#BookTour “The Counterfeit Wife” by Mally Becker

The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker BannerSeptember 19 – October 14, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

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Synopsis:

 

Philadelphia, June 1780. George Washington’s two least likely spies return, masquerading as husband and wife as they search for traitors in Philadelphia.

Months have passed since young widow Becca Parcell and former printer Daniel Alloway foiled a plot that threatened the new nation. But independence is still a distant dream, and General Washington can’t afford more unrest, not with food prices rising daily and the value of money falling just as fast.

At the General’s request, Becca and Daniel travel to Philadelphia to track down traitors who are flooding the city with counterfeit money. Searching for clues, Becca befriends the wealthiest women in town, the members of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, while Daniel seeks information from the city’s printers.

But their straightforward mission quickly grows personal and deadly as a half-remembered woman from Becca’s childhood is arrested for murdering one of the suspected counterfeiters.

With time running out – and their faux marriage breaking apart – Becca and Daniel find themselves searching for a hate-driven villain who’s ready to kill again.

Praise for The Counterfeit Wife:

The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker has it all — adventure, romance and deceit … [w]ith smooth-as-ice prose and pitch-perfect dialogue.”

Tina deBellegarde, Agatha- and Derringer-nominated author of the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series

The Counterfeit Wife is a not-to-be-missed adventure that gives new meaning to rebel and loyalist, spy and spouse.”

Lori Robbins, award-winning author of the On Pointe and Masterclass Mystery series

“As the young country struggles for independence, so does Becca, and she will have you turning pages well into the night … I highly recommended The Counterfeit Wife and I’m already anxious for the third of the series.”

Eileen Harrison Sanchez, award-winning author of Freedom Lessons—A Novel

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery

Published by: Level Best Books

Publication Date: September 2022

Number of Pages: 300

ISBN: 9781685121587

Series: A Revolutionary War Mystery

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

Heat rose from Rebecca Parcell’s chest, climbed her neck, and stamped a flush on her cheeks. She knew what would happen next. It was time for the toasts.

“Steady now,” Daniel Alloway whispered. They stood alone in a corner of the crowded ballroom. His good hand brushed hers for reassurance. His other hand hung at his side, deadened by the injury he’d incurred escaping from a British prison ship a year ago.

Becca scanned the room to assure herself that no one watched them. Even his light touch was frowned upon by polite society, but it brought her warmth and comfort.

Their host rapped an ornate silver fork against his crystal goblet again and waited for the magpie chatter of gossip to quiet. He stood by the large fireplace, his feet planted wide as if he were standing on the deck of one of his ships. Mr. Thaddeus Barnes was the wealthiest merchant in Philadelphia, which meant, she knew, that he was one of the richest men in all of North America.

Becca had rarely seen luxury like this, not even last winter in New York City. The ceiling dripped curved garlands of flowers carved of plaster. Blue and white vases from China rested on the carved marble mantel. Cherry wood tables hailed from France, and the glass chandelier from Venice.

“I’d be much more comfortable with a bow in my hand,” Becca murmured. “Or a knife. A knife would do.”

“You’d rather hunt in Morristown than here?” Daniel smiled, his green eyes filled with amusement. The gaunt, haunted look he wore when she met him last winter was gone. But his features still seemed to be carved from stone, all hard angles and shadows. Except when he smiled at her like this.

Despite being tall, Becca had to tilt her chin up to see eye-to-eye with Daniel. “Hunting here will do.” she said, sounding more prim than she intended, and Daniel laughed. “Even this type of hunting.”

They were in Philadelphia, searching for the counterfeiters flooding the colony with fake money. They were the obvious, though unconventional, pair for the job, General Washington had said when he assigned them. Daniel because he was a former printer with the skills to evaluate ink and paper and Becca for her talent with numbers, accounts, and codes, which had already served the general well.

The clink-clink of metal on glass rang through the air again, and Mr. Barnes’s guests finally quieted. “A toast,” he called, beginning the first of the three he would raise to Becca and Daniel. It was the same at each of the parties held in their honor these past few weeks. Always three. Becca dreaded the third. “To independence.”

