Thursday, October 22, 2020

Two Reasons to Run by Colleen Coble

Two Reasons to Run

by Colleen Coble

on Tour September 21 - October 23, 2020

Synopsis:

Two Reasons to Run by Colleen Coble

Gripping romantic suspense from USA TODAY bestselling author Colleen Coble.

A lie changed her world.

Police Chief Jane Hardy is still reeling from the scandal that rocked her small-town department just as she took over for her retired father—the man who wrecked her life with one little lie. Now she’s finally been reunited with her presumed-dead fifteen-year-old son, Will, and his father, documentarian Reid Bechtol.

A crisis looms.

When a murder aboard the oil platform Zeus exposes an environmental terrorist’s plot to flood Mobile Bay with crude oil, Jane and Reid must put their feelings for each other behind them and work together to prevent the rig from being sabotaged.

A killer targets her son.

Then the terrorist puts her son Will’s life on the line. Protecting him could be the common ground they need . . . but then ghosts from the past threaten to ruin Jane and Reid for good. She’s got plenty of reasons to run. But what if she stays?

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0785228489 (ISBN13: 9780785228486)
Series: Pelican Harbor #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook.com | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Was anyone watching?

Keith McDonald sat at the computer and glanced around the oil platform’s rec room, but the dozen or so workers were engrossed in watching the final game of a Ping-Pong match. He hesitated,
then hovered his cursor over the Send button. Clenching his teeth, he sent the emails. Maybe it was nothing, but if anyone could decipher the recording, it was Reid Dixon.

The back of his neck prickled, and Keith looked around again. The room felt stifling even with the AC cooling it from the May heat. He jumped up and headed for the door. He exited and darted into the shadows as two men strolled past. One was his suspect.

Keith stood on a grating suspended three thousand feet over the water and strained to hear past the noise of machinery. The scent of the sea enveloped him, and the stars glimmered on the water surrounding the oil platform that had been his home for two years now.

“Scheduled for late May—”

A clanging bell drowned out the rest of the man’s words.

“Devastation—”

The other fragment of conversation pumped up Keith’s heart rate. Were they talking about the sabotage he feared, or was he reading more into the words than were there? He couldn’t believe someone could be callous enough to sabotage the oil platform and destroy the coast on purpose. He’d seen firsthand the devastating effects from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. And what about the people living on the platform? Deepwater Horizon had killed eleven people and injured another seventeen.

He had to sound a warning and stop this, but he had no real evidence. If Reid Dixon blew him off, who would even listen? Maybe Homeland Security would pay attention, but who did he even call there? He could tell them about the pictures threatening Bonnie, but what did that prove? They might just say she had a stalker and he was chasing shadows.

He couldn’t say they were wrong.

He sidled along the railing, and the breeze lifted his hair. A boat bobbed in the waves far below, and in the moonlight, he spotted a diver aboard. Must be night diving the artificial reef created by the concrete supports below the platform. He’d done a bit of it himself over the years.

For an instant he wished he were gliding carefree through the waves without this crushing weight of conscience on his shoulders. When he was sixteen, life was so simple. School, girls, football, and good times. He’d gone to work at the platform when he was nineteen, after he’d decided college wasn’t for him.

It had been a safe place, a good place to work with fun companions and interesting work.

Until a few weeks ago when everything turned sinister and strange. He’d wanted to uncover more before he reported it, but every second he delayed could mean a stronger chance of an attack.

If an attack was coming. He still wasn’t sure, and he wanted a name or to identify the organization behind the threat. If there was a threat. Waffling back and forth had held him in place. Was this real, or was he reading something dangerous into something innocent?

Though he didn’t think he was overreacting.

He turned to head to his quarters. A bulky figure rushed him from the shadows and plowed into his chest, driving him back against the railing. The man grabbed Keith’s legs and tried to tip him over the edge.

***

Excerpt from Two Reasons to Run by Colleen Coble. Copyright 2020 by Colleen Coble. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series.

Catch Up With Colleen Coble:
ColleenCoble.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Giveway!!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Colleen Coble. There will be 3 winners, each winning ONE LITTLE LIE by Colleen Coble (Print). The giveaway begins on September 21, 2020 and runs through October 25, 2020. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

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My Take: This is the 2nd in The Pelican Hsrbor Series and it has some of the same characters but a different mystery. I would highly recommend reading the first book so you will be all caught up on the different relationships and how this book moves them forward or not. I haven't read many Colleen Coble books but the ones I have read I really enjoyed. This series are very good thrillers that have you holding your breath as you turn the pictures as fast as you can. This series is also told from a Chriatian perspective so no cursing or overt violence.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Murder, Forgotten by Deb Richardson-Moore

Murder, Forgotten

by Deb Richardson-Moore

on Tour October 1-16, 2020

Synopsis:

Murder, Forgotten by Deb Richardson-Moore

With the publication of 'Murder, Forgotten', Deb Richardson-Moore departs from her popular Branigan Powers series and introduces us to an unforgettable protagonist and a heart-pounding mystery that explores the vagaries of the mind and the way our memory often betrays us. The themes are both universal and personal at once. How does grief alter one’s memory? Is there more truth in fiction than in reality? This is a novel will have readers questioning their own motivations and that of the protagonist, Julianna Burke.

Julianna is a mystery writer who is famous for her ‘wanderings’ – eventually returning to her writing desk with exciting plot twists. But lately, she has nothing to show for her creative work. She fears her memory is slipping, and with it her heralded career.

Then her beloved husband and business partner is murdered. The police look at workmen, extended family and neighbors, but Julianna fears something far worse. Could she, deep in the writing of her latest mystery, 'Murder, Forgotten,' have acted out the fictional murder? In this plot within a plot, she seeks to find the killer. Can she find the truth when she questions her own reality?

'Murder, Forgotten' takes us from coastal South Carolina to the eastern shores of Scotland in a sweeping mystery that explores Julianna, grief-stricken and wounded, as she searches for truth in the midst of her own fiction.

Book Details:

Genre: Murder Mystery, Southern Mystery, Thriller
Published by: Lion Fiction
Publication Date: September 18th 2020
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 1782643117 (ISBN13: 9781782643111)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

FROM CHAPTER 2 –

In the days following Connor’s death, Logan had spent more time with her mother than in the past several years. Julianna had gone to stay with her neighbor, Liza Holland, and had moved through Liza’s house like a ghost – or a mental patient. She had appeared vacant at the funeral, with Margot hovering at her elbow to cover her lapses with both local mourners and New York publishing executives. Just last week, after deputies allowed Julianna back into this house, Logan had brought dinner. Through all that, her mother had never mentioned a new book.

But then she wouldn’t have. She was spacey at the best of times. After Connor’s death, her sleep became more disrupted, her empty stares more pronounced, her answers more nonsensical. Frankly, Logan had been relieved when Margot whisked her out of the country. But if you didn’t have to deal with the real Julianna Burke, the thought of a new Julianna Burke mystery was delicious. Logan would snuggle into bed sooner than she had planned and see what Martin Engler’s problem was. But first, she had to lock up downstairs. She stood, nearly tripping over Annabelle, who’d followed her into Julianna’s room unnoticed.

The dog whimpered.

“I know, baby girl,” Logan said. “Your mama will come back. I promise. But you get to sleep in my room tonight. How’s that?”

Annabelle trotted out of the room and dashed to Logan’s childhood bedroom. She sat at the door, looking up expectantly. “Back in a flash,” Logan assured her. She walked down the stairs and through the living quarters, turning off a living room lamp, rechecking the security alarm, and locking the door that led from the kitchen on to rickety side stairs. Circling back, she saw the glow from her mother’s office. She knew she’d left a light on, but the hairs on the back of her neck bristled nonetheless.

She’d never been afraid in this house, not once, not even as a teen left alone overnight when her mother and Connor remained in Columbia or Greenville or Asheville after a book signing. “The neighbors are so close,” she’d whined in her successful campaign of persuasion not to be dragged along. But those close neighbors hadn’t prevented Connor’s murder. For that matter, neither had the other two people in the house.

Logan took a steadying breath and returned to the office, the black binder still in her hand.

She reached to turn off the desk lamp but then thought about this treasure she’d unearthed in Connor’s bedside table. What else might there be? Resolutely turning her back on the blood-stained chair, she pulled open the slender top drawer of her mother’s desk. She felt guilty for a moment. Though she’d talked to her distracted mother from the office doorway or slouched on the couch as a teen seeking permission for one thing or another, she’d never been alone in this space.

