Thursday, January 13, 2022

A Stranger's Game by Colleen Coble

A Stranger's Game

by Colleen Coble

January 3-14, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

A Stranger's Game by Colleen Coble

This gripping new novel from USA TODAY bestselling romantic suspense author Colleen Coble will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

A wealthy hotel heiress.

Even though Torie Bergstrom hasn’t been back to Georgia since she was ten, she’s happy to arrange a job for her best friend at one of the family properties on Jekyll Island.

A suspicious death.

But when Torie learns that her best friend has drowned, she knows it is more than a tragic accident: Lisbeth was terrified of water and wouldn’t have gone swimming by choice.

A fight for the truth.

Torie goes to the hotel under an alias, desperate to find answers. When she meets Joe Abbott and his daughter rescuing baby turtles, she finds a tentative ally.

The more Torie and Joe dig, the more elusive the truth seems. One thing is clear: someone will risk anything—even more murder—to keep their secrets buried.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: January 4th 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0785228578 (ISBN13: 9780785228578)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

C H A P T E R 1

Victoria Bergstrom almost forgot to breathe at the beauty of Georgia’s Jekyll Island. Standing at the railing, she watched the sunset gild the undulating tidal grass with gold and orange and continue to paint its spectacular hues on sand and sea as the boat made its way along the Intracoastal Waterway to the wharf. The Golden Isles was an apt name this time of day especially. Her gaze landed on the hotel, and her chest compressed.

Then again, maybe dread stole her oxygen instead.

The garrulous captain gestured toward The Wharf restaurant, perched at the end of the wooden walkway. “There she is. It’s a much prettier approach this direction instead of coming over the bridge. I still can’t believe those people blocked the bridge.”

Torie had planned to drive, but protesters advocating for the abolishment of the Federal Reserve had filled every inch of the bridge over the causeway to the island, and she hadn’t wanted to be stuck in traffic for hours. She shook her head. Did the protesters really believe marching would accomplish their goal? And besides, the Fed helped to protect against bank runs and depressions. It seemed insane to protest about it.

The boat docked, and she grabbed her carry-on bag to disembark. The rest of her luggage would be delivered tomorrow once she knew where she was staying. “Thanks for the ride, Captain.”

He tipped his hat. “You’re welcome, Miss Torie.”

Her heels clattered on the wooden planks past the restaurant and a storefront for boating excursions, and onto the sidewalk onshore. Time slipped past in a shimmering haze as she crossed Riverview Drive, avoiding the ever-constant bikers, and approached the Jekyll Island Club Resort hotel.

It had been eighteen years since she’d run and played along this water. Eighteen years since she’d smelled the river and listened to a bull alligator roar at Horton Pond. Eighteen years since she’d seen stiletto-tipped palmetto groves and moss-draped oak trees. The narrator on a passing tram droned on about the history of this place she’d once loved so much.

There it was.

The hotel that lived both in her dreams and her nightmares.

The tower in the left corner rose above the four-story structure, and the large wraparound porch beckoned visitors with thoughts of sweet tea and laughter with friends. She paused to tuck her white blouse into her navy skirt before she mounted the steps to the outdoor receptionist box guarding the doorway inside. It was unmanned at the moment, so she stepped into the hotel lobby. The scents of sandalwood and pine took her back to her childhood in an instant, and she swallowed past the constriction in her throat.

Audentes fortuna juvat. “Fortune favors the bold,” the Roman poet Virgil had said, and though being here brought out all her insecurities, Torie had to find her courage.

Little had changed through the years other than fresh paint and attentive maintenance. The ornate Victorian moldings gleamed with a gentle glow of wax, and the wood floors were as beautiful as ever. She had never wanted to step foot in this lobby again, yet here she was.

Torie raised her head with a confidence she didn’t feel and approached the resort’s front desk. “Torie Berg. I’m your new IT specialist.”

The alias flowed smoothly off her lips. She’d used it on her last assignment, and it was close enough to her real name to feel natural.

“Welcome to Jekyll Island Club Resort,” the young woman said.

The blonde looked to be about Torie’s age of twenty-eight and wore an engagement ring. Her open, friendly expression was perfect for the check-in desk.

“Marianne,” a familiar voice said behind Torie.

Torie froze and didn’t turn. While she didn’t think the older woman would recognize her, she couldn’t take the chance. The click of high heels went past her to the left, and she caught a glimpse of Genevieve Hallston’s lavender blouse, her signature color.

“Come to my office please,” Genevieve said to the housekeeper she’d hailed.

The stricken look on the middle-aged woman’s face said it all. Genevieve was on a tear about something, and it took all of Torie’s resolve not to intervene. She’d been sliced by the older woman’s razor-sharp tongue enough to know it wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation.

But she had to remember her mission. If anyone recognized her, her cover would be blown and all of her plans would be in ruins.

***

Excerpt from A Stranger's Game by Colleen Coble. Copyright 2021 by Colleen Coble. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author 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.

