Thursday, July 22, 2021

Woman In Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

Woman in Shadow

by Carrie Stuart Parks

July 12-23, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks combines her expertise as a forensic artist with her ability to craft a gripping story in this page-turning web of light and shadow.

A woman off the grid.

Darby Graham thinks she's on a much-needed vacation in remote Idaho to relax. But before she even arrives at the ranch, an earthquake strikes—her first clue that something is amiss. Then when a cabin on the edge of town is engulfed in flames and problems at the ranch escalate, Darby finds herself immersed in a chilling mystery.

A town on fire.

A serial arsonist sends taunting letters to the press after each fire. As a forensic linguist, this is Darby’s area of expertise . . . but the scars it’s caused her also the reason she’s trying to escape from her life.

A growing darkness.

As the shadows continue to move in, the pieces of the town around her come into sharper focus. Can she trust the one man who sees her clearly?

Praise for Woman in Shadow:

“Unique, witty, and hilarious, Carrie's voice shines throughout Woman in Shadow. The perfect mix of intrigue, mystery and danger, this is most definitely a book for my keeper shelf.”
Dani Pettrey, bestselling author of the Coastal Guardians series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0785239847 (ISBN13: 9780785239840)
Series: Woman in Shadow is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Targhee Falls, Idaho

“Why are those dogs barking?” I pointed across the wooden picnic table toward two obviously upset canines yelping nearby.

A man staring at a clipboard didn’t look up. “They’re dogs. That’s what they do. Are you Darby Graham?”

“Yes.”

The man checked something on his clipboard. “Good. You’re all here.” He had to speak up to be heard over the commotion.

Before I could ask about the dogs again, he turned and strolled toward the nearby general store.

Although the man seemed unmoved by the dogs’ distress, the other people seated around me on Adirondack chairs or at picnic tables had stopped speaking to each other and were staring. The dogs—a black Lab cross with hound-length ears, and a huge Great Dane mix—both had their tails tucked between their legs and were howling.

The picnic table trembled.

I lifted my hands off the rough pine surface but could still feel the movement under my body. A flock of birds burst from the treetops. Pinecones dropped to the ground from the towering ponderosas.

Earthquake.

I was seated near the general store, just below a plate-glass window. The glass rippled, then rattled.

Heart thudding, I dove under the table. The ground rolled under me like ocean waves. A low rumbling was followed by car alarms going off from the parking lot on the other side of the store.

The black Lab flew under the table and landed in my lap. I wrapped my arms around the quivering dog, feeling the prominent bones of her spine and rib cage. “It’s okay there, girl. You’re safe. Your big buddy isn’t so scared—”

The second quaking dog joined us, his large body pressing against my back.

The earthquake ended.

“All over.” I reached around and scratched the Dane’s chest, feeling more bones. Didn’t anyone ever feed these dogs?

Both dogs seemed content to stay put, but the weight of the Lab—even though she was too thin—was still more than my leg was used to and it was rapidly going to sleep. “Come on, sweet girl, time to get up,” I whispered.

Both dogs took the hint.

On the other hand, here under the table seemed a nice place to stay. Tucked into the shadows, I didn’t need to worry about anyone staring at me. I had room to stretch out and could smell the cut grass. I’d be prepared should another earthquake come. And my assignment was to maintain a low profile. Sitting on the ground under a table seemed to be as low profile as I could get.

Two legs appeared next to me. “Miss Graham?”

Flapperdoodle. Mr. Clipboard found me.

I crawled between the bench and table, sliding onto the seat, then glanced around. Several other people had taken similar action. Only Clipboard had noticed my reluctance to leave my hiding place.

One by one, the car alarms stopped. The slight breeze stirred the fragrance of fallen pine needles.

Mr. Clipboard stared at me for a moment, then turned toward the others. He was holding a number of fabric bags imprinted with Mule Shoe Ranch. “Don’t be worried, folks. The town of Targhee Falls is less than fifteen miles from Yellowstone. The national park routinely has between one and three thousand quakes a year—”

“Excuse me, but I’ve heard most of those quakes aren’t noticeable,” a gray-haired woman in a denim shirt said.

