Oct 042016

A Life for a Life Tour BannerA

A Life for a Life

A Mystery Novel

by Lynda McDaniel

on Tour October 15 – December 15, 2016


A Life for a Life by Lynda McDanielWhen a young woman is found dead in the North Carolina mountains, the county sheriff says suicide. Della Kincaid disagrees. A former reporter in Washington, D.C., she knows how to hunt down the real story. But she’s now living in Laurel Falls, N.C., creating a new life for herself. Without her usual sources, she turns to an unlikely cast of characters—friends, customers, ex-husband, and forger. With their help, she uncovers how unbridled greed has spawned a series of crimes and sorrows. Along the way, Kincaid discovers what the Appalachian landscape and people mean to her.


5 stars

An outstanding read! Suspense plus!

This book was much more than a mystery. It was also a gripping and compelling story.

The characters were well developed and allowed the reader to feel their emotions of fear, love, acceptance, frustration, remorse, exuberance, jealously, trust and so much more.

Della, as the synopsis states, leaves D.C. where she is a journalist, and moves to a quaint town in North Carolina, where things are slow paced, until she comes upon a body. But beyond the mystery, are the relationships and friendships, and some not so good, that develop and endure.

I read this book in 2 sittings, being unable to put it down for long.

According to GoodReads, Ms. McDaniel is working on a sequel, and I for one, can’t wait!

Highly recommend!

Lynda McDaniel is an accomplished non fictional writer. But after reading A LIFE FOR A LIFE, I look forward to all of her future fictional work.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Lynda McDaniel Books
Publication Date: 09/2016
Number of Pages: 337
ISBN: 978-0-9977808-0-2
Series: This is the 1st Book in a new series.
Purchase Links: Amazon or Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


My life was saved by a murder. At the time, of course, I didn’t understand that. I just knew I was having the best year of my life. Given all the terrible things that happened, I should be ashamed to say it, but that year was a blessing for me.

I’d just turned fifteen when Della Kincaid bought Daddy’s store. At first nothing much changed. Daddy was still round a lot, getting odd jobs as a handyman and farming enough to sell what Mama couldn’t put by. And we still lived in the house next door, though Mama banned me from going inside the store. She said she didn’t want me to be a nuisance, but I think she was jealous of “that woman from Washington, D.C.”

So I just sat out front like I always did when Daddy owned it, killing time, chatting with a few friendly customers or other bench-sitters like me. I never wanted to go inside while Daddy had the store, not because he might have asked me to help, but because he thought I couldn’t help. Oh sure, I’d go in for a Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper, but, for the most part, I just sat there, reared back with my chair resting against the outside wall, my legs dangling. Just like my life.

I’ve never forgotten how crazy it all played out. I had forgotten about the two diaries I’d kept that year. I discovered them while cleaning out our home after Mama died in April. (Daddy had passed two year earlier, to the day.) They weren’t like a girl’s diary (at least that’s what I told myself, when I worried about such things). They were notes I’d imagined a reporter like Della or her ex-husband would make, capturing the times.

I’d already cleaned out most of the house, saving my room for last. I boxed up my hubcaps, picking out my favorites from the ones still hanging on my bedroom walls. (We’d long ago sold the collection in the barn.) I tackled the shelves with all my odd keepsakes: a deer jaw, two dusty geodes, other rocks I’d found that caught my eye, like the heart-shaped reddish one—too good not to keep. When I gathered a shelf-full of books in my arms, I saw the battered shoebox where I’d stashed those diaries tucked behind the books. I sat on my old bed, the plaid spread dusty and faded, untouched in a couple of decades, and started to read. The pages had yellowed, but they stirred up fresh memories, all the same. That’s when I called Della (I still looked for any excuse to talk with her), and we arranged a couple of afternoons to go over the diaries together.

We sat at her kitchen table, where she’d placed a pot of tea and a plate of homemade cookies, and talked. And talked. After a time or two recollecting over the diaries, I told Della I wanted to write a book about that year. She agreed. We were both a little surprised that, even after all these years, we didn’t have any trouble recalling that spring.

APRIL 1985


Four cop cars blocked our driveway.

I thought I might’ve dreamed it, since I’d fallen asleep on the couch, watching TV. But after I rubbed my eyes, all four cars were still there. Seeing four black-and-whites in a town with only one could throw you.

All I could think was what did I do wrong? I ran through my day real quick-like, and I couldn’t come up with anything that would get me more than a backhand from Daddy.

I watched a cop walking in front of the store next door, which we shared a driveway with. As long as I could remember, that store hadn’t never had four cars out front at the same time, let alone four cop cars. I stepped outside, quietly closing our front door. The sun was getting low, and I hoped Mama wadnt about to call me to supper.

I headed down our stone steps to see for myself. Our house sat on a hill above the store, which made it close enough that Daddy, when he still owned the store, could run down the steps (twenty of ‘em, mossy and slick after a rain) if, say, a customer drove up while he was home having his midday dinner. But of an evening, those same steps seemed to keep people from pestering him to open up, as Daddy put it, “to sell some fool thing they could live without ‘til the next morning.”

