Mailbox Monday


Mailbox Monday

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

Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

Friday: (03/26/21)
My Little Girl by Shalini Boland~ Kindle from Bookouture via NetGalley

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday

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

Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

Tuesday: (03/16/21)

I Know What You Did by Carey Baldwin~ Kindle from Bookouture via NetGalley

Wednesday: (03/17/21)

The Other Side Of The Door by Nicci French ~ Kindle from William Morrow via NetGalley
The Fiancée by Kate White~ ARC from Harper Collins
Not My Mother by Miranda Smith ~ Kindle from Bookouture via NetGalley

 

MURDER ON THE METRO by Jon Land | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

Murder On The Metro Banner

 

 

 

Murder On The Metro

by Jon Land

March 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Murder On The Metro by Jon Land

Israel: A drone-based terrorist attack kills dozens on a sun-splashed beach in Caesarea.

Washington: America awakens to the shattering news that Vice President Stephanie Davenport has died of an apparent heart attack.

That same morning, a chance encounter on the Washington Metro results in international private investigator Robert Brixton thwarting an attempted terrorist bombing. Brixton has no reason to suspect that the three incidents have anything in common, until he’s contacted by Kendra Rendine, the Secret Service agent who headed up the vice president’s security detail. Rendine is convinced the vice president was murdered and needs Brixton’s investigative expertise to find out why.

In Israel, meanwhile, legendary anti-terrorist fighter Lia Ganz launches her own crusade against the perpetrators of that attack which nearly claimed the lives of her and granddaughter. Ganz’s trail will ultimately take her to Washington where she joins forces with Brixton to uncover an impossible link between the deadly attack on Caesarea and the attempted Metro bombing, as well as the death of the vice president.

The connection lies in the highest corridors of power in Washington where a deadly plot with unimaginable consequences has been hatched. With the clock ticking toward doomsday, Brixton and Ganz race against time to save millions of American lives who will otherwise become collateral damage to a conspiracy destined to change the United States forever.

Praise :

“Jon Land is one of the best thriller writers in the business, and the Capital Crimes series is in superb and skilled hands with him. Nobody does pacing better than Land, and MURDER ON THE METRO starts with a bang and keeps on going at breakneck speed. If you haven’t read this excellent series, start with Land’s MURDER ON THE METRO.” —Lisa Scottoline, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: February 16th 2021
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 1250238870 (ISBN13: 9781250238870)
Series: A Capital Crimes Novel, #31
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Jon Land

JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of over fifty books, including eleven in the critically acclaimed Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series, the most recent of which, Strong from the Heart, won the 2020 American Fiction Award for Best Thriller and the 2020 American Book Fest Award for Best Mystery/Suspense Novel. Additionally, he has teamed up with Heather Graham for a science fiction series that began with THE RISING (winner of the 2017 International Book Award for best Sci-fi Novel) and continues with BLOOD MOON. He has also written six books in the Murder, She Wrote series of mysteries and has more recently taken over Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes series, beginning with Murder on the Metro in February of 2021. A graduate of Brown University, he received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements. Land lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Q&A with Jon Land

What was the inspiration for this book?

My desire to reboot a legacy series. Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes is one of the most recognizable brands in the mystery-thriller field. But it seems to have been floundering for the last five or so books, as if struggling for its identity and definition. So I wrote MURDER ON THE METRO by imagining how Margaret herself would have had she begun the series today.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Wow, that’s a great question! I’d have to give you two which are interrelated: remaining relevant as a writer and making enough money to pay the bills. This is such a tough business in the sense that you’re a prisoner of your numbers, no matter how great the books you write are. You have to roll with the punches and not be afraid to redefine yourself. I live by the mantra, “The answer’s yes. What was the question?

What do you absolutely need while writing?

Ah, an easier question to answer! A great story to tell. If I’ve got that, the only other thing I need is a working Mac.

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

Another great question! If you don’t adhere to a strict routine, you’re an amateur, not a professional. Name me another profession where you need to to have ideas flowing just to show up. Ideas flow because you need them to flow. You don’t sit around and wait for them. Professionals show up every day and get the work done. If you want to make this a career, you need to be a professional.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Normally, I have a sidekick or foil character who’s my favorite. But in the case of MURDER ON THE METRO, it’s the hero Robert Brixton, because I really enjoyed honing and pruning his character to be more active and proactive. He takes matters into his own hands. He doesn’t wait for things to come to him. And he’s driven by a past tragedy in his life that sets him on a downward spiral this book gives him a chance to reverse. MURDER ON THE METRO is actually about something in that respect and that’s why I chose Brixton as my favorite.

Tell us why we should read your book.

Well, I’m not exactly objective and it depends on your tastes. But if you like thrillers in general, political thrillers in particular, and you want to lose yourself in a book that you can’t put down, this is for you.

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

Hah-Hah! That’s a tough one. But the first thing that comes to mind was some of the settings I found around Washington I didn’t know about. Like a trolley system that was in the process of being expanded underground when the Metro came along and all construction was halted. People might read the action scene set on one of those ancient trolley platforms and think I made it up, but I didn’t.

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

Thank you for continuing to come along for the ride, wherever it takes us!

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I wrote my first book as a senior thesis at Brown University, and it taught me two crucial things about myself as a writer: first that I was a thriller writer and, second, that I could finish a book. If you can’t finish a book, you’re not really a writer.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

Maybe a whole bunch of stuff, the most exciting of which I don’t want to talk about because it’s not definite. I have a sense I’m in one of those transitional periods where my career is taking me to a different place. Other than that, and until I can be more specific, MURDER AT THE CDC, my second book in the Capital Crimes series, publishes a year from now.

Catch Up With Jon Land:
jonlandbooks.com
Goodreads
BookBub
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Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Washington, DC; the next morning

Not again . . .

That was Robert Brixton’s first thought when his gaze locked on the woman seated across from him in the Washington Metro car. He was riding into the city amid the clutter of morning commuters from the apartment in Arlington, Virginia where he now lived alone, his girlfriend Flo Combes having returned to New York.

Former girlfriend, Brixton corrected in his mind. And Flo’s return to New York, where she’d opened her first clothing boutique, looked very much like it was for good this time.

Which brought his attention back to the woman wearing a hijab and bearing a strong resemblance to another Muslim woman who’d been haunting his sleep for five years now, since she’d detonated a suicide bomb inside a crowded DC restaurant, killing Brixton’s daughter Janet and eleven other victims that day. He’d seen it coming, felt it anyway, as if someone had dragged the head of a pin up his spine. He hadn’t been a cop for years at that point, having taken his skills into the private sector, but his instincts remained unchanged, always serving him well and almost always being proven right.

