Jun 252014
 

Book Details:

Genre: Fiction / Crime
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Number of Pages: 356
ISBN: 006230206X
Series: Ben Cooper & Diane Fry #9

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

On a rain-swept hillside, hounds from the local foxhunt discover the body of a well-dressed man. At that exact moment, an anonymous caller reports the same body . . . lying half a mile away.

It’s only the first in a series of baffling clues as Ben Cooper and Diane Fry-partners and rivals on the detective force -plunge into a case involving horses, spectacular wealth, and a mysterious “plague village” where a centuries-old outbreak of Black Death has been transformed into a modern tourist attraction.

As the spring rain falls and the body count rises, Cooper and Fry’s investigation twists back to the recent past. A killer lurks in the shadows there-a killer now hiding in plain sight . . .

Atmospheric and ingenious, packed with suspense and secrets, The Kill Call is an unforgettable thriller from an unforgettable writer.

Read an excerpt:

THE KILL CALL

The 9th novel in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry series

This excerpt was taken from http://www.stephen-booth.com and as such may not be the newest available version.

CHAPTER ONE

Journal of 1968

In those days, there were always just the three of us. Three bodies close together, down there in the cold, with the water seeping through the concrete floor, and a chill striking deep into flesh and bone. The three of us, crouching in the gloom, waiting for a signal that would never come.

And what a place to wait and watch in. Seven feet high and seven feet wide – it might as well have been a giant coffin. But slam down the lid and blot out the sun, and we’d survive. Oh, yes. For fourteen days, we’d survive. Thinking about all the things we’d hoped for, and the way our lives could be snuffed out, just like that.

One night, Jimmy looked up from his bunk at me and Les, and he said we were like the three little pigs, or the three billy goats gruff. Well, I don’t know about that. Three blind mice, maybe – it would be more fitting. If it all kicked off, the three of us would be as good as blind. Blinded by a million suns. Blind to the people dying.

A few of the details are a bit dim now. Age does that to you. But other things are as bright and stark in my mind as if they’d been burnt there by a lightning flash. Faces and eyes are what I remember most. Faces in the dark. Eyes turned up towards the light. That look in the eyes a second before death.

Yet all we had down there was a miserable six-watt bulb. I don’t think they even make bulbs that small any more, do they? No wonder your sight could get damaged. Then, every ninety minutes, the switch would pop and it went totally dark. Black as a cat in a coal hole. I always hated that. Even now, complete darkness is what frightens me most. You never know what might be coming up right next to you in the dark.

But it’s amazing how you can adapt to it, for a while. With that one little bulb, we could see pretty well in the murk, well enough to read and do what was necessary.

The place was shocking damp, too. I don’t know what they’d done wrong when they built it, but Les said it hadn’t been tanked. Les was our number one, and he might have been right, for once. The water seemed to soak right through the walls from the soil. It was particularly bad in the winter, or after a heavy rain, which happens a mite too often in Derbyshire. Some nights, if it were siling down, it would be all hands to the pump.

And that was the three of us. Me, Les, and poor old Jimmy. Always three, except for the time that we didn’t ever talk about.

A lot of things seem to come in threes, don’t they? The Holy Trinity, the Three Wise Men, the Third World War. There must be something magic about the number. Perhaps it’s to do with the Earth being the third planet from the Sun. Or the fact that we see the world in three dimensions – even if your world happens to be only seven feet wide and seven feet high.

Well, times change so much. The years pass and the world turns, and suddenly no one cares, and no one wants you any more. They take away your friends, your pride, your reason for living. But they can’t ever wipe out your memories. Sometimes, I wish they would. If only they could take away the nightmares, free me from the memory of those damp concrete walls and the icy darkness, and the memory of a face, staring up at the light.

And that’s another funny thing. They say bad luck comes in threes, don’t they? I think I always knew that.

But here’s something I didn’t know. It turns out that people die in threes, too.

CHAPTER TWO

March 2009, Tuesday

Old buildings drew Sean Crabbe like a bee to honey. The more neglected they were, the better he liked them. He couldn’t really explain the appeal. It might have been something to do with the history that clung to the walls, the lives of long-dead people written in the dust, their stories forever trapped in cobwebs hanging from broken ceilings.

That was why the old Nissen huts above Birchlow were one of his favourite places. He made his way there whenever he got the chance, bunking off from college or just disappearing on a weekend, when no one cared what he was up to. No one else ever went up to the huts any more – not since the homeless man had died there, wrapped up in a roll of plastic sheeting with empty cans scattered around him, a cold morning light glinting on the last drops of his beer as they dribbled across the floor.

Sean had been there on that morning, had found the old derelict lying in his pool of Special Brew, and had walked away to try somewhere else. Next day, he’d watched from the hillside as the police and paramedics made their way to the site. He wondered why they’d sent an ambulance when any fool could see that the man was long since dead.

Some folk said that the place was cursed now, haunted by the ghost of the drunken vagrant. So that was why Sean was always on his own at the old huts. And it was just the way he liked it.

There was one big building that was almost intact, with damp brick walls and corrugated-iron sheets banging in the wind. Its purpose was a mystery to him, but he didn’t really care. There were a few small rooms that might have been offices, a kitchen that still had a filthy sink in it, and a bigger space with a concrete floor and shelves along the walls, like a workshop. He liked the narrow corridors best, the floorboards that had warped from the damp and seemed to move with him as he crossed from room to room, and the peeling paint of the doorways where he could imagine anything waiting behind them to be found.

In a way, whenever he pushed open one of those doors, he was entering a different world, stepping through into the past. He wondered if the past had been a better world than the one he was in right now.

This morning, Sean’s need to escape had been urgent. His BTEC course at the further education college was turning out to be a waste of time, useless for his chances of finding the media career he’d dreamed of. The money he’d saved doing holiday jobs had long since run out. All those hours washing caravans and picking up rubbish hadn’t kept him in course fees for long, and now he owed his parents for a loan to see him through. His girlfriend had dumped him weeks ago, because she said he was mean. If he could call her a girlfriend. Most of the girls thought he was geeky. But, if he was a geek, why wasn’t he cleverer at passing exams and doing assignments?

And, to cap it all, a bunch of kids had mugged him last night outside the pub and nicked his phone. Lucky he didn’t have his iPod with him at the time, but losing the Nokia was a real pain. His parents had shelled out for it, and he couldn’t face telling them that he’d lost it.

It was pity there was no sun, though. A patch of thin, lattice-like wood had been exposed up there in the roof space, and when the sunlight shone through, it cast shadows across the floor. Then Sean could pretend he was a child, avoiding the cracks on the pavement. Here, he could step from light to light, avoiding the dark shadows as if they were traps, holes where evil lurked. Step from light to light, and avoid the shadows. If only life was so easy.

But there was no sun today. Just the rain clattering on the corrugated iron, blowing through the splintered windows, streaming down the walls. He was already wet when he arrived at the huts, and the chill made him shiver inside his parka.

Mouldy, fusty, stale and mildewed. Those were the familiar smells of the hut. If the weather was warm, he could scent an underlying odour of oil or grease, saturated into the concrete from whatever had gone on in here. That smell must have lasted decades. Fifty, sixty years? The buildings must be from about that time. They were so old-fashioned, so last century. It was hard for him to imagine what anyone might have done up here, stuck on an empty hillside in Derbyshire.

Now and then, he smoked a spliff up here at the huts, but he couldn’t afford that now. Instead, he plugged in the earphones of his iPod and selected some Coldplay. A feeling of peace settled over him as he listened to Chris Martin’s plaintive vocals coming in on ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’. He could forget everything else for a while once the music was playing.

Today, though, Sean knew something was different. He tugged out the earphones and stayed completely still, his eyes tightly closed, his ears straining for a sound. The scurrying of a mouse under the floorboards, maybe, or a bird scratching a nest in the roof. But there was no sound.

He squinted at the dust swirling slowly around him, disturbed only by the current of his own breath. The room looked the same as always. Nothing had been moved or disturbed since his last visit. It was always a worry that someone else would find the derelict buildings – another vagrant sleeping rough, a couple of kids finding a place to have sex or take drugs. Or, worst of all, the owner coming to check on his property, or a builder with a plan to demolish it.

Sean closed his eyes, trying to recapture the moment that had been lost. But he finally had to acknowledge that something really was different today. It wasn’t a sound, or anything that looked out of place. It was in the very quality of the mustiness, an underlying odour that was too sweet to be oil or grease. He couldn’t deny the message that was hitting his nostrils.

The difference was in the smell.

——————————————————————————————————————————

It had been raining for six hours by the time they found the body. Since the early hours of the morning, sheets of water had been swirling into the valley, soaking the corpse and the ground around it. Pools of water had gathered in the hollows of the fields below Longstone Moor, and a new stream had formed between two hawthorns, washing their roots bare of earth.