I was just about halfway down when the cop looked my way. “Don’t trouble yourself over this, Abit. Nothing to see here.” That was Lonnie Parker, the county’s deputy sheriff.

“What do you mean nothing to see here? I ain’t seen four cop cars all in one place in my whole life.”

“You don’t need to worry about this.”

“I’m not worried,” I said. “I’m curious.”

“You’re curious all right.” He turned and spat something dark onto the dirt drive, a mix of tobacco and hate.

That’s how it always went. People talked to me like I was an idiot. Okay, I knew that I wadnt as smart as others. Something happened when Mama had me (she was pretty old by then), and I had trouble making my words just right sometimes. But inside, I worked better than most people thought. I used to go to school, but I had trouble keeping up, and that made Daddy feel bad. I wadnt sure if he felt bad for me or him. Anyway, they took me out of school when I was twelve, which meant I spent my days watching TV and hanging out. And being bored. I could read, but it took me a while. The bookmobile swung by every few weeks, and I’d get a new book each time. And I watched the news and stuff like that to try to learn.

I was named after Daddy – Vester Bradshaw Jr. – but everyone called me Abit. I heard the name Abbott mentioned on the TV and asked Mama if that was the same as mine. She said it were different but pronounced about the same. She wouldn’t call me that, but Daddy was fine with it. A few year ago, I overheard him explaining how I got that name.

“I didn’t want him called the same as me,” Daddy told a group of men killing time outside the store. He was a good storyteller, and he was enjoying the attention. “He’s a retard. When he come home from the hospital, and people asked how he was doing, I’d tell ‘em,‘he’s a bit slow.’ I wanted to just say it outright to cut out all the gossip. I told that story enough that someone started calling him Abit, and it stuck.”

Some jerk then asked if my middle name were “Slow,” and everybody laughed. That hurt me at the time, but with the choice between Abit and Vester, I reckoned my name weren’t so bad, after all. Daddy could have his stupid name.

Anyway, I wadnt going to have Lonnie Parker run me off my own property (or near abouts my property), so I folded my arms and leaned against the rock wall.

I grabbed a long blade of grass and chewed. While I waited, I checked out the hubcaps on the cars—nothing exciting, just the routine sort of government caps. Too bad, ‘cause a black-and-white would’ve looked really cool with Mercury chrome hubcaps. I had one in my collection in the barn back of the house, so I knew what I was talking about.

I heard some loud voices coming from upstairs, the apartment above the store, where Della lived with Jake, some kind of mixed hound who came to live with her when she lived in Washington, D.C. I couldn’t imagine what Della had done wrong. She was about the nicest person I’d ever met. I loved Mama, but Della was easier to be round. She just let me be.

Ever since Daddy sold the store, Mama wouldn’t let me go inside it anymore. I knew she was jealous of Della. To be honest, I thought a lot of people were jealous a lot of the time and that was why they did so many stupid things. I saw it all the time. Sitting out front of the store most days, I’d hear them gossiping or even making stuff up about people. I bet they said things about me, too, when I wadnt there, off having my dinner or taking a nap.

But lately, something else was going on with Mama. Oncet I turned fifteen year old, she started snooping and worrying. I’d seen something about that on TV, so I knew it was true: People thought that any guy who was kinda slow was a sex maniac. They figured since we weren’t one-hundred percent “normal,” we walked round with boners all the time and couldn’t control ourselves. I couldn’t speak for others, but that just weren’t true for me. I remembered the first one I got, and it sure surprised me. But I’d done my experimenting, and I knew it wouldn’t lead to no harm. Mama had nothin’ to worry about, but still, she kept a close eye on me.

Of course, it was true that Della was real nice looking—tall and not skinny or fat. She had a way about her—smart but not stuck up. And her hair was real pretty—kinda curly and reddish gold, cut just below her ears. But she coulda been my mother, for heaven’s sake.

After a while, Gregg and the sheriff, along with some other cops, started making their way down Della’s steps to their cars.

“Abit, you get on home, son.” Sheriff Brower said. “Don’t go bothering Ms. Kincaid right now.”

“Go to hell, Brower. I don’t need your stupid advice.” Okay, that was just what I wanted to say; what I really said was, “I don’t plan on bothering Della.” I used her first name to piss him off; young people were supposed to use grownups’ last names. Besides, she’d asked me to call her Della. Then I added, “And I don’t bother her. She likes me.”

But he was already churning dust in the driveway, speeding onto the road.


I heard Jake whimpering as I sank into the couch. I’d closed him in the bedroom while the sheriff and his gang of four were here. Jake kept bringing toys over for them to throw, and I could see how irritated they were getting. I didn’t want to give them reason to be more unpleasant than they already were.

“Hi there, boy,” I said as I opened the door. “Sorry about that, buddy.” He sprang from the room and grabbed his stuffed rabbit. I scratched his ears and threw the toy, then reclaimed the couch. “Why didn’t we stay in today, like I wanted?”