Connect with Colleen online at:
colleencoble.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @ColleenCoble
Instagram - @colleencoble
Twitter - @colleencoble
Facebook - @colleencoblebooks

 

 

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My Take: I have enjoyed all the books I have read by Colleen Coble and this one is noe exception. I did find this one alittle more slower in the action but it still had alot of action. I was guessing till the very end who the bad guy was and I had no idea until it was revealed and I didn't have any idea why the bad guy was doing what he was doing. The romance was very slow in the building and I enjoyed the will they or won't they. I enjoyed all aspects of this story and I think you will too if you like thriller/mystery with a dash of romance thrown in. I received a review copy of this book from Partnes Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Agency by Monica McGurk

The Agency by Monica McGurk When American orphan, Bree, arrives at Norwood College—the elite English training ground of nannies to the world’s rich and powerful—she knows that making it through the first year to land a spot in the coveted certificate program is the key to her future. She also knows she can’t go it alone, bonding quickly with her groupmates: an errant (and broke) nobleman, son of one of England’s oldest families; the ambitious and whip-smart daughter of a self-made immigrant; and the ditzy, husband-hunting daughter of a disgraced playboy aristocrat. What none of them realize is that there is more to Norwood than meets the eye: the school itself may unlock the secrets of Bree’s own shadowy past, and the classmates’ very lives will depend on their ability to work together to meet the dangers ahead. My Take: Even though this book is slow paced and alittle bit unorthodox, I found that the twists aand turns more than made up for that and kept me wondering what was going to happen next. I would give this book four stars and I anxiously wait for the next installment. Don't let the fact that this is a book about nannies fool you there is plenty of action packed thrill rides in this book. I never knew that being a nany could be so exciting. I recieved a review copy from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, December 31, 2021

The Little Town of Summerville by R. T. Douglas

The Little Town of Summerville

A Dog Named Chubby

by Robert Douglass

December 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Little Town of Summerville by Robert Douglass

Jack Wellington moves from the big city to make a new start. He jumps at the opportunity to become a detective in Summerville.

A peculiar case is assigned to him as artwork has been stolen and a dog is missing. Fellow detective Charlie Finch, a man adorned with decades of service, uncovers clues with Jack. They become intrigued by the words and actions of a neighborhood boy and wonder how much he might know.

Clues are followed but it’s the kids in the neighborhood who provide the most relevant clues. As the detectives get closer to them with their questions, the pressure of the kids struggle unfolds.

Kids, dogs, thieves, and a detective who meets a gal named Sally in the little town of Summerville.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Amazon
Publication Date: November 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 200
ISBN: 979-8677929410
Series: The Little Town of Summerville, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:

Jack poured a coffee and reached the back door with mug in hand. He stepped onto the screened-in porch as the twilight of morning brightened the yard. He enjoyed the peaceful surroundings of the porch. It was completely different from the small apartment he left behind a few months ago. He had worked in the Saint Louis police department for five years and jumped at the opportunity to work in Summerville.

He settled into an old wicker chair he’d found at a garage sale and grabbed the tablet lying next to it to get caught up on sports and local news. He was on his second mug when the phone hummed away on the table. He noticed the number was from the police station.

“Hello, this is Jack.”

“Hi Jack, this is Captain Ottoman. I need you to get over to 28 Little Creek Lane. Someone was in the house during the night and the homeowner is very upset.”

The captain sounded tired and cranky with no patience for conversation, so Jack didn’t bother explaining it was supposed to be his day off.

“Yes sir. I can get over there right away.”

“Thank you,” and the captain ended the call.

Jack got back inside, buzzed the electric shaver over his face, jumped into some clean clothes, and was out the door quickly. He thought about the history of the town as he drove to the location.

Summerville had been founded during the railroad days of long ago. It was a crossroads of railway tracks built by the Summers Rail & Cargo Company. John Summers became so impressed with the area he established the town and moved his family to the beautiful location with its wide valley and soft hills. Blueprints were drawn for the town which included shops, neighborhoods, and parks, which would enjoy the modern luxuries of the era, and of course, the ability to travel by railway.

Today Summerville still enjoyed the shops of the downtown area, its many parks, and the atmosphere of its small college. A group of businessmen and a strong town council maintained the town with its modest Midwest economy. At times, a getaway for some of the city dwellers to get refreshed by the small-town charm. It was a pretty town, safe and friendly, and Jack Wellington intended to keep it that way.

Jack pulled up to 28 Little Creek Lane as the sun cast its long early morning shadows. Each lawn had its own style, with a tree or two in the front yard and shrubs along the side that acted like a fence. There were sidewalks on the narrow residential street which had gas streetlamps that would shine day and night.

He got out of the car and checked his dark hair in the reflection of the car window. He was above average height with a lean and strong build for a mid-twenties guy, but his collar was crooked. He shook his head, rebuttoned his shirt, and hoped no one was watching as he tucked it back into his pants. A quick check to make sure he had pen and notepad in his back pocket, and he took the walkway across the yard to the front porch entrance. Up the stairs, across the porch, and a few taps on the door. The homeowner opened the door.

“Hello. I’m Jack Wellington from the Summerville police department. Captain Ottoman asked me to come over this morning.”

The homeowner tried to smile, but her eyes were swollen with a sunken tainted darkness around them. Her sterling gray hair looked a bit out of place with a sadness upon her face.

“So, you’re a policeman?”

“Yes, I’m a detective,” and Jack showed her his credentials.

She gave a soft grasp of Jack’s hand, “I’m Elizabeth Ashley,” and she invited him into her home. They walked down the entrance hallway and dropped into the living room. Two couches and a couple of chairs formed a horseshoe with a coffee table in the center. The couches faced each other, and the chairs sat on the end with a straight view to a fireplace. She sat on the couch and Jack took a chair.

***

Excerpt from The Little Town of Summerville - A Dog Named Chubby by Robert Douglass. Copyright 2021 by Robert Douglass. Reproduced with permission from Robert Douglass. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Robert Douglass

Robert has an AAS in Microsoft Networking Technology from Glendale Community College and is a Microsoft Certified Professional.