But today he wanted to be wrong, wanted badly to be wrong. Because if his instincts were correct, tragedy was about to repeat itself with him bearing witness yet again, relocated from a bustling café to a crowded Metro car.

The woman wearing the hijab turned enough to meet his gaze, Brixton unable to jerk his eyes away in time and forcing the kind of smile strangers cast each other. The woman didn’t return it, just turned her focus back forward, her expression empty as if bled of emotion. In Brixton’s experience, she resembled a criminal who found strange solace in the notion of being caught after tiring of the chase. That was the suspicious side of his nature. If not for a long career covering various aspects of law enforcement, including a private investigator with strong international ties, Brixton would likely have seen her as the other passengers in the Metro car did: A quiet woman with big soft eyes just hoping to blend in with the scenery and not attract any attention to herself.

Without reading material of any kind, a cell phone in her grasp, or ear buds dangling. Brixton gazed about; as far as he could tell, she was the only passenger in sight, besides him, not otherwise occupied to pass the time. So in striving not to stand out, the young woman had achieved the opposite.

He studied her closer, determining that the woman didn’t look tired, so much as content. And, beneath her blank features, Brixton sensed something taut and resigned, a spring slowly uncoiling. Something, though, had changed in her expression since the moment their eyes had met. She was fidgeting in her seat now, seeking comfort that clearly eluded her.

Just as another suicide bomber had five years ago

If he didn’t know better, he would’ve fully believed he was back in that DC restaurant again, granted a second chance to save his daughter after he’d failed so horribly the first time.

***

Five years ago

What world are you in? Janet had asked a clearly distracted Brixton, then consumed by the nagging feeling dragged up his spine.

Let’s go.

Daddy, I haven’t finished!

Janet always called him “Daddy.” Much had been lost to memory from that day, forcibly put aside, but not that or the moments that followed. It had been the last time she’d ever called him that and Brixton had fought to preserve the recording that existed only in his mind resolvedly ever since. Whenever it faded, he fought to get it back, treating Janet’s final address of him like a voicemail machine message from a lost loved one forever saved on his phone.

Come on.

Is something wrong?

We’re leaving.

Brixton had headed to the door, believing his daughter was right behind him. He realized she wasn’t only when he was through it, turning back toward the table to see Janet facing the Muslim woman wearing the hijab who was chanting in Arabic.

Janet!

He’d started to storm back inside to get her when the explosion shattered the placid stillness of the day, an ear-splitting blast that hit him like a Category Five wind gust to the chest and sent him sprawling to the sidewalk. His head ping-ponged off the concrete, threatening his grip on consciousness. Parts of a splintered table came flying in his direction and he threw his arms over his face to shield it from wooden shards and other debris that caked the air, cataloguing them as they soared over him in absurd counterpoint. Plates, glasses, skin, limbs, eyeglasses, knives, forks, beer mugs, chair legs and arms, calamari, boneless ribs, pizza slices, a toy gorilla that had been held by a child a table two removed from where he’d been sitting with Janet, and empty carafes of wine with their contents seeming to trail behind them like vapor trails.

The surreal nature of that moment made Brixton think he might be sleeping, all this no more than the product of an airy dream to be lost to memory by the time woke. He remembered lying on the sidewalk, willing himself to wake up, to rouse from this nightmare-fueled stupor. The worst moment of his life followed the realization that he wasn’t asleep and an imponderable wave of grief washed over him, stealing his next breath and making him wonder if he even wanted to bother trying for another.

Brixton had stumbled to his feet before what moments earlier had been a bustling café filled with happy people. Now, bodies were everywhere, some piled on top of others, blood covering everything and everyone. He touched the side of his face and pulled bloody fingers away from the wound. He looked back into the café in search of his daughter but saw only a tangle of limbs and clothing where they’d been sitting.

“Oh, my God,” he whispered, his senses sharpening. “Janet!”

Washington’s Twenty-third Street had been crammed with pedestrians at the time of the blast, joined now by people pouring out of office buildings and other restaurants nearby, within eye or earshot of the dual blasts. Brixton’s attempts to get closer to the carnage, holding out hope Janet might still be alive, were thwarted at every turn by throngs fleeing in panic in an endless wave.

“My daughter! My daughter!” he kept crying out, as if that might make the crowd yield and the chaos recede.

***

It wasn’t until Brixton reached the hospital that he learned Janet hadn’t made it out, had been declared one of the missing. Having served as an agent for a private security agency out-sourced to the State Department at the time, he knew all too well that missing meant dead. He had another daughter, Janet’s older sister, who’d given him a beautiful grandson he loved dearly, but that was hardly enough to make up for the loss of Janet. And the guilt over not having dragged her out with him when she’d resisted leaving had haunted him to this very moment, when instinct told him many on this crowded subway car might well be about to join her.

Thanks to another woman wearing a hijab, but it wasn’t just that. Brixton had crossed paths with an untold number of Arab women in the five years since Janet’s death, and not one before today had ever elicited in him the feeling he had now. She might’ve been a twin of the bomber who’d taken his daughter from him, about whom Brixton could recall only one thing:

Her eyes.

This woman had the very same shifting look, trying so hard to appear casual that it seemed she was wearing a costume, sticking out to him as much as a kid on Halloween. Brixton spun his gaze back in her direction, prepared to measure off the distance between them and how he might cover it before she could trigger her explosives.

But the young woman was gone.

Brixton looked down the center aisle cluttered with commuters clutching poles or dangling hand-hold straps. He spotted the young woman in the hijab an instant before she cocked her gaze briefly back in his direction, a spark of clear recognition flashing when their eyes met this time.

She knows I made her, Brixton thought, heavy with fear as he climbed to his feet.

He started after her, heart hammering in his chest, the sensation he was feeling in that dreadful moment all too familiar. He couldn’t help but catalogue the people he passed in the woman’s wake, many of whom were either his late daughter’s age or younger. Smiling, gabbing away on their phones, reading a book, or lost between their earbuds without any knowledge of how horribly their lives might very well be about to change. If he needed any further motivation to keep moving and stop the potential suicide bomber though any means necessary, that was it. Doubt vanished, Brixton trusting his instincts in a way he hadn’t that tragic day five years ago when he was still a de facto agent for the US government.

Janet . . .

In Brixton’s mind, this was no longer a Metro car, but the same restaurant where a suicide bomber had taken a dozen lives and wounded dozens more. And he found himself faced with the chance to do today what he hadn’t done five years ago.

Stop!

Had Brixton barked that command out loud, or merely formed the thought in his head. Other passengers were staring at him now, his surge up the aisle disturbing the meager comfort of their morning routine.