“Obviously some are.” The man gave her a rueful half smile and started handing out the bags after checking the attached name tags. “I’m Sam, owner of the general store over there.” He nodded toward the building featuring a two-story false front and wooden sidewalk. The peeling sign said Sam’s Mercantile. “I provide Mule Shoe with transportation, supplies, and assistance during team-building exercises. Inside these bags you’ll find a great deal of information about your stay at the ranch. The owner, Roy Zaring, wanted you to have these while you’re waiting for your transportation—”

“When will that be?” asked a handsome teen with flawless olive skin and a thick lock of black hair. “I’m not getting any cell service here.” He held up his phone. An impeccably dressed man and woman sitting at the same table gave each other sideways glances.

Sam finished handing out the bags, turned, and looked at the youth. “Those your folks?” His gaze flickered to the two people sitting with the young man.

“Yeah.”

“And I’m guessing your mom? Dad? Both? Told you they were here to take a team-building—”

“Watercolor workshop.”

“A five-day art class in the wilds of Idaho, right?”

“Yeeeaah.”

“Son, the Mule Shoe Dude Ranch is a primitive facility. No Wi-Fi. No cell reception. No television, radio . . . no electricity. You’ll have a cabin with a fireplace, a composting toilet, and a lantern at night.”

The color drained from the young man’s face. “What?” he whispered.

“That reminds me,” Sam said. “I’ll collect your cell phones and will keep them here and charged for when you return.”

I reached into my purse, took out my phone, and placed it on the table for Sam to collect. Whose brilliant idea was it to send me on assignment to a primitive facility when they know I need my computer and electricity? And five days with all these strangers? I wouldn’t even need to unpack.

“Don’t worry.” An attractive older woman sitting on a wooden Adirondack chair grinned at the boy. “There’s plenty of hot water for showers, courtesy of the natural geothermal environment. The water’s gravity fed and the food is world-class.” She looked around at all of us. “I’ve had an interest in the Mule Shoe and was here last summer, although I have to admit, I prefer to visit this time of year. Late September is perfect. You all are going to love it.”

The young man’s lips compressed into a thin line, and he seemed loath to let go of his cell. Sam kept tugging the phone until the youth relinquished it. “But what is there to do?” he asked no one in particular.

“Most of us are here for the art lessons.” Denim Shirt reached into her bag, pulled out a piece of paper, and held it up. “Listen.” She read from it. “‘You’ll find trail rides, fishing, canoeing, gold panning, mineral collecting, archery, photography, hiking, campfires, swimming—’”

“That’s what I mean.” The young man ran his hand through his hair. “There’s nothing to do.”

I tugged out the same brochure. Welcome, honored guests. We look forward to serving you during your stay with us. Your experiences here will be unforgettable for all the right reasons! You should bring to Mule Shoe your mindset for success.

Yeah, right. I’d like to set my mind on getting in, getting done, and getting home. “Sam, you mentioned transportation . . .”

“Horse and wagon.”

I was afraid of that. “Do you have a regular timetable?”

This time Sam actually focused on me. “No. The horse and wagon are available on an as-needed basis, mostly to transport new groups and supplies.”

From bad to worse. I was stuck. Now would be a good time to find a bathroom. Riding a bumpy, horse-drawn wagon would be uncomfortable enough without a full bladder. Besides, if I left now, no one would notice my slight limp. I normally wanted to be invisible, to disappear into a crowd. When Scott Thomas, my counselor, told me not to stand out, to blend in, he didn’t have to say it twice. Your final assignment before leaving us here in Clan Firinn is to check out Mule Shoe Ranch. We’ve heard rumblings that something’s not right. You’ll be registered as a guest. I’ll tell you more once you get there.

I was irritated at being sent out like this with no idea of what was expected. I now know why. Had I known I wouldn’t be able to use my computer programs or the internet, I would have put my foot down. I was fortunate to have a good memory for words.

I’d heard through the Clan Firinn grapevine that those getting ready to leave—“graduate” as they called it—would have a project that would test their progress toward wholeness. I figured they’d find out soon enough that I wasn’t ready to leave.

I rose, picked up my purse, and made my way to the general store. A cowbell jangled as I entered. “‘I got a fever,’” I muttered. “‘And the only prescription is more cowbell.’” The line made me smile. Why worry about earthquakes, lack of electricity, and the inability to do my work when the world needed more cowbell?

“What?” A young, freckle-faced woman with a smear of dirt on her nose stopped replacing items on the shelf.