He likes reading, writing, and exploring natural wonders. His favorite pastime is telling tall stories around the campfire.

Catch Up With Robert Douglass:
RTDouglass.com
Twitter - @RTDouglassLit
Facebook - @RTDouglassAuthor

 

 

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My Take: This is a nice cozy mystery that is suitable for middle graders to read. The Main characters are children who help the main detective Jack solve the mystery of who stolen two vases and the owners dog. They have to find the vases in time so they can be the main atraction at the art exhibit at the college. Jack the detective is very thorough and takes notice of all the little things so when the case is brought to trial it will stand up and it will be able to be prosecuted. I will be giving this book to my grandchildren. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Book Tours and I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, December 17, 2021

The Debutant's Code by Erica Vetsch

Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn't spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love.But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They've been living double lives as government spies--and they're only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family's legacy. Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spies. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors--not to mention the nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner, who suspects her of a daring theft. Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents' last mission? Best-selling author Erica Vetsch is back with a rollicking, exciting new series destined to be a hit with Regency readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their love stories. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry will love the wit, action, and romance. Click here to read an excerpt. About the Author Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate. Vetsch is the author of many novellas and novels, including the popular Serendipity & Secrets Regency series and the new Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor), Instagram (@EricaVetsch) and Pinterest (Erica Vetsch). My Take: This was an exciting Regency Mystery. I don't usually read Regency Mysteries but this one grabbed my attnetion and I was hooked from begginning to end. This book has well developed characters and a well thought out mystery. I would highly recommend this book if you like Regency Mysteries or Sherlock Holmes. I received a review copy from REading with Audra Jennings and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Devil's Music by Gabriel Valjan

The Devil's Music by Gabriel Valjan Banner

The Devil's Music

by Gabriel Valjan

December 1-17, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Devil's Music by Gabriel Valjan

Stalin is gone. The Cold War is on. Better dead than red.

With victory comes revenge, and both Attorney Roy Cohn and his supporter, J. Edgar Hoover, wish to settle accounts. In a race to protect his associates, Jack Marshall relocates them to off-off-Broadway. Walker, Vera, Leslie, and Sheldon swelter under more than stage lights in New York City.

Before the summer is out, before the strange music subsides, there is a mob war and another unexpected addition to the Company Files.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Winter Goose Publishing
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Number of Pages: 225
ISBN: 1952909139 [ISBN-13‏: ‎ 978-1952909139]
Series: The Company Files, #3 | Each novel in this series can be read as a stand-alone work.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

It was hot in Virginia that night and the cicadas hummed like electric wires in the evening air. There was the occasional glow of a lightning bug. This was the waiting game. Two phones were on the desk.

They waited, Jack Marshall and his wife Betty.

Seated, her fingers knitted something invisible. He leaned back, contemplating the sky outside the open window, as his chair pulled music up from the floorboards with its rocking back and forth. Two fingers of whiskey gone, a short glass rested on the blotter when the white phone rang.

The front legs of his chair slammed down. He picked up the receiver. Her fingers stopped. A man’s garbled monotone worked his ear. She stared when he said, “I understand. That’s unfortunate. Thank you for calling.”

“It’s done, isn’t it?”

“Yes. He went first, around eight. She took longer, about five tries, but it was all over by eight sixteen.”

Betty shook her head. “You said all they had to do was talk and none of this would’ve happened. How will I explain this to the children tomorrow after they see the morning papers?”

Jack went to say something, but the other phone rang, the beige one. She knew what that meant. He told her, “Go and check in on them, please. I’ll be with you in a moment.”

The phone was still ringing, his hand on top of the receiver. Secure line.

“I will.” Betty closed the door behind her.

Jack picked up the phone mid-ring.

“Hello. Yeah, I heard, Beetle. Our man on the inside told me everything.”

The insect music outside had stopped while he listened to his old army friend, Walter Bedell Smith. The nickname Beetle was a twist on his middle name. Beetle spoke with a Hoosier accent. The Rs dominated in words like Truman, reprieve, Eisenhower, Reds, and J. Edgar Hoover.

Jack hung up the phone. Beetle had done all the talking. He listened.

Betty was correct. All they had to do was talk.

Beetle called it three years ago when he said that the statute from 1940 would’ve sufficed for the prosecution. 18 United States Code § 2381 was clear about “aid and comfort within . . . or elsewhere.” The prosecutor, Irving Saypol, and his assistant, Roy Cohn, decided otherwise and chose a law from 1917 for their legal strategy instead.

Beetle argued that prison time would’ve softened the edges and everybody could’ve saved face; could’ve had a nice conversation around a table, gotten some names, and everybody would’ve walked away with something.

It didn’t end up that way.

The Company had a man inside Sing Sing watching Hoover’s men in their makeshift offices stacked with supplies, waiting to take down the next Tolstoy novel, their typewriters and tape recorders ready and waiting for the signal that never came.

All they needed was one word from the rabbi that they’d wanted to talk.

One word.

Anything and everything would’ve come to a stop. A simple word from either one of them would have ended it all. It didn’t even have to be “I confess.” Even with Eisenhower denying clemency it would’ve stopped had Hoover’s boys gotten the word.

That didn’t happen.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died this night, June 19, 1953.

