#Featured “She Knew Her Killer (Detective Claudia Nunn Mystery Book 3)” by Rebecca Bradley

book cover

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A DARK, TWISTY AND UTTERLY COMPELLING PAGE-TURNER.

Five old school friends reunited for a weekend in Sheffield. A drunken game of truth or dare. One won’t survive.

The young woman is found murdered in a swanky hotel room. Detective Claudia Nunn gets the text just as she leaves her therapist’s office.

The victim’s friends all say the same thing: she had been distracted and kept disappearing all weekend. And on the Saturday, someone had screamed abuse in her face.

Did she know her killer?

As Claudia closes in on the murderer, the top-brass start closing down the investigation. And the team become the target of violent attacks.

Someone will do anything to stop the truth getting out.

Prepare to be hooked.

This unputdownable crime thriller is perfect for fans of Helen H. Durrant, Rachel Abbott, Biba Pearce, Angela Marsons and L.J. Ross.

Kindle Unlimited

99c

Amazon

~~~

#BookTour “Twentymile” by C. Matthew Smith

Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith Banner

November 15 – December 10, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith

When wildlife biologist Alex Lowe is found dead inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it looks on the surface like a suicide. But Tsula Walker, Special Agent with the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch and a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, isn’t so sure.

Tsula’s investigation will lead her deep into the park and face-to-face with a group of lethal men on a mission to reclaim a historic homestead. The encounter will irretrievably alter the lives of all involved and leave Tsula fighting for survival – not only from those who would do her harm, but from a looming winter storm that could prove just as deadly.

A finely crafted literary thriller, Twentymile delivers a propulsive story of long-held grievances, new hopes, and the contentious history of the land at its heart.

Praise for Twentymile:

“[A] striking debut . . . a highly enjoyable read suited best to those who like their thrillers to simmer for awhile before erupting in a blizzard of action and unpredictability . . .” Kashif Hussain, Best Thriller Books.

“C. Matthew Smith’s original, intelligent novel delivers unforgettable characters and an irresistible, page-turning pace while grappling with deeply fascinating issues of land and heritage and what and who is native…. Twentymile is an accomplished first novel from a talented and fully-formed writer.” James A. McLaughlin, Edgar Award-winning author of Bearskin

Twentymile is packed with everything I love: A strong, female character; a wilderness setting; gripping storytelling; masterful writing. Smith captures powerfully and deeply the effects of the past and what we do to one another and ourselves for the sake of ownership and possession, for what we wrongfully and rightfully believe is ours. I loved every word. A beautiful and brutal and extraordinary debut.” Diane Les Becquets, bestselling author of Breaking Wild and The Last Woman in the Forest

Book Details:

Genre: Procedural, Thriller

Published by: Latah Books

Publication Date: November 19, 2021

Number of Pages: 325

ISBN: 978-1-7360127-6-5

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Latah Books

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Read an excerpt:

HARLAN

CHAPTER ONE

May 10

The same moment the hiker comes upon them, rounding the bend in the trail, Harlan knows the man will die.

He takes no pleasure in the thought. So far as Harlan is aware, he has never met the man and has no quarrel with him. This stranger is simply an unexpected contingency. A loose thread that, once noticed, requires snipping.

Harlan knows, too, it’s his own fault. He shouldn’t have stopped. He should have pressed the group forward, off the trail and into the concealing drapery of the forest. That, after all, is the plan they’ve followed each time: Keep moving. Disappear.

But the first sliver of morning light had crested the ridge and caught Harlan’s eye just so, and without even thinking, he’d paused to watch it filter through the high trees. Giddy with promise, he’d imagined he saw their new future dawning in that distance as well, tethered to the rising sun. Cardinals he couldn’t yet spot were waking to greet the day, and a breeze picked up overhead, soughing through shadowy crowns of birch and oak. He’d turned and watched the silhouettes of his companions taking shape. His sons, Otto and Joseph, standing within arm’s length. The man they all call Junior lingering just behind them.

The stranger’s headlamp sliced through this reverie, bright and sudden as an oncoming train, freezing Harlan where he stood. In all the times they’ve previously made this journey—always departing this trail at this spot, and always at this early hour—they’ve never encountered another person. Given last night’s thunderstorm and the threat of more to come, Harlan wasn’t planning on company this morning, either.

He clamps his lips tight and flicks his eyes toward his sons—be still, be quiet. Junior clears his throat softly.

“Mornin’,” the stranger says when he’s close.

The accent is local—born, like Harlan’s own, of the surrounding North Carolina mountains—and his tone carries a hint of polite confusion. The beam of his headlamp darts from man to man, as though uncertain of who or what most merits its attention, before settling finally on Junior’s pack.

The backpack is a hand-stitched canvas behemoth many times the size of those sold by local outfitters and online retailers. Harlan designed the mammoth vessel himself to accommodate the many necessities of life in the wilderness. Dry goods. Seeds for planting. Tools for construction and farming. Long guns and ammunition. It’s functional but unsightly, like the bulbous shell of some strange insect. Harlan and his sons carry similar packs, each man bearing as much weight as he can manage. But it’s likely the rifle barrel peeking out of Junior’s that has now caught the stranger’s interest.

Harlan can tell he’s an experienced hiker, familiar with the national park where they now stand. Few people know of this trail. Fewer still would attempt it at this hour. Each of his thick-knuckled hands holds a trekking pole, and he moves with a sure and graceful gait even in the relative dark. He will recognize—probably is just now in the process of recognizing—that something is not right with the four of them. Something he may be tempted to report. Something he might recall later if asked.

Harlan nods at the man but says nothing. He removes his pack and kneels as though to re-tie his laces.

The hiker, receiving no reply, fills the silence. “How’re y’all do—”

When Harlan stands again, he works quickly, covering the stranger’s mouth with his free hand and thrusting his blade just below the sternum. A whimper escapes through his clamped fingers but dies quickly. The body arches, then goes limp. One arm reaches out toward him but only brushes his shoulder and falls away. Junior approaches from behind and lowers the man onto his back.

Even the birds are silent.

Joseph steps to his father’s side and offers him a cloth. Harlan smiles. His youngest son is a carbon copy of himself at eighteen. The wordless, intent glares. The muscles tensed and explosive, like coiled springs straining at a latch. Joseph eyes the man on the ground as though daring him to rise and fight.

Harlan removes the stranger’s headlamp and shines the beam in the man’s face. A buzz-cut of silver hair blanches in this wash of light. His pupils, wide as coins, do not react. Blood paints his lips and pools on the mud beneath him, smelling of copper.

“I’m sorry, friend,” Harlan says, though he doubts the man can hear him. “It’s just, you weren’t supposed to be here.” He yanks the knife free from the man’s distended belly and cleans it with the cloth.

From behind him comes Otto’s fretful voice. “Jesus, Pop.”

Harlan’s eldest more resembles the men on his late wife’s side. Long-limbed and dour. Quiet and amenable, but anxious. When Harlan turns, Otto is pacing along a tight stretch of the trail with his hands clamped to the sides of his head. His natural state.

