Apr 222019
 

The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan

The Company Files: 2.

The Naming Game

by Gabriel Valjan

on Tour April 22 – June 22, 2019

The Company Files 2 The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan

Synopsis:

Whether it’s Hollywood or DC, life and death, success or failure hinge on saying a name.

The right name.

When Charlie Loew is found murdered in a seedy flophouse with a cryptic list inside the dead script-fixer’s handkerchief, Jack Marshall sends Walker undercover as a screenwriter at a major studio and Leslie as a secretary to Dr. Phillip Ernest, shrink to the stars. J. Edgar Hoover has his own list. Blacklisted writers and studio politics. Ruthless gangsters and Chief Parker’s LAPD. Paranoia, suspicions, and divided loyalties begin to blur when the House Un-American Activities Committee insists that everyone play the naming game.

Praise for The Naming Game:

“With crackling dialogue and a page turning plot shot-through with authentic period detail, Gabriel Valjan pulls the reader into the hidden world of the 1950’s Hollywood studio scene, involving murder, McCarthyism and mayhem.”
~ James L’Etoile, author of At What Cost and Bury the Past

“Terrific historical noir as Gabriel Valjan takes us on a trip through post-war Hollywood involving scandal, McCarthyism, blacklisting, J. Edgar Hoover and, of course, murder. Compelling story, compelling characters – and all the famous name dropping is great fun. Highly recommended!”
~ R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson Mystery Series

“Brilliantly written, Gabriel Valjan’s The Naming Game whisks the reader back in time to postwar Los Angeles. Spies, Communism, and Hollywood converge in a first-rate thriller.”
~ Bruce Robert Coffin, Agatha Award nominated author of Beyond the Truth

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction
Published by: Winter Goose Publishing
Publication Date: May 4, 2019
Number of Pages: 210
ISBN: 978-1-941058-86-2
Series: The Company Files: 2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Gabriel Valjan

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan is the author of two series, The Roma Series and The Company Files, available from Winter Goose Publishing. His short stories have appeared in Level Best anthologies and other publications. Twice shortlisted for the Fish Prize in Ireland, once for the Bridport Prize in England, and an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest, he is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime National, a local member of Sisters in Crime New England, and an attendee of Bouchercon, Crime Bake, and Malice Domestic conferences.

Q&A with Gabriel Valjan

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads
Reading and Writing:

What inspired you to write this book?

Griffin Fariello’s Red Scare inspired me. For readers unfamiliar with the book, which appeared in 1995 and is now available in digital format, Fariello is a journalist who compiled interviews with victims and those who abetted McCarthy’s drive to expose Communists in every stratum of American life. You become cognizant of contradictions, the contagious paranoia, and the frenzy that McCarthy stirred up without ever providing one shred of proof. With only innuendo and the flimsiest of evidence, he hounded people to ruin and, in some cases, early death. Throughout all this surrealism, I was already aware of how government and corporations used Hollywood to shape public thought prior to McCarthy. I became intrigued as to how Hollywood studios, after he’d appeared on the scene, found creative ways to get films written and produced, when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) had blacklisted writers. Note: HUAC existed before (founded in 1938) Senator McCarthy and it did not officially disband until 1975. It seems that money, regardless of circumstances and politics, had to be made, a profit turned.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Flow. When you write historical fiction, a writer wants to avoid information dumps or anything that impedes the flow of the story. Smart editing trims the unnecessary or identifies areas where more details are needed. As with anything conjuring up the past, an author doesn’t want their dialogue to sound as if it came from a film noir or a Shakespearean play. Turns of phrase like fashion come and go, but human emotions and concerns remain universal. We love. We hate. We fear what we don’t know or understand. We have hindsight to judge the past, to slap our foreheads with amazement that anyone could believe such-and-such;
but to those people, it was as real as the sky is blue. A writer is challenged to make all that real to the reader. The Spanish Flu and polio once terrified people, just like AIDS and Ebola do today. Communism was yesterday’s terrorism. Technology has improved life, made things once thought impossible, but fundamental conflicts between people and nations have not changed; only names and places.

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

There is no end to the number of resources on Golden Hollywood or Los Angeles of yesteryear. I didn’t want to recycle familiar tropes (the inherent danger of Raymond Chandler as an inspiration). I dug around for bits and pieces that I thought were obscure to readers. Everyone who has read enough stories about LA in the Forties and Fifties knows of Musso and Frank, or the Trocadero. In The Naming Game, I went farther afield. I mentioned a nightclub called Slapsie Maxie, which went by another name in 1951, the year of my story. People then still referred to it as Slapsie, but for accuracy I gave the new name after the establishment changed hands. Other examples: I mention a property once owned by Charlie Chaplin. Because the story was set in 1951, I consulted maps to make sure I had the names of streets and highways right, especially for the artist colony called Malibu. I sought out photographs of the Cocoanut Grove, cocktail menus and researched clothing and cars and the cost of things, so readers could ‘feel’ the snapshot of time. Research conveys fidelity to the era, creditability to the story for the knowledgeable reader, and integrity on the writer.

How did you come up with the title?

Not sure. I certainly wanted an enticing title, and to have this novel evoke the McCarthy era. I picked ‘naming game’ because, in my mind, it denoted a childhood game reminiscent of ‘I Spy.’ The difference, of course, is I’m pointing towards real history and the game resulted in disastrous consequences.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

My routine is not terribly exciting. Writing involves sitting in a chair with the hands and mind engaged in translating what’s inside your head onto the screen. Other than that, I write in the morning after exercise. I don’t outline, though I may jot down a word or a phrase as a reminder. When I factor in research, I’ll have notes nearby.

Tell us why we should read your book?

With The Company Files, I introduce readers to forgotten chapters of American history. When readers think of the CIA (The Company is a euphemism for the agency), they think and expect high-tech thrillers. James Bond. The reality is far more prosaic. The intelligence community then was inept, made terrible decisions and mistakes, and was easily manipulated by foreign enemies and domestic politicians. This mix of history and fiction makes for compelling reading.

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

The Company Files: 3. Diminished Fifth is written and ready for editing. I’m working on a third book in another series. A little superstitious about providing too much detail, but it involves Shanghai in the Thirties, the European elites of that society and various crimes that require solving.

Fun Questions:

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

The writer in me would like to see unknowns play the roles, but I think there are numerous contemporary actors who have the talent to take viewers back to an earlier era. I can see Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Walker. Donnie Wahlberg as Whittaker from the first book. Michael Shannon as Jack. Gretchen Mol as Vera. Keri Russell or Jennifer Connelly as Leslie.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Long walks, working out, and drinking coffee. I’m always on the lookout for excellent movies or a series. I don’t care if they are vintage or contemporary. I love a good story, excellent writing and dialogue at work.

