#ReleaseBlitz “Domestic Violence: A Thriller” by Chuck Edmonds

~~~~~

Fiction/Thriller

Date Published: December 13, 2022

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

 

photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

 

Agnew, a small farming community in south-central Texas, has just been obliterated in the nation’s worst rail accident in history. The
President of the United States enlists cybersecurity expert, Mike Paxton, to lead the investigation and determine who is to blame.

As Mike seeks to uncover the truth behind the attack, more weapons of mass destruction are unleashed across the country in what appears to be an attempt to eradicate western society. Those who survive are forced into a near-apocalyptic existence: transportation, manufacturing, agricultural, and oil industries crumble, and economic collapse devastates America.

With time and resources running out, Mike must discover the cruel forces at play. Are these violent attacks merely a ploy to preoccupy the American government so a larger, global plan can be carried out without the threat of intervention by America’s powerful military defense? Will Mike and his team be able to stop them before it’s too late? Or will the United States lose all hope of maintaining its status as the most powerful country
in the world?

~~~~~

About the Author

Chuck Edmonds is a scientific writer whose military experience includes the evaluation of weapons of mass destruction.

Most recently, his work has focused on mechanical circulatory support systems (partial and total
artificial hearts), his field of specialization at one of the nation’s leading cardiac centers. His research has appeared in national medical and surgical journals.

He draws from his background of deep scientific knowledge to create his fictional works, which often incorporate apocalyptic and war themes.

Chuck and his wife live in Houston, Texas, where they enjoy spending as much time as possible with their kids and grandkids. 

 

Contact Link

Goodreads

Twitter: @chuckedmondsauthor

Instagram

~~~~~

Purchase Links

Amazon

B&N

Kobo

~~~~~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

~~~~~

RABT Book Tours & PR

~~~~~

#ReleaseBoost “Hot Vegas Nights Collaboration”

Series: Hot Vegas Nights Collaboration
Genre: Romance
Collection Hosted by: S.L. Sterling




The Vegas Strip is the gateway to your wildest fantasies. Where debauchery rules and depravity runs rampant. Elusive billionaires, celebrity bad boys, tantalizing dancers, master mixologists, and sexy tattoo artists are all within reach.

During these 15 Hot Vegas Nights, you’ll take a chance on love, lose yourself in entertainment, and gamble your heart away!

Fifteen books are all written with your pleasure in mind.


Join our Reader Group HERE

HOSTED BY:

#BookBlitz “Accursed Son” by Eric Avedissian

~~~~~

    The Martyr’s Vow Series, Book 1

Urban Fantasy / Horror

To Be Published: 12-12-2022

Publisher: Shadow Spark Publishing

 

photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

Armand Tarkanian is trapped in the ultimate dead-end job: embalming decedents under his abusive uncle’s watchful eye. Every day he goes through the motions, making death look beautiful while his life is anything but.

A car accident leaves him indebted to Berj, a mysterious man with rune-carved gold teeth and a penchant for worshipping old gods. Blackmailed and desperate, Armand feels more trapped than he was under his uncle’s thumb. But the embalmer harbors his own dark secret, a bloodline curse that allows him to communicate with the dead.

When the spirits show him how they were murdered, Armand must choose between fealty to the sadistic and manipulative Berj, or joining the Legion of the Lamb, a monster-hunting biker gang with their own agenda. What began as a dangerous game between secret societies has led Armand on a frightening quest to save the only family he’s ever known and a chance to get closer to the rebellious misfits who saved him.

Heartfelt and provocative, Accursed Son is a story featuring generational
clashes, found families, and the rewards of tempting fate.

~~~~~

~~~~~

About the Author


Eric Avedissian is an adjunct professor and speculative fiction author. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and a ridiculous number of books. When not chained to his writing desk, he hikes the Pinelands and wastes too much time on social media. Accursed Son is his first novel. Visit him online at http://www.ericavedissian.com and on Twitter: @angryreporter.

 

 

Contact Links

Website

Instagram

Twitter

Goodreads

~~~~~

Purchase Link

Amazon

~~~~~

RABT Book Tours & PR

~~~~~

#BookBlitz “Cracked Coffins” by Beronika Keres

20221206_222507_0000

We are so excited to share Cracked Coffins with you! Especially since the second book, Blinding Blood is out now! Read on for more details and a chance to enter a fantastic giveaway at the end!

Cracked-Coffins ebook

Cracked Coffins (Cracked Coffins Series #1)

Publication Date: October 2020

Genre: New Adult Paranormal Thriller/ Vampires

Run. Fight. Survive.

A life of violence and drugs leaves Marianna Cortez desperate for normality. For a brief instant, she thinks she has found that with Denendrius. But he can’t maintain his sweet facade for long. Soon, he reveals himself for what he is… a deranged vampire longing to ensnare her in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Plan. Plot. Pray.

Forced to play a part in Denendrius’s twisted fantasies, Marianna hunts for a way to escape. But he’s stronger than her, and capable of unimaginable cruelty.

With her only hope of survival being to study her captor and learn his weaknesses, can Marianna uncover secrets from Denendrius’s dark past she can use to destroy him? Or will this monster, who clawed his way through her history, slaughter her chance at a future?

CW: Cracked Coffins is a new adult dark paranormal thriller that explores the horrors of abusive relationships with a vampiric twist. Expect profanity, mature themes, sexual violence, and general violence.

Purchase Here

Binding-Blood-ebook 500x313

Binding Blood (Cracked Coffins #2)

After being used as bait to capture Denendrius, Marianna had no choice but to save the loathsome vampire to ensure her own survival. But not before Denendrius was fed the cure for vampirism. Now, awakened as a human, he has no memories beyond his mortal life in Ancient Rome.

He can’t recall the people he tortured.
The countless lives he took.
Or why vampires far and wide are hunting him.