“Iconic Saturday Night Live line—more cowbell?”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.” The interior had old oak floors, a tin ceiling, and a long counter with a glass display case. The sun through the window spotlighted twirling dust motes. Various cans still littered the floor, courtesy of the earthquake.

“Just let me know if ya need something.”

“Powder room?”

“Huh?”

“WC?”

“I think we’re sold out.”

“John? Head? Loo? Restroom?”

“Toilet?” She nodded to her right.

Fortunately, the primitive conditions did not include the store bathroom. Returning to the store, I picked up a can of soup that had rolled near me. “Do you know anything about those two dogs?” I handed her the can.

“Why are ya asking?” The woman placed it on the shelf.

“They just seem thin, that’s all.”

“Yeah, well.” She adjusted the display. “Sam’s been feeding ’em, but that’s gonna stop.”

My neck tingled. “I don’t understand.” I gave her a steady gaze.

She paused her work and looked around. We were alone in the store, but she dropped her voice to just above a whisper. “He’s just waitin’ for all of you to leave to the ranch.”

The tingling grew to an itch. My years of training as a forensic linguist kicked in, even though I was rusty. I grew very still and waited, listening for more clues in her language.

She gave up straightening the cans. “It’s like this: The dogs were owned by an old lady. I bet she was, like, at least forty.”

“Positively ancient. One foot in the grave.” I gave her a slight smile.

“Right. Her name was Shadow Woman. That’s what everyone called her. Well, that’s the nice name anyway. She was, like, a hermit, but a pretty good artist.” She jerked her thumb at a drawing on the wall behind the cash register.

Were owned, was. Past tense. I widened my smile to encourage her. “Why did everyone call her Shadow Woman?”

The clerk gnawed on a hangnail for a moment. “I guess ’cause she was weird, ya know, like she lived in the shadows. Creepy. Always showed up here at the store at dusk or when it was dark. Sam said she could sneak right up next to you in the shadows and you’d never see her. And her face was weird.”

“Weird how?”

“Like, really weird.”

“Ah, that clarifies it. Where did she come from?”

“Sam said she ran away from a group home near Smelterville.”

“I can’t imagine why.”

“Right, you know? No one wanted her. Anyway, she owned Holly—that’s the Lab mix—and Maverick, the Anna-toolian sheepdog.”

“Anatolian? From Anatolia in Asia Minor?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.”

“Of course. I thought the big dog was half Great Dane, half mastiff.”

“Nope. Sam looked it up. Anna-whatevers are super-expensive livestock guard dogs from Turkey or France, I forget which.”

“They are such similar countries,” I murmured.

“Right. So anyway, Sam was surprised that Shadow Woman had one.”

Sam looked it up. Looking for value? Surprised that Shadow Woman had one. Not just a hermit but poor? Broke? “I see.” I leaned slightly against the shelving unit. “You mentioned Shadow . . .”

“Right. Um . . . so Shadow Woman came to town like once a month with her mule, like I said, always after sunset, and bought stuff, like Spam. She’d usually pay her bill about every other month. The dogs always came with her. Six months ago, you know, she stopped coming.”

“Let me guess. She owed Sam a lot of money.”

“Right. Boy-howdy was he steamed about it. Then he, you know, got a check and note from the old woman to pay her bill, but the check bounced higher than a buckin’ bronco.”

“Did anyone follow up, call the police?”

“Not right away ’cause the dogs moved in, first Holly, then Maverick. So, you know, Sam started to feed them. And . . . I think someone changed his mind on what to do with the dogs.”

Cluster of you knows. Sensitive topic. I kept my gaze on her and nodded again.

She glanced down and plucked a piece of lint from her sleeve. “Sam always said he’d get his pound of flesh from her, whatever that means.”

“I’m sure it originated in Turkey or France.”

“Right. Foreign-like. Um . . . Sam finally got close enough to Maverick to see he’d been spayed.”

“Neutered?”

“What?”

“Never mind.” A neutered dog was of zero value, and Sam stopped feeding them. I made an effort to unclench my hands. “How have the dogs survived?”

“You know, folks around town feel sorry for them . . .”

The cowbell jangled.

The clerk straightened and glanced in that direction. Her cheeks flamed and her tongue flickered out to moisten her lips.

I turned.