Becca lifted her goblet and sipped to a chorus of “huzzahs.” One, she counted to herself, because counting was soothing but not soothing enough for what was to come.

When the cheers faded, Mr. Barnes raised his glass again. The wine-filled cup glimmered red beneath the crystal candelabras. “To General Washington.”

“Huzzah!” The ballroom cheered again. Two, Becca counted.

She should be grateful to Mr. Barnes, not gritting her teeth over his toasts. He had opened his home to them at the Washingtons’s request, and he was introducing them to the finest families in Philadelphia, who were happy to welcome two friends of General and Lady Washington.

At least that much was true. Since last February, she and Daniel had become regular visitors to the Washingtons’ residence in Morristown after uncovering a plot that threatened the new nation.

Another round of cheers. Some guests made the mistake of lowering their glasses.

“And…” Mr. Barnes crowed.

A man with ginger-colored hair lounging by the doorway sighed loudly, catching her eye.

Becca couldn’t have agreed more.

The stranger gave her a slow, lazy smile. His expression was almost intimate, as if he were trying to draw her in. She turned away quickly.

“Finally…” Mr. Barnes added.

Becca took a deep breath, inhaling the warm scent of beeswax candles.

“…let us wish the newlyweds a joyous and productive marriage.” Mr. Barnes, a long-time widower, winked at Daniel. “May your hearts ever be at each other’s service.”

The cream of Philadelphia society turned in unison to Becca and Daniel.

She dropped her gaze to avoid the stares.

“A delicate flower, you are,” Daniel whispered without moving his lips.

She banged his ribs with her elbow and heard a satisfying oomph.

Anyone watching her redden and look away at the mention of their marriage might indeed take it that she was a shy, delicate flower. This was false.

She was not shy.

She was not delicate.

And, more to the point, she and Daniel were not married.

Mr. Barnes nodded to a double-chinned musician in the corner dressed in maroon breeches and a matching silk coat. At the signal, he tucked his violin into his neck, lifted a bow, and attacked his instrument. Two men laughed at something a third said. A few women formed a group and chatted, and the high-ceilinged room filled again with noise.

Barnes knew the reason they were in Philadelphia. General Washington had trusted him with that information. But their host believed that Becca and Daniel were wed. This way, Mr. Barnes could rightfully claim to be as outraged as everyone else if their deceit came to light.

Memory pulled Becca back to a dinner with the Washingtons in Morristown. “Perhaps this is unwise.” The general voiced a rare doubt after they agreed to come to Philadelphia. “You are unmarried and unchaperoned. It is scandalous. Society will close ranks against you. You’ll learn nothing.”

Lady Washington had taken a small sip of sherry. Her blue eyes lit with humor. “Then they must appear to be married while maintaining all the proprieties.”

The general made a choking sound that Becca and Daniel decided later was laughter. And so they’d agreed to play the part of a newly married couple, with Daniel looking for a new business opportunity in Philadelphia. It was a brazen plan but might just succeed.

Becca startled. The ginger-haired gentleman suddenly stood before her.

He extended a silk-clad leg and bowed, then rose, displaying the same secret smile that made her uncomfortable minutes ago. His nose was straight, his eyelashes pale against close-set blue eyes. Perhaps his chin was a bit heavy, his mouth a bit small. His features were not memorable, but something about him commanded attention.

It wasn’t just his shock of red hair combed back neatly and tied low along the back of his neck, nor the well-made clothes of ivory silk and gold embroidery. Everyone in the room bore similar signs of wealth. It was the confidence with which he moved, the sense that his regard flattered anyone upon whom it was bestowed.

“You’ve kept her from me, Alloway. I thought I knew all the beautiful women in Philadelphia.” His eyes locked on Becca’s.

She stiffened. It took discipline not to raise her hand and double check that the lace covering the top of her breasts was in place. He made her feel naked.

Daniel stiffened, too. “Mrs. Alloway, may I introduce Mr. Edmund Taylor, another merchant here in Philadelphia.”