***

Excerpt from Murder, Forgotten by Deb Richardson–Moore. Copyright 2020 by Deb Richardson–Moore. Reproduced with permission from Deb Richardson–Moore. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Deb Richardson–Moore

Deb Richardson-Moore is the author of 4 fiction titles and a memoir, The Weight of Mercy, about her early years as a pastor at the Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, S.C. A former national award-winning reporter for The Greenville News, Deb is a popular speaker at book clubs, universities and college events. She has won numerous awards for her philanthropy and community involvement, including the 2014 Women Making History Award from the Greenville, South Carolina Cultural Exchange Center and the 2016 Public & Community Service Award from the Atlantic Institute. A graduate of Wake Forest University, Deb lives with her husband in South Carolina.

Catch Up With Deb Richardson-Moore:
http://www.DebRichardsonMoore.com, Goodreads, BookBub, & Facebook!

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Deb Richardson-Moore. There will be 4 winners. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and Two (2) winners will each win one (1) ebook copy ofMurder, Forgotten by Deb Richardson-Moore. The giveaway begins on October 1, 2020 and runs through October 18, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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My Take: This book had a premise that I haven't read before, one of the main characters had dementia. I found this interesting as my father died of alzheimer's four years ago. Anyway there are plaenty of twists and turns in this book to keep you interested until the very end. I didn't figure it out and I had plenty of suspects. And as I mentioned before the dementia aspect added another level. Very enjoyable and keeps you guessing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

'Til Death Do Us...' A True Crime Story of Bigamy and Murder by Patrick Gallagher




'TIL DEATH DO US...'
Patrick Gallagher
True Crime

In August 1945, Gladys Lincoln of Sacramento contacted prosperous Dr. W. D. Broadhurst of Caldwell, Idaho, and rekindled a romance from twenty years earlier.  After many passionate letter exchanges and several sexually-charged meetings, they were married in Reno, Nevada on May 20, 1946.  After a passion-filled three-day weekend together, the doctor returned to his home in Idaho, and Gladys returned to Sacramento … and to her husband, Leslie Lincoln! But Gladys was much more than a bigamist.

Gladys needed something even she didn’t understand.  She married her first husband when she was 20, and her second husband only 14 months later.  The second marriage lasted only two years, the third less than 16 months.  Leslie Lincoln was her fifth, and Dr. Broadhurst became her sixth. But what desperate need drove her to go from marriage to marriage?

Then what dark mindset moved her and her young cowboy chauffeur to commit murder? Find out in ‘TIL DEATH DO US …’ the gripping new true crime from WildBlue Press author Patrick Gallagher whose grandfather was Gladys’ lead defense attorney during her sensational trial.



Amazon:
B&N:
WildBlue Press:

_____________________




What is it about Gladys that just doesn’t feel right?  When first meeting her, she comes across so well.  She is attractive and a good conversationalist.  She is outgoing and friendly and has a winning smile.  But it is not so much how she relates to you when with her as much as a realization that comes to you over a period of time knowing her.  Her judgments are poor and her decision making is downright disastrous.  She sounds friendly when speaking with her, but you come to understand that she is just playing a role.  She really doesn’t care about you or anyone else besides herself.  In time you come to realize that she seems to have frozen at about age 13 and has not matured beyond that point.  She was like the character in the J.M. Barrie play, “Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.”  It’s as if Gladys refused to become an adult woman, preferring the undisciplined and carefree life of a teenager.

One oddity of Gladys’ personality was perhaps a result of her inability or unwillingness to grow up.  She loved the movies.  Of course, many adults love going to the movie theater, but for Gladys it was like psychotherapy.  She seemed so impressed by the movies, perhaps “impressionable” is more accurate.  If she saw a movie she particularly liked, she would often emulate her favorite character or situation in the movie.  Bette Davis and Ingrid Bergman were her idols, but she had a whole list of femme fatale actresses that she admired.  Perhaps it had something to do with the war being fought at such great cost to American lives, but the movies released in the 1940’s were heavy on drama and suspense.

One movie that had a powerful impact on Gladys was “Leave Her to Heaven,” starring Gene Tierney as Ellen Berent who meets the novelist Richard Harlan, played by Cornel Wilde, on a train.  The stunningly beautiful but psychotically jealous Ellen ultimately proposes marriage to Richard.  As her jealousy causes the marriage to disintegrate, Ellen turns to murder and finally creates the ultimate revenge scenario.

At one point, Ellen is reading over Richard’s shoulder as he writes his novel, as he types, “’Will you marry me?’ he said.”

Ellen reacts, “Oh, no!”

Richard: “No what?”

Ellen: “Good grief!  ‘Will you marry me?’  In the first place, men never propose.  They think they do, but it’s really the woman.”

Richard: “Who told you that, Ripley?”

Ellen: “And when men do propose, they never say, ‘Will you marry me?’”

After some more discussion, Ellen asks, “How did you propose to me?”

Richard: “Uh. . . . . .”

Ellen: “You didn’t, I proposed to you.” (Then she grabs his face and pulls it to her and gives him a huge kiss) …. “Remember?”

_____________________

 




___________________

 

Many have set about in life to tell stories that amaze others. Patrick Gallagher had no such ambition. However, some stories grip us by the collar and demand they be told to the world, and this is what Patrick has been challenged to do. He has been a “jack of all trades, master of one,” the “one” being a U.S. Customs Broker and logistics specialist. But over the curse of a lifetime Patrick has worked as a farm laborer, forest fire fighter, process server, retail store manager, preacher, ware-houseman and dishwasher. However, founding and managing a business in international logistics was the career he loved.

Now retired, Patrick and his wife enjoy their four children and twelve grandchildren, and their home at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado.








http://www.pumpupyourbook.com
My Take: If you like true crime you will probably like this book. This book is about Gladys Lincoln and her many marriages and her one marriage that was while she was already married and her murder of one of her husbands. This explains her motive and gives you Gladys's perspective. I received a review copy from Pump kUp Your Book and was not required to write a positive review.

Derailed by Mary Kelikoa

Derailed by Mary Keliikoa Banner

 

 

Derailed

by Mary Keliikoa

on Tour September 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

Derailed by Mary Keliikoa

A dying wish. A secret world.

Can this grieving investigator stay on the right track?

PI Kelly Pruett is determined to make it on her own. And juggling clients at her late father’s detective agency, a controlling ex, and caring for a deaf daughter was never going to be easy. She takes it as a good sign when a letter left by her dad ties into an unsolved case of a young woman struck by a train.

Hunting down the one person who can prove the mysterious death was not just a drunken accident, Kelly discovers this witness is in no condition to talk. And the closer she gets to the truth the longer her list of sleazy suspects with murderous motives grows. Each clue exposes another layer of the victim's steamy double life.

Can Kelly pinpoint the murderer, or is she on the fast track to disaster?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: May 12th 2020
Number of Pages: 232
ISBN: 1603817069 (ISBN13: 9781603817066)
Series: PI Kelly Pruett #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Portland, Oregon has as many parts as the human anatomy. Like the body, some are more attractive than others. My father’s P.I. business that I’d inherited was in what many considered the armpit, the northeast, where pickpockets and drug dealers dotted the narrow streets and spray paint tags of bubble-lettered gang signatures striped the concrete. In other words, home. I’m Kelly Pruett and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

I’d just finished invoicing a client for a skip trace and flicked off the light in the front office my dad and I used to share when a series of taps came from the locked front door. It was three o’clock on a gloomy Friday afternoon. A panhandler looking for a handout or a bathroom was my best guess. Sitting at the desk, I couldn’t tell.

Floyd, my basset hound and the only real man in my life, lifted his droopy eyes to meet mine before flopping his head back down on his bed. No help there.

Another rap, louder this time.

Someone wanted my attention. I retrieved the canister of pepper spray from my purse and opened the door to a woman, her umbrella sheltering her from the late October drizzle. Her angle made it hard to see her face, only the soft curls in her hair and the briefcase hanging from her hand. I slipped the pepper spray into the pocket of my Nike warmup jacket.

“Is Roger Pruett in?” she asked, water droplets splatting the ground.

She hadn’t heard the news and I hadn’t brought myself to update R&K Investigation’s website. I swallowed the lump before it could form and clutch my throat. “No, sorry,” I said. “My dad died earlier this year. I’m his daughter, Kelly.”

“I’m so sorry.” She peered from under the umbrella, her expression pinched. She searched my face for a different answer.

I’d give anything to have one. “What do you need?”

“To hire a P.I. to investigate my daughter’s death. Can you help me?” Her voice cracked.