Detective Sergeant Diane Fry wiped the rain from her face and cursed under her breath as she watched the medical examiner and an assistant turn the body on to its side. Rivulets of blood-soaked water streamed off the sleeves of a green coat the victim was wearing. A crime-scene photographer crouched under the edge of the body tent to capture the moment. Big, fat drops bounced off his paper suit, ricocheting like bullets.

Shivering, Fry made a mental note to find out the manufacturer of the victim’s coat. Her own jacket was barely shower proof, and it would never have withstood the amount of rain that had fallen during the night. Her shoulders already felt damp, though she’d been standing in the field no more than ten minutes. If she didn’t get back to her car soon, her clothes would be sticking to her all day, with no chance of a hot shower for hours yet. She’d be unpopular back at the office, too. No one liked sharing their nice, warm working space with a drowned rat.

‘Haven’t we got any cover up here yet?’ she said. ‘Where’s the mobile control unit?’

‘On its way, Sarge. It’s a difficult spot to get to.’

‘Tell me about it.’

She’d left her Peugeot way back somewhere in a muddy gateway, two fields off at least. Her trek to reach the scene had been across hundreds of yards of damp, scrubby grass, dodging sheep droppings, hoping not to twist an ankle in the treacherous holes that opened up everywhere in this kind of area. The remains of old lead mines, she’d been told. The legacy of thousands of years of men burrowing into the hills like rabbits.

And then, when she arrived, she’d discovered a delay by the first officers attending the call to get a body tent up. The FOAs’ vehicle had been short of the required equipment. What a surprise.

An officer standing nearby in a yellow jacket looked at the sky to the west and said something about the rain easing off a bit. He said it with that tone of voice that a countryman used, pretending to be so wise about the ways of the weather. But that was one thing Fry had learned about the Peak District during her time in Derbyshire – there was nothing predictable about the weather.

‘Could you find something more useful to do than pretending to be Michael Fish?’ said Fry.

‘Yes, Sarge. I expect so.’

Fry watched him walk back towards the gateway to direct an arriving vehicle. Even if the officer was right, it was already too late. She felt sure about that. There was a limit to how much water even a limestone landscape could absorb, and this crime scene wouldn’t take much more of a soaking.

Continuous heavy rain did an effective job of destroying physical evidence at an exposed crime scene like this one. And exposed was the right word. She was standing in the middle of a field of rough, short-cropped grass, with no real shelter in sight except a distant dry-stone wall. Right now, she would be glad to huddle behind that wall, even if it meant sharing with the sheep she could see standing hunched and miserable at the far end of the field.

Crime-scene examiners put their faith in the theory that anyone present at a crime scene took traces away from it, and left traces behind. It was called Locard’s Principle. But, in this case, one half of Locard had been rendered practically worthless by the weather. During the past few hours, blood had been washed away, fingerprints soaked off, shoe marks obliterated. Whatever traces an attacker might have left behind were dissolving into the soil, his unique DNA absorbed into the landscape.

Fry took a step back and felt something soft and squishy slide under her heel. Damn it. If only traces of these bloody sheep disappeared from the landscape so quickly.

For a moment, she gazed across the valley towards Longstone Moor. According to the map, the nearest villages of any size were Birchlow and Eyam. But if they were ever visible from here, she’d chosen the wrong day to enjoy the view. Grey clouds hung so low over the hills that they seemed to be resting on the trees. A dense mist of rain swept across the part of the valley where Eyam was supposed to be.

Fry already hated the sound of Eyam. That was because she’d been corrected about its pronunciation. It was supposed to be said ‘Eem’, they told her – not ‘I-am’, which was the way only tourists pronounced it. Well, sod that. She felt inclined to say it the wrong way for the rest of the day, just to show that she was a tourist, at heart. Yes – deep down, she was just a visitor passing through, taking a break from civilization to study the ways of primitive hill folk.

A gust of wind blew a spatter of rain in her eyes. That was one thing you could say for a city. Any city, anywhere. There was always a building within reach where you could get out of the rain. In the Peak District, the weather would always catch you exposed and vulnerable. It could bake you one minute, and drown you the next. It was like some big conspiracy, nature combining with the remains of ancient lead mines that lurked under your feet to trip you up.

When Fry turned away from the view, she found the crime-scene manager, Wayne Abbott, standing in front of her, as if he’d materialized out of the rain. He was a damp ghost, glistening in his white scene suit as if he was formed of ectoplasm.

‘There doesn’t seem to be much physical evidence in the immediate area around the body,’ he said, when he’d got her attention.

‘I’m not surprised.’

‘And I can’t even see where the approach route might have been. We’ll probably have to do a fingertip search over the whole field.’

‘How many people on the ground would we need for that?’

‘I don’t know. It’s big field.’

‘Thanks a lot.’

Fry could imagine the arguments about overtime payments and the hours spent frowning over the duty rota. Luckily, she could pass that problem up to her DI, Paul Hitchens.

The information so far was too scanty for her liking. A sighting of the body had been called in by the air support unit at nine forty-five a.m., a sharp-eyed observer on board Oscar Hotel 88 spotting the motionless figure as the helicopter passed overhead en route to a surveillance task. The zoom facility on his video camera had confirmed the worst. Paramedics had attended, along with uniforms from Bakewell, the observer keeping up a running commentary to guide units to the location. With death confirmed, the duty DC had been called out, and gradually the incident had begun to move up the chain. Her DI, Paul Hitchens, would be on scene shortly, and he would become the officer in charge.

But Fry could see that this was already looking like a difficult one. According to the control room, there were no overnight mispers, not so much as a stressed teenager who’d stayed out all night to wind up Mum and Dad. Neighbouring forces weren’t any help, either. She’d held out hopes of Sheffield , who usually had a bunch of drunks gone AWOL, even on a wet Monday night in March. But no such luck.

So there was going to be a lot of work to do getting a story on the victim, even with a quick ID. If this did turn out to be a murder enquiry, the first forty-eight hours were absolutely crucial.

Fry shivered again as a trickle of water ran down her neck. And it didn’t help much when Mother Nature decided to spend the first six of those forty-eight hours re-enacting the Great Flood.

A miserable figure was making his way across the field, slithering on the grass and dodging strips of wet crime-scene tape flapping around him in the wind. Detective Constable Gavin Murfin wasn’t cut out for country treks, either. But, in his case, it was for a different reason. No matter how many memos did the rounds from management about the fitness of officers, Murfin had been unable to lose any weight. Recently, Fry had noticed that he’d compromised by taking his belt in a notch, which had succeeded only in producing an unsightly roll of spare flesh that hung over his waistband.

Murfin had a comfort-eating problem, and Fry could relate to that. If only he didn’t leave so many crumbs in her car.

‘Gavin. How are things back at the office?’

‘In chaos. Have you seen that Branagh woman? She’s empire-building already.’

Fry shrugged. ‘That’s the name of the game at senior management level.’

‘God save me from promotion, then.’

‘I don’t think you need God’s help, Gavin.’

Murfin shrugged. ‘I notice you’ve been doing your best to keep out of her way. So I don’t suppose you’re exactly her number one fan, either.’

Fry didn’t answer. She still had some instinct for diplomatic silence.

Murfin pulled a face as he took in the fields and the distant stone walls.

‘Witnesses are going to be a bit thin on the ground, Diane.’

‘Yes.’ Fry eyed the sheep suspiciously. ‘There are plenty of those things, though.’

Murfin nodded. ‘Sheep see a lot of things. You’d be surprised. One day, some clever bugger at Ripley will come up with a scheme for surveillance sheep. Imagine them wandering about with miniature video cameras strapped to their heads, like hundreds of little woolly PCSOs.’

She tried to picture some of E Division’s community support officers with the faces of sheep. But her imagination failed her.

‘The mind boggles,’ she said.

‘A bit of boggling now and then never did anyone any harm, in my opinion.’

Fry sighed. ‘Where is everyone, Gavin?’

‘Oh, am I not enough for you?’

‘What about Hurst , and Irvine ? Where are they?’

‘Processing.’

‘Still?’

‘It’s the price of success.’

Fry didn’t need to ask any more. Sunday had been E Division’s strike day. Not a total withdrawal of labour in protest at their latest pay deal, as some officers would have liked, but a pre-planned operation targeting known criminals. Search warrants had been executed in various parts of the division. Arrests were made for assault, theft, burglary, going equipped, supplying Class-A drugs, and money laundering. Officers had recovered drugs, cigarettes, and a large amount of cash. Not a bad haul for the day, and the chiefs were happy. Intelligence-led, proactive policing at its best. But the consequent mountain of paperwork was horrendous. There were so many stages that followed from an arrest – prisoner handling, interviews, witness statements, case-file preparation …

‘And Ben Cooper –’ said Murfin.

‘Yes, I know. He’s got himself a cushy job.’

Murfin nodded casually at the body tent. Apart from the coat, about all that could be seen of the victim was a pair of muddy brown brogues that almost protruded from the tent into the rain.