Taylor’s light eyebrows shot up in mock distress. “Just another merchant? One of the most successful in the colonies, despite the war.” His gaze dropped to Daniel’s injured hand.

“And is your wife here, too?” Daniel bit down on the words, “your wife.”

Irritation crossed Taylor’s face so quickly Becca thought she imagined it. “My dear,” he called loudly.

A woman standing near the fireplace tensed, then moved toward them with the elegance of a swan. Her hair was honey blond, her skin unblemished, and her eyes a liquid blue. She stopped before them, wearing a tentative smile.

“I’m honored to present my wife, Charlotte Taylor.” He completed the introductions.

“It is a pleasure. I hope you enjoy our city.” Her voice was breathy and slow. There was a stillness about her, as if she had her own secrets to guard.

“I am enjoying it.” From downstairs, Becca heard the butler’s placating voice, then a woman’s shrill, demanding response.

Moments later, Mr. Barnes’s butler, Eli, slipped into the room.

Heads turned to the butler with a mixture of curiosity and mild surprise.

He whispered to Mr. Barnes, who nodded.

Then Eli strode toward them. He cupped his hand over his mouth and leaned toward Mr. Taylor.

“Begging your pardon, sir. There’s a woman at the front door. She says she’s yours, and that she must see you now.”

Becca couldn’t help but overhear. She says she’s yours. The woman at the door must be enslaved. Neither her dead husband nor father had owned slaves. But even she knew that enslaved people did not enter by the front door.

Color leeched from Taylor’s face.

“I will see her.” Mrs. Taylor swept from the room without waiting for her husband’s response.

“How do you find Philadelphia, Mrs. Alloway? Your husband says that this is your first visit,” another guest, who had turned to them at the servant’s approach, asked to mask the embarrassment of the moment.

When Becca didn’t answer, Daniel elbowed her gently. “Yes, Mrs. Alloway. How do you find Philadelphia?”

She really must do a better job responding to her married name. “People have been kind here. I hardly expected it.”

Mr. Barnes joined them, interrupting, “How goes your business, Taylor?”

“We don’t want to bore the ladies.” Taylor glanced at Becca.

“Please, don’t stop on my account. I comprehend so little, but hearing you speak of business never bores me.” Becca would have fluttered her eyelashes if she were the sort of woman who could manage it without appearing to have caught a speck of dirt in her eye.

She pasted a pleasant far-away expression on her face. Men spoke of business and politics as if she couldn’t understand a word, as if she didn’t listen and pass anything of interest back to General Washington. She took a small sip of the straw-colored dry sherry.

“Are you paying your investors in silver or paper these days?” Barnes asked.

Becca admired his playacting. Daniel and their host had rehearsed their lines. They asked the same questions at each party.

Taylor glared. “Sterling, of course. What are you accusing me of?”

Becca slowly lowered her glass. Taylor was the first to interpret the query as an accusation. An accusation of what? Having less silver than a man of his stature should? Or of passing along fake dollar notes?

Barnes nodded to Taylor. “No offense intended. I started seeing badly printed dollar notes again this spring. Merely asking whether you’re being cautious about paper dollars these days, given the situation.”

Taylor nodded curtly.

By now, five men had formed a tight ring as if warming themselves round a campfire. Becca stood just outside their circle.

Another of the merchants stepped up. “I thought I was the only one who noticed the forgeries.”

Daniel feigned surprise. “Has that been a problem here?”

“The British—damn them. They’re printing false money and spreading it as fast as they can,” one of the men said.

“There are worse problems, surely,” Daniel said.

“Ah, a young man who believes war is only about battles,” another guest drawled with feigned pity.

The others chuckled.

“If not winning battles, then what?” Daniel smiled, but the skin around his eyes tightened. He’s offended by the condescending tone, Becca thought.

“The counterfeits will set this country ablaze.” Barnes sputtered. “There have been food riots already. The poor are starving, and they can’t afford bread. How soon until people seek another king, another tyrant who swears that only he can save them?”

