#BookTour “Murder, Sweet Murder” by Eleanor Kuhns

Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns BannerApril 11 – May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

Synopsis:

 

Will Rees accompanies his wife to Boston to help clear her estranged father’s name in this gripping mystery set in the early nineteenth century.

January, 1801. When Lydia’s estranged father is accused of murder, Will Rees escorts her to Boston to uncover the truth. Marcus Farrell is believed to have murdered one of his workers, a boy from Jamaica where he owns a plantation. Marcus swears he’s innocent. However, a scandal has been aroused by his refusal to answer questions and accusations he bribed officials.

As Will and Lydia investigate, Marcus’s brother, Julian, is shot and killed. This time, all fingers point towards James Farrell, Lydia’s brother. Is someone targeting the family? Were the family quarreling over the family businesses and someone lashed out? What’s Marcus hiding and why won’t he accept help?

With the Farrell family falling apart and their reputation in tatters, Will and Lydia must solve the murders soon. But will they succeed before the murderer strikes again?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery

Published by: Severn House Publishers

Publication Date: February 1st 2022

Number of Pages: 224

ISBN: 0727850091 (ISBN13: 9780727850096)

Series: Will Rees Mysteries #11

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

~~~

Read an excerpt:

After regarding Rees for several seconds, Mr Farrell extended his hand. Rees grasped it, painfully conscious of his rough hand, calloused by both farm work and weaving. ‘Please attend me in my office,’ Mr Farrell said. ‘We are expecting a few guests for dinner tonight so we will have little time to talk then.’ Turning, he strode away. Rees started to follow but, realizing that Lydia was not by his side, he turned back. She stood hesitantly by the table, her hands tightly clenched together. Rees glared at Mr Farrell’s back and then, reaching out, he pulled one of her hands through his elbow. Together they followed her father into his office.

As Farrell moved a stack of papers from the center of the desk to one side, Rees looked around. A large globe on a stand stood to the right of Farrell’s desk and one chair had been drawn up to the front. A seating area, with additional chairs, were arranged by the window that looked out upon the front garden. A table in the center held an intricately carved tray with a crystal decanter and several glasses. Shelves of books lined the wall behind and adjacent to the desk, on Rees’s right.

The room was chilly although the fire was burning. Newly laid, it had been lighted, no doubt by some anonymous servant.

Farrell looked up and his eyes rested on Lydia in surprise. Rees felt his wife shrink back, intimidated. He was not going to stand for that. He pulled a chair from the window grouping and placed it in front of the desk. She hesitated for a few seconds and then, lifting her chin defiantly, she sat down. Once she was seated, Rees lowered himself into the opposite chair. After one final dismissive glance at his daughter, Farrell looked at Rees.

‘So, you are a weaver.’

‘That is so,’ Rees said, adding politely, ‘I understand you are a merchant.’

Farrell smiled. ‘I see your wife has told you very little about me or my profession.’ Since responding in the affirmative seemed somehow disloyal to Lydia, Rees said nothing.

Farrell took a box from his desk drawer and opened it to extract a cigar. ‘Would you like a smoke?’

‘No thank you,’ Rees said.

‘Or a glass of rum? Or whiskey if that is your tipple.’ When Rees declined again, Farrell put away the cigars and walked to the fireplace to light a splint. The end of the cigar glowed red and the acrid scent of burning tobacco filled the room. Puffing, Farrell returned to his seat. ‘I suppose one could say I was a merchant. But I do so much more. I own a plantation as well as a fleet of ships that sail between Boston, the West Indies and Africa. In Jamaica they take on sugar and molasses which are returned to Boston. Some of it is transformed into rum in my distillery. I export the liquor overseas, both to England and to Africa where the proceeds are used to purchase slaves.’

Sick to his stomach, Rees glanced at Lydia. She was staring at her hands, her face flaming with shame. Although she had alluded to her father’s profession, she had not told him the half of it. She had not told him of her father’s pride in it. Rees understood why she hadn’t.

‘Most of the slaves are brought to the sugar plantation,’ Farrell continued, seemingly oblivious to his daughter’s distress, ‘but some are sold in the Southern states. And you needn’t look so shocked. Why that upstart Republican with his radical ideas, Mr Jefferson, owns slaves. And he may be the next President. I suppose you voted for him.’

Rees did not respond immediately. Although many of Mr Jefferson’s ideas were appealing, Rees had found in the end that he could not vote for a slave holder. Instead, he had voted for Mr Adams. But that gentleman had not placed; the election was a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Sent to the House for resolution, Jefferson had won by one vote.’ No,’ Rees said carefully, keeping his voice level with an effort, ‘I voted for his opponent.’

‘Well, that makes us kin then. Although you will meet a few slaves here in Boston, in this very house.’ He grinned and Rees thought of Morris and Bridget with their tinted skin. ‘But few, very few. Neither the Africans nor the Spanish Indians adapt well to this northern climate and they quickly die.’ This was said with indifference as though he spoke of a broken chair.

Farrell flicked a glance at his daughter and smiled. With a surge of anger, Rees realized that Farrell fully understood the effect his speech would have on her and was enjoying her misery. Rees gathered himself to rise from his chair. Lydia reached out and grasped his sleeve.

‘This is for Cordy,’ she whispered. Rees sat down again, his body stiff.

‘But you did not come to listen to me natter on about my profession,’ Farrell said, watching the byplay with interest. ‘Shall we discuss that ridiculous murder, the one of which I am accused?’

Rees looked into Lydia’s beseeching eyes and after a few seconds he relaxed into his seat. God forgive him, a part of him hoped Marcus Farrell was guilty.

‘Go on,’ Rees said coldly. Marcus smiled.

‘Permit me to save you both time and effort,’ he said. ‘I did not kill that boy.’

‘Then why do people think you did?’ Rees asked. Puffing furiously, and clearly unwilling to reply, Farrell took a turn around the room.

‘Did you know him?’ Lydia asked, her voice low and clear. ‘This Roark?’

Farrell stood up so abruptly his chair almost tipped over. ‘Yes, I knew him.’ He glanced at Rees. ‘We were seen, Roark and I, arguing down at Long Wharf.’

‘Arguing about what?’ Rees asked.

‘It is not important. He was a nobody.’ Farrell glared at Rees, daring him to persist. Rees waited, never removing his gaze from the other man. Sometimes silence made the best hammer. Finally, Farrell said angrily, ‘He wanted a rise in his wages. I said no. He disagreed. That was all there was to it.’

Rees glanced at Lydia and found her staring at him. He knew, and he suspected she did too, that her father had just lied to them.

***

Excerpt from Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns. Copyright 2021 by Eleanor Kuhns. Reproduced with permission from Eleanor Kuhns. All rights reserved.