Favorite foods?

I’m a bit of a foodie, so I’m an adventuresome eater. I have a short list of what I won’t eat, otherwise I’m game and I enjoy food paired with wines because you can learn so much about culture, geography, and history from a meal.

Catch Up With Gabriel On:
gabrielvaljan.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

At seven minutes past the hour while reviewing the classified documents at his desk, one of the two colored phones, the beige one, rang. He placed the receiver next to his ear, closed the folder, and waited for the caller’s voice to speak first.

“Is this Jack Marshall?”

“It is.”

“This is William Parker. Is the line secure?”

“It is,” Jack replied, his hand opening a desk cabinet and flipping the ON switch to start recording the conversation.

“I don’t know you Mr. Marshall and I presume you don’t know me.”

A pause.

“I know of you, Chief Parker.”

“Were you expecting my call?”

“No and it doesn’t matter.” Jack lied.

“Fact of the matter, Mr. Marshall, is an individual, whom I need not name, has suggested I contact you about a sensitive matter. He said matter of security so I listened.”

“Of course. I’m listening.”

“I was instructed to give you an address and have my man at the scene allow you to do whatever it is that you need to do when you arrive there.”

“Pencil and paper are ready. The address, please.”

Jack wrote out the address; it was in town, low rent section with the usual rooming houses, cheap bars, about a fifteen-minute drive on Highway 1 without traffic.

“Ask for Detective Brown. You won’t miss him. Don’t like it that someone steps in and tells me how to mind my own city, but I have no choice in the matter.”

Jack ignored the man’s defensive tone. He knew Detective Brown was a dummy name, like Jones or Smith on a hotel ledger. Plain, unimaginative, but it would do. Most policemen, he conceded, were neither bright nor fully screwed into the socket. A chief was no different except he had more current in him. The chief of police who ruled Los Angeles by day with his cop-syndicate the way Mickey Cohen owned the night must’ve swallowed his pride when he dropped that nickel to make this call.

“Thank you, Chief Parker.”

Jack hung up and flipped the switch to OFF.

Whatever it was at the scene waiting for Jack was sufficient cause to pull back a man like Bill Parker and his boys for twelve hours. Whoever gave this order had enough juice to rein in the LAPD.

Jack took the folder he was reviewing and walked it across the room. He opened the folder once more and reread the phrases ‘malicious international spy’ and, in Ronald Reagan’s own choice of words, ‘Asia’s Mata Hari’, before closing the cover and placing it inside the safe. His review will have to wait. He put on his holster and grabbed a jacket.

Betty came out on the porch as he was putting the key into the car door.

“I won’t be long. Please kiss the children good night for me.”

“Can’t this wait, Jack? The children were expecting you to read to them tonight. Jack Junior set aside the book and you know Elizabeth will be crushed.”

“It can’t wait. I’m sorry. Tell them I’ll make it up to them.”

“You need to look them in the face when you tell them sorry.”

He opened the door as his decision. She understood she dealt him the low card. “Want something for the road?”

“No thanks. I’ll see you soon.”

He closed the door with finesse. He couldn’t help it if the children heard the car. He checked the mirror and saw her on the porch, still standing there, still disappointed and patient, as he drove off.

Detective Brown, sole man on the scene, walked him over to the body without introducing himself. Jack didn’t give his name.

At six-fifteen the vet renting a room down the hall discovered the body. Detective Brown said the veteran was probably a hired hound doing a bag job – break-ins, surveillance, and the like. Recent veterans made the best candidates for that kind of work for Hoover, Jack thought. Worked cheap and they went the extra mile without Hoover’s agents having to worry about technicalities like a citizen’s rights going to law.

“What makes you think he was hired out?” Jack asked.

Brown, a man of few words, handed Jack his notebook, flipped over to the open page he marked Witness Statement and said politely, “Please read it. Words and writing are from the witness himself.”

“The man was a no good ‘commonist’.”

“Nice spelling. A suspect?”

“No, sir. The coroner places the death around early afternoon, about 2ish. Our patriot was across the street drinking his lunch. I verified it.”

Jack viewed the body. The man was fully dressed wearing a light weave gabardine suit costing at least twenty-five. The hardly scuffed oxfords had to cost as much as the suit, and the shirt and tie, both silk, put the entire ensemble near a hundred. Hardly class consciousness for an alleged Communist, Jack thought.

The corpse lying on his side reminded Jack of the children sleeping, minus the red pool seeping into the rug under the right ear. The dead man wore a small sapphire ring on his small finger, left hand. No wedding band. Nice watch on the wrist, face turned in. An odd way to read time. Breast pocket contained a cigarette case with expensive cigarettes, Egyptian. Jack recognized the brand from his work in the Far East. Ten cents a cigarette is nice discretionary income. Wallet in other breast pocket held fifty dollars, various denominations. Ruled out robbery or staging it. Identification card said Charles Loew, Warner Brothers. Another card: Screen Writers Guild, signed by Mary McCall, Jr. President. Back of card presented a pencil scrawl.

“Find a lighter or book of matches?”

Detective Brown shook his head. Jack patted the breast pockets again and the man’s jacket’s side-pockets. Some loose change, but nothing else. The man was unarmed, except for a nice pen. Much as he disliked the idea Jack put his hands into the man’s front pockets. Nothing. He found a book of matches in the left rear pocket, black with gold telltale lettering, Trocadero on Sunset. Jack flipped the matchbook open and as he suspected, found a telephone number written in silver ink; different ink than the man’s own pen. Other back pocket contained a handkerchief square Jack found interesting, as did Detective Brown.

“What’s that?” he asked, head peering over for a better look.

“Not sure,” answered Jack, unfolding the several-times folded piece of paper hidden inside the hanky. The unfolded paper revealed a bunch of typewritten names that had bled out onto other parts of the paper. It must have been folded while the ink was still wet. It didn’t help someone spilt something on the paper. Smelled faintly of recent whiskey. Jack reviewed what he thought were names when he realized the letters were nonsense words.

“Might be a Commie membership list. Looks like code.” But Brown zipped it when Jack folded the paper back up and put it into his pocket.

“The paper and the matches stay with me. We clear?”

“Uh, yes sir. The Chief told me himself to do whatever you said and not ask questions.”

“Good. Other than the coroner – who else was here? Photographers, fingerprints?”

“Nobody else. Medical pronounced him dead, but nothing more. Chief had them called off to another scene – a multiple homicide, few blocks away. We’re short-staffed tonight. The Chief said he’d send Homicide after you leave. They’ll process the scene however you leave it. They won’t know about the matches or the paper. Chief’s orders.”