Earlier, I’d thought about skipping our usual hike. It was my only day off, and I wanted to read last Sunday’s Washington Post. (I was always a week behind since I had to have the papers mailed to me.) But Jake sat by the door and whined softly, and I sensed how cooped up he’d been with all the early spring rains.

Besides, those walks did me more good than Jake. When I first moved to Laurel Falls, the natural world frightened me. Growing up in Washington, D.C., hadn’t prepared me for that kind of wild. But gradually, I got more comfortable and started to recognize some of the birds and trees and especially the wildflowers. Something about their delicate beauty made the woods more welcoming. Trilliums, pink lady’s slippers, and fringed phacelia beckoned me to, encouraging me to venture deeper.

Of course, it didn’t help that my neighbors and customers carried on about the perils of taking long hikes by myself. “You could be murdered,” they cried. “At the very least you could be raped,” warned Abit’s mother, Mildred Bradshaw, normally a quiet, prim woman. “And what about perverts?” she’d add, exasperated that I wasn’t listening to her.

Sometimes Mildred’s chant “You’re so alone out there” nagged at me in a reactive loop as Jake and I walked in the woods. But that was one of the reasons I moved here. I wanted to be alone. I longed to get away from deadlines and noise and people. And memories. Besides, I argued with myself, hadn’t I lived safely in D.C. for years? I’d walked dark streets, sat face-to-face with felons, been robbed at gunpoint, but I still went out whenever I wanted, at least before midnight. You couldn’t live there and worry too much about crime, be it violent, white-collar, or political; that city would grind to a halt if people thought that way.

As Jake and I wound our way, the bright green tree buds and wildflowers soothed my dark thoughts. I breathed in that intoxicating smell of spring: not one thing in particular, but rather a mix of fragrances floating on soft breezes, signaling winter’s retreat. The birds were louder too, chittering and chattering in the warmer temperatures. I was lost in my reverie when Jake stopped so fast I almost tripped over him. He stood still, ears alert.

“What is it, boy?” He looked up at me, then resumed his exploration of rotten squirrels and decaying stumps.

I didn’t just love that dog, I admired him. He was unafraid of his surroundings, plowing through tall fields of hay or dense forests without any idea where he was headed, not the least bit perturbed by bugs flying into his eyes or seeds up his nose. He’d just sneeze and keep going.

We walked a while longer and came to a favorite lunch spot. I nestled against a broad beech tree, its smooth bark gentler against my back than the alligator bark of red oak or locust. Jake fixated on a line of ants carrying off remnants from a picnic earlier that day, rooting under leaves and exploring new smells since his last visit. But mostly he slept. In a sunspot, he made a nest thick with leaves, turning round and round until everything was just right.

Jake came to live with me a year and a half ago when a neighbor committed suicide, a few months before I moved south. We both struggled at first, but when we settled here, the past for him seemed forgotten. Sure, he still ran in circles when I brushed against his old leash hanging in the coat closet, but otherwise he was officially a mountain dog. I was the one still working on leaving the past behind.

I’d bought the store on a whim after a week’s stay in a log cabin in the Black Mountains. To prolong the trip, I took backroads home. As I drove through Laurel Falls, I spotted the boarded-up store sporting a For Sale sign. I stopped, jotted down the listed phone number, and called. Within a week, I owned it. The store was in shambles, both physically and financially, but something about its bones had appealed to me. And I could afford the extensive remodeling it needed because the asking price was so low.

Back in my D.C. condo, I realized how much I wanted a change in my life. I had no family to miss. I was an only child, and my parents had died in an alcoholic daze when their car wrapped around a tree, not long after I left for college. And all those editors and deadlines, big city hassles, and a failed marriage? I was eager to trade them in for a tiny town and a dilapidated store called Coburn’s General Store. (Nobody knew who Coburn was—that was just what it had always been called, though most of the time it was simply Coburn’s. Even if I’d renamed it, no one would have used the new name.)

In addition to the store, the deal included an apartment upstairs that, during its ninety-year history, had likely housed more critters than humans, plus a vintage 1950 Ford pickup truck with wraparound rear windows. And a bonus I didn’t know about when I signed the papers: a living, breathing griffon to guard me and the store—Abit.

I’d lived there almost a year, and I treasured my days away from the store, especially once it was spring again. Some folks complained that I wasn’t open Sundays (blue laws a distant memory, even though they were repealed only a few years earlier), but I couldn’t work every day, and I couldn’t afford to hire help, except now and again.

While Jake and I sat under that tree, the sun broke through the canopy and warmed my face and shoulders. I watched Jake’s muzzle twitch (he was already lost in a dream), and chuckled when he sprang to life at the first crinkle of wax paper. I shooed him away as I unwrapped my lunch. On his way back to his nest, he stopped and stared down the dell, his back hairs spiking into a Mohawk.