“Shut up and help me,” Harlan says. “Both of you.”

He instructs his sons to carry the man two hundred paces into the woods and deposit him behind a wide tree. Far enough away, Harlan hopes, that the body will not be seen or smelled from the trail any time soon. “Wear your gloves,” he tells them, re-sheathing the knife at his hip. “And don’t let him drag.”

As Otto and Joseph bear the man away, Harlan pockets the lamp and turns to Junior.

“I know, I know,” he says, shaking his head. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what?”

Harlan sweeps his boot back and forth along the muddy trail to smooth over the odd bunching of footprints and to cover the scrim of blood with earth. He’s surprised to find his stomach has gone sour. “No witnesses,” he says. “That’s how it has to be.”

“People go missing,” Junior says, “and other people come looking.”

“By the time they do, we’ll be long gone.”

Junior shrugs and points. “Dibs on his walking sticks.”

Harlan stops sweeping. “What?”

“Sometimes my knees hurt.”

“Fine,” Harlan says. “But let’s get this straight. Dibs is not how we’re going to operate when we get there.”

Junior blinks and looks at him. “Dibs is how everything operates.”

Minutes later, Otto and Joseph return from their task, their chests heaving and their faces slick. Otto gives his younger brother a wary look, then approaches Harlan alone. When he speaks, he keeps his voice low.

“Pop—”

“Was he still breathing when you left him?”

Otto trains his eyes on his own feet, a drop of sweat dangling from the tip of his nose.

“Was he?”

Otto shakes his head. He hesitates for a moment longer, then asks, “Maybe we should go, Pop? Before someone else comes along?”

Harlan pats his son’s hunched neck. “You’re right, of course.”

The four grunt and sway as they re-shoulder their packs. Wooden edges and sharp points dig into Harlan’s back and buttocks through the canvas, and the straps strain against his burning shoulders. But he welcomes this discomfort for what it means. This, at last, is their final trip.

This time, they’re leaving for good.

They fan out along the edge of the trail, the ground sopping under their boots. Droplets rain down, shaken free from the canopy by a gust of wind, and Harlan turns his face up to feel the cool prickle on his skin. Then he nods to his companions, wipes the water from his eyes, and steps into the rustling thicket.

The others follow after him, marching as quickly as their burdens allow.

Melting into the trees and the undergrowth.

PART I:

DRIFT 

TSULA 

CHAPTER TWO

October 26

By the time the two vehicles she’s expecting appear at the far end of the service road, Tsula is already glazed with a slurry of sweat and south Florida sand so fine it should really be called dust. She hasn’t exerted herself in the slightest—she parked, got out of her vehicle, waited for the others to arrive—but already she longs for a shower. She wipes her brow with an equally damp forearm. It accomplishes little.

“Christ almighty.”

Tsula grew up in the Qualla Boundary—the eighty square miles of western North Carolina held by the federal government in trust for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians—and had returned to her childhood home two years ago after a prolonged absence. This time of year in the Qualla, the mornings are chilly and the days temperate, autumn having officially shooed summer out of the mountains. In northern Wyoming, where she’d spent nearly two decades of her adult life, it takes until mid-morning in late October for the frost to fully melt. Tsula understands those rhythms—putting on layers and shedding them, freezing and thawing. The natural balance of it. But only miles from where she stands, in this same ceaseless heat, lies the Miami-Dade County sprawl. It baffles her. Who but reptiles could live in this swelter?

Tsula raises her binoculars. A generic government-issued SUV, much like her own, leads the way. An Everglades National Park law enforcement cruiser follows close behind.

She looks down at her watch: 11:45 a.m.

Tsula flaps the front of her vented fishing shirt to move air against her skin. The material is thin, breathable, and light tan, but islets of brown have formed where the shirt clings to perspiration on her shoulders and chest. She removes her baseball cap, fans her face, and lifts her ponytail off her neck. In this sun, her black hair absorbs the heat like the hood of a car, and she would not at all be surprised to find it has burned her skin. For a moment, she wishes it would go ahead and gray. Surely that would be more comfortable.

The vehicles pull to a stop next to her, and two men exit. Fish and Wildlife Commission Investigator Matt Healey approaches first. He is fifty-something, with the tanned and craggy face of someone who has spent decades outside. Tsula shakes his hand and smiles.

“Special Agent,” he says, scratching at his beard with his free hand.

The other man is younger—in his late twenties, Tsula figures—and dressed in the standard green-and-gray uniform of a law enforcement park ranger. He moves with a bounding and confident carriage and thrusts out his hand. “Special Agent, I’m Ranger Tim Stubbs. Welcome to Everglades. I was asked to join y’all today, but I’m afraid they didn’t give me much other info. Can someone tell me what I’m in for?”

“Poachers,” Healey answers. “You’re here to help us nab some.”

“We investigate poaching every year,” Stubbs says, nodding toward Tsula. “Never get the involvement of the FBI.”

“ISB,” she corrects him. “Investigative Services Branch? I’m with the Park Service.”

“Never heard of it,” Stubbs says.

“I get that a lot.”

Whether he knows it or not, Stubbs has a point. The ISB rarely, if ever, involves itself in poaching cases. Most large parks like Everglades have their own law enforcement rangers capable of looking into those of the garden variety. Federal and state fish and wildlife agencies can augment their efforts where necessary. At just over thirty Special Agents nationwide, and with eighty-five million acres of national park land under their jurisdiction from Hawaii to the U.S. Virgin Islands, this little-known division of the Park Service is too thinly staffed to look into such matters when there are suspicious deaths, missing persons, and sexual assaults to investigate.

But this case is different.

“It’s not just what they’re taking,” Healy says. “It’s how much they’re taking. Thousands of green and loggerhead turtle eggs, gone. Whole nests cleaned out at different points along Cape Sable all summer long. Always at night so cameras don’t capture them clearly, always different locations. They’re a moving target.”

“We’ve been concerned for a while now that they may be getting some assistance spotting the nests from inside the park,” Tsula adds. “So, we’re keeping it pretty close to the vest. That’s why no one filled you in before now. We don’t want to risk any tip-offs.”

“What would anyone want with that many eggs?”

“Black market,” Healey says.

“You’re kidding.”

Healey shakes his head. “Sea turtle eggs go down to Central America where they’re eaten as an aphrodisiac. Fetch three to five bucks apiece for the guy stateside who collects them. Bear paws and gallbladders go over to Asia. All kinds of other weird shit I won’t mention. And, of course, there are the live exotics coming into the country. Billions of dollars a year in illegal animal trade going all over the world. One of the biggest criminal industries besides drugs, weapons, and human trafficking. This many eggs missing—it’s like bricks of weed or cocaine in a wheel well. This isn’t some guy adding to his reptile collection or teenagers stealing eggs on a dare. This is commerce.”

Tsula recognizes the speech. It’s how Healey had hooked her, and how she in turn argued her boss into sanctioning her involvement. “Sure, most poaching is small-potatoes,” he told her months ago. He’d invited her for a drink that turned out to be a pitch instead. “Hicks shooting a deer off-season on government land and similar nonsense. This isn’t that. You catch the right guys, and they tell you who they’re selling to, maybe you can follow the trail. Can you imagine taking down an international protected species enterprise? Talk about putting the ISB on the map.”

