#BookTour “All the Broken Girls” by Linda Hurtado Bond

August 22 – September 16, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

 

When one falls

Crime reporter Mari Alvarez was never able to solve her mother’s murder ten years ago. But when a woman is gunned down on the doorstep of her West Tampa neighborhood, Mari can’t shake the eerie sense of connection.

The others will break

Now there have been two murders in two days. Each crime scene awash with arcane clues―and without a trace of DNA from the killer. And for each victim, a doll. The first is missing an eye. The second is missing a heart. But are these clues leading to the killer…or messages for Mari?

Unless she plays the game…

Caught up in a maelstrom of Old-World superstition, secrets, and ties to her own past, Mari has only one option. Put the puzzle together before someone else dies―even if it destroys her career. But there’s no escaping the hungry spider’s web when it’s been made just for you…

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller

Published by: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Publication Date: August 23rd 2022

Number of Pages: 368

ISBN: 1649372140 (ISBN13: 9781649372147)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

I’m running fifteen minutes late after driving my Abuela Bonita to her doctor’s appointment. But that’s not bad, actually, for Cuban time. Of course my statement high heels click on the uncarpeted floor like my abuela’s disapproving tongue and all I can think of is that silly commercial with the tagline “Wanna get away?” Except I can’t escape. It’s my first day back at the TV station after two weeks at home with no work and no pay. I’m still on probation, and I need this job like I need water and air.

Speaking of which, the thought makes me notice how parched my throat is and I’m afraid my voice will crack when I talk. My lungs are so empty I’m not sure I can deliver any story pitches, even if my job depends on it.

Which, it does.

Reporting is in my blood.

But my paycheck—also a necessity.

I rub my right wrist. The red rope bracelet is there. The pea-sized, black gemstone dangles from it. I roll the azabache charm between my fingers, silently going through my routine: twist the stone three times to the right, three to the left. Six times in all. My lucky number. I swear I’ll never go to a crime scene again without the charm. I’ve learned my lesson. Asi es. Truth. That’s how it is.

I pull out the chair across from Mr. Payton and accidentally scrape the floor. It’s loud. Que escandalo!

More stares cut my way. The air conditioning kicks up a notch, but that means nothing to the sweat rolling down my back, sliding into the most inconvenient places. I ignore the wet tickle and stand even taller before taking a seat.

My boss drills me with that intense stare that says everything he’s not allowed to vocalize for fear Human Resources will reprimand him. “Thanks for joining us, Ms. Alvarez.”

“Had to drop off my grandmother at her doctor’s office. She doesn’t drive.” I sit and twist the water bottle on the table until the label faces me. I look at El Jefe and force the corners of my mouth up. Abuela Bonita always told me, no matter what’s going on inside, you can win over the world with a warm smile.

“Let’s continue.” Mr. Payton looks at Paul Johnson, our political reporter.

Paul clears his throat. “As I was saying, the governor is going to hold a press conference on the opioid crisis at a local…”

I cross my ankles to keep my leg from bouncing. It’s clear my boss doesn’t trust me anymore. Not since my serial killer story got the station sued.

I catch the ambitious, crime reporter wannabe eyeing me from the right corner of the room. Bet she’s dying to know what happened to warrant my suspension. She probably already knows. Secrets don’t stay secrets for long in a newsroom.

What the hell had gone wrong?

Abuela Bonita calls it mala suerte. She insisted I wear the azabache bracelet today to ward off the bad
luck following me. I find the charm again and twist.

I will fix this. Don’t know how. But I will repair my damaged reputation.

“Alvarez?”

I flinch in my seat.

“You have anything to add to the meeting?” El Jefe taps his engraved pen on the table in a slow, rhythmic pattern.

“Well, Mr. Payton.” He likes it when we use his last name. “I thought I’d do a feature on a young girl in New Tampa Hospital who needs a kidney transplant.”

“That from the crime beat reporter?” I hear the words he isn’t speaking.

“I know.” I answer in my head. “Eleven Emmys, and I still messed up that last crime story, didn’t I?” Out loud I say, “She’s an artist—truly amazing gift— and she’s willing to auction off her paintings to raise money so people can get tested to see if they’re a match. We could save her life by sharing her story.”

My boss nods but says, “Busch Gardens is showing off a new baby sloth this evening.”

My cheeks burn. I sit back. The heat floods down into my chest. “A baby sloth?” I’m pretty sure this is what a public castration feels like.

“We have enough crime, corruption, death, and destruction today. We need something positive after Weather. Sloth baby it is. Can’t go wrong with baby animals,” he says.

Can’t get the station sued again, you mean.

“You’re on that, Alvarez.”

“Gracias.” I close my eyes and visualize a sloth picking at El Jefe’s bushy, needs-to-be-cut eyebrows
with those two big claw-like toes. In slow motion, of course. “If our viewers see what I’m envisioning, they’re going to love it.” I smile. Warmly.

Whatever. It will keep me employed for at least one more day. My sister Izzy and Abuela are counting on me.

My phone goes off. I look down, fumbling it as I try to flip off the ringer. “Sorry. Sorry.” It’s not someone calling. It’s my home RING security camera alerting me. My pulse takes off like an F-16. Someone is at our front door. My heart stalls. And falls.

“An important source?” El Jefe asks.

A scoff from the right corner of the room. “Baby sloth police calling?” Crime reporter wannabe gets the room laughing.

Wannabe must have missed her café con leche this morning. I join the laughter and wink at her, despite the slow scalding heat I’m feeling. Abuela Bonita also taught me you get more with honey than vinegar. “No. No. Sorry.” Just my sister’s boyfriend of the week, who is not supposed to be at our house. I shake my head.

“Alvarez?”

My spine straightens. “Yes?”

“You can take the new photographer, Chris Jensen.”

That pulls me back to the moment. “But I always work with Orlando.” A big eyeball fills the RING camera at the front door, but it isn’t Izzy’s new boyfriend. His eyes are as blue as the Florida sky. Isabella’s are dark brown, so dark you can’t tell where the pupil ends, and the iris begins. Izzy pulls back and yells at the RING camera, “Stop spying on me! De conseguir una vida!

My younger sister is telling me to get a life of my own.

Snickers flicker across the room.

Every hair on the back of my neck rises. The audio on my iPhone is still on. Wanna get away?

I glance at my friend Kiara. She smiles and shakes her head. I appreciate her support. Time to turn the sound off my iPhone.

“Everything okay?” El Jefe’s features remain constant. He doesn’t chastise me for my sister’s outburst, even though she interrupted his busy news meeting.

“Yes sir, I’m fine.” Wait till I get home, Isabella Alvarez! “I’m fine.”

He nods, but his eyes narrow.

I sit through one of his nerve-wracking, wish-I-knew-what-he’s thinking pauses.

He says, “You can take Orlando.”

I exhale.

El Jefe is throwing me a peace offering, I think. Or maybe he believes I can’t even handle an animal story with the newbie photog, so giving me Orlando is like tossing out a safety vest.

Wow.

Two weeks ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the insult of such an easy, nonrelevant assignment. I would have been deeply offended by the shade of making sure I had a veteran babysitter with me.

Tonight, I’m grateful for it.

Even though I know I can’t possibly screw up a baby sloth story, right?

***

Excerpt from All the Broken Girls by Linda Bond. Copyright 2022 by Linda Bond. Reproduced with permission from Entangled Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Linda Bond

By day, Linda Hurtado Bond is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. By night, she’s an author of James Bond like adventures and heart-stopping thrillers. Linda met her husband Jorge on assignment in Cuba, twenty-some years later they’ve raised a doctor, a nurse, a pilot, a paramedic firefighter, and an aspiring psychologist. A breast cancer survivor, she’s active in the Tampa community raising money and awareness. When not working she finds time for her passions, her husband Jorge, world travel, classic movies, and solving a good mystery. Visit Linda at lindabond.com.

Catch Up With Linda Bond:
www.LindaBond.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @lindahbond
Instagram – @authorlindahurtadobond
Twitter – @AuthorLindaBond
Facebook – @authorlindabond

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Tour Participants:

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

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GIVEAWAY!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Linda Bond and Entangled Publishing, LLC. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

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#BookTour “The Damned Lovely” by Adam Frost

August 29 – September 23, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

 

“She wasn’t pretty but she was ours…”

Sandwiched between seedy businesses in the scorching east LA suburb of Glendale, The Damned Lovely dive bar is as scarred as its regulars: ex-cops, misfits and loners. And for Sam Goss, it’s a refuge from the promising life he’s walked away from, a place to write and a hole to hide in.

But when a beautiful and mysterious new patron to the bar turns up murdered, Sam can’t stop himself from getting involved. Despite their fleeting interaction, or perhaps because of it, something about her ghost won’t let go…

Armed with the playbook from the burned-out ex-cops, Sam challenges the police’s theory on the killing, butting heads with hardened detectives and asking questions nobody wants to answer. As his obsession takes hold so does his sense of purpose—as if uncovering the truth about the killer might heal some part of his own broken life. But the chase sets him on a collision course with a crooked charity, violent fundamentalists, corrupt cops, brazen embezzlers and someone dangerously close to home—all who want to make sure the truth never comes out.

Praise for The Damned Lovely:

The Damned Lovely is the LA crime story born anew, an addictive mystery and a love letter to the careworn and forgotten places of Los Angeles—Los Angeles as it is right now. Adam Frost is a crime writer with a sharp new voice, telling a tale about the one thing everyone in Los Angeles has: desire. Desire for truth, for justice, for love, or maybe just a place to call home. Highly recommended.”

Jordan Harper, Edgar Award-winning author of She Rides Shotgun

“Frost’s crackling debut novel belongs on the shelf right next to Joseph Wambaugh and Michael Connelly. Crisp prose. An intricate plot worthy of Raymond Chandler, packed with scruffy, lovable, and lived-in characters that leap off the page. Frost brings a fresh voice and much-needed new blood to LA crime fiction.”

Will Beall, author of L.A. Rex and creator of CBS’s Training Day

“An unputdownable and suspenseful whodunnit: anchored in the quandary of manifesting destiny in grief and lost opportunity.”

Blake Howard, producer and host of the One Heat Minute podcast and Film Critic

“Every bourbon-soaked sentence in this endlessly entertaining first novel proves Joseph Wambaugh dipped Adam Frost by his ankle into the L.A. river. Roll over Michael Connelly, tell Raymond Chandler the news.”

Adam Novak, author of Rat Park and Take Fountain

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Crime

Published by: Down & Out Books

Publication Date:

Number of Pages:

ISBN: 1643962531 (ISBN-13: 978-1643962535)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | The Down & Out Bookstore

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Read an excerpt:

I took a sip and checked my phone. Waiting for the screen to siiiing. Praying. Hoping.

She held her ground and I lost the fight.

The empty telephone. Reminding me, I had no excuses. To be in a better place. To be successful.

I was an American.

I was white.

I grew up safe and surrounded by love.

There was money for birthday parties and proper schools.

I had a college degree in communications.

I’d traveled to Southeast Asia. Seen Europe. Touched down in South Africa. I had a sweet girl who liked to cook and wanted a ring. We had an apartment in West Hollywood with good light.

I’d found a marketing gig early and wrote ad copy for seven years. Logos. Corporate promos. Internet ribbons. Microcopy drawl. Quippy garbage that paid the rent and then some.

I was on the right track.

Until I broke. Crashed the cart and pulled the plug on my world of California lies.

Staring into those smiling faces across a Doheny dinner table one night.

The masquerade of happiness.

The Instagram sham.

There was no substance. No truth. No intent for anything more than gain.

I had sealed the truth for years. Locked and bottled that depression south, convinced I could kick it. Convinced the gnaw would pass.

Things are great, I kept saying. Things are great.

But something about those faces on that very Doheny night popped the cork and shattered the glass. I called it out. I let it rip ugly. These weren’t my friends. They were assets. Nothing more.

This wasn’t love. This was compliance on rails.

I needed something pure. Something with purpose and mine all mine. That I truly adored.

So I quit the girl who liked to cook. Lost the apartment with the light and moved to Glendale. Where it was cheaper. Where there was no good light.

And worst of all. I was compelled by a force inside my bones to write something real. Something long and from the heart. Something maybe even wise.

This, more and more it seemed, may have been a grave mistake.

It was in no way working out.

Still, I refused to believe in misery. An honest rut is all. It’ll turn around soon. It has to. Because when you’re going through hell in Glendale, keep going. Right?

So. Soldier on. Live with intent and drown those voices out.

Drown. Them. Out. Soldier!

Swish. Swish.

A red Trojan alpha bro was swipin’ right at the bar. Americana run off sipping a sea breezer with a skinny lime. Slice and I shared a healthy glare of disdain when Jewels crossed behind me and nodded to stool 9.

“She’s baaaack,” Jewels cooed.

And there she was. Hiding her green eyes under a black felt fedora and a worn-out paperback of To the Lighthouse. She had dark brown hair pinned low at the back. Wore a simple tight white V-neck tee exposing that soft skin around her collarbones. She sat straight. With her legs crossed in black jeans that pinched in at her waist and exposing a band of flawless smooth lower back. She kept her face down. Never spoke to a soul beyond ordering a drink. And never looked at her phone. Not once. Not once had I seen her look at her phone. Instead, she just buried her eyes in that book. Drowning out the world with a Negroni and Woolf’s words like some kinda mystery from a different era. She’d been in four times now by my count. And it was consistent. Early in the afternoon. Same drink. Same book. Alone. Like an oasis in this godforsaken Glendale desert.

