#AudioTour “Stolen” by Marlena Frank

Author: Marlena Frank

Narrator: Caoilainn O’Horen

Length: 11 hours 32 minutes

Series: The Stolen Series, Book 1

Publisher: The Parliament House

Released: Dec. 16, 2020

Genre: Fantasy; YA


It’s difficult taking care of a delusional father by yourself. Sixteen-year-old Shaleigh Mallet would rather explore and photograph dilapidated buildings than cater to her father’s dark episodes. But when she’s kidnapped by a creature who carries her atop a flying bicycle into another world, she realizes this wasn’t the escape she wanted.

In a kingdom known as the Garden, where minotaurs pull carriages and parties are held in hot air balloons, Madam Cloom and her faerie servant, Teagan, rule over the land with incredible but terrifying magic. Shaleigh must prove that she is the reincarnation of a long-dead ruler, not because she believes it, but because it’s her only chance to survive. With the help of a trespassing faerie, a stoatling, and a living statue, Shaleigh hopes to outwit everyone. She aims to break the bonds of servitude and finally make her way home. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that she’s playing right into the hands of a far worse enemy.

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Marlena Frank is the author of books and novellas that span genres from young adult fantasy to horror. Her debut novel, Stolen Book 1 of the Stolen series, has hit the Amazon bestseller charts twice. She has two books coming out in 2021: Chosen, the final book in the Stolen trilogy, and The Impostor and Other Dark Tales, a collection of dark fantasy and horror short stories.

Marlena has also written several fantasy and horror short stories, which have been included in notable anthologies such as Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Not Your Average Monster Volume 2, and The Sirens Call issue #29.

Although she was born in Tennessee, Marlena has spent most of her life in Georgia. She lives with her sister and three spoiled cats. She serves as the Vice President of the Atlanta Chapter of the Horror Writers Association and is an avid member of the Atlanta cosplay community.

She is also a Hufflepuff, an INFJ, a tea drinker, and a wildlife enthusiast.

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Narrator Bio

Caoilainn is a narrator hailing from Los Angeles, they work from their professional home recording studio. Having grown up in the generation inspired by the Disney renaissance, they fell in love with animation and the voices behind the characters. Having been an avid reader, Caoilainn was originally going to school for animation and game design but switched their career path when they learned about audio books and how one person could bring so many characters to life. They started their Voice Over career in early 2017 and it has been their primary focus since then.

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Guest Post

Author Marlena Frank’s TOP TEN LITERARY INSPIRATIONS

The problem with reading a lot of different books means that you have a bunch of literary inspirations as an author. I read a lot of different fiction, but my reading tastes skew toward fantasy and horror. I have always read a bunch of young adult fiction too. Of the six books I’ve written, Stolen is my love letter to the fantasy stories from my youth with a focus on lush worlds and vibrant characters that I’ve loved.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is a big inspiration. Alice is trapped in a world that doesn’t make sense, but she must navigate it anyway to get home. Her key to survival is negotiation and playing mind games with the creatures she encounters. One of the pieces of Stolen that I love so dearly is the dialogue and banter. There are so many layers to everything going on, so there is a lot that can be gleaned on each reading.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is another book I love. Something about the quiet, rather unlikeable Mary at the start of the story having to learn and grow during the book impacted me. So many people tell her she’s mean and rude, not caring how she feels, then she learns to find her own place, find people who accept her, and reach out to her grieving father. The descriptions of the garden are incredible too. Although the leaves look dead in winter, they slowly grow back in over spring, and as they come to life, Mary also finds her own happiness.

In Stolen, Shaleigh is kidnapped and taken into the Land of the Fae, a world filled with faeries and other strange beings with an unusual portrayal of magic. The inspiration for the magic came from my love of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s a long book with footnotes galore. Although it starts slow, it builds into an inspiring portrayal and use of magic. Somehow Clarke seamlessly mixes the absurd with reality. One of my favorite parts of that book were the dark and surreal portrayal of the Fae and how their magical pacts worked in bizarre ways.

It would be wrong not to mention perhaps the biggest inspiration for Stolen, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This was a favorite book of mine growing up, and my favorite scene involves the banter between two characters. The whole story builds up to the encounter of Bilbo the hobbit and Smaug the dragon, and after seeing the destruction this dragon can do and the hoard of gold he has collected, what does Bilbo do? Distract him with riddles. It’s great! I love seeing characters have to use their wits to overcome challenges rather than their strength alone.

Stolen was really a culmination of a bunch of stories I’ve loved, of concepts I was drawn to, and of worlds that captivated me as a child. Not only is it a world I loved building, but it’s one that I went on to expand on in the following books in the trilogy: Broken and Chosen. I hope it inspires others as I was inspired by so many incredible fantasy books over the years.

 

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#GuestPost By the Book by Lee Matthew Goldberg, author of “Orange City”

OrangeCity

Welcome to the tour for Orange City by Lee Matthew Goldberg! Today I have an excerpt to read and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

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~~ Guest Post ~~

By the Book

What books are on your nightstand?

My list of books to read next are The Power by Naomi Alderman, Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, and Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

 What was the last truly great book you read?

Probably A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles about a count in 1920s Russia who’s sentenced to house arrest at a grand hotel across from the Kremlin. While some of the most tumultuous decades of Russia accelerate outside of his doors, he remains removed from the action. It completely transports you to another place and time.  

 What’s your favorite thing to read? And what do you avoid reading?

I love a good thriller with a plot. Because I write thrillers mostly, I can see twists and turns coming a mile away so if an author is able to really surprise me, I’m hooked. I don’t avoid any genres. I dislike overrated books. Some novels get anointed and they just don’t deserve the attention. Like this book The Wife Between Us, which was cheesy, unbelievable, and the twists were so obvious. Skip that one.

 What book would we be surprised to find on your shelf?

I love great sci-fi as well. I don’t read it too often but when it’s done right and the author really takes the time to build a new world, it’s very satisfying. I’ve never read Dune, but it’s been waiting on my shelf for a long time.

 Are you a rereader? What kinds of books do you find yourself returning to time and time again?

I reread only my favorite books and usually it’s the classics. Catcher in the Rye I read when I was twelve and go back every few years. As you get older, Holden becomes whinier, but it’s still great. Confederacy of Dunces, The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, A Moveable Feast, East of Eden, Brave New World, The Sheltering Sky, The Good Soldier and 1984 I’ve reread many times.   

 What’s the last book that made you laugh?

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. It’s about a twenty-something woman who just wants to sleep for a year. Some readers might only take away the depressing parts of it, but the nameless narrator is hilarious in her awfulness. It reminded be a lot of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. People assume it’s sad because of the author’s background, but actually it’s satirical.

 What’s the last book that made you cry?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son walking through a burned America. Besides it being sparse but beautifully written, it captures the need to preserve humanity while watching it be stripped away.

 What’s the last book that made you furious?

The Girl on the Train got so much hype but was pretty average with an annoying narrator and all of its twists were easy to spot. Great cover though. Also, I’m over reading books about unreliable narrators because of their drinking. It gets boring.

 What kind of reader were you as a child?

I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books because I was a writer as a child and I liked the power of having control of the story. I also read a lot of Encyclopedia Brown and Henry and Ribsy and the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. I also loved the Bunnicula books by James Howe and Deborah Howe   

 Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite books and I like that Heathcliff is both the hero and the villain. I love a good villain. In my novel The Mentor, the main character is a villain. You hate him for what he does but hopefully understand him a little by the end. The villain is always more interesting than the hero anyway.

 You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

I mentioned Cormac McCarthy before so he’d definitely be invited. Maybe I’d add Jay McInerney and Donna Tartt, since they came of age around the same time in the 1980s and were some of the first adult books I read as a teenager like Bright Lights, Big City and The Secret History. Also, Jay McInerney knows a lot about wine so he’d help with some good pairings.

 If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?

Scott Fitzgerald is my favorite novelist. I read The Great Gatsby in high school and knew I wanted to become a writer. But since he never really achieved fame and critical success in his lifetime, I’d want to know if he ever thought he’d be as popular as he became. And also, how to construct such amazing sentences.

 Whom would you choose to write your life story?

Hmmm, that’s a good one. Maybe I’d do it myself when I’m eighty. No one knows it better than me.

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SYNOPSIS

Orange City

Expected Publication Date: March 16th, 2021

Genre: Science Fiction/ Dystopian Sci-Fi

Imagine a secret, hidden city that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the city forever. You can never leave.

Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

After ten years as an advertising executive, Graham Weatherend receives an order to test a new client, Pow! Sodas. After one sip of the orange flavor, he becomes addicted, the sodas causing wild mood swings that finally wake him up to the prison he calls reality.

A dynamic mash-up of 1984 meets LOST, ORANGE CITY is a lurid, dystopian first book in a series that will continue with the explosive sequel LEMONWORLD.