“When no one can tell whether money is real, the price of bread goes up, and everyone—everyone—turns against the government,” another man added. He looked to the group for support.

Becca studied them, shaken. She had thought of this trip as a lark, a way to spend more time with Daniel while unraveling a simple puzzle for General Washington.

Daniel bowed to Mr. Barnes. “It does sound terrible. My apologies.” He turned to Taylor. “And what do you think of all this, sir?”

Taylor shrugged. “Mr. Barnes is right. The economy is undone. I’d look to the traitors’ wives first. I wouldn’t put counterfeiting past them.”

“Who are the traitors’ wives?” Becca asked, catching Taylor’s attempt at redirection.

The men turned to her in surprise.

Oh bullocks. “Traitors? I don’t see any traitors at this party. Mr. Barnes wouldn’t allow it.” There. That sounded more like the simple, oblivious young woman they expected her to be.

Taylor and the others chuckled indulgently. “Nothing for you to worry about, Mrs. Alloway. Our apologies.”

“Do you know something specifically about these women, or are you trading in rumors?” Daniel’s voice was soft, but the challenge was clear. Neither he nor Becca cared for baseless rumors, not after gossip had almost ruined her life last winter.

“My husband’s passions sometimes lead him astray.” Charlotte Taylor had returned. “There are times that he causes harm when it is least intended.”

The husband and wife stared at each other from across the small circle of guests. He looked away first.

***

Excerpt from The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker. Copyright 2022 by Mally Becker. Reproduced with permission from Mally Becker. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Mally Becker

Mally Becker combines her love of history and crime fiction in mysteries that feature strong, independent heroines. She is the Agatha Award-nominated author of The Turncoat’s Widow, which Kirkus Reviews called, “A compelling tale… with charming main characters.” Her first novel was also named a Silver Falchion finalist and a CIBA “Mystery & Mayhem” finalist.

A member of the board of MWA-NY, Mally was an attorney until becoming a full-time writer and an instructor at The Writers Circle Workshops. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society. Mally and her husband live in New Jersey, where they raised their wonderful son and spend as much time as they can hiking and kayaking.

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

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#BookTour “Death at the Manor” by Katharine Schellman

Death at the Manor by Katharine Schellman BannerAugust 8 – September 2nd, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

 

The tortured spirits of the dead haunt a Regency-era English manor—but the true danger lies in the land of the living in the third installment in the Lily Adler mysteries, perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn.

Regency widow Lily Adler is looking forward to spending the autumn away from the social whirl of London. When she arrives in Hampshire with her friends, the Carroways, she doesn’t expect much more than a quiet country visit and the chance to spend time with her charming new acquaintance, Matthew Spencer.

But something odd is afoot in the small country village. A ghost has taken up residence in the Belleford manor, a lady in grey who wanders the halls at night, weeping and wailing. Half the servants have left in terror, but the family seems delighted with the notoriety that their ghost provides. Intrigued by this spectral guest, Lily and her party immediately make plans to visit Belleford.

They arrive at the manor the next morning ready to be entertained—only to find that tragedy has struck. The matriarch of the family has just been found killed in her bed.

The dead woman’s family is convinced that the ghost is responsible. Lily is determined to learn the truth before another victim turns up—but could she be next in line for the Great Beyond?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery

Published by: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: August 9th 2022

Number of Pages: 352

ISBN: 1639100784 (ISBN13: 9781639100781)

Series: Lily Adler Mystery #3

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

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Read an excerpt:

As they walked, Mr. Wright fell in step next to Ofelia. “Have you ever seen a ghost before, Lady Carroway?”

“I have not,” she replied, as polite as ever in spite of the hint of skepticism in her voice. “Pray, what does it look like?”

“Like a lady in white and gray,” he said, and Lily was surprised to see how serious his expression was. His frivolous, unctuous manner had dropped away, and he shivered a little as he gestured toward the windows. “No one has seen her face. The first time I saw her she was standing right there, bathed in moonlight, when I was returning from a late night in the village. And my sister saw her in the early morning only two days ago. Some nights, we have heard her wails echoing through the halls, even when she is nowhere to be seen.”