“Get over it, boy. I don’t need you scaring me as bad as Mildred. Settle down now,” I gently scolded as I laid out a chunk of Gruyere I’d whittled the hard edges off, an almost-out-of-date salami, and a sourdough roll I’d rescued from the store. I’d been called a food snob, but these sad leftovers from a struggling store sure couldn’t support that claim. Besides, out here the food didn’t matter so much. It was all about the pileated woodpecker trumpeting its jungle call or the tiny golden-crowned kinglet flitting from branch to branch. And the falls in the distance, playing its soothing continuo, day and night. These walks kept me sane. The giant trees reminded me I was just a player in a much bigger game, a willing refugee from a crowded, over-planned life.

I crumpled the lunch wrappings, threw Jake a piece of roll, and found a better sunspot. I hadn’t closed my eyes for a minute when Jake gave another low growl. He was sitting upright, nose twitching, looking at me for advice.

“Sorry, pal; you started it. I don’t hear anything,” I told him. He gave another face-saving low growl and put his head back down.

“You crazy old hound.” I patted his warm, golden fur. Early on, I wondered what kind of mix he was—maybe some retriever and beagle, bringing his size down to medium. I’d asked the vet to hazard a guess. He wouldn’t. Or couldn’t. It didn’t matter.

I poured myself a cup of hot coffee, white with steamed milk, appreciating the magic of a thermos, even if the contents always tasted vaguely of vegetable soup. That aroma took me back to the woods of my childhood, just two vacant lots really, a few blocks from my home in D.C.’s Cleveland Park. I played there for hours, stocked with sandwiches and a thermos of hot chocolate. I guess that’s where I first thought of becoming a reporter; I sat in the cold and wrote up everything that passed by—from birds and salamanders to postmen and high schoolers sneaking out for a smoke.

A deeper growl from Jake pulled me back. As I turned to share his view, I saw a man running toward us. “Dammit, Mildred,” I swore, as though the intruder were her fault. The man looked angry, pushing branches out of his way as he came toward us. Jake barked furiously, but I grabbed his collar and held tight.

Even though the scene was unfolding just as my neighbor had warned, I wasn’t afraid. Maybe it was the Madras sport shirt, so out of place on a man with a bushy beard and long ponytail. For God’s sake, I thought, how could anyone set out in the morning dressed like that and plan to do harm? A hint of a tattoo—a Celtic cross?—peeked below his shirt sleeve, adding to his unlikely appearance.

As he neared, I could see his face wasn’t so much angry as pained, drained of color.

“There’s some … one,” his voice cracked. He put his hands on his thighs and tried to catch his breath. As he did, his graying ponytail fell across his chest.

“What? Who?”

“A body. Somebody over there,” he said, pointing toward the creek. “Not far, it’s …” he stopped again to breathe.


“I don’t know. Cross … creek.” He started to run.

“Wait! Don’t go!” I shouted, but all I could see was the back of his shirt as he ran away from us. “Hey! At least call for help. There’s an emergency call box down that road, at the car park. Call Gregg O’Donnell at the Forest Service. I’ll go see if there’s anything I can do.”

He shouted, “There nothing you can do,” as he ran away.

Jake led the way as we crashed through the forest, branches whipping our faces. I felt the creek’s icy chill, in defiance of the day’s warmth, as I missed the smaller stepping stones and soaked my feet. Why didn’t I ask the stranger more details, or have him show me where to find the person? And what did “across the creek” mean in an eleven thousand-acre wilderness area? When I stopped to get my bearings, I began to shiver, my feet numb. Jake stopped with me, sensing the seriousness of our romp in the woods; he even ignored a squirrel.

We were a pack of two, running together, the forest silent except for our heavy breathing and the rustle we made crossing the decaying carpet beneath our feet. Jake barked at something, startling me, but it was just the crack of a branch I’d broken to clear the way. We were both spooked.

I stopped to rest on a fallen tree as Jake ran ahead, then back and to the right. Confused, he stopped and looked at me.

“I don’t know which way either, boy.” We were just responding to a deep, instinctual urge to help. “You go on, Jake. You’ll find it before I will.”

And he did.

Author Bio:

Lynda McDanielMy writing career began more than 30 years ago. Over the years, I’ve written more than 1,200 articles for major magazines, hundreds of newsletters, and dozens of blogs. I’m proudest of the 15 books I’ve written, including “A Life for a Life.” The way I see it, books are to writers what pentathlons are to athletes: Endurance. And I’ve got it!

My other books include “Words at Work,” which I wrote straight from my heart, a much-needed response to all the questions and concerns people have about writing today. (It won top honors from the National Best Books Awards.) That same year, I wrote “Contemporary Hawai’i Woodworkers: the Wood, the Art, the Aloha,” a coffee-table art book featuring 35 artists; it won several awards, too, and sold out quickly. Since then, I’ve written two Amazon Bestselling Books: “How Not to Sound Stupid When You Write” and “Write Your Book Now!” (with Virginia McCullough). In 2015, I wrote “Aloha Expressionism by Contemporary Hawai’i Artists” featuring 50 more artists living on those beautiful islands.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, but I’ve lived all over this country—from the Midwest to the Deep South to Appalachia to the Mid-Atlantic to the Pacific Northwest. Whew! I finally settled in Sebastopol, California, a place that reflects the values I learned while living in the mountains of North Carolina, all those years ago.