Ahead of him, the woman wearing the hijab had picked up her pace, Brixton spotting her dip a hand beneath a jacket that seemed much too heavy for the unseasonably mild Washington, DC spring. His experience with the State Department working for the shadowy SITQUAL group, along with that as a cop, told him she was likely reaching for the pull cord that would detonate the suicide vest concealed under bulky sweatshirt and jacket.

If you could relive the day of your daughter’s death, what would you do?

I’d shoot the bitch before she had the chance to yank that cord, Brixton thought, drawing his Sig Sauer P-226 nine-millimeter pistol. It had survived his tenure with SITQUAL as his weapon of choice, well balanced and deadly accurate.

He could feel the crowd around him recoiling, pulling back, when they saw the pistol steadied in his hand. Several gasped. A woman cried out. A kid dropped his cell phone into Brixton’s path and he accidentally kicked it aside.

“Stop!”

Shouted out loud for sure this time, the dim echo bouncing off the Metro car’s walls as it wound in thunderous fashion through the tube. The young woman in the hijab was almost to the rear door separating this car from the next. Brixton was close enough to hear the whoooooshhh as she engaged the door, breaking the rule that prohibited passengers from such car-hopping.

“Stop!”

She turned her gaze back toward him as he raised his pistol, ready to take the shot he hadn’t taken five years ago. Passengers cried out and shrank from his path. The door hissed closed, the young woman regarding him vacantly through the safety glass as she stretched hand out blindly to activate the door accessing the next car back.

And that’s when she stumbled. Brixton was well aware of the problems encountered by this new 7000 series of Metro railcars after federal safety officials raised repeated concerns about a potential safety risk involving the barriers between cars that were designed to prevent blind and visually impaired people from inadvertently walking off the platform and falling through the gap. The issue initially was raised by disability rights advocates, who argued the rubber barriers were spaced too far apart, leaving enough room for a small person to slip through.

The young woman wearing the hijab was small. And she started to slip through.

Brixton watched her drop from sight an instant before an all-too familiar flash created a star burst before him. He felt light, floating as if there was nothing beneath his feet, because for a moment there wasn’t. The piercing blast that buckled the Metro car door blew him backward, the percussion lifting him up and then dropping him back down, still in motion sliding across the floor amid a demolition derby of commuters crashing into each other, as the train barreled along. Separated now from its rear-most cars, what remained of the train whipsawed through the tube with enough force to lift this car from the rails and send it alternately slamming up against one side and then the other.

Brixton maintained the presence of mind to realize his back and shoulders had come to rest awkwardly against a seat, even as the squeal of the brakes engaging grew into a deafening wail and his eyes locked on the car door that to him looked as if someone had used a can opener to carve a jagged fissure along the center of its buckled seam. The car itself seemed to be swaying—left, right, and back again—but he couldn’t be sure if that was real or the product of the concussion he may have suffered from the blast wave or upon slamming up against the seat.

Unlike five years ago, Brixton had come to rest sitting up, staring straight ahead at the back door of the Metro car currently held at an awkwardly angled perch nearly sideways across the tracks. He realized that through it all he’d somehow maintained grasp of his pistol, now steadied at the twisted remnants of the Metro car door as if he expected the young woman to reappear at any moment.

Janet . . .

A wave of euphoria washed over Brixton as, this time, he thought he’d saved her, making the best of the do-over fate had somehow granted him. The Metro car floor felt soft and cushiony, leaving him with the dream-like sense he was drifting away toward the bright lights shining down from the ceiling.

And then there was only darkness.

***

Excerpt from Murder on the Metro by Jon Land. Copyright 2021 by Jon Land. Reproduced with permission from Jon Land. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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#Review | EVERY LAST FEAR by Alex Finlay

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay
Genre: DomesticThriller, Political Thriller
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
ASIN: B08BYC481D
Pages: 368
Review Copy From: Publisher via NetGalley
Edition: Kindle
My Rating: 5

Synopsis (via GR)

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.”

So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Alex Finlay’s Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, it’s also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through a fame they never wanted.

My Thoughts

After seeing so many posts about this book that I decided to give it a shot. However, I am sometimes skeptical when I see a lot of hype about a book because in the past, unfortunately, I have been disappointed. Was I this time? Especially since, over the past year or so, the majority of my reading has been psychological thrillers, and with this being a debut, could it stand up to those that I have read before it.

The Pine family has become famous, not only in their home state but nationally due to a documentary, whereas the oldest son, Danny, was convicted for the murder of a local girl. His father, Evan, vowed that he would prove that Danny was innocent. On another tip, the family travel to Mexico to chase it down. However, Evan, mother Liv, daughter, Maggie, and youngest son Tommy never make it back alive. Matt, the 2nd oldest son, and Danny are the sole survivors and now there are rumors that they killed the family for the inheritance. Was it foul play or was it a tragic accident as the Mexican officials claimed it was?

I was hooked from that first sentence, “They found the bodies on a Tuesday.”.

The plot was intricately weaved and interweaved where the story was told by different members of the family and alternating between the before and after of the Mexican tragedy. The narrative was so expertly written that I was transported into the story. The characters were believable and three-dimensional. The suspense was intense and profound with no letup. So many twists and turns, and just when I thought I might be onto something, the story veered again.

An extraordinary debut novel that blew me away! A dynamic and captivating read!!! I suggest putting this author on your radar! I can’t wait to see what he has in store next!!!

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

REVIEW DISCLAIMER

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

    e8036764-3f6f-497e-a577-1dcaeeacd9bb

    Mailbox Monday

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

    Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

    Tuesday: (03/09/21)

    What To Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French~ eBook from William Morrow via NetGalley
    What’s Left Unsaid by Emily Bleeker ~ Kindle from Lake Union Publishers via NetGalley

    Thursday: (03/11/21)

    The Sister-In-Law by Pamela Crane ~ William Morrow via NetGalle

     

    HIDE IN PLACE by Emilya Naymark | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

    Hide In Place Banner

    Hide In Place

    by Emilya Naymark

    March 1-31, 2021 Tour

    Synopsis:

    Hide In Place by Emilya Naymark

    She left the NYPD in the firestorm of a high-profile case gone horribly wrong. Three years later, the ghosts of her past roar back to terrifying life.

    When NYPD undercover cop Laney Bird’s cover is blown in a racketeering case against the Russian mob, she flees the city with her troubled son, Alfie. Now, three years later, she’s found the perfect haven in Sylvan, a charming town in upstate New York. But then the unthinkable happens: her boy vanishes.

    Local law enforcement dismisses the thirteen-year-old as a runaway, but Laney knows better. Alfie would never abandon his special routines and the sanctuary of their home. Could he have been kidnapped–or worse? As a February snowstorm rips through the region, Laney is forced to launch her own investigation, using every trick she learned in her years undercover.