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Excerpt

At six on the dot, the gloved cellular let out a piercing ring. A timer turned on, ticking down with each buzz. E wouldn’t have long to remain idle. The entire pod apartment vibrated, and his capsule bed slid open. The white ceiling drew his attention, the walls devoid of color, a minimalist’s fantasy—nothing like a home.

Shades of the dream from last night still lingered. His knuckles painted with blood as he beat a shadow. The voice of the shadow belonging to a ten-year-old boy. The boy’s cries stabbing E’s ears. He shook that dream away.

He removed the intravenous tube that connected him to his bed and switched off the cooling mist which allowed him to slumber for days. He stretched his old bones, his hair standing up in a state of white shock like it had since he was a young man. Swinging his thick legs over the side of the bed, he yawned at the morning before finally answering his cell.

“I’ll be right there,” he coughed into the digital eye on his gloved palm.

He removed the glove and pushed a button on the side of the bed. Doors opening along the wall revealed a sliver of a kitchen with a piping pot of subpar and gritty coffee brewing on the counter— the best offered to the Scouts— and two sizzling poached eggs from a suspect source. He scarfed down the eggs and pushed another button to raise the shades along the lone wall facing east. The heart of The City hovered in the near distance, its new buildings staggering on one end like giant colorful stalagmites. Sipping his black coffee, he watched it in motion as he did every morning.

Between the Scouts and the rest of The City lay a half a mile of ice water. The City was made up of many Regions, his situated on the outskirts. Sometimes he wondered what it would be like to fall into those frosty waters and drift off to wherever it might choose to take him, no longer having to shuttle between The City and the faraway Outside World anymore. But instead of a dramatic suicide, he suited up and headed through the tunnel with a suitcase in hand like he had for twenty years. He’d convinced himself long ago that living here was better than rotting in prison like he would’ve been if they hadn’t selected him. At least he was still able to get lost in a bottle of whiskey or feel the sun against his cheek during

the few instances it was allowed to peek through the chronic clouds. Even though The City was far from ideal, the Outside World remained definitely worse. It reminded him too often of the man he used to be and of the terrible sins he’d committed. These thoughts returned at the beginning of every week while he geared up for another one, as he wondered if one day the Man in the Eye might give him a promotion and he wouldn’t have to be a Scout anymore.

That way, he’d never have to return to the Outside World.

Then, he could possibly be at peace, like all The City’s inhabitants wished.

Available on Amazon!

About the Author

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Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com

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Giveaway: Signed Copy of Orange City (US ONLY)

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Book Tour Schedule

March 1st

Reads & Reels (Guest Post) http://readsandreels.com

Bonnie Reads and Writes (Review) https://bonniereadsandwrites.wordpress.com

@jypsylynn (Review) https://www.instagram.com/jypsylynn/

Scarlett Readz & Runz (Spotlight) https://www.scarlettreadzandrunz.com/

March 2nd

Horror Tree (Guest Post) https://www.horrortree.com

@pillowreader (Review) https://www.instagram.com/pillowreader/

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

March 3rd

Nesie’s Place (Guest Post) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight) https://www.darkwhimsicalart.com/blogs/news

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://tsarinapress.com/blog/

March 4th

Book After Book (Interview) http://bookafterbook.blogspot.com/

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Book Review Crew (Review) https://bookreviewcrew.blogspot.com

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

March 5th

Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

Cup of Toast (Spotlight) https://cupoftoast.co.uk

@dreaminginpages (Review) https://www.instagram.com/dreaminginpages/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

Book Tour Organized By:

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#GuestPost A Perfect Time For Historical Fiction by Mally Becker, author of “The Turncoat’s Widow”

The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker BannerFebruary 22 – March 19, 2021 Tour

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That popular television series, Bridgerton, with its dreamy Regency balls and characters, is motivating some readers to take another look at historical fiction and historical mysteries, even if they previously steered away from those stories.        

There’s just something about stepping into another time and place while following great characters that makes me happy. And because authors write what they love to read, it’s no surprise that my debut novel, The Turncoat’s Widow, is a historical mystery that tells the story of General Washington’s most reluctant spy, a young widow who uncovers a plot that threatens the nation’s future.

But enough about my book for now, because I want to share four reasons this may be the perfect time for you to find a historical mystery that perfectly matches what you need in this moment:

  1. Do much traveling? We all had plans, didn’t we? But whether you dreamed last year of Paris, Peoria or Phnom Penh, it will have to wait a while longer. In the meantime, a good historical mystery – with social norms, fashion and parties so different from our own– can carry you someplace new. If you miss getting on the road, too, you might like Sujata Massey’s series, which takes place in India during the 1920s, or Laura Joh Rowland’s Sano Ichiro mysteries, which carry readers back to feudal Japan. And if sneaking a drink in Chicago during the Prohibition 1920s is more your jam, then pick up Susanna Calkins’ great new Speakeasy Mysteries.
  2. Comfort for troubling times. These are “unprecedented” times, some people say. But historical mysteries remind us that there have always been unprecedented times. There’s something comforting in that and in reading about everyday people–even fictional everyday people–who manage to fall in and out of love, raise families, and overcome overwhelming challenges during tough times. Susan Elia MacNeal’s “Maggie Hope Mysteries” is one of my favorite series of this ilk. It opens with American expat Maggie Hope accepting a job as one of Winston Churchill’s secretaries during WWII. (What could go wrong?) For those with a false nostalgia about the “old days,” Eleanor Kuhns’ Will Rees early 19th century mysteries remind us that life wasn’t always easy back in the early days of the Republic.

My mystery, The Turncoat’s Widow, falls into this category, too. Recent widow Becca Parcell is too busy struggling to maintain the farm she’s inherited to care who wins the War for Independence. But General Washington offers her a deal she can’t refuse when rumors begin to spread that she’s a secret Loyalist and the town turns against her.

  1. Reality bites. There are times when I need an author who knows how to wax witty and keep the blood–so to speak–off the page. Rhys Bowen is a master here. Try one of her lighthearted “Her Royal Spyness” mysteries, which follow Lady Georgiana, 34th in line to the throne, in England during the 1930s. Deanna Raeburn’s Lady Julia Gray series, Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, or Charles Finch’s Victorian Charles Lenox series also fit the bill. They will have you guessing the murderer while enjoying the lives of England’s 19th century gentry.

Looking to go even further back in history? If that’s the case, start with Lindsey Davis, whose series take place in Ancient Rome, or C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series. Sansom’s protagonist, a hunchbacked lawyer, solves crimes in King Henry VIII’s 16th century England.

  1. What the past says about the present. Historical mysteries also entertain while illuminating the present. Lyndsay Faye’s fabulous novel Jane Steele or any of Laurie King’s Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes novels reminds us of the hurdles women have had to surmount to accomplish their goals and make us think about how much things have changed or haven’t. Some mysteries, like Barbara Neely’s Blanche on the Lam or anything by Walter Mosley (historical or contemporary), entertain while reminding us of the inequities that still haunt us.

Do you have a favorite historical mystery author or a reason you like this genre? I’d love to know!

~~~

Synopsis:

The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker

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

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

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

Praise for The Turncoat’s Widow

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

– Erica Obey, author, Dazzle Paint (coming 02/2021), The Curse of the Braddock Brides, and The Horseman’s Word.

“An exciting Revolutionary-era thriller with a twisty mystery, great characters, and historical accuracy to boot.”

– Eleanor Kuhns,author of the Will Rees mysteries

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

– Gabriel Valjan, Agatha and Anthony-nominated author of The Naming Game

Book Details

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

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Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Morristown – January 1780

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men pounded the floor with their feet.

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

Townsend’s thin arm rose, pointing to her.

Becca’s breath caught.

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

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

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

Becca’s spine straightened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becca’s hand curved into a fist.

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

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

The chuckling died.

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

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

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

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

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

Becca forgot to breathe. He wouldn’t dare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gasps cascaded throughout the darkening church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becca’s breathing slowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lady Augusta,” Mrs. Coddington huffed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

~~~

Author Bio:

Mally Becker

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

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

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

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

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Tour Participants:

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

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Mally Becker. There will be Five (5) winners for this tour. One winner will receive a $20. Amazon.com Gift Card, Two (2) winners will each win a physical copy of The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker (U.S. addresses only), and Two (2) winners will each win an eBook copy of The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker. The giveaway begins on February 22, 2021 and runs through March 21, 2021.
Void where prohibited.

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#GuestPost Mothers & Daughters by Sylvia Broady, author of “Daughter Of The Sea”

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 I am drawn to writing mother and daughter relationships, which I love.

Mothers and daughters have a special relationship. I speak from experience, both personally, and as a writer. On the annual Mothers’ Day, I pay tribute to my dear mother who died many years ago. I appreciate her struggle and the sacrifices she made to keep me safe in difficult circumstances.

From the moment of my daughter’s birth, she was precious to me. I nurtured her through babyhood to childhood, to those mystified teenage years, and guided her into womanhood. Now she is a mother herself and we share a closeness, an extra bond of understanding. Sometimes our roles are reversed and she becomes the mother and I her child. This is a wonderful act of caring and of enduring love.