***

Excerpt from The Damned Lovely by Adam Frost. Copyright 2022 by Adam Frost. Reproduced with permission from Adam Frost. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

 

ADAM FROST was born and raised in Vancouver. He began as an actor, and now works as a television writer and producer, best known for the crime shows Tribal and Castle. He lives on the east side of Los Angeles. He’s also one helluva T-ball coach.

Catch Up With Adam Frost:
www.AdamFrostWrites.com
Instagram – @thedamnedlovely
Twitter – @Afrostbite23
Facebook – @adam.frost.9655

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Tour Participants:

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

~~~~

GIVEAWAY!

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

~~~~

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

~~~~

#BookTour “In Danger of Judgment” by David Rabin

In Danger of Judgment by David Rabin BannerAugust 8 – September 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

 

When a covert operation during the Vietnam War ends in tragedy, one of its members resolves to kill the man who betrayed it to the enemy. Now, fifteen years later, he’ll finally get his chance.

Chicago, 1987. Home of mediocre baseball teams, gangs that rule the streets, and a Mexican drug cartel that supplies the city with heroin. Chicago Police Detective Marcelle DeSantis and her partner, Bernie Bernardelli, are working a series of heroin-related murders, and their job just got more complicated. The man who sabotaged the Vietnam operation, Robert Thornton, is now the chief enforcer for a Southeast Asian heroin cartel, and after fifteen years overseas he’s arrived in Chicago to eliminate the reigning cartel and seize control of the city’s heroin trade.

Racing to stop a drug war, Marcelle and Bernie don’t realize they’re about to be caught in a deadly crossfire: another man is circling in the wings, one of Thornton’s soldiers from Vietnam, who’s preparing to exact his long-sought revenge against his former mentor. He’s the last person anyone would ever suspect, and when he finally makes his move, the paths of these four people will explosively converge.

Praise for In Danger of Judgment:

In Danger of Judgment does a masterful job of juggling multiple, full-blooded characters through high-octane storytelling as they make their way to a shocking, violent ending. David Rabin is a name that is sure to become familiar among lovers of best-selling, full-throttle thrillers”

––David Shawn Klein, award-winning author of The Money

“Mr. Rabin brings a fresh set of characters to the tried-and-true crime drama, and his breezy narrative style and crackling dialogue kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime.”

––Ronald Aiken, author of Death Has Its Benefits and former president of The Atlanta Writers

“Kudos to Mr. Rabin on the high quality of the prose, the thrilling plot with a twist and surprise ending, and the extensive research that went into this novel. I highly recommend it.”

––Jill Caugherty, author of Waltz in Swing Time

“Well-developed characters drive Rabin’s taut thriller. . . . the story builds to a lengthy, sensational final act, brimming with well-earned suspense”

––Kirkus Reviews

“A stunning debut, David Rabin’s In Danger of Judgment is an engrossing page-turner. Shocking twists barrel full-speed into an action-packed and tense crime thriller readers won’t see coming…. Builds an intricately-plotted crime thriller that’s cinematic and wildly compelling. The author’s prose is concise and ‘unputdownable,’ skilled at giving a tangible sense of the time period these characters inhabit.”

––IndieReader

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller

Published by: Black Rose Writing

Publication Date: August 4th 2022

Number of Pages: 369

ISBN: 1685130593 (ISBN13: 9781685130596)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Black Rose Writing

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Don’t Miss this Video Trailer

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Read an excerpt:

Prologue

1968 – 1972
South Vietnam

The eight men filing into the Tactical Operations Center had six days’ beard growth, they reeked of sweat and jungle, and their clothes were smeared with soil and grime and still-wet enemy blood.

Major Henry Sampson waited for them at a table at the rear of the TOC, as far away as they could get from the beeping, static, and chatter of the radios. The men settled themselves around the table and didn’t wait for Sampson to ask a question. They’d just completed their fourth mission, and by now they knew the debriefing procedure.

“Eleven,” said the first man.

In due course, Sampson would steer them to other aspects of the mission, but they always started with what was most important: the number of enemy killed in action.

Sampson had had a rude awakening a few years earlier, during his first tour in South Vietnam. He was a West Point man, a professional soldier to the core, but Vietnam was a war unlike any he’d prepared for. In every war America had ever fought, the objective was to capture and hold territory, but in Vietnam, that was never the goal. The only metric that mattered was the body count.

“Tell me about the first one,” Sampson said.

“Sentry in the southwest sector. Older than usual, thirties, maybe, leaning against a tree with a Chicom AK slung over his shoulder. He wasn’t even scanning, just gazing into the distance, probably thinking about his old lady back in Hanoi. I snake-crawled from the rear, put my hand over his mouth, and pulled back. Three stabs and a slash through the neck. No sound.”

The man described the rest of his kills and then they went around the table. By the time they finished, the count reached 102. It was a good night’s work.

Sometimes the body count was so high that Sampson wondered whether they were exaggerating, but he questioned them carefully and they convinced him the count was true. When the two guys from the Department of Defense had given him the assignment, he didn’t dream the men would kill so many.

* * *

The DOD men had arrived by helicopter on a soggy December morning in 1968, late in the rainy season at Phu Bai, South Vietnam, where Sampson was stationed with the 101st Airborne Division. They weren’t in uniform, but from the way they exited the Huey—quickly and gracefully—Sampson could tell they’d spent some time in the bush.

There was no fanfare on their arrival. That was by design. Sampson had been told the men would meet with him and then leave, and the fewer the people that knew about the meeting, the better.

The DOD men introduced themselves as Robinson and Reese, and it occurred to Sampson that whoever gave them their code names must have been a Dodgers fan. They wore identical navy-blue suits, white shirts, muted ties, and blank expressions. Robinson was black and Reese was white, but otherwise they could have been twins.

Sampson took them to his hooch, a rudimentary structure of plywood elevated a foot off the ground and divided into four living quarters. Inside, the décor was olive drab, drab being the operative word. Sampson’s corner had a cot, a small desk, makeshift shelves, a locker, and a table fan.

He pulled over a couple of folding chairs for the two men to sit on. Sampson wished he had a conference room befitting their importance, but the hooch was the only venue at the base where they could be assured of privacy. He’d made sure that the other three officers who lived there would be absent for the meeting’s duration.

Reese got it started as Robinson shook a Marlboro out of a hard pack and lit it with a Zippo. “We’re going to tell you some stuff you may already know, but bear with us. We’ll get to the good part shortly.”

Sampson sat up straight and did his best to look attentive. “I’m at your disposal, sir.”

“When you got here,” Reese said, “you were fighting the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army. The VC are still around, but we hit them so hard during Tet that they’re no longer a major threat to the South. That’s why you’re now focused on the NVA.”

Robinson took the baton. “The NVA’s constantly moving men and supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, infiltrating into the South, probing for weaknesses. Occasionally, they attack us and the South Vietnamese, and then they hightail it back to the North. Now, we both know that in a war you’re supposed to pursue the enemy, take the fight to them instead of the other way around. That’s how it’s always been done, but this is Vietnam, where nothing gets done the way it’s supposed to.”

“We’re not allowed to send ground troops into the North,” Sampson said.

Reese nodded. “That’s right, and it’s not because our civilian leadership is spineless, contrary to what you guys in-country may believe. North Vietnam has a great, big patron on its northern border called Communist China. In ’64, the Chinese told us that if we sent boots north of the 17th parallel, they’d intervene on behalf of their North Vietnamese comrades. Meaning, they’d send a few million Red Chinese soldiers down south, just like they did in Korea when we drove too far north, and we all know how that turned out for us.”

“Not real well.”

“Yeah. Not real well. We want to help the South Vietnamese, but we don’t want to start World War Three. Frustrating for us, frustrating for you.”

“I don’t make policy, sir. My duty is to follow orders and execute the mission.”

“I’m glad you mentioned that,” Robinson said, “because we came here to give you a mission.”

“Sir?”

Robinson stubbed out his cigarette and leaned forward. “You are very quietly going to insert ground troops into North Vietnam.”

They proceeded to tell him about the operation they wanted him to supervise: how the men would be selected, how they’d be trained, and the nature of the missions. They spoke for nearly an hour. Sampson listened intently, saying nothing. When they finished, they asked if he had any questions.

He did indeed have a question, though he hesitated to ask it, fearing they might think him insolent. But it was such an obvious issue, he just had to ask. “Why go to all this effort? All this planning, the massive selection process, the special training? Why don’t you use the men you already have?”

The DOD men looked at each other without a trace of reaction, communicated telepathically, and turned back to Sampson. “That’s above your pay grade,” Reese said, “but if you’re not comfortable with this op, we can find someone else.”

Now Sampson wished he hadn’t asked, but he recovered quickly. “I can do it,” he said.

“There’s one more thing. The body count is important—the higher the better, of course—and it needs to be accurate. You’ll have to drill it into the men to keep an accurate count. Can you do that, Major?”

“I can do it.”

Sampson thought the whole thing was a crock, just another foolhardy operation in a senseless war. But they got through the selection process and trained the men, and when they were finally let loose on their missions, they surpassed everyone’s expectations. The body counts were staggering.

* * *

It was now late 1972, and Team One was nearing the end of its sixth mission. The Huey had inserted them six nights ago. They’d spent three nights approaching the target camp, followed by three nights of recon. Seven of them would attack the camp, and the eighth would remain just outside the camp’s perimeter to cover them as they withdrew.

They wore no insignia and bore no identification, all to give the government plausible deniability if things went south. For the same reason, they never called each other by name during their missions. They were Ares Numbers One through Eight, a bit of theater they deemed absurd but acquiesced to nonetheless.

They killed time with the usual idle chatter: their favorite bands, best road trips, girlfriends good and bad. In their three years together, they’d told the same stories so many times that the telling was no longer the point. It was how they reinforced the bonds among them.

“Okay, guys,” Ares One said, “fifteen minutes till go time.”

They synched their watches, and as they went through one last gear check, Four addressed the elephant in the room. “The war’s almost over, so this is probably our last mission.”

Silence. No one wanted to talk about it.

“You know I’m right,” Four continued. “The Paris peace talks are barreling down the tracks. Kissinger went on TV and said peace is at hand.” He absent-mindedly checked his M16 again. “When we started out, I thought you guys were a bunch of losers, and now I don’t want it to end.”

“Jesus, you’re a downer,” Five said. “Look, when we get back, we’ll do it up right. Get us a case of that black-market champagne, put on some CCR and turn it all the way up.”

“Temptations,” said Seven.

Everyone laughed. Seven loved Motown.

“Enough of this shit,” Three said. “If this is our last mission, I don’t want the perimeter again. I want some action. Lemme be on the assault team.”

Two shook his head. “If Sampson and Thornton find out you violated the orders—”

“Fuck ’em,” Three said. “What’re they gonna do, fire me?”

No one had a response to that unassailable logic, and Three turned to Six. “Let me take your place,” Three said. “Take the easy duty tonight.”

Six looked at the others. They all nodded.

Three and Six exchanged weapons and ammo, Six getting the sniper kit. They all gave each other thumbs-up, and the seven men on the assault team moved silently into their assigned sectors.

Six checked his watch. The men would breach in twenty minutes and return one hour after that. He had nothing to do now but wait.

He stared into the darkness, listening to the sounds of the jungle and imagining the men—

Gunfire.

There should not have been gunfire.

It was not the treble staccato of American M16s. It was the bass thuds of Chinese AKs.

The gunfire ended abruptly, and then all was silent.

A flood of thoughts coursed through his brain.

His friends were dead.

The enemy had known they were coming, and so the enemy knew he was here.

And now, the enemy would come for him.

* * *

Sampson sat in his hooch, drinking his fourth Scotch of the night. The operation had gone along like clockwork until that bastard Thornton went rogue, the chief instructor selling out his own men.

The higher-ups had immediately terminated the entire operation, and Sampson could just imagine the hysteria now playing out at DOD. First, there would be recriminations. Who picked Thornton? Who vetted him? How in the hell did no one foresee this? Then they’d have to invent stories to tell the families, explaining why the bodies of their sons and brothers weren’t coming home. They’d prime people to describe how heroically the men had died, so the families would buy it and not inquire further. And once the cover-up started, they’d have to cover up the cover-up. It would feed on itself and grow exponentially until the cover-up itself was more important than the events that birthed it.

As distasteful as it was, Sampson knew there was nothing else they could do. If the public ever learned the whole story, there’d be more heads rolling at DOD than bowling balls at the local alley on dollar night.

* * *

Three weeks after the operation ended, the DOD men visited Sampson again.

In the four years since he’d last seen them, Sampson’s world had changed dramatically. The war was winding down and would end soon—and for Sampson, that was a problem. The way to get ahead in the military was to serve in a war zone. He’d done multiple tours in Vietnam, but once this war ended, who knew when there would be another one? He would have to find a way to make himself invaluable.

When the DOD men arrived, they looked just the same as before, all the way down to their navy-blue suits and inscrutable faces. They assured Sampson that no one blamed him for the unfortunate way the operation had ended. They complimented him on how well he’d run it, and on the results the men had obtained. A promotion to lieutenant colonel was already in the works.

When he heard the word “promotion,” Sampson knew they were about to get to the real point of the meeting. Guys like them always dangled a prize before asking for something.

“There are two other things,” Robinson said. “DOD wants to keep the operation and its outcome confidential.”

No kidding, Sampson thought. “What else?”

“The upper echelon at DOD considers the remaining men to be somewhat unstable.”

“What you mean is, you think they’re crazy.”

“However one puts it, given their, uh, mental disposition, we consider it prudent to monitor them until the last of them has passed away.”

Sampson saw the logic of it. “Where do I fit in?”

“The perpetuation of secrecy and the observation of the men are related tasks, and we need someone to oversee both. We’d be pleased if you could do that, at least until your retirement, which we hope will be many years from now. Can you do that, Major?”

At that moment, Sampson saw his future.

These assignments were delicate. They were critical. They would last the rest of his career.

They were giving him a way to make himself invaluable.

He took his time and pretended to think about it, not wanting to look too eager, then slowly nodded.

“I can do it,” Sampson said, though it would be another fifteen years before he’d discover just how complicated it could get.

Chapter 1

Sunday, May 10, 1987
8:02 p.m.
Chicago

Marcelle leaned against the railing of an apartment building at the south end of the 3700 block of Wilton Avenue, waiting for someone, though not for anyone in particular. She’d been there for five minutes and decided to wait another two before moving on.

The street was deserted, the residents having battened down the hatches in anticipation of twilight. An empty Old Style can rolled down the street in a grating, metallic rhythm, pushed by the wind coming off Lake Michigan a mile to the east. The only sign of life was the rumbling of an L train on the tracks a half-block from where she stood. The neighborhood seemed peaceful, though she knew its tranquility could be deceiving.

She was about to give up on this spot when two men in their late teens rounded the corner at the other end of the block and began walking toward her. They wore the gray and black colors of the area’s predominant street gang, the Latin Eagles, and they walked with a slow swagger as if they owned the place, which they pretty much did. One was taller and one was shorter, and thus became, in her lexicon, Mr. Tall and Mr. Short.

The instant they saw her, they broke into big smiles and started conversing energetically. She’d gotten their attention. It didn’t surprise her, because she was accustomed to getting attention. She was about five-eight and in her late twenties, with dark brown hair that barely touched her shoulders and a face that belonged on a magazine cover. Tonight she wore a light coat that was open at the front. Marcelle always dressed for success.

The men were five steps away now.

She put her right hand in her coat pocket.

Que pasa, mami chula,” said Mr. Tall.

They walked back and forth around her from opposite sides, examining her from head to toe and leering at her, no doubt expecting she’d panic and try to extricate herself.

Except she didn’t.

Instead, she smiled at them.

It was a beautiful, radiant, magazine-cover smile, and because it was the last thing they’d expected, they froze in their tracks.

Her hand came out of her coat pocket.

It held a badge case.

“Detective Marcelle DeSantis,” she said, “and I want you to know I do appreciate the compliment.”

Mierda,” said Mr. Short.

“We don’t talk to police,” said Mr. Tall.

Her smile turned into a pout. “A minute ago, you thought I was sexy, and now you don’t even want to talk to me? My feelings are hurt.”

The men looked dumbfounded. Marcelle figured no police had ever spoken to them that way, and she took the opening. “I’m not here to hassle you guys. You’re just two fine-looking dudes strolling down the street. Fact is, I need your help.”

Now they looked intrigued. “Help with what?” asked Short.

“I want to find the guy who killed your friends. Hector, Ramon, Angel, and Luis.”

“We take care of our own business,” said Tall.

“That’s good to know. Have you found the guy yet?”

Again, they were speechless.

“I know you want to find the guy who did it,” Marcelle said. “You want revenge, and you want people to know they shouldn’t screw with the Latin Eagles. The problem is, you won’t find him on your own.”

“Why not?” asked Tall.

“Because he’s a pro and you guys aren’t exactly Sherlock Holmes. If he gets found, it’s going to be the Chicago Police Department that does it.”

Tall shrugged. “We don’t know anything.”

“Okay,” she said, “but maybe you’ll remember something or hear something.”

“What do we get if we help you?” Short asked.

Now she knew she was getting somewhere. When they asked for something, it meant they were interested.

“I’ll tell you what you’ll get. If we convict the guy, he’ll get a life sentence or death row. Either way, he’ll go to a prison. Probably Pontiac, Stateville, or Joliet, and you’ve got members in all three. I’m sure your buddies will give him a warm welcome when he arrives.”

It was the men’s turn to smile.

“I’m gonna go now,” Marcelle said, “but I want you to remember something. I didn’t give you any shit. I didn’t ask for ID or search you. I treated you like men because that’s what you are.”

They nodded their agreement.

“Here’s how I work,” she continued. “You play straight with me and I play straight with you. As long as you’re law-abiding, I’ll treat you like you live on Lake Shore Drive.” She handed each man a card. “If you learn anything that might help us, call me. I don’t know your names and you won’t have to give them.”

The men pocketed the cards. Short looked ready to leave, but Tall stood still, his face gripped in concentration, as if trying to recall something from long ago.

Now, he looked like he remembered.

He stood up straight and looked her squarely in the eyes. “It was good to meet you, Detective. Have a nice night.”

***

Excerpt from In Danger of Judgment by David Rabin. Copyright 2022 by David Rabin. Reproduced with permission from David Rabin. All rights reserved.