How long he’ll stay like this, Marianna doesn’t know, but she has no intention of wasting the opportunity. Dodging vampire attacks, she searches for a way to turn him over to the vampire king before he can retrieve his memories and escape.

Yet the more time she spends with Denendrius, the further she becomes entangled in his web of lies and secrets. Soon, she finds herself questioning those who claim to be allies while fighting to regain a piece of the life he stole from her.

Purchase Here

About the Author

Keres Author Photo

Beronika Keres is a fantasy, thriller, and horror writer. After deciding in the second grade that she was destined to be an author, she has spent her life honing her craft and pursuing her dream. Fueled by coffee, she can often be found chasing plot bunnies and writing books.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found spending time with her family and enjoying the forests, mountains, and lakes of where she resides in British Columbia, Canada.

Beronika Keres | Facebook | Instagram

International Giveaway: Paperback copy, swag pack with signed bookplates (with bookmarks, sticker, and postcards)

Giveaway runs from December 10th to the 13th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

#BookBlitz “The Best Doctor in Town: A Tall Tale from the Hills” by Amelia Townsend

~~~~~

Mystery

Date Published: Nov. 7, 2019

Publisher: Jan-Carol Publishing, Inc.

 

photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

 

Set in Southwest Virginia and inspired by actual events and the story of the small town’s most revered doctor, who may just be a serial killer.

A local police officer with a tarnished reputation, a reporter who manipulated facts, and the doctor’s chief intern, who may be a thief, have pieces of the puzzle. Yet no one in authority believes the great doctor could be responsible. All the while, patients are dying.

~~~~~

About the Author

Amelia Townsend loves telling almost true stories. She has worked as a newspaper and TV reporter, freelance producer and director, writer, and now PR hack. She is a proud graduate the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  

 

 

 

Contact Links

Goodreads

Instagram: @ameliatownsendauthor

~~~~~

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Publisher