What’s next? I’m busy with the sequel to “A Life for a Life” so I get to enjoy Abit’s, er, I mean V.J.’s company again.

Catch Up with Lynda McDaniel on her ‘s Website, Twitter, or Facebook.

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Oct 032016

Strong Cold Dead

by Jon Land

on Tour October 2016


Strong Cold Dead by Jon Land coverIn her storied career as a Texas Ranger, Caitlin has confronted all manner of villains, but nothing that’s prepared her for the terrorist group ISIS’s pursuit of a devastating weapon on Lone Star State soil. The land in question lies on an Indian reservation where a drilling operation steeped in mystery and controversy is about to commence under the auspices of shadowy billionaire Cray Rawls.

But Rawls is only one of Caitlin’s problems. Her surrogate son Dylan, the oldest boy of her reformed outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters, has joined the tribe to protest Rawls’ desecration of the sacred Indian lands. The same desecration that has unearthed an ancient evil Caitlin’s own great-great-grandfather fought nearly 150 years before. There’s also a twisted genius who’s uncovered the true nature of that evil, a young man with whom Caitlin shares a past now poised to deliver Armageddon from Texas’ canyonlands.

To save millions from a horrible fate at the hands of ISIS, Caitlin and Cort Wesley must sort through a web of death and deceit as tangled as the blood-soaked grounds of the reservation that hold a deadly secret. A secret that’s the source of a battle rooted in the past and now destined to determine the shape of the future.


My Thoughts and Opinion: 5+ stars

This is the first novel that I have read by author Jon Land and I sadly realized that I have been missing out on some exciting books!

This is the 8th in the Caitlin Strong series but easily read as a stand alone.

It is said that history repeats itself. In this novel, present day is compared to the Wild West, ISIS parallels Cowboys and Native Americans.

Caitlin Strong, 5th generation Texas Ranger, is the gutsy, intuitive, fearless, brazen, instinctive determined, and smart protagonist. My new heroine!

Shut off your phone, don’t answer the door, turn off your computer because this book is 352 pages of pure excitement, a non stop roller coaster read! Thrilling twists and turns throughout! I could not put this book down having read 80% of it in one sitting.

Jon Land is an exceptional writer that takes the reader on an electrifying and gripping journey. Highly recommend!!

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: October 4th 2016
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0765335131 (ISBN13: 9780765335135)
Series: Caitlin Strong Novel #8
Get Your Copy of Strong Cold Dead by Jon Land on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or add it to your list at Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


East San Antonio, Texas

“Nobody goes beyond this point, ma’am,” the tall, burly San Antonio policeman, outfitted in full riot gear, told Caitlin Strong.

“That include Texas Rangers . . .” She hesitated long enough to read the name plate over his badge. “. . . Officer Salazar?”

“That’s Sergeant Salazar, Ranger. And the answer is, yes, it includes everyone. Especially Texas Rangers.”

“Well, Sergeant, maybe we wouldn’t need to be here if a couple of your patrolmen hadn’t gunned down a ten-year-old boy.”

Salazar looked at Caitlin, scowling as he backed away from her Explorer. A few blocks beyond the checkpoint, a grayish mist seemed to hover in the air, residue of the tear gas she expected would be unleashed again soon. That is, unless the youthful crowd currently packed into the small commercial district at the near end of Hackberry Avenue dispersed, which they were showing no signs of doing. The third night of trouble had brought the National Guard to the scene in full battle attire that included M4 rifles and flak jackets. Caitlin could see more floodlights had been brought in to keep the street bathed in day-glow brightness, casting a strange hue in the air that reminded her of movie kliegs, as if this were a scene concocted from fiction rather than one that had arisen out of random tragedy.

Sergeant Salazar came right up to her open window, close enough for Caitlin to smell spearmint on his breath, as he worked a wad of gum from one side of his mouth to the other. “Those patrolmen found themselves in the crossfire of a gunfight between a neighborhood watch leader and gang bangers he thought were robbing a convenience store where most pay with their EFD cards. The clerk who chased them down the street just wanted to return the change they’d left on the counter for their ice cream, but the watch leader, Alfonzo Martinez, saw the scene otherwise and ordered the bangers to stop and put their hands in the air.”

Neighborhood watch leader Martinez, a lifelong resident of J Street who’d managed to steer clear of violence all his life, started firing his heirloom Springfield 1911 model .45 as soon as the gang bangers yanked pistols from the droopy waistbands of their trousers. The only thing his shots hit was a passing San Antonio police car, the uniformed officers inside mistaking the fire as the gang bangers’ and opened up on them so indiscriminately that the lone victim of their fire was a ten-year-old boy who’d emerged from the same convenience store.