And like Beetle said, “She called his bluff, Jack. Hoover and his boys got nothing. Ditto for us. We went to the county fair and have nothing to show for it. Nothing but acres of corn as far as the eyes can see. It’s back to the game of proportionate responses. The Soviets do one thing. We respond like a reflection in the mirror. You know what’s coming next, don’t you?”

The cicadas returned for an encore. The sun had set, a quarter moon started to rise. Jack Marshall didn’t answer his former boss about what came next. They both knew.

A lightning bug lifted outside Jack’s window, a soft yellow glow before it disappeared into the dark, and there was that sound again, electricity in the wires, the music of martyrs.

2

Click. Click. Clickety-click.

There were the thumps of the space bar, the hand to the lever on the left side of the typewriter to slide the carriage over after the bell. Another line, another step toward the bottom of the page. The sound of Walker’s writing competed with a visitor outside his Malibu home. A woodpecker.

The redhead had introduced himself a few days earlier while Walker sat outside on his porch. The bird landed on the railing and assessed Walker with one beady eye, flew off, and then returned moments later, this time on the other side of the patio, to render his approval with the other eye.

They’d come to an agreement, between the bird’s music and his writing. The bird would drum its beat and Walker would peck at the keys on the Remington typewriter Terry Doyle had stolen from Warner Brothers in Burbank as a farewell present after Walker finished his stint at the studio as Walter Thompson for the Company.

Terry assumed he could score the five-finger discount without Jack Warner knowing about it. Wrong. Warner sent Terry a set of replacement ribbons with a handwritten note.

Mr. Doyle,
These ribbons could work wonders around your feet, like chains did for Bo Weinberg. Likewise, the typewriter you stole from me would make a fine anchor for your swim off any pier. Give WT my regards.
JL

The typewriter was a mark of respect between writers since this particular model was given to senior writers. Novices received black Remington Noiseless Model Sevens, often decrepit and with cracked paint. Walker’s model was a block of green steel. The inside covers of the carrying case were lined with felt. The green keys were silky. The tab and trim were tight. The color suited Walker since he was an army man.

His Friday ritual at the desk was to include a cold bottle of Adohr milk within reach while he wrote. Adohr Milk Farms dispatched the same man his way for deliveries. Walker waited for the blue truck out of Tarzana with Adohr-able Milk, the farm’s slogan, painted on the sides. Drivers wore starched white uniforms, dark bowties, and caps.

Elmo was Walker’s man. In addition to fresh cheese and eggs, Walker paid Elmo extra to bring a variety of newspapers from Los Angeles. Elmo was a sad-eyed vet, a working stiff with a gimp leg and the worst case of nerves around sudden sounds. A navy veteran, Elmo had served in the Pacific theatre. Walker understood the man’s sorrows, even if he had served on the other side of the world.

Walker poured off the cream into a glass for the icebox and placed it next to the bottles of Bull Dog beer. He returned with the milk to his desk. His mother would have disapproved, but time in the infantry in France, Germany, and Italy did away with the courtesy of a glass from the cupboard. Walker saw himself as a grown man and he could do as he pleased. He’d earned numerous combat decorations and deserved his milk straight from the bottle. After the war, he joined Jack Marshall in Vienna and went to work for the Company. They interviewed and recruited former Nazis. When someone wasn’t killing them first. Mother passed years ago. No woman was around to civilize him, not even Leslie. She’d made that decision for the both of them in Vienna and finalized it in Los Angeles. Walker wondered what Mother would’ve thought of Leslie.

After Vienna, the next big job for Jack was to work at Warner Brothers. A script doctor and intermediary between studios and blacklisted writers had been murdered and a clue suggested Hoover was up to something. That operation ended two years ago. He left the studio on good terms, which was a remarkable feat since Jack Warner turned into a cobra with anyone who poached talent from his studio. Warner, to his credit, extended an open invitation to Walker to work freelance on projects.

Hours later, he rose from his desk, the pages stacked. A day’s work finished. At five forty-five in the afternoon the phone rang. Walker answered it and heard Jack Marshall’s voice. “The Rosenbergs were executed.”

Walker glanced at his wristwatch. Three-hour difference. “What do you need?”

“I need to bring you in. In addition to Jay Edgar and his pet senator from Wisconsin, we have a problem, and its initials are RC.”

“Roy Cohn.”

Walker heard Jack sigh. Rare. The first time Walker heard that exhalation was when they had been relieved in Alsace, only to receive orders to march into Germany. Neither of them had known that Dachau was waiting for them, or that men in their unit would execute Nazis on the spot.

“You there?” Jack asked.

“I’m here. An unpleasant thought came over me.”

“Roy Cohn has that effect on people, but it gets worse.”

“Worse?”

“Now that Roy has made his reputation with the Rosenbergs, he has the fire in his belly, and he’ll want to settle old scores. He’s bringing ammunition.”

“Ammo? What more does he need? McCarthy and Hoover back him.” Walker rubbed his forehead, the onset of a headache because of a name. Roy Cohn was the one mortal who’d dare to breach the gates of hell, just so he could throw Old Scratch off his throne. “What’s he thinking?”

“Cohn plans to deliver on McCarthy’s accusation that Reds have infiltrated the military, and Cohn will target government contractors, and there’s more.”

Walker understood the implications. The Company had recruited Nazis and some Soviets in Vienna. These engineers, scientists, and technicians were then rehabilitated and embedded in various companies around the country to beat the Russians in the arms race. Cohn’s sweep for Communists meant exposure, a liability in the Company’s rivalry with Hoover’s FBI.