~~~~~

RABT Book Tours & PR

~~~~~

#CoverReveal “New Normal” by Michelle Paris

Cover Reveal Banner

We’re thrilled to present the cover for an up-and-coming release called New Normal by Michelle Paris! Read on for more details!

image0-2

New Normal

Expected Publication Date: Spring 2023

Genre: Women’s Fiction/ Light-Hearted

Publisher: Apprentice House Press

After the sudden death of her husband, Emilie Russell just wants to feel normal. But being a middle-aged widow doesn’t come with a how-to manual. Her well-meaning friend, Viv, believes the cure to all that ails is simple: a new man. So, she sets Emilie up with her handsome and charming new neighbor, widower Colin. There’s only one problem with the plan—Colin is gay.

Emilie embarks on a rollicking journey of self-discovery with Colin as her mentor and best friend. From learning to swipe right without cringing while midlife dating in constricting shapeware to cougar moments in Key West, Emilie reenters the dating pool with both humorous and soul-crushing results.

With the encouragement of her friends, including a new furry one, plus a little therapy, Emilie begins forging a new life, one where she exchanges tears for laughter, and one that maybe—just maybe—includes the courage to find love again.

Add to Goodreads

About the Author

Paris, Michelle 1 5x5

Michelle Paris is a Maryland writer who believes laughter can heal the heart. Her debut novel, New Normal is loosely based on her own experience as a young widow. Her personal story of overcoming grief was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. And her essays about grief and mid-life dating have appeared in multiple editions of the Chicken Soup for the Soul inspirational book series as well as in other media outlets. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Maryland Writers’ Association, and the Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association. Currently, Michelle is enjoying chapter two of her life with her new husband, Kevin, who keeps her from being a cat lady but only on technicality.

Cover Reveal Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

#BookTour “The Best Case Scenario: Act I of Nyra’s Journey” by D.B. Sayers

Welcome to the book tour for D.B Sayers NA romance novel, The Best Case Scenario. Read on for more info!

Best Case Scenario_jpg

Best Case Scenario (The Nyra Westensee Series)

Publication Date: April 2018 (First Edition)

Genre: NA Romance

“Isn’t hope in some form our best case scenario?”

More than a year after graduating from college, Nyra is beginning to wonder when her life, professional and personal, gets started. Was it like this for her mother? She doubts it, but things were different, then. Nyra’s reality is nothing like her mother’s. Each generation confronts its own challenges.

Still, she’s tired of feeling like she’s wading through waist-deep wet cement. Buried somewhere deep in a future she can sense but not feel, Nyra can hear the siren’s song of hope and hypothetical options whispering to her. She’s so ready! But is the song she hears hope or just an illusion?

Best Case Scenario is the first act in Nyra Westensee’s journey from student to self-aware, fully actualized woman.

CW: Mature Content/ Adult Situations/ Sex and Sexuality

Fifty (50) percent of all royalties earned through the sale of Best Case Scenario, print or electronic are donated to Stand Up for Racial Justice.

Excerpt

Splashes of mid-afternoon sun dapple the stairs retreating down to the beach, shaded by a green archway of Eucalyptus, Hibiscus and Bougainvillea, still blooming fiery red. “Steep,” Toni observes. The sign reads, Coastal Access. Open to the Public—Thousand Steps Beach.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Nyra assures her. “And it isn’t really a thousand steps…more like three hundred, I think. It just feels like a thousand on the way back out but—”

“Greaaat…there’s no easier way?”

“Not unless you have a boat.” Nyra shrugs. “Sorry.”

“I get it. Payback for riding your ass these past few weeks, right?”

“No! And it’ll be way worth the climb.”

“Better be.” Toni pulls her sunglasses down to give Nyra the benefit of her best stink-eye, softened with a teasing smile.

“I promise. Let’s go.”

Toni grabs Nyra’s hand to stop her. “And you keep your promises, right?”

Nyra’s heart races and she squeezes Toni’s hand, drawing her toward the stairs. “Come on,” she says. “Low tide was almost an hour ago, but the caves will still be dry.”

The whole way down, Nyra is acutely aware of the caress of Toni’s eyes from the side and the warmth of the hand she’s still holding. Sunlight winks at them periodically, through the canopy overhead. Twice on the way down, the tickle of a low-hanging branch against her shoulder makes her shiver. Fear, anticipation—both?

At the bottom, they break into full sunlight that seems to bless the translucent waves, staining them a delicate tourmaline. Strands of kelp mark the last high tide line in the sand. Nyra is surprised to find the beach deserted.

She shrugs out of her hydration pack and sheds her sweatpants, revealing skimpy bikini bottoms. “We’re guaranteed to get wet somewhere,” she explains. “Either in the caves or the tide pools.” She glances at Toni’s navy-blue Capri leggings. “Those may salt stain. I have an extra pair of shorts in my pack you can wear if…”

Toni’s already skimming her capris over her hips, to reveal ivory panties, with lace trim. She exchanges her capris, still warm to the touch for Nyra’s shorts. “Thanks,” she says.

“My pleasure.” Nyra rolls Toni’s leggings carefully and stows them in her pack, along with her sweatpants.

She takes a deep drink from her hydration tube and offers it to Toni. After a tentative sip, Toni takes a deeper drink. “Tastes like pomegranate,” she notes.

“My brother Kip used to get on my case about not drinking enough while we were out hiking or at the beach,” Nyra replies. “But I can’t stand drinking plain water, especially after it gets warm. So, I started adding ice cubes and flavoring to make it more palatable.”

“Good idea!”

They poke around in the tide pools, where Nyra points out black and wavy top Turban, Sea Anemone, Limpets and a startled Shore Crab, scuttling across the partially submerged rocks. She can’t recall it ever being this deserted.

The tide’s still low enough to clamor around in the exposed caves, worn smooth by wave erosion in some places, rough with barnacles in others. Where boulders are routinely awash, moss clings to them, filling the air with the humid, organic scent of life.

“I’ve lived in Southern California almost ten years,” Toni observes, “and I had no idea this was even here. I thought you had to go a couple hundred miles up the coast to find places like this.” Her eyes meet Nyra’s and she steps closer. “Thanks for taking the time to be my tour guide, today.”

“My pleasure,” Nyra replies. Toni is so close now, Nyra can feel her warmth. Even in the subdued light of the cave, she feels the pull of her eyes. Nyra’s stomach spasms as Toni’s hands slip around her waist. She looks up, offering lips that tremble when Toni’s find hers. She kisses back, tentatively, then insistently.

Apprehension melts into desire, spiking Nyra’s blood with excitement as her lips bloom open to welcome the probe of Toni’s tongue. Nyra’s hands, as though with a will of their own, slide over Toni’s hips, pulling her closer. Her thoughts swim to the caress of Toni’s ripe, sweet mouth.

She can feel herself opening up and the cave’s humid shelter mutes the outside world. Time feels elastic, as though it’s bending to their will, making the moment last. Even the irritant of the rough cave walls digging into Nyra’s back can’t distract her, until the sound of water sluicing into the cave brings her back to the present.

A thrill of apprehension competes with frustration and the hammering of her heart. “We should go.” Nyra’s whisper sounds dry, raspy to her. “Tide’s coming back in. And…the walk up always feels longer than the walk down.”

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Dirk’s path to authorship wasn’t quite an accident, but almost. It’s not that he didn’t write. He did. But through two previous careers, first as a Marine officer and subsequently as a corporate trainer, he started way more stories than he finished.

In the backwash of the 2008 financial meltdown however, Dirk’s employer filed for Chapter 11 protection and laid off more than half it’s staff. Cordially invited to leave and not return, he found himself out of work and excuses. He finished his contemporary last-chance romance entitled West of Tomorrow the following year.

Since then, Dirk has written five more books, including Best-Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s Journey and it’s squel, (Act II) entitled The Year of Maybe, published earlier this year. He also writes for Medium, blogs on his website, where you can find a full list of his works and subscribe to Smoke Signals, his newsletter.

A member of the Southern California Writer’s Association, Dirk lives in Laguna Niguel with his wife, their psychotic cat, and a 13-year-old Ball Python named Corona. Besides his passion for the written word, he’s an accomplished wood worker, snow skier and compulsive gym rat.

DB Sayers

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

#BookBlitz “A Kingdom of Frost and Fear (The Four Kingdoms #2)” by Whitney Dean

AKingdom copy

Happy book birthday to author Whitney Dean! We’ve been waiting for this beauty and we’re so happy it’s here!

Image

A Kingdom of Frost and Fear (The Four Kingdoms #2)

Publication Date: December 6, 2022

Genre: Dark Fantasy/ Romance

Tropes: Arranged Marriage, Forced Proximity, Hidden Identity, Chosen Family, Dark Magic, Grumpy/Sunshine, Dual POV

After years of wondering where she came from and what her story was, Raven received the answers she had been craving: she has a family and is the true heir to the throne of Seolia. But the answers she so hopelessly sought only bred more questions. As she digs deeper into her past, she wonders if maybe she should have stayed hidden in the shadows, safe from the pain and agony of knowing her happily ever after may not be so happy after all.

Zeke had been right all along: she hates him for what he’d hidden from her. Now, with Raven desperate to learn who she is, he’s desperate to win her back. But while still holding secrets of his own, doing so will come at a price he may not be able to pay.

And all the while, magic is slowly reawakening in the realm of The Four Kingdoms and not a soul is prepared for the new black magic Raven is now in possession of.

This is book two of an epic dark fantasy adventure series and contains scenes of graphic and mature content. Reader discretion is advised.

Now Available on Amazon (Kindle Unlimited)

Image (2)

A Kingdom of Flame and Fury (The Four Kingdoms #1)

Publication Date: May 26th, 2022

Genre: Dark Fantasy/ Dark Romance

At ten years old, Raven was mysteriously willed to be the next ruler of Seolia, a kingdom nestled within the realm of The Four Kingdoms. Orphaned as a baby, she has spent fifteen years ruling over a kingdom she believes she did not earn all while hiding secrets: she possesses dark magic and she thirsts for blood. Now at almost twenty-five years old and with a sudden addiction to stealing life, Raven must fight through her new procured darkness to save her soul, but when a mysterious stranger arrives in her kingdom, she starts experiencing vivid dreams that detail who she truly is. As she slowly starts to unravel her story, what she uncovers at the end of the spool will change the course of her life and her kingdom forever.

Free for KU

About the Author

Image (1)

Whitney was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas and raised in Allen, Texas. She resides in a quaint little town in Arkansas with her husband and two children, along with her labradoodle, Simba.

Her love of reading came from the Harry Potter series when she was seven years old, and frequent trips to the most magical place on earth. Because of it, the fantasy realm has taken up residence in her brain for a very long time.

While her writings include real-life pain and angst, she is a fan of happily-ever-after’s and always strives to bring that forth in her stories.

Whitney Dean | Instagram | Facebook | Amazon

Book Release Blitz Organized By:

R&RButton350x350

R&R Book Tours

#GuestBlogger Show you care this holiday season with… “Romance Every Weekend: 104 Fun Ways to Express Your Love” by Kelli A. Wilkins

Hi everyone!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and families and loved ones gather to give thanks for all they have in their lives. It’s the one day set aside for people to express their love and gratitude… but what about the rest of the year?

Why should people wait for a special occasion or a holiday to show someone they love that they care? Love can (and should) be expressed every chance you get. Romance shouldn’t be reserved for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or an anniversary.

cover

Romance Every Weekend features 104 fun and easy ways you can express your love to that special someone in your life. Perfect for men or women, it focuses on tender, everyday gestures that let your partner know how much you love him or her.

Everyone has his or her definition of “romance.” Some people like to send mushy cards, while others are more practical. But however you define it, romance is more than giving flowers, buying a box of chocolates, or getting frisky in the bedroom. Romance is all about making tender, everyday gestures.

Whether you’re just starting out dating, in a committed relationship, newlyweds, or you’ve been married for twenty years, Romance Every Weekend will show you how you can strengthen the bond between you and your loved one and deepen your relationship.

They say “It’s the little things in life that count.” and I believe that’s true. A simple expression of love can go a long way to cheer someone up, make them feel special, and show you care. And let’s face it—everyone wants to feel loved and appreciated.

Romance Every Weekend contains 104 romantic suggestions designed to make your weekends sparkle. Why 104? There are 52 weeks in a year, and two suggestions per weekend will keep you and your partner busy. If your schedules don’t give you a lot of free time on the weekends, that’s okay. You can do these any time during the week.

Some suggestions include:

* Today, tell your sweetheart: “I knew I loved you when…” Sharing your feelings and expressing your love verbally has a deeper meaning than giving a gift or sending a card.

* Break out of your comfort zone. It’s time to try something new with your mate. Sign up for a class being offered today, in person, in your local area. It can be anything: cooking, Pilates, yoga, swimming, dancing, painting… Take the first class you find and run with it. (Whatever happens, remember, you’re in it together.)

* Watch the sun set together. No talking. But you can certainly hold hands.

If you’re looking for ways to keep your romance fresh, this is the book for you! You can also modify the suggestions to share with parents, siblings, or children. Why not order it now and try all 104 suggestions in 2023?

cover

Order your copy here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08124HBMS

All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/3npVVP

Visit my site to see all my titles: www.KelliWilkins.com

I hope you (and your partner) enjoy the suggestions. You may even be inspired to come up with a few of your own!

Kelli A. Wilkins