“So maybe that’s what’s in it for me,” Tsula said, peeling at the label on her bottle. “Why are you so fired up?”

He straightened himself on his stool and drew his shoulders back. “These species are having a hard enough time as it is. Throw sustained poaching on top, it’s going to be devastating. I want it stopped. Not just the low-level guys, either. We put a few of them in jail, there will always be more of them to take their place. I want the head lopped off.”

Tsula had felt a thrill at Healey’s blunt passion and the prospect of an operation with international criminal implications. Certainly, it would be a welcome break from the child molestation and homicide cases that ate up her days and her soul, bit by bit. It took three conversations with the ISB Atlantic Region’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge, but eventually he agreed.

“This better be worth it,” he told her finally. “Bring some people in, get them to tell us who they’re working for. We may have to let the FBI in after that, but you will have tipped the first domino.”

Their investigation had consumed hundreds of man-hours across three agencies but yielded little concrete progress for the first several months. Then a couple weeks ago, Healey received a call from the Broward County State Attorney’s office. A pet store owner under arrest for a third cocaine possession charge was offering up information on turtle egg poachers targeting Everglades in a bid for a favorable plea deal. Two men had recently approached the store owner, who went by the nickname Bucky, about purchasing a small cache of eggs they still had on hand. It was toward the end of the season, and the recent yields were much smaller than their mid-summer hauls. Since many of the eggs they’d gathered were approaching time to hatch, the buyers with whom the two men primarily did business were no longer interested. The two men were looking for a legally flexible pet store owner who might want to sell hatchlings out the back door of his shop.

Tsula decided to use Bucky as bait. At her direction, he would offer to purchase the remaining eggs but refuse to conduct the sale at his store. The strip mall along the highway, he would explain, was too heavily trafficked for questionable transactions. But he knew a quiet place in the pine rocklands near the eastern border of the park where he liked to snort up and make plans for his business. They could meet there.

“Do I really have to say the part about snorting up?” Bucky had asked her, scratching his fingernails nervously on the interrogation room table. “I really don’t want that on tape. My parents are still alive.”

“You think they don’t know already?” Tsula said. “You don’t like my plan, good luck with your charges and your public defender here. How much time do you figure a third offense gets you?”

At his lawyer’s urging, Bucky finally agreed. The plan was set in motion, with the operation to take place today.

“So how are we looking?” Healey asks.

“Bucky’s on his way,” Tsula says. “I met with him earlier for a final run-through, got him mic’d up. We’re going to move the vehicles behind the thicket over there and wait. I’ve scouted it out. We’ll be concealed from the road. The purchase will take place about 12:30. As soon as Bucky has the eggs, we make our move.”

“I’ll secure the eggs,” Healy says. “You guys reel in some assholes.”

Tsula looks at Stubbs. His jaw is clenched, his eyes suddenly electric. “I’ll ride with you when it’s time, if that’s alright,” she says. “Keep it simple.”

They move their vehicles behind the wall of climbing fern and ladies’ tresses. Tsula exits her SUV, takes a concealed vantage point behind the brush, and raises her binoculars. To her left, a breeze has picked up and is swaying the distant sawgrass. A golden eagle circles effortlessly on a thermal, its attention trained on something below. Directly beyond the thicket where she stands, a large expanse of grass spreads out for a quarter mile before giving way to a dense stand of pine trees. To her right, that same open field stretches perhaps two miles, bordered by the service road on which Healy and Stubbs had just come in. All is silent but the soft hum of the breeze.

Bucky’s rust-colored compact bounces up the road around 12:15 and disappears as it passes on the opposite side the thicket. Minutes later, a mud-flecked pickup on oversized tires proceeds the same direction up the road, dragging a dust plume like a thundercloud behind it.

Tsula turns, nods to Healey, and climbs quietly into Stubbs’s cruiser. She inserts her earpiece and settles into the seat. Stubbs looks over at her expectantly, his hand hovering over the ignition.

Tsula shakes her head. “Not yet.”

***

Excerpt from Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith. Copyright 2021 by C. Matthew Smith. Reproduced with permission from C. Matthew Smith. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

C. Matthew Smith

C. Matthew Smith is an attorney and writer whose short stories have appeared in and are forthcoming from numerous outlets, including Mystery Tribune, Mystery Weekly, Close to the Bone, and Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir Vol. 3 (Down & Out Books). He’s a member of Sisters in Crime and the Atlanta Writers Club.

Catch Up With C. Matthew Smith: www.cmattsmithwrites.com Twitter – @cmattwrite Facebook

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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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Join In to WIN:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for C. Matthew Smith. There will be TWO winners. ONE (1) winner will receive (1) $25 Amazon.com Gift Card and ONE (1) winner will receive one (1) signed physical copy of Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith. The giveaway runs November 15 through December 12, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

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#BookSale “The Wedding Crasher: A Sam Tate Mystery” by Nikki Stern

~ Blogger Favorite ~

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Synopsis:

A brunette in a bridal gown turns up in Pickett County, Tennessee, throat slit and ring finger missing. She’s the latest victim of the Wedding Crasher, a serial killer who murders women just weeks before their weddings.

Samantha Tate is Picket County’s yoga-loving, poker-playing new sheriff, a former Nashville homicide detective who struggles with her inner demons. To catch the meticulous murderer, Sam will have to follow her instincts and ignore her worst impulses. Can she stop the Wedding Crasher before another bride-to-be dies?

99c for a limited time!

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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~ Felicia’s Review –

5/5 Stars!

Murdered young women, a serial killer with a penchant for wedding dresses and who kills annually, a frustrated female sheriff carrying way too much baggage and drinking too much, an FBI agent haunted by his own past, and a stunning plot twist mesh together to make The Wedding Crasher a suspense-filled ride… and an excellent read!

Sheriff Samantha Tate’s worst fears are realized when a murdered young woman is found in the woods, laid out under trees… in a wedding dress and missing her ring finger.

She’s victim number five, and the second in Sam’s county since she became sheriff.

The new investigation brings the Wedding Crasher task force together… again, and FBI Agent Terry Sloan back into Sam’s life, and thoughts.

Sam Tate is a great, edgy character, flawed to the hilt. But despite the death of her fiancé and her own traumatic connections to weddings, she’s a top of the line sheriff and investigator. Sam’s a woman walking in the footsteps of the last sheriff in a southern town full of powerful good old boys who consider her little more than a mere annoyance.

That’s a mistake.