“You said there’s more, Jack. Who or what does he have?”

“An ambitious twenty-seven-year-old from Boston.”

“Anybody we know?”

Pause.

“Kennedy,” Jack said.

“The leash is off the dog and the lawn just got bigger.”

The name Kennedy irritated people in DC like a cheap wool sweater. Washed up in politics after Churchill threw him off the Cliffs of Dover because he had alienated everyone as an isolationist, courted Hitler and, like Charles Lindberg, disliked Jews, former Ambassador Joseph Kennedy was at it again. Everybody knew the old man wanted a son behind the desk in the highest office of the land. His oldest boy Joe Jr. had died in an accident during the war. His next oldest son was now the US Senator from Massachusetts.

“John Kennedy,” Walker said. “He wants to climb the ladder for daddy?”

“It’s what I was thinking, but not him.”

Walker did the math again and wondered what he’d added up wrong, and then imagined Hoover’s hand in the matter. John Kennedy had worked in Naval Intelligence until Hoover relocated him to the Pacific and started a file on him. Ensign John F. Kennedy cut a romantic figure in his navy whites, despite the unfortunate habit of leaving his fly unzipped. Hoover documented every wrinkle in the bedsheets and recorded every groan in numerous bedrooms. John must’ve suspected because he resorted to using closets for his conquests. That Hoover hated the Kennedys was an understatement; he loathed the entire family.

Hoover’s love for leverage hit the jackpot when Jack Kennedy bedded a blonde number who had interviewed Adolph Hitler. It didn’t matter to J. Edgar the woman despised der Führer. All that mattered to him was he had pictures of her on Hitler’s arm at the Olympics and Uncle Adolph was fond of her. Even called her a “Nordic beauty.”

“If not Jack Kennedy, who then?” Walker asked.

“His brother Robert. He’s co-counsel with Cohn.”

Walker swallowed hard. “I did not see that coming.”

“Nobody did.”

“Add him to Cohn and McCarthy, and we have a trinity.”

“Correct,” Jack said. “And with Hoover dancing on top of his desk in the dark if they could help him bury the Company.”

Jack was right. Roy Cohn and Robert Kennedy would act as McCarthy’s bloodhounds, and J. Edgar Hoover would jump at the chance to rip out Allen Dulles’s throat. Allen bore the distinction of being the Company’s first civilian director and having Eisenhower’s ear about policy against the Soviets, which left Hoover passive and at a tactical disadvantage. His agency played defense and the Company, offense. Add one last indignity: Hoover had no say when Truman formalized the existence of the Company on September 18, 1947. Nothing Hoover hated more than not having power. Nothing.

It was clear as the cursive on the blackboard. Go Commie hunting with two feral lawyers, find former Nazis and Soviet émigrés hard at work within the government’s defense industry, and the Company was kaput. Hoover didn’t care that the recruits kept the Stars and Stripes ahead of the Russian bear.

“I would’ve put my money on Jack Kennedy,” Walker said.

“John’s not the picture of health. Bad back from the war and all. His father moved on to the next healthiest. Robert Francis Kennedy is our man.”

“For the presidency?”

“Doubt it,” Jack answered. “Big Company America would never allow it. They’ll outspend Joe Kennedy, and the last time the country considered a Catholic for the office was when Al Smith ran. Not sure if you remember this, Walker, but the Ku Klux Klan marched on the Capitol because they thought Catholics were un-American.”

Walker remembered. The Klan attacked Catholics in his Midwest before, during, and after Prohibition. He recalled their “America First” rallies and parade marches. As for Al Smith, he had been tainted by his association with the corruption of Tammany Hall and his opposition to Prohibition. Al lost and Hoover carried forty states and won.

Walker had another concern. “Kennedy can’t be naïve. Roy Cohn and Hoover will have him run point and then throw him to the curb while the car is moving. What’s your plan?”

“Come east before Roy Cohn sets fire to Hollywood with a new book of matches. He tried once and he’ll take another run at you and Jack Warner.”

Jack had a point. He and Cohn had clashed during a clearance meeting with Warner’s man, Leonard Moore. The skirmish left Cohn humiliated and with an appetite for revenge that rivaled Jack Warner’s but lacked the mogul’s refined methods.

“I’ll get on the next bird out of Burbank.”

“Excellent. That leaves me with just one more thing to do.”

“What’s that?”

“I need to bring Leslie in also.”

Walker hung up the receiver. His friend, the woodpecker, drummed his tree. Walker looked at his typewriter. The green Remington could take a round of shrapnel. The Adohr milk bottle next to it looked like a glass grenade, only now it was either Roy Cohn, this young Kennedy kid, or both, who were about to pull the pin and lob the next explosive.

***

Excerpt from The Devil's Music by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2021 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series, The Company Files, and the Shane Cleary Mysteries. He has been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, Silver Falchion Awards, and received the 2021 Macavity Award for Best Short Story. Gabriel is a member of the Historical Novel Society, ITW, MWA, and Sisters in Crime. Gabriel lives in Boston.

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GabrielValjan.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @gvaljan
Instagram - @gabrielvaljan
Twitter - @GValjan
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My Take: This book is the third in a series but I had no problem reading it is a stand alone. It has a bunch of things going on it to make it exciting and thrilling. It had J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI and CIA and the mob so that is a lot of moving parts to keep the story moving along and keep you on the edge of your seat to find out what is going on. This book takes part during the McCarthy era which I haven't read much about before but I enjoyed my trip back into the past. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Book Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith

Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith Banner

Twentymile

by C. Matthew Smith

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

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.