Jack checked his watch. Man down, found at six fifteen. Chief called a little after seven. He arrived not much later than seven forty. The busy bodies would get the stiff by eight or eight thirty, the latest. Perfectly reasonable Jack thought. He squatted down to see the man’s watch, noticing light bruising on the wrist and the throw rug bunched into a small hill near the man’s time hand. Intriguing.

“Thank you, Detective. I’ll be going now. If I speak to the chief I’ll let him know you’ve done your job to the letter.”

“You’re welcome. Night.”

Jack knew he and the chief would be speaking again.

Outside on the street, Jack pulled out his handkerchief and wiped both hands for any traces of dead man as he headed for the parked car. Compulsive habit. He pulled up the collar on his jacket. It was cold for late May.

The street sign said he was not far from Broadway. In this part of town thousands lived crowded in on themselves as lodgers in dilapidated Gothic mansions or residence hotels, working the downtown stores, factories, and offices, riding public transit and the other funicular railway in the area, Court Flight, a two-track railway climb towards Hill Street.

Los Angeles changed with the world. The war was over and there was a new war, possibly domestic, definitely foreign. Court Flight is gone, ceased operations. Its owner and his faithful cat had passed on. His good widow tried. In ’43 a careless brush fire destroyed the tracks and the Board of Public Utilities signed the death warrant; and now Jack was hearing whispers Mayor Bowron planned to revitalize the area International Style, which meant dotting the desert city with skyscrapers.

Jack opened the door and sat behind the wheel a moment. He took the family once to nearby Angels Flight. Junior wondered why there was no apostrophe on the sign. Betty tolerated the excursion, indifferent to Los Angeles because she preferred their home in DC. He released the clutch. Betty disliked LA because it changed too much without reason. She might have had a point. He shifted gear. Pueblo city would level whole blocks of thriving masses just to create a parking lot. He pulled the car from the curb.

***

Excerpt from The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2019 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

 

 

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 Gabriel Valjan. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on April 22, 2019 and runs through June 24, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Mar 212019
 

Out of the Darkness

by Darcia Helle

on Tour March 1-31, 2019

Synopsis:

Out of the Darkness by Darcia Helle

Gus wakes up in a dark void with no memory and no body. Screaming and cursing does him no good. He’s trapped, until he learns about one man who can help.

Joe Cavelli is a PI who hears ghosts, solves their murders, and sometimes fixes their personal problems. Now he finds himself pestered by an invisible, impatient, and brash amnesiac.

Solving cases for ghosts comes with a unique set of circumstances. This time, Joe can’t even claim to be investigating a murder, since Gus’s body is nowhere to be found. Together, Joe and Gus delve into Gus’s past, uncovering clues that lead to a startling conclusion.

Book Details:

Genre: Paranormal Suspense
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Number of Pages: 300
ASIN: B07KJGZY9F
Series: Joe Cavelli, Paranormal PI Book 2
Purchase Links: Amazon |Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

Joe put the few dishes in the dishwasher, made himself another cup of strong coffee, and said, “Okay, Gus. Let’s see if we can figure this out.”

He walked out of the kitchen, Gus’s voice trailing after him. “Where are we going?”

“My office.”

Joe stepped into the room that was the smaller of the two spare bedrooms. He crossed over to his desk, opened his laptop, and switched it on.

“This is your office?”

Joe sat in his padded leather chair. “My home office. I have another, professional place, with an assistant. No need to go there, though, particularly since she doesn’t know about—” He waved his hand in Gus’s general direction. “—you. This.”

“She doesn’t know you talk to ghosts, is what you’re saying?”

“Right.”

“Afraid she’d think you’re crazy?”

“No. It’s just not something I feel like sharing.”

“You banging her?”

“Jesus. No.”

“Huh. I thought all guys banged their secretaries.”

Joe heard the dry humor in Gus’s tone, though the statement still irritated him. “No, all guys don’t. And I said assistant, not secretary.”

“Same thing, isn’t it?”

“No. But it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m a one-woman man.”

Joe opened a browser page, then the Tampa Bay Times website. He typed ‘Angus Smith’ into the search bar and clicked the Enter key.

“What are you doing?”

Gus had a gruff way of asking a question that made it sound more like an accusation. One minute Joe felt bad for Gus, and the next he wanted to punch Gus in the face. If he could see Gus’s face.

If Gus even had a face. Did ghosts have faces, or were they just invisible blobs of energy? Joe was too tired to deal with this.

“I’m trying to find out how you died,” Joe said.

“Why?”

“I don’t know, Gus. Because it’s a place to start? Figure out how you died and maybe I’ll figure out why you’re stuck in the dark? Unless you have a better idea?”

A huff, then, “No. I got nothing.”

Gus kept silent while Joe scrolled down and clicked a link. Gus’s photo stared back at him from the screen. Seeing the person for the first time was always an odd experience. He couldn’t help but form a picture of each ghost in his mind, based solely on the voice and the little he knew about who he or she had been. Sometimes he was way off. Other times, like now, he was pretty close.

“That’s a crapass picture of me,” Gus said.

Joe studied the grainy image accompanying the article. Buzzcut. Deep brown eyes. Tattoo snaking down the side of his neck, disappearing into his shirt. He seemed to be snarling at the camera. The article put him at 6’3”, 230 pounds, and Joe could see it was all muscle.

He didn’t address the quality of the photo, ignoring Gus while he read through the article. He double-checked the date on the article, then said, “You’re missing.”

“What d’you mean, I’m missing? I’m right here.”

“I mean, you were reported missing. Last Friday, so three days ago.”

“Missing? That makes no sense, since I’m dead.”

“No one appears to know you’re dead.”

“Huh.”

“Do you remember where you were when you died?”

“No.”

“Were you sick? In an accident? Traveling somewhere?”

“I don’t know!”

Joe leaned back and closed his eyes. He forced himself not to react to Gus’s abrupt tone. The guy had every reason to be upset, though this mess sure as hell wasn’t Joe’s fault.

“Who reported me missing?”

Joe opened his eyes and scanned the article. “Cat Loring.”

Silence. Joe waited a moment before adding, “Says she’s your live-in girlfriend.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you remember the last time you saw her?” Joe felt a cool wall of air pressing around him.

“Are you leaning on me?”

“I’m trying to read the article.”

Joe suppressed a shudder—barely. “It doesn’t say much. You left the house at your usual time on Thursday morning. You’re not answering your cell phone, and no one has seen you since.”

“I don’t remember.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

Silence.

“Gus?”

“The very last thing? Hell, I don’t know. I might’ve been at a bar with some buddies. I might’ve been driving my truck. Or having sex. It’s all a jumble.”

“Did you and Cat fight the last time you saw her?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. Maybe.”

“Could she have killed you?”