My stomach fluttered. Process serving, court document searches, and the occasional tedious stakeout had made up the bulk of my fifteen hundred hours of P.I. experience requirement. Not that I wasn’t capable of more. Dad had enjoyed handling cases himself with the plan to train me later. In the year since his death, no one had come knocking, and going through the motions of what I knew how to do well had been hard enough. Now this lady was here for my father’s help. I couldn’t turn her away. I raked my fingers through the top of my shoulder length hair and opened the door. “Come in.”

“Bless you.” She slid her umbrella closed and brushed past me.

After securing the lock, I led her through the small reception area and into my office. A bathroom and another office that substituted for a storage closet were down the long hallway heading to the rear exit. Floyd decided to take interest and lumbered over. With his butt in the air, he stretched at her feet before nearly snuffling my soon-to-be client’s shoe up his nose. She nodded at him before vicious Floyd found his way back to his corner, tail swaying behind him. Guess he approved.

The woman looked in her mid-sixties. She had coiffed hair the color of burnt almonds, high cheekbones, and a prominent nose. She reminded me of my middle school librarian who could get you to shut up with one glance. “Would you like coffee, Ms…?”

“No thank you. It’s Hanson.” She settled in the red vinyl chair across from my dad’s beaten and scarred desk. “Georgette Hanson.”

My skin tingled when she said her name.

“My condolences on your father,” she said.

“Thank you.” Her words were simple, and expected, but her eyes held pain. Having lost her daughter, she clearly could relate.

“How did it happen?” she asked.

I swallowed again. With as many people as I’d had to tell, it should be getting easier. It wasn’t. “Stroke. Were you a former client of my father’s?”

She waved her hand. “Something like that.” She lifted the briefcase to her lap and popped the latch. Her eyes softened. “He was a fine man. You look just like him.”

My confident, broad-shouldered, Welshman father had been quite fit and handsome in his youth. Most of my adult life he’d carried an extra fifty pounds, but that never undermined his strong chin, wise blue eyes, and thick chestnut hair. I’d been blessed with my Dad’s eyes and hair and had my mom’s round chin. But since I’d ballooned a couple of sizes while pregnant with Mitz, I knew which version she thought I resembled. “What were you hoping he could do for you with regards to your daughter?”

“Find out why she’s dead.” Georgette shoved a paper dated a few weeks ago onto the desk and snapped the case lid closed.

A picture of a young woman with a warm smile, a button nose, and long wavy brunette hair sat below the fold on the front page under the headline: WOMAN STRUCK BY MAX TRAIN DIES.

I winced at the thought of her violent end. “I’m sorry. Such a pretty girl.”

“She was perfect.” Georgette pulled off her gloves, her eyes brimming. “The train destroyed that. Do you know what a train does to a hundred-pound woman?” Her voice trembled.

To avoid envisioning the impact, I replaced it with the smiling face of Mitz, my eight-year-old daughter. Which made it worse. If anything ever happened to her… How Georgette wasn’t a puddle on the Formica eluded me. I took a minute to read the story. According to the article, Brooke Hanson fell from the sidewalk into the path of an oncoming MAX train downtown at Ninth and Morrison Street. The police reported alcohol was a contributing factor. “They detained the sole witness who found her, Jay Nightingale. Why?” I set the paper down.

Georgette brushed her hair away from her forehead flashing nails chewed to the quick. “At first, the police thought he had something to do with her fall. He told them he’d seen my Brooke stumble down the sidewalk and teeter on the edge of the curb. Supposedly, he called out the train was coming and she didn’t hear him. He made no effort to get her away from those tracks. When the autopsy showed she’d been drinking, they wrote her death off as an accident, released Mr. Nightingale, and closed the case.”

Their decision couldn’t have been that cut and dry. “How much had she been drinking?”

“You sound like the police.” Georgette lifted her chin and met my gaze. There are many stages to grief. One of them anger, another denial. Georgette straddled both, something I knew plenty about. “Not sure…exactly. You’ll have to check the report.”

I scanned her face for the truth. “You don’t know or you’re afraid to tell me?”

She massaged the palm of her hand with her thumb. “The bartender at the Limbo said she’d had a few before he’d cut her off and asked her to leave. None of that matters because Nightingale’s lying. He had something to do with her fall. He may have even pushed her. At the very least, he knows more than he’s telling.”

My eyebrows raised. The police weren’t perfect, but they had solid procedures in death investigations. They would have explored that angle. “What are you basing that on?”

“My gut.”

A mother’s intuition while undeniable, alone didn’t prove foul play. “Did the MAX operator see Mr. Nightingale next to her at any point?”

“He didn’t even see her because the area wasn’t well lit.”

“Do you have his name?”

“Chris Foley.”

I jotted the information down. “What do the train’s cameras show?”

“There weren’t any. And no passenger statements because the train was done for the night. But Brooke shouldn’t have even been in the vicinity of that train.”

“Where is the Limbo located?”

“Ten blocks from where she was hit.”

A half mile, give or take. “Could she have been heading to catch the MAX to go home?”

“Brooke detested mass transit. The people who ride during the day scared her. She wouldn’t go there at night. Besides, she lived south of town. The train wouldn’t have taken her there.” She sighed. “I’m telling you, she wouldn’t be that far from the bar unless someone…” She closed her eyes.

Georgette talked in circles attempting to make sense of it all, but I had first-hand knowledge of drunk people doing things out of character. Given what she’d described, I could understand why the police had closed the matter. Even so, her devastation gripped my heart. And something had brought her out on this rainy Friday. “What are you holding back, Ms. Hanson? Why do you feel so strongly Mr. Nightingale was involved that you’d come to my dad for help?”

She stared at her hands as if they held the answers. “Brooke had changed in the last year. Become more distant. Not visiting. Missing our weekly calls.” The corner of her mouth turned upward in a sad smile. “We used to go for pie once a month. She loved pie. Apple pie. Cherry pie.” Her smile melted. “One day she was too busy and couldn’t get away. When she did, she didn’t look well. Stressed.”

“Did she say what was bothering her?”

“No. She shut me out, which she’d never done before. Now to have been killed by a train downtown when that Nightingale fellow was close enough to stop it from happening? He’s involved. I can feel it.” She straightened. “Until I know what happened that night, I won’t rest.” Georgette reached into her purse and produced an envelope grasped in her right hand. “Here’s three thousand for you to find the truth. Please say you’ll help me.”

Despite steady work from a few law firms around town, and an adequate divorce settlement, being a single mom often meant more month than money. Georgette was offering twice what I made in a good month of process serving and that would go a long way in taking care of my little girl. Not needing to ever rely on my ex would have been incentive alone, but there was more to it than that.

I’d recognized Georgette’s name the moment she’d said it. At the reading of my dad’s will, his lawyer had handed me a handwritten letter. It was a request from my dad that if a Georgette Hanson ever came to his door asking for help, I should assist and not ask questions why. It had meant nothing at the time. I’d figured it was due to his unending dedication to his clients.

Because Georgette had a connection to my dad in some capacity, that sealed my decision to at least try and help her. While I’d been directed not to ask questions, even he would have needed the obvious one answered before he took her money.

“You said she’d changed. Is there any chance she might have…I mean, was she depressed? Could she have stepped…”

Georgette cut me off. “Stop.” Her eyes grew wide with denial and the damn broke. Tears poured over her cheeks; her shoulders shook, buckling from the weight of her anguish. The anger and determination she’d used as a mask crumbled, and each passing second exposed another layer of her gut-wrenching grief.

I shifted at witnessing her raw emotion, bracing myself against my own around my father, and my thoughts on Mitz. Tears stung my eyes, unsure how to comfort my client when I struggled to do that for myself.

She muffled a wail with the back of her hand and finally drew in deep breaths until the sobs subsided.

I grabbed a box of Kleenex behind me. She already had a handful of tissue ready from her purse. I’d back off the notion of suicide—for the moment. The woman didn’t need any more distress than she’d already endured.

She sniffed hard a couple of times and sopped up her face with the tissue. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” I swiped under my eyes with my fingers, gaining control over my thoughts. “I’m not sure I’ll uncover anything new, but I will look for you.”

“Thank you.” She composed herself and stuffed the tissue back in her purse for the next inevitable breakdown.

I handed Georgette one of my dad’s old contracts, explaining my hourly rate, and a couple of authorization forms that might come in handy if requesting any case files was necessary.

She signed her name without bothering to read the fine print. She stood, the vinyl chair screeching against the hardwood floor startling Floyd. Her expression softened. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-two.”