Lily exchanged a look with her aunt, who seemed surprised by the detail in Thomas Wright’s story and the quaver in his voice. Either he believed wholeheartedly in his ghost, or he was putting on a very convincing performance for his audience.

“And what does she do?” Ofelia asked, sounding a little more somber now, as they drew

to a halt in front of the windows. The small party looked around the corner of the hall. It was unremarkable enough, with several large paintings, and a tall, handsome curio cabinet standing in an alcove. An old-fashioned tapestry hung across one wall, though it was worn and faded enough that it was hard to tell exactly what picture it had originally presented.

“Nothing, so far,” Mr. Wright said, a sort of forced theatricality in his voice that left Lily puzzled.

She had expected, based on what Mr. Spencer had said the night before, to find an eager showman in Thomas Wright, ready to bask in the attention of curious neighbors, not a true believer in the supernatural. Glancing at Mr. Spencer out of the corner of her eye, she thought he looked equally puzzled.

“She stands and weeps, or floats around the hall and wails. Usually, if someone tries to draw close, she vanishes. But last month—” Mr. Wright’s voice dropped a little. He still glanced

uneasily toward the other end of the hall, as if momentarily distracted or looking for someone, before quickly returning his attention to his audience. “Last month she became angry when one of our housemaids came upon her unexpectedly. The lady in gray pursued her down the hall, wailing. Poor Etta was so scared that she fell down the stairs in her haste to get away. That

was when our servants started leaving.”

“I trust the housemaid has recovered?” Mr. Spencer asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“She has,” Mr. Wright replied. “But no one has tried to approach the lady in gray again. We think she wishes to be left alone.”

“Well,” Lily said, attempting a return to lightness, “as far as ghosts go, that sounds reasonable enough. I confess I feel that way often enough myself, especially after too many busy nights in a row.”

Ofelia, who had been looking a little wide-eyed, giggled, and Mr. Spencer quickly covered a cough that might have been a chuckle.

Mr. Wright scowled, his expression halfway between unease and displeasure. “I take it you are not a woman who believes in ghosts, Mrs. Adler?”

“I have never had the opportunity to find out whether or not I am,” Lily replied. “The homes I have lived in have all been stubbornly unhaunted.”

“For your sake, madam, I hope they remain that way,” Mr. Wright said. There was an unexpected note of resignation in his voice as he added, “It is not a comfortable thing to live with.”

“I would have thought you to be fond of yours, sir,” Lily said. “If you dislike her so, why go to the trouble of showing visitors around and telling them the story?”

Mr. Wright smiled, some of the showman creeping back into his manner. “Because you are here, dear ladies. And how could I resist such a beautiful audience?”

“Tell me, has your family any idea who this lady in gray might be?” Lily’s aunt asked politely.

He nodded, his voice dropping even further, and they all reflexively drew closer to hear what he was saying. “We each have our own theory, of course,” he said. “I believe it is my father’s great-aunt, Tabitha, whose bedroom was just this way. If you would care to see the spot?” He held out his arm to Ofelia, who took it. Mr. Wright, engrossed in his story once more, turned to lead them down the closest passage. “Tabitha died there some fifty years ago, of a broken heart, they say, after news arrived of the death of her betrothed in the colonies—”

His story was suddenly cut off by screaming. Not a single shriek of surprise or dismay, but a cry that seemed to go on without ceasing. Thomas Wright froze, the genial smile dropping from his face in shock. “Selina?” he called.

The screaming continued, growing more hysterical. Dropping Ofelia’s arm, he ran toward the sound, which was coming from the far hallway, past the stairs. The others, stunned into stillness, stared at each other, unsure what to do.

“I think it’s Miss Wright,” Mr. Spencer said, all traces of merriment gone from his face. “Wait here—I shall see if they need any assistance.” He made to go after, but Thomas Wright was already returning, rushing down the hall next to another man, who was carrying the screaming woman.