A sheriff’s deputy charged to the bathroom, disappeared for a few moments, then reappeared and sauntered toward us, replacing fallen items on the shelves. His ordinary brown hair was the only average thing about him. He was otherwise a walking modern-day Adonis, his face chiseled by a master carver. He finally looked up and smiled at the clerk, exposing more teeth than the Osmond family, and seemed to enjoy her reaction to his arrival.

My hand automatically reached to fluff my hair. I stopped and squared my oversized glasses instead.

He looked at me, his eyes widening. “Hello there. I’m Bram White.”

“I’m—”

“Leaving,” the clerk said. “Goin’ to Mule Shoe. She’s a guest.”

“Darby Graham.” I glanced at his holstered pistol, then out the window at the two dogs lying under a tree. Check bounced. Sam’s been feeding ’em, but that’s gonna stop. Pound of flesh.

Deputy Bram glanced at his watch.

My neck was crawling with reasons to scratch it.

“Can I get you a Coke or somethin’?” she asked me. “It shouldn’t be long.” The clerk moved toward an ancient cooler. “I’d bet the wagon got slowed down by the earthquake.”

The two dogs began barking.

“See? I told ya. Betcha that’s the wagon now.” The clerk moved toward the front of the store, brushing past Bram. “Excuse me,” she said. At the window, she glanced out, then looked at the officer. “Yep. The wagon’s here.” Without taking her eyes from Bram, she said to me, “You can go now.”

Sam stuck his head in the door. “Miss Graham? Time to leave.” He spotted Bram and gave the man a quick nod.

I gave in and scratched my neck. This was none of my business. No need to get involved. No reason to draw attention to myself. Low profile. Right. I straightened. “I think I’ll wait here. Catch the next wagon.” The words came out without my thinking, but they seemed right.

Sam moved into the store. “I’m sorry, Miss Graham, there won’t be a next wagon. It’s quite a distance to the ranch and it’s getting late. You’ll need to leave now.” He wiped his hands on his slacks, glanced at the clerk, then at the deputy.

The itch was now a full-scale conviction. “Your clerk here—”

“Julia?” Sam glared at the clerk.

“Was telling me about Shadow Woman. And her dogs.”

Bram folded his arms.

Sam opened the door behind him and waved for me to exit. “Miss Graham, I really see that as none of your business.”

Go now. Run. You have nothing to offer. Well . . . almost nothing. I slowly walked over to the counter. “I know Shadow Woman’s check bounced. How much money did she owe you? And how much to cover all the dog food?” I opened my purse.

“How many times have I warned you to keep your piehole shut!” Sam said to Julia.

“I didn’t say nothin’!” Julia crossed her arms. “She figured it out on her own.”

Sam closed the door and approached me, both hands held out as if to show goodwill. “I don’t know what it is that you figured out, Miss Graham, but—”

“Please don’t try lying to me, Sam.” I pulled out my checkbook. “You figured the Anatolian dog would pay Shadow Woman’s bill, but when you saw he was neutered, he had no more value to you. The minute I leave, you’re going to have Deputy White here shoot both dogs. Your pound of flesh.” I stared into his eyes. “I intend to stop you.”

***

Excerpt from Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks. Copyright 2021 by Carrie Stuart Parks. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy, multiple Carol, and Inspy Award–winning author. She was a 2019 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in mainstream mystery/suspense and has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law-enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

Catch Up With Carrie:

www.CarrieStuartParks.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @CarrieStuartParks
Instagram - @CarrieStuartParks
Facebook - @CarrieStuartParksAuthor

Or Join the Conversation on Twitter - #CarrieStuartParks

 

 

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My Take: I really liked this book, I gave it five stars on Goodreads. I even told my husband to read it on Audible( alas I didn't marry a reader but he does enjoy audio books), I liked all of characters until the ed when the true bad guys were revealed. I was interested in the effects of PTSD and how it effects our main characters life. This was truly a suspensful read and it had me on the edge of my seat and turning pages as fast as could while reading to see what was going to happen next. I liked how the author weaved in what she does with forensic art into the story. It was really interesting. I would highly recommend this book. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime book tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Life and other Complications by Heather Mullaly