    As she digs deeper into the disappearance, Laney learns that Alfie and a friend had been meeting with an older man who himself vanished, but not before leaving a corpse in his garage. With dawning horror, Laney discovers that the man was a confidential informant from a high-profile case she had handled in the past. Although he had never known her real identity, he knows it now. Which means several other enemies do, too. Time is running out, and as Laney’s search for her son grows more desperate, everything depends on how good a detective she really is–badge or no.

    Book Details:

    Genre: Thriller
    Published by: Crooked Lane Books
    Publication Date: February 9, 2020
    Number of Pages: 278
    ISBN: 1643856375 (ISBN13: 9781643856377)
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

     

    Author Bio:

    Emilya Naymark

    Emilya Naymark’s short stories appear in Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, 1+30: THE BEST OF MY STORY, and in the upcoming Harper Collins anthology A Stranger Comes to Town.

    She has a degree in fine art, and her artworks have been published in numerous magazines and books, earning her a reputation as a creator of dark, psychological pieces.

    When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of thrillers and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.

    Q&A with Emilya Naymark

    What was the inspiration for this book?

    The easiest answer would be fifteen years of listening to my NYPD detective husband’s work stories. He worked undercover for four years, buying drugs on the street, and I still remember coming to visit him at work one day and almost not recognizing him. He was walking down the street in flip-flops and a wifebeater, his long hair in a pony. I always wanted to write his adventures, but in the end, I turned him into a female character, made him a single parent, and gave him a hefty moral dilemma. It was fun. And hey, he can always write his memoir on his own.

    What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

    I would say learning how to write has been the biggest challenge. I majored in art in both high school and college, and in my other life I’m a graphic designer and coder. In other words, I never studied writing. However, I’m more than a voracious reader. If I go a day or two without a good book, life feels drab.

    Being a reader helped me, but I had to study and workshop my stories. It took seven years, two finished novels and three unfinished ones before I learned to write well enough to land an agent with my third novel.

    What do you absolutely need while writing?

    Silence! I don’t need to lock myself in a closet or anything, but I have a set of noise blocking headphones (the kind you might use at a shooting range), and they are my dearest friend.

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

    Routine in the sense that I almost always write at night. I tried waking up early to write before work, but only succeeded in being cranky the entire day. I don’t wait for inspiration because writing feeds on itself and fans its own flames. Once I start writing, the ideas come knocking.

    Who is your favorite character from your book, and why?

    I have a soft spot for all my characters, but I like my protagonist, Laney Bird, the most. She is a good detective, but she is clueless when it comes to her own life. It’s as if everyone she loves is a complete mystery to her, and I find that terribly interesting about her. She is both impulsive and methodical, utterly loyal, but not above bending rules. She’s flawed, but in a way I find relatable.

    Tell us why we should read your book.
    Readers who enjoy Harlan Coben, Ruth Ware, or Lucy Foley with a hefty dose of police procedural would like Hide in Place.

    If you like deeply emotional women’s fiction crossed with a police procedural and crime, you will appreciate my novel. If you have a child who is a little quirky, or who worries you, you will relate. If you enjoy complicated and flawed characters facing terrible danger whilst wrestling with their moral codes, well, this book is for you. Plus, the Russian mob.

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

    • I had to learn a lot about fire breathing and playing with fire while writing it.
    • I based the central racketeering case on a real case against the Shulaya gang in Brighton Beach in 2017. I didn’t have room to include all the different kinds of crime the indictment listed, but I included the juiciest.

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

    Only that I hope this novel entertains you. And I always love hearing from readers, so comments are greatly appreciated.

    Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

    I immigrated to the USA from the Soviet Union when I was a child and grew up in Queens. I fell in love with America on day one, when I saw my first automatic sliding doors at JFK Airport. Being so close to museums, concert halls, and every kind of art sealed my future as an artist, and later, a writer. Being an immigrant gave me a sideways view of my new country. For example, when I first arrived, the subways were covered all over with graffiti. The city saw that as crime, but to me they were gorgeous.

    What’s next that we can look forward to?

    Book 2 in the Laney Bird series is on its way to the editor, and is chock full of explosive revelations, love, hate, and yes, Russians behaving badly. I also have a short story in an anthology from Harper Collins, When a Stranger Comes to Town, edited by Michael Koryta, out April 20th.

    Catch Up With Emilya Naymark:
    www.EmilyaNaymark.com/author/
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    Read an excerpt:

    Chapter 1

    Laney Bird’s son vanished the night she drove a busload of high school seniors to see Wicked on Broadway. He left home before she did, loping down their driveway toward marching band practice, his saxophone case swinging in his hand.

    “Stew in the Crock-Pot!” she yelled at his retreating back. “I’ll be home by eleven!”

    He waved without turning around, a shimmy of raised fingers in the raw February wind.

    The bus smelled like bologna sandwiches, fruity body sprays, and old soda and sounded like a monkey house. But she was used to it. And she needed the extra money.

    Once the students erupted into the glittery Manhattan night, she parked and texted him but heard nothing back. This concerned her, though not overwhelmingly so. She figured he’d stayed late for practice or left his phone in his backpack on vibrate. She tried to nap. Listened to the radio. Played a game on her phone.

    As icy rain turned to snow, the students clambered back on the bus, collapsing against green seats and smudged windows, and she carted them homeward through tortuous, storm-soured traffic toward upstate New York and their waiting families.

    She wasn’t home by eleven.

    Laney walked into her empty, dark house a few minutes past midnight and dumped her keys onto the key dish by the front door. Alfie’s saxophone did not trip her as it usually did, but she barely noticed, the long day hitting her hard.

    After wriggling out of her bra (through her sleeves, blessed relief) and toeing off her shoes, she tipped the lid from the Crock-Pot and paused, unease needling her.

    The beef and potatoes had gone cold, congealed. Untouched. She dropped her bra to a chair and walked over to Alfie’s room. His door was open and, when she flipped the light switch, his bed neat, empty.

    With shaking fingers, she called his phone, then again, and again. Again. The line rang through to voicemail every time. The GPS Phone Tracker showed him a block from school at five pm, then nothing. He had either disabled the app or powered off his phone, both of which she had forbidden him to ever do.
    Between the frantic phone calls, she glanced in every room and closet, climbed into the drafty attic, then into the dank basement, calling his name as if he were a toddler playing hide-and-seek and not a mercurial thirteen-year-old.