In my book, Daughter of the Sea, I am Jessica and I find out that the woman I called mother wasn’t my mother. So who is my mother? And where is she? What is her name? She appears surrounded in a finely spun web of mystery. To my knowledge, only my late, beloved father knew of her existence. So I am a daughter searching for her mother. I dream of her, this mystical mother, and see her floating in the sea, like a mermaid with her long hair flowing. I reach out to her, trying to catch hold of her hands and draw her close to me, to embrace her in my arms, but she disappears, becoming invisible once more.

Alone, I stand on the seashore, bereft of my unknown mother and her love.

In my book, The Lost Daughter, I become Alice. I love and care for my young daughter; she is the most cherished person in my life. My husband is a cruel, selfish brute who lashes out with his fists. Trying to keep my beloved daughter safe from him, I escape to run to the police station for help, when I am involved in a road accident. Hospitalised with injuries and with loss of memory, months later when I recover, my worst nightmare unfolds. My daughter, Daisy, is missing, so I set out to find her. But in the1930s, I am classed as “a bad mother” and no one will help me find her.

As a mother, how would cope if your daughter, your beloved child, goes missing?

Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday, is on the fourth Sunday of Lent, is a lovely tradition, which originated in the British Isles around the 1600s. Celebrated in churches, children picked wild flowers for their mothers to celebrate their love. The tradition faded, and it wasn’t until after WW2 that Mother’s Day, as we know it today, was revived. A giving of flowers and cards to our mother and to celebrate in church. The gift of love from mother to her children is precious and cherished when received with joy.

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SYNOPSIS

‘Well-paced … genuinely gripping’ Historical Novels Review

Jessica is grieving for her beloved father, trawler owner Jacob Kingdom, when a heated confrontation ends with her being cast out from the family home and the revelation of a shameful secret. She falls upon the kindness of strangers and meets a charismatic trawlerman, who is proud to walk out with Kingdom’s daughter.

But with her cold-hearted brother at the helm of the family business, there is discontent rising, and being Kingdom’s daughter begins to lose its charm. With Jessica desperate to prove herself worthy to the tight-knit community, does she have what it takes to weather the storm to come, or will her secret hold her back?

 Purchase Link

Amazon UK  

Amazon US

~~~

Author Bio Sylvia Broady

Sylvia Broady was born in Hull and has lived in the area all her life, although she loves to travel the world. It wasn’t until she started to frequent her local library after World War II that her relationship with literature truly began, and her memories of the war influence her writing as does her hometown. She has had a varied career in childcare, the NHS and the EYC Library Services, but is now a full-time writer.

Social Media Links

Website

 Twitter

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#GuestPost by Sharon Linnéa, author of “Death In Tranquility”

Death In Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa BannerFebruary 1-28, 2021 Tour

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~ Guest Post ~

A writer walks into a pub in Lake Placid, New York (spoiler: it’s me). She’s alone, so she takes a seat at the bar. Within moments, a guy with an ill-fitting suit sits on the empty stool next to her, finger in the knot of his pink tie, tugging it open.

“You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had,” he says.

“Yeah?” says the female bartender.

“I’m here to make a sales call. Slate slabs. Replacing broken pieces around a pool. They’re expecting me at the old Effron place.”

“The Effron place?” I ask.

“Yeah. You know, the mansion left to the spendthrift son by the father who died 30 years ago. Apparently, the son has run out of money and he’s moving back. No one’s allowed in there. No one’s been in for decades. Huge metal fence, four types of locks. Guy wants it fixed by yesterday. They say that place is haunted. How am I supposed to get slate up there by next week?”

Another bar, another female bartender. This time, she has a story to spin in between pouring drinks, about the “camps” on various islands in Lake Placid. They’re not really camps, they’re private Adirondack mansions built by mega-wealthy celebrities, whose homes can only be reached by boat. Their families arrive from all over the world to summer together. She spent several summers at one of them as the private bartender. Stories to tell!

Another trip, yet another bar. Talking about the Olympians who still live there, and train up-and-coming athletes. The ones who are beloved and the ones who…aren’t, so much.

Mysterious deaths on the lake. Disappearing children from decades gone by. Teens who like to party and tragedies that sometimes happen.

Who hears all these stories? Who knows all these folks? The bartender. Well, and also the writer. These are all conversations I heard in the bars of Lake Placid. That’s where it occurred to me, if a bartender knows how to listen, the things she can learn! Or, as the tagline says for the Bartender’s Guide to Murder: No one talks to the cops. Everyone talks to the bartender.

Listening is the superpower of Avalon Nash, my bartender protagonist in the series. She’s moving across the country, changing trains in the Olympic town of Tranquility, New York, when she happens upon the recently-deceased bartender at the Battened Hatch. She is offered his job, with the warning he wasn’t the first bartender at that establishment to die mysteriously.

And so Avalon’s adventures begin. Are there camps and mansions across the lake? Check. Children who mysteriously disappeared? Check. Possible hauntings? Check. Olympians whom the villagers love? Check. And does everyone talk to the bartender who mixes really great drinks? Of course. (Does she share her recipes in the books? Of course.)

I guess what I’m saying is listening is an important superpower for sleuths and bartenders and…writers. I’d love you to sit next to me at the bar next time I’m in Lake Placid. And, if you can’t get there at the moment, meet my friend, Avalon Nash, who will solve any mysteries you might have.

For fun, here’s a recipe Avalon shares in book 2, Death by Gravity:

CLOSED CASKET

Blueberry Margarita

Blueberry Margarita

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz Espolon Tequila Blanco

1 oz Fresh Blueberry Juice

1 wedge fresh lime

1 1/2 oz Homemade or store-bought sour mix

1/2 oz Triple Sec or any orange liquor of your choice

1/2 oz simple syrup (important to use if you make homemade sour mix)

Ice

Rocks Glass

Salt or Sugar for rim of glass

Method

Fill cocktail shaker with ice and combine tequila, orange liquor, fresh blueberry juice, sour mix, and simple syrup.

Shake all ingredients together.

Take lime wedge and wipe around the rim of rocks glass.

Put salt or sugar on small plate.

Dip rocks glass onto plate until rim is covered.

Pour contents of shaker into rocks glass.

Sip and enjoy!

~~~

Synopsis:

Death In Tranquility by Sharon Linnea

No one talks to the cops. Everyone talks to the bartender. And Avalon Nash is one hell of a bartender.

Avalon is on the run from her life in Los Angeles. Having a drink while waiting to change trains in the former Olympic town of Tranquility, New York, she discovers the freshly murdered bartender at MacTavish’s. A bartender herself, she’s offered the position with the warning he wasn’t the first MacTavish’s bartender to meet a violent end.

Avalon’s superpower is collecting people’s stories, and she’s soon embroiled in the lives of artists, politicians, ghost hunters and descendants of Old Hollywood.

Can Avalon outrun the ghosts of her past, catch the ghosts of Tranquility’s past and outsmart a murderer?

The first book in the Bartender’s Guide to Murder series offers chills, laughs, and 30 of the best drink recipes ever imbibed.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Arundel Publishing

Publication Date: September 29th 2020

Number of Pages: 323

ISBN: 9781933608 (ISBN13: 9781933608150)

Series: Bartender’s Guide to Murder, 1 (Click here to check out other books in the series!)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Bookstore Plus | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Death in the Afternoon

“Whenever you see the bartender, I’d like another drink,” I said, lifting my empty martini glass and tipping it to Marta, the waitress with teal hair.

“Everyone wants another drink,” she said, “but Joseph’s missing. I can’t find him. Anywhere.”

“How long has he been gone?” I asked.

“About ten minutes. It’s not like him. Joseph would never just go off without telling me.”

That’s when I should have done it. I should have put down forty bucks to cover my drink and my meal and left that magical, moody, dark-wood paneled Scottish bar and sauntered back across the street to the train station to continue on my way.

If I had, everything would be different.

Instead I nodded, grateful for a reason to stand up. A glance at my watch told me over half an hour remained until my connecting train chugged in across the street. I could do Marta a solid by finding the bartender and telling him drink orders were stacking up.

Travelling from Los Angeles to New York City by rail, I had taken the northern route, which required me to change trains in the storied village of Tranquility, New York. Once detrained, the posted schedule had informed me should I decide to bolt and head north for Montreal, I could leave within the hour. The train heading south for New York City, however, would not be along until 4 p.m.

Sometimes in life you think it’s about where you’re going, but it turns out to be about where you change trains.

It was an April afternoon; the colors on the trees and bushes were still painting from the watery palate of spring. Here and there, forsythia unfurled in insistent bursts of golden glory.

I needed a drink.

Tranquility has been famous for a long time. Best known for hosting the Winter Olympics back in 19-whatever, it was an eclectic blend of small village, arts community, ski mecca, gigantic hotels and Olympic facilities. Certainly there was somewhere a person could get lunch.