This is my post during the blog tour for Life and Other Complications by Heather Mullaly. Life and Other Complications is a new young adult contemporary book by Heather Mullaly in which a 17 year old girl can't bring herself to tell her friends the truth about how she contracted HIV so she writes to the one person who might understand, a girl she's never met. This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 5 till 18 July. See the tour schedule here: http://www.lolasblogtours.net/blog-tour-life-and-other-complication- by-heather-mullaly Life and Other Complications By Heather Mullaly Genre: Contemporary Age category: Young Adult Release Date: 5 July, 2021 Blurb: Seventeen-year-old Aly Bennett has been in love with her friend Luke for years. She hasn't told him how she feels for two reasons. 1) She's the girl with HIV. 2) She lied about how she got it. Aly never meant to lie. The words just slipped out on her first day of a support group for kids living with life-threatening conditions. It was the day she met Luke and Caroline, who would become her best friends and the closest thing she has to a family. After so many years, Aly doesn’t know how to tell her friends the truth. So she paints and she runs and she tries not to think about the future she can’t have. But when a Boston prosecutor asks Aly to testify in a trial—and her relationship with Luke intensifies—things become complicated. If she testifies, Luke and Caroline will learn the truth —that Aly has been lying to them for most of a decade. If she doesn’t, a monster could go free, again. Links: - Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57737582-life-and-other-complications - Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/life-and-other-complications-by-heather-mullaly - Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B091FVTRP1 - Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/life-and-other-complications - Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/life-and-other-complications-heather- mullaly/1139415382?ean=9781736477366 - Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/life-and-other-complications/id1566250651 - Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Heather_Mullaly_Life_and_Other_Complications ?id=oEwtEAAAQBAJ - Target: https://www.target.com/p/life-and-other-complications-by-heather-mullaly- paperback/-/A-83325096#lnk=sametab​ About the Author: Heather Mullaly is a passionate believer in the power of story. When she isn’t writing them, reading them, or listening to them, she can usually be found baking something that involves chocolate, thinking up new story ideas before she’s finished the two she’s currently writing, or hanging out with her family, who happen to be even more fantastic than the characters in her head. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their three teenagers. Author links: - Website: http://www.heathermullaly.com - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/106508034343528 - Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-mullaly - Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Heather-Mullaly/e/B091MCSFY2 Giveaway There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Life and Other Complications. Three winners will win an $10 Amazon gift card. For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below: a Rafflecopter giveaway My Take: This is book is filled with emotion and I really felt for the main character as she has to choose between letting a monster go free and her two best friends. If she chooses the monster then her friends will know that she has lied to them since the beginning of their friendship. I don't envy her decision. I sure am glad that I am no longer a teenager when everything felt sooo important and life or death (literally or figuratively). I would like to think that I would be mature enough to forgive but .... I would recommend this book. I recieved a review copy of this book from Lola's tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt

Something Fishy

by Lois Schmitt

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt

When attorney Samuel Wong goes missing. wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied into her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront property that the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray.

Meanwhile, a body is found in the bay. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff--secrets that point to one of them as a killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs.

But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam's disappearance aren't Kristy's only challenges. When her widowed septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom's soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Encircle Publications
Publication Date: July 15th 2019
Number of Pages: 244
ISBN: 1948338793 (ISBN13: 9781948338790)
Series: A Kristy Farrell Mystery #2 || Each is a Stand-Alone Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Encircle Publications | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

“Something bad happened to Sam. I know it.”

Katie Chandler’s sea green eyes filled with tears. A sea lion trainer at the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium, Katie had been my daughter’s college roommate.

“Maybe Sam worked late and forgot to call,” I said.

Katie shook her head, her chestnut hair flying in the bay breeze. “No. He hasn’t answered my texts or phone calls. I stopped by his house twice too. No one’s home.”

Silence. I tried thinking of something helpful, or at least hopeful, to say.

“I called the police, Mrs. Farrell. The officer said being stood up for a dinner date isn’t enough for a missing persons case—that maybe it was Sam’s way of breaking up.”

I shifted my gaze to the whitecaps on the bay while Katie’s statement sank into my brain. Perhaps the officer was right. I knew from my daughter Abby that the relationship between Katie Chandler and Samuel Wong had hit a rough patch.

The conflict: Katie, who served as executor of her late grandmother’s charitable trust, was donating six million dollars of this money to the aquarium’s expansion project, which included the acquisition of twenty acres of adjacent land. Sam worked as executive assistant to multi-millionaire developer Lucien Moray who wanted to buy the bay front property for luxury condominiums. What started off as friendly bantering between Katie and Sam had escalated into explosive arguments that had become increasingly personal.