The Crasher investigation stalls to a standstill again, but Sam’s got her hands full with – someone taking shots at her outside her home and her nightmares growing more intense. What can’t she remember from twenty-five years ago? Her therapist is being blackmailed, then she disappears. Two more local women are murdered—one a Pickett County deputy—and Sam has far too many suspects for these unrelated Crasher murders. Or are they?

Detective Abdi Issen is a great supporting character, and though she only appears briefly, Sam’s landlady, Cora Granville, is a hoot!

The Wedding Crasher more than delivers an unpredictable plot for suspense and thriller readers, and the twists and turns will keep conspiracy lovers on the edge of their seats. Even women’s fiction readers will find Sam’s story unputdownable.

And that ending? Yeah… I’m ready for the next book!

Enjoy!

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#1WeekSale “Love Me Tender (Book Five, DI Sterling Series)” by Lorraine Mace

~ Blogger Favorite ~

Mace Books

Amazon.com has included Love Me Tender – book 5 in the DI Sterling Thriller Series – in this month’s US price promotions. Love Me Tender will be on sale for this week ONLY at 99c (reg $3.50). This offer is available to any reader who uses Amazon.com to purchase their kindle titles.

Mace Reviews

If he wants you… there’s no escape.

A brutal murder . . .
Responding to a tip-off, newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Paolo Sterling arrives at an apartment block to find the dismembered body of a young woman. And with no indication of a break-in, all signs suggest the killer was known to her.

An abduction in plain sight . . .
Then the victim’s friend is snatched with no witnesses and the unanswered questions mount up.

At the same time, Sterling’s team are leading the surveillance of a local club, thought to be involved in a drug operation. But when one of his colleagues ends up in hospital close to death, Paolo begins to lose his grip.

A detective on the edge . . .
With the odds stacked against him, and time running out, can DCI Sterling uncover the truth before it’s too late? Or will this case finally tip him over the edge?

Don’t miss out on the latest Paolo Sterling thriller!

Amazon

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book cover

~ Felicia’s Review ~

July 26, 2021

Always a pleasure to sit down with my guy, Paolo Sterling, even when he’s off his game.

The former DI is now Detective Chief Inspector, but doesn’t feel any of the pride and sense of accomplishment such promotions usually bring. It’s been six months since his protegee and good friend, DS Dave Johnson, was murdered, and Paolo’s grief is as painful as the day it happened. And it doesn’t help that the man he holds most responsible for bullying and goading Dave, DC Jack Cummings, has a target on Paolo’s back.

However, what I love most about the DCI is he trudges on.

The drug overdose of one young woman and the murder of another who believed she was being stalked appear unconnected. But when another woman goes missing, Sterling and his team find links to all three women, a local nightclub, a popular gym… and far too many shady, drug-dealing characters who could all be killers.

When Jack is brutally attacked while on a voluntary stakeout of the nightclub, Paolo’s stress and guilt are only deepened. He detested the man, but he didn’t wish that kind of harm on him.

The assault on Jack—and the misguided rantings of his boss—are gut punches to the DCI that spur him on to resolve the investigations… and find the missing woman alive.

Lorraine Mace does a superb job of taking us inside the mind of a sociopath twisted by his upbringing. Raised by his abusive grandfather and submissive grandmother, he never stood a chance. He’s almost a sympathetic character, except for the kidnapping and killing part.

CC—DS Cathy Connors—is a standout as Paolo’s new “partner.” She knows Dave’s death is with her boss daily, and she knows when to push and when to give him space while still being a stellar investigator.

Lydia, the ex-wife, is still around. Grrr. She was a coworker of the murdered woman and the reason Paolo got involved even before they knew she’d been killed. The murder heightens their concern for their daughter, Katy, off volunteering in remote villages in Africa and out of touch for weeks at a time. However, even without all the arguing and blame-placing, I’m still not a Lydia-fan. Meh.

Rebounding from his assault, Jack’s continued lies and machinations only serve to tighten the noose around Sterling’s neck and threaten his job. But the pragmatic detective has grown weary of being the whipping boy and does what he does best… solve cases. As I said, he trudges on, but with a lighter step and his confidence back in place.

This is another great installment in the Sterling series that delivers!

Enjoy!

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#BookReview “Cliff Diver” by Carmen Amato

Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato Banner

November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

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5/5 Stars!

Mexican detective Emilia Cruz is the driving force in this gritty read of crime and corruption.

What begins as a minor crime by a Mexican national quickly moves to murder, police corruption, and nearly every crime imaginable by the Mexican cartels.

The author nails the authenticity of the drugs wars, and at times fiction felt like reality.

Junior detective Cruz not only has her hands full with the murder of her boss, but she also has to deal with being the only woman in the detective squad and the endless micro-aggression from the men who don’t want her there, including her partner.

Emilia’s investigation uncovers more crimes than she expected, but instead of congratulations and support, she gets contempt from her coworkers and superiors for tarnishing the police department’s image and the city.

But that doesn’t stop her.

Acapulco is the exotic setting for this police procedural, and it’s juxtaposed against the poverty of the region, highlighting the disparity of status and class.

There is also a hint of romance for Emilia that could grow in through the series.

With a strong female lead and a well-developed plot—and great subplots—Cliff Diver is a suspenseful read that keeps you turning pages to solve a mystery and find at least one killer.

Looking forward to reading more in the Emilia Cruz series.

Enjoy!

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Synopsis:

 

Acapulco’s first female police detective dives into an ocean of secrets, lies, and murder when she investigates her own lieutenant’s death.

In this explosive start to the award-winning Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco, Emilia beat the odds to become the resort city’s first female police detective. But she’s living in a pressure cooker. Other detectives are scheming to push her out and the police department is riddled with corruption and drug cartel influence.

When the lieutenant is murdered, Emilia is assigned to lead the investigation. Soon the man’s sordid sex life, money laundering, and involvement in a kidnapping double-cross combine to create an ugly mess no one wants exposed. The high profile murder case could wreck Emilia’s career. When another detective–Emilia’s worst enemy in the squadroom–emerges as the prime suspect, keeping her job might be the least of her worries.

Readers who love international mystery series crime fighters including Armand Gamache, Harry Hole, Guido Brunetti, and the Department Q series will also love Detective Emilia Cruz’s complex plots, pulse-pounding suspense, and exotic location. Perfect for lovers of detective fiction by Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo, and Peter May, as well as Don Winslow’s Mexican cartel and border thrillers.

“Consistently exciting”
Kirkus Reviews

“A wonderful crime mystery”
— MysterySequels.com

Poison Cup award, Outstanding Series 2019 and 2020
— CrimeMasters of America

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Published by: Laurel & Croton

Publication Date: September 2021 (first published January 27, 2013)

Number of Pages: 302

ISBN: 1482308045 (ISBN13: 9781482308044)

Series: Emilia Cruz Mysteries #1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