~~~~~

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelli A Wilkins

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 5 horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.

Her latest novel, In Another World, was published in early 2022. This contemporary mystery/romance is set in the world of the paranormal.

She released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.

Like to write? Check out Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing. This fun and innovative guide to journaling is filled with hundreds of thought-provoking prompts designed to get you writing about your feelings and emotions.

Follow Kelli on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and social media links.

~~~~~

#BookTour “Her Sister’s Death” by K. L. Murphy

Her Sister’s Death by K. L. Murphy BannerNovember 28 – December 23, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

~~~~~

book cover

~~~~~

Synopsis:

 

She wanted the truth. She should have known better.

When her sister is found dead in a Baltimore hotel room, reporter Val Ritter’s world is turned upside down. An empty pill bottle at the scene leads the police to believe the cause of death is suicide. With little more than her own conviction, Val teams up with Terry Martin, a retired detective who has his own personal interest in the case, to prove that something more sinister is possible.

In 1921, Bridget Wallace, a guest on the brink of womanhood, is getting ready to marry an eligible older man. But what seems like a comfortable match soon takes a dark turn. Does the illustrious history of the stately Franklin hotel hide another, lesser known history of death?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: CamCat Books

Publication Date: December 2022

Number of Pages: 352

ISBN: 9780744307399 (ISBN10: 0744307392)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | CamCat Books

~~~~~

Read an excerpt:

PRESENT DAY

CHAPTER 1

VAL
Monday, 9:17 a.m.

Once, when I was nine or maybe ten, I spent weeks researching a three-paragraph paper on polar bears. I don’t remember much about the report or polar bears, but that assignment marked the beginning of my lifelong love affair with research. As I got older, I came to believe that if I did the research, I could solve any problem. It didn’t matter what it was. School. Work. Relationships. In college, when I suspected a boyfriend was about to give me the brush-off, I researched what to say before he could break up with me. Surprisingly, there are dozens of pages about this stuff. Even more surprising, some of it actually works. We stayed together another couple of months, until I realized I was better off without him. He never saw it coming.