~~~

Author Bio:

Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur first mystery novel. Murder, Sweet Murder is the eleventh mystery following the adventures of Rees and his wife. She transitioned to full time writing last year after a successful career spent in library service. Eleanor lives in upstate New York with her husband and dog.

Catch Up With Eleanor Kuhns:
www.Eleanor-Kuhns.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter – @EleanorKuhns
Facebook – @writerkuhns

We’re also having an insta-party! Visit Instagram – #eleanorkuhns to join us!

 ~~~

Tour Participants:

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

~~~

Join In and You Could WIN!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Eleanor Kuhns. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

~~~

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

 

#BookTour “Cry of the Innocent” by Julie Bates

Cry of the Innocent by Julie Bates Banner

April 11 – May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Cry of the Innocent by Julie Bates

April 1774 – Within the colonial capital of Virginia, Faith Clarke awakes in the middle of the night to discover a man savagely murdered in her tavern. Phineas Bullard was no stranger. Faith’s late husband had borrowed heavily from the man and left Faith to struggle to pay the debt.

With unrest growing in the American Colonies, the British are eager for a quick resolution at the end of a noose, regardless of guilt. Under suspicion for the crime, she must use every resource at her disposal to prove her innocence and protect those she loves. Her allies are Olivia and Titus, slaves left to her by her late husband’s family, individuals she must find a way to free, even as she finds they also have motives for murder.

Faith seeks to uncover the dead man’s secrets even as they draw close to home. Determined to find the truth, she continues headlong into a web of secrets that hides Tories, Patriots, and killers, not stopping even though she fears no one will hear the cry of the innocent.

Praise for Cry of the Innocent:

“An absorbing, fast-paced, and contemplative whodunit.”
Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery

Published by: Level Best Books

Publication Date: June 8th 2021

Number of Pages: 258

ISBN: 1953789773 (ISBN-13:978-1953789778)

Series: A Faith Clarke Mystery, #1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

~~~

Read an excerpt:

I

1774

Muffled pounding jolted Faith awake. A few coals glowed from the fire but offered little illumination to the pitch-blackness surrounding the bed. Nearby her son, Andrew slept soundly in a trundle bed undisturbed by the excited barks of dogs outside in the streets of Williamsburg. Her heart jumped as she looked over to the door separating her bedroom from the main hall of the tavern and saw light coming in from the cracks between the door and its frame. A voice hissed outside.

“Mistress, you need to wake up.”

Olivia’s voice held the rich cadence of someone who had been born far from the English colonies. Faith suspected she had come from somewhere in the West Indies, but she had never asked. Given how long it had taken to build trust, she trod carefully.

There was no reason for Olivia to be outside the door. Given the hour, she and her husband, Titus, should be stirring the fires and fixing breakfast before their guests rose with the dawn. Faith’s feet hit the floor, and she gasped at the cold. Grabbing a coverlet for decency, she stumbled to the door, where her head hit the top of the doorframe. Pain struck like a hammer.

Opening the door a little, Faith stared at the other woman. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s a dead man in the private room.” Olivia’s breath came out in silvery puffs that peppered the air. Flour lightly dusted her hands and apron which indicated a sudden interruption from work.

“Are you sure?” Together they had dealt with a number of drunks in the year since the tavern had opened. Seven months since her husband Jon had died, leaving Faith in charge.

“I’m sure. Titus found him when he went to stir the fires before breakfast.”

Cold sweat broke out on Faith’s face as her stomach tied itself in knots. Titus was not one to panic. If he was correct, they had to act fast. Such an incident would only cause trouble.

Outside a rooster crowed warning that dawn paused for no one. Soon her guests would come downstairs for breakfast, and the streets would fill with merchants, slaves and others needing to do business in the capitol. Taking a breath, Faith forced an illusion of calm into her voice.

“Our guests will still expect breakfast. Take care of them. Make use of the boys if you need to. Tell Titus not to let anyone near the private room. I am on my way.” She turned back into her room, stopping by Andrew’s bed when she heard him move restlessly.

“What is it?” He began to stir out of his nest of blankets.

“Go back to sleep. It’s early yet.”

Hurriedly, she threw a skirt and bodice over her shift and stuffed her hair into a mob cap. Grabbing a heavy, woolen shawl, she slipped out down the steps to the backyard. The private room was separated from the main tavern by a narrow alley. It had its own front and back entrance, which made it perfect for meetings and extra work to provide meals and drinks. Side doors opened into the alley, which made delivering food and drink convenient although the walls of both buildings kept the narrow aperture cast in shadows.

Olivia watched her from the doorway of the kitchen, which stood apart from the tavern to lessen the risk of fire. Her son, Joshua, slept upstairs. Faith’s gaze circled the long backyard from where it ended at the path that separated it from the tenement next door to the small barn where animals were just beginning to stir. Something about the quiet made her feel jumpy, as if strange and unfriendly eyes watched. Mist rising from the dew added a ghostly air to the scene. Unnerved, she hurried to the door of the private room. She pulled her shawl closer to combat shivers induced by more than the cold.

The breath left Faith’s body as she took in the scene. However, running from trouble was a luxury no worker could afford. A weak fire from the hearth illuminated a man lying on the floor. The fine pewter of an upended tankard nearby glimmered faintly through the shadows. The room reeked of liquor. Perhaps he had simply passed out. In her few months as mistress of Clarke Tavern, she had handled men worse for drink.

Drunk was preferable to dead. Faith cleared her throat, which was suddenly too dry.

“Please be drunk,” she prayed as she came closer hoping for some indication of life. Reflected light gleamed off the brass buttons of his coat and made threads from his silk stockings gleam like ice. Fine lace covered his belly as the drift of his shirt hung out and onto the floor.

“My lord?” Faith inched forward, frowning. She now remembered who had demanded the use of her private room last night. Phineas Bullard acted like an odious bully sober. God only knew how he would behave drunk.

“Master Bullard!” she yelled, not bothering to be gentle.

The reek of wine made her queasy. She glanced about in disgust. It would take hours to make the room decent again. A bottle of port lay on its side, dripping off the table while a
nearly empty wine bottle lay on the floor. The tavern had very little of that in stock, too little to marinate the floor in it. Finally, fury at the man’s sloth overtook her.

Before reason returned, she grabbed his shoulder and shook it “Get up!”

As she aimed her toe to kick him, Faith stepped into something sticky.

Bending over to examine him more closely, her nostrils filled with the sickly scent of blood and other foul bodily substances. She gagged and backed away. The rising sun streaked in the door, allowing her to see what had not been clear before.

Blood soaked his breeches and collar down to the floorboards; his fine linen shirt savagely sliced into rags, revealing the damage beneath. Drying blood caked his throat and belly. Bullard’s wide open eyes and slack jaw implied the spectacle of his demise shocked him as well. Shaking him had rucked up his shirt exposing what she would have given anything not to see.