    He was still not home by one am, when Laney rang and woke the few parents whose sons bothered with Alfie. They answered their phones with voices groggy or scared, turning quickly to irritation. He wasn’t with any of them. But she’d known that before she called and made the calls anyway out of some dim, crazed hope. He never visited other kids, never texted, wasn’t, as far as she knew, active on any social media.

    At one thirty am she screeched into the Sylvan PD’s parking lot, knocking over a garbage can as she slammed on the brakes. Sylvan, a sedate hamlet in Rockland County, population less than nine thousand, slumbered under a cloud-swept sky, and the station house in the middle of the night on a Tuesday was quiet.

    Laney burst into the building, then hesitated as the doors clanged shut behind her. Ed Boswell was the desk officer on duty, and if he was not exactly the last person she wanted to see, he was right up there in the top five candidates.

    “Laney,” said Ed, turning his eyes from the screen, where, no doubt, he’d been watching the latest episode of CSI. He’d told Laney once it was his favorite show, and the midnight shift in Sylvan was so slow he usually spent at least half of it bingeing on some TV series or other.

    It’s not that she thought he was a bad police officer. He was all right, calm and steady, with a slow way of looking at every problem even when the problem required immediate, ten-alarm action. Laney had been a cop herself before her personal life imploded. In her deplorably short career with the NYPD, Laney had risen to detective and worked three years as an undercover, first in the Bronx, then in Brighton Beach.

    As Ed Boswell clicked something on his computer, tsked in irritation, clicked again, then looked at her, she wished, not for the first time, she could call her ex-partner. But he didn’t work in Sylvan. Ed did. Ed, who knew nothing of her past, nothing of the shield she’d earned by doing countless buy-and-busts, of her skills, her extensive knowledge of police procedures. Ed, who saw only what everyone else in Sylvan saw when they looked at her—a bus-driving single mom of an odd boy—and treated her problems with her child accordingly.

    “It’s Alfie,” she said, her voice coming shrill and taut from her throat, hurting her. “He’s not home. Hasn’t come home.”

    “Again?” asked Ed.

    His eyes settled on her (with pity? condescension?), and she realized she’d run out of the house in her slippers, her coat still hanging on its hook in the hall and her bra on a kitchen chair.

    Ed glanced at the window, where a wet sleet had started to slap against the glass. The storm had traveled north and was just beginning to hit their town.

    “Did you check the high school?” he asked, just as Laney knew he would, because he’d been on desk duty the last time Alfie decided to disappear.

    “The school is locked,” Laney said, thinking this should have been obvious, schools were like fortresses nowadays, hermetically sealed after hours. But she was not the cop, she reminded herself. Not anymore.

    She said, “He’s not answering phone calls or texts. He’s disabled the phone tracker. I called three families who have sons he’s friends with”—to describe them as friends was a stretch, and she knew Ed knew this and her face colored—“and he’s with none of them. I left a message for his band teacher. Alfie was scheduled for band practice this afternoon. Prior to that he came home from school as usual at two fifteen, had a snack”—she paused, swallowed; that was the last time she’d spoken with him—“a PBJ sandwich, did his homework, then left for practice at four fifty. He was supposed to be home before seven.”

    She closed her eyes, running through anything else she might have done, anything else she should say, but all she could envision was Alfie’s back in his maroon parka as he strode down the slippery driveway, saxophone case in hand, blond hair escaping from under his black knit cap. She hadn’t even hugged him, just waved as he stepped past her for the three-block walk to the high school.

    Ed sighed and typed something. “I’m sure he’s fine, Laney. He’s done this before. We’ll have a patrol car out to the school.”

    But it wasn’t the same, Laney wanted to scream. That last time, a month ago, she and Alfie had had an argument—a real, honest-to-God shouting and crying fest. She had (had she really?) slapped him and ransacked his room for the drugs she was sure he’d hidden there. His blown-out pupils, his clammy skin, his overly cautious movements, as if he didn’t trust his own limbs, terrified her, reminded her of the lost souls she’d had to lock up in the past. He cried, bawled, his face red and swollen, a child, even though he was thirteen and would be fourteen soon, in two more months. He denied everything, and by morning she had to admit she might have overreacted—the years buying drugs on the street as an undercover had skewed her vision, darkened her interpretations of the most normal behaviors. He might have simply been fighting off a cold. Mightn’t he?

    By morning it was too late to make amends. Alfie had left and didn’t come home until the next day.

    Afterward, after the missing-child reports had been filed and alerts issued to local police, after hours of searching, Alfie simply walked up the driveway and into their living room. He’d spent the night in the school theater’s backstage, among the dress forms and discarded curtains. In the morning he’d washed in the gym locker room, ate in the cafeteria, and walked to the frozen lake a mile away, where he spent a few hours sliding along the thick ice until he grew cold and hungry, at which point he came home.

    Laney wanted to ground him, punish him, take away screen privileges for running away, because didn’t he know what he meant to her, didn’t he know he was all the family she had in the world? But the sight of him, tall, pale, thin, worried about her reaction, destroyed any disciplinarian instincts, and she clung to him wordlessly. She then cooked them a big pasta dinner.

    And after she put away the dishes and Tupperwared the leftovers, she installed the GPS Phone Tracker on his phone.

    “Look,” Ed said, “I’m sending the patrol car out now. We’ll start at the school. How about you go home and get warm. We’ll call you as soon as we find him. What’s the band teacher’s name? Is that Mr. Andersen?”

    So placid. So sure. Laney ground the heels of her hands into her eyes. It’s possible she was overreacting again. But what did Ed know of her and Alfie? Certainly she hadn’t told him—or anybody—the reason Alfie skedaddled the last time, of that god-awful argument. Most depressingly, nobody who knew her had asked why he might have disappeared then, not even Ed Boswell, who had taken the report and should have.

    Alfie was strange, a loner, prone to both inappropriate outbursts and intense shyness, and never mind his near expulsion following the fall talent show. Consequently, any strange behavior from him was not surprising. Certainly not to Ed, whose son was also a Boy Scout in Alfie’s troop. That’s how Laney and Ed knew each other, through their children, even though Ed’s son ignored Alfie at best and sometimes, when he thought no parents were in hearing distance, ridiculed him with the sharp, callous cleverness of the smart and popular.

    “So,” she said, trying to keep her voice neutral, “should I tell you what he was wearing?”

    “Oh.” Ed peered at the paperwork in front of him. “Yes, let’s do that. What was he wearing?”

    She pictured Alfie, her stomach clenching with fear. Where was he? Things had improved lately. A lot.

    He’d been sweet, even-tempered, talkative with her, had even been mentioning a friend.

    “Blue-and-gray-striped sweater, horizontal stripes. Dark-blue jeans”—skinny cut, Christmas present and already floods on him two months later—“white socks, black sneakers, maroon parka, black watch cap.