~~~~

Author Bio:

David Rabin

DAVID RABIN was born in Chicago and raised in its Lakeview neighborhood. He later moved to Atlanta, where he worked as a trial lawyer for thirty-three years. Now retired, he writes fiction, runs a competitive shooting program, and competes in rifle sports, including the discipline of Highpower Rifle, in which he holds two High Master classifications. He and his wife, a former clinical social worker, have two grown sons. In Danger of Judgment is his first novel.

Catch Up With David Rabin:
DavidRabinAuthor.com
Goodreads
Facebook – @DavidRabinAuthor

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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

~~~~

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.

~~~~

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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#BookTour “River of Ashes” by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor

River of Ashes by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor BannerAugust 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

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Synopsis:

 

*Apple’s Most Anticipated Books for Summer in Mysteries & Thrillers*

SOME TRUTHS ARE BETTER KEPT SECRET. SOME SECRETS ARE BETTER OFF DEAD.

Along the banks of the Bogue Falaya River, sits the abandoned St. Francis Seminary. Beneath a canopy of oaks, blocked from prying eyes, the teens of St. Benedict High gather here on Fridays. The rest of the week belongs to school and family—but weekends belong to the river. And the river belongs to Beau Devereaux. The only child of a powerful family, Beau can do no wrong. Star quarterback. Handsome. Charming. The “prince” of St. Benedict is the ultimate catch. He is also a psychopath.

A dirty family secret buried for years, Beau’s evil grows unchecked. In the shadows of the haunted abbey, he commits unspeakable acts on his victims and ensures their silence with threats and intimidation. Senior year, Beau sets his sights on his girlfriend’s headstrong twin sister, Leslie, who hates him. Everything he wants but cannot have, she will be his ultimate prize. As the victim toll mounts, it becomes clear that someone must stop Beau Devereaux. And that someone will pay with their life.

River of Ashes is a Southern Gothic, Psychological Thriller inspired by true events in the vein of V.C. Andrews with elements of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and You by Caroline Kepnes. River of Ashes addresses social issues including sexual violence and bullying.

Praise for River of Ashes:

River of Ashes offers an inside look into the mind of a psychopath—a cautionary tale that the scariest monsters are the ones you know but never suspect.”

Pearry Teo, PhD; Award-Winning Director of The Assent, Executive Producer of Cloud Atlas

“A psychological portrait akin to Lord of the Flies.”

Midwest Book Review

“If Gillian Flynn and Bret Easton Ellis had a book baby, it would be River of Ashes.”

~Booktrib

Book Details:

Genre: Southern Gothic / Psychological Thriller / Coming-of-Age

Published by: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: August 2nd 2022

Number of Pages: 284

ISBN: 1645480984 (ISBN13: 9781645480983)

Series: St. Benedict #1

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

~~~~

Read an excerpt:

Leslie turned off Main Street and headed along the single-lane road. The storefronts gave way to homes with colorful gardens and oaks draped with tendrils of Spanish moss. Then the houses grew sparse and disappeared as greenery hugged the side of the road. Leslie slowed to avoid a pothole and heard the rush of the Bogue Falaya River through the open windows.

The trees thinned, revealing the two stone spires of The Abbey. Apprehension snaked through her as she pictured Beau, her sister, and all the unsettling things she associated with the derelict church.

A wall of dense red buckeye bushes swaying in the breeze shrouded the road. Leslie drove through an opening someone carved out long ago. A cleared lot lay hidden beyond the dense hedge, surrounded by thick pines and oaks, with paths leading down a steep embankment to the river’s edge.

Leslie got out of the car, listening to the sweet refrain of birds in the trees. “No one’s here today.”

“It’s still too early. Everybody from school likes to come after dark.” Derek led her to a pine-straw-covered path and to the shore of the rushing river.

Something moved in the dense underbrush. Leslie walked ahead, trying to get a better look. “What’s that?”

She crossed several broken branches until she stumbled on something nestled in the foliage. The stench of rotting flesh hit her nose. She gagged and slowed to a stop.

“Wait, be careful.” Derek swept aside a few leafy twigs to get a better look.

Flies covered the bloated belly of a white-tailed deer. Deep grooves slashed into what remained of the deer’s neck. The poor animal’s hindquarters appeared torn away.

Leslie crept closer. “What could do such a thing?”

Derek took her hand and backed out of the brush. “I bet it was the wild dogs.”

Leslie let him lead her away from the stench. “What wild dogs?”

He stopped outside of the brush. “They’re around here. A couple of weeks ago, Mom said some hunters came in the diner and reported seeing them.”

“Where did they come from?” Leslie’s voice shook.

Derek guided her to a path curving down a long slope. The roar of the river grew louder.

“There are lots of stories. I heard they were left behind when the monks abandoned the place. Legend has it that when they appear, death is near.”

A shudder ran through her.

Derek tugged Leslie’s hand. “Come on.”

The path widened, and a beach came into view. The outcropping of white sand had a collection of green picnic tables, red barrel trash cans, and fire pits along the river’s edge. Around the beach, thick brush covered the shore with limbs from pine trees dipping into the water. The sun sparkled on the gentle waves.

Leslie followed him along the shoreline until they came to a rusted iron gate with a No Trespassing sign secured to it. The sign, decorated with crosses and swirls, marked the entrance to The Abbey grounds. Stepping through the open gate, she peered up at the imposing structure.

Two spires of white limestone, shaped like the tip of a sword, cut into the blue sky. A structure of red brick and limestone, the front windows and doors secured with loose scraps of plywood, sat in the middle of a field of high grass. The squat stone building of cloisters behind The Abbey remained intact. The Benedictine monks, who had run the seminary and were responsible for the preparation of future priests, demolished the dormitories, refectory, and library after they abandoned the site. The rest remained because, in the South, it was considered bad luck to tear down churches.

“Some place, huh?” Derek let go of her hand and ventured across the high grass.

A wave of panic shot through Leslie.

The grounds, unkempt after years of neglect, were a hodgepodge of weeds, overgrown trees, and vines.

Why would people come here at night?

“You ever wonder why those monks just up and left?” Leslie was uncomfortable with the eerie quiet. Even the birds had stopped singing. “Everyone says they got a better offer from the seminary in New Orleans, but it seems funny a bunch of people abandoned the place for no reason.”

Derek parted a thick pile of tall grass with his shoe. “My mom told me it was falling apart when she was a kid, and the Archdiocese didn’t have the money to fix it. So, they packed up the school and sent the monks and all the staff to New Orleans.”

“I read once that the structure dates back to the early 1800s, when the Devereaux family built it as a private church.” Leslie eyed the empty belfry atop one of the square-shaped towers. “You’d think they’d want to save it.”

Derek nudged her with his elbow. “Maybe the ghost drove them away.”

Beau’s tale had been in the back of her mind the whole time, but Derek’s comment spooked the crap out of her. “By ghost, do you mean the lady in white?”

“Yep.” He scanned the land around them. “They say she appears when the moon is full or during storms.”

The thought of being alone in such a disturbing place terrified her. “Have you ever seen the ghost?”

Derek searched the thick foliage ahead of them. “Nah. I’ve never seen anything.”

Granite steps appeared as they drew near the entrance.

Leslie kicked herself for letting him talk her into coming to this place. “What about the wild dogs? Have you seen them around The Abbey?”

“Not to worry, love, I’ll protect you from ghosts, wild dogs, and Beau Devereaux.” He climbed the steps, encouraging her to join him. “But I have to draw the line at your mother. There’s no way I’m taking her on in a fight.”

On the porch, beneath the cracked and chipped stone arch above the doors, she waited while Derek wrestled with the plywood covering the entrance. Despite the creep factor, the lush green trees surrounding them had a soothing effect. Leslie breathed in the fresh pine scent and mossy aroma of the tall grass. Then a fly zipped past her face.

Thud.

She turned and discovered Derek had pushed a large piece of plywood securing the door out of the way, leaving a nice-sized gap to crawl through.

“How did you do that?”

Derek held the plywood to the side for her. “The loose boards have been rigged to open easily.”

Leslie dipped her head and looked through the doorway. “You sure it’s safe?”

“I wouldn’t bring you here if it wasn’t, love.”

His smile won over her fears.

Once inside, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. Pinpoints of light shone on a floor covered with clumps of debris. In the roof, thousands of holes, some big and some small, littered the space between the bare beams where parts of plaster had fallen away. Birds’ nests of light-colored hay and twigs nestled against blackish beams and shadowy eaves, creating a patchwork design on the ceiling. It reminded Leslie of the quilt her grandmother had made for her as a child.

Derek appeared, shining a beam of light on the floor.

She pointed at the flashlight. “Where did you get that?”

“Me and the guys have been here a few times. We’ve stashed stuff around the place. We even have sleeping bags and water bottles socked away.”

Here she was a nervous wreck while his friends had turned it into their personal campground. Leslie’s skin crawled at the idea of spending the night in such a place. “I don’t know why you guys come here.”

He took her hand, and the beam bounced on the dusty floor. “I don’t get why you’re so freaked out. It’s just an old building. There’s nothing sinister about it.”

Beau’s words about taking her to The Abbey sent a shiver down her spine. Any girl would be at his mercy in such a place. She questioned her sister’s choices, knowing she’d been there with Beau.

Derek swung the light across the floor, shining it on dozens of rotted pews, leaves, twigs, crumbled plaster pieces from the ceiling, and skeletons of dead birds. “Lots of animals use this place as shelter. I’ve seen possums, raccoons, deer, and once, I swear I saw a black leopard running out the back.”

Leslie became even more uneasy about being in the building. “You wouldn’t happen to have a shotgun in your stash.”

“The animals don’t bother me, just the people.”

Their footfalls echoed through the vast structure as they ventured farther. Leslie kept expecting someone or something to jump out from the shadows. Her only distraction was the intricate carvings atop the arches and the paintings on the walls. Men and angels exchanged timid glances as rays of light from parting clouds shined down.

Paintings of Noah and the flood, Adam and Eve, and other Genesis stories were barely visible on the white plaster covering the arches along the central aisle. In one spot, where the roof remained intact, she could make out the image of Moses holding the Ten Commandments. His eyes stood out the most. It was like they carried the burning wrath of God.

Shivering, Leslie looked ahead to a white archway marking the entrance to the altar. The gleam of the limestone appeared pristine. She got closer to the most sacred part of the old church, and her sense of dread rose. She spun around to face the scattered, rotting pews behind them.

“What is it?” Derek asked, taking her hand.

His voice rattled inside the hollows of the church, adding to her anxiety. They stood under the circular dome where the altar had once been, and then a low growl came from a shadowy corner.

The air left her lungs. Her senses heightened. Seconds ticked by while she listened for other sounds. “Tell me you heard that.”

Derek raised his finger to his lips and nodded to a door on his left.

***

Excerpt from River of Ashes by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor. Copyright 2022 by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor. Reproduced with permission from Vesuvian Books. All rights reserved.