As the sun’s rays lit the room fully for the first time, horror overwhelmed her. Life had left him long ago.

“God have mercy.” Faith ran out the door, unable to view the nightmare any longer. Stomach revolting, she retched behind the branches of a bush. Her eyes watered as her stomach clenched into knots and set off another round.

“Miss Faith? Miss Faith!”

She shrieked and whirled around. Titus stood a few steps away. She drew in a relieved breath although she could not stop shaking.

Never had she been so glad to see a familiar face.

Wood chips were scattered in his clothes from where he had been chopping wood for the fires. The fresh scent of pine comforted her assaulted nose. His solid presence as well as the axe he carried, comforted her shattered nerves. Titus would be a formidable detriment to any physical threat.

“Are you ill?”

Faith swallowed nausea and pushed tendrils of hair back up into her cap. She gestured at the open doorway. The thought of what lay inside caused her gorge to rise again. Her nose and throat burned as she struggled to speak. “I will be alright. We need a physician, quickly.”

Titus shook his head. “He’s dead ma’am. No doctor can help him now. Let me get you back to the kitchen. The boys can get the sheriff. Best I stay here until I have had time to look around.” His voice roughened, “He has not been dead long, Miss Faith. Body is not all that cold. We had best not to take any chances. I will feed the chickens for the boys today, and they can go on to school. They should be safe enough in the street.”

Titus walked quietly beside her as they passed the smoke house. A breeze stirred the dead leaves from the nearby street. The big man said nothing as they walked past the barn where the horses shifted about in their stalls. Faith jumped but settled when the big man said, “They’re just waiting for breakfast.” His glance seemed to stop briefly at the small barn where the cow and a few horses resided then continued on their circuit.

Her head whirled as she considered the consequences of what she had seen. Bullard could be an insufferable bully, but she did not want him dead in her tavern. Once the sheriff came, news would spread. The authorities would want answers, and she had none. Given the current strife in the colonies, it was all too easy to find oneself unintentionally wearing a noose.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to put that idea out of her head.

The sun ascended the horizon, lighting the sky, as her feet crossed the threshold of the kitchen. Titus left her there and returned outside. Busy with breakfast preparations, Faith was grateful that Olivia did not mention that her mistress looked terrible and smelled worse. She poured herself a small amount of short beer and rinsed out her mouth. Stepping outside, she spat into the grass away from the walkway before returning to speak.

“Someone killed Phineas Bullard last night. The boys need to get the sheriff. Faith paused to gather her spinning thoughts grateful that Olivia was too busy to turn about and see her.

Her breath came too fast and shallow making her dizzy. She needed to gain control of her wits. Sitting at a nearby bench, she leaned over putting her head in her hands.

This was no time to panic. Too much was at stake. She forced herself to inhale and exhale. Gradually, her head cleared. There was no time to panic. Regardless of how she felt, life continued and with it, the work that survival entailed.

From her seat Faith could see inside the open door of the outdoor kitchen, She watched Olivia stirring the huge stewpot hanging over the fire in the kitchen. Nearby lay a stack of knives with rusty stains waiting for scrubbing. Some looked as if they had been used to separate a carcass. The idea made her gorge rise. Faith frowned. If she did not know better, she would swear Olivia was keeping her back to her. It made little sense but then nothing this morning did. Shrugging, she walked out the door back to the tavern.

Outside the door, Titus lingered carrying a plate covered with a napkin. At her glance, he looked nervous.

Faith smiled. “No worries, Titus. I’m sure you worked up quite an appetite this morning.”

“What? Oh sure, mistress. Quite an appetite.”

He was sweating despite the chill of the predawn air. Faith wondered how much would he had chopped. She felt guilty for sitting when he and his wife had been working. Faith touched his sleeve. “It is of no concern to me Titus.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Faith shook her head as she moved past him. Why would he think her worried about a little food? Surely, he knew her better than that. Normally Titus ate in the kitchen with Olivia. Pushing the distracting thought from her mind, she moved onward, determined to ignore the soft whispers behind her.

She managed to catch the door behind her before it slammed. She hurried down the tavern’s hall to the one private space she possessed. Creaking upstairs warned Faith to hurry. Other sounds told her that there would be chamber pots to empty and clean. Pouring water from the pitcher she had filled last night, she washed her face and combed her hair. This time, she took time to coil her hair and pin it in a respectable manner. Her hands shook as she tidied herself. The steel mirror showed a face pale and frightened.

“God help me,” she whispered before turning to where her son slept. “Andrew, it’s time to rise. I need you and Joshua to go get the sheriff.”

***

Excerpt from Cry of the Innocent by Julie Bates. Copyright 2022 by Julie Bates. Reproduced with permission from Julie Bates. All rights reserved.

~~~

Author Bio:

Julie Bates

Julie Bates grew up reading little bit of everything, but when she discovered Agatha Christie, she knew she what she wanted to write. Along the way, she has written a weekly column for the Asheboro Courier Tribune (her local newspaper) for two years and published a few articles in magazines such as Spin Off and Carolina Country. She has blogged for Killer Nashville and the educational website Read.Learn.Write. She currently works as a public school teacher for special needs students. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Southeastern Writers of America (SEMWA) and her local writing group, Piedmont Authors Network (PAN). When not busy plotting her next story, she enjoy doing crafts and spending time with her husband and son, as well as a number of dogs and cats who have shown up on her doorstep and never left.

Catch Up With Julie Bates:
JulieBates.weebly.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @julibates1
Instagram – @juliebates72
Twitter – @JulieLBates03
Facebook – @JulieBates.author

~~~

Tour Participants:

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

~~~

Enter to Win!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Julie Bates. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

~~~

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

~~~

#BookTour “A Kind and Savage Place” by Richard Helms

tour banner

~~~

Historical Mystery

 

Date Published: 03-01-2022

 

Publisher: New Arc Books / Level Best Books

It’s 1954. The place is Prosperity, North Carolina, a small farming community in Bliss County. Three teenagers, the 1953 championship-winning offensive backfield for Prosperity High, are unwilling participants in a horrific event that results in a young man’s death.

One of the friends harbors a tragic secret that could have prevented the crime. Divulging it would ruin his life, so he stays quiet, fully aware he will carry a stain of guilt for the rest of his life.

The three buddies go their separate ways for almost a decade, before another tragedy brings them back to Prosperity in 1968. Now in their thirties, it is a time of civil and racial unrest in America.

They discover the man who committed murder back in ’54 is now the mayor, and rules the town with an autocratic iron fist. He’s backed by his own private force of sheriff’s deputies and forcibly intimidates and silences any malcontents.

Worse, now he’s set his sights on Congress.