    He had his sax with him when he left.”

    Ed sat back and sighed. “Got it. He’s fine, Laney, really. It’s Sylvan, not the inner city. Go home. I’ll call you as soon as we find him.”

    She nodded, her eyes welling, then gestured to the hallway. “Gonna use the ladies’,” she said, already walking toward the bathroom.

    It wasn’t so much that she minded crying in front of people—she really didn’t. Feelings were feelings and everyone had them. But being inside the station brought back her old ways. Cops didn’t blubber, and if you were a female cop, you better keep yourself zipped shut or you’d never hear the end of it. She splashed cold water on her face and dried off with a paper towel, kneading it into a tight, brown ball before shoving it into the metal bin.

    A little of Ed’s sureness had penetrated her swooping panic, and she felt a touch easier now. He was right about one thing— Sylvan was not the inner city. The nearly nonexistent crime rate and country setting were why she had moved here in the first place. Alfie was being his difficult self. That was all.

    She walked out of the bathroom tired but composed, willing to let the situation take its course, if only until morning.

    On her way out, she passed an office and would have kept walking except she heard Alfie’s name. She stopped just behind the doorway, keeping out of sight.

    “That kid’s got problems,” said a man’s voice. “Listen, I had to come out five times last fall to the high school because of him. Five times! What’s he even doing in a normal school? Shouldn’t he be up in Pinelane?”

    “Apparently not,” another man answered. “I know what you mean, though.” He sighed. “That boy is overtime waiting to happen. And it doesn’t make me happy to say it.”

    “What? You not happy about overtime?” the first man said.

    “You know what I mean. What if your kid was like that?”

    “Nope, not me. That’s why I ain’t having kids. I got snipped.”

    Laney looked up to see Ed coming toward her, his lips a line across his face. Without saying anything to her, he marched into the office and said, “I’m happy to hear you won’t be reproducing, Raguzzi. Now get the hell to work and shut the fuck up.”

    She turned and ran out into the spewing snow, her slippers instantly soaked and her face burning with shame and guilt and worry.

    ***

    Excerpt from Hide in Place by Emilya Naymark. Copyright 2021 by Emilya Naymark. Reproduced with permission from Emilya Naymark. All rights reserved.

     

     

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    THE TURNCOAT’S WIDOW by Mally Becker | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

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    The Turncoat’s Widow

    by Mally Becker

    February 22 – March 19, 2021 Tour

    Synopsis:

    The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker

    Recently widowed, Rebecca Parcell is too busy struggling to maintain her farm in Morristown to care who wins the War for Independence. But rumors are spreading in 1780 that she’s a Loyalist sympathizer who betrayed her husband to the British—quite a tidy way to end her disastrous marriage, the village gossips whisper.

    Everyone knows that her husband was a Patriot, a hero who died aboard a British prison ship moored in New York Harbor. But “everyone” is wrong. Parcell was a British spy, and General Washington – who spent two winters in Morristown – can prove it. He swears he’ll safeguard Becca’s farm if she unravels her husband’s secrets. With a mob ready to exile her or worse in the winter of 1780, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.

    Escaped British prisoner of war Daniel Alloway was the last person to see Becca’s husband alive, and Washington throws this unlikely couple together on an espionage mission to British-occupied New York City. Moving from glittering balls to an underworld of brothels and prisons, Becca and Daniel uncover a plot that threatens the new country’s future. But will they move quickly enough to warn General Washington? And can Becca, who’s lost almost everyone she loves, fight her growing attraction to Daniel, a man who always moves on?

    Praise for The Turncoat’s Widow

    The Turncoat’s Widow has it all. A sizzling romance, meticulous research, and an exhilarating adventure. Becca Parcell is too independent for both 18th-century Morristown and her feckless English husband. Her individual plight when she is pressed into service as an unwilling spy after her husband’s death reflects the larger situation of colonists during the American Revolution, whose lives were upended by a political fight they cared nothing about. Becker balances the ruthlessness of George Washington and the underhanded charm of Alexander Hamilton with the excesses of the British, as part of a detailed picture of how the colonies were governed during a war that was far from a simple fight between two opposing nations. But historical exactitude is balanced by dashing romance between Becca and Daniel Alloway, the escaped prisoner charged with protecting her, and plot full of bold escapes and twists. A great series debut. I can’t wait for the next installment.
    – Erica Obey, author, Dazzle Paint (coming 02/2021), The Curse of the Braddock Brides, and The Horseman’s Word.

    An exciting Revolutionary-era thriller with a twisty mystery, great characters, and historical accuracy to boot.
    – Eleanor Kuhns,author of the Will Rees mysteries

    The Turncoat’s Widow reminds readers that treachery from within and without to our republic were real, and those early days for American independence from the British were fragile, the patriot cause, unpopular. This is a rousing debut novel with insights into the hardships of colonial life, the precarious place of women in society, while giving fans of historical fiction a tale with suspense, surprises, and anoutspoken and admirable heroine in Becca Parcell. Mally Becker is an author to watch.
    – Gabriel Valjan, Agatha and Anthony-nominated author of The Naming Game

    Book Details:

    Genre: Historical Suspense / Mystery
    Published by: Level Best Books
    Publication Date: February 16, 2021
    ISBN: 978-1-953789-27-3
    Purchase Links: Amazon || Goodreads

     

    Author Bio:

    Mally Becker

    Mally Becker is a writer whose historical suspense novel, The Turncoat’s Widow, will be published in February 2021 by Level Best Books. She was born in Brooklyn and began her professional career in New York City as a publicist and freelance magazine writer, then moved on, becoming an attorney and, later, an advocate for children in foster care.

    As a volunteer, she used her legal background to create a digest of letters from US Supreme Court Justices owned by the Morristown National Park. That’s where she found a copy of an indictment for the Revolutionary War crime of traveling from New Jersey to New York City “without permission or passport.” It led her to the idea for her story.

    ​A winner of the Leon B. Burstein/MWA-NY Scholarship for Mystery Writing, Mally lives with her husband in the wilds of New Jersey where they hike, kayak, look forward to visits from their son, and poke around the region’s historical sites.

    Q&A with Mally Becker

    What was the inspiration for this book?

    A Revolutionary War-era document I found inspired my story. I thought I’d be clearing trails when I volunteered at the Morristown National Historical Park here in New Jersey. Instead, I found myself sifting through one of the Park’s old collection of letters. That’s where I found a 240-year-old indictment that accused a local man of the crime of traveling from New Jersey to New York City “without permission or passport.”