~~~~

Meet Our Authors:

Alexandrea Weis

Alexandrea Weis

Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, PhD, is an IPPY Award-Winning author, advanced practice registered nurse, and wildlife rehabber who was born and raised in the French Quarter. She has taught at major universities and worked with victims of sexual assault, abuse, and mental illness in a clinical setting at many New Orleans area hospitals. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers Organization and Horror Writers Association. The Strand Magazine said, “Alexandrea Weis is one of the most talented authors around, and in a short time her novels are destined to stand along with authors such as Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jeffery Deaver.”

Catch Up With Alexandrea Weis:
AlexandreaWeis.com
StBenedictSeries.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @AlexandreaWeis
Instagram – @AlexandreaWeis
Twitter – @AlexandreaWeis
Facebook – @AuthorAlexandreaWeis

 

Lucas Astor

Author Lucas Astor is an award-winning author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but next door behind a smiling face. Astor currently lives outside of Nashville, TN.

Catch Up With Lucas Astor:
LucasAstor.com
Instagram – @lucasastorauthor

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This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

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#BookTour “The Potrero Complex” by Amy L. Bernstein

The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein Bannerugust 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein

Journalist Rags Goldner is battle-scarred and heartbroken after covering a devastating pandemic that rages in Baltimore for five years. She leaves the city with her partner in search of a simpler life in small-town Maryland—only to discover nothing in Canary is simple. A teenager is missing, and it falls to Rags to fight the forces of apathy, paranoia, and creeping fascism to learn the shocking truth about Effie Rutter’s fate—and the fate of thousands like her.

Praise for The Potrero Complex:

“Anyone immersed in the experience and possible outcomes of social change after this pandemic will find The Potrero Complex frightening and hard to put down, presenting thought-provoking insights on the progress and erosion of freedom in the name of safety and social preservation.”

D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“Bernstein sets us in a post-pandemic time just the barest bit beyond our own, on the way to a dystopia that feels too frightening and too familiar. A thoughtful, complex, well-executed novel—not a who-done-it? but a much scarier what-in-the-hell-is-happening?”

Robert Kanigel, author of Hearing Homer’s Songand The Man Who Knew Infinity

“An intelligently conceived tale of an unthinkable yet credible future. A novel of dark deeds in dark times.”

Karen S. Bennett, author of Beautiful Horseflesh

“A complicated tale of post-pandemic times in the not-so-distant future, where share cars, data phones, and respies figure into a plot that is scarily believable.”

Avery Caswell, author of Salvation

“Richly textured, with many evocative threads [that] explore the culture of a post-pandemic small town—a town that camouflages its disturbing secrets. A cautionary tale.”

Kathy Mangan, Professor Emeritus, McDaniel College, author of Taproot

“A scarily prescient novel that deftly explores the fraught connections between individuality, society, public policy, and technology.”

Courtney Harler, Harler Literary LLC

“An emotional, haunting tale leaves you with more questions than answers, and that’s a good thing. A memorable and timely reminder that there are no easy solutions when fear and conspiracy feed like hungry beasts and the innocent exist simply for the taking.”

PJ McIlvaine, screenwriter, author of My Horrible Year

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Published by: Regal House Publishing

Publication Date: August 2nd 2022

Number of Pages: 270

ISBN: 1646032500 (ISBN13: 9781646032501)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Regal House Publishing

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Read an excerpt:

MISSING: A teenaged girl with lanky, blonde hair and a sunburst tattoo on her cheek.

The holographic posters, brighter than day itself, lit up the air on every block of Main Street. They were the first thing Rags Goldner noticed as she and her partner, Flint Sten, arrived in Canary.

The girl’s name was Effie and she was sixteen.

Effie’s pixelated image beamed down at Rags like a celebrity unaware that her fifteen minutes of fame were up.

Rags refused to give a damn about the missing girl who, after all, she didn’t know. Nor did she know much about the town, Canary, where the driverless ShareCar she and Flint had leased for their move had brought them. But missing kids make news, and as Canary’s newly imported one-and-only newspaper editor, Rags knew she’d be expected to do something about it. Which meant she wouldn’t control the news hole on day one. Which meant all kinds of people would come at her to do one thing or another.

Rags hadn’t been in town five minutes and already she could tell things were going to get complicated—and complicated was the very thing she and Flint were trying to get away from. Damn all the politicians and peacekeepers and their gatekeeping bullshit, she thought.

As the car made a final turn toward its programmed destination, Rags’s twitch flared up: the muscles in her upper left cheek and the outer corner of her left eye performed an uncontrolled little dance. “Ah, crap,” she said. “Turning Main Street into Times Square won’t help them find the girl. What a waste. And all that light pollution.” She stretched her face, willing the twitch to stop.

Flint held up his dataphone and aimed it at one of the digital posters as they cruised by. The static image of Effie sprang into augmented-reality motion: she turned her head, blinked, and laughed.

“Stop doing that, Flint,” Rags said. “Just don’t.” No way that girl, out there somewhere, is smiling.

“Don’t get spun up so fast.” Flint looked over at her for the first time in hours. Their connection was like a faulty wire, fritzing on and off. “Give yourself some room to ramp up,” he said, putting his hand on top of her head in a familiar gesture: simmer down. It helped. The twitching nearly stopped. “We haven’t even come to a full stop yet. Pace yourself.”

“Well, look,” Rags said. “They’ve plastered her face everywhere. Probably been like that for weeks.”

“You think the story about this girl has gone cold, right?” Flint said. “What do you call that?”

“Beat up. I’m guessing the story’s beat up. The first thing I’m going to hear is that they want me to flog it some more. Remind me, why are we doing this?”

“Let’s not,” Flint said, looking back down at his screen. “Anyway, it was your idea.”

As the ShareCar rolled noiselessly down Main Street, Rags saw just one person hanging around the deserted downtown: a woman standing on a corner who appeared to be waiting. For what? Rags wondered. As they slowly passed by, Rags caught a dead look in the woman’s eyes. A block further on, Rags watched a man and a woman, both in shabby coats, as they appeared to argue, their faces contorted with anger. The man handed the woman a bicycle pump. She handed him in return a loaf of bread. What kind of town is this?

The ShareCar parked curbside at 326 Main Street. For well over a century, the little brick building, sandwiched between other little brick buildings, had housed the Canary Courant. A chatty little newspaper, the Courant, as Rags knew from her research, printed anything and everything within the bounds of what people once called ‘common decency’ about the town of Canary, a tiny hamlet in the northwestern corner of Maryland, not far from the Pennsylvania border. The kind of town that flew under the radar for anyone who did not live there.

The fact that the Canary Courant was still a going concern in 2030 was astounding, even mysterious, and a key reason that Rags was here. Though perhaps not the only reason. The paper’s survival was even more of a puzzle when one considered that the town itself, which had been shriveling for decades, was now skeletal. The pandemic, which everybody called The Big One, had raged for nearly five years. It hollowed out an already hollowed out place, killing off over two-thirds of the elderly population living out their days in Canary. Those folks never knew what hit them—their dreams of slipping into gracious idleness on their front-porch rockers, eating breakfast on the cheap at the town diner, destroyed in an agony of fever and blood.

On Canary’s rural outskirts, on their way into town, Rags had seen the crematorium, a hulking cinderblock rectangle erected for one single purpose: to incinerate the infected dead into piles of decontaminated black ash. She was sure Flint missed it— though it was very hard to miss, rising up from a flat expanse of undeveloped land—just as he’d missed seeing Effie until she pointed it out. Like I’m his goddamn tour guide.

Now, nearly two years after The Big One had been officially declared over, Rags suspected that Canary’s survivors were like a mouth full of missing teeth—families broken by a plague that took not merely the elderly but also children and their parents with a seemingly vicious and terrifyingly random determination. With an emphasis on random. Survivors everywhere were known as “Luckies,” though Rags only ever used that term in its most ironic sense.

And yet, even in a near ghost town like Canary, in a still-brittle economy, in a world where print media was a rare novelty, the ink-on-paper edition of the Canary Courant lived on, as quirky and creaky as Miss Havisham in the attic, each folded issue tossed at sunrise every Wednesday and every other Sunday into doorways and onto walkways by a young father and son living on gig income.

Rags deliberately suppressed her own journalistic instincts when it came to figuring out how this newspaper managed to keep going years past its natural expiration date. Turning a blind eye to its improbable existence was both expedient and convenient for her. She knew that income from print ads—about as old-fashioned as you could get—was the sole reason the paper was able to keep going. It surely wasn’t due to subscription revenue. But she didn’t know why anyone would buy print ads in a tiny newspaper serving a dying community in a digital world. There’d be time, she figured, to get to the bottom of that.

The main thing was that this improbable job as the Canary Courant’s editor came her way at a time when she and Flint were looking for an escape hatch that would take them away from the exhausting hysteria and suffocating autocracy that made post-pandemic, big-city living unbearable in countless ways. They came to Canary in search of a simpler life—though Rags, if pressed, could not readily have defined what that would look like. Freedom from fear? Freedom to forget? She kept these notions to herself because she did not think Flint would admit to any of it—let alone acknowledge the possibility.

Rags had worried before they arrived that an out-of-the-way place like Canary might have borne an influx of people seeking—or imagining—that this place would prove to be some kind of oasis. But from the little she’d seen so far, there was nothing oasis-like about this town. The garish and intrusive billboards of the missing Effie radiated an anxious thrum, nothing like a small-town welcome.

Rags and Flint left the ShareCar with programmed instructions to continue on and wait for them at the house they were renting a few blocks from Canary’s minuscule town center. The entire move, including Rags’s new job, had been planned remotely, so this was their first time actually in Canary. In the grand scheme of things, given the terrifying and unpredictable upheavals they’d already lived through, moving hundreds of miles away to a new place sight unseen didn’t feel at all risky.