A Kind and Savage Place spans half a century from 1942 to 1989 and examines the dramatic racial and societal turmoil of that period through the microcosmic lens of a flyspeck North Carolina agricultural community.

~~~

EXCERPT

Chapter Two

Arlo Pyle imagined himself an enlightened man. He believed he was open to most ideas, as long as they weren’t communist or fascist. He’d left his wife and daughters behind to fight Hitler and his jackbooted thugs all over Europe and had no desire to allow those ideas to infiltrate his country. Otherwise, he perceived himself open to change. In truth, the southern roots of unreconstructed racism dug deep into his skull and wrapped themselves around his brain like tendrils of razor wire.

After returning from Europe, Arlo bought an auto shop in Prosperity. He was good with his hands, understood engine mechanics, and enjoyed jaw sessions with the various friends who’d drop in from time to time when business was slow. Word of his craftmanship spread. By the early 1950s people from as far away as the county seat in Morgan would bring their cars to Prosperity for Arlo’s meticulous attention.

In late winter of 1953, a Negro teenager named Everett Howard walked into the garage and waited patiently against a wall as Arlo adjusted the timing on a Hudson Hornet. It was common for curious kids from the town to drop in and watch. There weren’t five television sets in all of Prosperity. Hanging out in Arlo’s shop was worlds cheaper than taking the bus to Morgan for the picture show.

“Something I can do for you, Ev?” Arlo asked when he finally looked up.

“Yes, sir,” Ev said, almost a whisper, afraid to make direct eye contact. “I’m out of school. I’m not going back.”

Prosperity had an elementary school, a junior high, and a high school for whites. Colored children went to a smaller, rougher, poorly heated school from kindergarten until they dropped out at the earliest legal age. The graduation rate at the colored school hovered around zero. Nobody expected Ev to stay in school. Everyone regarded him as a bit on the slow side. He could read most words, and his writing was legible, but his command of more complex subjects went lacking.

“I…” Ev’s voice trailed off.

“Yes, Ev? What is it?”

Ev took a deep breath and blurted, “Would you give me a job?”

Arlo sighed. He pulled a couple of six-ounce bottles from the ice in the Coca-Cola chest, and handed one to Ev.

“Thank you kindly, Mr. Arlo.”

“Do you know anything about cars?”

“A little, sir. I can change tires good. And I’m good at washin’ them.”

“You ever worked on an engine? How about putting new tires on a rim? You know how to work an Iron Jack?”

“I can learn, sir.”

“C’mere.,” Arlo grabbed a speedwrench from his tool chest and fitted it with a spark plug socket. He pulled a box from the shelf and handed both to Ev. “Change the spark plugs on this Hornet here.”

As it happened, changing spark plugs was one of the things Ev understood. He laid the plugs side-by-side on the workbench, pulled the ignition wire from the front plug on the straight-six engine, unscrewed the old plug, and torqued the new plug in its place. He repeated this with all six plugs.

“Why’d you only unhook one wire at a time?” Arlo asked.

“Didn’t want to get them confused, sir. If I put ‘em back on the wrong plugs, the car won’t run right.”

“No, it won’t. You know that much, I reckon. I’ll be honest with you. Ain’t much mechanical work around here for you. I could do with a fetcher and an all-around chore boy, though. You fetch parts, wash cars, change plugs when I ask, sweep the shop, pump gas, and keep the shelves stocked, and I reckon I can pay you seventy-five cents an hour. That’s the minimum wage. I don’t reckon you’ll do better elsewhere with no high school and no training.”

Ev Howard went to work as a fetcher for Arlo Pyle’s auto shop. He picked up and delivered parts from warehouses all over Bliss County, or from whatever local junkyard would let a youngster of Ev’s complexion rummage through the inventory unmonitored. Ev proved to be a reliable worker, adept at ferreting out obscure parts for older cars that found their way into Arlo’s garage.

During Ev’s second week at the garage, Arlo said, “Hey, Ev. You like to fish?”

“I do, sir,” Ev told him. “I know a few nice places to catch brook trout on Six Mile Creek.”

“You got a tackle box for your gear?”

“No, sir.”

Arlo handed him a battered stamped steel toolbox he was replacing. When Ev opened it, a hinged shelf attached by rivets swung up to reveal additional storage below. The shelf was divided into compartments, the perfect size for hooks, spinners, weights, and bobs.

“I can have this?”

“Beats tossing it in the trash,” Arlo said.

“It’s a beauty.” Ev admired the dented, shopworn box. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Tell you what. Bring me a couple of brook trout and we’ll be jake.”

Later that night, Ev arranged all his equipment in the compartments on the hinged pop-up shelf. He stowed a scaling knife and a fish line in the bottom, and scratched E. Howard into the enameled face of the tackle box with a nail, so nobody would mistake it for their own and walk away with it.

_________

In 1954, about a year after Ev Howard came to work for him, five dollars went missing from Arlo Pyle’s petty cash box.

Arlo found Tom Tackett at the brake lathe, shaving thousandths of an inch of steel from the inner surface of a brake drum. Threads of iridescent metal spooled off the cutting head, pooling around Tackett’s feet like fine tinsel.

Tackett was in his middle twenties, recently mustered out of the Army after the end of the Korean War. He’d allowed his hair to grow long, and he tortured it into a pompadour, laden with enough pomade to lubricate a battleship. He swept it in from both sides in the back, to form a ducktail Arlo found contemptible. It was a rebellious style, copied from Yankee street toughs and Hollywood hedonists, and had become a raging fashion over the last year after the release of The Wild One starring Marlon Brando. Arlo swore, if he ever managed to get Adele to squeeze out a son, he’d never allow him to have a ducktail.

“Tom?”

“Yeah, boss?” Tackett said, grinning. Both of his top front teeth were chipped, as if someone had broken off the inside corners of his incisors with a BB gun. Sometimes, the gap whistled when he talked.

“Did you take petty cash for anything? Pay a vendor?”

“No, boss. Why? Some money missing?”

“Five bucks. Can’t recall using it myself.”

“I saw Ev come out of your office this morning.”

“I can’t imagine Ev would steal from me.”

“Cain’t never tell with them kind. My daddy used to say all they want is tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit.”

“That’s enough,” Arlo warned. “I won’t have that talk in this garage. I’m a Christian man, river-dipped and born again. You keep a decent tongue in your head when you’re under my roof.”

“Sure thing, boss. Don’t mean I didn’t see him.”

Arlo returned to his office and recounted the money in the petty cash box. It still came up five dollars short.

His only suspect was Ev Howard. He had no hard evidence, other than the word of Tom Tackett. Tackett was openly prejudiced, but Arlo didn’t believe he’d falsely accuse another man—of any color—of a crime like theft.

The idea the young man he’d given an opportunity might steal from him grew inside his head like a carbuncle, until he could stand it no longer.

____________

Ev had taken Arlo’s truck to Morgan to pick up a load of alternators from a storehouse. It was early April, but Bliss County was under a heat wave. Sweat ran down his face and chest like rivulets of thawed runoff on a stone mountain cliff. He’d removed his smart gray and white pinstriped shirt while he loaded the truck, to prevent soiling it. He was proud of the shirt. On one breast was an embroidered Pyle Garage emblem. On the other was a patch with his name. Arlo had given him five of them, one for each day of the week. They were a recognition of the trust Arlo placed in him. The shirts hadn’t been cheap. If Arlo paid for them, it meant he trusted Ev and expected him to stay around for a while. Ev was determined to take good care of his work shirts.

As he drove out of Morgan, Ev watched the landscape transform from office buildings, shopping centers, banks, and grocery stores into fertile, rolling farmland. He pulled the truck into a parking space next to the garage. Tom Tackett leaned against the building, smoking a cigarette, his arms stained to the elbow with grime.

“Hoo-boy, you in the shit now,” Tackett said, smirking. He jerked his head in the direction of Arlo’s office.

Arlo walked out of his office and crooked a finger at him.

“Give me a minute, Ev?” His face was dark and hard. Ev couldn’t recall when Arlo had looked as stern.

“Yes, sir.” He followed Arlo into the office. Arlo sat behind his desk. Ev had never asked to sit in one of the office seats, and he wasn’t about to presume the privilege now.

“Got some money missing from the petty cash box,” Arlo said. “You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you?”

“No, sir.”

“Tom told me he saw you in my office this morning, and there’s five dollars missing now. You want to tell me why you were in my office?”

“I was emptying the trash, like I do every day. I don’t want to talk bad about Mr. Tackett, but I don’t think he likes me. I think he’d prefer to see me fired.”

“I know he would,” Arlo said. “Between you and me, Tom’s lied to me once or twice. But lying ain’t stealing. This is a serious thing, this missing money. I want to believe you, but I’m going to ask you to turn out your pockets.”

Ev complied without hesitation. The search yielded seventy-eight cents and a worn bone-handled pocketknife. Arlo examined the pitiable contents of Ev’s pockets again before he spoke.

“I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt, Ev, because you’ve done good work, and as far as I know you’ve never lied to me. Hell, I don’t know if you’re smart enough to lie. What do you think?”

“I done told a whopper or two in my time, Mr. Pyle, but never to you. I promise.”

“I’ll take you at your word,” Arlo said. “Get back to work.”

Despite his reassurances to Ev, Arlo remained unconvinced. He truly wished to believe in the boy, but the missing cash had planted the seeds of doubt deeply in his mind.