When I got married, I researched everything from whether or not we were compatible (we were) to our average life expectancy based on our medical histories (only two years different). Some couples swear they’re soul mates or some other crap, but I considered myself a little more practical than that. I wanted the facts before I walked down the aisle. The thing is, research doesn’t tell you that your perfect-on-paper husband is going to

prefer the ditzy receptionist on the third floor before you’ve hit your five-year anniversary. It also doesn’t tell you that your initial anger will turn into something close to relief, or that all that perfection was too much work and maybe the whole soul-mate thing isn’t as crazy as it sounds. If you doubt me, look it up.

My love of research isn’t as odd as one might think. My father is a retired history professor, and my mother is a bibliophile. It doesn’t matter the genre. She usually has three or more books going at once. She also gets two major newspapers every day and a half dozen magazines each month. Some people collect cute little china creatures or rare coins or something. My mother collects words. When I decided to become a journalist, both my parents were overjoyed.

“It’s perfect,” my father said. “We need more people to record what’s going on in the world. How can we expect to learn if we don’t recognize that everything that happens impacts our future?” I fought the urge to roll my eyes. I knew what was coming, but how many times can a person hear about the rise and fall of Caesar? The man was stabbed to death, and it isn’t as though anyone learned their lesson. Ask Napoleon. Or Hitler. My dad was right about one thing though. History can’t help but repeat itself.

“Honey,” my mother interrupted. “Val will only write about important topics. You know very well she is a young lady of principle.” Again, I wanted to roll my eyes.

Of course, for all their worldliness, neither of my parents understands how the world of journalism works. You don’t walk into a newsroom as an inexperienced reporter and declare you will be writing about the environment, or the European financial market, or the latest domestic policy. The newspaper business is not so different from any other—even right down to the way technology is forcing it to go digital. Either way, the newbies are given the jobs no one else wants.

Naturally, I was assigned to obituaries.

After a year, I got moved to covering the local city council meetings, but the truth was, I missed the death notices. I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how each of the people died. Some were obvious. When the obituary asks you to donate to the cancer society or the heart association, you don’t have to think too hard to figure it out. Also, people like to add that the deceased “fought a brave battle with (fill in the blank).” I’ve no doubt those people were brave, but they weren’t the ones that interested me. It was the ones that seemed to die unexpectedly and under unusual circumstances. I started looking them up for more information. The murder victims held particular fascination for me. From there, it was only a short hop to my true interest: crime reporting.

The job isn’t for everyone. Crime scenes are not pretty. Have you ever rushed out at three in the morning to a nightclub shooting? Or sat through a murder trial, forced to view photo after photo of a brutally beaten young mother plastered across a giant screen?

My sister once told me I must have a twisted soul to do what I do. Maybe. I find myself wondering about the killer, curious about what makes them do it. That sniper—the one that picked off the poor folks as they came out of the state fair—that was my story. Even now, I still can’t get my head around that guy’s motives.

So, I research and research, trying to get things right as well as find some measure of understanding. It doesn’t always work, but knowing as much as I can is its own kind of answer.

Asking questions has always worked for me. It’s the way I do my job. It’s the way I’ve solved every problem in my life. Until now. Not that I’m not trying. I’m at the library. I’m in my favorite corner in the cushy chair with the view of the pond. I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

How many hours.

My laptop is on, the screen filled with text and pictures. Flicking through the tabs, I swallow the bile that reminds me I have no answer. I’ve asked the question in every way I can think of, but for the first time in my life, Google is no help.

Why did my sister—my gorgeous sister with her two beautiful children and everything to live for—kill herself? Why?

***

Sylvia has been dead for four days now. Actually, I don’t know how long she’s been dead. I’ve been told there’s a backlog at the ME’s office. Apparently, suicides are not high priority when you live in a city with one of the country’s highest murder rates. I don’t care what the cause of death is. I want the truth. While we wait for the official autopsy, I find myself reevaluating what I do know.

Her body was discovered on Thursday at the Franklin, a Do not Disturb sign hanging from the door of her room. The hotel claims my sister called the front desk after only one day and asked not to be disturbed unless the sign was removed. This little detail could not have been more surprising. My sister doesn’t have trouble sleeping. Sylvia went to bed at ten every night and was up like clockwork by six sharp. I have hundreds of texts to prove it. Even when her children were babies with sleep schedules that would kill most people, she somehow managed to stick to her routine. Vacations with her were pure torture.

“Val, get up. The sun is shining. Let’s go for a walk on the beach.”

I’d open one eye to find her standing in the doorway. She’d be dressed in black nylon shorts and neon sneakers, bouncing up and down on her toes.

“We can walk. I promise I won’t run.”

Tossing my pillow at her, I’d groan and pull the covers over my head. “You can’t sleep the day away, Val.”

She’d cross the room in two strides and rip back the sheets. “Get up.”

In spite of my night-owl tendencies, I’d crawl out of bed. Sylvia had a way of making me feel like if I didn’t join her, I’d be missing out on something extraordinary. The thing is, she was usually right. Sure, a sunrise is a sunrise, but a sunrise with Sylvia was color and laughter and tenderness and love. She had that way about her. She loved mornings.

I tried to explain Sylvia to the police officer, to tell him that hanging a sleeping sign past six in the morning, much less all day, was not only odd behavior but also downright suspicious. He did his best not to dismiss me outright, but I knew he didn’t get it.

“Sleeping too much can be a sign of depression,” he said. “She wasn’t depressed.”

“She hung a sign, ma’am. It’s been verified by the manager.” He stopped short of telling me that putting out that stupid sign wasn’t atypical of someone planning to do what she did.

Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

The screen in front of me blurs, and I rub my burning eyes. There are suicide statistics for women of a certain age, women with children, women in general. My fingers slap the keys. I change the question, desperate for an answer, any answer.

A shadow falls across the screen when a man takes the chair across from me, a newspaper under his arm. My throat tightens, and I press my lips together. He settles in, stretching his legs. The paper crackles as he opens it and snaps when he straightens the pages.

“Do you mind?”

He lowers the paper, his brows drawn together. “Mind what?” “This is a library. It’s supposed to be quiet in here.”

He angles his head. “Are you always this touchy or is it just me?”