“Brooke was a couple of years older, but pretty, like you and with the same flowing brown hair and kind eyes.” She sniffed. “I came to Roger because he could get to the heart of things. If you’re like him, you’ll find out what happened to my baby.”

I’d never be as good as my dad, but I did possess his mule-like stubbornness to get to the bottom of things. My ex could attest to that. “I’ll do what I can.”

She nodded. “Brooke was a good girl. She loved animals, ran every morning, and worked for the law firm Anderson, Hiefield & Price. She was the head accountant there.” Her face beamed with pride before her chin trembled again, but she held it together.

“It might help if I get a better sense of who she was.” I slid the legal pad to her. “If I could get her address, I’d like to start there.”

Georgette jotted the information down and pushed it back to me. She dug into her purse and produced the key. “I haven’t brought myself to go there yet.”

I gave her a sympathetic smile. “Are there family or friends I should start with?”

“Besides my husband, Chester, there’s just her sister, Hannah, who lives in Seattle. They weren’t close.” Georgette cleared her throat. “She never spoke to me about friends or boyfriends. Honestly, with her work schedule, she didn’t have time for any.”

With my own social life lacking, I related. “Do you have her cell? I’d like to check who she had on speed dial.”

She shook her head. “It wasn’t among her belongings.”

What thirty-something didn’t have their phone glued to them? Unless the impact of the train threw it. Another image I pushed away. I rounded my desk and walked her out of my office.

“Please keep in touch on how the investigation is going,” she said.

I assured her I would. She squeezed my arm to thank me as she left. With a twist of the deadbolt, I rested my shoulder against the door and closed my eyes. Mitz would get hugged a little closer tonight.

At my desk, Floyd trotted over and sat at my feet. He rested his chin on my lap while I added a few more notes. His sixth sense of when I needed him never faltered. I tucked the notes, along with a couple of divorce petitions into my bag to serve in between outings with Mitz.

It was early enough to get to Brooke’s place, about twenty minutes away, and to the grocery store so Mitz and I weren’t eating PB&Js for dinner. The faster I got started and found answers, the sooner Georgette could begin healing. If I was lucky, Brooke’s phone would be sitting on her nightstand waiting to be found.

Before getting up, I pulled the letter from my dad out of the top drawer and unfolded the paper. I traced the ruts in the desk we shared with my finger as I read his words. Georgette’s name was there in black and white. I had wanted to ask her more about how she knew my dad, but he’d been explicit in his request. He was a good man, albeit a tough man that I didn’t question. Nor had I ever felt the need to. It hadn’t been easy for him after my mom died, and we became the Two Musketeers. We may have run out of time for him to teach me everything he knew about being a P.I., but I’d learn as I went. I had no other choice. Helping Georgette was the last thing I could do for him. And I would.

“Ready to boogie, Floyd?” I flicked off the lights and Floyd padded behind me down the narrow hall to the backdoor.

We jogged to my yellow 1980 Triumph Spitfire, a gift from my dad when I graduated. “You know the routine, buddy.” Floyd stretched himself halfway into the car, and with a grunt, I lifted in his other half. He tripped over the manual gearshift and settled into the passenger seat as I slunk behind the wheel. The engine started right up, for a change.

Brooke was a couple of years older than me—far too young to die. Was Nightingale involved in her death? Did he know more than he was telling? Or was he just a helpless bystander who could only watch Brooke fall because she was drunk off her ass? I had a feeling I’d be returning the bulk of Georgette’s money after putting in some legwork. With a case the Portland police had already closed and an eyewitness who’d already been cleared, what other possibility was there?

***

Excerpt from Derailed by Mary Keliikoa. Copyright 2020 by Mary Keliikoa. Reproduced with permission from Mary Keliikoa. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Mary Keliikoa

Mary Keliikoa spent the first 18 years of her adult life working around lawyers. Combining her love of all things legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails. She has had a short story published in Woman’s World and is the author of the PI Kelly Pruett Mystery Series.

At home in Washington, she enjoys spending time with her family and her writing companions/fur-kids. When not at home, you can find Mary on a beach on the Big Island where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.

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My Take: Kelly Pruett in a novice PI who has inherited her fathers PI business and is trying to make it on her own. She has a deaf daughter a controlling ex Husband and her first case. A woman wants Kelly to investigate her daughters death which occured when she was hit by a train. As Kelly investigates she finds out that the daughter is not who her mother thought she was. There are some surprising twists in this first book in a new series. I am lookingforward to many more to come. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Torutred with Love: The True Crime Romance of the Lonely Hearts Killers by J.T. Hunter

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Tortured With Love

The True Crime Romance of the Lonely Hearts Killers

by JT Hunter

on Tour August 1 - September 30, 2020

Tortured With Love by JT Hunter

 

Synopsis:

What is the price of passion? What is the power of love?

Meet Martha Beck, a young nurse dedicated to healing others, until her own hurting heart lured her down a darker path. Loneliness led her to Raymond Fernandez, but love led her all the way to the electric chair.

This is the tragic story of the Lonely Heart Killers.

 

Book Details:

Genre: True Crime
Published by: JT Hunter
Publication Date: May 15th 2020
Number of Pages: 210
ISBN: 9798646112720
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

ONE

On an otherwise mundane March day, a peculiar piece of paper arrived in Martha Beck’s office mailbox. It came with the usual medical correspondence and junk mail, giving no indication of its importance. Yet, this one particular envelope would change Martha’s life forever.

The envelope arrived on a cool afternoon, the temperature hovering just below 60, the highest it had climbed all day in the Pensacola area of the Florida Panhandle. But Martha was not in the mood to enjoy the weather. She was still down in the dumps about her recently finalized divorce from Alfred Beck, a Pensacola bus driver who had married her when she was six months pregnant with another man’s child. Although she had been separated from Alfred since May 1945, nearly two years earlier, the formal entry of their divorce had the nearly 27-year-old Martha feeling like an old maid doomed to live out the rest of her life alone.

Martha was not unique in that respect in post-World War II America. With well over a million more women than men, the United States population of the mid and late 1940’s left many lonely women in its wake.

A visit from Elizabeth Swanson, one of the nurses she supervised at the Crippled Children’s Home, temporarily distracted Martha from feeling sorry for herself. She considered Elizabeth her closest friend. When Elizabeth knocked on her office door, Martha had just started going through the mail. As the two engaged in the latest gossip and friendly chit-chat, Martha resumed sorting through the assortment of envelopes. The first was an advertisement from a Jacksonville company selling medical equipment. She quickly flipped past it as well as a few other pieces of junk mail until a mysterious envelope caught her eye. It was made of thin, pale-brown paper with the name, Mrs. Martha Jule Beck, typed prominently on the front.

“What’s this?” she asked, the question directed more to herself than her friend.

“What is what?” Elizabeth replied, sipping from a mug of coffee.

“This . . . this odd envelope,” Martha said, holding it up to show her.

“Beat’s me,” Elizabeth remarked coyly. “I wonder who sent you that.”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” Martha remarked, her curiosity now piqued. She turned the envelope over to inspect it further, and seeing nothing hinting at its contents, opened it to find a thin, paper pamphlet inside. It was a promotional mailing and application for the Standard Correspondence Club, one of many “lonely hearts clubs” operating across the country. The return address gave Standard’s location as Grave Lake, Illinois.

LONELY?, the pamphlet asked in large, bold letters, Let us help you find that certain someone. Join old reliable Club, 50 years of dependable, confidential service. Correspondents most everywhere seeking congenial mates, proven results. Interesting photos, descriptions FREE. There were several pictures of women spaced throughout the page, each next to a testimonial about a happy marriage brought about by contacts made through the club.

“Now why on earth would they send this to me?” Martha wondered aloud, taking a little offense that such a “lovelorn club” would be contacting her.

Elizabeth’s coyness now morphed into a broad grin that spread across her face.

“Now why on earth would they send this to me?” Martha wondered aloud, “I have a confession to make,” Elizabeth said as she started giggling. “I wrote the club and asked them to send you information and an application.”

Martha studied her friend’s face, deciding whether she was serious.

“Whatever for?” she asked in a tone matching the astonishment in her eyes.

Still giggling, Elizabeth moved to a chair closer to Martha and sat down beside her.

“I originally did it as a joke,” she explained, “but the more I thought about it, the more I decided that you should give it a try. Three of my daughters are writing to me that they have met men through this correspondence club, and this is the very same club that I met my husband through thirty years ago. And after all, what do you have to lose?”