 

 

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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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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My Take: This book is an exciting thriller that takes place in the Smoky Mountains and involves a Cherokee female agaent that is sent to investigate the death of a wildlife Biologist. This story involves a group of people that feel they have been wronged by the government and the female agent gets invovled while she is investigating. Also a winter storm is coming which could kill Tsula Walker also. This is an exciting and twisty turny thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

A Christmas Kindness by Cheryl Malandrinos


Eight-year-old Robert discovers the true spirit of the season while visiting the mall Santa on Christmas Eve…

By Cheryl C. Malandrinos



A CHRISTMAS KINDNESS, Children/First Chapter Reader, 4RV Publishing, 52 pp.



Eight-year-old Robert is eager to share his wish list with Santa at the mall on Christmas Eve. When he meets Glenn, who only has one request for Santa, Robert is confused about what he should do. Can he cast aside what he wants and ask Santa to bring his new friend a special gift?

PRAISE

It is not often that a simple children’s book can nearly bring me to tears, but this one succeeded. There is nothing better than reading a story at Christmastime that reminds you that there are still good people and good kids in the world. This is one heartwarming Christmas story that you and your kids can read and enjoy. It will remind you of the true meaning of Christmas, and I believe that the author’s purpose is accomplished.

– Ruth, Amazon Reviewer

Robert can’t wait to see Santa. He’s got a pile of stuff he wants to ask for. Then he meets Glenn in line, and Robert himself gets to play Santa. I was touched by the main character’s transformation after he came in contact with someone in real need. The glow he walks away with can’t be bought, and he’ll never find it under the Christmas tree, but it’s the heart of the season that he’s found. Nicely illustrated, enjoyable story for readers of all ages. 

– Jude, Amazon Reviewer


  • Pick up your copy of A Christmas Kindness at Amazon.





"Oh, when will we get there?" whispered Robert from the backseat of his mother's car. He fiddled with the pull on his coat. The wipers brushed aside the snow falling on the windshield.

As they arrived, lines of cars streamed in and out of the mall parking lot. Robert peered over his mother's shoulder and saw her white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. She huffed as she scanned the parking lot for an empty space. He wiggled around, but his seat belt kept him secure.

Inside the mall, Christmas music and the tinkling of jingle bells tickled Robert's ears. With his mother, Robert weaved through the crowd of shoppers. He smelled fried food from Burger Mart. The sweet scent of warm chocolate chip cookies from the bakery made his mouth water.

Robert's shoulders drooped when he saw how many kids waited to see Santa. There were babies, some crying and struggling to get out of their mother's arms. Little kids, many younger than eight-year-old Robert, clung to their father's pants or jumped up and down as they waited their turn.

"This is going to take forever!"

 

















Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A member of SCBWI, she is blogger and book reviewer. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married.

Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com.

Connect with Cheryl on Twitter and Facebook.









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My Take: This short story is a wonderful story to share with the children in your life at this time of year. I will be sharing this story with my grandchildren and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did. This story is written for younger children but older children should enjoy it as well. This would be a perfect story for a read aloud and the illustrations should help keep children engaged. I received a review copy of this book and was not required to write a positive review from Pump Up your book tours.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Counsel of the Cunning by Stephen C. Harms

The Counsel of the Cunning

by Steven C. Harms

November 8 - December 3, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Counsel of the Cunning by Steven C. Harms

Roger Viceroy faces a return to the FBI and a life he vacated long ago, until a knock on his front door announces the presence of billionaire and former U.S. Senator, Jürgen Sandt.

The past has come back to rear its ugly head. Sandt stands on his threshold for a reason: a decade prior the senator’s only son disappeared into the jungles of Guatemala, and Sandt has come to convince Viceroy that further investigation is now necessary. A package left mysteriously outside the family estate, opens the door to the possibility that his son is still very much alive.

Viceroy and his team agree to take on the hunt. Their search steers them from the back streets of Milwaukee to the stealthy corridors of Washington, D.C.—an eerie trek that will ultimately lead to an ancient site that supposedly doesn’t exist.

As Viceroy closes in on the truth, a parallel plot emerges. Not only could it point to the reason behind the cryptic disappearance of Bertram Sandt, but it could also launch a deadly battle that will put millions of lives at stake. On pure instinct, Viceroy knows nothing is adding up. Somehow, somewhere they missed a clue, and if it’s not discovered soon…it may be too late.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Suspense Publishing
Publication Date: November 9th 2021
Number of Pages: 268
ISBN: 978-0-578-93379-5
Series:Roger Viceroy Series, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

EXCERPT – OPENING CHAPTER

A howler monkey screeched, its shrill pitch adding to the endless cacophony.

Dr. Catarina Amador watched the animal move through the trees until it vanished in the dense canopy below, then drew a last puff on her cigarette, crushing the butt with the heel of her worn-out tennis shoe. Her eyes shifted to the ancient ruins sprawling in every direction; eroded, gray slabs of rock covered with vines, others crumbled beyond recognition.

Her prison.

Atop the temple mount, the slight breeze and mid-morning sunlight provided a respite from the enclave of stone ruins and paths that weaved through the jungle of whatever country she was in. To the east, the sun reflected off the lone glimpse of the river, catching her eye. The faint sparkles shimmering off the surface forever calling her home. Six years and counting. But each passing moment chipped away at her will, replacing those pieces with an ever-increasing hopelessness. She had become mostly devoid of thought save for the world-class talents she employed for her captor.