“The parlor, just next to you, Spencer!” Mr. Wright called. “Open the door!”

Mr. Spencer, the closest to the door, flung it open, and the hysterical woman was carried in. She was laid on a chaise longue in the middle of the dim little room, Mr. Spencer stepping forward to help settle her as the man who had carried her stepped back. Lily, glancing

around as she and the other ladies crowded through the door, thought it looked like a space reserved for the family’s private use, which made sense on an upper floor. Thomas Wright knelt next to the hysterical woman for a moment, clasping her hands.

“Selina?” he said loudly. But she kept screaming, her eyes wide and darting about the room without seeing anything. Judging by the round cheeks and dark hair they both shared, Lily thought she must be his sister. Whether they had other features in common was hard to tell when Selina Wright was in the middle of hysterics.

“Miss Wright?” Matthew Spencer tried giving her shoulders a shake. “You must stop this at once!”

But she clearly could not hear either of them. Thomas Wright took a deep breath and looked grim as, with a surprising degree of practicality, he slapped her across the face.

The screams stopped abruptly, her blank expression resolving into one of terror before her eyes latched on her brother. Her face crumpled in misery. “Oh, Thomas!” she sobbed, gasping for breath.

He gave her shoulders a little shake. “Selina, stop this—you must tell me what happened.” But she only shook her head, clutching at his coat with desperate fists and dropping her head against his shoulder, her weeping shaking them both. Mr. Wright turned to the servant who had carried his sister. “Isaiah, what happened to her?”

Isaiah was a young Black man with very short, curly hair and broad shoulders. His plain, dark clothing marked him clearly as a servant, though it was nothing so formal as the livery that

would have been worn in a great house. His wide stance spoke of confidence, and the easy way that Thomas Wright addressed him indicated long service and familiarity.

But there was no confidence on the manservant’s face as he hesitated, gulping visibly and shaking his head. His eyes were wide, and he stumbled over his words as he tried to answer, either unsure how to respond or not wanting to. “It’s . . . it’s Mrs. Wright, sir. She didn’t open her door when we knocked, and Miss Wright . . . she asked me to open it, since no one has the key . . . and she was there, sir—Mrs. Wright. She was there but she wasn’t moving. There was nothing we could do, but there was no one else there what could have done it. She’s dead, sir,” he finished in a rush. “Mrs. Wright is dead. She was killed in the night.”

Beside her, Lily heard Ofelia gasp, though she didn’t turn to look at her friend. Mr. Spencer looked up, his dark eyes wide as he met Lily’s from across the room. She stared back at him, frozen in shock, unable to believe what she had just heard.

“Killed?” Thomas Wright demanded, his voice rising with his own disbelief and his arms tightening around his sister.

“It killed her, Thomas,” Selina Wright said, raising her head at last. Now that her hysterics had faded, her cheeks had gone ashen with fear. “There was no one else who could have entered that room. The lady in gray killed our mother.”

***

Excerpt from Death at the Manor by Katharine Schellman. Copyright 2022 by Katharine Schellman. Reproduced with permission from Katharine Schellman. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and now the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries and the Nightingale Mysteries. Her debut novel, The Body in the Garden, was one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of 2020 and led to her being named one of BookPage’s 16 Women to Watch in 2020. Her second novel, Silence in the Library, was praised as “worthy of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout.” (Library Journal, starred review) Katharine lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her husband, children, and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Catch Up With Katharine Schellman:
KatharineSchellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @katharineschellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

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Tour Participants:

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GIVEAWAY!

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

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#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
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Facebook – @writerkuhns

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#BookTour “Cry of the Innocent” by Julie Bates

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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

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

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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

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#BookBlitz “Atlantic Rue” by Jack Adderley

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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.

~~~

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About the Author


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

 

 

 

Purchase Link

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RABT Book Tours & PR

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#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.

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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.

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

 

Historical Mystery

Date Published: 03-01-2022

Publisher: New Arc Books / Level Best Books

 

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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#BookSale “Enemies of Doves” by Shanessa Gluhm

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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

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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!

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