~~~

Tour Participants:

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

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Enter to Win:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carmen Amato. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Gift box of 5 best-selling mystery/thriller books by various authors hand-selected by Carmen Amato, plus a signed copy of the latest book in the Detective Emilia Cruz series AND a $20 Amazon.com gift card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs November 1 through December 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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#BookTour “Cliff Diver” by Carmen Amato

Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato Banner

November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

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Synopsis:

 

Acapulco’s first female police detective dives into an ocean of secrets, lies, and murder when she investigates her own lieutenant’s death.

In this explosive start to the award-winning Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco, Emilia beat the odds to become the resort city’s first female police detective. But she’s living in a pressure cooker. Other detectives are scheming to push her out and the police department is riddled with corruption and drug cartel influence.

When the lieutenant is murdered, Emilia is assigned to lead the investigation. Soon the man’s sordid sex life, money laundering, and involvement in a kidnapping double-cross combine to create an ugly mess no one wants exposed. The high profile murder case could wreck Emilia’s career. When another detective–Emilia’s worst enemy in the squadroom–emerges as the prime suspect, keeping her job might be the least of her worries.

Readers who love international mystery series crime fighters including Armand Gamache, Harry Hole, Guido Brunetti, and the Department Q series will also love Detective Emilia Cruz’s complex plots, pulse-pounding suspense, and exotic location. Perfect for lovers of detective fiction by Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo, and Peter May, as well as Don Winslow’s Mexican cartel and border thrillers.

“Consistently exciting”
Kirkus Reviews

“A wonderful crime mystery”
— MysterySequels.com

Poison Cup award, Outstanding Series 2019 and 2020
— CrimeMasters of America

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Published by: Laurel & Croton

Publication Date: September 2021 (first published January 27, 2013)

Number of Pages: 302

ISBN: 1482308045 (ISBN13: 9781482308044)