It was almost dawn before everything got sorted out and the investigative team comprised of San Antonio and Highway Patrol detectives thought they’d managed to get control of the situation. Then relatively peaceful protests by day gave way to an eruption of violence at night, spearheaded by rival gangs who abandoned their turf wars to join forces against an enemy both of them loathed. Violence and looting reined, only to get worse by the second night when eight officers ended up hospitalized, one from what was later identified as a bullet instead of a rock. And now the third night found the National Guard on the scene in force and armored police vehicles from as far away as Houston barricading the streets to basically shut off the neighborhoods of East San Antonio’s northern periphery from the rest of the city.

“You’re still here, Ranger,” Sergeant Salazar noted.

“Just considering my options.”

“Only option you have is turn your vehicle around and leave the area, ma’am. You’re not needed or welcome here.”

“On whose orders exactly?” Caitlin wondered.

“Mine,” a female voice boomed, a moment before Caitlin heard a loud pop!, like a shotgun blast, crackle through the air.


East San Antonio, Texas

A few blocks beyond the checkpoint, one of the spotlights fizzled and died, victim of a well-thrown rock more likely than a bullet. Caitlin was out of her Explorer by then, hand instinctively straying to her holstered SIG Sauer P-225 in anticipation of more shots to follow.
“Get back in your vehicle, Ranger,” said Consuelo Alonzo, deputy chief of the San Antonio police department, as she strode forward, red-faced from the exertion of rushing to the scene from the police line upon learning of Caitlin’s arrival.

“You got a problem with getting some more back-up?” Caitlin asked her.

“I do when it comes from you.”

“Why don’t you catch your breath and hear me out?”

“Because there’s nothing you have to say that can possibly interest me right now. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re sitting on a powder keg one spark away from blowing San Antonio to hell. We don’t need you providing that spark, Ranger. No way.”

Instead of settling down, Alonzo’s agitation continued to increase. Her face had grown redder, her words emerging through breaths becoming more and more rapid. She had risen quickly through the ranks of the department, becoming the youngest woman ever to make captain three years prior to her recent promotion to deputy chief. And she had been rumored to be in line for the job of Public Safety Commissioner that came with a plush Austin office and a job that would place her, among other things, as chief overseer of the Texas Rangers. Alonzo no doubt relished that particular perk of a job certain to be hers, until the death of a Chinese diplomat, exacerbated by Caitlin’s solving the murder while Alonzo was dealing with more politically oriented ramifications, led to her being passed over.

Alonzo had overcome an appearance often referred to as “masculine” by even her supporters and much worse than that by her detractors, who seemed to put no stock in the fact that she was happily raising three young children with her husband who was a professional boxing referee. This was Texas, after all, where a woman needed to work twice as hard, and be twice as good, in a profession ruggedly and stubbornly perceived to be for men only. Caitlin and Alonzo had had their differences over the years, but had mostly maintained a mutual respect defined by their professionalism, and the sense that their own squabbles only further emboldened those who sought their demise.

At least until Alonzo cast Caitlin with all the blame for her losing out on a job that was likely never going to be hers now. Since then, she’d used her position as deputy chief to wage subtle war on the Rangers’ San Antonio-based Company F whenever possible, seizing upon any bureaucratic conflict or jurisdictional dispute she could in a hapless attempt to make Caitlin’s life miserable.

Alonzo ran a hand through her spiky hair. She was heavyset and had once set the woman’s record for the bench press in her weight class. She’d also done some boxing and was reputed to be the best target shooter with a pistol in the entire department. But Caitlin had beaten her three times running when they’d gone up against each other in state-sponsored contests, winning the overall title in two of those instead of just the woman’s division. She’d stop entering after her most recent victory, figuring the last thing she needed was to draw more attention to herself than her exploits already had.

“You’re not moving, Ranger,” Alonzo told her.

Caitlin gestured toward a figure pressed tight against the waist-high concrete barrier erected to close off the street to unauthorized vehicles. “See that woman there? That’s the mother of the boy who was killed by the fire of those SAPD officers. She’s the one who called me, asked me to see what I could do about the violence being done in her boy’s name. She doesn’t want the city to burn on his account. She wants this resolved peacefully.”

“And you think I don’t?”

“No, ma’am. It’s question about how you’re going about things.”

“And how’s that?” Alonso asked, not sounding as if she was really interested in Caitlin’s answer. “We got a full-scale riot brewing back there. What exactly do you think you can do about it that we can’t?”

“I’ve got an idea or two.”

“Care to share them?”

“Ever hear of Diego Ramon Alcantara?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“He goes by the nickname ‘Diablo.’ Leader of a gang running drugs for a Mexican cartel that sees the riots as their opportunity to solidify their hold on the business throughout the state. And Diablo Alcantara has united the city’s normally warring gangs toward that purpose on the cartel’s behalf. I take him off the board, all this goes away.”

Alonzo shook her head, her expression a mix of resentment and disbelief. “You alone?”

“That’s right. Just give me a chance. What have you got to lose, Deputy Chief?”

“How about this city?”

Caitlin turned her gaze in the direction of the rioting. “Seems to me it’s already lost. Thing at this point is to get it back.”
Alonzo’s lower lip crawled over her upper one, puckering her cheeks until she blew out some breath that hit Caitlin like a blast wave from a just opened oven. “We’ve got five hundred personnel on scene who haven’t been able to manage that.”