Martha rolled her eyes.

“I may be a little lonely,” she acknowledged, “but I’m not THAT desperate.”

She glared with some annoyance at Elizabeth. “I swear, sometimes I really wonder what’s going on in that head of yours.”

Martha tossed the pamphlet onto a pile of papers stacked on the side of her desk and made no more mention of it for the rest of their time together. But the seeds of intrigue had already been planted in her mind.

Later, after Elizabeth had left, Martha retrieved the discarded pamphlet and read it more closely. Part of the pamphlet contained a form asking her to fill out information about herself and write a letter detailing what kind of men she would like to meet. Sitting down at her desk, she carefully completed the form and took her time crafting the letter, being sure to mention how people often commented that she was witty, vivacious, and oozed personality. She also emphasized that she was a trained nurse with her own pleasant apartment. When she was satisfied with what she had written, Martha carefully folded the papers, enclosed $5.00 for the required membership fee, and licked the envelope to seal it. That evening, she dropped it in a mailbox on her way home from work.

*****

Years later, when asked whether she had experienced any misgivings about joining a lonely hearts club, Martha candidly replied, “Yes, as soon as I’d put the letter in the mailbox, I began thinking I’d made a mistake.”

Questioned about what kind of man she hoped to meet through the club, Martha took a little more time before answering.

“Well, I don’t know,” she confessed. “I guess I hadn’t thought about it much.

But I sure didn’t think I’d ever meet anyone like Ray.”

***

Excerpt from Tortured With Love by J.T. Hunter. Copyright 2020 by J.T. Hunter. Reproduced with permission from J.T. Hunter. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

J.T. Hunter

JT Hunter is a true crime writer with over fifteen years of experience as a lawyer, including criminal law and appeals. He also has significant training in criminal investigation techniques. He enjoys being a college professor teaching fiction and nonfiction to his creative writing students.

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My Take: I have always had a fscination with serial killers but I have never heard of these two before. Marth Beck was a lonely woman who took up corresponing with Raymond Fernandez, this was kinda of an old fashioned dating app in the 40's, Ray was scamming wealthy women to get their money then when Martha joined the scene they started murdering the women. They evntually got cought and were executed so the victims did get justice. If you like true crime you will probably like this book. they were dubbed the Lonely Hearts Killers and were number 4 in Time Magazines Top 10 Crime Duos after Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Frank and Jesse James. I received a review copy from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

All We Buried by Elena Taylor

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All We Buried

by Elena Taylor

on Tour September 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

All We Buried by Elena Taylor

For fans of Julia Keller and Sheena Kamal, All We Buried disturbs the long-sleeping secrets of a small Washington State mountain town.

Interim sheriff Elizabeth "Bet" Rivers has always had one repeat nightmare: a shadowy figure throwing a suspicious object into her hometown lake in Collier, Washington. For the longest time, she chalked it up to an overactive imagination as a kid. Then the report arrives. In the woods of the Cascade mountain range, right in her jurisdiction, a body floats to the surface of Lake Collier. When the body is extricated and revealed, no one can identify Jane Doe. But someone must know the woman, so why aren't they coming forward?

Bet has been sitting as the interim sheriff of this tiny town in the ill-fitting shoes of her late father and predecessor. With the nightmare on her heels, Bet decided to build a life for herself in Los Angeles, but now it's time to confront the tragic history of Collier. The more she learns, the more Bet realizes she doesn't know the townspeople of Collier as well as she thought, and nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 1643852914 (ISBN13: 9781643852911)
Series: Sheriff Bet Rivers #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

ONE

Sheriff Bet Rivers leaned back in her chair and gazed out the office window at the shifting light on Lake Collier. Bright sun- light cast up sparkling diamonds as a late-summer breeze chopped the surface—turquoise-blue and silver. The fragment of a song from her childhood teased her mind—silver, blue, and gold. She hummed the tune under her breath.

Red and yellow leaves turned the maple trees in the park across the street into Jackson Pollock paintings. Hard to believe Labor Day weekend ended tonight. Somehow summer had slipped by and fall had snuck up on her as she tended to her new position.

If she had still been in Los Angeles, she’d have been a detective by now. Instead, she was back in her tiny hometown with a job her father had tricked her into taking.

“I need you to cover for me while I get chemo,” he said. “It’s just for a few months. I’m going to be fine.”

With the detective exam available only once every two years, it meant putting her career on hold. But her father had never asked her for anything; how could she say no?

He never said he would die, turning her “interim sheriff” position into something more permanent.

Her father always knew what cards to play. Competition. Family. Responsibility. Loyalty. Collier. A perfect straight. He’d used them all this time, as if he’d known it would be his last hand. No easy way to extricate herself now, short of gnawing off her own foot.

The sound of instruments tuning up pulled her attention to a trio set up at a bench outside the market across the street. The raised sidewalk and false front of the old building made the perfect backdrop for their performance. Collier relied on tourism for much of its income, and the local musicians encouraged visitors to stay longer and spend more.

A beat of silence followed by a quick intake of breath, the unspoken communication of musicians well attuned to one another, and the trio launched into song.

Church of a different sort. Bet could hear her father’s words. I don’t know if there’s a God, Bet, but I do believe in bluegrass.

The music produced a soundtrack to her grief. The banjo player favored the fingerpicking style of the great Earl Scruggs. Loss etched in the sound of three-part harmony, Earle Rivers’s death still a wound that wouldn’t close.

She recognized the fiddle player. She’d babysat him years ago. It made her feel old. Not yet thirty, she wasn’t, but as the last generation of Lake Collier Riverses, the weight of history fell heavy on her shoulders. In a line of sheriffs stretching back to the town’s founding, she was the bitter end.

Looking down at her desk, Bet eyed the new fly she’d tied. The small, barbless hook would work well for the catch-and-release fishing she did, and the bright yellow and green feathers pleased her. The only thing she’d missed while living in California. Surf fishing wasn’t the same.

I should name it in your memory, Dad. The Earle fly. Her grand- father had named him after Scruggs, but her grandmother added the e because she liked how it looked.

Bet imagined her father’s critical response to her work, the size of the hook too dainty for his memorial.

Bet “spoke” with her father more now, four months after his death, than she’d ever done when he lived. Another burden she carried. The conversations they’d never had. Things she should have asked but didn’t.

She took a deep breath of the dry, pine scent that drifted in through the open windows, filling the room with a heady summer perfume. She should get up and walk around, let the com- munity see she was on the job, but her body felt leaden. And it wasn’t like anyone would notice. She could vanish for hours and it wouldn’t matter to Collier; no one required her attention. Not like they had depended on her father. His death still hung over town like a malaise, her presence an insufficient cure no matter what Earle might have believed when he called her home.

Before her father’s illness, she’d had a plan. First the police academy, then patrol officer, proving she could make it in Los Angeles as a cop. She’d envisioned at least twenty years in LA, moving up the ranks—something with Chief in the title— returning home with a long, impressive career before stepping into Earle’s shoes.

Too late, she’d realized he wouldn’t get better. He’d brought her home for good.

Stretching her arms above her head, she walked her fingers up the wall behind her, tapping to the beat of the music. Anything to shake off the drowsiness brought on by the hot, quiet day and long nights of uneasy sleep.

The coffee stand beckoned from across the street, but the sound of the front door opening and the low, throaty voice of the department’s secretary, Alma, stopped her from voyaging out. A two-pack-a-day smoker for almost forty years, Alma sounded a lot like Lauren Bacall after a night of heavy drinking. She’d given up smoking more than twenty years ago, but even now, as she edged into her seventies, Alma’s voice clung to the roughness like a dying man to a life preserver. Bet hoped the visitor only wanted information about the community and Alma could answer.

No such luck. The efficient clop of Alma’s square-heeled shoes clumped down the scarred floors of the hallway, a counterpoint to another set of feet. Bet brought her hands down off the wall and automatically tucked a wayward curl of her auburn hair back up under her hat before Alma arrived, poking her birdlike head around the wooden frame of the door. Gray hair teased tall, as if that would give her five-foot frame a couple extra inches.

“Bet?” Alma always said her name as though it might not be Bet Rivers sitting behind the enormous sheriff’s desk. Bet assumed Alma wished to find Earle Rivers there. She wondered how long that would last. If Bet threw the upcoming election and fled back to Southern California, leaving her deputy to pick up the reins, maybe everyone would be better off, no matter what her father wanted.

“Yes, Alma?” “I think you’d better listen to what this young man has to say.” The “young man” in question could be anywhere under the age of sixty in Alma’s book, and as he stood out of sight down the hallway, Bet had little to go on.