‘We’ve got cars out trying to locate a vehicle,’ he said. ‘Reckon he must have got himself out here somehow, mustn’t he? He isn’t a hiker, not in those shoes.’

‘No luck so far?’

‘No, sorry.’

‘It’ll be parked up in a lay-by somewhere. Unless he was brought out here by someone else, of course.’

‘By his killer. Right.’

Fry didn’t answer. One of the other downsides of policing a rural area was the lack of CCTV cameras. One of the many downsides. If she’d still been working back in Birmingham, or any other city, they’d have caught the victim’s car on half a dozen cameras as it passed from A to B, registered his number plate at a car-park entry barrier, and probably got a nice, clear shot of him walking along the pavement to wherever he’d been going. And then they could have scanned the CCTV footage for possible suspects, grabbed images of a face from the screen for identification.

But out here? Unless their victim had been idiot enough to go more than ten miles an hour over the limit on a stretch of the A6 where the speed cameras were actually operating, his movements might as well have been invisible.

‘If someone else took his car,’ said Murfin, ‘they might have dumped it and torched it by now.’

‘If they have, it’ll turn up somewhere.’

Murfin was wrestling with a decrepit Ordnance Survey map. Normally, he swore by his sat-nav, and never took driving instructions from anyone but TomTom, or his wife. That wasn’t much use when you’d left your car two fields away, though Fry knew that Wayne Abbott had a GPS device to map the location of a crime scene precisely.

‘We’re somewhere about here,’ said Murfin, stabbing a finger at a square of damp plastic. ‘Longstone Moor that way, the nearest village is Birchlow, over there. A few more villages across the valley. And a load of quarries all around us, some of them still in use. There’s a big mill down in that dip. Not textiles, it processes stone from the quarries.’

‘A tricky area, then?’

Murfin shrugged. ‘The lads are checking any pull-ins on the A623 or this back road over here between the villages. But, as you can see, there are quite a few unmade lanes and farm tracks in this area. So it could take a while, unless some helpful punter phones in.’

‘The victim’s shoes are muddy, so he could have walked some distance, at least.’

‘Eyam at the furthest, I’d say,’ suggested Murfin, pronouncing the ‘Eem’ correctly. ‘There’s a car park that tourists use, near the museum. I’ve asked for a check on any that have outstayed their parking tickets. He’s been dead for an hour or two, right?’

‘Three hours, according to the ME.’

‘He might be due for a fine, then. Poor bugger. That’s the last thing he needs.’

‘That’s not really funny, Gavin.’

‘Oh, I thought those were tears of unrestrained hilarity running down your face. Maybe it’s just the rain, after all.’

The officer nearby was listening to a call on his radio, and became suddenly alert. Fry looked at him expectantly.

‘What’s the news?’

‘Not good, Sergeant. The control room says a 999 call was received about twenty minutes ago.’ The officer pointed towards a distant stone building. ‘A unit has been despatched to the old agricultural research centre, about half a mile away in that direction. They thought we’d like to know. There’s been a report of another corpse.’

Fry cursed quietly, squinting against the downpour.

‘I’ve heard about showers of frogs,’ she said. ‘But I’ve never heard of it raining bodies.’

Author Bio:

Stephen Booth is an award winning British crime writer, the creator of two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, who have appeared in twelve novels set in England’s beautiful and atmospheric Peak District.

Stephen has been a Gold Dagger finalist, an Anthony Award nominee, twice winner of a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel, and twice shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year. Ben Cooper was a finalist for the Sherlock Award for the best detective created by a British author, and in 2003 the Crime Writers’ Association presented Stephen with the Dagger in the Library Award for “the author whose books have given readers the most pleasure”.

The Cooper & Fry series is published all around the world, and has been translated into 15 languages. The latest title is DEAD AND BURIED, with a new book, ALREADY DEAD, published in June 2013.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:



Interview:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events? I think characters can only be created from personal experience. Current events do give me ideas for background subjects – since I try to make my characters as real as possible, I want them to be reacting to events in the real world. For ‘The Kill Call’, one of these subjects was the illegal trade in horses. But I’ve never based a novel on a real-life crime. I don’t think that’s fair to the people involved.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you? I never know how a novel is going to end. I start at the beginning – with a place, a set of characters, and a situation that puts them under pressure (which usually involves a dead body,
f course). Then I let the characters create the story. So it’s a discovery process for me. This is a much more exciting way of writing than knowing what’s going to happen all the time. For it to work, I think I have to take a step back and not try to control my characters too much, but allow them the freedom to do whatever they want. I rely very much on Ben Cooper and Diane Fry and their colleagues to do their part of the work. They’re the detectives, after all – it’s their job to discover what happened!

Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day? I’ve never done anything else for a living but writing and editing. There’s probably nothing else I could do anyway! I worked as a newspaper journalist for 27 years, and the first two Cooper & Fry novels were written while I still had the day job. But I gave up my newspaper career just before the second book was published. I was very lucky to be earning a living from my books right from the start. Writing novels was always what I really wanted to do, but journalism taught me a lot and was great experience.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies? I write mostly during the evening, often right into the early hours of the morning. I developed this habit when I still had the day job, since it was the only time I had available to work on my novels. Although I’ve been full-time for about 13 years now, I find there are too many distractions during the day. And perhaps the evening is just my creative time anyway? I listen to music sometimes, but also to dramas and documentaries on the radio (the BBC is wonderful for this). Although it might just seem to be on in the background, it’s amazing how often a sentence or phrase I hear will register in my thoughts and give me an idea for the story I’m writing. It’s a way of leaving my sub-conscious open to ideas, even while I’m concentrating on something else.

Who are some of your favorite authors? There are so many great crime novelists whose books I’ve been reading for years – and lots of new ones coming along the time too. Some of my old favourites include Peter Robinson, John Harvey, Reginald Hill and Ruth Rendell. Among the Americans, I particularly admire Michael Connelly. In fact, anyone who writes a series with a really strong central character and an interesting background.

What are you reading now? I’m re-reading several of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, as I’ve been asked to write an appreciation of her for a special collector’s edition of her latest book.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it? The summer is publication time for me in the UK, with the latest paperback out in May, and new Cooper & Fry novel published in June. So I’m in promotion mode at the moment, with lots of events to do. But this is also the time when ideas for the next novel go through a sort of gestation period, when something will grip me and I know what I want to write about next.
Although I have some themes in mind, I still have to find the right location to set the book in. The Peak District settings have become very important for readers over the years. Other than that, I have no idea where the story will go!

If your novel were a movie, who would you cast? I’m asked this kind of question often, since Cooper & Fry are currently in development for a TV series. But I really have no idea! My characters are very clear in my mind, and there are no actors just like them. Fortunately, the casting will be someone else’s job!

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard? I work almost entirely on a keyboard – and I have done for 30 years, since we were computerised very early in the newspaper business. The only exception is when I’m out and about in the Peak District doing location research, when a small notebook is essential.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby? Walking has always been a favourite leisure activity, and that’s how I discovered the wonderful Peak District. Anything to do with animals and nature I find very relaxing – I live in the country, and I enjoy pottering in the garden or watching the birds from my office window. I also have three cats, who are a very important part of my life.

Favorite meal? I love Chinese food, so probably a nice Dim sum.

Thanks so much for visiting us today, Mr. Booth! We look forward to seeing your televised creation as well as your next book!

Jun 242014
 


WELCOME JUDI CULBERTSON


Judi Culbertson

JUDI CULBERTSON draws on her experience as a used-and-rare book dealer, social worker, and world traveler to create her bibliophile mysteries. She has co-authored five illustrated guides with her husband, Tom Randall, of such cities as Paris, London, and New York. She is also the author of the acclaimed nonfiction titles SCALING DOWN and THE CLUTTER CURE. She lives in Port Jefferson, New York, with her family. 
Connect with Judi at these sites:

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Bookseller-turned-amateur detective Delhi Laine is back with another atmospheric mystery, but this time, it’s a family affair.

Nineteen years ago, Delhi Laine’s two-year old daughter disappeared. After a frantic but inconclusive search, authorities determined that she must have drowned, her body washed away from the picturesque English park in which she was playing.

Delhi’s heart has never healed, yet her family has since soldiered on. But when a mysterious letter arrives containing the ominous words, YOUR DAUGHTER DID NOT DROWN, their lives are once again thrown into turmoil. With her family torn between fighting for the past and protecting the future, Delhi is caught in the middle. For a mother, the choice to find her daughter seems easy. But for a family left fractured by the mistakes of the past, the consequence, and the truth, may be infinitely more costly.

Fans of Carolyn Hart will be swept away by this story of a family on the brink – and their hunt for the truth.