The youngest daughter of a large family from the slums of Mexico City, her intellect and scientific acumen made her a prodigy. World-renowned in academic circles by the age of fourteen. At fifteen she began her studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore; flying through, she graduated just five years later with a PhD in biomedical engineering. Her human molecular manipulation thesis elevated her into the scientific world’s stratosphere. Upon graduation, blank check offers from a hundred different companies and research labs spanning the globe filled her mailbox. All she had to do was pick one. Her parents had come to Baltimore for the graduation and to help with the decision. Over dinner, the list was pared down to four opportunities in the western hemisphere. When the evening came to a close, they parted company—her parents back to the hotel and Catarina to a local establishment to celebrate graduation with her peers. She was never seen again.

Sighing, she took a few steps forward to look out over the plaza area, resting her arms at chest height on the massive stone wall encircling the space. Standing just over five feet, her stature matched her frame. A lithe body and long, black hair kept in a ponytail most days accentuated her stunning facial features. A foot taller and she would have graced magazine covers instead of medical journals.

She peered down at a bird-faced stone sentry near one of the plaza’s entryways and the eyeless human statue set a few yards to its left. A variety of bizarre figures were sprinkled throughout the ruins. She felt the strangest ones were the two tall snakes, standing erect at twice her height with human feet, holding large blackish orbs of polished rock in their massive jaws. Positioned on either side of “Main Street,” as she had nicknamed it, they guarded a small but steady waterfall spilling in front of a steep rock wall. The falls travelled over the rock above creating a wall of water ten feet high, cutting off the path with no way forward. A five-foot-wide chasm stood between the path’s end and the water wall. She once had peered into it. No splash sound, the rushing water just disappeared into an eternal abyss. Beyond the water wall was the forbidden canyon and the treasure of the ancient ruins.

She closed her eyes tight and bowed her head, reflecting on the moment she first penetrated the water wall, not knowing what was on the other side.

Two men had tossed her over the chasm where she landed on hard ground and found herself in a dank cave, lit only by a torch on each wall. Soaking, she followed the orders she was given and took ten steps forward to a turn in the cave, which led to the opening on the other side. About sixty feet ahead was the jagged mouth of the exit, perfectly outlined by the sunshine stabbing through on the other side. Picking her way carefully towards it, the temperature warmed until she was standing at the cave’s exit. She took the final step, ducking slightly into the beyond, and took in the wonderment of her surroundings.

It was a smallish canyon with sheer, steep sides and thick vines growing in bunches among the rocks. Clinging in arbitrary clumps was a fruit she had never seen before, displayed in a spectrum of light green to black and every variation in-between. Above the canyon the jungle had formed a natural ceiling of branches; not overly dense, but enough to provide a protective layer yet still allow the sun to push through to the polished, black-stained stone floor in various spots.

And there, in the middle of it all, stood a man of some years with his hands clasped behind his back. Wearing a panama hat, unassuming slacks and a floral print button-down, the hat’s shadow cut across his face making his mouth the only discernible feature.

He gestured to her to come and sit at a small wooden table to his left. She had walked with slow, unsure steps towards him. What would he do? Was this the end? As she neared, his persona became clear. A man of Hispanic descent, well-manicured, with an air of self-assurance that clung to him like an invisible but tangible layer.

Once she sat, the man took his own seat and lit a cigar, drew a few puffs, and spoke.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Amador,” he had said. “Welcome to my kingdom,” he added, with a sweeping hand gesture.

“Where am I?” she remembered asking, as if in a dream.

“Where you were born to be.”

“Who…who are you?” she asked.

Her mind’s eye recalled the memory of his response at this particular moment. A smile. Cryptic.

“My name you will never know. But take heart. You are here to lead a significant advancement in a little science project I have a vested interest in. You, Dr. Amador, will be its shining star.” Then came his explanation for her kidnapping and what he wanted.

He began with a cloaked apology for his men taking her off the streets of Baltimore and blindfolding her for two days.

Her memory replayed the horrible experience. Someone coming from behind as she passed an alley. A hood suddenly coming down over her face. A vice-grip hand that quickly covered her mouth. The man whispering something in her ear—a throaty, aged timbre—before hustling her into a vehicle. Once inside, he let go but ordered her to be silent as she felt the unmistakable hardness of the barrel of a gun being pressed against her temple. She recalled the vehicle speeding up, taking a number of tight turns before zooming along a straight path, then slowing to a stop and taking a final turn. The last slice of recollection was a breeze touching her arms as she was pulled out of the vehicle, being carried up a flight of stairs and into an enclosed space, as the sound of an airplane’s engine roared to life. For a brief moment the hood was removed, but an instant later, a man she assumed was her captor, sprayed something in her face. That was it. Her recollection of a hazy, in-and-out consciousness was the only vestige of the bridge between boarding that plane and coming off it some amount of time later. Once again hooded and placed back in a vehicle for a short ride, she was then in a helicopter—the sound of its rotors were unmistakable. She remembered the flight being incredibly long. Upon landing, the same throaty voice said something she couldn’t understand and then her hood was removed.

The bright stab of lush greenery walling in a sunlight-splashed landing pad pierced her vision. She recalled squinting, trying to discern the environment. The warmth of the climate immediately registered. Baltimore and her parents were the first thought that came to mind and then the understanding that they and the city were now thousands of miles away.