Gus snorted a laugh. “Cat? Kill me? That’s funny, Mr. Detective.”

“Yeah? Why is it so funny?”

“She just wouldn’t.”

Joe rubbed at his burning eyes. “Tell me about your relationship.”

“Why?”

“Maybe it’ll trigger a memory. Help me figure out where your body might be.”

“Well, shit.”

***

Excerpt from Out of the Darkness by Darcia Helle. Copyright © 2019 by Darcia Helle. Reproduced with permission from Darcia Helle. All rights reserved.

 

Darcia Helle

Author Bio:

 

Darcia Helle is a Massachusetts native, who escaped the New England winters to write in the Florida sunshine. She lives with her husband in a home full of spoiled rescue animals and an occasional stray lizard. She writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative.

Catch Up With Ms. Helle On:
darciahelle.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

 photo OutofTheDarkness_Paperback01.jpg

 

Tour Participants:

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


 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Darcia Helle. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on March 1, 2019 and runs through April 1, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Mar 192019
 

Dead In A Week by Andrea Kane Banner

 

 

Dead In A Week

by Andrea Kane

on Tour March 18 – April 19, 2019

Dead In A Week by Andrea Kane

What would you do if your daughter was kidnapped and given only a week to live?

Lauren Pennington is celebrating her junior year abroad when life comes to a screeching halt. At Munich’s Hofbräuhaus, she engages in an innocent flirtation with a charming stranger for the length of a drink. Drink finished, Lauren leaves—only to be snatched from the streets and thrown into an unmarked van.

Officially, Aidan Deveraux is a communications expert for one of the largest financial firms in the world. In his secret life, the former Marine heads the Zermatt Group, a covert team of military and spy agency operatives that search the data stream for troubling events in an increasingly troubled world. When his artificial intelligence system detects Lauren’s kidnapping, Aidan immediately sees the bigger picture.

Silicon Valley: Lauren’s father, Vance Pennington, is about to launch a ground-breaking technology with his company NanoUSA—a technology that the Chinese are desperate for. No sooner does Aidan arrive on Vance’s doorstep to explain the situation than the father receives a chilling text message: hand over the technology or Lauren will be dead in a week.

In a globe-spanning chase, from the beer halls of Germany, to the tech gardens of California, to the skyscrapers of China, and finally the farmlands of Croatia, Aidan’s team cracks levels of high-tech security and complex human mystery with a dogged determination. Drawing in teammates from the Forensic Instincts team (introduced in The Girl Who Disappeared Twice), the Zermatt Group will uncover the Chinese businessmen responsible, find the traitors within NanoUSA who are helping them, and save Lauren from a brutal death.

Check out my review HERE!

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Bonnie Meadow Publishing
Publication Date: March 19th 2019
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 1682320294 (ISBN13: 9781682320297)
Series: Forensic Instincts, Zermatt Group
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Munich, Germany
20 February
Tuesday, 4:00 p.m. local time

Normally, Lauren Pennington loved the sound of her combat boots clomping across the cobblestone apron. But right now, all she could think about was the growling of her empty stomach, urging her to move faster. She was oblivious to everything else—the couple on the corner sharing a passionate, open-mouthed kiss, the guy puking up his over-consumption of beer into the storm sewer grating, and the man watching her every move as he talked into his cell phone in a language that Lauren wouldn’t have recognized had she been paying attention.

She walked into Hofbräuhaus’ main hall, took a seat at one of the wooden tables, and placed her order. Minutes later, the waitress came over and brought Lauren’s food and drink. Barely uttering a perfunctory “Danke,” Lauren bit into a pretzel the size of her head and took a healthy gulp of Hofbräu.

The semester had ended, and she was entitled to some carbs and a dose of people-watching at the historic Munich brewery. Pretzels and beer were addicting, but people-watching had always fascinated her. Despite a whole winter semester of her junior year abroad studying art history at the Ludwig Maximilian University at Munich, she still enjoyed playing the tourist. Not at school, but every time she strolled the streets, studied the architecture, chatted with the locals.

Hofbräuhaus was less than a mile from campus, but the brewery’s main hall had a reputation all its own. With its old-world atmosphere of wooden tables, terra cotta floors, painted arches, and hanging lanterns, how could anyone not feel a sense of history just being within these walls?

Maybe that’s why Europe called out to her, not just here, but from a million different places. Museums. Theaters. Cathedrals. She wanted to experience them all, and then some. She’d be going home to San Francisco in July, and she hadn’t been to Paris or London or Brussels. She’d gotten a mere taste of Munich and had yet to visit Berlin.

When would she get another chance to do all that?

Not for ages. And certainly not with the sense of freedom she had as a college student, with little or no responsibilities outside her schoolwork to claim her attention. On the flip side, she felt terribly guilty. Every February, her entire family traveled to Lake Tahoe together. It was a ritual and a very big deal, since her father rarely got a day, much less a week, off as a high-powered executive. Her mother usually began making arrangements for the trip right after the holidays. In her mind, it was like a second Christmas, with the whole family reuniting and sharing time and laughter together.

This year was no different. Lauren’s brother, Andrew, and her sister, Jessica, were both taking time off from their busy careers to join their parents at Tahoe—no easy feat considering Andrew was an intellectual property attorney in Atlanta, and Jess was a corporate buyer for Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Lauren was the only holdout. Lauren. The college kid. The baby. The free spirit who always came home from Pomona College to nest, especially for family gatherings and rituals.

Her parents had been very quiet when she’d told them about her plans. Lauren knew what that silence meant. After the phone call ended, her mother would have cried that she was losing her baby, and her father would have scowled and written off her decision as college rebellion. Neither was true. But no matter how she explained it, her parents didn’t understand. They’d traveled extensively in Europe, and to them, it was no big deal. But it was Lauren’s first time here, and to her, it was like discovering a whole new world—a world she felt an instant rapport with. It was like discovering a part of her soul she’d never known existed. And she had to immerse herself in it.

She’d entertained the idea of flying to Lake Tahoe for the week and then returning to fulfill her dream. Her parents would definitely pay for that. But given the long international travel, the flight changes, the time differences, and the jet lag, Tahoe would put too much of a crimp in the many plans she had for her break between semesters. She’d had invitations from school friends who said she could stay with them during her travels—friends from Germany and so many other countries.

The world was at her feet.

No, despite how much she loved her family, she had to do things her way this time. There’d be other Februarys, other trips to Tahoe. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

She was still drinking her beer and lamenting her situation when a masculine voice from behind her said, “Hallo. Kann ich mitmachen?”

Turning, Lauren saw a handsome, rugged-featured guy, gazing at her with raised brows. He was asking if he could join her.

“Sind Sie allein?” he asked, glancing to her right and to her left.