Perched on a hill across the street from the station sat a shiny, modern hotel of the upscale chain variety. Just down the road, father south, was a large, meandering, one-of-a-kind establishment called MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage. It looked nothing like a cottage, and, as we were inland, there were no seas. I doubted the existence of a MacTavish.

I headed over at once.

The place evoked a lost inn in Brigadoon. A square main building of a single story sent wings jutting off at various angles into the rolling hills beyond. Floor-to-ceiling windows made the lobby bright and airy. A full suit of armor stood guard over the check-in counter, while a sculpture of two downhill skiers whooshed under a skylight in the middle of the room.

Behind the statue was the Breezy, a sleek restaurant overlooking Lake Serenity (Lake Tranquility was in the next town over, go figure). The restaurant’s outdoor deck was packed with tourists on this balmy day, eating and holding tight to their napkins, lest they be lost to the murky depths.

Off to the right—huddled in the vast common area’s only dark corner—was a small door with a carved, hand-painted wooden sign which featured a large seagoing vessel plowing through tumultuous waves. That Ship Has Sailed, it read. A tavern name if I ever heard one.

Beyond the heavy door, down a short dark-wood hallway, in a tall room lined with chestnut paneling, I paused to let my eyes adjust to the change in light, atmosphere, and, possibly, century.

The bar was at a right angle as you entered, running the length of the wall. It was hand-carved and matched the back bar, which held 200 bottles, easily.

A bartender’s dream, or her undoing.

Two of the booths against the far wall were occupied, as were two of the center tables.

I sat at the bar.

Only one other person claimed a seat there during this low time between meal services. He was a tall gentleman with a square face, weathered skin, and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. I felt his cold stare as I perused the menu trying to keep to myself. I finally gave up and stared back.

“Flying Crow,” he said. “Mohawk Clan.”

“Avalon,” I said. “Train changer.”

I went back to my menu, surprised to find oysters were a featured dish.

“Avalon?” he finally said. “That’s—”

“An odd name,” I answered. “I know. Flying Crow? You’re in a Scottish pub.”

“Ask him what Oswego means.” This was from the bartender, a lanky man with salt-and-pepper hair. “Oh, but place your order first.”

“Are the oysters good?” I asked.

“Oddly, yes. One of the best things on the menu. Us being seaside, and all.”

“All right, then. Oysters it is. And a really dry vodka martini, olives.”

“Pimento, jalapeño, or bleu cheese?”

“Ooh, bleu cheese, please.” I turned to Flying Crow. “So what does Oswego mean?”

“It means, ‘Nothing Here, Give It to the Crazy White Folks.’ Owego, on the other hand means, ‘Nothing Here Either.’”

“How about Otego? And Otsego and Otisco?”

His eyebrow raised. He was impressed by my knowledge of obscure town names in New York State. “They all mean, ‘We’re Just Messing with You Now.’”

“Hey,” I said, raising my newly delivered martini. “Thanks for coming clean.”

He raised his own glass of firewater in return.

“Coming clean?” asked the bartender, and he chuckled, then dropped his voice. “If he’s coming clean, his name is Lesley.”

“And you are?” I asked. He wasn’t wearing a name tag.

“Joseph.”

“Skål,” I said, raising my glass. “Glad I found That Ship Has Sailed.”

“That’s too much of a mouthful,” he said, flipping over the menu. “Everyone calls it the Battened Hatch.”

“But the Battened Hatch isn’t shorter. Still four syllables.”

“Troublemaker,” muttered Lesley good-naturedly. “I warned you.”

“Fewer words,” said Joseph with a smile that included crinkles by his eyes. “Fewer capital letters over which to trip.”

As he spoke, the leaded door banged open and two men in chinos and shirtsleeves arrived, talking loudly to each other. The door swung again, just behind them, admitting a stream of ten more folks—both women and men, all clad in business casual. Some were more casual than others. One man with silvering hair actually wore a suit and tie; another, a white artist’s shirt, his blonde hair shoulder-length. The women’s garments, too, ran the gamut from tailored to flowing. One, of medium height, even wore a white blouse, navy blue skirt and jacket, finished with hose and pumps. And a priest’s collar.

“Conventioneers?” I asked Joseph. Even as I asked, I knew it didn’t make sense. No specific corporate culture was in evidence.

He laughed. “Nah. Conference people eat at the Blowy. Er, Breezy. Tranquility’s Chamber of Commerce meeting just let out.” His grey eyes danced. “They can never agree on anything, but their entertainment quotient is fairly high. And they drive each other to drink.”

Flying Crow Lesley shook his head.

Most of the new arrivals found tables in the center of the room. Seven of them scooted smaller tables together, others continued their conversations or arguments in pairs.

“Marta!” Joseph called, leaning through a door in the back wall beside the bar.

The curvy girl with the teal hair, nose and eyebrow rings and mega eye shadow clumped through. Her eyes widened when she saw the influx of patrons.

Joseph slid the grilled oysters with fennel butter in front of me. “Want anything else before the rush?” He indicated the well-stocked back bar.

“I’d better hold off. Just in case there’s a disaster and I end up having to drive the train.”

He nodded knowingly. “Good luck with that.”

I took out my phone, then re-pocketed it. I wanted a few more uncomplicated hours before re-entering the real world. Turning to my right, I found that Flying Crow had vanished. In his stead, several barstools down, sat a Scotsman in full regalia: kilt, Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and a fly plaid. It was predominantly red with blue stripes.

Wow. Mohawk clan members, Scotsmen, and women priests in pantyhose. This was quite a town.

Joseph was looking at an order screen, and five drinks in different glasses were already lined up ready for Marta to deliver.

My phone buzzed. I checked caller i.d. Fought with myself. Answered.

Was grabbed by tentacles of the past.

When I looked up, filled with emotions I didn’t care to have, I decided I did need another drink; forget driving the train.

The line of waiting drink glasses was gone, as were Marta and Joseph.

I checked the time. I’d been in Underland for fifteen minutes, twenty at the most. It was just past three. I had maybe forty-five minutes before I should move on.

That was when Marta swung through the kitchen door, her head down to stave off the multiple calls from the center tables. She stood in front of me, punching information into the point of sale station, employing the NECTM—No Eye Contact Tactical Maneuver.

That’s when she told me Joseph was missing.

“Could he be in the restroom?”

“I asked Arthur when he came out, but he said there was nobody else.”

I nodded at Marta and started by going out through the front hall, to see if perhaps he’d met someone in the lobby. As I did a lap, I overheard a man at check-in ask, “Is it true the inn is haunted?”

“Do you want it to be?” asked the clerk, nonplussed.

But no sign of the bartender.

I swung back through into the woodsy-smelling darkness of the Battened Hatch, shook my head at the troubled waitress, then walked to the circular window in the door. The industrial kitchen was white and well-lit, and as large as it was, I could see straight through the shared kitchen to the Breezy. No sign of Joseph. I turned my attention back to the bar.

Beyond the bar, there was a hallway to the restrooms, and another wooden door that led outside. I looked back at Marta and nodded to the door.

“It doesn’t go anywhere,” she said. “It’s only a little smoker’s deck.”

I wondered if Joseph smoked, tobacco or otherwise. Certainly the arrival of most of a Chamber of Commerce would suggest it to me. I pushed on the wooden door. It seemed locked. I gave it one more try, and, though it didn’t open, it did budge a little bit.

This time I went at it with my full shoulder. There was a thud, and it wedged open enough that I could slip through.

It could hardly be called a deck. You couldn’t put a table—or even a lounge chair—out there.

Especially with the body taking up so much of the space.

It was Joseph. I knelt quickly and felt for a pulse at his neck, but it was clear he was inanimate. He was sitting up, although my pushing the door open had made him lean at an angle. I couldn’t tell if the look on his face was one of pain or surprise. There was some vomit beside him on the deck, and a rivulet down his chin. I felt embarrassed to be seeing him this way.

Crap. He was always nice to me. Well, during the half an hour I’d known him, he had been nice to me.

What was it with me discovering corpses? It was certainly a habit of which I had to break myself.

Meanwhile, what to do? Should I call in the priest? But she was within a group, and it would certainly start a panic. Call 911?

Yes, that would be good. That way they could decide to call the hospital or the police or both.

My phone was back in my purse.

And, you know what? I didn’t want the call to come from me. I was just passing through.

I pulled the door back open and walked to Marta behind the bar. “Call 911,” I said softly. “I found Joseph.”

It took the ambulance and the police five minutes to arrive. The paramedics went through first, then brought a gurney around outside so as to not freak out everyone in the hotel. They loaded Joseph on and sped off, in case there was anything to be done.

I knew there wasn’t.

The police, on the other hand, worked at securing the place which might become a crime scene. They blocked all the doorways and announced no one could leave.

I was still behind the bar with Marta. She was shaking.