“Okay,” Bet said.

“I think it’s important.” Alma waited for Bet to show appropriate attention. “Okay.”

“Seems he found a dead body floating in the lake.”

***

Excerpt from All We Buried by Elena Taylor. Copyright 2020 by Elena Taylor. Reproduced with permission from Elena Taylor. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Elena Taylor

Elena Taylor lives on the banks of the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in a town made famous by Twin Peaks. When she's not writing or working one-on-one with writers as a developmental editor, she can be found hanging out with her husband, dog, and two cats. Her favorite place to be (besides home) is the stables down the road, with her two horses Radar and Jasper.

Catch Up With Elena Taylor On:
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PHOTO CREDIT MARK PERLSTEIN

 

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My Take: Elizabeth 'Bet' Rivers returns to her hometown in Washington to take over as the interim Sheriff for her father. While she is home her father dies so she runs for sheriff against the deputy sheriff and a body is found in the local lake. This is the first murder investigation that Bet has done so she wants to do a good job so she can stay Sheriff. There are a lot of secrets in this small town and Bet will uncover some of them. This is the first book in what hopefully will be a long series. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, September 28, 2020

A Circle of Dead Girls by Eleanor Kuhns

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A Circle Of Dead Girls

by Eleanor Kuhns

on Tour September 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

A Circle Of Dead Girls by Eleanor Kuhns

In the spring of 1800, a traveling circus arrives in town. Rees is about to attend, but sees his nemesis, Magistrate Hanson in the crowd, and leaves. On the way home he meets a party of Shaker brothers searching for a missing girl. They quickly come across her lifeless body thrown into a farmer's field.

Rees begins investigating and quickly becomes entranced by the exotic circus performers, especially the beautiful young tightrope walker.

Other murders follow. Who is the killer? One of the circus performers? One of the townspeople? Or One of the Shakers?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Murder Mystery
Published by: Severn House
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 0727890085 (ISBN13: 9780727890085)
Series: Will Rees Mysteries #8 (Each book "Stands Alone")
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

As if God Himself had taken a hand, winter abruptly changed to spring. The six inches of snow that had fallen just last week – the third week of April - was melting in the suddenly balmy air. Instead of hard packed snow, the roads were surfaced in slush and mud. Only on the north sides of the slopes and under the trees did snow remain and even there green spears poked through the white.

Rees had already planted peas and in a few weeks he would begin plowing the rocky fields. He sighed. Although glad to see the spring, he did not like to think about the coming backbreaking toil. He would turn forty this year and his dislike of farm work had, if anything, intensified. His father had died at the age of forty-six, while Rees was away serving with General Washington in the War for Independence, and sometimes he wondered if six years was all he had left. Six years with his arms up to their elbows in mud and manure. Just the thought of it pressed down like a heavy weight. He didn’t think he could bear it.

At least, with the coming warmer weather, he could look forward to a few weeks of freedom as he traveled these roads weaving for the farm wives. Besides the cash he would earn, he looked forward to what he imagined as sunlit days of freedom from the farm.

With a shake of his head, he pushed the gloomy thoughts from his mind. Now he was on his way into town. For the past several days men had been shouting up and down the lanes and byways: Asher’s Circus was coming to town. Rees had brought his children to the Surry road yesterday to watch the circus arrive. First came a man in a scarlet coat and top hat riding a bay. Bells jingled on his harness and feathers danced upon his head. Two carriages followed, the beautiful women seated inside leaning through the curtained windows to wave and blow kisses. At least five wagons followed, wagons that were unlike any that Rees had ever seen. These vehicles looked like the carriages but were bigger and taller and the curtains at their small windows were shut. On every wagon door a bright gold rearing horse glittered in the sunlight. Finally, clowns with colored patches painted over their eyes and vivid clothing walked alongside. One was a dwarf with a pig and a dog and the other a giant of a man. While the little man turned cartwheels, the big fellow walked straight ahead barely acknowledging the crowds lining the street.

Rees’s children were beyond excited, jumping and shouting beside the road. Even Rees, a cosmopolitan traveler who’d visited several large cities, had been enchanted. After a long winter kept mostly inside and occupied solely with mending tack and other chores he was ready for some entertainment.

Now he was on his way into town to see a performance. A sudden wash of muddy water splattered, not only the wagon, but him as well. He swore at the young sprig galloping by, so intent on reaching Durham that he paid no attention to those he passed. But Rees was not really angry. A circus was a grand event and he guessed he could extend a little charity to the eager farmer’s boy. Rees knew Lydia would have liked to join him, and probably the children as well, but no lady would be seen at such rude entertainment, so she must rely on his descriptions.

The streets of Durham were thronged with traffic. Wagons jostled for space next to horses and mules. Pedestrians were forced to cling to the side of the buildings lest they be trampled underfoot. Rees shook his head in amazement; he had never seen the streets so crowded.

And Rouge’s inn! The yard swarmed with horses and shouting men. Rees’s hope – that he could leave his horse and wagon there – died. When he turned down an alley that went to the jail, he found this narrow lane almost as impassible. But he could already see a tall structure in the field that the Durham farmers usually used for Saturday market. It was so early in the season that market was just beginning. Later in the spring the grounds would be in use every Saturday.

Finally, Rees parked his wagon and horse at the jail. He watered Hannibal from a nearby trough and joined the mob streaming toward the large field. Affluent townsmen rubbed shoulders with sunburned farmers in straw hats and dirty clogs. At first, except for the arena built in the center, the fairgrounds looked exactly as normal: an occasional ramshackle hut interspersed with large areas of open ground. The farmers usually set up their wares in one of those small squares; this was how Lydia sold her butter and cheese. Rees lifted his eyes to the tall wooden structure, dazzling with colorful flags flying around the roof, that dominated the field. At first, he did not notice how peculiar the building looked. But as he approached the flimsy construction, the lack of any windows, and the slapdash roof became apparent. An arc of roofed wooden vehicles – the circus wagons - curved around the back.

At several yards distant he could see gaps between the splintered boards that made up the walls. Posters, all designed with a crude woodcut of a horse, papered over the widest of cracks. Rees directed his steps to a bill posted on the wall and paused in front of it. "Asher's Circus", he read. "Mr. Joseph Asher, trained by Mr. Phillip Astley and Mr. John B. Ricketts, and just arrived from tours of London, Philadelphia, Boston, and Albany, is pleased to present daring feats of horsemanship, the world -famous rope dancer Bambola, clowns after the Italian fashion and many more acts to amaze and delight."

Rees grunted, his eyes moving to the bottom. Names and dates scribbled in by different hands, and then crossed off, filled all the white space with the last being Durham, show time five o'clock. Since he didn't recognize most of the names, he suspected they were for very small villages, not the cities mentioned above. Mr. Asher clearly had grandiose aspirations.

Rees walked around to the front. An opening was screened by a shabby blue curtain, dyed in streaks and with the same look as the boards- used over and over for a long time. Now more curious than ever, he bent down and peered through the gap at the bottom. He could hear the sound of hooves and as he peeked under the curtain he saw the skinny brown legs of a galloping horse thud past.

‘I really must begin my journey.’ Piggy Hanson's whiny drawl sent Rees's head whipping around. What the Hell was Piggy doing here? Rees had not seen Hanson, or anyone else from his hometown of Dugard, Maine, for almost two years, not since the magistrate had written an arrest warrants for Lydia - witchcraft - and for Rees - murder. His family had had to flee for their lives. He did not think he would ever forgive the people involved, especially the magistrate who had enabled the persecution. Rage swept over Rees and he turned to look around for the other man.

He saw his nemesis – they’d been enemies since boyhood - standing in a cluster of gentlemen, their cigar smoke forming a cloud around them. With every intention of punching the other man, Rees took a few steps in his direction, but then his anger succumbed to his more rational mind. He did not want Piggy Hanson to know he lived here now and anyway there were far too many men for him to take on by himself.

‘I must leave for the next town on my circuit, you know,’ Hanson continued. A magistrate for a large district, he regularly traveled from town to town ruling on judicial issues. He knew Rees was innocent of murder, Rees was certain of it, but he suspected he would still be treated as though he was guilty. And he doubted he could behave with any civility at all, not with this man. He cast around for a hiding place and, quicker than thought, he dashed behind the blue curtain.

He swiftly moved away from the portal, pressing himself against the wooden wall so that no one who came through the curtain could immediately see him. Then he inhaled a deep breath and looked around.