From the outside, the newspaper office mimicked the virtual reality images Rags had already seen online. A plate-glass window with old-fashioned gold lettering rimmed in black spelled out Canary Courant. Since 1910. Rags doubted there was anything very “current” about it; the very name advertised its status as a relic with a pretentious echo of French. Rags wondered who else knew that courant in French had more than one meaning— not just “current” but also “ordinary.” Someone must have had the lettering on the window repainted many times over the years—and who even knew how to do that sort of thing, anymore?—but this was a line item Rags wasn’t going to worry about. She was here on purpose yet still felt faintly ridiculous about the whole thing.

All this ye-oldy feel-good yester-year crap, she thought. Some kind of amusement park for blinkered folks. A post-apocalyptic Disneyworld? Or maybe Westworld—a place where you could trick yourself into relaxing, just for a moment.

Yet here she was, along with her IT-guru partner Flint, a software developer steeped in AI arcana, who was definitely not the ye-oldy type. Fitting in, for both of them, was beside the point. Rags figured they’d both settle for some kind of new equilibrium. She waved her dataphone in front of the digi-lock and the heavy front door swung open. The newspaper office was a step up from the threshold because, Rags learned later, the floor had been reinforced a century ago to support the heavy metal printing presses that used to take up a third of the space with their loud, clackety racket.

As Rags entered the square-shaped newsroom, the old floor creaking, a woman likely more than twice Rags’s age—a surprise in and of itself, in this day and age—stood up quickly from a battered wooden desk, her chair scraping against the floor. Rags knew only her first name, Merry. She was tall with broad shoulders, like a swimmer, dressed in loose-fitting wrinkled clothes, her hair silver-gray and so long it touched her buttocks.

“You’re here,” Merry said with a slightly accusatory edge that did not escape Rag’s notice, as though she’d been doing something she shouldn’t.

“Yup,” Rags said as she scanned the room. She made a quick mental list of all the things she intended to change. Rags hated clutter the way healthy people hate cancer: it was offensive, invasive, and should be eliminated quickly and surgically. The heavy furniture would have to go, and the old-fashioned filing cabinets, and the shelf of tacky journalism awards—the fake-gold winged angels, the stupid quill pens mounted on blocks of glass. Rags guessed that most if not all of the people who’d won those awards were long dead, one way or another. She’d call someone as soon as possible to haul all this crap away. The place looked like a mausoleum, for chrissakes. And that told her all she needed to know about Merry, who radiated the territorial energy of a fox guarding its cubs.

“I’ve got tomorrow’s front page made up on screen,” Merry said, standing rigidly by her desk. “I suppose you want to see it.” Rags saw Flint make a tiny, familiar gesture: flicking on his ear discs (he’d insisted on upgrading from old-school earbuds), so he could drown out the voices around him and listen to the soundtrack of his choice. With this personal sound cushion enveloping him, Flint glided around the room like a restless ghost, ignoring the two women, fingering every piece of tech there was, and there wasn’t much. Rags turned her attention to Merry—watching her watching Flint, to see how much this invasion of Merry’s claimed space unsettled her. Rags didn’t bother to introduce them, as Flint wasn’t likely to visit the newsroom again.

“Is it all about the missing girl?” Rags asked.

“Is there another big story in town I’ve missed?” Merry asked, her blue-gray eyes staring icily at Rags. “Because if so, be my guest. You’ve got two whole hours until we send the file to the printers.” Merry stepped away from her desk, as if inviting Rags to step in. Rags read the gesture as it was intended: What the fuck do you know?

Well, this wasn’t going to be pretty. In that moment, Rags had to admit to herself that while she thought she longed to live in a place where she could pursue small stories of no consequence, instead of big ones that traded in life and death, she was never going to check her personality at the door. She wouldn’t look for trouble, but she wouldn’t back away from a fight, either, especially if she knew going into it that she had the upper hand. She was editor-in-chief, after all, not Merry—a holdover from a previous regime with an ill-defined job, as far as Rags knew.

Rags sat down at a battered desk nearly identical to Merry’s and began opening drawers, which contained random bits of long-obsolete office junk: Post-It notes, ballpoint pens, paperclips, a box of peppermint Tic-Tacs. Rags popped a Tic-Tac in her mouth and bit down hard; it was stale and tasteless.

“That’s Freddy’s desk,” Merry said. “You mean it was,” Rags said.

“For a long time, yeah. He was a damn good copy editor.

Nothing got past Freddy. That’s what everybody said.”

“Except The Big One, I’m guessing,” Rags said, without an ounce of sympathy. “Snuck right up on him.”

“Yeah, it did,” Merry said flatly, turning back to her screen.

“So what’s your plan, Polly?”

“Don’t call me Polly. Call me Rags.”

“I was told the new editor-in-chief is named Polly,” Merry said, as if trying to catch Rags in a lie. “I wasn’t told anything about somebody named Rags.”

“Yet here I am,” Rags said, rising from Freddy’s chair. She stood behind Merry and looked at the screen. “How many stories on this girl, Effie, have you run this month, Merry?”

“We try to post something every week.” “Why?” Rags asked.

“Why? Because we’re trying to flush out new leads, Pol—

Rags.”

“Are there any?” Rags asked, scrolling around the digital home page of the Courant. Merry hovered over her, as though she feared Rags would break something.

“Not in over a week,” Merry said.

“So it’s a beat-up story but you keep milking it for, what, sympathy?”

“No!” Merry said, turning red. “You don’t have any children, do you? Because if you did, you’d—”

“Bury it,” Rags said.

“You want me to bury the lead story? And replace it with what?” Merry’s cheeks flushed. She bit her lower lip. Rags noted how little it would take to get her really and truly riled up.

By this point, Flint had found an ancient PC from 2010 sitting on a dusty windowsill and he was taking it apart, down to the motherboard and its old components. Rags knew he was going to wait her out, and this would keep him happily occupied until she was good and ready to leave. He was patient in this type of situation, which Rags appreciated; his tolerance of her own need to press on, push hard, was essential to balancing them out. Maybe here, finally, she’d find a way to press less, though the situation was not promising in that respect.

Rags touched Merry’s screen to scroll through the pages of the main news well. It was only a couple of pages long before you hit sports, the crossword (unkillable), and then those unaccountably robust print ads listing everything from flying lessons to bizarre personals. She told Merry to make the lead a story she’d spotted about a leaking septic tank and to bury the Effie story right before the sports section. The need for the switch was obvious. The Effie story had had its day, and anything that remotely threatened public health, like a septic tank problem, belonged well above the fold. It was a thin fold, in any case, despite the ads.

“And when the next kid goes missing, you want us to bury

that too?” Merry asked.

“What do you mean, the next kid?” Rags asked. “It’s going to happen,” Merry said, biting her lip. “You don’t know that.”

“You don’t know anything,” Merry said.

“Then tell me, Merry. Tell me what I don’t know.”

Rags could see Merry’s chest rising and falling, as if she was struggling to hold something in. But Merry said nothing.

“Switch the stories,” Rags said. There was no way she’d back down and let Merry have her way. And besides, if there was nothing new to report on the Effie case, then there really wasn’t a compelling reason to give the story the banner headline for the week. Rags had no qualms about her decision. “Flint, let’s go find our new home.”

Flint had his head deep inside the guts of the old PC he’d found. She called to him again. He straightened up, dusted off his hands, and followed Rags out without a word to Merry, leaving the deconstructed computer in bits and pieces on the desk.

***

Excerpt from The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein. Copyright 2022 by Amy L Bernstein. Reproduced with permission from Amy L Bernstein. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Amy L Bernstein

Amy L. Bernstein writes stories that let readers feel while making them think. Her novels include The Potrero Complex, The Nighthawkers, Dreams of Song Times, and Fran, The Second Time Around. Amy is an award-winning journalist, speechwriter, playwright, and certified nonfiction book coach. When not glued to a screen, she loves listening to jazz and classical music, drinking wine with friends, and exploring Baltimore’s glorious neighborhoods, which inspire her fiction.

Catch Up With Amy L Bernstein:
AmyWrites.live
Goodreads
BookBub – @Amy5705
Instagram – @amylbernstein
Twitter – @amylbernstein
Facebook – @AmyLBernsteinAuthor
TikTok – @amylbernsteinauthor

 

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#BookTour “Heroes Ever Die ( Ken Allen Super Sleuth Series, #2)” by J. A. Crawford

Heroes Ever Die by J A Crawford BannerAugust 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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book cover

Synopsis:

In his world, everyone wears a mask.

When the actors who play iconic superheroes in big screen blockbusters start dying on set, Ken Allen, failed actor and neophyte detective, answers the call after the blame falls on effects expert Ray Ford, Ken’s oldest friend.

But the deaths are not accidental. Someone is killing heroes. Maybe for love, maybe for money. Maybe for both. Ken Allen finds himself outmatched and outgunned when he learns that Ray Ford’s banished apprentice makes weapons that are anything but props.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: CamCat Books

Publication Date: August 16th 2022

Number of Pages: 304

ISBN: 0744305926 (ISBN13: 9780744305920)

Series: Ken Allen Super Sleuth Series, #2

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

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Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

FALL HAD COME to This Town, the season where hopes spring eternal, with new productions shooting up to bloom or be nipped in the bud. I was on the studio backlot, gaping at everything like a tourist. There was a reason why I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.

I was about to meet my hero.

I don’t often ask for favors. Whether it’s a character strength or flaw, I am far more comfortable helping others than I am being helped. But when I heard Dave King was coming out of seclusion, I had to meet him. Just once. And thank him for doing so much for me, a person he didn’t know existed.

Of course, the one man who could grant an audience with King was the person I owed the most.

Ray Ford was the “Magician of Make-Believe”—the premier special-effects expert in the entertainment industry for more than six decades. Last season, when the rest of the world pegged me a serial killer, Ray fabricated the host of gadgets that elevated me from

mild-mannered to super. In return, he played spectator to my adventures and got to test his inventions under real-life conditions.

Ray was currently transforming mild-mannered actors into silver-screen superheroes. There were two major players—production companies with rival expanded universes—filming and releasing simultaneously in a box-office death match. The demand for spectacle and escalating budgets had led to Ray working both sides of the fence. I didn’t want to imagine what his NDAs must look like.

I got far as I could without an escort—corralled with a crowd of fans waving their phones around in hopes of catching the barest whiff of a leak. There was no shortage of ex-[insert armed service branch here] private police personnel hoping to be discovered through a guarding gig, and my banner year didn’t elevate my status to the height required to part a sea of badges. I took shelter in the shadow of a warehouse and drank in the October air. It was only seventy-five degrees, but my blazer was a sculpted sheath of ballistic gel. While nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate its surface, the material also blocked the cross breeze. I dug out my phone and jumped back into the Dave King omnibus collection I had downloaded for long plane rides.

Ray located me via the bell he’d hung around my wrist. My custom-built smart watch had all the extras, including GPS, a heart-rate monitor, and a microphone which never turned off, for Ray’s eavesdropping pleasure. You didn’t think about how much you talked to yourself until someone was listening in on every word. He waved at me from the far side of the security cordon. An extra-large fanboy hard-blocked my route.

He ignored my polite requests and apologies, so I spiked his phone like a volleyball.

“Dude, what the hell?”

I shoved my way into the opening. “That’s what you get for filming vertically.”

He sized me up, decided I wasn’t bully material, and went searching for his phone.

Ray admitted me through the gate. He was as I saw him last, muscle and gristle shrink-wrapped into an one-piece racing suit. His russet skin was free of stubble and his head was razored into a reflective surface.

“Well, well. If it isn’t Ken Allen, the detective to the stars himself.” “Quiet, you’ll draw a crowd.”

Ray laughed. I had been a shamus for exactly two cases, one where I cleared myself for murder and another which had taken me overseas.

Security permitted me through after Ray presented a lanyard with a hybrid hologram/bar code. I hung it around my neck, and we wove through the time traveler’s menagerie that was multiple-production traffic toward the soundstage.

Ray opted for chatter. “How was your flight?”

“Are you telling me you can’t listen in when I’m on airplane mode?”

“Ken, help me out here. I’ve been practicing my small talk. According to those internet sites, I need to work on my people skills.”

As someone who had been the subject of memes for more than a decade, I felt Ray’s pain. “I warned you not to look.”

When Ray replied, he kept his volume low. “It wasn’t by choice.

My last few gigs have had leaks. Been trying to track the source.”

I knew which soundstage was ours from the drones. Constructs of Ray’s design, they patrolled both the interior and exterior of the hangar-sized structure. Like any magician, Ray couldn’t have the audience peeking behind the curtain. But time was catching up to him. Everyone had a camera in their pocket loaded with apps capable of instantly reaching millions. As kids, we were warned about the rise of Big Brother. What no one foresaw was that we would become him. The guard at the door scanned our lanyards before letting us pass, including Ray, who had been gone five minutes. I stepped into the

façade of a factory. A cauldron that could have boiled a tyrannosaurus rex belched molten metal into the air. A catwalk OSHA never would have approved ended over the cauldron like a diving board. The grated floor allowed a peek at a legion of killer robots idling below. Orange light glowed from off-screen sources. The light wasn’t there to provide visibility, but instead to create shadows and suggest heat. Smoke machines added a haze of steam, enhancing the effect.

All the trappings of moviemaking were present: the light arrays, boom mikes, camera tracks, and monitors. At least one person was assigned to each object. Everyone had a badge hanging from their neck, even the saints stationed at craft services.