READ AN EXCERPT

In those days photography had been my passion, my way of escaping from the endless rounds of dirty diapers and runny noses and tears. At home, as soon as the children were bedded down, I’d fled to my darkroom, working into the early hours printing and tinting photos. The quiet darkness was an addiction. As sleepy as I often was during the day, I came alive in those night hours.

I had been taking photos in Stratford to work on, to enlarge and color when we got home.

After that day by the river, I never took another. Growing up I had never daydreamed about having a family, of being surrounded by children. I’d read endlessly, imagined myself in exotic places, even saw myself as an archeologist. So when I met Colin . . . I loved the children, they were mine, but they were part of the scenery of my life.

When I lost one of them due to my preoccupation, I vowed never to let anything distract me again. Not even photography. Especially not photography.

“You thought falling asleep sounded better?” Colin felt menacing beside me, as if he might grab my shoulders and shake me.

I knew then that I should have told him about the note first, that we should not be having this conversation in front of everyone. “I—yes . And after I kept saying it a part of me started believing it. When I finally admitted the truth and told someone else, she pointed out that if I was standing right by the water, I should have heard a splash or seen Caitlin fall in. And I was, right by the edge of the river. I–”

“But the police must have investigated all that?” Patience couldn’t keep out of it any longer.

“Of course they did.” Colin boomed. “They interviewed everyone who’d had been in the park that day. We even hired a private detective. Who found nothing.”

Through the miasma of wine and coffee I tried to remember what had been in the detective’s report. Surely, for all the money we borrowed from Colin’s parents to pay him, he had turned up something. “But the police never found her. They said that was unusual for that part of the river.”

“But not impossible.” Colin held up a professorial hand, a gesture he would use to silence a classroom. Everyone looked at him, waiting. He addressed the girls first. “I’m sorry you had to learn this from someone in a drunken stupor. It’s something that happened long ago. We didn’t want you to grow up thinking something terrible would happen to you too. We didn’t want it to overshadow your childhoods. It was the worst thing that ever happened to us. But your mother has conflated another day when she was taking pictures with the day it actually happened. All I can say is, memory is notoriously unreliable.”

I was so furious that I couldn’t think of which calumny to address first. I was not in a drunken stupor. I was not mixing up the days. But I needed to explain why I was bringing it up now. “What I was doing that day isn’t the point.” I reached in my Mexican jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. “This is the point.”

A rustling, a squeaking of chairs, as everyone craned to look.

It was a square white envelope, the size of a small greeting card, addressed to “The Fitzhughs.” On the front were stamp images of Queen Elizabeth in red and green and a postmark I could not read. I pulled out the white paper inside, unfolded it, and laid it flat on the table so that the people closest to me could see. In large black letters it read: YOUR DAUGHTER DID NOT DROWN.

When Colin and the girls had seen it I passed it to Pat who scanned it and gave it back so I could show it to Ben. “This came in the mail Monday,” I said. “I can’t tell what part of England it’s from.”

Colin picked up the envelope and studied it. Again, everyone seemed to be waiting for his official pronouncement. “A mean trick,” he said finally. “Someone’s idea of a bad joke.”

A bad joke? “But why now?” I argued, shocked. “Almost twenty years later? Who would know anything about it now?”

“Maybe they ran a story in the local Stratford papers,” Ben said. “Maybe the detective who investigated it is retiring or something.”

“And that would make somebody track us all the way over here to taunt us, a mention in a retirement story? I don’t buy that. It wasn’t even a criminal investigation, they just thought she’d drowned. No policeman would be remembered for it.”

“Maybe that’s what the story was about then, people drowning in the river.” Ben brightened as if he had solved the problem. I told myself he wasn’t trying to be cruel, that he just liked to fix things.

“They’d hardly go to the trouble of finding Delhi and Colin’s address in another country. That’s ridiculous,” Patience said. “It sounds like whoever wrote it knows something definite.”

“Can’t we have the handwriting analyzed?” Jane interrupted. “Or have it dusted for fingerprints?”

Colin sighed, playing with a small glass salt shaker that had been left on the table. “That note is hardly a criminal matter. They wouldn’t go to the trouble. Besides, the real point is if Caitlin did somehow survive, it’s too late now. Too much time has passed. It’s like an adoption, it’s final.”

“No!” It came out of me as a wail.

Patience gasped. “It is not like an adoption. If your daughter didn’t drown, then she was kidnapped! She has every right to know her real family.”

“Patsy,”—Colin lapsed into her old nickname–“it’s not that simple. You can’t assume a kidnapping. If she didn’t drown, she probably wandered off and someone found her.”

“Daddy, what are you talking about?” Jane grasped his forearm. She was flushed, probably with cabernet, and furious. As close as they were, she often lost her temper with Colin. “People don’t keep lost children. They find a policeman and get them back to their parents! It’s not like a stray kitten that you decide to take in.”

“No, Daddy’s right,” Hannah looked up from where she had been tormenting a cuticle. “How would you feel if someone contacted us and claimed after nineteen years that I had been stolen and was part of their family? That everything I’d thought was true was a lie and they wanted me to come live with them. Anyway, I don’t want a twin. I’m fine just as I am.”

Colin pushed back from the table. “I think it’s time for us to go.”

“But we haven’t had our walk,” Ben protested. “We have to take our beach walk!”

Poor Ben. If he’d been on the Titanic, he would have been demanding his nightly whiskey as the ship went down.

“Yes, go on your walk. I have to show Delhi something of our mother’s that I found. We’ll catch up.”

I knew we wouldn’t.

“Can I see?” Jane asked eagerly.

Patience and I exchanged a look.

“Sure,” I told her.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuth
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: 5/27/2014
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 9780062296351

PURCHASE LINKS:

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

Jun 202014
 


WELCOME BRIAN McGILLOWAY

Brian McGilloway

Brian McGilloway is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin series. He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he is currently Head of English.

His first novel, Borderlands, published by Macmillan New Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2007 and was hailed by The Times as ‘one of (2007’s) most impressive debuts.’ The second novel in the series, Gallows Lane, was shortlisted for both the 2009 Irish Book Awards/Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2010. Bleed A River Deep, the third Devlin novel, was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of their Best Books of 2010.

Brian’s fifth novel, Little Girl Lost, which introduced a new series featuring DS Lucy Black, won the University of Ulster’s McCrea Literary Award in 2011 and is a No.1 UK Kindle Bestseller. The follow-up novel, Hurt, will be published in late 2013 by Constable and Robinson.

Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife, daughter and three sons.
Connect with Brian at these sites:

WEBSITE        TWITTER   

Q&A with Brian McGilloway

 
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
A mixture of the two, I think. I tend to read or hear about current events and take the kernel of an idea form that, which then allows me to examine issues which are important to me and to integrate elements of my own experiences.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I start at the start. Generally, I have an idea where one plot strand might end up, but the ending changes for me as I write. I take much comfort in Doctorow’s comment that writing is like driving at night in the fog; you can only see as far as the end of your head light, but you still make it home safely that way.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
My routine has changed since I’ve gone full time. I leave the kids to school at 9 am and write through until about 12.30. I stop then and am doing school runs all afternoon. Depending on deadlines, I might do some more in the evenings. I aim to do around 1000 words a day and find I can manage that in a few hours each morning. Idiosyncrasies? – I always need to have a cup of tea when I’m starting. Never coffee.

Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
It is now. I was a teacher of English until last year when I took a career break. I loved teaching very much and had a lot of fun working with the kids but it got to the point where I was so stretched that I was worried I’d not be doing justice to either my students nor those who are kind enough to read my books (never mind my own wife and children) if I continued trying to balance them all.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Too many to mention. James Lee Burke will always stand head and shoulders above in the genre for me in terms of prose style and sheer humanity in his writing.

What are you reading now?
Bad Blood by Arne Dahl. I’m interviewing Arne next week in the Dublin Writers’ Festival and am very much looking forward to it.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m editing it at the moment. It’s working title is Sticks and Stones and it’s another Lucy novel about the discovery of a dead body in the River Foyle which has already been embalmed and prepared for burial.

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
I don’t know because I don’t tend to see the main character’s faces. My wife thinks Michael Fassbender would be a fine Devlin (but I think she may have her own reasons for that choice.) I met a Derry born actress last year called Laura Pyper who I thought would make a great Lucy Black.

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
My notes are always hand written on various note books and scraps of paper. I always type my manuscript though. Much easier to revise and much easier for everyone involved to have to read.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Walking the dogs with my kids, watching a good movie with my wife, reading a good book on my own.

Favorite meal?
I’m a coealic so something gluten free. Gluten Free Lasagne, perhaps.