Stones carried in from the field outside marked off a roughly circular ring. The galloping horse thundered past, a woman in a short red frock standing on the saddle. At first scandalized to see the woman's legs knee to ankle, Rees's shock quickly turned to admiration. She stood on the saddle in comfort, her red dress and white petticoats fluttering in the breeze. Puffs of dust from the horse's hooves sifted into the air.

‘Pip,’ said a voice from above. Rees looked up. A rope had been stretched tautly across the width of the enclosure and a woman in a white dress and stockings stood upon it. She wore white gloves but no hat and her wavy dark hair curled around her face. Rees stared in amazement as her white feet slid across the line. She was totally focused upon her task and did not give any indication she saw him. ‘Pip,’ she said again, and went into a flood of French mixed with some other language. Rees understood enough to know she was complaining about the rope.

This, he thought, must be Bambola, the ropewalker, crossing the sky above his head. She was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. As her white dress fluttered around her, all he could think of was angels.

‘Bon.’ A man Rees had not noticed detached himself from the wall and moved forward. He was easily as tall as Rees, if not taller, and lanky. His hair was a peculiar reddish black color. In French he assured the rope dancer that he would fix the rope in a minute.

Holding up his hand, he moved toward the ring. The equestrienne dropped down to the saddle, first riding astride and then moving one leg across so she rode sidesaddle. She pulled the horse to a stop and jumped down with none of the hesitation of a lady. She conferred with Pip for a few moments in tones too low for Rees to hear and then she went out the opening at the back. The man leaped easily into the saddle and urged the horse again into a gallop. He stood in the saddle, balancing even more easily than his female partner, and then, in one fluid motion, dropped to the saddle to stand on his hands. His lean body formed a long streak toward the sky. Rees gasped in amazement. Then the performer began jumping from one face of the saddle to the other, riding diagonally on each side with his feet pointing at the horse's hindquarters. He was even more skilled than the woman and Rees was so enthralled he forgot why he was there and lost all track of time.

Finally, Pip moved his long body into the saddle and slowed the horse to a walk. He dismounted and, taking hold of the bridle, began to walk the animal around the ring. ‘You,’ he shouted at Rees in a heavy French accent, ‘get out. You must pay.’

Rees half-nodded, listening to the chatter floating over the wall; he could still hear Piggy talking outside, his high-pitched voice carrying over the lower tones of the other men. ‘I didn’t sneak in to see the show,’ Rees told the circus performer in a near-whisper. ‘There’s someone outside I don’t want to meet.’ With a grin – he could also hear Piggy – the other man turned and pointed to the curtain at the back. Rees struck across the ring for the screen. Disappointment – for now he would not be able to stay and enjoy the show – fell heavy upon his shoulders. Another crime to put at Piggy’s door.

Before he dropped the cloth over the opening Rees turned to look back over his shoulder. Now the tall man was scrambling up the pole to the small landing above. Rees wondered if the talented rider was a rope dancer as well as an equestrian but he did not go all the way up. Instead, as the girl withdrew to the landing on the other side, Pip began working with fittings. The rope vibrated.

Rees dropped the curtain and looked around. He found himself in the cluster of the circus carriages, horses, and hurrying people. A dwarf wearing a clown’s short ruffled red pants and with red triangles drawn in around his eyes hurried past, quickly followed by a slender fellow with oiled black hair and an aggressive black mustache streaked with gray. The performance would begin soon. No one took the slightest notice of Rees as he threaded his way through the circus performers.

Close to, the wagons looked beat up, scarred with use. Most of the gold horses on the wagon doors were simply paint and the few that were carved wood or sculpted metal were losing their gilding. Rees distinctly saw the tell- tale red of rust fringing the head of one rearing stallion.

He broke into a run. He would never have expected to meet the Magistrate here in this tiny Maine town. And he prayed Hanson would leave soon. Rees would not dare to return until he could be sure that Piggy Hanson was gone.

Leaving Durham proved just as challenging as entering town in the first place. The streets seemed even more congested now than they had been earlier. Abandoning the main road once again, Rees turned down a side street on the southern side of town. There was a narrow lane, little more than a footpath, that went east, from Durham to the Surry Road. He could follow Surry Road north past the Shaker community and then to his own farm. If he could just reach the lane. The side street was packed with wagons coming from the farms on the southern side of town. It took Rees much longer than it should have to drive the few blocks before he was finally able to turn.

But from what he could see of this winding track, there was little traffic here. Because of the narrow and twisty nature of this lane most of the traffic was on foot. Only a few vehicles were heading into town. Congratulating himself on his foresight, Rees settled himself more comfortably on the hard wooden seat. If one were not in a hurry, this was a pleasant ride through the stands of budding trees and lichen spotted boulders. He glanced at the sky; he’d reach home before it was entirely dark. And, although he had not been able to attend the circus, at least he’d seen enough to make a good story to tell Lydia and the children.

The wagon trundled around the last steep sharp curve. From here the road straightened out, cutting through farmland until it reached Surry Road.

And ahead was a group of Shaker Brothers, walking towards him. Rees was surprised to see them. A devout group that rarely left their well-ordered community, they surely could not be walking into Durham for the circus. He slowed to a stop and jumped to the ground.

Chapter 2

The group of men resolved into individual faces. One man, Brother Daniel, Rees knew well. Daniel had been the caretaker of the boys when Rees and his family had sought refuge here two years ago. Promoted to Elder since then, Daniel was beginning to look much older than his almost thirty years. He’d lost the roundness to his cheeks, his face now appearing almost gaunt, and the gray appearing in his hair made him look as though he were fading like a piece of old cloth. Rees, who’d recently discovered white hairs on his chin and chest, felt a spasm of sympathy.

Now worried lines furrowed Daniel’s forehead. ‘Rees,’ he said. ‘If I may request your assistance?’

‘Of course,’ he said immediately. ‘What do you need?’ Not only was his wife a former Shaker but the members of Zion had helped him more times than he could count.

‘When you came through town did you see a Shaker lass?’ Daniel's normally quiet voice trembled with fear and desperation. Rees shook his head. He had seen few women or children and none clothed in the sober Shaker garb.

‘What happened? Did she run off to see the circus?’

‘Yes,’ Daniel said with a nod. ‘With one of the boys.’

‘Shem,’ said Brother Aaron. Rees knew the cantankerous old man well. and was surprised to see him here, searching for the girl. Although a Shaker, Aaron was not always kind or compassionate. ‘I fear he was easily led by that girl,’ he added, confirming Rees’s judgement.

‘Apparently they took off right after our noon dinner,’ Daniel continued, ignoring the other man. ‘We wouldn’t know that much but for the fact Shem was almost late for supper.’

‘Well, have you asked him where she is?’

‘Shem had nothing to do with it,’ Aaron said sharply at the same instant Daniel spoke.

‘Of course we did. We aren’t fools.’

Rees held up his hands in contrition. The Shakers were usually the most even-tempered of people. He knew Daniel’s testiness was a measure of his worry. ‘What did he say?’

‘That they were separated.’

‘Shem wanted to see the circus horses,’ Aaron said.

‘Leah wanted to come home,’ Daniel explained, throwing an irritated glance at his fellow Shaker. ‘Well, they wouldn’t allow a woman to enter such a rude entertainment, would they? She was probably bored-.’

‘He is horse mad,’ Aaron interjected.

‘Please Aaron,’ Daniel said in a sharp voice, staring at his fellow in exasperation. Aaron

acknowledged the rebuke with a nod and Daniel continued. ‘How could Leah have been so lost to all propriety as to imagine she would be allowed entry, I don’t know.’ For a moment his frustration with the girl overshadowed his fear. ‘What was she thinking? I’m not surprised that rapscallion Shem would behave so carelessly but Leah is soon to sign the Covenant and join us as a fully adult member. The amusements of the World should hold no attraction for her.’

Rees shook his head in disagreement. He didn’t blame the girl. He thought that this was exactly the time when she would want to see something outside the kitchen. After all, he was a man, well used to traveling, and seeing the circus had made him long to pack his loom in his wagon and go.

‘Like all women, she is flighty,’ Aaron said, frowning in condemnation. ‘Attracted to sins of -.’

‘Did you search Zion?’ Rees interrupted.

‘No,’ Daniel said. ‘When we couldn’t find the children, we suspected they’d left . . .’ His voice trailed away and he looked from side to side as though expecting the girl to spring up beside him.

‘Perhaps she just wanted to go home to her family,’ Rees suggested.