~~~

 

~~~

About the Author

Richard Helms is a retired college professor and forensic psychologist. He has been nominated eight times for the SMFS Derringer Award, winning it twice; seven times for the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award, with a win in 2021; twice for the ITW Thriller Award, with one win; four times for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award with one win: and once for the Mystery Readers International Macavity Award. He is a frequent contributor to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, along with other periodicals and short story anthologies. His story “See Humble and Die” was included in Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt’s Best American Mystery Stories 2020. A Kind and Savage Place is his twenty-second novel. Mr. Helms is a former member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America, and the former president of the Southeast Regional Chapter of MWA. When not writing, Mr. Helms enjoys travel, gourmet cooking, simracing, rooting for his beloved Carolina Tar Heels and Carolina Panthers, and playing with his grandsons. Richard Helms and his wife Elaine live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Contact Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

~~~

Purchase Link

Amazon

~~~

a Rafflecopter giveaway
~~~

RABT Book Tours & PR

~~~

#BookBlitz “Atlantic Rue” by Jack Adderley

~~~

Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Historical Thriller

1903. The South Atlantic. HMS Roanoke steams deeper into the southern hemisphere’s winter, bound for the sparsely populated Cranmer Island. A chance encounter at sea has fateful consequences for her demoralized crew and presents a growing mystery they must resolve while they struggle to reconcile with their pasts.

~~~

~~~


About the Author


Jack Adderley is the author of the historical mystery novel, Atlantic Rue.

 

 

 

Purchase Link

Amazon

RABT Book Tours & PR

~~~

#ReleaseBlitz “A Kind and Savage Place” by Richard Helms

~~~

Historical Mystery

 

Date Published: 03-01-2022

 

Publisher: New Arc Books / Level Best Books

It’s 1954. The place is Prosperity, North Carolina, a small farming community in Bliss County. Three teenagers, the 1953 championship-winning offensive backfield for Prosperity High, are unwilling participants in a horrific event that results in a young man’s death.

One of the friends harbors a tragic secret that could have prevented the crime. Divulging it would ruin his life, so he stays quiet, fully aware he will carry a stain of guilt for the rest of his life.

The three buddies go their separate ways for almost a decade, before another tragedy brings them back to Prosperity in 1968. Now in their thirties, it is a time of civil and racial unrest in America.

They discover the man who committed murder back in ’54 is now the mayor, and rules the town with an autocratic iron fist. He’s backed by his own private force of sheriff’s deputies and forcibly intimidates and silences any malcontents.

Worse, now he’s set his sights on Congress.

A Kind and Savage Place spans half a century from 1942 to 1989 and examines the dramatic racial and societal turmoil of that period through the microcosmic lens of a flyspeck North Carolina agricultural community.

~~~

 

~~~

About the Author

Richard Helms is a retired college professor and forensic psychologist. He has been nominated eight times for the SMFS Derringer Award, winning it twice; seven times for the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award, with a win in 2021; twice for the ITW Thriller Award, with one win; four times for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award with one win: and once for the Mystery Readers International Macavity Award. He is a frequent contributor to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, along with other periodicals and short story anthologies. His story “See Humble and Die” was included in Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt’s Best American Mystery Stories 2020. A Kind and Savage Place is his twenty-second novel. Mr. Helms is a former member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America, and the former president of the Southeast Regional Chapter of MWA. When not writing, Mr. Helms enjoys travel, gourmet cooking, simracing, rooting for his beloved Carolina Tar Heels and Carolina Panthers, and playing with his grandsons. Richard Helms and his wife Elaine live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Contact Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

~~~

Purchase Link

Amazon

~~~

a Rafflecopter giveaway
~~~

RABT Book Tours & PR

~~~

#CoverReveal “A Kind and Savage Place” by Richard Helms

 

Historical Mystery

Date Published: 03-01-2022

Publisher: New Arc Books / Level Best Books

 

photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

It’s 1954. The place is Prosperity, North Carolina, a small farming community in Bliss County. Three teenagers, the 1953 championship-winning offensive backfield for Prosperity High, are unwilling participants in a horrific event that results in a young man’s death.

One of the friends harbors a tragic secret that could have prevented the crime. Divulging it would ruin his life, so he stays quiet, fully aware he will carry a stain of guilt for the rest of his life.