An average-sized white guy in a modern, tactical version of a Confederate army jacket stepped onto the catwalk. Clutching fighting sticks that resembled rolled-up scrolls, he inched forward like a dog who wasn’t supposed to be in the kitchen.

I couldn’t contain my excitement. “Bill O’Wrongs is the villain in this one?”

“Yeah,” Ray said. “Wait here.”

When you’re a kid playing pretend, you either want to be a cop or a robber. Me, I was a cop all the way, right down to the embarrassing daydreams of saving my fourth-grade teacher from masked kidnappers. I’ve never been a rule breaker by nature. So, when Ray told me to stay put, I stayed put.

There was plenty to take in. The production was an expert operation, performed by a crew who had worked together many times, churning out franchise faire assembly-line style. I had appeared—not acted but appeared, you’d agree if you’d seen it—in exactly one movie, whose production wasn’t exactly traditional. If I had my way, that flick would have stayed secret forever. Then again, it was what got me here. I guess you could say I had a love/hate relationship with my origin story.

Someone’s assistant approached me.

I knew it was an assistant from the way he eased into my eye line, instead of confronting me as to who I was and what I thought I was doing. Which was good, because I didn’t have a firm answer for either. Not now, not ever.

“Mr. Allen?”

“Mr. Allen is my father. Please, call me Mr. Allen Junior.”

The assistant made a note in his phone, and I immediately regretted the joke.

“Mr. West would like to speak with you.”

The assistant was unable to hide his curiosity over how a person of my station could possibly know Flint West. I waved up to Ray above me, but he was absorbed in his work. If he needed to find me, he could. “Then let’s not keep Mr. West waiting.”

The assistant led me outside while not taking his eyes off me, as if he were watching his kid. Mr. West’s trailer was nicer than every place I’d lived up until three months ago, when my life took a ride on the roller-coaster that was the twenty-four-hour news cycle. The assistant waved a key fob across the door, and I heard a latch click.

“Mr. West is inside, Mr. Allen Junior.”

A response would have only created more problems, so I stepped into a curtained landing area, stopping to ensure the door locked back into place. A deep voice boomed from the private side of the cloth barrier.

“That you, Ken Allen? Get in here!”

I pushed the curtain aside and ran face-first into Flint West. He squeezed me until I was ready to pop before pushing me back to give me a once-over.

“You miss me, Ken? You know I missed you.”

Flint was in a silk robe, boxer briefs that could have been painted on, and nothing else. His smile made he smile.

“Your body sure didn’t,” I said. “You were so jacked in that last Civil Warriors flick people thought it was CGI.”

Flint shook his head, smiling at suffering-gone-by. “Man, we had paramedics off camera with IVs ready. I looked like that for maybe on hour. They couldn’t get the lighting right.”

He gestured for me to sit before taking a seat himself. I’d never known someone who could maintain genuine, interested eye contact for as long as Flint could.

It forced me to say something. “Becoming an ideal carries a cost.”

Even before computer magic, there were myriad methods to elevate a humble human to heroic status. One was extreme dehydration. In combat sports, competitors only had to be at their fighting weight for a scant moment on the scale. The best way to do so while maintaining your muscle mass was to eliminate as much liquid from your body as possible. Typically, by sweating it out.

It was a dangerous practice. People have died cutting too much weight, particularly those of Flint West’s proportions. And I was the one who taught him the trade. In my previous alter ego as the “Sensei to the Stars,” I had acted as both personal trainer and stage-fighting guru for the A-list.

Flint West was my masterpiece.

“So, Ken, you got a minute for the little people, now that you’re a big-time crime fighter?”

I leaned forward, elbows on my thighs. “Not sure where you’ve been getting your news, but I cleared my name and went on safari.”

Flint wasn’t buying it. “Mmm-hmm. Well, your safari buddy and I have the same agent. You saved her career, man.”

The way Flint said it, we could have been talking about his mother. The pedestal he was putting me on was high enough to end us both if I tumbled off. Flint’s emotions were as herculean as the rest of him. The intensity that had served him on the gridiron translated perfectly to the big screen.

You felt what Flint was feeling.

“What’s on your mind?” I asked.

“I have a friend.” Flint started having second thoughts. He crushed his lips together. His jaw was so muscular it had striations. When you are cast to wear a mask, it’s all about the jawline.

“You have lots of friends,” I replied. “Including me. This isn’t going anywhere you don’t want it to go.”

Flint nodded at my reassurance. Around rep number five, he unflexed his mandibles. “This friend of mine, he’s getting into something big. Real big. And dangerous. He’s used to going it alone, but I think he could use your help.”

The vagueness was giving me a headache. I massaged the bridge of my nose. “I’m going to need more proper nouns here, Flint.”

“If I were to hire you, would my friend have to know you were on the case?”

“I can’t work for a guy who doesn’t know I’m working for him.

And I can’t help someone when I don’t even know his name.”

Flint tapped a fist on his lips to acknowledge I was making some good points, so that was progress. When he spoke again, he kept his hand over his mouth.

“It has to do with Dave King.”

Flint didn’t ask if I knew who Dave King was. We had bonded over our love of all things King, years past. It was no coincidence Flint was playing one of King’s characters on screen.

“What’s going on with Dave King?” I asked.

“What you should do is meet him. See if you hit it off.”

I managed to keep from throwing my hands into the air. “Sounds like a plan.”

Flint nodded some more, adding a smile. “All right. All right.

Okay, Ken. Look, they have to start getting me into costume.” “Has that process gotten any better?”

“A little. It’s like having your own pit crew.” “Well, you did make your name in action vehicles.”

Flint laughed to be polite, then switched right back to sincere. “Look, go talk to Dave. Keep it casual, tell him you and I are buddies.” “I’ll do my best, but when it comes to acting, my track record

speaks for itself.”

This time, Flint’s laugh was genuine.

Flint’s assistant played boatman and guided me back to set, where he pointed out Dave King, who I would have known anywhere. I strolled up next to the legend, strategizing how to break the ice, but King spoke the moment he noticed me.

“It’s too small.”

Dave King had once been a big man. Geometrically cubed, with a block head, a barrel chest, and boxy shoulders. You wondered how a pencil could have survived those scarred, square clamps he had for fingers. Age had taken its toll, shrinking him down and thinning him out, but in my eyes, he would always be a giant.

Dave King, the man who had birthed hundreds of heroes with nothing but a #2 pencil and some bristol board. Dave King, the greatest mythmaker of the modern age.

“I always dreamed big. These are titans we’re talking about.” I stood up straight when King glanced my way but stopped short of puffing out my chest. “Who are you supposed to be? One of mine?”

I was stunned silent.

The first thing I said to Dave King needed to mean something, without coming on too strong. The silence was getting uncomfortable, so I went with what I was thinking.

“I wish.”

Dave King boomed a laugh that turned heads in our direction. “If wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets. So, who are you playing in this picture show?”

It wasn’t the first time my getup had been mistaken for a costume. While my jacket passed casual inspection, close-up, people realized it was closer to a bulletproof vest than a button-down blazer.

“Myself. I’m Ken Allen.” In an attempt to impress him, I added, “I’m a detective.”

Dave King measured my form with an artist’s eye, fitting me for the role. Whether or not I was qualified, I looked the part. Seasoned, but still in shape and easy on the eyes. He might have drawn me in the role, once upon a time.

I tried to remember any of the hundred questions I’d dreamed of asking him over the years. The kind that demonstrates the depth of your devotion. The ones that mark you as a True Fan.

“Well Ken, if you’re looking for evildoers, take your pick. Here comes a grade-A pack of thieves now. Good to meet you.”

Dave King offered his hand. I don’t usually shake hands on principle, but for him I’d make an exception. His grip tremored as we touched palms, the thick fingers curled like claws. I let him lead, keeping my response a notch less firm. There was too much to tell him. I decided to start with the ending.

“Thank you, Mr. King. Growing up, your work meant the world to me.”

King pursed his lips with a nod. He must have heard the same sentiment a billion times before. A sadness crept into his eyes. I’d blown it. Upset him, when I’d intended the opposite. We untangled hands. I did most of the work. Once his fingers had locked down, they didn’t want to release.

The group Dave King had identified as suspect stopped an arm’s length from us. I knew right away who was in charge, because he was rocking a hoodie and track pants. In a realm of suit and tie, the person in casuals bore the crown. His right hand was a Desi woman who wore a power suit as if it were armor. She studied me, so it was only fair for me to study her back.

In This Town, you had to realign the one-to-ten scale. There were too many tens. Her makeup was impeccable. Professional, with deniability. I knew right away she was smarter than me.

Not that it was a rare occurrence.

“Mr. King,” said the tracksuit-in-charge. “So glad you could make it.”

Only he wasn’t.

A lifetime of taking hits had taught me to trust my instincts. Later on, I could dissect the factors behind my initial read. Off the cuff, my gut was enough.

Dave King’s innards were synced with mine. “Save the speeches.

I’ve got a shelf about to snap from worthless awards.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I hadn’t gone looking for an awkward situation, it had found me.

Tracksuit read me all wrong. “I didn’t realize you were bringing representation.”

“He’s not a lawyer,” the woman informed him.

“Let’s take this elsewhere, this isn’t our shoot to start with,” Tracksuit decided. When he went to guide Dave King by the shoulder, King shrugged him off.

Realizing my moments on set were numbered, I scanned around for my patron. Ray was above me, with Bill O’Wrongs, on the edge of the catwalk. Ray walked Bill through the stunt, pointing, soothing, and doing everything else he could to reassure an actor who was about to dive into a vat of lava.

The cameras weren’t rolling, so Bill O’Wrongs wasn’t in character. Unless his interpretation of the villain was a guy who nodded nervously between deep breaths. Ray turned Bill O’Wrongs’s back to the pit, then reached out over the threshold and grabbed a handful of air. Try as I might, there was no making out what Ray was attaching to the actor’s costume.

Ray wound his way back to me and guided us to his spot behind the firing line, where he had a battle station bristling with monitors, each displaying a different camera angle.

“I thought they wiped out the wires in post.”

Ray snorted. “If you’re going to do that, why not go ahead and make a cartoon?”

The crew took position, their stillness spreading a contagious tension. I wanted to watch it go down live but got a better view from the monitors. I leaned in, as if another six inches would help the ultra-high-definition images. I knew what was coming but not when. Sitting through the coverage for later editing was torture.

Flint entered from above, crashing through a skylight. Stopping to hover midair, he spread his wings to reveal the golden-taloned symbol on his chest below an eagle cowl. I couldn’t help but play civilian. At least I didn’t point and shout his name. Fortunately, Bill O’Wrongs had it covered.

“Flying Freeman!”

Ray had trimmed Flying Freeman’s avian cowl to take full advantage of Flint’s carved-from-ebony jawline. The sculpted brow accentuated his intense expression. I wasn’t surprised they were still showing his eyes instead of the golden orbs from the comic. It was a dumb move to take away an actor’s biggest tool, and anyone who could have won the role of Flying Freeman would have made damn sure of it in their contract.

Flying Freeman dove with a two-footed kick, which Bill O’Wrongs blocked by crossing his fighting sticks. It was the absolute dumbest way to defend such a massive attack, but it looked great. Flying Freeman drifted back with a beat of his wings and pointed at his foe.

This was where it would cut to a close-up hero shot—complete with a one-liner—in the finished film. But right now, the sausage was getting made, and we sat through twelve more takes of Flying Freeman’s entrance. Ray’s drones swept the set, vacuuming up the not-actually glass and installing the next doomed skylight.

Once the director got what she wanted, they moved on to shooting the rest of the fight scene. There had never been anything like it on film. Flying Freeman kept to the air, attacking Bill O’Wrongs

from every angle. This sort of thing was normally done with computer graphics, but Ray had developed some new version of wirework. A technique which allowed the cameras to zoom, pan, and track to show that the actors were doing their own stunts. I could only make out the wires when one of the players was off their mark. They were woven into a network, like a three-dimensional spiderweb. Ray was playing puppet master via drones.

Bill O’Wrongs’s scrolls were revealed to be chain whips—a little on the nose when fighting a Black hero birthed during the civil rights movement. But it was sure to generate an online debate, and there was no marketing like free marketing. I was blown away by the actor’s skill in manipulating a pair of the most complex weapons in martial arts. Until I realized the whips were also tethered to the drones.

After the second meal break, the director made the decision to push forward to the ending sequence. The announcement caused some grumbles and groans, but she reminded everyone they had fallen behind schedule. Ray winced at her comment, which told me he had something to do with the shooting problems. I put a pin in it and kept quiet on the set.

The sequence came in two beats. In the first, Flint as Flying Freeman started on one knee, wings sheathed as Bill O’Wrongs rained down the chains with both hands. In a surge of determination, Flying Freeman spread his wings, casting the chains aside. From his crouch, Flint launched into the air, delivering an uppercut that sent both him and Bill O’Wrongs airborne. They ascended at two different speeds, Flying Freeman rising high as Bill O’Wrongs drifted weightless.

As Bill O’Wrongs hovered over the smoking cauldron, Flying Freeman flipped in the air and dove toward him. With a colossal hammering punch, he sent Bill O’Wrongs rocketing toward molten justice.