“Give me another Scotch,” said the Scotsman seated there.

I looked at the bottles and was pleasantly surprised by the selection. “I think this calls for Black Maple Hill,” I said, only mildly surprised at my reflexive tendency to upsell. The Hill was a rich pour but not the absolute priciest.

He nodded. I poured.

I’m not sure if it was Marta’s tears, or the fact we weren’t allowed to leave, but local bigwigs had realized something was amiss.

“Excuse me,” the man in the suit came to the bar. “Someone said Joseph is dead.”

“Yes,” I said. “He does seem to be.”

Marta swung out of the kitchen, her eyeliner half down her face. “Art, these are your oysters,” she said to the man. He took them.

“So,” he continued, and I wondered what meaningful words he’d have to utter. “You’re pouring drinks?”

It took only a moment to realize that, were I the owner of this establishment, I’d find this a great opportunity.

“Seems so,” I said.

“What goes with oysters?” he asked.

That was a no-brainer. I’d spied the green bottle of absinthe while having my own meal. I poured about three tablespoons into the glass. I then opened a bottle of Prosecco, poured it, and waited for the milky cloud to form.

He took a sip, looked at me, and raised the glass. “If I want another of these, what do I ask for?”

As he asked, I realized I’d dispensed one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite libations. “Death in the Afternoon,” I replied.

He nodded and went back to his table.

It was then I realized I wasn’t going to make my train.

* *

Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon

Ingredients

• 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) absinthe
• ½ to ¾ cup (4 to 6 ounces) cold Champagne or sparkling wine

Method

Hemmingway’s advice, circa 1935: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

Chapter 2

No Known Address

Since I found the body, I got to talk to the lead investigator.

He was in his mid-thirties, just under six feet, walnut skin, black hair cut short. He would have benefitted from a beard. He looked ripped; the king of ripped you got from taking out your frustrations in the gym. His demeanor was no-nonsense.

“Investigator Spaulding,” he said, and he pulled out a notebook. “State Police.”

“State Police? Isn’t that the same as State Troopers? Don’t you manage highways?”

He stopped writing in his small, leather-covered notebook and looked up.

“Common misconception. The local P.D. is small—only 9 on staff. When something big happens, they ask for assistance.”

“They ask?”

“It’s a dance.”

I wasn’t a suspect (yet), so he didn’t need to write down my stats, but I could read upside down as he made notes. He asked my name, and began guessing at the rest. Nash, Avalon. Female. Caucasian. Blonde hair. 5’7 was his guess at my height. The next thing he wrote down could go seriously south, so I said, “healthy weight.”

He looked up.

“5’7” and at a healthy weight,” I supplied. “If I’m charged with something, we’ll get more specific.”

“Age?”

Did he really need to know all of this? “Twenties,” I said, waiting to see if he’d have the gall to object. He didn’t.

“Best way to reach you?”

I gave him my cell number.

“Permanent address?”

“I don’t have one.”

He looked up.

“I’m in the process of moving from California to New York. I’m only in town to change trains. I don’t have a New York address yet.”

“A relative’s address?”

I held up my phone. “This is your golden ticket,” I said. “If you want to reach me, this is it.”

I saw him write ‘no known address.’ Yep, that pretty much summed it up. I glanced at my watch. Seven minutes until my train pulled into—and, soon after, departed from—the station.

“Um, Detective,” I started.

“Investigator Spaulding,” he corrected.

“Investigator Spaulding, my train is about to arrive. I don’t know anything except what I’ve told you. I came in for a drink and helped Marta find the bartender, whom I hope died of a massive heart attack—well, of natural causes. You know what I mean.”

At that point, his phone buzzed and he gave me a just-a-minute finger. He answered, listened for a while, and started to write. Then he hung up, flipped his notebook shut and said, “I can’t let you leave. He was murdered.”

“Great,” I said, the tone somewhere between rueful and intrigued, as I headed back toward Marta, then I turned back toward Investigator Spaulding. “Can I continue to pour drinks?”

He considered less than a moment. “By all means, serve truth serum to anyone who will imbibe.”

Then he turned and walked toward the other officers.

I went to stand with Marta behind the bar. In my imagination, I heard the train chug in across the street.

Investigator Spaulding cleared his throat, and the room went silent. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This is now a homicide investigation.” He had to pause as everyone shuffled or gasped, or cried out. “Please do not leave until we have taken your statement.”

A woman in her fifties came and sat down in front of me at the bar. Her hair was in a no-fuss bob, she wore a free-flowing skirt with a linen jacket, both of which were in style twenty years ago, but they worked on her. “Got anything stronger than those Death things?” she asked. “I’m not big on Champagne.”

“Sure.” I said. I sized her up. “Layers in a martini glass work for you?”

“Honey, it’s the strength, not the glass.” She looked shaken and sad. I went for the rums and found Malibu Black, the stronger brother of the original. What a bartender Joseph must have been! I decided to try something new. Malibu Black, mango pineapple vodka, and pineapple juice. I mixed it over ice, shook, and poured. I sank some Chambord and topped it with Jägermeister Spice.

“See if this does it,” I said.

Her hand shook slightly as she held up the glass, appreciated the layers, and then took a sip. The jury was out. She took another. She nodded and smiled.

It occurred to me that everyone in the room knew Joseph. They’d lost one of their own.

Another woman in skinny white pants and a white shell with a fancy pink sports jacket came and sat next to her. They were about the same age, if I had to guess, but the new woman was thin as a rail, muscular, and with her blonde hair in a ponytail. I was guessing she colored her hair not from a darker shade, but to cover the white. The two women embraced. “Suzanne,” said the new arrival.

“Gillian,” said no-fuss-bob Suzanne. Then, “Can’t believe it.”

“I can’t, either,” replied hard-bodied Gillian. She had the remains of an Eastern European accent. They sat a respectful moment. “What are you drinking?”

Suzanne looked at me. “No Known Address,” I said.

“Okay,” Gillian said. “I’ll have one.” She then turned and I was dismissed to my task.

“I can’t believe it. One of the only straight, available guys between forty and crotchety, and he’s gone!” said Suzanne.

“There’s Mike,” Gillian said, tilting her head toward the state police investigator. “And I’m not sure Joseph was available.”

“First, really? Maybe if he worked out. Second, you or I crook our little fingers and get a guy away from Sophie.” They both looked back, shooting daggers toward one of the three women in the center wall booth. I knew which must be Sophie, as one of them was crying copiously while the other two petted her solicitously.

“And do we have a suspect?” asked pink jacket Gillian.

This time, they looked at a younger woman who sat at a table with two newly arrived Chamber men. She was gorgeous—skin the color of chai latte and hair as dark as a sky at new moon. She was staring off into space.

I almost said, “You know I can hear you.” But maids, taxi drivers, and bartenders… well, we’re invisible, which is partly how we get the good gossip.

They stopped talking abruptly as two men approached. “Can we get some food?” asked the first. He was in a polo and navy blue slacks.

I heard snuffling and saw that Marta was in the shadows, leaning back against the wall. “Hey,” I said, “would you ask the chef if we can continue to order food?”

She nodded and swung through the kitchen door.

Arthur, the man in the suit who had ordered earlier, accompanied the newcomer in the polo. Arthur addressed his companion in an audible hiss. “I’m telling you… we can’t let word of this get out. Tranquility has to be considered a safe haven. For everyone. For…the festival folks. It’s part of what lures them here. Change of pace.”

“How do we not let the word get out? It’s a matter of record! And everyone in town knows about it—or will, within minutes.”

From the furious pace of thumbs texting throughout the room, it was clear he was correct.

“I mean, don’t print this as front-page news.”

“It is front page news, Art. And, the film festival folks are already committed. They’ve submitted their films. They’ll come.”

Marta returned with a positive nod. I slapped down two menus. “Marta will be out to take your order,” I said. As they turned, I added. “And if it’s a film festival, you don’t need to worry. Film people eat news like this for breakfast.”

Arthur looked at me in surprise, but gave a raised-eyebrows look that inferred I could have a point.

They left with the menus and I turned back to Marta, trying to help get her mind on something other than her boss’s death. “Can you help me add these drinks to people’s tabs?” I nodded toward the POS.

For the record, I hate point of sale machines. Each one hates humans in its own unique way. I pointed at people and she pulled up their tabs and showed me how to input the drinks I’d served.

I only had the Scotsman’s tab left undone when the man in the artist’s shirt stopped right before me. He was likely late 40s and had a face that was long but not unattractive. His shoulders were unusually broad, and he exuded self-confidence and a self-trained impishness. His shirt had one too many buttons left undone.

“Okay,” he said, “I wasn’t going to drink, but Joe…”

“You weren’t going to drink because it’s late afternoon, or because you’ve been sober for seven months?” I had no interest in tipping someone off the wagon.