“It’s you.” I don’t know why I say that. I don’t even know why I’m acting like a brat, but I can’t help myself.

Silence fills the space between us as he appears to digest what I’ve said. “Perhaps you’d like me to leave?”

“That would be nice.”

He blinks, the paper falling from his hand. I’m not sure which of us is more surprised by my answer. I seem to have no control over my thoughts or my mouth. The man has done nothing but crinkle a newspaper, but I have an overwhelming need to lash out. He looks around, and for a moment, I feel bad.

The man gets to his feet, the paper jammed under his arm. “Look, lady, I’ll move to another spot, but that’s because I don’t want to sit here and have my morning ruined by some kook who thinks the public library is her own personal living room.” He points a finger at me. “You’ve got a problem.”

I feel the sting, the well of tears before he’s even turned his back. They flood my eyes and pour down over my cheeks. Worse, my mouth opens, and I sob, great, loud, obnoxious sobs.

I cover my face with my hands and sink lower into the chair, my body folding in on itself.

My laptop slips to the floor, and I somehow cry harder. “Is she all right?” a woman asks, her voice high and tight. The annoying man answers. “She’ll be fine in a minute.”

“Are you sure?” Her gaze darts between us, and her hands flutter over me like wings, nearing but never touching. I recognize her from the reference desk. “People are staring. This is a library, you know.”

I want to laugh, but it gets caught in my throat, and comes out like a bark. Her little kitten heels skitter back. I don’t blame her.

Who wouldn’t want to get away from the woman making strange animal noises?

“Do you have a private conference room?” the man asks. The woman points the way, and large hands lift me to my feet. “Can you get her laptop and her bag, please?”

The hands turn into an arm around my shoulders. He steers me toward a small room at the rear of the library. My sobs morph into hiccups.

The woman places my bag and computer on a small round table. “I’ll make sure no one bothers you here.” She slinks out, pulling the door shut.

The man sets his paper down and pulls out a chair for me. I don’t know how many minutes pass before I’m able to stop crying, before I’m able to speak.

“Are you okay now?” I can’t look at him. His voice is kind, far kinder than I deserve. He pushes something across the table. “Here’s my handkerchief.” He gets to his feet. “I’m going to see if I can find you some water.”

The door clicks behind him, and I’m alone. My sister, my best friend, is gone, and I’m alone.

***

“Do you want to talk about it?” the man asks, setting a bottle of water and a package of crackers on the table.

Sniffling, I twist the damp, wadded up handkerchief into a ball. I want to tell him that no, I don’t want to talk about it, that I don’t even know him, but the words slip out anyway. “My sister died,” I say.

“Oh.” He folds his hands together. “I’m sorry. Recently?” “Four days.”

He pushes the crackers he’s brought across the table. “You should try to eat something.”

I try to remember when I last ate. Yesterday? The day before? One of my neighbors did bring me a casserole with some kind of brown meat and orangey red sauce. It may have had noodles, but I can’t be sure. I do remember watching the glob of whatever it was slide out of the aluminum pan and down the disposal. I think I ate half a bagel at some point. My stomach churns, then rumbles. The man doesn’t wait for me to decide. He opens the packet and pushes it closer. For some reason I can’t explain, I want to prove I’m more polite that I seemed earlier. I take the crackers and eat.

He gestures at the bottle. “Drink.”

I do. The truth is, I’m too numb to do anything else. It’s been four days since my parents phoned me. Up to now, I’ve taken the news like any other story I’ve been assigned. I’ve filed it away, stored it at the back of my mind as something I need to analyze and figure out before it can be processed. I’ve buried myself in articles and anecdotes and medical pages, reading anything and everything to try and understand. On some level, I recognize my behavior isn’t entirely normal. My parents broke down, huddled together on the sofa, as though conjoined in their grief. I couldn’t have slipped between them even if I wanted to. Sylvia’s husband—I guess that’s what we’re still calling him—appeared equally stricken. Not even the sight of her children, their faces pale and blank, cracked the shell I erected, the wall I built to deny the reality of her death.

“Aunt Val,” Merry asked. “Mommy’s coming back, right? She’s just passed, right? That’s what Daddy said.” She paused, a single tear trailing over her pink cheek. “What’s ‘passed’?”

Merry is the youngest, only five. Miles is ten—going on twenty if you ask me—which turned out to be a good thing in that moment. Miles took his sister by the hand. “Come on, Merry. Dad wants us in the back.” I let out a breath. Crisis averted.

My sister has been gone four days, and I haven’t shed a tear. Until today. The man across the table clears his throat. “Are you feeling any better?” “No, I’m not feeling better. My sister is still dead.” God, I’m a bitch. I expect him to stand up and leave or at least point out what an ass I’m being when he’s gone out of his way to be nice, but he does neither. “Yes, I suppose she is. Death is kind of permanent.”

I jerk back in my chair. “Is that supposed to be funny?”

Unlike me, he does apologize. “I’m sorry. That didn’t come out right. I never did have the best bedside manner for the job.”

I take a closer look at the man. “Are you a doctor?”

He half laughs. “Hardly. Detective. Former, I mean. I never quite got the hang of talking to the victims’ families without putting my foot in my mouth. Seems I’ve done it again.”

My curiosity gets the best of me. He’s not much older than I am. Mid-forties. Maybe younger. Definitely too young for retirement. “Former detective? What do you do now?”

“I run a security firm.” He lifts his shoulders. “It’s different, has its advantages.”

The way he says it, I know he misses the job. I understand. “I write for the Baltimorean. Mostly homicides,” I say. “That’s a good paper. I’ve probably read your work then.”

Crumpling the empty cracker wrapper, I say, “I’m sorry I dumped on you out there.”

He shrugs again. “It’s okay. You had a good reason.” I can’t think of anything to say to that.

“How did she die, if you don’t mind my asking?”

