and he’s really smart. And he likes strong women who speak their minds. In my experience, a lot of men don’t. So what’s the problem, right? Well, it’s not exactly a problem. It’s more that I’m afraid a problem might be coming. Lately, it feels like he’s pushing me a little, like for a commitment or something. Can’t we just enjoy each other? Can’t we just be without getting all serious, and defining things, and making plans? I don’t want to change things. That’s when things go bad, when you try to change them.”

I slumped back against the bench with a sigh. Usually, when I lay everything out to Annie, it makes the issues seem a little more manageable. This time it all still felt overwhelming.

Then, a voice spoke.

***

Fortunately for my mental health, it wasn’t Annie’s. I turned and looked behind me.

“Coop! How long have you been standing there?” I asked, trying to remember exactly what I’d said out loud. It’s not that Coop and I have major secrets. He’s my best friend, after all. Still, I don’t tell him everything I tell Annie.

“Long enough,” he said with a grin that didn’t offer me much comfort. I tried to move the conversation away from my chat with Annie, particularly the Gabe part.

“What are you doing here?”

“Your mom said you were here. I called your cell, but it didn’t go through.”

“Yeah. It’s a dead zone—pun totally intended—in the cemetery, except for the hill. What did you want?”

“Nothing. I brought something for Annie.”

I looked down at his right hand and saw that he carried a small pot of pink flowers. Pink was Annie’s favorite color. Tears sprang to my eyes. I quickly blinked them away.

“That’s so nice. Why?”

He shrugged. “I know what today is.”

I’m all about keeping my tough outer shell polished, but I was so touched, I couldn’t keep up the facade. “You’re a pretty great friend, you know that?”

He smiled, but he looked embarrassed, and tried to cover it by moving to put the flowers next to Annie’s headstone.

“Did you really come just to put flowers on Annie’s grave?”

“No, not just for Annie. I took some to Rebecca, too.” He was kneeling, positioning the flowers, with his back to me. I couldn’t see his expression.

“Oh.”

Rebecca had been Coop’s wife and my nemesis until she was killed last year. I wasn’t happy that Coop had lost someone he loved, but I couldn’t pretend I was sorry she was gone. She’d done everything she could to break up our twenty-year friendship and came close to succeeding. I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her. So, I employed the Thumper rule, and didn’t say anything.

Coop apparently didn’t want to get into the subject of Rebecca either, because as he stood and turned to me, he said, “I’ll walk out with you. I’ve got my truck. We can throw your bike in the back and you can ride home with me.”

“Yes, please. I didn’t realize it was so hot. I just about sweated to death pedaling out here.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” he said, taking in my damp, bedraggled hair, slipping from its hair clip, and the beads of moisture coalescing into a river of sweat running down the side of my forehead. “You kind of look like you just took a shower.” He sniffed the air, “Except you don’t have that shower-fresh scent.”

“Shut up,” I said. “I’m a head-sweater from way back. Deal with it.” I smiled though, because there’s something very nice and very easy being with a person who really doesn’t care how you look—or in the present situation—smell.

We walked together in companionable silence, until I’d decided he hadn’t heard any of my one-sided conversation with Annie. That dream died in the next minute.

“So, what’s going on with you and Gabe? He’s a nice guy, Leah. You’re not getting ready to toss him overboard, too, are you?”

“No. Why would you say that? And what do you mean by ‘too’?”

“You really want to go there?” He cocked an eyebrow. It’s a not very funny running joke between Coop and my mother that I always find a reason to cut my romances short.

“No, I don’t. I thought you didn’t believe in illegal surveillance, and what do you call lurking around cemeteries where people are having a private conversation? It’s nothing. Really.”

He looked at me for a second, but all he said was, “OK.”

Our conversation was cut off as a tall woman in her fifties, her hair pulled back and hanging in a long, gray braid down her back, appeared and abruptly crossed the path in front of us.

“Hello, Marcy,” I said.

She looked up as though surprised we were there.

“Leah. Coop.” She nodded but didn’t stop to talk. We knew where she was going. To the top of the hill on which sat a small granite building that resembled an ancient Greek temple. The family mausoleum held Marcy’s grandparents, her own mother, and Marcy’s baby daughter, Robin. One day, it would hold Marcy, too.

We watched in silence as she reached the building, pulled a key out of her pocket, unlocked the door, and slipped inside, like a ghost gliding through a wall. It had been sixteen years since Marcy White’s baby had died, and she still came every week. People said she brought a different book each time and read it to Robin. They said it like it was something weird, or even crazy. Not me, though. I understood why she did it.

“You know what, Coop?” I asked, as we continued on down the path.

“What?”

“I’m calling bullshit on death.”

***

Excerpt from Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter. Copyright 2019 by Susan Hunter. Reproduced with permission from Susan Hunter. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Susan Hunter

Susan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting.

Susan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers, and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words.

During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, looking for clues, stopping for a meal at the Elite Cafe, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain’s Bar and Grill.

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