Usually, this kind of stunt was executed at low speed, then sped up in post. But that technique always showed. The little things added up: the steam drifted too fast, or the capes whipped around like flags

in a storm. Small motions became jerky enough to yank the audience into the uncanny valley. Ray had created an effect performed in real time. It had me believing a man could fly.

Bill O’Wrongs plummeted at a rate that would have flagged a radar gun. He started dead center over the cauldron, but the angle was all wrong and he veered toward the lip. I reached out as if I could will what was coming to halt. Bill O’Wrongs clipped the edge of the cauldron. The back of his skull struck the rim, ringing the bowl like a gong. A blink after, he splashed into the faux liquid metal, sending a wave of glowing material into the air, where it cooled into sparks.

Behind me, Ray cursed, once and short. Under his piloting, the drones lifted Bill O’Wrongs out of the cauldron, a limp marionette, and lowered him gently as medical rushed in.

Ray stared into the circle of paramedics, but his thoughts weren’t in the present. The paramedics went through the motions, administering CPR until an ambulance arrived. I caught a glimpse of an EMT trying to straighten Bill O’Wrongs’s airway. I’d seen Pez dispensers with straighter alignments. It wasn’t the first death I had witnessed. I didn’t take it any better this time than the others.

The call came to clear the soundstage. Ray didn’t budge. Almost imperceptivity, he started shaking his head and didn’t stop. An inch left, an inch right. He went back to his bank of monitors and loaded what looked like diagnostics.

“This was no accident, Ken. I don’t make mistakes like this. Not now, not ever.”

Every reply that came to mind, every consolation I considered, fell short, so I kept them to myself.

“I’m not responsible for this. I want you to prove it. I don’t care what it costs or how long it takes.”

Ray’s gadgets had saved my skin ten times over. He never so much as asked for a penny. If the man needed me to tilt at his windmills, so be it.

“This one’s on me, old buddy.”

Before Ray could argue, security swept us off set. We had joined the pileup being funneled toward the doors, when I spied someone who belonged in an entirely different universe.

“Is that Foxman?”

Ray tilted his head, trying to get line of sight through the chaos. “Might be Flying Freeman’s stand-in.”

“Nope. Different capes.” I started shoving a path toward the door. Being a detective meant noticing things that were out of place. Foxman didn’t belong in this universe.

Or on this set.

I forced my way out of the exit into a packed mob. The chatter among the crew was rapidly drawing attention. Running from the scene would only draw more, so I walked with purpose, a guy late for his afternoon roundtable. Actor that I was, it didn’t fool anyone. I raised my badge like a torch to ward off security. There was a lot of ground to cover with a throng of people in it, but it was hard to miss a guy dressed as a fox.

I finally broke free of the crowd and gave pursuit. Three guards tried to stop me to check my lanyard but not hard enough to cause a scuffle. I came around a corner to spot Foxman fifty feet away, taking a selfie with a fan. As the taller guy, he was holding the phone. His cape was wrong. It had four scallops instead of five, and his boots were brown when they should have been gray.

I drew the Quarreler — a fictional nonlethal pistol Ray had made real—and attempted to creep closer. I was inside effective range for the taser darts, but Foxman was cuddled up to a civilian and his cape looked sturdy enough to afford some protection. Foxman caught me out of the corner of his eye.

He was good. He dropped the phone and took out the fan with an elbow in the same motion as he spun toward me. I sent two shots center of mass.

Foxman swept up his cape, soaking both darts. When he completed his spin, he extended an arm toward me. His fluted metallic gauntlet sported twin openings reminiscent of a double-barreled shotgun.

I threw my arm over my face. Twin impacts slammed into my forearm and ribs. As I reeled, Foxman aimed his gauntlet at the ground between us.

Smoke exploded all around me. I forged ahead toward Foxman and clear air. I held my breath, but the cloud attacked my sinuses. My legs stopped working. I broke through on pure momentum only to wipe out on the pavement.

My airway started to close up. I went blind. The sun on my skin felt like a nuclear blast. I tried to call for help, but you need to be able to breathe to talk.

Foxman had taken me down without breaking a sweat. How could I have been so stupid? I forgot about his gadget gauntlet and now I was going to die like some two-bit villain.

***

Excerpt from Heroes Ever Die by JA Crawford. Copyright 2022 by JA Crawford. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

~~~~

Author Bio:

J A Crawford

Born near Detroit, J. A. Crawford wanted to grow up to be a superhero, before he found out it was more of a hobby. He’s the first in his family to escape the factory line for college. Too chicken to major in writing, he studied Criminal Justice at Wayne State University instead, specializing in criminal procedure and interrogation.

Despite what his family thinks, J. A. is not a spy. When he isn’t writing, he travels the country investigating disaster sites. Before that, he taught Criminal Justice, Montessori Kindergarten, and several martial arts. J. A. is an alum of the Pitch Wars program. In his spare time, he avoids carbohydrates and as many punches as possible.

He loves the stories behind the stories and finds everything under the sun entirely too interesting. J. A. splits his time between Michigan and California. He is married to his first and biggest fan, who is not allowed to bring home any more pets.

Catch Up With J. A. Crawford:
JACrawford.net
Instagram – @josephoforb
Twitter – @josephoforb
Facebook – @jacrawfordoforb
TikTok – @josephoforb

~~~~

Tour Participants:

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

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#BookReview “See You Next Tuesday: From the Case Files of Steve Rockfish” by Ken Harris

July 11 – August 5, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

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5/5 Stars!

Rockfish and Jawnie are back without missing a beat, but with a change or two.

Rockfish and McGee, Investigative Specialists now has two licensed investigators after Jawnie passed her exam, and she’s still dragging him into the new millennium and the wonderful world of technology. Steve grudgingly takes baby steps and would rather swallow glass shards before he admits he actually likes it.

A family emergency distracts Steve, and Jawnie is left on her own for the first time… with a cheating husband case.

Doing his lone wolf style investigating—except for Raffi—a furious Steve is hellbent on tracking down the scammers who took Mack and Iggy for over forty-thousand dollars.

Despite a lack of clear, two-way communication, the partners soon realize both their cases are connected and go deeper than they could have imagined.

This was another great ride with Rockfish and McGee and plenty of bad guys, too many close calls, and never too many one-liners.

We also get to see even more into the sometimes troubled psyches of the dynamic duo, meet a guy named Earl—easily forgettable—and a young woman named Gwendolyn Hurricane-Tesla, not at all forgettable! Nor is the title’s meaning!

A great plot and stellar writing do an amazing job of blending popular culture, current events, and generational differences with the investigations of the flawed but sharp sleuths.

Hard-boiled and gritty, or witty and hilarious, this read doesn’t miss a beat!

Rockfish shops at Things Remembered. Who knew?

Enjoy!

~~~

Synopsis:

 

From the Case Files of Steve Rockfish

PI Steve Rockfish’s father loses part of his retirement savings in an online romance scam while partner Jawnie McGee handles the firm’s newest client who spins a tale of alleged spousal infidelity. Rockfish ignores his current case load and becomes fixated on tracking down those responsible for the fraud. Restitution is coming in the form of cash or broken bones. At the same time, Jawnie’s surveillance of the cheating spouse reveals more acts of kindness than sex leading to a client who doesn’t want to believe the good news.

Unbeknownst to the partners, each investigative path leads the partners to the Church of the Universal Nurturing II where the fraud is on a cryptocurrency level. Their new SunCoin is marketed as the only post-rapture currency accepted inside the pearly gates. After all, who wants to show up to the after party with out-turned pockets and not get past Heaven’s paywall?

Church elders court Rockfish and his new-found Hollywood wealth with an old-fashioned honey pot. The danger level ratchets up as Rockfish counters by sending the firm’s two new confidential informants undercover only to find the church’s endgame grift is larger and deadlier than anyone expected.

Praise for See You Next Tuesday:

“Action packed and smartly written.”

Kevin Somers, GoodReads Review

“Harris has created his own sub-genre with this series, which is a beautiful and unique thing to see. Beloved characters must brave the most dangerous, harrowing journey yet. The suspense woven through this tale is done with a finesse rarely seen, and ensures we stay glued to the page.”

Ben Eads, author of Cracked Sky and Hollow Heart

“The second in the Case Files of Steve Rockfish series begins with separate cases involving a cheating husband, a corrupt religious cult, a stockpile of poison gas, and a currency scam. The cases come together in a wild ride worthy of a chase scene in a movie, as the detectives pursue the cult leader in a rip-roaring page turner of an ending.”

Carolyn Geduld, author of Take Me Out The Back and Who Shall Live

“Harris takes you on two journeys you hope will never happen to family members but fear it could. The emotional roller coaster you will ride, keeps you reading and hoping the end comes with a taste of sweet revenge. Harris finds a way to weave a story that keeps you turning the pages and wanting more Rockfish.”

Stephen W. Briggs, author of Family of Killers-Memoirs of an Assassin

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction, Crime Thriller

Published by: Black Rose Writing

Publication Date: July 14th 2022

Number of Pages: 546

ISBN: 1684339898 (ISBN13: 9781684339891)

Series: Case Files of Steve Rockfish, #2

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Kindle Unlimited

~~~

Tour Participants:

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

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GIVEAWAY!

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#BookTour “Depths of Deceit” by Laura Oles

Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles BannerJuly 25 – August 19, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

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Synopsis:

 

Two sisters.

One deadly secret.

No time to lose.

PI Jamie Rush has her hands full with small-time skip-tracing and surveillance jobs in Port Alene, Texas. The work is steady, though she still struggles to make ends meet. But when her partner, Cookie, brings in a low-paying and potentially time-consuming case, Jamie takes it on out of loyalty.

Cookie’s childhood friend, Renata, needs to find her younger sister, Leah. As Jamie digs into Leah’s past, it becomes clear that the missing woman’s life was shrouded in secrets, the kind that could jeopardize those involved in the case.

To complicate matters, PI Alastair Finn has returned, and he’s willing to reclaim his town by any means necessary. Jamie has never been one to retreat, and Alastair enjoys a good fight. Sparks will fly.

A missing woman. Felonies. Finn’s return. Every twist reminds Jamie that she’s still an outsider in this town. Jamie must prove herself all over again, and the stakes have never been higher.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Female PI

Published by: Red Adept Publishing

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Number of Pages: 292

Series: A Jamie Rush Mystery, #2

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

~~~~

Read an excerpt:

The mermaid in the truck bed was what caught Jamie Rush’s attention. The cast-iron figure peeked over the hatch, her carved, flowing hair and demure smile in view. This was supposed to be a standard identify-and-repo job. Jamie was certain she hadn’t seen a mermaid on the itemized paperwork. Brody Rutger, in addition to hiding from creditors, had added theft of a local celebrity to his resume.

The day had started strong, with a lead on Rutger and an opportunity to catch him between fishing charters, using a boat he’d quit paying on months before. Suddenly, Marian the Mermaid was caught up in the mix.

And something was going on with the weather.

The month of November normally brought a steady stream of long-term vacationers from the north—affectionally called Winter Texans—who fled harsh winters for the promise of more tepid temperatures. Those who’d already set up residence in Port Alene were likely to be disappointed. Port A, usually quite predictable in her warmth, had suddenly changed her mind. That day, she was trading humidity for frigid air, and the wind, once laced with a warm, salty breeze, was offering only a cold shoulder. The palm trees lining Island Main bristled from side to side, and the town seemed to have turned inward in response. The icy wind whistled in the gap of her Tahoe’s window.

Jamie shuddered at the weather’s frigid downturn, while her partner, Cookie Hinojosa, all but cursed Mother Nature. He believed anything under seventy degrees was downright blasphemous. Jamie tilted her head toward the gray sky and welcomed the sting of air on her cheeks, her head briefly popping out the driver’s-side window. Cookie glanced over and shook his head.”

You’re very grumpy this morning,” Jamie said. She gave him a once-over, taking note of the large Dallas Cowboys logo on his chest, the silver star claiming almost all the space between his shoulders. “I see you found your favorite winter hoodie. Probably more fun to wear when they’re winning.”

Cookie turned to her and scowled. “Et tu, Brute? You’re going to dump on our favorite team? Really?”

Jamie reached over and gave her partner’s meaty shoulder a squeeze. “They need to earn our love by playing better. And we’ve been damned patient.” She rubbed her hand up and down his sleeve, noting the fabric felt cold. “You should probably break down and buy a proper winter jacket.”

“This is South Texas. Only snowbirds wear ‘proper’ winter jackets.”

Cookie dismissed the idea of wearing anything that added additional bulk to his substantial frame. “My Hawaiian shirts are sad from neglect.”

She had to agree. A long-sleeved Hawaiian shirt would look ridiculous on anyone. She rubbed her hands together and hoped the cold snap would soon dissipate, returning the balmy temperatures Port Alene normally delivered.

“I’m going to pull back a bit,” Jamie said.

Their skip of the day, Brody Rutger, owed their client, AAA Repo Services, $15,027. Brody had ducked all attempts at collection, so Jamie and Cookie had been hired to locate him and return the boat. Jamie and Cookie specialized in skip tracing, which essentially meant finding people who didn’t want to be found. They worked skips but also some surveillance—which paid well but was boring beyond belief—and some divorce cases, which also paid well but renewed Jamie’s resolve to never get married. In Jamie’s experience, if a person disappeared, the reasons involved money, private information, or violence. And secrets—always a secret.

***

Excerpt from Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles. Copyright 2022 by Laura Oles. Reproduced with permission from Laura Oles. All rights reserved.