Series: Emilia Cruz Mysteries #1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

~~~

Read an excerpt:

The two newcomers surveyed the squadroom. One of them looked vaguely familiar, as if he’d been in the newspaper lately. He was in his late thirties, with longish dark hair slicked back from a high forehead and the sort of angular cheekbones that spoke of a strong indio heritage. He wore a black leather blazer over a black tee shirt and cuffed pants. There was a slight bulge under the left arm.

Emilia stopped typing. The man exuded power.

The other man was bigger and blockier, with a square chin and a nose that had been broken too many times. He was also well dressed in expensive casual clothing.

“I’m looking for a Detective Cruz,” the black-clad man announced.

Emilia felt all eyes shift to her. But before she could say anything Silvio crossed the room. “Detective Franco Silvio,” he said to the man in black.

“I know who you are,” the man replied. “I’m here to talk to Cruz.”

Emilia slowly stood up.

“In the office.” The man jerked his chin at Emilia and then he and his cohort pushed past Silvio and headed into el teniente’s office.

Silvio swung over to Emilia. “What the fuck’s this?” he hissed.

“I don’t know,” she flashed back. Rico came to stand next to her and Silvio gave him a what-the-fuck-do-you-think-you’re-doing look but Rico stood his ground.

The three of them went into the office. The man in black sat in el teniente’s chair and jiggled the locked desk drawers. “Shut the door,” he said without looking up.

Silvio complied and the man came out from behind the desk.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked Emilia.

Emilia gave her head a tight shake. With five people in the room it felt crowded and Emilia felt that cold spurt of wariness she always did when she was the only woman in a crowd of unfriendly men. “I’m sorry, señor.”

“I’m Victor Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of Guerrero,” he announced. “This is my deputy, Miguel Villahermosa.” The other man didn’t acknowledge the introduction but it was clear Obregon had not expected him to do so. “We’re here to make sure that the investigation into Fausto Inocente’s death is handled properly.”

Rico bristled, as if he was offended that the union would butt in. Emilia waited for him to say something stupid but Silvio shot him a murderous glare and Rico kept his mouth shut.

“We’re barely two hours into the investigation,” Silvio said, obviously making an effort to keep his temper. It had been less than 40 minutes since the call to the chief of police. “It came in as a routine dispatch call. Cruz and Portillo were given the assignment, made the discovery, locked down the scene, and notified the next of kin.”

“So let’s hear it,” Obregon said and flapped a hand.

Silvio nodded at Rico.

“We got a report of a drifting boat,” Rico began. “It was off the beach at the Palacio Réal hotel–.”

“No,” Obregon interrupted. He folded his arms. “Cruz.”

Emilia stole a look at Rico. His face was like thunder. She swallowed hard. “As my partner said, the call was to investigate a drifting boat off the beach at the Palacio Réal. The hotel chef and manager saw it from the beach early this morning, thought there were bloodstains on the side. We met Water Patrol at the hotel and they towed in the boat.” She took another breath and tried to sound as professional as possible. “Lt. Inocente was in the bottom of the boat, with his head encased in a plastic bag. It was pulled tight and knotted around his neck. When the crime scene technician opened the bag it appeared that the back of his head was caved in. We’ll know more when the coroner examines the body.”

Obregon nodded. “Any other injuries?” he asked her.

She shook her head. “No bullet holes in the hull of the boat, no evidence of a struggle. Blood on the deck under the body, likely from the head wound. Blood had also soaked through his shirt and there was some on the upper edge of the boat hull. Technicians took samples but they’ll probably all come back as his.”

“Anything else?”

“The boat is his. His wife gave us the registration papers.” Emilia paused, discomfited by Obregon’s stare. The tension in the room was palpable. She glanced at Rico and plowed on. “They live in the same area as the hotel. The wife wasn’t much help regarding his whereabouts last night. The last person who could pinpoint his whereabouts last night was their maid. Said he got a phone call late in the evening and went out. Took the boat keys but nothing else.”

“Wife didn’t see him?”

“She had gone out to a charity event,” Emilia said. “Of course, we’ll be checking to verify her story.”

Obregon tipped the chair back. A thin silver chain showed inside the loose neck of the tee. His skin was smooth and his jaw was tightly defined. He looked like someone who worked out a lot. And liked showing off the results.

“So, Cruz, tell me how you’re going to proceed,” he said, as if Rico and Silvio weren’t even in the crowded office.

“We’ll set up a hotline and get detectives out talking to everyone at his apartment building and the hotel to see if we can piece together his last hour. He was apparently close to his brother. We’ll talk to him as well. Look at his phone records to see if we can find out who the late night caller was. Coroner’s report. Forensics on his laptop. See if we get any prints off the boat.”

Obregon nodded and straightened the chair. Even that simple movement belied grace and power and focused intent. “This is how the investigation is going to go.” He pointed at Emilia. “You’re appointed acting lieutenant. Do whatever you want with these clowns”–he snapped his fingers at Silvio and Rico–“and the other cases you’ve got but I want you to personally head the Inocente investigation.”

Both Silvio and Rico froze as if they couldn’t believe what they’d just heard.

“Chief Salazar has already been notified. You’ll report directly to my office every few days until this thing is over.” Obregon indicated Villahermosa who’d remained by the door during the entire conversation, like a large, menacing statue. Obregon’s deputy was even bigger than Silvio, with legs the size of tree trunks. Another former boxer, no doubt. “Villahermosa will be on call to assist as well.”

The tension in the room was now tinged with menace. Emilia struggled to keep breathing normally.

“Cruz is a junior detective.” Silvio’s voice was tight. “She doesn’t have the experience or the seniority to be acting lieutenant.”

“Cruz has my full support,” Obregon said.

“With respect,” Silvio said. “We understand that. But she’s not the senior detective here.”

“Nobody’s asking for your fucking opinion,” Obregon blazed. His eyes drilled into Silvio. “Cruz is in charge as of now. Thanks for coming.”

Villahermosa pulled open the door and jerked his chin at Silvio and Rico. They both walked out.

Emilia stood rooted to the spot as her mind jumped around. Why had he chosen her? Did the union have the authority to put her in this position?

Obregon motioned to Villahermosa and the man left the office, too. And then it was just Obregon and Emilia. He walked round the desk again and rifled through a few of the papers on the desktop.

“The mayor has a press conference tomorrow and she’ll want to say something about the Inocente investigation,” Obregon said as he looked through the papers. “Be nice if you could have this all wrapped up by then.”

Emilia felt as if she’d been gutted. She forced a single word out around the tightness in her throat and the dryness in her mouth. “Sure.”

She must have sounded sassier than she felt because he looked up and laughed. “At any rate, we’ll meet beforehand to review what you’re going to tell her. Let’s say tomorrow 4:00 pm.”

He glanced at his watch, an expensive-looking silver job with three knobs on the side. “That gives you more than 24 hours to come up with something significant.”

Emilia licked her lips. “I won’t even have the phone records by then.”

“You’ll have something for the press conference,” Obregon said nastily. “Some nice sound bite about the diligence of the Acapulco police and how they’re sad but determined.”

“You want me to say this to the mayor?”

“Inocente was as dirty as they come.” Obregon turned his attention back to the overflowing inbox. “You’re going to turn up a lot of bad things. When you do, you tell me or Villahermosa. Not the other detectives and not the chief of police. You don’t arrest anybody, you don’t get yourself shot, you don’t do anything. I’ll take care of that part.”

Emilia’s heart hammered like a warning bell in her chest. “I think Silvio should be in charge of this investigation. He’s the senior detective.”

“If you find that the wife popped him,” Obregon went on. “And you know it beyond a shadow of a doubt, go ahead and arrest her. Otherwise come to me first. Nobody else.”

“Did you hear what I said?” Emilia said.

“I’m trying to clean up the police in this state,” Obregon said as he plucked a folder out of the box. As he flipped it open his hands knotted with veins, as if he had a lot of practice clenching and unclenching his fists. “I’m sick of the corruption and men like Inocente making deals with the cartels. People like him protect their empires, feed it with drugs and private armies. When you find out who killed Inocente we can probably roll up whatever cartel he was in bed with.”

“Why me?” Emilia asked. She was talking to his bent head as if he couldn’t be bothered to look her in the eye. The warning bell was deafening and Emilia knew she had to get herself out of this situation. Silvio should have this job. Or Loyola. They’d know how to deal with Obregon as well as how to conduct a major murder investigation. “You heard what Silvio said. Almost all the detectives out there are senior to me. There will be a lot of resistance. From all the other detectives. Enough to keep the investigation from going forward.”

“You’ll handle it.” Obregon read something else out of the inbox.

“You don’t understand.” Emilia slammed her hand down on the desktop to get his attention.

“Good,” he said, finally looking up from whatever he’d been reading. “You’ve got a fire in the belly. You get those detectives talking to everybody in that fucking hotel. Everybody who lived near him. Whoever even heard of Fausto Inocente. And if the boys don’t do what you say, shoot one of them. The rest will fall in line.”

He was serious.

“I don’t know who you think I am, señor,” Emilia gulped. “But I’ve only been a detective for two years. Mostly I’ve handled the crap cases. You need a seasoned investigator on this one. Get one of the other detectives to be acting lieutenant.”

“You’ve made quite a mark in two years, whether you know it or not,” Obregon said. “Recovering the Morelos de Gama child was a big deal.”

“The media made it out to be more than it was,” Emilia parried. “The case was handled in Ixtapa, not here.”

“We’ve been watching you.” He tossed the file onto the desk and regarded her. “Our girl detective. You’re a hungry one. You want to get someplace.”

“I’m sorry,” Emilia said. “Not this.”

“You’re the only woman here.” Obregon’s glance was searing.

“This is because I’m a woman?”

“Yes. Everybody knows women are less corrupt.” Obregon came around the side of the desk and Emilia resisted the urge to shrink away from him. “You do this or you won’t even be able to be hired on as the lowliest transito cop in any police force in this state.”

He leaned down and put his face close to hers. “You know he was corrupt. Up to his neck in shit. Well, I’m the person putting an end to it in the state of Guerrero, and you don’t get to choose sides.”

Emilia didn’t move. It was hard to breathe. He smelled like leather and cigarettes and an unexpected whiff of spicy cologne.

“I’ll be calling you on this office phone so you’d better move in today.” Obregon stepped back and ran an appraising eye down Emilia’s body. “And look good tomorrow. You want the mayor to take you seriously.”

“I’m junior around here,” Emilia said stubbornly. “You want a fast result, you get Silvio.”

“Maybe I wasn’t clear enough for you, Cruz.” Obregon’s voice was flat. “If the union puts you and your mother out on the street you won’t work as a whore in this town much less as a transito. So you show up and be nice to the mayor and tell her something clever for her little television press conference. How you’re working night and day to solve this terrible crime and keep Acapulco safe for the tourists.”

They stared at each other for a long moment.

You and your mother struck home for Emilia, as no doubt it was intended to.

“I want doors on the stalls in the detectives’ bathroom,” Emilia heard herself say. “And a copier that works. And paper for it. And ink.”

The corner of Obregon’s mouth twitched. “Anything else?”

“I’ll let you know,” she said tightly.

Obregon handed Emilia a card. There were two cell phone numbers printed on it. “You only use these numbers to get in touch with me,” he said.

Before she could respond he pulled open the door and shouted “Attention.”

Emilia followed Obregon as far as the doorway. The detectives were all there, as was Villahermosa. Obregon strode to the center of the squadroom, commanding everyone’s attention.

“Most of you know me. I am Victor Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of Guerrero.” He revolved slowly and most of the detectives stood a little straighter as his eye rested on them for a moment, creating the same malice-tinged tension he’d first brought into the squadroom. “As you know, Lt. Inocente was found dead this morning. His death will be investigated as a homicide by this unit until his murderer is found and dealt with.”

There was a low sound of shuffling feet. Somebody coughed.

Obregon jerked his chin in the direction of Lt. Inocente’s office where Emilia leaned awkwardly against the doorjamb. “Detective Emilia Cruz will be acting lieutenant for the duration and in charge of the investigation into Lt. Inocente’s death.”

Eyes swiveled to Emilia. Rico was openly shocked as he sat on the end of his desk. Silvio’s face was like granite. He was the only one who kept his gaze on Obregon.

Emilia didn’t acknowledge the stares. She kept her eyes on the ancient copier.

Several of the detectives shifted uncomfortably in the silence. “One of our own has died,” Obregon said. “And we will conduct a thorough investigation, find whoever did this, and punish them according to the full measure of Mexican law.”

He nodded at Emilia. “See you tomorrow, Cruz. Four o’clock.” His eyes revealed nothing. “Good luck.”

Obregon and Villahermosa walked out. As soon as the door shut behind them the squadroom erupted into a bedlam of shouting.

***

Excerpt from Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato. Copyright 2021 by Carmen Amato. Reproduced with permission from Carmen Amato. All rights reserved.