 

About the book

Lucy Black must protect the young and vulnerable…but can she protect herself? Late December. A sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on a train line. Detective Sergeant Lucy Black is called to identify the body. The only clues to the dead teenager’s last movements are stored in her mobile phone and on social media – and it soon becomes clear that her ‘friends’ were not as trustworthy as she thought. Lucy is no stranger to death: she is still haunted by the memory of the child she failed to save, and the killer she failed to put behind bars. And with a new boss scrutinizing her every move, she is determined that – this time – she will leave no margin for error. Hurt is a tense crime thriller about how, in the hands of a predator, trust can turn into terror.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Women Sleuths, Police Procedurals, Suspense
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Number of Pages:
ISBN: 9780062336705

PURCHASE LINKS:

       

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

Jun 182014
 


WELCOME AMY SHOJAI


Amy Shojai

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award winning author of 26 bestselling pet books that cover furry babies to old fogies, first aid to natural healing, and behavior/training to Chicken Soupicity. She is the Puppies Expert atpuppies.About.com, the cat behavior expert atcats.About.com, and has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101. Amy brings her unique pet-centric viewpoint to public appearances. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed dog viewpoint thriller LOST AND FOUND.
Connect with Amy at these sites:

WEBSITE        TWITTER   

Q&A with Amy Shojai

  -Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I draw from both personal experience and current events when writing my dog viewpoint thrillers. Every day I read two newspapers and several blogs and news sites, as well as subscribe to science and animal magazines. From these I collect interesting tidbits and keep in a file.

As an animal behavior consultant and veterinary technician, I’m familiar with the medical aspects of cat and dog care and health. It’s great fun to bring this expertise into the fiction arena, and expand on the “what if” aspects to turn stories into Thrillers With Bite!

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
It varies, but most times I know the beginning and the conclusion. I may also know some of the major plot points and scenes but the order of these can change as I write.

My first thriller I started at the beginning and wrote to the end. But with the sequel HIDE AND SEEK, I was more flexible and decided to write the scenes that burned to be born onto the page first. That meant some of these came out of order, and the additional scenes and chapters I never thought of before were inspired by these first ones.

So it’s a little of both. I have a starting point, and a target to reach the end, but the story in between leads me around quite a bit and often surprises me. I also host NAME THAT CAT and NAME THAT DOG contests for some of the animal characters in each of the thrillers. These pets often have their own personalities that add depth and new directions to the plot. For instance, in HIDE AND SEEK, the therapy dog at the Alzheimer’s unit is based on a real service dog who really does pick up and collect and tidy up rooms.

-Your routine when writing?  Any idiosyncrasies?
Well, I’m not sure what other folks do. I have my dog and cats nearby for furry inspiration. And I have a desk treadmill, so I often write while I walk. Otherwise I’d never get any exercise, aside from keeping the new kitten from tormenting the 17-year-old cat.

I also have to have my mug-‘o-caffeine handy. Yes, I’m addicted to coffee. And the mug has a lid to keep the cats from paw-dipping and flinging liquid everywhere.

Is writing your full time job?  If not, may I ask what you do by day?
Yes, I’ve been a fulltime freelance writer since 1992 when my first nonfiction pet book came out. But I write both nonfiction and fiction now, so I have a full plate of writing projects at any given time. On the nonfiction side, I write all the content for puppies.about.com as well as a three times a week blog at BING, BITCHES & BLOOD, and also a weekly newspaper P’ETiQuette column, and a twice monthly PET TALK television segment. I also write music and am a playwright (the latest is STRAYS, THE MUSICAL), and on the fiction side, I’m working on the next dog viewpoint thriller in the series.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Wow, there are really so many and I don’t want to leave any out. But some of my favorites (in no particular order) include James Rollins, JT Ellison, Tess Gerritsen, Alan Leverone, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Rebecca Cantrell and on and on…

What are you reading now?
I just finished reading the ARC to I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes, a spy thriller.

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

The next thriller in the September Day series is called SHOW AND TELL. In the first book, (HIDE AND SEEK), the bad guy created treatment that wreaked havoc in autistic children, but he escaped before the police could catch him. So in this third book, some of the parents and children affected seek September’s help to track him down. There will again be animal-centric subplots including a dog fighting ring that September and her service dog Shadow must overcome. And fans have urged me to allow September’s relationship with Detective Jeff Combs to develop.

Your novel will be a movie.  Who would you cast?
I’d cast NEW actors, not necessarily well known ones. As an actor myself, I know there are extraordinary, gifted performers who haven’t gotten their break and I’d love to give them a chance.

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
My handwriting sucketh, so any notes must be on a keyboard. J

-Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Writing and playing music, playing with my pets, reading, and working in the rose garden. Now, to find time for “leisure” is the trick!

Favorite meal?
Prime rib, very rare, with horse radish, and asparagus. Yum! But then it’s also a well known fact that M&Ms and Cheetos are brain food. Just saying….

 

About the book

A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.

A STALKER hides in plain sight.

A VICTIM faces her worst fear.

AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope.

Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow.

Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.

They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.

“Recommended for anyone who likes a ‘bite-your-nails, hold-your-breath’ kind of thriller.” – Dr. Lorie Huston, Cat Writers Association President

READ AN EXCERPT

HIDE AND SEEK

Prologue

Tommy Dietz grabbed the car door handle with one bloody fist, and braced his other hand against the roof, worried the carcasses in the back would buck out of the truck’s bed. Despite the precaution, his head thumped the muddy window. He glared at the driver who drove the truck like he rode a bronco, but BeeBo Benson’s full moon face sported the same toothless grin he’d worn for the past two weeks. Even BeeBo’s double chins smiled, including the rolls at the nape of his freckled neck.

The ferret thin guy in the middle snarled each time his Katy Railroad belt buckle chinked against the stick shift he straddled. Gray hair straggled from under his hat and brushed his shoulders. He had to slouch or he risked punching his head through the rust-eaten roof. Randy Felch’s snaky eyes gave Dietz the shivers even more than the freezing temperatures spitting through windows that refused to seal.

Three across the cramped seat would be a lark for high school buddies out on the town, but the men were decades beyond graduation. Dietz was in charge so Felch could either ride the hump or share the open truck bed with two carcasses, and the new Production Assistant.

Dietz stifled a laugh. Not so high-and-mighty now, was he? The man must really want the job. Vince Grady had turned green when he was told to climb into the back of the truck. Just wait till he got a load of the dump. Dietz remembered his first visit three years ago when he’d been out scouting locations. He wondered how the spit-and-polish Grady would react.

He’d hired locals for the rest of the crew. They needed the work, and didn’t blink at the SAG ultra-low pay scale, the shitty weather, or the stink. In this business, you took anything available when pickings were slim. Then the show got picked up and union fees grabbed him by the short hairs. Amateur talent screwing around and missing call times cost even more money, so he needed a Production Assistant—PA in the lingo—with more polish and bigger balls to keep the wheels greased. A go-to guy able to think on his feet, get the job done. No matter what.

If Grady wanted the PA job, he’d have to be willing to get his hands dirty, and stand up to BeeBo and his ilk. Riding in the open truck bed was illegal as hell, though here in North Texas even the cops turned a blind eye unless it was kids. This was an audition, and Grady knew it.

He had to give Grady props—he’d not blinked, but clenched his jaw and climbed right in when they collected him at his hotel. He’d been less enthusiastic after following the hunters most of the morning, tramping to hell and gone through rough country until his eyes threatened to freeze shut. Something drove the man, something more than a PA credit for piss-poor pay and worse conditions. Hell, something drove them all to work in this unforgiving business. Dietz didn’t care about anyone else’s demons as long as they let him feed his own.

Dietz craned to peer out the back to be sure the man hadn’t been tossed out the tailgate. Grady gave Dietz a thumbs-up. Probably wants to point a different finger, Dietz thought.

Grady wore the official Hog Hell blue work gloves and ski mask—dark blue background and DayGlo red star on the face—or he’d be picking his frostbit nose off the floor.

Prime time in the back woods. Dietz’s quick smile faded. Nothing about this trip was prime, not even the butchered Bambi in the back. Deer season ran November through early January, and it was always open season on hogs, so they were legal for any follow up film footage. The two deer hadn’t looked good even before BeeBo dropped them, but that’s what viewers wanted. Crocodile wrestlers, duck dynasties, and gold rush grabbers with crusty appeal and redder necks.

Nobody wanted actors anymore. Casting directors looked for “real people.” So he’d caught a clue, jumped off the thespian hamster wheel, moved to New York and reinvented himself as Tommy Dietz, Producer. He’d found his calling with a development company relatively quickly.

A movie star face didn’t hurt. Everyone these days had a little nip-and-tuck; it was part of the biz. He’d been selling his version of reality for years anyway, and always came out on top. He hit it out of the park on his third project. Hog Hell kicked off the next step with a Texas-size leap. He’d show them all, those who’d laughed at his dreams, calling him a loser. And he’d make them sorry.

The shabby pickup lurched down and back up again, and its engine growled and complained. Dietz was surprised the seat hadn’t fallen through the floor. The overgrown road the hunters called a pig path consisted of frozen ruts formed from previous tire treads. They damn well better not get stuck out here.