The three buddies go their separate ways for almost a decade, before another tragedy brings them back to Prosperity in 1968. Now in their thirties, it is a time of civil and racial unrest in America.

They discover the man who committed murder back in ’54 is now the mayor, and rules the town with an autocratic iron fist. He’s backed by his own private force of sheriff’s deputies and forcibly intimidates and silences any malcontents.

Worse, now he’s set his sights on Congress.

A Kind and Savage Place spans half a century from 1942 to 1989 and examines the dramatic racial and societal turmoil of that period through the microcosmic lens of a flyspeck North Carolina agricultural community.

~~~

About the Author

Richard Helms is a retired college professor and forensic psychologist. He has been nominated eight times for the SMFS Derringer Award, winning it twice; seven times for the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award, with a win in 2021; twice for the ITW Thriller Award, with one win; four times for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award with one win: and once for the Mystery Readers International Macavity Award. He is a frequent contributor to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, along with other periodicals and short story anthologies. His story “See Humble and Die” was included in Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt’s Best American Mystery Stories 2020. A Kind and Savage Place is his twenty-second novel. Mr. Helms is a former member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America, and the former president of the Southeast Regional Chapter of MWA. When not writing, Mr. Helms enjoys travel, gourmet cooking, simracing, rooting for his beloved Carolina Tar Heels and Carolina Panthers, and playing with his grandsons. Richard Helms and his wife Elaine live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Contact Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

~~~

PreOrder Now

Amazon

RABT Book Tours & PR

~~~

#ReleaseBlitz “Songbird (Jax Diamond Mysteries Book 1)” by Gail Meath

~~~

Historical Mystery, Murder Mystery, Cozy Mystery

 

Release Date: November 11, 2021

Meet Jax Diamond, a sharp, sophisticated, skilled, no-nonsense private detective. Or is he?

Glued to his side is his canine partner, Ace, a fierce and unrelenting German Shepherd whose mere presence terrorizes criminals into submission. Well, maybe not.

But the two of them are a whole lot smarter than they look. And they have their hands full when a playwright’s death is declared natural causes, and his new manuscript worth a million bucks is missing.

Laura Graystone, a beautiful rising Broadway star, is dragged into the heart of their investigation, and she’s none too happy about it. Especially when danger first strikes, and she needs to rely on her own ingenuity to save their hides.

Join Jax, Laura and Ace on a fun yet deadly ride during the Roaring Twenties that takes twists and turns, and a race against time to find the real murderer before he/she/they stop them permanently.

~~~

~~~

Excerpt

1

New York City

1923

Tuesday, May 29

Sam tossed his fork back onto the plate. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, moved the brass desk lamp a few inches closer and continued reading the final draft of his new musical.

He had to admit that he’d written a brilliant play, superior to any production on Broadway thus far. He’d spent three months working on it, day and night. Ever since he heard her sing. At that moment his own creativity seemed to burst alive and the ideas kept flowing so quickly, he couldn’t stop writing until he finished the script. After editing it for the hundredth time, he had no doubt that this play would prove not only extremely profitable for the theater owner and the talented performer who had inspired him. It would also boost his career to amazing heights. After all, no other composer had ever written an entire musical from start to finish, foregoing the lyricist and book writer.

He looked at the telephone beside him. He wondered why his wife had made a rare appearance at the Ambassador this afternoon. She never ventured to the theater unless she was dressed to the nines for a night out on the town, usually without him. As he’d worked with the performers on stage, he caught a glimpse of her standing by the entranceway, but she quickly disappeared out the door.

He should phone her, he supposed, but he wasn’t up to dealing with his personal problems tonight, not when he was so close to finalizing this play. He’d already been paid a hefty advance from the owner of the Globe Theater. As soon as they discussed a production start date at their meeting tomorrow morning, he would face what awaited him at home.

A fat drop of sweat dripped from his brow and splattered across the page in front of him. Then another. He cursed out loud, snatched the cloth napkin, and dragged it across his forehead. He’d forgotten to open the window, which was the first thing he habitually did when he came to this hellhole of an apartment. This tiny room was always hotter than blazes no matter the weather outside.

He stood up to open the window, but the room took a quick spin around him, and he stumbled backwards against the desk. With a puzzled frown, he snatched the arm of his chair and eased himself back into it. He took off his suit jacket and necktie and tossed them aside. He sat there for a moment, breathing slowly and deeply to clear his head. Within a few minutes, the dizziness subsided, so he went back to reading the script.

But when he turned the page, he noticed his hand was trembling. He stared at his fingers and became almost mesmerized by them. A sharp prickly sensation spread through each one from tip to base before they went numb altogether, as if he’d kept his hand in an awkward position too long, and it fell asleep. He lifted his arm, flapped his hand in the air, and wiggled his fingers around to get the blood flowing again. The numbness soon disappeared.

With the same bewildered scowl, he looked up at the pendulum clock on the wall and squinted as the numbers appeared blurry. He removed his glasses and squeezed his eyes open and shut a few times. He’d been working too many hours. And the filthy ventilation and dim lighting in this room weren’t helping. But even with his glasses back in place, the typewritten words on the manuscript became fuzzy. Then, they seemed to be dancing across the page on their own, picking up speed the harder he tried to focus on them.

He pushed his chair back in panic, wondering what the hell was happening to him, but he suddenly doubled over in agony as crushing bolts of pain shot through him from the pit of his stomach to his chest.

Frightened out of his wits, he tried focusing on the telephone while struggling to lift himself upright. But his arms had gone numb and were useless. Using the strength of his legs and the chair behind him, he thrust himself forward and slammed down face-first onto the mahogany desk. The two-hundred-page manuscript burst into the air like confetti while the dinner plate crashed to the floor.

As he lay there gasping for air, he gathered every ounce of strength he could muster, and what lucidity he had left, and slowly dragged his right arm up along the top of the desk to reach the telephone. Just as his fingertips touched the base, he heard the door creak open.

His light eyes rolled upwards then grew wide and horrified. He tried calling for help, but only a sick gurgling noise emerged from his throat before the room went dark.

~~~

About the Author

Award-winning author Gail Meath writes historical romance novels that will whisk you away to another time and place in history where you will meet fascinating characters, both fictional and real, who will capture your heart and soul. Meath loves writing about little or unknown people, places and events in history, rather than relying on the typical stories and settings.

Contact Links

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

YouTube

BookBuzz

~~~

Purchase Links

Amazon

B&N

Kobo

iBooks

Smashwords

~~~

RABT Book Tours & PR

~~~

#BookSale “Enemies of Doves” by Shanessa Gluhm

cover

~~~

Synopsis:

On a summer night in 1932, twelve-year-old Joel Fitchett wanders into an East Texas diner badly beaten and carrying his unconscious brother, Clancy. Though both boys claim they have no memory of what happened, the horrific details are etched into their minds as deep as the scar left across Joel’s face.

Thirteen years later, both men still struggle with the aftershocks of that long-ago night and the pact they made to hide the truth. When they find themselves at the center of a murder investigation, they make a decision that will change everything. A second lie, a second pact and for a time, a second chance.

In 1991 college student, Garrison Stark, travels to Texas chasing a rumor that Clancy Fitchett is his biological grandfather. Clancy has been missing since 1946 and Garrison hopes to find him, and in doing so, find a family. What he doesn’t expect to discover is a tangle of secrets spanning sixty years involving Clancy, Joel and the woman they both loved, Lorraine.

Told in alternating timelines from World War II to 1992, Enemies of Doves is a tale of family secrets, jealousy and deception perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Allen Eskens.

 

99c for a limited time!

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

~~~

Felicia’s Review

(June 2020)

5/5 Stars!