“Yes, I’m alone,” she answered in German. “And, yes, please join me.”

The man came around and slid onto the bench seat. He propped his elbow on the table, signalling to the waitress that he’d have the same as the lady. The waitress nodded, hurrying off to get his refreshment.

He turned his gaze back to Lauren. “You’re American,” he noted, speaking English that was heavily accented.

“Guilty as charged,” she responded in English. “Is it that obvious?” She gave him a rueful look.

He smiled, idly playing with the gold chain around his neck. “Your German is quite good. But I picked up the American…what’s the word you use? Twang.”

Lauren had to laugh. “It’s my turn to take a stab at it, then. You’re French? Slavic? A combination of both?”

“The last.“ His smile widened. “You have a good ear, as well.”

“Your German and your English are excellent. I guess I just got lucky.”

“Speaking of getting lucky, what’s your name?” he asked.

His boldness took her aback, but she answered anyway. “Lauren. What’s yours?”

“Marko.” He held out his hand, which Lauren shook. “I’m in Munich on business. And you?”

“I’m an exchange student. I’m on break, and I’m looking forward to enjoying some time exploring Europe.”

Marko looked intrigued. “I can give you a few tips.” A mischievous glint lit his eyes. “Or I could travel with you for a few days and give you the best taste of Munich you’ll ever have.”

Lauren felt flushed. She was twenty years old. She knew very well what Marko meant by “the best taste.” She should be offended. But she couldn’t help being flattered. He was older, good-looking, and charming.
Nonetheless, she wasn’t stupid. And she wasn’t in the market for a hookup.

“Thanks, but I’m tackling this trip on my own,” she replied. “I’m meeting up with friends later, but I’m good as planned.”

“Pity.” The glint in his eyes faded with regret. “Then at least let me give you some pointers about the best sights to see and the best restaurants and places to visit.”

“That would be fantastic.” Lauren rummaged in her purse for a pen and paper. Having found them, she set her bag on the floor between them.

She spent the next twenty mesmerizing minutes listening to Marko detail the highlights of Munich and other parts of Bavaria, as she simultaneously scribbled down what he was saying.

“Thank you so much,” she said when he was finished. “This is like a guided tour.”

“Once again, I could do it in person.”

“And once again, I’m flattered, but no thank you.” Lauren signaled for her check, reaching into her bag and retrieving a twenty euro bill when the waitress approached the table. “The rest is for you,” she told her.

“I’ll take care of that,” Marko offered, stopping Lauren by catching her wrist and simultaneously fishing for his wallet. Evidently, he was still holding out hope that she would change her mind.

“That’s okay. I’ve got it.” Lauren wriggled out of his grasp, leaned forward, and completed the transaction.

“You’ve been a tremendous help,” she said to Marko as she rose. “I’m glad we met.”

This time it was she who extended her hand.

Reluctantly, he shook it. “I hope we meet again, Lauren. I’ll look for you the next time I’m in Munich.”

Still smiling, Lauren left the café and walked through the wide cobblestone apron outside. There were little tables with umbrellas scattered about, with patrons chatting and eating. Sated by the beer and pretzel, she inhaled happily, and then, walking over to the sidewalk, began what she expected to be a thoughtful stroll. Maybe she’d text her parents this time, try explaining her position without all the drama of a phone call.

She was halfway down the street when she heard a male voice call after her, “Lauren!”

She turned to see Marko hurrying in her direction. “Here.” He extended his arm, a familiar iPhone in his hand. “You left this on the table.”

“Oh, thank you.” How could she have been so careless? She protected her cell phone like a small child. “I’d be lost without that—“

As she spoke, a Mercedes van tore around the corner and came screeching up to them.

The near doors were flung open, and a stocky man jumped out, his face concealed by a black hood. Before Lauren could so much as blink, he grabbed her, yanking a burlap sack over her head and tossing her over his shoulder.

“Merr në makinë,” he said in a language Lauren didn’t understand.

By this time, Lauren had recovered enough to struggle for her freedom. Her legs flailed in the air, kicking furiously, and she pounded on the man’s back as he carried her and flung her into the back of the van.
Marko jumped in behind her, slamming the doors shut and barking out something in the same dialect as the other man—neither French nor Slavic—as the stocky barbarian held her down.

Finally finding her voice, Lauren let out a scream, which was quickly muffled by the pressure of Marko’s hand over her mouth. She could taste the wool of the sack, and she inclined her head so she could breathe through her nose.

A short-lived reprieve.

Marko fumbled around, then shoved a handkerchief under the sack, covering her nose and mouth. Lauren thrashed her head from side to side, struggling to avoid it. The odor was sickeningly sweet and citrusy.

Chloroform.

Tears burned behind her eyes. Shock waves pulsed through her body.

Oh God, she didn’t want to die.

Marko clamped his other hand on the back of her head, holding it in place while he forced the handkerchief flush against her nose and mouth, making it impossible for her to escape.

Dizziness. Nausea. Black specks. Nothing.

“Shko,” Marko ordered his accomplice, shoving him toward the driver’s seat.

The van screeched off, headed to hell.

***

Excerpt from Dead In A Week by Andrea Kane. Copyright © 2019 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Andrea Kane. All rights reserved.

Andrea Kane

Andrea KaneAndrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-nine novels, including fifteen 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, Dead in a Week, adds the Zermatt Group into the mix—a covert team of former military and spy agency operatives. With a week to save a young woman from ruthless kidnappers, this globe-spanning chase, from the beerhalls of Germany, to the tech gardens of California, to the skyscrapers of China, and finally the farmlands of Croatia will keep readers guessing until the very end. 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, and A Face to Die For.

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. Otherwise, she’s either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.

Author Hometown – Warren, New Jersey

Q&A with Andrea Kane

Writing:
Q: Which of your characters do you dislike the most and why?
A: Hmmm… given DEAD IN A WEEK’s storyline, how do I answer this question without giving too much away? I’ll start out by saying that I have the same kind of emotional attachment and sense of loyalty to the Zermatt Group as I do to the Forensic Instincts team. I could never dislike any of them, and if I did, they’d be gone! That covers the “good guys”. Next, come the gray characters—the ones who are unpleasantly flawed but not evil. Some of them I pity, some of them ruffle my feathers, and some of them truly irk me. Still, it’s the unconscionable characters, the ones who commit despicable and unforgivable acts—those are the ones I can’t help but hate. The problem here is, I can’t tell you who they are since it would ruin the book for you! But, trust me, once you’ve turned the final page, you’ll know exactly who I mean.