“Don’t worry, she’ll make it.” BeeBo talked around the stub of his unlit cigar. “This ol’ warhorse made the trip so often, she could drive herself. Ain’t that right, Felch?” BeeBo reached to downshift and Felch winced as the other man’s ham-size fist grabbed and jerked the stick between his knees.

Dietz sighed. Out the window, skeletal trees clawed the pregnant sky. Weird flocks of blackbirds moved in undulating clouds, exploding from one naked tree after another to clothe the next with feathered leaves. Spooky.

Thank God the icy weather stayed dry. Heartland, Texas had dug out of a record-breaking snowfall, and the locals hadn’t quite recovered. It put a kink in Hog Hell filming and they’d barely met the deadlines. Delay turned his balance book bloody with red ink.

Back home in Chicago they’d been hit with the same blizzard and so had NYC. But big cities knew how to manage winter weather. Apparently North Texas rolled up the sidewalks with even the hint of flurries. He wondered if BeeBo and Felch knew what to do in the snow, and didn’t want to find out. The thought of hunkering down overnight in the truck with these men turned his stomach.

Dietz adjusted his own ski mask. He’d folded it up off his face so the blue cap hugged his head while the red star painted a bull’s-eye on his forehead. He wore the official coat, too; dark blue and a bright hunter-safe star on the front and back, with the Hog Hell logo. The Gore-Tex fabric crackled with newness, and his blistered feet whimpered inside wet, dirt-caked boots. No way would he wear his new $300 Cabela’s, purchased for photo ops at the upcoming watch party. He had a gun, too. In Texas nobody cared if you carried. They expected it.

BeeBo’s preferred weapon, an ancient short barreled shotgun loaded with deer slugs, contrasted sharply with Felch’s double gun he’d had custom made last season. Felch shot 44 Magnums, and the cut down double barrel rifle boasted enough firepower to take out an elephant, or a charging feral boar hog.

They sleeved the guns in canvas cases stowed in the back of the truck, but the hunters cared far less about their own attire.

BeeBo and Felch would wear official Hog Hell gear at the watch party in five weeks, but not before. Dietz didn’t want them stinking up the outfits. Today they wore wash-faded coveralls, heavy work coats, earflap hats, clunky boots with thorn-tangled laces, and frayed gloves with fingertips cut out. A bit of peeling DayGlo tape formed an “X” on the back and front of each coat after Dietz insisted on the nod to safety, even though he knew the two hunters paid little mind to official start and end dates during hunting season.

That was the point of the original reality program Cutting Corners that focused on people forced to skirt the rules to make ends meet. The unlikely stars of a single episode, though, turned Felch and BeeBo into overnight sensations and birthed the new show after Cutting Corners tanked. The two hunters were experts at skirting rules. Dietz was no slouch, either.

In the truck bed, Grady swayed back and forth. He’d pushed up the ski mask enough to expose his mouth. White breath puffed out in a jerky tempo, and Dietz wondered if the man would pass out. If Grady took a header off the truck bed, the liability would kill the show. “Find a spot to stop, BeeBo. I think our new team member has had enough.”

Felch grunted. “No place to stop till we get there. Unless you want us to get stuck.” He grinned, but the expression never reached his eyes. “You don’t want us lugging that shit back to your hotel. The stink ain’t something you want close by.”

BeeBo guffawed. “Got that right. With all the hunters unloading, it’s what y’all might call a ‘renewable resource.’” He twisted the wheel and the truck bucked, jittering the decades old pine-shaped deodorizer suspended from the rear view mirror. “The critters take care of the stink pretty quick, though.” His hairless wide-eyed face was a ringer for the Gerber baby. “It’s around that next bend. You might even catch a whiff of Jiff by now.”

Dietz wrinkled his nose. The pungent aroma wasn’t assuaged by the air freshener that had probably come with the vehicle. He shielded his head from another thump, and squinted ahead through the crusty windshield. Wiper blades had torn loose on the passenger’s side and smeared the detritus rather than clearing the view. It didn’t bother BeeBo.

The trio remained silent during the final bump-and-grind through the trees. They pulled halfway into the clearing, and Dietz waited impatiently until BeeBo cranked the steering wheel, turned, and backed beneath a massive tree with pendulous clusters decorating the branches. Grady ducked, or he would have been scraped off by low limbs.

Several similar trees bordered the clearing, and another smaller truck squatted at the far end of the area. An elderly man stood in the truck bed and flailed tree branches with a long pole, while the woman dodged and weaved beneath to gather the resulting shower in a bucket.

“What’s that?” Grady wasted no time jumping off the truck bed. He gagged when the wind shifted.

“Nuts.” Felch unfolded himself from the cramped middle seat. “Pecan trees. They’re gleaning the nuts.”

Dietz’s stomach clenched. He pulled the ski mask over his lips and breathed through his mouth, imagining he could taste the odor that closed his throat. Neither Felch nor BeeBo seemed to notice the stench.

Grady wiped his watery eyes. The breeze paused and he gulped a less contaminated breath. “Pecans? To eat?”

The truck squeaked, rocked and grew two inches when BeeBo stepped out. “Back in town they’ll pay $8 to $10 per pound, once shelled. I got my daddy’s old commercial sheller—held together with baling twine and spit, but works okay. I only charge fifty-cents a pound to shell.” He shrugged. “Every little bit helps. It’s too early for most of the big-name commercial farms, but for the gleaners, if ya wait too long the squirrels get ‘em off the trees, or the pigs root ‘em off the ground. Pigs eat lots of the same stuff the deer and turkeys eat, acorns and suchlike. But they get ground-nesting bird eggs, too. Pigs’ll root up and eat damn near anything.” He jerked his chins at Felch. “Gimme a hand.” He lumbered toward the back of the truck and waited by the taillights.

Felch vaulted in the bed of the vehicle, and adjusted his gloves. He pointed. “Smorgasbord, y’all. Hey Slick, you might want to get video of this. Bet your big-city cronies never seen the like.” His yellow teeth gleamed. He bent low, and grunted as he pushed and tugged the black plastic bag to the tailgate, hopped down and joined BeeBo. Together they slung the truck’s cargo into the pit.

Yipping and growls erupted from below. Dietz stayed back, he’d seen it before. This stuff he wouldn’t put on the air. This’d be too much even for the hardcore viewers without the added value of aroma.

Grady covered his mouth and nose in the crook of his elbow. He edged closer to the deep trough, a natural ditch-like runoff that sat dry three-quarters of the year. Piles of gnawed and scattered bones mixed with carcasses in various stages of decomposition. A family of coyotes tried to claim BeeBo’s tossed deer remains, but was bluffed away by a feral boar.

Grady ripped off his ski mask, puked, wiped his mouth, and grabbed his camera with a shaking hand. He spit on the frozen ground and jutted his chin at Dietz. “So?”

Dietz smiled. “You got the gig.”

***

The damn ski mask dragged against his hair so much, the normally clear adhesive had turned chalky. Victor had removed the wig after dissolving the glue with a citrus-scented spray, a much more pleasant olfactory experience than the afternoon’s visit to the dump. A shower rinsed away any lingering miasma, but he gladly put up with the stink, the rednecks, and the sneers. The payoff would be worth it.

Until then, he couldn’t afford for anyone in Heartland to recognize him. His tool kit of fake teeth, makeup and assorted hairpieces kept him under the radar. For the price, nearly fifty bucks for a four-ounce bottle of adhesive, it damn well better hold the new wig in place for the promised six weeks. He rubbed his hands over his pale, bald head and grinned. Even without the wig, she’d be hard pressed to recognize him.

Muscles had replaced the beer gut, Lasik surgery fixed his eyes, a chin implant and caps brightened his smile. He’d done it all, one step at a time, over the eight years it took to track her down. He’d even changed his name and transformed himself into a man she couldn’t refuse.

He’d done it for her. Everything for her.

He dialed his phone. “I want to order flowers. Forget-Me-Nots, in a white box with a yellow ribbon. Got that? And deliver them December eighteenth. It’s our anniversary.” He listened. “Use red ink. The message is ‘payback.’ Got that? No signature, she’ll know it’s me.” He picked up a news clipping that listed the address, and admired the picture. She was lovely as ever. “Two-oh-five Rabbit Run Road, Heartland, Texas. Deliver to September Day. The name is just like the month.” He chuckled softly. “Yes, it will be a lovely holiday surprise.” He could hardly wait.

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Jun 172014
 


WELCOME LISA de NIKOLITS


Lisa de Nikolits

Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain.

Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, won the 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women’s Issues Fiction and was long-listed for a ReLit Award.

Her second novel, West of Wawa won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and was one of Chatelaine’s four Editor’s Picks.

Her third novel, A Glittering Chaos, launched in Spring 2013 to much acclaim and is about murder, madness, illicit love and poetry.