    I’ve lived in New York City or its suburbs for most of my life. The idea that heading into the city was ever a crime stopped me in my tracks. I was almost offended! So I took that allegation of a Revolutionary War-era crime to one of the Park’s historians for an explanation.
    I learned that not all colonists supported independence during the War for Independence and that the local government made travel without its permission a crime because of all the spies and smugglers slipping between New Jersey and British-held New York City.
    A divided nation? Spies and smuggling? Suddenly, I had a plot.

    What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

    Closing the door on the world and my family for hours at a time to write was my biggest challenge. I still have to remind myself that the story I want to tell is worth the time I need to give it. And that requires faith even when the story is little more than a glimmer in my mind!

    What do you absolutely need while writing?

    Coffee, a comfortable chair near a window, and paper and a pen next to the computer for notes. Then, more coffee.

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

    Neither! I don’t adhere to a strict routine, and I don’t wait for creative lightening to strike. I find that ideas only flow if I’m doing the messy work of writing almost daily. Otherwise, I lose track of who said what to whom and what happens next. But there are days when I start at 7:30 am and others when I begin at 2 pm.

    Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

    I love this question, although it’s a bit like asking a parent which of their kids is their favorite! I have a crush on Daniel Alloway, I wish I were more like my heroine, Becca Parcell, and I’d love to spend more time with my book’s version of Alexander Hamilton.

    But John Mason is my favorite character. He actually led a group of thieves that preyed on British and Americans alike during the American Revolution. Since I didn’t find a lot of detail about his life, I got to create my own version of the thief. Mason is joyous, intelligent and goes after what he wants without artifice, but his motivation in helping Becca and her mother-in-law is unclear, at least for most of the story. Why do I like him the most? Because I based his personality on my husband’s.

    Tell us why we should read your book.

    The American Revolution can feel so distant, as frozen in time as those formal, lifeless portraits from the era. I hope that my book–a historical mystery, wrapped in a romance, wrapped in a spy story–entertains readers and brings the late 18th century to life.

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

    Becca Parcell accepts a cup of hot chocolate from her nemesis in one scene of The Turncoat’s Widow, and the scent of chocolate and cayenne pepper fill the air. Yes, cayenne pepper. Chocolate was common in the colonies, I learned, and hot chocolate was considered an adult drink. It was often spiced with pepper, anise, or cardamom. I first drank it that way on a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. I enjoyed the spicy hot chocolate, but, to be honest, still prefer mine with marshmallows!

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

    There are so many books you could have chosen to read. I’m grateful to you for choosing The Turncoat’s Widow. If you enjoy the book, I hope you’ll leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads or your own social media channels. And please keep in touch about what I’m planning next through Facebook or my website, www.mallybecker.com.

    Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
    My husband and I met in a boatyard, and we owned a sailboat before we owned a house. A former attorney, volunteer advocate for foster children, and freelance writer, I live with my husband in Warren, New Jersey, where we raised our wonderful son. The Turncoat’s Widow, featuring Becca Parcell, is my first novel.

    What’s next that we can look forward to?
    I’m working on the next historical mystery in the Becca Parcell series, which will be published next year.

    Catch Up With Mally Becker On:
    www.MallyBecker.com
    Goodreads
    Instagram – @mallybeckerwrites
    Twitter – @mally_becker
    Facebook – Mally Baumel Becker

     

    Read an excerpt:

    Chapter One

    Morristown – January 1780

    There was a nervous rustling in the white-washed meeting house, a disturbance of air like the sound of sparrows taking wing.

    Becca Parcell peered over the balcony’s rough, wood railing, blinking away the fog of half-sleep. She had been dreaming of the figures in her account book and wondering whether there would be enough money for seed this spring.

    “I didn’t hear what ….” she whispered to Philip’s mother.

    Lady Augusta Georgiana Stokes Parcell, known simply as Lady Augusta, covered Becca’s hand with her own. “Philip. They’re speaking of Philip.”

    Becca couldn’t tell whether it was her hand or Augusta’s that trembled.

    “The Bible says, if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, does it not?” The preacher’s voice was soft, yet it carried to every corner of the congregation. “They’re here. Amongst us. Neighbors who toast the King behind closed doors. Neighbors with no love of liberty.”

    Philip was a Patriot. He had died a hero. Everyone knew. Minister Townsend couldn’t be talking about him.

    The minister raised his eyes to hers. With his long thin arms and legs and round belly, he reminded her of a spider. She twisted her lips into the semblance of a smile as if to say “you don’t scare me.” But he did.

    “Which of your neighbors celebrates each time a Patriot dies?” Townsend’s voice rose like smoke to the rafters, took on strength and caught fire. “Their presence here is an abomination.” He rapped the podium with a flat palm, the sound bruising in the quiet church. “Then cast them out. Now.”

    Men pounded the floor with their feet.

    Becca flinched. It wouldn’t take much to tip the congregation into violence. Everyone had lost someone or something to this endless war. It had been going on for almost five years.

    Townsend’s thin arm rose, pointing to her.

    Becca’s breath caught.

    “And what of widows like Mrs. Parcell? Left alone, no longer guided by the wise direction of their husbands.”

    Guided? Becca pulled her hand from Augusta’s. She rubbed her thumb along the palm of her hand, feeling the rough calluses stamped there. She had learned the rhythm of the scythe at the end of the summer, how to twist and swing low until her hands were so stiff that she’d struggle to free them from the handle. She’d fallen into a dreamless sleep each night during the harvest too exhausted even to dream of Philip. She, Augusta and their servant Annie were doing just fine.

    “He hardly slept at home, as I hear it,” a woman behind her sniffed to a neighbor.

    Becca’s spine straightened.

    “No wonder there were no babes,” the second woman murmured.

    Becca twisted and nodded a smile to Mrs. Huber and Mrs. Harrington. Their mouths pursed into surprised tight circles. She’d heard them murmur, their mouths hidden by fluttering fans: About her lack of social graces; her friendship with servants; her awkward silence in company. “What else could you expect from her?” they would say, snapping shut their fans.

    Relief washed through Becca, nonetheless. This was merely the old gossip, not the new rumors.

    “Some of you thought Mr. Parcell was just another smuggler.” The pastor’s voice boomed.

    A few in the congregation chuckled. It was illegal to sell food to the British in New York – the “London Trade” some called it — but most turned a blind eye. Even Patriots need hard currency to live, Becca recalled Philip saying.

    “He only married her for the dowry,” Mrs. Huber hissed.

    Becca’s hand curved into a fist.

    Augusta cleared her throat, and Becca forced herself to relax.

    “Perhaps some of you thought Mr. Parcell was still a Tory,” the minister said.

    The chuckling died.

    “He came to his senses, though. He was, after all, one of us,” Minister Townsend continued.