“Would it really hurt to listen to what I’ve got to say?”

“It hurts me standing here right now instead of commanding the front line. The governor just approved an assault. We move inside the next hour, if the crowd doesn’t disperse as ordered.”

“Just give me a chance.”

This time Alonzo finished her chuckle. “You know the saying ‘stone cold dead,’ Ranger?”

“I do.”

“Maybe you haven’t heard that among Texas law enforcement types it’s called ‘strong cold dead’ now.”

Caitlin smiled slightly. “Is that a fact?”

Alonzo was left shaking her head. “Tell me, when you look in the mirror, how big’s the army that looks back?”

“Well, you know how the saying goes, Deputy Chief,” Caitlin said, backpedaling toward her SUV. “’One riot, one Ranger.’”


East San Antonio, Texas

Caitlin skulked about the outskirts of the neighborhoods just outside the riot zone. Through windows not boarded up or covered in grates, she spied more than one family following the simmering violence just a few blocks away on their televisions while huddled against a wall.

According to the information she’d obtained from a trio of informants, “Diablo” Alcantara was running the show from his sister’s home near J Street two blocks from the brewing riot’s front lines. The cartels had trained Alcantara well, taught him the tricks of their own trade to inspire everyday people to turn to violence to the point that it came to define them. A road a person was often too far down by the time he found himself on it at all. So it was here in East San Antonio, where closing the schools for the day had turned hundreds of teenagers into virtual anarchists, looting and destroying for its own sake. Right now Caitlin could still smell the smoke from a Laundromat that had burned to the ground when local firefighters and their trucks were chased back by crowds hurling bottles and rocks. Three had been hospitalized and one of the engines had been abandoned at the head of the street where it too had been set ablaze.

The Laundromat had chemicals and detergents stored in a back room that turned the air noxious for a time, the strange combination of lavender soap powder mixing with the corrosive bleaches to form the perfect metaphor for the city of San Antonio. Watching those white curtains of mist wafting through the flames to chase the rioters away more effectively than any efforts the authorities had mounted, though, had given Caitlin the idea to which Deputy Chief Alonzo had refused to listen.

Holding her position against a house in view of the main drag, Caitlin checked her watch, then the sky, and finally her cell phone to make sure she had a strong signal. Since word was the gangs were communicating via text message, there was talk of shutting down the grid, lasting until nobody could figure out a way to do it quickly—something she was glad for now.

Above the fire smoke and tear gas residue staining the air in patches, the night sky was clear and she made out a bevy of news choppers with navigation lights flashing like the stars millions of miles beyond them. Creeping closer to J Street and the home of Diablo Alcantara’s sister, Caitlin froze just beyond the spray of a streetlight showcasing a block packed with gang members proudly and openly displaying their colors.
Amid the gang bangers unified in this unholy alliance, she spotted a stocky figure more bulk than muscle holding court near the rear. Diablo Alcantara had gotten into a knife fight while in high school and ended up losing an eye to a slice that split the left side of his face right down the middle. Even in pictures, it was hard to look at the jagged scar and translucent orb visible through the narrow slit Alcantara had for a socket without feeling a flutter in her stomach from the sight.

Caitlin knew the stocky figure was Alcantara the moment he turned enough toward the streetlight for its spray to reflect off the marble-like thing wedged into his skull in place of an eye. She counted fifty bangers in the vicinity armed with assault rifles and submachine guns no intelligence report had made mention of, meaning such firepower must’ve only just reached the scene courtesy the cartels.

The bangers, under Diablo Alcantara’s leadership, looked ready to launch their assault that would push the rioting from this neighborhood into the city proper, intent on turning San Antonio into Juarez. Caitlin’s plan hadn’t accounted for going up against heavy weaponry, but the reality made its implementation all the more necessary. Giving the matter no further consideration, she lifted the cell phone closer and pressed out three words in a text message:


Caitlin figured she had three, maybe four minutes to wait, spending the first of them following the gang members’ antics in preparation for what was to come. Some of them wore military-grade flak jackets, in odd counterpoint to the pungent scent of marijuana smoke gradually claiming the air. She watched beer bottles drained and smashed, a few stray shots fired into the air to cheering by the most chemically altered in the bunch.

Caitlin checked her watch one last time before she stepped out from the darkness onto the street, light glinting off her badge and holstered pistol in plain view, as she continued toward the center of the block.

“I’m a Texas Ranger,” she called out to the gang members, whose gazes fixed on her in disbelief. “All of you, stay right where you are.”

Author Bio:

Jon LandJon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 38 novels, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller and Strong Light of Day which won the 2016 International Book Award for Best Thriller-Adventure, the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller, and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery. The latest title in the series is Strong Cold Dead, to be published on October 4 and about which Strand Magazine said is “certain to rank Land among a handful of our most talented thriller authors of this decade.” Land has also teamed with multiple New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham on a new sci-fi series, the first of which, The Rising, will be published by Forge in January of 2017. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Catch Up with Jon on his website and on Twitter & Facebook

Tour Participants:


This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land to celebrate the release of his 8th Caitlin Strong thriller, Strong Cold Dead. There will be 5 winners of one (1) autographed copy of Strong Cold Dead by Jon Land. This giveaway is limited to US & Canadian residents only. The giveaway begins on September 28th and runs through November 3rd, 2016.