I’ve read some amazing thriller and suspense stories this year, but the historical mystery, Enemies of Doves, takes the mid-year prize!

After losing his parents to tragedy in 1991, Garrison Stark finds himself on the journey of a lifetime after trying to piece together the ramblings of his grandmother. He’s losing her to dementia so he must find his own answers.

Tom Fitchett may be a prominent dentist in his small Texas town in 1941, but to his sons, Joel and Clancy, he’s an overbearing tyrant who’s never satisfied with anything they do. Older by almost two years, Joel is the responsible one always charged with looking out for his brother.

Being the responsible one will lead to life-changing trauma for Joel, just as serving in WWII will change the carefree, self-serving Clancy.

Loved Joel. He was a sympathetic character who took on burdens that weren’t his to shoulder, most by choice because it was his nature, and others forced upon him by his father and brother. I didn’t care for Clancy for much of the story. He was the golden boy trouble always eluded.

Or so it appeared.

Lorraine Applewhite? She too was too self-centered for far too long. It’s easy to say she was caught between two brothers, but to me, Lorraine put herself there. Joel didn’t deserve that.

I’m not one for dual timelines, but this one was perfection with the fifty-year time-span moving forward in tandem with the present. Garrison’s search will cause time to collide, unlocking a lifetime of secrets, and THE PLOT TWIST OF 2020!

Stellar writing and well-developed characters make this read one to not be missed. Because… that plot twist and the doves!

Download this one today!

Enjoy!

~~~

#FREE “An Invitation To Murder (Lady Katherine Regency Mysteries Book 1)” by Leighann Dobbs, Harmony Williams

cover

~~~

Lady Katherine only has one week to catch the Pink-Ribbon Killer. Not only to stop the killing, but also to prove her skills at detection to her father and win her dowry and independence.

There’s only one catch—she has to take one last matchmaking job to do it. Never mind that the match is impossible—all the better because if she fails, then no one will seek her services again. The job provides the perfect cover, especially when her peculiar investigatory techniques are mistaken for unconventional matchmaking attempts.

Things would go a lot smoother if she weren’t knee-deep in suspects and thwarted at every turn by a rival matchmaker. But when the killer strikes again, Katherine’s investigation leads down a dangerous path. Too late, she discovers that she has a lot more to lose than her dowry.

FREE at all online digital retailers for a limited time only!