The question hits me hard. What I mind is that my sister is gone. My hands ball into fists. The heater in the room hums, but otherwise, it’s quiet. “They say she died by suicide.”

The man doesn’t miss a beat. “But you don’t believe it.” He watches me, his body still.

My heart pounds in my chest and I reach into my mind, searching for any information I’ve found that contradicts what I’ve been told. I’ve learned that almost fifty thousand people a year die by suicide in the United States. Strangely, a number of those people choose to do it in hotels. Maybe it’s the anonymity. Maybe it’s to spare the families. There are plenty of theories, but unfortunately, one can’t really ask the departed about that. Still, the reasoning is sound enough. For four days, I’ve read until I can’t see, and my head has dropped from exhaustion. I know that suicide can be triggered by traumatic events or chronic depression. It can be triggered by life upheaval or can be drug induced, or it can happen for any number of reasons that even close family and friends don’t know about until after—if ever. I know all this, and yet, I can’t accept it.

Sylvia was found in a hotel room she had no reason to be in. An empty pill bottle was found on the nightstand next to her. She checked in alone. Nothing in the room had been disturbed. Nothing appeared to have been taken. For all these reasons, the police made a preliminary determination that the cause of death was suicide, the final ruling to be made after the ME’s report. I know all this. My parents and Sylvia’s husband took every word of this at face value. But I can’t. Sylvia is not a statistic, and I know something they don’t.

“No. I don’t believe it.” I say, meeting his steady gaze with my own.

He doesn’t react. He doesn’t tell me I’m crazy. He doesn’t say “I’m sorry” again. Nothing. I’m disappointed, though I can’t imagine why. He’s a stranger to me. Still, I press my shoulder blades against the back of the chair, waiting. I figure it out then. Former detective. I’ve been around enough cops to know how it works. It’s like a tribe with them. You don’t criticize another officer. You don’t question anyone’s toughness or loyalty to the job. You don’t question a ruling that a case doesn’t warrant an investigation, much less that it isn’t even a case. So, I sit and wait. I will not be the first to argue. It doesn’t matter that he’s retired and left the job. He’s still one of them. In fact, the more I think about it, I can’t understand why he’s still sitting there. I’ve been rude to the man. I’ve completely broken down in front of him like some helpless idiot. And now, I’ve suggested the cause of death that everyone—and I mean everyone—says is true is not the truth at all.

He gets up, shoves his hands in his pockets.

This is it. He’s done with me now. In less than one minute he’ll be gone and, suddenly, I don’t want him to leave. I break the silence.

“I’m Val Ritter.” “Terry Martin.”

I turn the name over in my brain. It’s familiar in a vague way. “Terry the former detective.”

“Uh-huh.” He shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “Look, I’m sorry about your sister. You’ve lost someone you love, and the idea that she might have taken her own life is doubly distressing.”

“I’m way past distressed. I’m angry.”

“Is it possible that you’re directing that anger toward the ones that ruled her death a suicide instead of at your . . .” His words fall away.

“My sister?” “Yes.”

“I might be if I thought she did this.” I cross my arms over my chest. “But I don’t. This idea, this thing they’re saying makes no sense at all.”

Terry the former detective’s voice is low, soothing. “Why?”

My arms drop again. I’m tempted to tell him everything I know, which admittedly isn’t much, but I hold back. This man is a stranger. Sure, he’s been nice, and every time I’ve expected him to walk out the door, he’s done the opposite. But that doesn’t mean I can trust him.

“I’m sorry if my question seems insensitive,” he says. His voice is soft, comforting in a neutral way, and I can picture him in an interrogation. He would be the good cop. “No matter how shocking the, uh, idea might be, I have a feeling you have your reasons. You were close—you and your sister?” “We were.” I sit there, twisting the handkerchief in my fingers. The heat-

er makes a revving noise, drops back to a steady hum. “We talked all the time, and I can tell you she wasn’t depressed. That’s what they kept saying. ‘She must have been depressed.’ I know people hide things, but she was never good at hiding her emotions from me. If anything, she’d been happier than ever.” I give a slow shake of my head. “They tried to tell me about the other suicide and about the pills and the sign on the door and—” I stop. I hear myself rambling and force myself to take a breath. “If something had been wrong, I would have known.”

Terry the former detective doesn’t react, doesn’t move. He keeps his mouth shut, but I know. He doesn’t believe me, same as all the others. I can tell. There is no head bob or leading question. He thinks I’m in denial and that I will eventually accept the truth. He doesn’t know me at all.

The minutes pass, and I drink the water. I realize I feel better. It’s time to leave. “I should be going.” I hold up the crumpled rag in my hand. “Sorry I did such a number on your handkerchief. I can clean it, send it to you later.”

He waves off the suggestion. “Keep it.”

I gather my items and apologize again. “Sorry you had to witness my meltdown out there.”

“It happens.”

I’m headed out the door, my hand on the knob, when he breaks protocol.

“What did you mean by ‘the other suicide’?”

CHAPTER 2

TERRY
Monday, 10:02 a.m.

The woman—Val, I remind myself—hesitates. I can see she’s wary, worried I don’t believe her. I don’t know that I do, but I am curious. “What

did you mean? There was another suicide?”

“A month ago, maybe a little longer, a woman killed herself in the same hotel. She jumped off the roof, which apparently was no easy task since there were all kinds of doors to go through to get up there. Of course, what happened to her was horrible, but it has nothing to do with my sister. I don’t know why they’re acting like it does.”

My jaw tightens. “Which hotel?”

“The Franklin.”

I look past her and think maybe I should be surprised, but nothing about that hotel surprises me. “The Franklin,” I say, echoing her words.