He laughed. “I haven’t been drinking because this isn’t my favorite crowd,” he said. “And I don’t usually drink. But murder seems an excuse, if there ever was one.” He extended his hand. “Michael Michel,” he said, and smiled, waggling his eyebrows as if this should mean something to me.

I took his hand and shook. It was apparent I didn’t recognize him.

“The Painter Who Brings You Home,” he said, and the trademark practically bled from the words.

“Right,” I said, trying to sound impressed. “Nice to meet you. I’m Avalon. What’ll ya have?”

“Vodka tonic lime.”

“Care which vodka?”

He shook his head while saying, “Whatever you’ve got. Grey Goose.”

Ah, a fellow who pretended not to drink, who knew exactly what he wanted.

I poured and went for the garnish tray. The limes were gone. I looked at the back bar and found lemons and oranges. No limes, though clearly there had been some. I walked along the front bar and found, below patron eye level, a small cutting board with a lime on it. The lime was half-cut, some of them in rounds, a few in quarters. Some juice was dripping down onto the floor.

I reached for a wedge, and then I stopped short.

Joseph never would have left this on purpose. It was obviously what he’d been doing when he was interrupted by death—or someone who led him to his death. Or by symptoms that eventually spelled death.

I leaned down and sniffed.

It was lime-y. But there was something else, also.

I backed away. I walked over to Marta and said, quietly, “Don’t let anyone near that end of the bar.”

Then I walked over to Investigator Spaulding, where he sat at a booth interviewing someone. “Investigator?” I said. “Sorry to interrupt, but this is important.”

He looked at me, squinting, then seemed surprised, since I’d made such a point of being Ms. Just-Passing-Through.

He stood up and stepped away from the booth.

“I believe I’ve found the murder weapon,” I said.

As we walked together, I realized that the door to the smoker’s porch sat open. It was crawling with half a dozen or so more crime scene people.

Together we walked to the limes. I said, “Don’t touch them. If this is what Joseph was doing when he died, if they are poisoned, my guess is that the poison can be absorbed through the skin.”

Investigator Spaulding looked at me like, Of course I knew that, but he stepped back. As another officer and two crime scene investigators came over, I backed away, removing myself as far as possible from the action.

I returned to the Artist Shirt. “I think today we’re going with a lemon and a cherry,” I said. I smelled them before putting them in the drink.

It struck me then that perhaps Joseph hadn’t been the intended target. Maybe there was someone who consistently ordered a drink garnished with lime, and the murderer had injected the poison into the lime, not realizing it could be absorbed as well as ingested.

Like, for instance, the man before me, Mr. Vodka Tonic Lime.

Still, this was a pretty non-specific way of poison delivery. The limes could have been served to half a dozen people before anyone realized they were toxic. Who would do something like that?

The police were letting people go once they had been interviewed. I asked Investigator Spaulding if I could go. He nodded, adding, “Please stay in town until tomorrow morning, in case we have any further questions.”

As if I had a choice. All the trains had gone, except the 11 p.m. to Montreal.

The bar had been sealed off with crime-scene tape, a welcome relief as I didn’t relish closing a dead man’s station on the night of his murder. Why would I even think that? I didn’t work here. But my need to leave a bar in pristine condition ran down to bone and marrow.

As I headed for my bag, which I’d left on my original stool, I saw I wouldn’t even be allowed to access the POS machine.

The only patron whose drink I hadn’t input was the man in the kilt. I looked around the emptying room to find he’d moved to a pub table over to the side. “Sorry, sir,” I said. “I wasn’t able to enter your drinks into the machine. I guess you’re on the honor system to pay up another day.”

He gave a small smile. “Lass,” he said, “I’m Glenn MacTavish. Owner of this place. Seems I’m out a bartender and will be needing another. You have any interest?” he asked.

I stopped and stared. “There’s really a MacTavish?” I asked.

“Aye, and you’re looking at him.”

“But… you don’t know anything about me.”

“You keep a clear head and you know what you’re doin’. That’s all I really need to know. Besides, you don’t know anything about me, either.”

“I, well—thank you for the offer. It’s a beautiful bar. Can I think on it overnight? I’ve been told not to leave town.”

“Aye,” he said. “You can tell me in the mornin’ if you might be stayin.’ And while you’re decidin’, I could pay you for your services tonight with a room here at the hotel.”

That seemed fair. The Hotel Tonight app was offering me a room at a local chain. Staying at MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage for free seemed infinitely more attractive. “All right,” I said. “I should probably let you know they’re expecting me in New York City.”

“All right,” he said. “I should probably let you know Joseph isn’t the first bartender to work here who’s been murdered.”

* *

No Known Address

Ingredients

• ½ oz. Malibu black
• 2 dashes Chambord
• ½ oz. mango pineapple vodka
• 2 dashes Jägermeister Spice
• 1 oz. pineapple juice

Method

Shake pineapple vodka, Malibu Black and pineapple juice over ice and strain evenly into martini glasses.

Sink a dash of Chambord into each flute by running it down the side of the glass.

Layer a dash of Jägermeister Spice in each glass.

***

Excerpt from Death in Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa. Copyright 2020 by Sharon Linnéa. Reproduced with permission from Sharon Linnéa. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Sharon Linnea

Sharon Linnéa wrote the bestselling Eden Series (Chasing Eden, Beyond Eden, Treasure of Eden and Plagues of Eden) with B.K. Sherer, as well as the standalone These Violent Delights, a movie murder series. She enjoyed working with Axel Avian on Colt Shore: Domino 29, a middle-grade spy thriller. She is also the author of Princess Ka’iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People about the last crown princess of Hawaii which won the prestigious Carter Woodson Award, and Raoul Wallenberg: the Man Who Stopped Death. She was a staff writer for five national magazines, a book editor at three publishers, and a celebrity ghost. She lives outside New York City with her family. In Orange County, she teaches The Book Inside You workshops with Thomas Mattingly.

Catch Up With Sharon On:
www.SharonLinnea.com
BartendersGuidetoMurder.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook

 

 

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#GuestPost Crime and Corruption, Boston Style by Gabriel Valjan, author of “Symphony Road”

Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan BannerFebruary 1-28, 2021 Tour

~~~

~ Crime and Corruption, Boston Style ~

Stories of political and police corruption and conspiracy theories permeated Seventies cinema and crime fiction. Richard Nixon and his cast of misfits were in the White House. Viewers cheered “Attica! Attica!” alongside Sonny Wortzik in Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, or agreed with Charles Bronson’s architect Dr. Paul Kersey’s idea of justice in Death Wish because cops were nowhere to be found. If there was one cop everybody loved, it was Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry because criminals gamed the system and got away with it, and Harry wasn’t having any of it. It’s a tossup as to which film showcased corruption in the Seventies better: Serpico or Prince of the City.

Beantown was right up there, in competition with the Windy City and the Big Apple. In The Friends of Eddie Coyle, ATF agent Dan Foley is ambitious and working both ends against the middle, like his other informant, Dillon. Knowing what we know now about “Whitey” Bulger, he ran amok for decades through South Boston, thanks to corrupt FBI agent and handler, John Connolly. My Shane Cleary is no stranger or innocent to whatever his town has to dish out for crime, corruption, and other forms of treachery.

Boston has a long dark history. The greatest swindle in American sports history, the fixing the World Series in 1919, was cooked up in a room at Boston’s Buckminster Hotel, overlooking Kenmore Square. In that same year, the Great Molasses Flood, the cause of which was revealed to be shady and shoddy construction, killed 21 people. A year later, the Boston Police unionized, the idea formed over beers at Foley’s Café, blocks away from where Shane lives in Union Park in the South End. Governor Calvin Coolidge convinced the public that a strike of police officers was Bolshevism and un-American. He crushed the Police Strike and rode the victory into the White House. His reprisal was so effective and brutal that there was not another police strike in the nation until 1974.

History repeated itself with the Coconut Grove Fire in 1942, which killed 500 people. In the late Seventies, Symphony Road—a street in Boston and the title of my second Shane Cleary mystery—was home to an arson for-hire ring, which involved landlords, lawyers, insurance adjusters, and the Massachusetts State Police. City politicians looked the other way until state and federal officials investigated.

As for the virtues of those public servants…John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and grandfather to future JFK was removed from office in the US House of Representatives when evidence of voter fraud surfaced. Mayor James Curley ran Boston’s political machinery, like Al Capone controlled Chicago. The IRS put Al away in Alcatraz for tax evasion, and James spent time in Danbury for mail fraud, though federal lawyers wanted him for bribery and war profiteering. Mayor Kevin White, in office when Shane enlisted for Vietnam, was indicted and prosecuted for a variety of charges, including fraud, extortion, and perjury. He sat in the chair while Boston roiled in violence around desegregation and the busing crisis of 1974.

This is the world in which my PI Shane Cleary worked his cases. The cops didn’t like him and the politicians were often worse than the criminals he encountered on the street. The city’s elites were given carte blanche on prime real estate and other lucrative business deals, while everyone was at each other’s throat. Shane navigates social circles, murkier than the Charles River. He is up against cops dirtier than the Boston Harbor. The more things don’t change, the more they remain the same.