Q: Which of your characters is the hardest to write and why?
A: The Zermatt Group makes its debut in DEAD IN A WEEK, so I had to dig deep to create the “core four”. I already had a connection to Aidan Devereaux, from his assistance on Forensic Instincts cases, and from the fact that he’s Marc’s brother and Abby’s daddy. He was the first Zermatt team member (as it should be, since he’s the guy at the helm!) that I fleshed out, and he quickly grew to be exactly who he was meant to be (his decision, not mine!). That left Simone, Philip, and Terri. An easy choice: Terri. Her way over-the-top techno-sophistication, her scientific focus, and her more insular personality are all so diametrically opposed to who I am that I had to really get inside her head (not to mention doing a lot of research) to flesh her out and watch her become a real person. She’s so brilliant that it was worth the effort!

Q: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through writing?
A: That there’s no half-measure and no shortcuts. The basics still hold true: You must care deeply about the characters you create, whether it’s love or hate, and feel the excitement of the storyline as it unfolds and the danger escalates. If you don’t, you can’t expect your readers to. I set super high standards for myself, and I do everything I can to meet or exceed those standards. My ultimate goal is always to write the very best book I can write.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge to your writing career?
A: Balancing my professional and my personal life without compromising either, which I refuse to do. I lay out great organizational timelines, but life always intervenes and blows my schedule apart. So I ride the waves, but, given what a diehard perfectionist I am, the thing that usually goes by the wayside is my sleep. Oh, and my housework, but that’s secondary to me.

Q: What inspired you to write your first book?
A: I’ve been telling stories since I was a little girl, long before I could write them down. I’d play them out through my stuffed animals, through the books that I read, through the wonder of my imagination. As soon as I could, I started writing smaller pieces—essays, stories, and, of course, long, long journal entries. I always loved to read and I always loved to write. When my daughter was little, I wrote book reviews, which taught me a great deal about being concise—and about the fact that I wasn’t born to be concise! At a certain point, when my ideas kept growing and growing, I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at a novel. Despite the grueling work hours, setbacks, and struggles along the way, I’ve never regretted my decision and never once looked back. I know the saying is trite, but for me it’s still true: Writing is really who I am, not just what I do.

Q: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
A: The creation of the Zermatt Group, and its integration with the Forensic Instincts team, was truly a labor of love for me. I hope you feel the same way when you read DEAD IN A WEEK.

Fun Questions:

Q: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
A: I’ve been asked this question before and I never have an answer. My characters are so specific in my mind that no actors or actresses ever feel right to play the parts. I wish I could give you a better answer, but I just don’t have one. I doubt I ever will.

Q: Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
A: Since a good chunk of DEAD IN A WEEK takes place in Croatia, I had to do months of long-distance research. My FBI liaison (a/k/a my lifesaver) connected me up with everyone from law enforcement to dairy farmers, all of whom were beyond generous with their time and knowledge. The dairy farmers sent me a fabulous care package of kulen (their own high quality sausage) and a home produced bottle of Rakia (a fruit brandy I had never tasted but later learned had a 50% alcohol content). I savored the kulen and then took a deep swallow of the Rakia. My insides burst into flames and my sinuses sure cleared up in a hurry! Wow! That stuff is potent! I was slumped over the table after one glass and didn’t do any writing that night. 

Q: Favorite foods?
A: Hands-down, pizza and ice cream.

Q: Favorite activities?
A: Playing with my 1-year-old granddaughter, cuddling up with my Pomeranian, and watching the New York Yankees.

Catch Up With Our Author On: AndreaKane.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

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Enter To Win!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Andrea Kane. There will be 6 winners. One winner (1) will receive an Amazon.com Gift Card and five (5) winners will receive an eBook copy of Dead In A Week. The giveaway begins on March 18, 2019 and runs through April 21, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Feb 272019
 
Blackwell by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor

Blackwell

by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor

on Tour February 1 – March 31, 2019

Synopsis:

Blackwell by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor

“… an intriguing, dark tale complete with vividly drawn characters, and a uniquely compelling character in Magnus … seamlessly blends mystery, magic and matters of the heart to create an enthralling read. Readers will be engaged from the start of the story to its climactic ending.” ~Melanie Bates, RT Book Reviews

“A dark story of passion and revenge … A guilty-pleasure read that kept me captivated knowing something sinister is looming in the plot and over the characters.” ~New Orleans Magazine


In the late 1800s, handsome, wealthy New Englander, Magnus Blackwell, is the envy of all.

When Magnus meets Jacob O’Connor–a Harvard student from the working class–an unlikely friendship is forged. But their close bond is soon challenged by a captivating woman; a woman Magnus wants, but Jacob gets.

Devastated, Magnus seeks solace in a trip to New Orleans. After a chance meeting with Oscar Wilde, he becomes immersed in a world of depravity and brutality, inevitably becoming the inspiration for Dorian Gray. Armed with the forbidden magic of voodoo, he sets his sights on winning back the woman Jacob stole from him.

Amid the trappings of Victorian society, two men, bent on revenge, will lay the foundation for a curse that will forever alter their destinies.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery with Supernatural Elements
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: January 17th 2017
Number of Pages: 295
ISBN: 1944109242 (ISBN13: 9781944109240)
Series: A Magnus Blackwell Novel 0.5
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Guest Post by Alexandrea Weis

10 interesting fun facts about your book or series
  1. The Magnus Blackwell Series is set in the most haunted city in America-New Orleans. Ghosts are the norm there, not the exception.
  2. The series spans well over a century and shows the progression of New Orleans from the 1890s (beginning with BLACKWELL: the prequel) to modern day. The interesting fact is that many of the businesses and buildings mentioned in 1890s New Orleans are still around. The French Quarter is a time capsule which has preserved the past.
  3. In book one: DAMNED, one of the lead characters—Magnus Blackwell—is a ghost. His life and sins are the impetus for the story, and his quest for redemption sets in motion a chain of events that changes the lives of many. He is the spirit guide to Lexie Arden, and he is bound to her through the power of voodoo.
  4. The Magnus Blackwell Series is steeped in New Orleans traditions and folklore. Many tales known to New Orleanians are blended into the storyline.
  5. Voodoo and the gods and goddesses who oversee it are an integral part of the Magnus Blackwell Series. It taps into this side of ritual magic not known by many outside New Orleans, and the gods in the story exist in the religion.
  6. Many of the locations described in the story exist. The restaurants, buildings, addresses, and cemeteries named can be visited in the city.
  7. One of the authors, Alexandrea Weis, grew up in the French Quarter and lived next door to a voodoo priestess. Her childhood memories are used to describe many of the rituals and spells recreated in the series.
  8. The baton juju described in the series and used by the mambo, Lexie Arden, is something utilized by priests and priestesses during voodoo ceremonies. It comes from the gods or Loa of voodoo. Their sacred batons are recreated for rituals used to please a particular god or gain favor.
  9. The term Mambo comes from Hattian voodoo. It is the term for a female (as opposed to the Houngan, or male) High Priest. In the Magnus Blackwell Series, it is the title given to the priestess in charge of New Orleans. The person through which all magical power flows.
  10. The next installment in the Magnus Blackwell Series arrives in the Spring 2019. SEIZE continues Lexie Arden and Magnus Blackwell’s story and introduces more voodoo gods from the pantheon.