But Katie and Sam weren’t the only ones embroiled in this controversy. The community at large had become like the Hatfields and McCoys. Environmentalists wanted the property to go to the aquarium where it would be used for breeding grounds for endangered species, an aquatic animal rehabilitation center, and a research camp for marine scientists. Local business owners sided with Moray, hoping high end condo owners would bolster the area’s economy. I was writing an article on this for Animal Advocate Magazine. That’s why I was at the aquarium today.

Katie continued, “No matter what happened between us, Sam would never stand me up. He’s my fiancĂ© not someone I picked up a few hours ago at a bar. Besides, Sam came around to my point of view. He had it with Lucien Moray. He hadn’t told anyone but me yet, but he was quitting his job at the end of the year.”

“I’ve an interview later this morning with Moray,” I said. “I’ll check around and see what I can find out. Someone in Moray’s office may know Sam’s whereabouts.”

“What if no one does?”

“Let’s take it one step at a time.” I glanced at my watch, then pushed myself off the rock where I’d been sitting, a task that would have been easier if I were ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter. “Speaking of interviews, my appointment with your aquarium director is in five minutes, so I better head inside. I’ll call you tonight.”

Katie sighed. “Thanks. I should get back to my sea lions too. We’ve a show at eleven.” She rose and stretched her small wiry body. “After the show, I’ll stop at Sam’s house again.”

Katie, shoulders slumped, wandered off in the direction of the outdoor sea lion amphitheater. I stood for a moment, inhaling the salt air while watching a seagull dive into the bay and zoom back to the sky with a fish in its mouth. As the autumn wind sent a sudden chill down my spine, I wrapped my arms around my body, thinking back to when Katie and my Abby attended college. Abby often acted impulsively, out of emotion, but Katie had always been levelheaded, never someone to jump to conclusions. What if Sam is really in trouble? The thought nagged at me as I trekked up the sandy beach and stepped into the building that housed the indoor exhibits.

I made my way down a long corridor, surrounded by floor to ceiling glass tanks housing ocean life from around the world. I paused at the shark tank and marveled at the grace and beauty of these fearsome predators gliding silently through the water, causing hardly a ripple. I would be back here soon. In addition to my article on the land expansion, I was writing a story on ocean predators.

I veered down the administration wing. When I came to a door marked DIRECTOR, I glanced again at my watch. Ten-thirty. Right on time. I knocked.

“Enter,” a booming voice responded. I pulled open the door and stepped inside.

Standing in front of me was a man who appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Noting his polished wingtips, sharply creased trousers, navy blazer, crisp white shirt, and perfectly knotted tie, I wished I’d dusted the sand off my shoes.

We stood face to face. Actually, it was more like face to chest. I was only five feet tall and this man towered over me by at least a foot and a half.

“Commander Conrad West,” he said, extending his arm. His handshake was firm and strong. “You must be Kristy Farrell, the reporter from Animal Advocate Magazine.”

Conrad West stood ramrod straight, probably a throw-back from his military training. A former naval commander—the youngest African American to be appointed a commander in the navy’s history—he had started his career as a medical corpsman. He had been director of the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium since his retirement from the navy last year.

He walked behind his desk and positioned himself in a large swivel chair.

“You may sit,” he said, pointing to a straight back chair facing him.

I slid into the chair, suppressing the urge to playfully salute.

He went straight to the point. “I understand you’re writing about the land acquisition. Have you seen our expansion plans?”

“Yes, and they are impressive. But how will the aquarium come up with the money to buy this land?” I asked, fumbling through my bag for my pad and pen. “You’re competing with the bottomless pockets of Lucien Moray.”

Commander West leaned forward, his hands clasped in front, as if praying that what he was about to say would come true. “The current property owner, Stuart Holland, is a business man who’s not about to forgo a profit. But he’s also an active conservationist and a lifelong resident of this area who would like to see the land used in an environmentally friendly manner. He’s kept it vacant until recent financial loses forced him to put it up for sale.”

The Commander leaned back. “There’ll be no bidding war. He set a price—ten million dollars. The land is worth more, but Stuart wants it to go to us, so he set a price he feels we can reach. If we can raise the money by next summer, the land is ours.”

“Ten million is a high goal.”