The Franklin is one of Baltimore’s oldest hotels. Built in 1918, it’s fifteen stories high with marble columns and archways at the entrance. Along with the Belvedere, before it became condos, and the Lord Baltimore, the Franklin is a destination, a swanky place that’s attracted film stars and

politicians for decades. Somewhere along the line, it fell into disrepair and the famous guests went elsewhere. For a brief time, the management offered rooms for short-term rentals, desperate to keep the hotel from plunging further into the red. Twenty years ago, the hotel was sold to an investment group. They declared the hotel historic, sunk tens of millions of dollars into it, and reopened it in grand style. The governor and the mayor cut the big red ribbon. Baseball stars from the Orioles and a well-known director were photographed at the official gala. It was a big to-do for the city at the time. Since then, it’s remained popular—one of the five-star hotels downtown, which, of course, means that a night there doesn’t come cheap. That’s the press release version.

But there’s another one. Lesser known.

Val is calm now, watching me, and I catch a glimpse of the reporter. “Do you know it?” she asks.

“Yeah, I know it.” Stories have circulated about the hotel through the years. Some are decades old while others have been encouraged by the hotel itself. Ghost tours are popular these days, and the Franklin tour is no exception. “It has a history. For a while, it was called the Mad Motel.”

She flinches. “What?”

“According to my grandfather, people seemed to die there. Most deaths occurred right after the Depression, victims of the stock market crash, but not all. There was one guy that killed his whole family right before he killed himself. They said he lost his mind. That was the first time it was called the Mad Motel, though there were other stories.”

“What are you saying?”

I see the flush on her cheeks and know my words have upset her in a way I didn’t intend. I do my best to smooth it over. “Nothing. I didn’t mean anything. I’ve never been a fan of the name myself, but there were some guys around the department that used it.”

The anger that colored her cheeks a moment earlier fades, eclipsed by something else I recognize. Curiosity. “Why would they use such a terrible name?”

It’s a valid question, and I give the only explanation I can. “The first time I heard it on the job was about fifteen years ago. An assault at the Franklin. I didn’t catch the case, but I remember a man almost beat his wife to death. He would have, if someone in the next room hadn’t called the police.”

She doesn’t blink, doesn’t raise a hand to her mouth. Just waits. “Before that day, the guy was a typical accountant. Kind of nerdy.

Mild-mannered. Went to work. Went home to his family. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then they fly into Baltimore for their nephew’s wedding, stay at the Franklin. As they were dressing, he loses it. He hits her with the lamp, punches her, throws her up against the wall. When the police arrived, they had to pry him off of her. They rushed her to the hospital. She ended up with broken ribs, a concussion, a whole bunch of other stuff.”

“And the husband?”

“That’s what was so strange. According to the officers on the scene, as soon as they pulled him off, he stopped all of it. He cried, begged to be allowed to go with her to the hospital. When they took him downtown, he swore he didn’t know what had come over him. That he’d never hit anyone in his life, and he couldn’t even recall being angry with her. They kept him in jail until she woke up. Oddly, she corroborated his story. She said he didn’t have a violent bone in his body before that day.”

Val’s forehead wrinkles. “I don’t remember ever reading about that case.

What happened?”

“He was charged in spite of his wife’s insistence that she didn’t want that. When he went to trial, his lawyer put him on the stand. That’s when I heard his story.” I pause and run my hand over my face, scratching at my chin. “He told the jury that while he was putting on his tux jacket, a cold breeze blew in. He said he checked the room, but the windows were closed, and it was winter, so the heat was on. Then according to him, this cold air got into his body, in his hands and his feet and then his mind. He said when his wife came out of the bathroom, he didn’t recognize her, that she was someone else, something else.”

“Something else? What does that mean?”

“He described a monster with sharp teeth and claws. His attorney even had a drawing done by a sketch artist. She held it up for the jury, but the man wouldn’t look at it. Refused. He claimed he panicked, grabbed the lamp, and swung, but the monster kept coming. He said the monster howled—that was probably his wife screaming—and came at him again. That must have been when the guest in the other room called the police.” I pause again. Even as I say it, I know how it sounds. “So, he tells this story at trial, and everyone looks around at each other thinking this guy is crazy. But his wife is in the audience and nodding like it’s true. The prosecutor goes after him, but he doesn’t back down. He admits he attacked someone, but he swears he didn’t knowingly hurt his wife. He breaks down on the stand, and it’s basically bedlam in the courtroom.”

Memories of that day flood my mind. I sat in the back of the packed courtroom, watching the melee. It was hard to know what to think. Was the man delusional? A sociopath? Or was he telling the truth? Fortunately, Val doesn’t ask my opinion, and I tell her the rest.

“The prosecutor decided to cut his losses,” I say. “He let the man plead to a lesser charge and get some mental help.”

“That’s all?”

“Yep. The man did three months in a mental health facility, then went back to Omaha and his wife. End of story.”

“So that’s why the Franklin is called the Mad Motel?”

“It’s one of the reasons. But like I said, the place has a history.” Newspaper articles and pictures and evidence files flit through my mind. Many of the images are gruesome. Others just sad. Although the library is warm, I’m cold under my jacket. My voice drops to a whisper, the memories too close for comfort. “A history of death.”

***

Excerpt from Her Sister’s Death by K. L. Murphy. Copyright 2022 by K. L. Murphy. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

~~~~~

Author Bio:

K. L. Murphy

K. L. Murphy is the author of the Detective Cancini Mystery Series: A Guilty Mind, Stay of Execution, and The Last Sin. Her short stories are featured in the anthologies Deadly Southern Charm (“Burn”) and Murder by the Glass (“EverUs”). She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and Historical Writers of America. K. L. lives in Richmond, VA, with her husband, children, and amazing dogs. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, entertain friends, catch up on everything she ignored, and always—walk the amazing dogs.

Catch Up With K. L. Murphy:
KellieLarsenMurphy.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KLMurphy
Instagram – @k.l._murphy
Twitter – @klmurphyauthor
Facebook – @klmurphyauthor

~~~~~

Tour Participants:

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

~~~~~

ENTER TO WIN!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for K. L. Murphy & CamCat Books. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

~~~~~

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

~~~~~