 

Blackwell Trailer:

 

Read an excerpt:

“We all saw different spirits,” Emily surmised. “How is that possible?”

Katie rose from Jacob’s side. “We each saw the person we wanted to see. The person we felt most connected to on the other side.” She came around the table to Magnus, grinning like a proud peacock. “Do you still doubt my abilities?”

“No.” Magnus blew out a long breath. “I think we should not do this again, though. I got the impression what happened tonight may be only the beginning.”

“The beginning of what?” Emily pestered.

Magnus straightened his coat as he turned for the door. “Something very dangerous.”

***

Excerpt from Blackwell by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor. Copyright © 2017 by Alexandrea Weis. Reproduced with permission from Alexandrea Weis. All rights reserved.

Alexandrea Weis:

Alexandrea Weis

Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, CRRN, ONC, PhD, is a multi-award-winning author of over twenty-seven novels, a screenwriter, ICU Nurse, and historian who was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having grown up in the motion picture industry as the daughter of a director, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective and began writing at the age of eight. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story moving and memorable. A permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Weis rescues orphaned and injured animals. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans. Weis writes mysteries, suspense, thrillers, horror, crime fiction, action, historical, and romance. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association.

Lucas Astor is from New York, has resided in Central America and the Middle East, and traveled through Europe. He lives a very private, virtually reclusive lifestyle, preferring to spend time with a close-knit group of friends than be in the spotlight. He is an author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but right next door behind a smiling face.

Catch Up With Alexandrea On:
alexandreaweis.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

Lucas Astor:

Lucas Astor

Lucas Astor is from New York, has resided in Central America and the Middle East, and traveled through Europe. He lives a very private, virtually reclusive lifestyle, preferring to spend time with a close-knit group of friends than be in the spotlight.

He is an author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but right next door behind a smiling face.

Photography, making wine, and helping endangered species are just some of his interests. Lucas is an expert archer and enjoys jazz, blues, and classical music.

One of his favorite quotes is: “It’s better to be silent than be a fool.” ~Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)

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 Vesuvian Books. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on February 1, 2019 and runs through April 1, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Feb 212019
 

Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter Banner

Dangerous Flaws

by Susan Hunter

on Tour February 1 – March 31, 2019

Synopsis:

Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter

A chilling murder shocks a small Wisconsin town.

True crime writer Leah Nash is stunned when police investigating the murder of a beautiful young college professor focus on her ex-husband Nick. Leah has no illusions about her ex, but despite his flaws, she just can’t see him as a killer. Reluctantly, she agrees to help Nick’s attorney prove that he isn’t.

But Nick’s lies make it hard to find the truth, and when a damning piece of evidence surfaces, Leah plunges into doubt. Is she defending an innocent man or helping a murderer escape? She pushes on to find out, uncovering hidden motives and getting hit by twists she never saw coming. Leah’s own flaws impede her search for the truth. When she finds it, will it be too late to prevent a devastating confrontation?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Himmel River Press
Publication Date: December 11th 2018
Number of Pages: 392
ASIN: B07KK2HM6M
Series: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 5
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

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.

 

Guest Post

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Leah Nash

Leah Nash is the main character in the series I write, which is appropriately named the Leah Nash Mysteries. She’s a true crime writer who can’t quite leave her reporting background behind, particularly because she just sank all her savings into a business partnership to try and save her hometown’s weekly newspaper. It was an impulsive decision, but Leah often leaps before she looks, as anyone who reads the series knows. They also know she’s smart, funny, loyal, stubborn and can’t resist a challenge. But Leah keeps some secrets, even from long-time readers. Here are ten things you didn’t know about Leah Nash.

  1. Leah is hard-headed, but she has a few soft spots she’d rather people didn’t know about. One of them is that she’s an easy mark for a Hallmark Christmas movie—the more schmaltz, the better.

  2. Although she doesn’t carry a gun, she knows how to use one. She took a handgun safety course as background for a story once and was a surprisingly accurate shot by the end of it. The instructor encouraged her to continue, but Leah felt that her quick temper and a handy handgun probably weren’t a good mix.

  3. In the sixth-grade, Leah made it to the finals in the statewide spelling bee. She lost it on the word pièce de résistance and has held a grudge against the French ever since.

  4. Leah’s all-time favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird, with The Portable Dorothy Parker a close second.

  5. Leah once ate a dozen of her Aunt Nancy’s Cranberry Hootie Creek cookies in a single sitting.

  6. To her intense mortification, Leah has never mastered a manual transmission. Her best friend Coop tried to teach her how to use a stick shift, and it nearly ended their twenty-year friendship.

  7. Leah was once bodily removed from a state legislator’s press conference after repeatedly asking follow-up questions about the senator’s role in a cover-up. She considers the photo, which ran on the front page of the Miami Star Register, one of her prize possessions.

  8. Leah has an odd assortment of skills mostly picked up from sources and research for various stories. She can start a fire with a battery and aluminum foil, use two fingers to emit an ear-piercing whistle, fix a dislocated shoulder.

  9. Leah was fired from a summer job as a hostess at an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant for making this announcement over the loudspeaker. “Will the disengaged parents of the two underage terrorists who are destroying our ice cream dessert counter by mixing all the toppings into one container, smashing each other in the face with cups of soft-serve ice cream, and pelting patrons with crushed M&Ms, please pick your offspring up at the register? If you fail to retrieve them in the next five minutes, please check the curb outside the restaurant. Thank you.”

  10. Leah is a terrible dancer. Think Elaine on Seinfeld —the only difference being that she’s aware of it.

 

Catch Up With Ms. Hunter On:
leahnashmysteries.com, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

How did everything go so wrong? But then again, why did she ever think that this could come to anything but disaster? She knows now there are only a few ways this can end and none of them are good.

She sighs, then bends down to put the leash on Tenny, her crazy little mixed-breed dog, looking up at her with big brown eyes. He’s so happy and so oblivious. Despite her sense of coming catastrophe, she can’t help smiling at him. He begins wagging his tail, then dancing around eagerly in anticipation of his nightly run. She can barely get the leash hooked.

“Come on, then, you heartless beast. I’m in the worst situation of my life, and all you can think about is getting out and having fun. Tell me again why I bother with you?”