~~~

Synopsis:

Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan
Trouble comes in threes for Shane Cleary, a former police officer and now, a PI. Arson. A Missing Person. A cold case. Two of his clients whom he shouldn’t trust, he does, and the third, whom he should, he can’t. Shane is up against crooked cops, a notorious slumlord and a mafia boss who want what they want, and then there’s the good guys who may or may not be what they seem.

Praise for Symphony Road:

“The second installment in this noir series takes us on a gritty journey through mid-seventies Boston, warts and all, and presents Shane Cleary with a complex arson case that proves to be much more than our PI expected. Peppered with the right mix of period detail and sharp, spare prose, Valjan proves he’s the real deal.” – Edwin Hill, Edgar finalist and author of Watch Her   “Ostracized former cop turned PI Shane Cleary navigates the mean streets of Boston’s seedy underbelly in Symphony Road. A brilliant follow up to Dirty Old Town, Valjan’s literary flair and dark humor are on full display.” – Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron Mysteries   “A private eye mystery steeped in atmosphere and attitude.” – Richie Narvaez, author of Noiryorican  

Book Details:

Genre: Crime fiction, Procedural, Noir, Historical Fiction

Published by: Level Best Books

Publication Date: January 15, 2021

Number of Pages: 232

ISBN: 978-1-953789-07-5

Series: Shane Cleary Mystery, #2

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

~~~

Read an excerpt:

I went to cross the street when the wheels of a black Cadillac sped up and bristled over tempered glass from a recent smash-and-grab. The brake lights pulsed red, and a thick door opened. A big hulk stepped out, and the car wobbled. The man reached into his pocket. I thought this was it. My obituary was in tomorrow’s paper, written in past tense and in the smallest and dullest typeface, Helvetica, because nothing else said boring better.

Click. Click. “I can never get this fucking thing to light.”

It was Tony Two-Times, Mr. B’s no-neck side man. His nickname came from his habit of clicking his lighter twice. “Mr. B wants a word.”

“Allow me.” I grabbed the Bic. The orange flame jumped on my first try and roasted the end of his Marlboro Red. “You really oughta quit.”

“Thanks for the health advice. Get in.”

Tony nudged me into the backseat. I became the meat in the sandwich between him and Mr. B. There was no need for introductions. The chauffeur was nothing more than a back of a head and a pair of hands on the wheel. The car moved and Mr. B contemplated the night life outside the window.

“I heard you’re on your way to the police station to help your friend.”

“News travels fast on Thursday night. Did Bill tell you before or after he called me?”

“I’m here on another matter.”

The cloud of smoke made me cough. Tony Two-Times was halfway to the filter. The chauffeur cracked the window a smidge for ventilation. As I expected, the radio played Sinatra and there were plans for a detour. A string of red and green lights stared back at us through a clean windshield.

“A kid I know is missing,” Mr. B said.

“Kids go missing all the time.”

“This kid is special.”

“Has a Missing Persons Report been filed?”

The look from Mr. B prompted regret. “We do things my way. Understood?”

We stopped at a light. A long-legged working girl with a chinchilla wrap crossed the street. She approached the car to recite the menu and her prices, but one look at us and she kept walking.

“Is this kid one of your own?”

The old man’s hand strummed leather. The missing pinky unnerved me. I’ve seen my share of trauma in Vietnam: shattered bones, intestines hanging out of a man, but missing parts made me queasy. The car moved and Mr. B continued the narrative.

“Kid’s a real pain in my ass, which is what you’d expect from a teenager, but he’s not in the rackets, if that’s what you’re wondering. This should be easy money for you.”

Money never came easy. As soon as it was in my hand, it went to the landlady, or the vet, or the utilities, or inside the refrigerator. I’d allow Mr. B his slow revelation of facts. Mr. B mentioned the kid’s gender when he said “he’s not in the rackets.” This detail had already made the case easier for me. A boy was stupider, easier to find and catch. Finding a teenage girl, that took something special, like pulling the wings off of an angel.

“He’s a good kid. No troubles with the law, good in school, excellent grades and all, but his mother seems to think he needed to work off some of that rebellious energy kids get. You know how it is.”

I didn’t. The last of my teen years were spent in rice paddies, in a hundred-seventeen-degree weather—and that was before summer—trying to distinguish friendlies from enemies in a jungle on the other side of the planet. And then there were the firefights, screams, and all the dead bodies.

“Does this kid have a girlfriend?” I asked.

Mr. B said nothing.

“A boyfriend then?” That question made Mr. B twist his head and Tony Two-Times elbowed me hard. “I’ve got to ask. Kids these days. You know, drugs, sex, and rock’ n roll.”

“The kid isn’t like your friend Bill, Mr. Cleary.”

The mister before Cleary was a first. The ribs ached. I caught a flash of the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Mr. B conveyed specifics such as height and weight, build, the last known place the kid was seen, the usual hangouts and habits. This kid was All-American, too vanilla, and Mr. B had to know it. Still, this kid was vestal purity compared to Mr. B, who had run gin during Prohibition, killed his first man during the Depression, and became a made-man before Leave It to Beaver aired its first episode on television.

The car came to a stop. The driver put an emphasis on the brakes. We sat in silence. The locks shot up. Not quite the sound of a bolt-action rifle, but close. Mr. B extended his hand for a handshake. I took it. No choice there. This was B’s way of saying his word was his bond and whatever I discovered during the course of my investigation stayed between us, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

“I’ve got to ask,” I said.

“I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

“It’s not that,” I said, feeling Tony Two-Times’ breath on the back of my neck. “Did you hire Jimmy C to do a job lately?”

“I did not.”

“And Bill called me, just like that?” I knew better than to snap my fingers. Tony would grab my hand and crush my knuckles like a bag of peanuts. A massive paw on the shoulder told me it was time to vacate the premises, but then Mr. B did the tailor’s touch, a light hand to my elbow. “Jimmy is queer like your friend, right?”

“What has that got to do with anything?”

“When it comes to friends, you forgive certain habits, like I allow this idiot over here to smoke those stupid cigarettes. Capisci?”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“Good. Now, screw off.”

I climbed over Tony Two-Times to leave the car. Door handle in my grip, I leaned forward to ask one last thing, “You know about Jimmy’s predicament?”

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Mr. B said.

“What is?”

“I know everything in this town, except where my grandnephew is. Now, shut the door.”

The door clapped shut. I heard bolts hammer down and lock. There was a brief sight of silhouettes behind glass before the car left the curb. I had two cases before breakfast, one in front of me, and the other one, behind me in the precinct house. There was no need for me to turn around. No need either, to read the sign overhead.

The limestone building loomed large in my memory. Two lanterns glowed and the entrance, double doors of polished brass, were as tall and heavy as I remembered them. It was late March and I wasn’t Caesar but it sure as hell felt like the Ides of March as I walked up those marble steps.

***

Excerpt from Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2021 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

~~~

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan
Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End. He is the author of the Roma Series and Company Files (Winter Goose Publishing) and the Shane Cleary series (Level Best Books). His second Company File novel, The Naming Game, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original in 2020. Gabriel is a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writer (ITW), and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Gabriel Valjan:

www.GabrielValjan.com GabrielsWharf.wordpress.com Goodreads BookBub – @gvaljan Instagram – @gabrielvaljan Twitter – @GValjan Facebook

~~~

Tour Participants:

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~~~

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~~~

#GuestPost How Far Would You Go to Save a Child? by Cara Putman, author of “Lethal Intent”

Lethal Intent

January 11 – February 5, 2021 Tour

~ How Far Would You Go to Save a Child? ~

Every story has a genesis. A spark that ignites the what if or what now? Often my books come from a combination of articles or books I’ve read about real events. Sometimes it comes from an experience I’ve had. Still other times it’s inspired by a journey someone I know has made.

Lethal Intent is a combination of those. When I started planning Caroline’s story, I wanted to explore the experience a friend had when her son was diagnosed with leukemia. Then I started thinking about the immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks. While no researcher has found a second strain of cells that work like hers, wouldn’t the pressure be intense to do just that? I also teach at a world class university that hosts cutting edge research in many areas including medical areas like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

My mind began twining those three threads together. But how could I make it something you will care about? Something I would care about as a reader? I love a good book…I read or listened to more than 150 in 2020. There are three things that keep me coming back to and thinking about a book. 1) The characters draw me in and won’t leave me alone. There is something compelling about them. Something that makes me want to spend time with them on the pages of a book. 2) The writing grabs ahold of me because of something unique. It’s so tied to the characters or the place or the conflict. 3) The story makes me so curious and grabs my attention.

So once I had the big idea, how to make us care? I love Caroline, but what would make it more than a job for her? And how could I put her and Brandon at odds so that the romance has stakes that are insurmountable? It was as I started playing with those questions that the character of Bethany developed. An 11 year old, she has a life and fire to her that sparks on the page and makes us care.

Bethany also gives Brandon big stakes in Caroline’s work that Caroline can see. As a hero, Brandon has challenges of his own, but one of the biggest to him is trying to protect Bethany from a foe he can’t see or physically fight. It pushes him far outside himself while also forcing him to deal with the pain in his past. Put together, these threads have created what I hope is a story you can’t put down.

I’d love to know. What makes a book un-put-downable for you?