    One of us. Invitations from the finer families had trickled away after Philip’s death.

    “We all know his story,” Townsend continued. “He smuggled whiskey into New York City. And what a perfect disguise his aristocratic roots provided.” The minister lifted his nose in the air as if mimicking a dandy.
    “The British thought he was one of them, at least until the end.” The minister’s voice swooped as if telling a story around a campfire. “He brought home information about the British troops in the City.”

    Becca shifted on the bench. She hadn’t known about her husband’s bravery until after his death. It had baffled her. Philip never spoke of politics.

    Townsend lifted one finger to his chin as if he had a new thought. “But who told the British where Mr. Parcell would be on the day he was captured? Who told the Redcoats that Mr. Parcell was a spy for independence?”

    Becca forgot to breathe. He wouldn’t dare.

    “It must have been someone who knew him well.” The minister’s gaze moved slowly through the congregation and came to rest on Becca. His eyes were the color of creosote, dark and burning. “Very, very well.”
    Mrs. Coddington, who sat to Becca’s left, pulled the hem of her black silk gown close to avoid contact. Men in the front pews swiveled and stared.

    “I would never. I didn’t.” Becca’s corset gouged her ribcage.

    “Speak up, Mrs. Parcell. We can’t hear you,” the minister said in a singsong voice.

    Townsend might as well strip her naked before the entire town. Respectable women didn’t speak in public. He means to humiliate me.

    “Stand up, Mrs. Parcell.” His voice boomed. “We all want to hear.”

    She didn’t remember standing. But there she was, the fingers of her right hand curled as it held the hunting bow she’d used since she was a child. Becca turned back to the minister. “Hogwash.” If they didn’t think she was a lady, she need not act like one. “Your independence is a wickedly unfair thing if it lets you accuse me without proof.”

    Gasps cascaded throughout the darkening church.

    From the balcony, where slaves and servants sat, she heard two coughs, explosive as gun fire. She twisted. Carl scowled down at her in warning. His white halo of hair, fine as duckling feathers, seemed to stand on end. He had worked for her father and helped to raise her. He had taught her numbers and mathematics. She couldn’t remember life without him.

    “Accuse? Accuse you of what, Mrs. Parcell?” The minister opened his arms to the congregation. “What have we accused you of?”

    Becca didn’t feel the chill now. “Of killing my husband. If this is what your new nation stands for – neighbors accusing neighbors, dividing us with lies – I’ll have none of it. “Five years into this endless war, is anyone better off for Congress’ Declaration of Independence? Independence won’t pay for food. It won’t bring my husband home.”

    It was as if she’d burst into flames. “What has the war brought any of us? Heartache, is all. Curse your independence. Curse you for ….”

    Augusta yanked on Becca’s gown with such force that she teetered, then rocked back onto the bench.

    The church erupted in shouts, a crashing wave of sound meant to crush her.

    Becca’s breath came in short puffs. What had she done?

    “Now that’s just grief speaking, gentlemen. Mrs. Parcell is still mourning her husband. No need to get worked up.” The voice rose from the front row. She recognized Thomas Lockwood’s slow, confident drawl.
    She craned her neck to watch Thomas, with his wheat-colored hair and wide shoulders. His broad stance reminded her of a captain at the wheel. He was a gentleman, a friend of General Washington. They’ll listen to him, she thought.

    “Our minister doesn’t mean to accuse Mrs. Parcell of anything, now do you, sir?”

    The two men stared at each other. A minister depended on the good will of gentlemen like Thomas Lockwood.
    The pastor blinked first. He shook his head.

    Becca’s breathing slowed.

    “There now. As I said.” Lockwood’s voice calmed the room.

    Then Mr. Baldwin stood slowly. Wrinkles crisscrossed his cheeks. He’d sent his three boys to fight with the Continental Army in ’75. Only one body came home to be buried. The other two were never found. He pointed at Becca with fingers twisted by arthritis. “Mrs. Parcell didn’t help when the women raised money for the soldiers last month.”

    A woman at the end of Becca’s pew sobbed quietly. It was Mrs. Baldwin.

    “You didn’t invite me.” Becca searched the closed faces for proof that someone believed her.

    “Is she on our side or theirs?” another woman called.

    The congregation quieted again. But it was the charged silence between two claps of thunder, and the Assembly waited for a fresh explosion in the dim light of the tired winter afternoon.

    With that, Augusta’s imperious voice sliced through the silence: “Someone help my daughter-in-law. She’s not well. I believe she’s about to faint.”

    Becca might be rash, but she wasn’t stupid, and she knew a command when she heard one. She shut her eyes and fell gracelessly into the aisle. Her head and shoulder thumped against the rough pine floorboards.

    Mrs. Coddington gasped. So did Becca, from the sharp pain in her cheek and shoulder.

    Women in the surrounding rows scooted back in surprise, their boots shuffling with a shh-shh sound.

    “Lady Augusta,” Mrs. Coddington huffed.

    Independence be damned. All of Morristown seemed to enjoy using Augusta’s family title, her former title, as often as possible.

    “Lady Augusta,” she repeated. “I’ve had my suspicions about that girl since the day she married your son. I don’t know why you haven’t sent her back to her people.”

    “She has no ‘people,’ Mrs. Coddington. She has me,” Augusta’s voice was as frosty as the air in the church. “And if I had doubts about Rebecca, do you think I’d live with her?”

    Becca imagined Augusta’s raised eyebrows, her delicate lifted chin. She couldn’t have borne it if her mother-in-law believed the minister’s lies.

    Augusta’s featherlight touch stroked her forehead. “Well done,” she murmured. “Now rise slowly. And don’t lean on me. I might just topple over.”

    “We are eager to hear the rest of the service on this Sabbath day, Minister Townsend. Do continue,” Thomas Lockwood called.

    Becca stood, her petite mother-in-law’s arm around her waist. The parishioners at the edges of the aisles averted their eyes as the two women passed.

    As they stepped into the stark, brittle daylight, one last question shred the silence they left behind: “Do you think she turned her husband over to the British?”

    Someone else answered. “It must be true. Everyone says so.

    ***

    Excerpt from The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker. Copyright 2021 by Mally Becker. Reproduced with permission from Mally Becker. All rights reserved.

     

     

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    Mailbox Monday

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    Mailbox Monday

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

    Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

    Tuesday: (03/02/21)

    The Stranger Behind You by Carol Goodman~ Kindle from William Morrow via NetGalley
    Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano ~ Kindle from Oceanview Publishing via NetGalley

    Wednesday: (03/03/21)

    The Perfect Family by Robyn Harding~ Kindle from Gallery Books via NetGalley