~~~~

Author Bio:

Laura Oles

Laura Oles is the Agatha-nominated and award-winning author of the Jamie Rush mystery series, along with short stories and nonfiction. With two decades of experience in the digital photography industry, Laura’s work has appeared in trade and consumer magazines, crime-fiction anthologies, and she served as a business columnist. Laura loves road trips, bookstores and any outdoor activity that doesn’t involve running. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her family.

Catch Up With Laura Oles:
LauraOles.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @LauraOles
Instagram – @lauraolesauthor
Twitter – @LauraOles
Facebook – @lauraolesauthor

~~~~

Tour Participants:

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

~~~~

Giveaway!

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

~~~~

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#BookTour “See You Next Tuesday: From the Case Files of Steve Rockfish” by Ken Harris

See You Next Tuesday by Ken Harris BannerJuly 11 – August 5, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

~~~

Synopsis:

 

From the Case Files of Steve Rockfish

PI Steve Rockfish’s father loses part of his retirement savings in an online romance scam while partner Jawnie McGee handles the firm’s newest client who spins a tale of alleged spousal infidelity. Rockfish ignores his current case load and becomes fixated on tracking down those responsible for the fraud. Restitution is coming in the form of cash or broken bones. At the same time, Jawnie’s surveillance of the cheating spouse reveals more acts of kindness than sex leading to a client who doesn’t want to believe the good news.

Unbeknownst to the partners, each investigative path leads the partners to the Church of the Universal Nurturing II where the fraud is on a cryptocurrency level. Their new SunCoin is marketed as the only post-rapture currency accepted inside the pearly gates. After all, who wants to show up to the after party with out-turned pockets and not get past Heaven’s paywall?

Church elders court Rockfish and his new-found Hollywood wealth with an old-fashioned honey pot. The danger level ratchets up as Rockfish counters by sending the firm’s two new confidential informants undercover only to find the church’s endgame grift is larger and deadlier than anyone expected.

Praise for See You Next Tuesday:

“Action packed and smartly written.”

Kevin Somers, GoodReads Review

“Harris has created his own sub-genre with this series, which is a beautiful and unique thing to see. Beloved characters must brave the most dangerous, harrowing journey yet. The suspense woven through this tale is done with a finesse rarely seen, and ensures we stay glued to the page.”

Ben Eads, author of Cracked Sky and Hollow Heart

“The second in the Case Files of Steve Rockfish series begins with separate cases involving a cheating husband, a corrupt religious cult, a stockpile of poison gas, and a currency scam. The cases come together in a wild ride worthy of a chase scene in a movie, as the detectives pursue the cult leader in a rip-roaring page turner of an ending.”

Carolyn Geduld, author of Take Me Out The Back and Who Shall Live

“Harris takes you on two journeys you hope will never happen to family members but fear it could. The emotional roller coaster you will ride, keeps you reading and hoping the end comes with a taste of sweet revenge. Harris finds a way to weave a story that keeps you turning the pages and wanting more Rockfish.”

Stephen W. Briggs, author of Family of Killers-Memoirs of an Assassin

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction, Crime Thriller

Published by: Black Rose Writing

Publication Date: July 14th 2022

Number of Pages: 546

ISBN: 1684339898 (ISBN13: 9781684339891)

Series: Case Files of Steve Rockfish, #2

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Kindle Unlimited

~~~

Read an excerpt:

After a couple of early morning passes for Jawnie to grab a handful of fresh photos, the team backtracked to an abandoned gas station they had passed on the way in. Rockfish parked the van behind the dilapidated building. Jawnie bundled their supplies and they headed out with backpacks bursting at the seams. It would be a two-mile trek to the edge of the woods overseeing Diane’s trailer.

The route would take them along the main road for half a mile and then a diagonal cut across fields littered with large, round hay bales before entering the woods for the rest of the hike. As they veered off the road, Jawnie wanted to pick up the pace so that they weren’t visible to any curious drivers coming down this open stretch of highway. But one glance at her partner told her he was already looking forward to the first rest stop.

They arrived at their vantage point an hour and fifteen minutes later. Rockfish dropped his backpack and took up position on the ground. “Let me sit here for a minute and I’ll be okay, I swear.”

Jawnie slid off her pack and patted Rockfish on the shoulder as she walked over to get a better view of their target. The line of sight was perfect. She could use her telephoto lens and look down into the trailer through a window. They were close enough to watch what went on in the backyard without the help of her camera. The field between them and Diane’s was also littered with the large round hay bales. They’ll provide more than ample cover if I need to get closer for any reason.

“Nice job picking the spot, boss. I hope you live to walk another day.”

“Fucking Bataan Death March had nothing on this hike,” Rockfish said and Jawnie could tell he had yet to catch his breath.

They set up their gear and took turns peering through the camera’s telephoto lens, down onto the property and sometimes straight through the uncovered window. It wasn’t long before Jawnie concluded that the only people at home were Sunny and another woman who she assumed was Diane.

“No sign of Roan unless they’re keeping him in some back bedroom and not letting him out. But all these two are doing is eating cereal and watching television. The View was on. Now it’s turned to The Price is Right.”

“See, now you’re experiencing the glamour side of being a P.I. Not all of it is meeting with Mafia Dons and car chases. I used to love this grunt work, but this old body sure doesn’t want to keep up.”

“Sit tight,” Jawnie said. “You keep providing that wit and wisdom and I’ll take care of the physical stuff. Partners, remember?”

The quiet morning hours slowly turned into an equally uneventful afternoon where Rockfish spent way too long bitching about the Nature Valley pressed cardboard bars that Jawnie had packed for lunch. And she, without hesitation, returned fire.

“If you hadn’t done takeout from the Waffle House this morning, you could have spared us all, and not had to keep making that twenty-minute hike back into the woods every hour on the hour. That stuff isn’t meant for anyone’s stomach, and those cardboard bars are binding. We should all be thankful for that.”

“Maybe it’s the water?”

She looked down at the Dasani bottle at her feet. Yeah, it’s definitely the water and not seventeen grams of pure grease. I’d better change the subject before this goes any further.

“We’re going to want to get one of those trackers on that Jeep down there.”

“Yup, hopefully once it gets dark, we’ll draw straws,” Rockfish said.

“I’m letting you know I’m going to do it. I’m quicker, a smaller visual target and won’t need CPR upon my return.”

Jawnie was into the last hour of her shift on the camera, a little after 2pm, when the back door to the trailer opened. The women emerged and walked across the lawn towards the trampoline. They’re not going to jump on this thing, are they? She watched them crawl through the netting and lay in the center. Now they’re not dressed for sunbathing, not to mention the sun isn’t cooperating this afternoon and it’s freaking mid-April. Jawnie hunched over the camera’s tripod and swung it towards the trampoline. A flash of light caught her attention, and she zoomed in. The flick of a lighter and a hand rolled joint passed between the two. Jawnie wouldn’t need to wait for the cover of darkness when a THC haze would do the trick.

Jawnie turned and waved Rockfish over. “Look at this.”

He glanced through the telephoto lens, and she relayed her plan. Rockfish kept nodding as he agreed. Or is he enjoying the view? I’m going and won’t take no for an answer.

“Okay, no dillydallying. Down and back,” Rockfish said. “Put your phone on vibrate in your back pocket. If it goes off, turn around and head back. That means they’ve moved off the trampoline and I don’t want you taking any chances. You got me? Vibrate equals full stop and start working your way back. No hesitation, get back here, moving from bale to bale to bale.”

“Got it.”

“Come back as careful as you went down. If you hear my voice, then you know shit’s gone sideways. Time to put on your track shoes.”

Jawnie took one of the GPS trackers and carried it in her right hand. She serpentined from one hay bale to the next until she had made her way down to where the field met Diane’s property. Jawnie peeked out around the large bale and could see it was a diagonal sprint, twenty yards to her left, to where the Jeep Wrangler sat in the driveway. She peeked around the other side but could not see past the trailer’s back corner. Back on the left side of the bale, she knew her best shot would be to aim for the passenger side rear wheel. Snap this puppy on and then slide around the back to reassess. Fuck, I hope no one drives down the road at that point.

Jawnie inhaled deeply and took off. If she were wrong and there was a third occupant, who was in the front living room, she’d be fucked before she got halfway. She reached the Jeep in six long strides and the driveway gravel gave way as she slammed on the brakes. Jawnie landed on her ass and popped right back up. She slapped the tracker up into the wheel well and heard the satisfying clunk. She pulled her hand back. Well, it didn’t fall out. That’s a bonus. No buzz from Rockfish yet. Time to press that luck he told me not to. She presumed that if no one had fired a load of buckshot over her head by now, no one was sitting in the living room, looking out over the front yard.

She worked her way around the back end of the Jeep and then forward, along the driver’s side, towards the set of double windows next to the small front porch. Jawnie reached up and stood on her tiptoes to peek inside. The stench of cigarettes hit her senses from the open window before her eyes focused on the inside. A second later, when they did, she wished they hadn’t. The place was a disaster. Domino’s boxes and Big Gulp cups littered any flat surface. And then she saw it. Someone had draped a black leather duster over a wooden chair next to the small dinette.

Fucking B-I-N-G-O was her name-o. A fist pump and a game of hay bale Frogger later, Rockfish claimed she resembled the cat that had eaten the friggin canary and went back for seconds.

“He’s here,” Jawnie stammered. “I mean not right now, but he’s been here, and odds are he’s coming back, if not for the jacket, another round of good times. Raffi and Lynn both mentioned that damn coat.”

“And you saw no one else?”

“No one. When I got back to the field, I stopped behind that first bale and looked back to see if I had missed anything, but you saw that.”

“I did. Now let’s make sure this thing actually works after making the trip.” Rockfish pulled out his cell and opened the tracking app. “Good clean signal,” he said. “I believe we’re in business. I hope someone gets in that Jeep and heads out so we can really test this thing out.”

“Based on the Domino’s delivery boxes piled up, I think the only destination you’ll get off that one is 7/11. Cigarettes and Big Gulps runs.” “Don’t forget the rolling papers,” Rockfish said. He put his fist out and she bumped it. That was her attaboy, and Jawnie couldn’t have been happier.

She sat back on the ground and her heart continued to beat as if it would come through her ribcage. Jawnie tried to relax but had a hard time settling back into the waiting game. The adrenaline rush from that little ten-minute operation was the first on the job, legit high she had experienced. She couldn’t wait for the Jeep to head out for Earl or for him to show up. It didn’t matter whether the action came at dinner or lunch tomorrow. She’d be ready.

Jawnie’s second opportunity came after ten that night before they were ready to call it a day. Rockfish had tracked the headlights as they came down the road and turned into the driveway, sans blinker. An old Chevy pickup pulled in behind the Jeep and backfired before the engine died. The driver quickly climbed the porch steps carrying a twelve pack of beer in his right hand. The small porch light above the door lit Earl Porbeagle in all his glory. Rockfish knew when he saw him. The man could pass for any Kilingess resident, in a tank top and jeans.

An hour passed before the kitchen and living room lights went off, one at a time. A couple of seconds, later Rockfish could see through the telephoto lens a light from a rear window at the back of the trailer had flickered on. It illuminated the far corner of the backyard.

“Hey, I think we’re primed—”

Jawnie was three hay bales deep into the field before Rockfish could tell her it was time.

She followed the same path as before and stopped again at the last bale that separated the field from the property. Her breathing was calmer on this second trip, and she looked around the left side of the hay bale at her target. The porch light lit little more than the small landing and the front half of the Jeep. Darkness smothered the old pickup. Jawnie counted to three and stepped out into the open. She slowed this time as she approached the driveway and didn’t end up on her ass.

Jawnie crouched down at the right rear wheel and reached up the side of the truck to the bed wall. These old trucks had holes on the top of the bedsides, called stake pockets, or so Rockfish claimed. It would be an undetectable spot; he swore on it. She ran her hand along the top of the bed and easily found the first one. Clunk.

Well, I’ll be damned. Old man knows his shit. She turned and bent over, stayed low and sprinted back to the confines of the hay bales.

***

Excerpt from See You Next Tuesday by Ken Harris. Copyright 2022 by Ken Harris. Reproduced with permission from Ken Harris. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Ken Harris

Ken Harris retired from the FBI, after thirty-two years, as a cybersecurity executive. With over three decades writing intelligence products for senior Government officials, Ken provides unique perspectives on the conventional fast-paced crime thriller. He is the author of the “From the Case Files of Steve Rockfish” series. He spends days with his wife Nicolita, and two Labradors, Shady and Chalupa Batman. Evenings are spent playing Walkabout Mini Golf and cheering on Philadelphia sports. Ken firmly believes Pink Floyd, Irish whiskey and a Montecristo cigar are the only muses necessary. He is a native of New Jersey and currently resides in Northern Virginia.

The Pine Barrens Stratagem published on January, 27, 2022. The sequel, See You Next Tuesday published July 14th and the third in the trilogy A Bad Bout of the Yips is coming March 9, 2023.

Catch Up With Ken Harris:
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