‘She has no family,’ Daniel said curtly. ‘Neither of those children do. Shem is an orphan and Leah has lived with us since she was a baby. Her mother brought her to us and died soon after. Leah knows no other family but us. She would not leave our community.’

All the more reason for her to want to experience something of the world, Rees thought but he kept his opinion to himself. ‘I drove to town on the main road,’ he said aloud. ‘I did not see any children at all.’

‘When was that?”

“About four,’ Rees replied.

Daniel nodded and rubbed a shaking hand over his jaw. ‘You were on the road too late, I think. The children left the village right after noon dinner.’

‘That means they would have been on the main road between one and two,’ Rees said. ‘Depending on their speed.’ And if Leah had parted from Shem and started home by two-thirty or three, walking either road, she would have reached Zion by four. Four-thirty at the latest. Anxiety for the girl tingled through him. He thought of his own children and the kidnapping of his daughter last winter with a shudder of remembered terror. ‘I’ll help you search,’ he said. ‘The more of us the better.’ He already feared this search would not have a good outcome.

Daniel turned to two of the younger Brothers. ‘Search along the road,’ he said. ‘And

hurry. We have less than an hour of daylight left.’ They started down the lane, moving toward town at a run.

Rees looked up at the sky. The fiery ball was almost at the horizon, and long low rays streamed across the earth in ribbons of gold. In thirty – maybe forty minutes the sun would drop below the western hill and the pink and purple streamers across the sky would fade into black. ‘I’ll park the wagon,’ he said, jumping into the seat.

He pulled it to the ditch on the left side and jumped down, looking around him as he did so. Farmer Reynard had planted the sloping fields on Rees’s right; buckwheat probably given the sloping and rocky nature of the ground. But on the left the buckwheat straw from last year stood almost four feet high, waiting to be cut down and then turned over into the soil. Rees inspected that field thoughtfully. Tall thick stems such as that could hide a girl who did not want to be found. ‘We should check the fields,’ he said as he rejoined the Shakers. ‘And the pastures.’ When Daniel looked at him in surprise, he added, ‘She might have started back to Zion and when she saw us coming gone to ground. She might not want to be dragged back to Zion in disgrace.’ Daniel nodded, pleased by the suggestion and quickly asked the other Brothers to spread out across the fields. Rees and Daniel started walking down the lane.

But before they had gone very far, one of the other Shakers called out.

‘Hey, over here.’ A young fellow whose yellow hair stuck out around his straw hat like straw itself, began retching. ‘Oh, dear God.’

Daniel did not pause to remonstrate with the boy for his language but vaulted the fence into the field and ran. Rees struggled to keep up. Was it Leah? Was she hurt? His stomach clenched; he was so afraid the situation was far worse than that.

They arrived at the body lying sprawled in its buckwheat nest at the same time. She lay partly on her right side, partly on her back, her left arm crooked at her waist at an odd angle. Her plain gray skirt was rucked up to her thighs and blood spattered the white flesh. Daniel turned around, his face white, and shouted at the Brothers approaching him, ‘Stay back. Stay back. Don’t come any closer.’

‘Oh no,’ Rees said, dropping to one knee. ‘Oh no.’ Although he’d been told Leah was fourteen, she looked much younger. Under the severe Shaker cap, her skin had the translucent quality of the child. Her eyes were open, the cloudy irises staring at the darkening sky. Rees bent over her. Although it was hard to tell in the fading light he thought he saw marks around her throat. ‘She may have been strangled,’ he said, his eyes rising to the worm fence that separated this field from the road that led into Durham. Leah’s body had been dropped only a few yards from the fence but in the high straw it would have been almost invisible, even in daylight. Rees began walking slowly toward the main road, his eyes fixed upon the ground. There did not seem to be any path from the fence to the body; none of the buckwheat stalks were bent or broken in any way. He did not see any footprints in the soft April soil either. But in the setting sun detail was difficult to see and he made a mental note to examine this section of the field more closely tomorrow.

‘The farmer, did he do this terrible thing?’ Daniel cried, glancing from side to side.

‘Perhaps, but I doubt it,’ Rees said. He touched the girl’s upraised arm to see if he could move it. As he suspected, the body was growing stiff. ‘He would be a fool to leave her in his own field.’

‘It was not Shem,’ Aaron said loudly. Rees glanced up at the man. Why was Aaron so protective of that boy?

‘She’s been dead for about some hours,’ Rees said, returning to his examination. Then he thought about the warmth of the day. Leah would have been lying here, in the sun. ‘Maybe since mid-afternoon.’ And that time would be consistent with the time she’d left town.

‘How do you know?’ Daniel stared at Rees in shock, mixed with dawning suspicion.

‘You told me she was seen at noon dinner,’ Rees replied, ‘so we know she was alive then.’ He rose to his feet and looked at Daniel ‘It must be almost six o’clock now.’

‘Probably after,’ Daniel said, looking around at the fading light.

‘A body begins to stiffen a few hours after death and then, maybe half a day later, the rigidity passes off. I saw this frequently during the War for Independence but any good butcher will tell you the same.’ Rees kept his eyes upon the other man who finally nodded with some reluctance. ‘I would guess that Leah was accosted by someone on her way home.’ He paused. The poor child had probably been lying here when he rode past, thinking of the circus. He closed his eyes as a spasm of shame went through him.

‘She knew she was not to leave Zion,’ Daniel said with a hint of wrath in his voice.

Rees sighed. This was not the first time he had seen the victim blamed. And perhaps, for a celibate such as Daniel, anger was an easier emotion right now than horror and disgust and grief as well. ‘Perhaps she behaved foolishly, but she did not deserve this end to her life.’

‘We will take her home -,’ Daniel began. But Rees interrupted.

‘We must send someone for the constable.’

‘No. No. She is one of ours.’

‘This is murder,’ Rees said, staring fixedly at Daniel. Although shocked and horrified, he had witnessed too many violent deaths to be paralyzed by such evil any longer. His calm voice and stern regard had the desired effect. Daniel sucked in a deep breath. After he had mastered himself, he left Rees’s side and joined the group of Shakers.

‘Run back to the village and get a horse,’ he told one of the youngest Brothers. ‘Ride into Durham and fetch Constable Rouge.’ His voice trembled on the final word. Rees looked at Daniel. He was swaying on his feet, his eyes were glassy and his skin pale and slick with perspiration. He looked as though he might faint. Rees drew him away from Leah’s body and pressed him down into a sitting position. Daniel was little more than a boy himself and had lived in the serene Shaker community most of his life. It was no surprise he was ill-equipped to handle such a terrible occurrence. ‘Put your head between your knees,’ Rees said. ‘I’m going to walk to the farmhouse and talk to the farmer. Maybe he saw something.’

‘I’ll go with you.’ Daniel stood up; so unsteady Rees grabbed him to keep him from falling.

‘No,’ he said with a shake of his head.

‘I need to go with you,’ the Brother said fiercely. ‘I need to do something. That poor child!’ Rees stared at the other man. Although Daniel’s face was still white, and he was trembling he had set his mouth in a determined line. ‘I must do this, Rees.’

‘Very well.’ Rees glanced over his shoulder at the body. From here, it appeared to be a bundle of rags dropped among the stalks. ‘Poor chick won’t be going anywhere.’

Daniel looked at Brother Aaron. ‘You were once a soldier,’ he said. ‘You’ve seen violence and death. Please stay with our Sister.’ Aaron nodded and, withdrawing a few steps, sat down in the row between the stalks. In the encroaching shadows he instantly faded from view. Only his pale straw hat remained, shining in the last of the light like a beacon.

Rees and Daniel set off across the fields for the distant farmhouse.

***

Excerpt from A Circle Of Dead Girls by Eleanor Kuhns. Copyright 2020 by Eleanor Kuhns. Reproduced with permission from Eleanor Kuhns. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur First Crime novel competition for A Simple Murder. She lives in upstate New York. A Circle of Dead Girls is Will Rees Mystery # 8.

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My Take: This is the 8th book in this series but the first one I have read. This series follows a man named Will Rees who was falsely accused of murder and he and his family moved to a Shaker community near the town of Durham. This is a farming community and Will hates farming, he is a traveling weaver by trade. A circus comes to town and Will goes to see it. On his way home he meets up with some Shaker men who are looking for a a teenager named Leah. They soon find her beaten and her lifeless body is thrown into a nearby field. He starts to follow leads but he is distracted by the circus. There are some twists and turns and this book kept me interested till the end. I would suggest reading from the beginning of the series. I found the histoircal aspect of the book interesting from both the Shakers to the circus. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.