Connect with Lisa at these sites:

WEBSITE        TWITTER    

Q&A with Lisa De Nikolits

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Yes, I definitely draw from both, but the personal experience is really only the catalyst, the match to the flame. The story ends up being entirely different from my own personal experience.

For example, the idea for The Witchdoctor’s Bones came from a trip I took to Namibia, a safari.

I have always wanted to write a book about Africa but until I took that trip, I had no idea what that story would be. I finished the trip and I realized that the journey, fashioned in the style of an Agatha Christie novel, would lend itself to a book.

And then yes, I drew on current African practices as well as history. But the characters in my book bear no resemblance to the people who were on the trip with me and while I used the route we travelled, none of the experiences in the book happened in real life.

And, although I use personal experiences to ‘spark’ ideas, I believe that my stories exist ‘out there’ and I welcome them to come in and visit with me and use me to find their way into the world. It’s as if I’m the owner of a Bed & Breakfast for stories — come on in, we’ll sit around a campfire and tell tales! So, yes, I do draw from personal experiences; although sometimes only in the smallest of ways; a bus trip and a poisonous bush in real life ended up being a huge, long novel that was all fiction.

  Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I start with the tiniest of ideas and then bounce things around and see where they go. For example, I wrote a short story a while back and it had an open ending. A few people really liked the story and wanted to know what happened and now I think this could be a novel. All I’ve got is a short story that for all intents and purposes has done nothing more than introduce me to a couple of characters who have potential to be interesting and I’m putting feelers out there to see what transpires. I have a feeling they might want to go to Tasmania but I’ve got no idea what they’ll do there. I went to Tasmania some years back and it resonated with me. Not every place I go does that; I went to Peru and there was nothing, not even the tiniest ‘ping’ of ‘write about me’… To this point in my writing, I’ve never known an ending in advance, and the endings have also been known to change even in final edits. I am never married to my endings.

Your routine when writing?  Any idiosyncrasies?
No routines, I just write whenever I can. I like to wear a hat, it helps me concentrate. I also need my study to be just so, even if I’m not writing in there. I need things to be in order on my desk and everything needs to be nice and shiny. Oh, and I do love a fragrance! Sometimes it’s Vanilla or White Musk from The Body Shop, sometimes it’s Downtown by Calvin Klein, sometimes, if I am feeling extravagant, it’s Issey Miyake. Fragrances, like hats, help me think better!

Is writing your full time job?  If not, may I ask what you do by day?
I’m a magazine art director. I’ve had the honor of working on magazines such as marie Claire, Vogue, Vogue Living. I currently art direct Cosmetics which is a lot of fun. I’m not sure I could be a full time writer, I think I’d find it too stressful! I really enjoy designing, it’s much more fun than writing which can be quite traumatic; you constantly wonder if the story is going anywhere or if you are doing the best you can with it.

  Who are some of your favorite authors?
Lionel Shriver, Annie Proulx, John Irving, Harry Crews, John Steinbeck, Betty Smith, D.J. McIntosh, Michael Ondaatje, Miriam Toews

  What are you reading now?
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver, Manuscript Found In Accra by Paul Coelho, Big Brother by Lionel Shriver, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak – I can’t seem to bear to finish it, I read a page a day.

 Are you working on your next novel?  Can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve got two novels ‘in the bag’; Between The Cracks She Fell (about a girl who loses her job, her boyfriend and her house and she moves into an abandoned old school), and The Nearly Girl (about a girl with an interesting psychosis in that she nearly gets things right but she gets everything just wrong; she gets dates/buses/tasks/recipes slightly right but wrong enough to make her life in the normal world untenable).

The fledling novel I am currently working on is the one based on the short story I  mentioned here and it’s in the very earliest of stages; I’ve got a few characters I like, a diamond ring and beyond that, nothing! I keep throwing suggestions out into the ether, to see what will ‘stick’!

Your novel will be a movie.  Who would you cast?
Rydell: Kevin Spacey

Kate: Jennifer Garner

Helen: Claire Danes

Richard: Damian Lewis

André: Chris Hemsworth

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
Both! I also have three computers, one at work, two at home. I write bits on post-it notes, in journals, on the backs of hydro bills. I also make sure have a notebook when the ideas are initially coming. I write mostly on my computer once I have my idea outlined but when I am letting the idea for the novel take shape, I write longhand.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Playing my guitar. I am learning the classical guitar. I like being at home, puttering around. I like talking to my cat. Isabella Creamy Diva, I like taking photographs, going on roadtrips and watching a good movie. I love travelling to some place I’ve never been. I like doing yoga and going for walks down at the lake. I have lots of leisure activities!

Favorite meal?
Vanilla cake with lemon icing and canned whipped cream! I guess that’s not really a meal but if I died and went to heaven, that would be my daily breakfast!

About the book

In The Witchdoctor’s Bones a group of tourists gather. Some have come to holiday, others to murder. Canadian Kate ditches her two-timing boyfriend and heads to Africa on a whim, hoping for adventure, encountering the unexpected and proving an intrepid adversary to mayhem.

The tour is led by Jono, a Zimbabwean historian and philosopher, and the travelers follow him from Cape Town into the Namib desert, learning ancient secrets of the Bushmen, the power of witchcraft and superstition, and even the origins of Nazi evil.

A ragged bunch ranging from teenagers to retired couples, each member of the group faces their own challenges as third world Africa pits against first world greed, murderous intent and thwarted desire. The battle between goaded vanity and frustrated appetite culminates in a surprising conclusion with shocking twists.

With the bones of consequence easily buried in the shifting sands, a holiday becomes a test of moral character.

Unpredictable, flawed, fun-loving, courageous, bizarre, weak, kind-hearted and loathsome; the individuals in this novel exist beyond the page and into real life.

Seamlessly weaving history and folklore into a plot of loss, passion and intrigue, the reader is kept informed and entertained as this psychological thriller unfolds.

READ AN EXCERPT

Kate and Marika made coffee and rejoined the others who were huddled around the fire pit while Stepfan and Charisse moved off to one side and were deep in a private conversation.

“So what’s the big discussion about?” Kate asked, sitting down.

“I’m trying to explain the difference between sangomas versus witchdoctors,” Helen said, sitting back on her heels. “I thought I knew but then once I started explaining it, I realised I’m confused. Jono, maybe you can help us out?”

“I can,” Jono said, accepting a beer from Richard. “Thank you. First, some facts. Eighty-four percent of all South Africans consult a sangoma more than three times a year and there are more than 200,000 sangomas in South Africa alone. A witch and a sangoma are not the same thing whereas a witchdoctor,” he emphasized the last word, “is the same thing as a sangoma but the term witchdoctor is considered to be a perjorative one that came from the European settlers. Sangomas are practitioners of complimentary medicine and they serve a long apprenticeship learning to become intermediaries between the world of spirits and the world of the living. Witches are a whole other thing, they are evil and dangerous and if they cannot be cured, they are stoned to death or buried alive.”

“Yes, they certainly gave Kleine Skok the heebie jeebies,” Richard stretched his feet towards the fire. “Poor fellow, he had this godawful lump of dried up rabbit’s blood and I asked him if that was something a witchdoctor would use and he nearly shot right off the mountain. I felt quite dreadful for asking.”

Jono laughed and took a drink of his beer. “Yes, I can imagine that frightened him in a big way. More than six hundred people have been killed in the last ten years in Gauteng alone, because they were accused of being witches, so even the mention of such a thing is frightening for many people.”

“Can you cure someone of being a witch?” Eva asked.

“Yes, but it’s not easy,” Jono said. “You have to call an isanusi, a professional who can smell out witches and get rid of them.

“There are many kinds of witches,” he continued, “one of which is the night-witch who is invisible during the daytime but then at night, changes into an animal; a crocodile, a hyena, a lion, a wolf maybe. Night-witches devour human bodies, dead or alive during the night and they can been seen flying at night, with fire coming out of their bottoms.”

“They fart fire?” Mia found this hysterically funny and the rest of the group joined in, laughing. “Oh lord, fire-farting witches, knock my bleedin’ socks off.”

“Isn’t it true,” Helen queried when the laughter died down, “that Western doctors found a high correlation between schizophrenia and epilepsy in individuals who have been accused of being witches?”

Jono nodded. “Which would explain the hallucinations they have,” he said. “And some of them have also been found to be manic-depressives and schizophrenics. But if you ask me, this does not mean that Western medicine has any kind of increased knowledge in this area, it’s just that you call your witches by a lot of medical-sounding names and find different ways to treat them.”

“Touché.” Richard exclaimed while Helen nodded enthusiastically.

“So,” Jono said, “we have the isanusi or shaman, or the witch-finder, who sniffs them out, and then you have the witch-doctor, an igqira, who can smell by moral, not physical means, the corrupt presence of the witch or sorcerer. The isanusi is the diviner, and he is called upon to explain the source of your misfortune and to see if you have a witch. The sangoma, which is a Zulu word by the way, is the one who will be invited to cleanse an entire village of witchcraft by giving them emetics, or sneezing powder or making incisions into which medicine is rubbed, or by many other methods.”