Amazon

~~~

#BookTour “Silence in the Library” by Katharine Schellman

Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman Banner

July 12 – August 6, 2021 Tour

silence-in-the-library-by-katharine-schellman--cover

Synopsis:

 

Regency widow Lily Adler didn’t expect to find a corpse when visiting a family friend. Now it’s up to her to discover the killer in the charming second installment in the Lily Adler mysteries.

Regency widow Lily Adler has finally settled into her new London life when her semi-estranged father arrives unexpectedly, intending to stay with her while he recovers from an illness. Hounded by his disapproval, Lily is drawn into spending time with Lady Wyatt, the new wife of an old family friend. Lily barely knows Lady Wyatt. But she and her husband, Sir Charles, seem as happy as any newly married couple until the morning Lily arrives to find the house in an uproar and Sir Charles dead.

All signs indicate that he tripped and struck his head late at night. But when Bow Street constable Simon Page is called to the scene, he suspects foul play. And it isn’t long before Lily stumbles on evidence that Sir Charles was, indeed, murdered.

Mr. Page was there when Lily caught her first murderer, and he trusts her insight into the world of London’s upper class. With the help of Captain Jack Hartley, they piece together the reasons that Sir Charles’s family might have wanted him dead. But anyone who might have profited from the old man’s death seems to have an alibi… until Lily receives a mysterious summons to speak with one of the Wyatts’ maids, only to find the young woman dead when she arrives.

Mr. Page believes the surviving family members are hiding the key to the death of both Sir Charles and the maid. To uncover the truth, Lily must convince the father who doesn’t trust or respect her to help catch his friend’s killer before anyone else in the Wyatt household dies.

Praise for Silence in the Library:

“Schellman’s gracefully written whodunit is equally a tale of 19th-century female empowerment and societal conventions…More than a clever murder puzzle, this is an immersion in a bygone era.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The fast-paced, engrossing story has a climactic confrontation worthy of Rex Stout or Agatha Christie.”
Library Journal, starred review

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery

Published by: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: July 13th 2021

Number of Pages: 352

ISBN: 1643857045 (ISBN13: 9781643857046)

Series: Lily Adler Mystery #2 | The Lily Adler series are stand alone mysteries but even more fabulous if read in sequence

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

Read an excerpt:

Given the way she hadn’t hesitated to interfere in the Wyatt family’s affairs, Lily expected Lady Wyatt to politely rescind her invitation to ride the next morning. But she had insisted, saying her arm was sure to be better by morning. So after breakfast, Lily instructed Anna to lay out her riding habit.

Though she had forgone her usual routine of breakfasting in her own room and instructed Mrs. Carstairs to lay breakfast in the parlor, Lily hadn’t seen any sign of her father. She didn’t mind. If she couldn’t be cozy while she dined, she was at least happy to be alone. And it gave her the opportunity to go over the week’s menus with her housekeeper and offer several suggestions for managing her father’s requests while he was with them.

“And do you know how long might that be, Mrs. Adler?” Mrs. Carstairs asked carefully. “Mr. Branson was unable to say when I spoke to him last night.”

Lily pursed her lips. “For as long as he needs, Mrs. Carstairs. Or as long as I can bear his company. My record on that score is fifteen years, however, so let us hope it will not come to that.”

The housekeeper wisely didn’t say anything else.

Lily’s pleasant solitude lasted until she was making her way back upstairs to change, when she found her path blocked by her father’s belligerent frame. Unwell he might be, but George Pierce was still a solid, imposing man, and Lily had to remind herself to square her shoulders and meet his scowl with a smile as he did his best to tower over her from the step above.

“Good morning, Father.”

He didn’t return the greeting. “I am going to breakfast,” he announced, eyebrows raised.

Lily waited for a moment and then, when no more information was forthcoming, nodded. “I hope you enjoy it. Mrs. Carstairs is an excellent cook.”

He sniffed. “And I assume your excessively early rising is an attempt to avoid my company?”

“It is past nine o’clock, father,” Lily said. “Hardly excessive. And I have an appointment this morning, so if you will excuse me—”

“What is your appointment?”

He couldn’t curtail or dictate what she did with her time, Lily reminded herself. Even if having him in her home left her feeling as if her independence were being slowly stripped away once more, in practical terms he had no say in her life anymore. Answering his question was only polite. “An engagement with a friend—”

“That sailor again, I assume?”

Lily took a deep breath. “Captain Hartley was also invited, but no, the engagement is to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Which I assume you would approve of?” Seeing that she had momentarily surprised him into silence, she took the opportunity to push past her father. “You would like her, I think. She is charming and elegant.”

“And her husband’s a fool for marrying again,” Mr. Pierce grumbled, but Lily was already heading down the hall and didn’t answer.

Jack was coming just before ten to escort her to the Wyatts’ house, and Lily was in a hurry to dress and escape her father once again. Her room was empty when she walked in, but Anna had laid out her riding habit on the bed, pressed and ready, its military-style buttons glinting in the morning light amid folds of emerald-green fabric.

Lily stared at it without moving. She had forgotten that her habit wasn’t suitable to wear when she was in mourning.

She was still staring when Anna returned, the freshly brushed riding hat in her hands. When she saw Lily’s posture, Anna paused.

“You don’t have another, I’m afraid,” she said gently.

Lily nodded, unable to speak. One hand reached out to brush the heavy fabric of the habit; the other clenched a fold of the gray dress she wore. She had stopped wearing colors even before Freddy died—in those last months of his illness, she had traded all her pretty dresses for drab gowns more suited to nursing an invalid who would never recover. And even after full mourning was complete, she had lingered in the muted shades of half mourning long past when anyone would have required it of her, even Freddy’s own family. Laying aside the visual reminders of her grief felt too much like leaving behind her marriage.

But that had meant more than two years of sorrow. And in the last few months, since she had come to London and taken control of her life once more, something had shifted inside her.

“Yes, thank you, Anna,” Lily said quietly, her voice catching a little. She cleared her throat and said, more firmly, “I will wear this one.”

***

She managed to leave the house without encountering her father again. When her butler, Carstairs, sent word that Captain Hartley was waiting in the front hall, Lily felt a pang of anxiety. Jack had loved Freddy like a brother. And he had never given any indication that he thought her mourning had gone on long enough.

Jack was in the middle of removing his hat, and his hand stilled at the brim as he caught sight of her. Even Carstairs fell still as they watched her come down the stairs, the heavy folds of her green skirts buttoned up on one side to allow her to walk freely and a single dyed- green feather curling over the brim of her hat and flirting with her brown curls.

Lily felt exposed as she descended the final few steps, though she was bolstered by the approval that softened Carstairs’s smile. She had never considered herself a shy person, but she could barely meet Jack’s eyes as she crossed the hall to give him her hand.

For a moment neither of them spoke, and when she raised her gaze at last, Lily thought she saw the captain blinking something from the corner of his eye. “That was Freddy’s favorite color,” he said at last, his voice catching.

Lily nodded. “I know.”

Jack’s jaw tightened for a moment as he swallowed. But he smiled. “Well done, Lily,” he said quietly. “Good for you.”

***

There was a lightness between them as they made the quick journey to Wimpole Street. As Jack waved down a hack carriage and handed her in, Lily found herself laughing at all of his quips or droll pieces of gossip, even the ones she normally would have chastised him for repeating. And Jack kept glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Do I look that dreadful?” Lily asked at last as he handed her down from the carriage in front of the Wyatts’ home.

“Quite the opposite,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck as he released her hand. “Did you know, you are actually quite pretty?”

“You mean you did not find me pretty before?”

“I think I had forgotten to consider it one way or another,” Jack admitted, grinning. “What a shame everyone has left London already; you would cause quite a sensation.”

Lily shook her head. “I know full well I am not handsome enough for that.”

“Surprise can cause as much of a sensation as admiration,” Jack pointed out.

“Captain!” Lily exclaimed in mock indignation. “You were supposed to argue with me!”

They continued bantering as they mounted the steps to Sir Charles’s townhouse, only to fall silent and exchange a puzzled glance as they realized that the door was half-open, the sounds of raised voices echoing from within.

Lily glanced at Jack, an uneasy sensation beginning to curl in the pit of her stomach. “Should we knock?”

He shrugged and did so, rapping firmly on the wood of the door. There was no response, but it swung open a little more. After hesitating a moment, Lily bit her lip and said, “Well, we ought to at least make sure Lady Wyatt knows we’ve come. If it is no longer convenient to ride, she can certainly tell us to leave.”

“And you were already happy to interfere yesterday,” Jack pointed out, though she could hear the unease lurking beneath his playful tone. “We might as well do it again.”

“Very true.” Lily pushed the door the rest of the way open and strode in, Jack following close behind.

The front hall was empty, but they could still hear voices not far away, now low and urgent, and the sound of quiet crying from somewhere just out of sight. The uneasy feeling began to spread through Lily’s chest and arms, and she reached out her hand in blind anxiety. She was relieved to feel Jack take it and press it reassuringly into the crook of his arm.

She had just decided that they should leave after all when quick steps echoed down the stairs. A moment later Frank Wyatt came rushing down, checking himself at the bottom as he stared at them in surprise.

His face was pale and his eyes red as he gaped at them, his easy manner vanished. “Lily? And Captain . . . I’ve quite forgot your name. You must excuse . . . what are you doing here?”

“The door was open, and no one answered our knock,” Lily said, feeling a little ashamed of their hastiness in entering. “I apologize, Frank; we did not mean to intrude, but we had an appointment to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Is everyone well?”

“Is everyone . . . No. No.” Frank gripped the banister with one hand, his knuckles white. “I am afraid that Lady Wyatt will not be able to ride today. My father . . .” He swallowed. “My father has died.”

Lily stared at him, unable to make sense of his words. They had seen Sir Charles just the day before. If he had seemed a little older and weaker than she remembered, he had still been utterly vital and alive. “Died? But . . . how?”

“In point of fact,” a new voice said quietly from behind them. “It seems Sir Charles Wyatt has been killed.”

***

Excerpt from Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman. Copyright 2021 by Katharine Schellman. Reproduced with permission from Katharine Schellman. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and currently the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, Katharine currently lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her family and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Find her online:
katharineschellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatharineSchellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

 

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Enter the Giveaway!!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Heather Redmond. There will be 1 winner of one (1) BookShop.org Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs July 12 through August 8, 2021. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

~~~