He nodded. “More than half of the funding will come from a trust set up by Alicia Wilcox Chandler. We also have one million in reserve that we accumulated during the past few years. Of course, we’re still three million short, but our new development officer is planning an aggressive fundraising campaign with—”

A loud knock on the door interrupted the conversation.

Commander West scowled. “Enter.”

A plump woman with a bad case of acne barged into the room. She wore jeans and a light blue shirt with an aquarium patch on the upper left pocket identifying her as Madge.

“Commander,” she said, slightly out of breath. “We have a problem. The sea lion show is in ten minutes, and Katie just ran out.”

“What do you mean she ran out?”

The woman shrugged. “She took a call on her cell phone, then flew out of the amphitheater.

“Didn’t she say anything?” The scowl hadn’t left his face.

The woman paused, furrowing her eyebrows as if deep in thought. “Oh, yeah. But I don’t know if it had to do with why she left.”

“What did she say?” He appeared to be talking through gritted teeth.

“She said two fishermen found a body floating in the inlet.”

***

Excerpt from Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt. Copyright 2021 by Lois Schmitt. Reproduced with permission from Lois Schmitt. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Lois Schmitt

A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined a love of mysteries with a love of animals in her series featuring wildlife reporter Kristy Farrell. She is a member of several wildlife and humane organizations as well as Mystery Writers of America. Lois worked for many years as a freelance writer and is the author of Smart Spending, a consumer education book for young people. She previously worked as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island. Lois lives in Massapequa with her family which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a dog of many breeds who looks like a small bear, featured in her Kristy Farrell Mystery Series. Lois was 2nd runner up for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award for Something Fishy.

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Twitter: @schmittmystery
Facebook: @LoisSchmittAuthor
Instagram: @loisschmittmysteries

 

 

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My Take: This is a cosy mystery that has a bit of a different main character. Kristy Farrell is a wildlife magazine feature writer. This is the second in the series but can be read as a standalone. Kristy is on assignment writing about the Long Island Clam Cove Aquarium. A dead body is found in the local marina and Kristy and her daughter Abby ,a veternaian, try and solve the mystery. This was a good cosy mystery and I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes these kind of mysteries. I recieved a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime tours and was not required to write a positive review.

The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond

The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond Banner

The Begonia Killer

by Jeff Bond

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond

You know Molly McGill from her death-defying escapes in Anarchy of the Mice, book one of the Third Chance Enterprises series. Now ride along for her first standalone caper, The Begonia Killer.

When Martha Dodson hires McGill Investigators to look into an odd neighbor, Molly feels optimistic about the case — right up until Martha reveals her theory that Kent Kirkland, the neighbor, is holding two boys hostage in his papered-over upstairs bedroom.

Martha’s husband thinks she needs a hobby. Detective Art Judd, who Molly visits on her client’s behalf, sees no evidence worthy of devoting police resources.

But Molly feels a kinship with the Yancy Park housewife and bone-deep concern for the missing boys.

She forges ahead with the investigation, navigating her own headstrong kids, an unlikely romance with Detective Judd, and a suspect in Kent Kirkland every bit as terrifying as the supervillains she’s battled before alongside Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones.

The Begonia Killer is not your grandparents’ cozy mystery.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery -- Cozy/Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 195
ISBN: 1734622520 (ISBN-13 : 978-1734622522)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises, #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

THE BEGONIA KILLER

By Jeff Bond

Chapter One

After twenty minutes on Martha Dodson’s couch, listening to her suspicions about the neighbor, I respected the woman. She was no idle snoop. She’d noticed his compulsive begonia care out the window while making lavender sachets from burlap scraps. She hadn’t even been aware of the papered-over bedroom above his garage until her postal carrier had commented.

I asked, “And the day he removed the begonias, how did you happen to see that?”

Martha set tea before me on a coaster, twisting the cup so its handle faced me. “Ziggy and I were out for a walk—he’d just done his business. I stood up to knot the bag…”

Her kindly face curdled, and I thought she might be remembering the product of Ziggy’s “business” until she finished, “Then we saw him start hacking, and scowling, and thrusting those clippers at his flowers.”

Her eyes, a pleasing hazel shade, darkened at the memory.

She added, “At his own flowers.”

I shifted my skirt, giving her a moment. “The begonias were in a mailbox planter?”

“Right by the street, yes. The whole incident happened just a few feet from passing cars, from the sidewalk where parents push babies in strollers.”

“Did he dispose of the mess afterward?”