“How does the isanusi know what to do?” Kate asked.

“The diviners, or isanusi, receives his knowledge from the spirits and there are more than sixty documented methods to ask the spirits; reading the stars, throwing sticks, studying lines in the sand, observing the blood trickling from a victim, even by looking at how birds are flying or how they are sitting on a tree. A lot of people think that diviners are not good because they are trying to know God’s secrets before God wants us to know them, and we should not be attempting to steal divine secrets.”

“I’m divining that it’s high time for schnapps.” Mia got to her feet, and brushed embedded grass from her legs. “I’m getting the Archers. Go on, you lot.” She waved and walked across the grass. “Don’t wait for me.”

“Yes, carry on Jono,” Richard said, “Mia won’t mind, she’s not into this sort of thing.”

“I find it incredibly amazing,” Helen spoke up quickly, “I wish I’d had time to learn more. Well, better late than never.” She smiled at Richard who cracked open another beer and missed her meaningful glance.

“So the sangoma tries to cure the witch…” Kate reminded Jono where he had left off.

“Yes,” Jono said, “but curing witches is a very small part of what the sangoma does as his life’s work. The main function of the sangoma is to heal and protect people in the community.

“Are sangomas only men?” Eva asked.

“No, both men and women can be sangomas, and they are generally very respected members of the community. Even Nelson Mandela was circumcised by a sangoma when he was sixteen by a famous ingcibi, a circumcision expert. Sangomas conjure up potions, known as muti to make you better and muti is made from all sorts of herbs and things. Then the sangoma dances herself, or himself, into a trance, usually with his drum which also has a spirit, and this is how they contact the spirit. Then they will alter their voice and begin to talk, using two voices, relying on their powers of ventriloquism.”

“I was told you can recognize a sangoma by their dress which is covered in beads, and is very ornamental, in red which is bomvu, black which is mnyama and white, mhlophe,” Helen said, hoping to impress Richard with her knowledge. Jono nodded. “The medicine the sangoma mixes can be based on colours also. The sangoma mixes opposite colours together, uniting them symbolically and then real life harmony follows. Light colours represent life and masculinity, dark colours are death and femininity.”

“I knew it.” Richard poked Mia who had returned with the bottle of schnapps and a sleeping bag, “you women are the death of men.”

Mia tittered, slapped him on the shoulder and wrapped herself in the sleeping bag. She opened the bottle, took a long swig and passed it to Jasmine.

“Is it true,” Marika asked, “that sangomas study for as long as doctors?”

“Yes. It takes seven years for the sangoma to study, and he, or she, studies a lot of things; techniques of divination, treatment of psychological, mental, physical conditions, animal and plant medicine use, the anatomy of the soul, ritual mastery, prayer and invocation, throwing the bones, trans-body, chant and song, channeling souls, soul ascension, case study, tradition and culture, and finally, techniques of investigation. Sangomas are also very good detectives and great historians and guardians of local culture and learning.”

“Impressive,” Kate said. “But the witches sound horrible.”

“They are. Witches operate on fear, superstition and rumour,” Jono said. “The evils of gossip. Nowadays even some of the churches use witchcraft to bring new worshippers, convincing them their problems are due to supernatural witch curses that only the church can cure. Some churches even preach that diseases like AIDS and leprosy, blindness, deafness, impotence and infertility are muti curses by witches.”

“Before we left,” Richard said, “I read an article about how Tanzanian witchdoctors have been killing albinos and harvesting their body parts because they think it will bring them good luck. What’s with that? Why albinos, why body parts for good luck?”

“What have you been reading, my friend, to hear that?” Jono asked and Richard’s expression became guarded.

“Oh, general research and whatnot. One’s interested in studying up before a trip, and what with the Internet, it’s astounding what one comes across. Some scary stuff actually. But why albinos, Jono?”

“Because they are considered to be very sacred. They are treated with deep respect because they are believed to be spirits born as human beings. And the whole muti body parts thing, well, that’s a whole other area, my friend, that is a dark thing for sure.”

“I’d be super keen to hear the whole bangshoot,” Richard said.

“Maybe you are, my friend but it’s not a discussion for the faint-hearted,” Jono warned. “And yes, Richard, I know the events of which you speak. At this time, nineteen albinos have been murdered in less than a year. But one last word on witches; they are also accused of inciting adultery, alcohol abuse and theft. Witches also have immense power to turn innocent people into witches and therefore it’s possible to become a witch without even being aware of it, simply by eating contaminated food or picking up an ‘impure’ object.”

“Oh, do not, for the love of God, tell Harrison any of this,” Richard said, “we’re all sworn to secrecy. Can you image what he’d be like if he heard these sorts of things? He’ll be rubbing everything, including us, in antiseptic.”

“All for one and one for all, we say nothing,” Helen assured him. “Jono, what about tokoloshes? I’ve tried to find out about them but no one would really tell me anything.”

“Ah,” Jono said, “the infamous tokoloshe. Helen, here is the secret to creating one – you remove the eyes and tongue from a full size corpse, then you blow a secret powder into its mouth and it is comes to life and will obey your every wish. But there is a high price for creating a tokoloshe, including the death of a relative within a year, because the spirits do not give life freely. If you are prepared to create an unnatural life, then you must be prepared to destroy a natural one.”

“An unnatural life,” Kate echoed and even the fire seemed to flicker and dim. Mia offered her the bottle of schnapps but she shook her head. Mia shrugged and passed the bottle to Jasmine.

“The tokoloshe,” Jono continued, “is a spirit in the households of witches and warlocks and they speak with a lisp…” “Sofie’s a tokoloshi.” Mia sat up, giggling “I suspected it all along.”

“She’s not small and brown,” Richard objected.

“Nor does she have a penis so long it has to be slung over her shoulder,” Jono said. “Sorry Mia, but she falls short of many of the physical characteristics needed.”

Mia found this so hilarious she nearly fell into the fire.

“Easy there, cupcake,” Richard said, kicking a burning log further away from her.

“I’m fine.” Mia protested, “perfectly composed. It’s the thought of Sofie with a giant penis slung over her shoulder, lisping…” She and Jasmine hung onto each other, hooting with laughter.

“The tokoloshe,” Jono said, “is very unusual in that he has a single buttock. Apparently Satan was unable to replicate this uniquely human feature, of our lovely, well rounded bottoms. So if you wish to scare away the devil, you must bare your buttocks at him and he will be frightened by that which he cannot have.”

“Ah that’s why mooning is such a handy tool,” Mia yelled. “Never mind crosses for vampires, just pull down your pants to the devil. Go on Richard luv, show us your moon.”

“Yes,” Helen chimed in, “show us.”

“I respectfully decline the invitation,” Richard said, “go on Jono.”

“I am too worried to continue,” Jono said. “I am afraid this discussion is being a health hazard to Mia.”

“No, I’m fine,” Mia gasped, “but my stomach hurts from laughing. Oh bleedin’ hell, this is hilarious. Go on Jono.”

“Part of the tokoloshi’s duties,” Jono said, “is to make love to its witch mistress, which is why he was created so well-endowed. As a reward for fulfilling these sexual duties, the tokoloshi is rewarded with milk and food.”

“Milk?” Kate was perplexed. “Why milk?”

“Milk is considered a sacred drink in many parts of Africa,” Jono explained, “it has many healing powers.”

“Likes to suck on a bit of tit, does he?” Richard was thoughtful. “Sign of a good man if you ask me.”

Jono ignored this comment and continued. “If you do see a tokoloshe, do not annoy it by talking to it and most certainly do not point at it because it will vanish immediately.”

“How on earth can I not look,” Mia shook with laughter, “when its hung like a bleedin’ donkey?”

Despite having downed half the bottle of schnapps, Mia was surprisingly coherent, unlike Jasmine, who had abruptly fallen fast asleep and was snoring slightly.

Jono finished the last of his beer and looked regretful. “Well, everyone, I must go to sleep or I will be a bad driver in the morning. Thank you very much for listening.”

He looked at Kate who grinned at him.

“No, thank you,” Richard said. “You’re incredibly knowledgeable, Jono, and I look forward to more stories about muti and witchdoctor’s and the like. Anyone else like one for the ditch? Last call, people, last call.”

“I’m going to bed,” Eva said. “Thanks Jono, thanks everyone.”

“Yeah, we’re calling it a night too,” Kate and Marika said, getting up.

“Me too,” Helen said. “That was fascinating, thanks Jono.”

“I’ll have one more,” Mia said, “lay it on baby.”

Jasmine was still fast asleep and Mia patted her head.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Murder Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Inanna Poetry and Fiction Series
Publication Date: May 21st 2014
Number of Pages: 460
ISBN: 1771331267 (ISBN13: 9781771331265)

PURCHASE LINKS:

        

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