~~~

Author Bio:

Carmen Amato

Carmen Amato turns lessons from a 30-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency into crime fiction loaded with intrigue and deception.”

Her award-winning Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series pits the first female police detective in Acapulco against Mexico’s drug cartels, government corruption, and social inequality.

Described as “A thrilling series” by National Public Radio, the Detective Emilia Cruz series was awarded the Poison Cup for Outstanding Series from CrimeMasters of America in both 2019 and 2020 and has been optioned for television.

Originally from upstate New York, Carmen was educated there as well as in Virginia and Paris, France, while experiences in Mexico and Central America ignited her writing career.

Her family tree includes a mayor, a Mensa genius, and the first homicide in the state of Connecticut with an automatic weapon. The perpetrator, her great-grandfather, eluded a state-wide manhunt after killing two people–one of whom was his wife. He was never brought to justice. Carmen is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

Grab a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library at CarmenAmato.net.

You’ll see why Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp wrote: “For pure entertainment and a gripping story likely resulting in nail biting, read Carmen Amato’s addictive prose. She knows this territory like a jaguar!”

Catch Up With Carmen:
CarmenAmato.net
Goodreads
BookBub – @CarmenAmato
Instagram – @authorcarmenamato
Facebook – @authorcarmenamato

~~~

Tour Participants:

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

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Enter to Win:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carmen Amato. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Gift box of 5 best-selling mystery/thriller books by various authors hand-selected by Carmen Amato, plus a signed copy of the latest book in the Detective Emilia Cruz series AND a $20 Amazon.com gift card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs November 1 through December 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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#BookTour “Death Rang The Bell” by Carol Pouliot

Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot Banner

October 1-31, 2021 Book Tour

Synopsis:

Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot

21st-century journalist Olivia Watson thinks traveling back in time to 1934 to attend a Halloween party with her friend Detective Steven Blackwell will be a lot of fun. And it is…until she witnesses the head of the Shipley Five-and-Dime empire murdered, and fears the killer saw her face.

The smart move is to return to the safety of the present, but Olivia possesses a secret and is about to defy the unwritten rules of time-travel. She convinces Steven to let her stay in his time and help unravel the motives behind the murder, even if it means risking her own life to save another.

When Steven delves into the investigation, he discovers how a bitter relationship, a chance encounter, and a fateful decision converged to set the stage for murder. In a maze full of unreliable clues and misdirection, dark secrets refuse to stay buried and forgotten ghosts won’t fade away. Steven is reminded that old sins cast long shadows.

Can Steven catch the killer before time runs out for Olivia?

Praise for Death Rang the Bell:

“This highly inventive series serves up a real treat–a perfect combination of mystery, time travel, and romance.”
~~ Deborah Crombie, New York Times Bestselling author of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels

“Pouliot has the period details mastered, adding realism and depth to this wholly satisfying read.”
~~ Marni Graff, author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries

“With engaging characters, a murder mystery, and a trip back in time, Carol Pouliot’s Death Rang the Bell will keep you turning the pages all night!”
~~ Nancy Allen, New York Times Bestselling Author

“A Halloween setting, a house where time folds back on itself, and a crime with deep roots in the past make Carol Pouliot’s Death Rang the Bell a joy for fans of crisp writing and twisty, character-driven plots.”
~~ Connie Berry, Agatha-nominated author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries

“A delightfully immersive story, filled with surprising twists and turns, a touch of romance — plus a heroine you will happily follow as she jumps between decades, Death Rang the Bell is a truly great escape.”
~~ Alison Gaylin, USA Today and international bestselling author

“This intriguing and beautifully written series will draw you in and make you feel right at home in a time period you’ll wish you could visit.”
~~ Grace Topping, USA Today bestselling author of the Laura Bishop Mystery Series.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery (Traditional Police Procedural with a Time-Travel Twist)

Published by: Level Best Books

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Number of Pages: 311

ISBN: 978-1-68512-000-9

Series: The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, #3 || Each is a Stand-Alone Mystery

Purchase Links: Amazon | BN.com | Goodreads

~~~

Read an excerpt:

NOVEMBER 1916 − SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

Chapter 1

Hot coffee spilled over the rim and burned her hand. Lillian wanted to cry. At nine in the morning, she’d been on her feet since six and had seven long hours to go. She didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to keep it up. She was constantly exhausted and the struggle to breathe was worsening; some days it was nearly unbearable. She knew the disease was going to overpower her, and that moment was coming soon.

Lillian slid around some tables and set a heaping plate of eggs and bacon, potatoes, and toast in front of Arnie McCormack, then topped off his cup from the pot in her other hand. McCormack lowered his newspaper and leered, pinching her behind as she stepped away. Rude bastard. She’d like to pour the scalding coffee over his head and dump his breakfast right in his lap.

The only thing that kept her going every day was the thought of her beautiful little boy. Well, not so little anymore. He was growing up fast, nine years old in January. She managed a smile and wiped away a tear before it became a flood. Best not to think too much about things. Especially money. Lillian knew if she didn’t get the money somehow, she’d never see her son grow into a man.

And what about her letter? It had been four weeks since she’d mailed it. Surely he should have written back by now. She hadn’t been unreasonable, hadn’t asked for much, only enough to pay for treatment at the Little Red Cottage in Saranac Lake.

Dr. Trudeau’s Little Red Cottage. It sounded like heaven. Lillian had heard wonderful things about people being cured there. Imagine, cured! The thought made her dizzy.

Lillian returned to the lunch counter, using the backs of chairs for support. When she arrived at the griddle, she was breathing hard.

Tomorrow, she thought, if I don’t get an answer tomorrow, I’ll send another letter.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1934

Chapter 2

The Three Witches of Macbeth were doing a swell job. Annie, Molly, and Lilly led the parade of pirates, sailors, and fairy princesses through Knightsbridge, picking up ghosts, goblins, and a mummy along the way. Crowds of families followed the costumed children down Victoria Avenue to the entrance of The Elks Club, where, from the top of the staircase, The Three Witches hissed, “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble.”

Molly cried out, “Beware, all ye who enter here.” Then she thumped a tall gnarled staff on the stone step, and Annie and Lilly grasped the thick iron rings with both hands and heaved. As the massive oak doors creaked open, the masquerading children flew up the stairs and into the community room, awash with the scents of apples and cinnamon.