~~~

Synopsis:

If they expected silence, they hired the wrong woman.

Caroline Bragg’s life has never been better. She and Brandon Lancaster are taking their relationship to the next level, and she has a new dream job as legal counsel for Praecursoria—a research lab that is making waves with its cutting-edge genetic therapies. The company’s leukemia treatments even promise to save desperately sick kids—kids like eleven-year-old Bethany, a critically ill foster child at Brandon’s foster home. When Caroline’s enthusiastic boss wants to enroll Bethany in experimental trials prematurely, Caroline objects, putting her at odds with her colleagues. They claim the only goal at Praecursoria is to save lives. But does someone have another agenda? Brandon faces his own crisis. As laws governing foster homes shift, he’s on the brink of losing the group home he’s worked so hard to build. When Caroline learns he’s a Praecursoria investor, it becomes legally impossible to confide in him. Will the secrets she keeps become a wedge that separates them forever? And can she save Bethany from the very treatments designed to heal her?
This latest romantic legal thriller by bestseller Cara Putman shines a light on the shadowy world of scientific secrets and corporate vendettas—and the ethical dilemmas that plague the place where science and commerce meet.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Published by: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: January 12, 2021

Number of Pages: 336

ISBN: 0785233318 (ISBN13: 9780785233312)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook.com | Goodreads

~~~

Read an excerpt:

Caroline shifted in the high-backed chair. The massive conference room table made her feel more petite than usual. Quentin Jackson, the man propelling Praecursoria through its rapid growth, vibrated with energy as he studied her. “We are on the cusp of amazing developments and a transition from the lab to trials. We have a few CAR T-cell therapies in early stages now with more in our pipeline.” She racked her mind for the importance of T cells, and he gave a hearty laugh. “Don’t worry if the science overwhelms you. We’ll have you up to speed in no time. All you need to know right now is that T cells are one of the two cells that make up white blood cells. The treatments we’re working on could be the difference between life and death for young cancer patients. We need your legal expertise and quick mind to synthesize the science with the map to market.” “I’ve overseen several court trials related to patents, which should help with that process.” It had been an unforeseen aspect of her days clerking for Judge Loren. She swallowed against the lump in her throat that still welled up when she thought about his untimely death from pneumonia. A month ago she couldn’t imagine interviewing for a job somewhere else, even if a part of her knew that she should stretch her wings. “When can you start? Today?” She felt rooted to the chair. Everything was moving so fast. Could she really transition her experience managing clerks for a judge into managing patents and contracts for a start-up? While Praecursoria had been around for a decade as a cancer research lab, about eighteen months ago Quentin sold off its lucrative genetic testing branch to focus exclusively on the development of cutting-edge CAR T-cell therapies. Starting over that way was a bold if risky move. She lifted her chin and forced a smile that didn’t waver. “If that’s what you need. First we have a few details to work out.” He laughed. “I like the way you tackle issues head-on. That will be key in this role. I know how to steer the ship, and my chief scientist can navigate the research, but you’ll keep us on the legal straight and narrow.” He tapped his pen against the legal pad in front of him. Then he picked up her résumé and named a salary that pressed her against the chair. “There will be performance bonuses tied to the successful conclusion of trials. We want to look into stock options as well. That will be one of your assignments in conjunction with HR.” He slapped his hands on the table and she jumped. “My enthusiasm gets away from me sometimes.” He shrugged but never wavered as he examined her. “Let’s start with a field trip. The best way for you to understand why we’re doing this work and research is to show you.” *** Excerpt from Lethal Intent by Cara Putman. Copyright 2021 by Cara Putman. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Cara Putman
Cara Putman is the author of more than twenty-five legal thrillers, historical romances, and romantic suspense novels. She has won or been a finalist for honors including the ACFW Book of the Year and the Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. Cara graduated high school at sixteen, college at twenty, completed her law degree at twenty-seven, and recently received her MBA. She is a practicing attorney, teaches undergraduate and graduate law courses at a Big Ten business school, and is a homeschooling mom of four. She lives with her husband and children in Indiana.

Visit Cara Putman: CaraPutman.com Goodreads: caraputman BookBub: @CPutman Instagram: caracputman Twitter: @Cara_Putman Facebook: Cara.Putman

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Lethal Intent Tour Participants:

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

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Cara Putman. There will be three (3) winners of one (1) physical copy of Lethal Intent by Cara Putman (US ONLY). The giveaway begins on January 11, 2021 and runs through February 7, 2021. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway ~~~

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

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#GuestPost “Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing” by Kelli A. Wilkins

Hi everyone!

I’m pleased to announce news about my latest non-fiction guide, Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing.

Book cover

This fun and innovative book is filled with hundreds of journaling prompts that cover your childhood, friendships, beliefs and values, your career, coping with grief, fears, forgiveness, your purpose, and much more.

Whether you are experienced in journaling or completely new to the process, this book is designed to get you thinking about—and writing about—your life, relationships, patterns, goals, and some of your fondest memories. You’ll benefit from writing about these thought-provoking prompts and learn something about yourself along the way.

Journaling is a useful tool for self-discovery. In your journal, you can explore a wide range of subjects, themes, and ideas, revisit the past, and vent about anything (or anyone). In a way, you play counselor to yourself by digging deep into your innermost thoughts and emotions and writing about how you feel.

Sample prompts include:

* What are your favorite childhood memories? List at least ten, and then write about each one.

* What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you that now? If not, when did that idea change? Why? How is your current job different from the one you thought you wanted?

* Write for fifteen minutes about the changes in the last ten years of your life, and change in general. Do you embrace change? Resist it? Why? What feelings or emotions does the thought of change bring out in you?

Journaling Every Week makes a great gift for yourself or someone you care about. Order it today and start journaling in the New Year!

Read more about the book here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/journaling-every-week

Order your copy here:

Amazon

All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/b5kBZA

Enjoy the holiday season, and best wishes for a great 2021!

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, 3 horror ebooks, and 2 online writing courses. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.

In January 2021, Kelli released 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.

Her horror short, “A Witch’s Wishes” was published in the Nothing Ever Happens in Fox Hollow anthology in December 2020.

 

In October 2020, Kelli had horror stories published in two anthologies. “The Uninvited” was published in Halloween Horror Vol. 2. This tale about a children’s Halloween party gone horribly wrong is one of her favorites. Her unsettling short story, “What the Peeper Saw” appeared in Madame Gray’s Creep Show anthology.

 

Earlier in 2020 Kelli published Love, Lies & Redemption, a western romance set in 1877 Nebraska. This novel blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger.

 

She released Romance Every Weekend: 104 Fun Ways to Express Your Love, a non-fiction guide to romance in 2019. The book 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.

Kelli published Extraterrestrial Encounters, a collection of 18 sci-fi stories, in 2019. If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her disturbing novella, Nightmare in the North.

Not just an author, Kelli is also an amateur photographer. Visit her pages on Shutterstock and iStock to view her photos.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page and Twitter.

Visit her website/blog for a full title list and to find all her social media links.

~~~

#GuestPost “Romance Every Weekend” by Kelli A. Wilkins

Hi everyone!

If one of your goals is to add more romance in your life, why not start this weekend? How? With Romance Every Weekend: 104 Fun Ways to Express Your Love.

cover

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.

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

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 that let your partner know how much you appreciate him or her.

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.

If you’re looking for ways to keep your romance fresh, this is the book for you!

Romance Every Weekend makes a great gift for you – or for your sweetie! Why not order it now and try all 104 suggestions in 2021?

Get started here:

cover

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

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

Read more about the book here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/romance-every-weekend

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


Best Wishes,

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, 6 non-fiction books, and 2 online writing courses. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.

In January 2021, Kelli will release 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.

In October 2020, Kelli’s horror story “The Uninvited” was published in the Halloween Horror Vol. 2 anthology. This tale about a children’s Halloween party gone horribly wrong is one of her favorites.

Her unsettling short story, “What the Peeper Saw” appeared in Madame Gray’s Creep Show anthology in October 2020.

Earlier in 2020 Kelli published Love, Lies & Redemption, a western romance set in 1877 Nebraska. This novel blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger.

She released Romance Every Weekend: 104 Fun Ways to Express Your Love, a non-fiction guide to romance in 2019. The book 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.

Kelli published Extraterrestrial Encounters, a collection of 18 sci-fi stories, in 2019.If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her disturbing novella, Nightmare in the North.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor.

Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and to find all her social media links.