Two different men, not so gently, had taken her arms and steered her to a pathway that directly led into what she then was able to realize was a tropical forest, and finally to the waterfall and the eventual meeting with the man in the panama hat.

With another puff of the cigar, he then presented her with the whole tale of what lay ahead.

She was to develop a new drug, and he had stated that her opportunity to use her intellect and talent when it came to molecular manipulation was going to be unfettered. “Anything and everything is at your disposal,” he had said with firmness and a hint of delight.

Next was a tour of the compound and her new living quarters—a luxurious penthouse adjacent to the ancient temple featuring a grand view. It was stocked with a closet full of clothes, toiletries, a hot tub on the small balcony, a desk, books for reading, and a computer to be used for her research. Following that came an introduction to the world-class lab with five qualified scientists, also prisoners. Her operation to run. Her scientists to lead. A deadline of three years.

Included in the “tour” was a modern, plain brick building housing more prisoners, each given a simple cell. Haggard-looking people. Further on came the trails, the statues, the ruins. Another cement block building looking completely out of place, with a large “F” scratched into the door, and behind it the three men and one woman chained to the wall. Final stop, a spherical hut off the southwest corner of the plaza, secured by barbed wire and an armed guard.

“Sometime in the coming weeks I will escort you here again,” the man had said in a different, almost reverential tone. “The treasure inside is truly priceless. Perhaps the single greatest discovery in the long, brutal history of this ancient empire.”

His final comment echoed in her mind, reverberating, before she eased her eyes back open, fluttering them as they adjusted to the bright sunlight atop the mount. The present day resumed its rightful place in her awareness, which she reluctantly gave into.

It was an off day from the lab. No scrubs. Worn-out gray cargo shorts and an equally frayed white halter top draped her body. Utility and comfort for the task ahead. Eleven harvesters with large baskets strapped to their midsections came up beside her: seven adult women, three men, and one five-year-old girl. She looked down and winked at the child, giving her a soft pat on the head.

“Hello Isabella,” she said. The girl giggled as she always did and hugged her leg.

Dr. Amador savored the indulgent moment before a cocked rifle cracked the air behind the group, making them all spin around. Atop a small, three-walled structure on the back edge of the temple mount, stood an enforcer, and next to him, the man with the unknown name. The king of the ancient empire. Panama hat and all.

“Time for the harvest,” he said in his now familiar deep voice. “Thank you for your continued service. Business is prospering as planned.” He tipped the hat before disappearing. The group stared back; prisoner slaves in the heart of ancient ruins whom the outside world didn’t even know existed.

“Let’s move,” the enforcer screamed. “The Tat,” as they had come to call him, had markings covering his skin, save for his face. As the group moved, Dr. Amador loitered just enough to ensure she was the last one in line down the familiar steps. Three more enforcers stood ready at the bottom to escort them to the canyon—two positioned twenty paces away on the plaza and one at the base of the steps. When her foot touched the plaza, she shot a sideways glance to the enforcer who stood there. He was a relatively short man, fortyish, with half his right ear missing and raven black hair fashioned in a bowl-cut. Her pet name for him was “Mrs. Lobe,” a play on words that he found amusing. He caught her glance, blinking both eyes simultaneously before grabbing her elbow and shoving her forward to pick up her pace. The Tat joined him as they crossed the plaza.

The trail to the canyon was directly across. Wide at the start, it narrowed to single file after the first bend near a statue of a half-man, half-bird figure. Two enforcers led the group down the path, with The Tat and Mrs. Lobe bringing up the rear.

As Dr. Amador passed the statue she stumbled, taking her over the path’s edge and down a steep incline into a heavy cluster of ferns; landing awkwardly, she yelled in pain. The Tat screamed at her, sending down Mrs. Lobe. Once there, he roughly lifted her upright and then hoisted her up the hillside, pushing her in the small of her back while she used her hand in his as a leverage point to climb. When she reached the trail, The Tat grabbed her neck and moved her quickly to catch up with the group.

They were out of sight around another bend when Mrs. Lobe reached the path from his climb back up. He looked around for a moment before opening his palm to look at the flash drive Amador had given him. One more glance around, he then pulled out a satellite phone and punched in a message before heading down the path to rejoin the work party.

At the receiving end, a man in cowboy boots stared at the words.

DOC DID IT. IN HAND NOW. I’LL COME WITH THE NEXT SHIPMENT.

***

Excerpt from The Counsel of the Cunning by Steven C. Harms. Copyright 2021 by Steven C. Harms. Reproduced with permission from Steven C. Harms. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Steven C. Harms

Steven C. Harms is a professional sports, sponsorship, broadcast sales, and digital media executive with a career spanning over thirty years across the NBA, NFL, and MLB. He's dealt with Fortune 500 companies, major consumer brands, professional athletes, and multi-platform integrated sports partnerships and media advertising campaigns. He's an accomplished playwright having written and produced a wildly successful theatrical production which led him to tackle his debut novel, Give Place to Wrath, released November 9, 2021 from Suspense Publishing. Harms is a native of Wisconsin, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. He now resides in the greater Milwaukee area as a sponsorship executive.

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My Take: This is the second book in this series but can be read as a standalone. This was an action packed page turning thriller that has you wondering what will happen next and has you turning the pages as fast as you can read them to see what will happen. This is the kind of book that I enjoy immensely as you are fully immersed in the story and you lose yourself in the story. This would be a good fit if you like these kind of thrillers. I received a review copy of this book from Partner in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.