Carved pumpkins flickered in the semi-darkened room, revealing white cobweb-filled corners and big black spiders and bats hanging so low that adults had to duck. Seeing colorful bags piled on black-draped tables, one little boy jumped up and down, clapping his hands in glee. A girl grabbed her friend’s hand, and they did a little dance, and three teenagers slapped each other on the back. A Halloween treat awaited each of them. Eager to explore, the kids fanned out.

“Ooh! I feel like I’m ten again,” said Olivia, shaking the black-and-orange tin noise maker. “Why didn’t we wear costumes?”

Steven gave her a look. “What if I had to rush out for an emergency?” he asked.

“You could’ve dressed like a cop.” She smirked.

“Hi, Steven.” Decked out in an eye patch and pirate gear, Jimmy Bourgogne appeared from behind Olivia, swept off his hat, and gave a courtly bow, bending low to the floor. “Miss Watson.”

“Jimmy, you look fantastic,” exclaimed Olivia. “I didn’t recognize you with that mustache and goatee.”

“Congratulations, Jimmy. You fellas did a swell job,” Steven said.

“Thanks, but the credit really goes to Leon here.”

A slender young man with light brown hair joined them. He sported a plaid shirt with a tin sheriff’s badge pinned over his heart, red kerchief around his neck, and holster holding a toy gun attached to a leather belt.

“Hi, Leon.” Steven extended his hand. “This is my friend Olivia Watson. Olivia, Leon Quigg is my mailman.”

“Nice to meet you, Miss Watson.” Leon said, nodding as he doffed his cowboy hat.

“I’m glad to meet you, too. This is a wonderful party.”

Jean Bigelow sidled up to Olivia, yelling amidst the racket. “You made it!”

“Jean! Isn’t this swell?” Olivia chuckled to herself. Liz and Sophie would crack up hearing her talk like a real 1934 person.

After several months, acting like she belonged here had become second nature, but Olivia Watson didn’t belong here. She lived in 2014 and only visited 1934 from time to time.

This week Olivia was spending several days in Steven’s time. No passport, no suitcase, no plane ticket required. All it took was a simple step across the threshold of her bedroom door into Steven’s Depression-era house−simple but the key to her recently discovered ability to time travel.

“What are you reading tonight?” Olivia asked the librarian.

“Edgar Allan Poe. ‘The Cask of Amontillado.’”

“That’s the one where the guy gets walled up, isn’t it?”

Jean nodded. “I’ve been practicing creepy voices for days.”

“Well, you look the part. I love your cape, very 19th-century.” Olivia touched a fold of Jean’s costume. “Ooh, velvet. I wish I’d worn that.”

The organizers had packed the evening full of entertainment. Steven and Olivia watched a magician pull pennies out of children’s ears and a rabbit out of his top hat, and wondered how he made the mayor’s watch disappear. The kids bobbed for apples, the water sloshing out of the metal washtub soaking the floor. The younger children played Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey and Drop-the-Handkerchief, while the older ones played charades and told ghost stories.

At seven thirty, the kids crowded along the row of tables where members of the Elks handed out treats. Noses in their black-and-orange bags exploring the treasures within, they moved to the far end to select their favorite soda, handing the tall glass bottles of Hires Root Beer, Orange Crush, and Coca-Cola to Jimmy Bou and Leon Quigg, who were armed with metal bottle openers.

The evening culminated with story telling. The village librarian led the young children into a side room, spooky picture books in hand. The older ones gathered behind the curtain on the shadow-filled stage where Jean Bigelow waited in flickering candlelight. When they’d settled in a circle on the floor, Olivia among them, the librarian cleared her throat and began.

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge….”

***

Excerpt from Death Rang the Bell by Carol Pouliot. Copyright 2021 by Carol Pouliot. Reproduced with permission from Carol Pouliot. All rights reserved.

 

~~~

Author Bio:

Carol Pouliot

Carol Pouliot holds a BA in French and Spanish and an MA in French. She has taught French, Spanish, German, and English. She owned and operated a translating agency for 20 years. Her work has been published in Victoria magazine.

Carol is the author of The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, which includes Doorway to Murder (book 1), Threshold of Deceit (book 2), and Death Rang the Bell (book 3).

Carol is passionate about the world and other cultures. She has visited 5 continents thus far and always has her passport and suitcase at the ready.

Catch Up With Carol Pouliot:
www.CarolPouliot.com
SleuthsAndSidekicks.com
BookBub – @cpouliot13
Goodreads
Instagram – @carolpouliotmysterywriter
Facebook – @WriterCarolPouliot

~~~

Tour Participants:

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

~~~

Don’t Miss Out on This Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carol Pouliot. There will be Four (4) winners for this tour. Two (2) winners will each receive a $15 Amazon.com gift card; Two (2) winners will each receive 1 print edition of Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot (US Only). The giveaway begins on October 1 and ends November 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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#Featured “MoonShadow Murder (Manny Rivera Mystery Series Book 4)” by Rich Curtin

Moonshadow cover

~~~

A nineteen-year-old girl named Sunshine disappears one evening from the back-country commune where she lives. She’s found the next day about a mile away, dead by strangulation.

The other residents of the commune, an unusual collection of dropouts from society, are all potential suspects as Deputy Sheriff Manny Rivera tries to make sense of an odd collection of clues. In the end, the deputy’s own life is endangered as he gets closer to understanding the motive for Sunshine’s murder.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon

~~~

(Promo ended. No longer free.)

#FREE “The Final Girl” by Kenneth Preston

cover

~~~

Five teens went camping. One survived.

Seventeen-year-old Jill Turner is the final girl, the lone survivor of a campsite massacre. Now, a killer is on the loose, and Jill holds the key to catching him. But this killer is no ordinary man. He is a monster, both alive and dead, and Jill knows this all too well. She knows what the monster is. She knows where he comes from. And she knows that he will kill again.

For veteran homicide detective Darlene Moore, this case is personal. Having lost her daughter two years ago, she finds herself drawn to Jill, and she will stop at nothing to protect her. But there is something strange about Jill’s story, something that leads Darlene to wonder if the girl knows more about the killer than she is letting on.

Jill is keeping a secret, one that has cost the lives of four of her friends. As Jill struggles with her past and the knowledge that her actions may have created a monster, Darlene races against time to stop a killer before he strikes again.

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#FREE “Rip Saw: A Detective Jericho Novel (The Detective Jericho Series Book 8)” by Walter Marks

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SOMEONE IS BEHEADING EAST HAMPTON POLICE OFFICERS
A crisis unlike any other that Detective Jericho has faced. Is it a terrorist or a homicidal maniac who is taunting the cops and leaving clues that lead nowhere? In a world where terrorism has become commonplace, these gruesome acts put the whole town of East Hampton on edge. Jericho and Detective Vangie Clark team up to stop the sadistic cop-killer reveling in these horrific crimes. And in doing so, they put their own lives in terrible jeopardy.

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