They leave and walk down the road—no sidewalks here—toward the county fairgrounds, an expanse of 80 acres just a short distance away. She loves the odd mix of town on one side of her home and country on the other.

She shivers a little. Her exhaled breath leaves a small trace of vapor in the air. Under the silvery light of the full moon, everything stands out in crystalline splendor: the piles of snow left by the plow, untouched yet by the dirt and grime of passing cars; bare branches of trees shimmering with frost; the stars themselves, flashing and glittering like sparkling beads sewn on the black night sky. It is incredibly beautiful. But she barely notices. She is too lost in thought.

Should she do as she threatened, confess and bring everything to a head? If she does, there’s no going back. And she isn’t the only one who will suffer—or be saved. Because isn’t it possible that freedom, not tragedy, will be the outcome? Things do, sometimes, turn out better than we expect. She feels a momentary spark of optimism, but it fades. This is too important for wishful thinking. She must be realistic. Once the truth is out, the consequences will be devastating. But this—the way she’s living now, lying, denying, pretending that everything is fine—is crushing her. So intent is she on her thoughts that she doesn’t hear the crunch of footsteps behind her.

Doesn’t notice the increasing agitation of her little dog. Doesn’t recognize the impending danger.

“I finally caught up with you.”

Startled, but not alarmed—she recognizes the voice—she turns.

“What are you doing here?”

“We didn’t finish. I need to know you understand.”

She doesn’t want to have this conversation. Not tonight. Not when her mind is so filled with jumbled and conflicting thoughts. Her reluctance shows on her face.

“You said you want to do the right thing. I do too, but you’re wrong about what it is. Please, let’s talk.”

“Tomorrow would be better. I—”

“No! It wouldn’t be!”

The words are said with such force that she takes an involuntary step backward. Tenny growls softly at her side.

“I’m sorry. But we’re talking about my life! Don’t I deserve a few minutes at least? I’ll walk with you. Please?”

She sighs. But now Tenny is pulling at his leash, eager to run free on the frozen surface of the pond.

“All right.” She slips off her gloves and bends down to release the dog. Her cold fingers fumble and his eager jumping makes it hard work. He spies something on the ice and springs forward with excitement. Both the collar and the leash come loose in her hands, and he dashes away.

She tucks them into her pocket as she stands. It’s then that she notices the barricades around a large hole in the frozen pond.

“I forgot about the Polar Plunge tomorrow. Let’s go that way, in case Tenny gets too close. The barriers should keep him out, but he’s a wily little devil.”

They walk around the edge of the pond. She is silent; she doesn’t interrupt. But she isn’t persuaded. Her focus turns inward, as she searches for the right words to explain. All the while she knows they will be unwelcome. As she struggles for a way to be both truthful and kind, she misses the rising tension in her companion’s voice. She doesn’t register the transition from desperation to danger.

A loud series of barks causes her to look up. Tenny is chasing a muskrat across the ice. Both of them are heading toward the barrier-shielded hole in the frozen pond. For the muskrat, it will mean escape. For Tenny, it will mean calamity.

“Tenny, no! Come here!” She runs out on the ice, calling him, moving as fast as she can on the slippery surface, trying to distract the dog. But intent on his prey, he ignores her. He dashes under the barricade just as the muskrat slips into the water to safety. Tenny slides to a stop, gives a few frustrated yips, then turns toward her. His expression clearly says, “Thanks a lot. I almost had him.”

She reaches the edge of the barricade and pushes it aside, holding out the leash and collar.

“Tennyson, come here right now.”

He makes as if to obey, but when she leans to get him, he scampers away. She calls him again.

He comes tantalizingly close, then eludes her grasp and retreats with a cocky grin on his face.

He likes this game.

She sets the collar and leash down on the ice. She gets on one knee and reaches in her pocket.

When her hand emerges, it’s holding a dog treat. In a honeyed, coaxing voice, she says, “Hey, Tenny. Look, sweetie! Your favorite, cheesy bacon.”

She stays very still as he approaches. When he gets within range, she intends to scoop him up, scold him, and never let him off the leash again. He moves slowly, maintaining eye contact with the treat, not her. She stretches her hand out ever so slightly. He streaks forward, snatches it from her open palm, and runs away across the pond. Then his attention is caught by a deer just reaching the middle of the ice. He gives chase.

She sighs with relief. At least he’s away from the open water. She starts to rise. Without warning, a strong shove from behind sends her sprawling. Her head hits the ice. She’s dazed for a second. Then terrified as another shove pushes her forward and into the hole cut in the pond.

The shock of hitting the water takes her breath away. The weight of her clothes pulls her down.

She struggles back to the surface, disoriented and confused. Her breathing is shallow and quick—too quick.

She swallows a mouthful of water and starts to choke. Panic rises. Her arms flail.

One hits something hard. The edge of the ice. Her fright lessens as she can see a way out.

She works her body around so she can grab the icy lip of the opening in the pond. She begins to move her legs, stretching out as though she were floating on her stomach. As she transitions from vertical to horizontal, she’s able to get one forearm on the ice. She tries to lift her knee. If she can get it on the ice—she’s too weak. The weight of her water-logged clothes pulls her back into the water. She feels the panic rising again. She pushes back against it with her desperate determination to survive.

She tries again, kicks her legs again, stretches out again, gets her forearms on the ice again.

But this time, she doesn’t try to lift herself. Instead, she begins to inch forward with a writhing motion, like a very slow snake crawling on the ground. She fights for every awkward, painful inch of progress. How long has it been? Five minutes? Ten? Twenty? It feels like forever.

Her arms are numb. Tiny icicles in her hair slap gently against her face as she twists and turns her body out of the water. Tenny is nearby. He’s barking, and then he’s by her left arm, tugging at her sleeve.

“No, no, Tenny, get back.” She thinks she is shouting, but the words are a whisper. She has to rest, just for a minute. She stops. She closes her eyes. But as her cheek touches the ice, Tenny’s bark calls her back to life. She will not give up. She will not die this way, this night.

Again, she begins her hesitating progress forward. She can do this. She will do this. Almost her entire upper body is on the ice now. Just a little longer, just a few more inches, just another—hands grab her shoulders. Someone has come. Someone is pulling her to safety. As she turns her head to look up, she realizes the hands aren’t pulling, they’re pushing, pushing, pushing her back.

No, no, no, no! She tries to fight, but she has nothing left. She’s in the water.

The hands lock onto her shoulders like talons. They push her down, down, down. Water enters her mouth; her throat closes over. She can’t breathe. The last sound she hears from far, far away is Tenny’s mournful bark. Then darkness closes in.

***

Excerpt from Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter. Copyright © 2018 by Susan Hunter. Reproduced with permission from Susan Hunter. All rights reserved.

 

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