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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 from the author, 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 an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Oct 032016

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of A girl and her books and is now hosted on its own blog.

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: THE LAST WITNESS by Jerry Amernic (Personal recommended by Hott Books)
Friday: ESCAPE VELOCITY by Susan Wolfe from Author Guide/PICT

Sep 292016

The Coniston Case

by Rebecca Tope

on Tour September 2016


Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and business at Persimmon ‘Simmy’ Brown’s flower shop is booming. But when Simmy fulfills a string of anonymous delivery orders, she is startled to realize that each contains a secretly menacing message for the recipients. When one of the people who receives a bouquet disappears, it seems that her worst fears have been confirmed.

As if that isn’t enough, Simmy’s friend Kathy turns up, on the trail of her wayward daughter Joanna, who she fears has grown too close to one of her university tutors. When Kathy attempts to reason with her daughter she finds that Joanna’s older lover may be even more dangerous than she had imagined. With both Kathy and Joanna in peril, Simmy and her friends find themselves caught up in a web of deception, blackmail and murder…


My Thoughts and Opinion: 4 stars

This is the first I have read the work of this author and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though it is the 2nd in the series, it was easily read as a stand alone. However, there were teasings from the 1st in the series, which definitely put it on my TBR list. I enjoyed it so much that I am anxiously waiting for the next installment, THE TROUTBECK TESTIMONY.

Persimmon “Simmy” Brown, a florist in the English countryside, finds herself in yet another murder mystery.

She receives floral orders, from an an anonymous customer along with a cryptic message, that turns out to be malicious to the recipients. One having been found dead. At the same time, a good friend comes to visit and ends up going missing. Is there any connection? And what do floral arrangements and climate control have in common, or does it?

The author introduces the reader to many possible suspects, casting suspicion on each character.

There were many twists and turns, which made this a “one more chapter” read. An engrossing read with an ending that was surprising.

If you enjoy cozies, this is an author that must be read!

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery & Detective
Published by: Harper Collins/Witness Impulse
Publication Date: August 12, 2016
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780062567420
Series: Lake District Mysteries #2

Purchase The Coniston Case on Amazon & Barnes & Noble. Or Learn More at Goodreads.

Read an excerpt:

‘It’s not the same,’ Melanie argued. ‘She can do some shopping when she comes here. Nobody wants to shop in Coniston, do they? Making a delivery over there really is a waste of time and petrol. And you’re not supposed to do too much driving, remember.’ Melanie’s protectiveness had become a habit since Simmy had suffered an injury, shortly before Christmas, and been forbidden to drive until early in February. She had used crutches throughout most of January. Damage to her head had necessitated a shaven area, which prompted her to have a very short all-over haircut that still felt strange.

‘Well it’s too late now. I just hope it doesn’t go mad tomorrow or I’ll be turning orders away. You know you’ll be doing all the local ones, don’t you?’ ‘Yeah, yeah. My feet’ll be worn away to nothing by the time I’ve done them all.’ There had been a degree of discord about how Melanie might best make the deliveries of flowers in the streets of Windermere and Bowness. Her battered car was deemed by Simmy to be bad for the image of the business, but she had compromised slightly, and agreed that it could be left full of flowers in the Bowness car park, and again at the northern end of Windermere, for increased efficiency. She had also, as a major concession, permitted Melanie to use the van while she herself had been unable to drive. As a resident of an area renowned for walking, the girl was almost a freak in her reluctance to use her own legs as a means of transport.

Rebecca Tope

Author Bio:

Rebecca Tope is the author of four murder mystery series, featuring Den Cooper, Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, Undertaker; Thea Osborne, house sitter in the Cotswolds and now Persimmon Brown, Lake District florist. She is also a “ghost writer” of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme.

Catch Up with Rebecca Tope on her Website or on Twitter.

Tour Participants:

Don’t miss the giveaway!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Rebecca Tope & Harper Collins – Witness/Impulse. There will be ONE (1) Winner for this tour. The winner will receive 1 Free link to download the ‘The Coniston Case by Rebecca Tope’ e-book. This is subject to change without notification. The giveaway begins on August 29th and runs through September 30th, 2016.

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Sep 272016

Have You Heard?

I have some very exciting news to share!!!!!!!!! I know, like me, there are a lot of book blogging buddies that are big fans of Steven Manchester!

ASHES will be hitting the shelves on February 21, 2017. But you can read it a lot sooner!! Steve, via The Story Plant, will be touring with Providence Book Promotions. ARCs will be available the end of October/beginning of November.

Don’t miss out

Head on over to PBP, and either subscribe to the newsletter and/or join as one of our fabulous hosts, so you will know the minute the tour is announced.