“Immediately,” Martha said. “He looked at his clippers for a second—the blades were streaked with green from all those leaves and stems he’d destroyed—then he sort of recovered. He picked everything up and placed it in the yard-waste bin. Every last petal.”

“He sounds meticulous.”

“Extremely.”

I jotted Cleaned up begonia mess in my notebook.

Maybe because of my psychology background—I’m twelve credit-hours shy of a PhD—I like to start these introductory interviews by allowing clients time to just talk, open-ended. I want to know what they feel is important. Often this tells as much about them as it does about whatever they’re asking me to/ investigate.

Martha Dodson had talked about children first. Hers were in college. Did I have little ones? I’d waived my usual practice of withholding personal information and said yes, six and fourteen. She’d clapped and rubbed her hands. Wonderful! Where did they go to school?

Next we’d talked crafting. Martha liked to knit and make felt flowers for centerpieces, for vase arrangements, even to decorate shoes—that type of crafter whose creativity spills beyond the available mediums and fills a house, infusing every shelf and surface.

Only with this groundwork lain had she told me about the case itself, describing the various oddities of her neighbor three doors down, Kent Kirkland.

I was still waiting to hear the crux of her problem, the reason she wanted to hire McGill Investigators. (Full disclosure—although the name is plural, there’s only one investigator: Molly McGill. Me.)

“That sounds like an intense, visceral moment,” I said, squaring myself to Martha on the couch. “So has he done something to your flowers? Are you engaged in a dispute with him?”

Martha shook her head. Then, with perfect composure, she said, “I think he’s keeping a boy in the bedroom over his garage.”

I felt like somebody had blasted jets of freezing air into both my ears. The pen I’d been taking notes with tumbled from my hand to the carpet.

“Wait, keeping a boy?” I said.

“Yes.”

“Against his will? As in, kidnapping?”

Martha nodded.

I was having trouble reconciling this woman in front of me—cardigan sweater, hair in a layered crop—with the accusation she’d just uttered. We were sitting in a nice New Jersey neighborhood. Nicer than mine. We were drinking tea.

She said, “There might be two.”

Now my notebook dropped to the carpet.

“Two?” I said. “You think this man is holding two boys hostage?”

“I don’t know for sure,” she said. “If I knew for sure, I’d be over there breaking down the door myself. But I suspect it.”

She explained that a ten-year-old boy from the next town over had gone missing six months ago. The parents had been quoted as saying they “lost track of” their son. They hadn’t reported his disappearance until the evening after they’d last seen him.

“The mother told reporters he wanted a scooter for Christmas, one of those cute kick scooters.” Martha sniffled at the memory. “Guess what I saw the UPS driver drop off on Kent Kirkland’s porch two weeks ago?”

“A scooter,” I said.

Her eyes flashed. “A very large box from a company that makes scooters.”

Having retrieved my notebook, I jotted, box delivery (scooter?) . We talked a bit about this scooter company—which also made bikes, dehumidifiers, and air fryers.

Scooter or not, there remained about a million dots to be connected from this boy’s case, which I vaguely remembered from news reports, to Kent Kirkland.

I left the dots aside for now. “How do you get to two boys?”

“There was another missing boy, about the same age. During the summer.” Martha’s mouth moved in place like she was counting up how many jars of tomatoes she’d canned yesterday. “He lived close, too. That case was complicated because the parents had just divorced, and the dad—who was a native Venezuelan—had just moved back. People suspected him of taking the boy with him.”

“To Venezuela?”

“Yes. Apparently the State Department couldn’t get any answers.”

I nodded, not because I accepted all that she was telling me, but because there was no other polite response available.

Neither of us spoke. Our eyes drifted together down the street to Kent Kirkland’s two-story saltbox home. Pale yellow vinyl siding. Tall privacy fence. Three separate posted notices to “Please pick up after your pet.” Neighborhood Watch sign at the corner.

Finally, I said, “Look, Mrs. Dodson. Martha. Most of the cases we handle at McGill Investigators are domestic in nature. Straying husbands. Teenagers mixed up with the wrong crowd. I’m a mother myself, and I’ve been a wife. Twice.” I softened this disclosure with a smirk. “I generally take cases where my own life experiences can be brought to bear.”

“But that’s why I chose you.” Martha worried her hands in her lap. “Your website says, ‘Every case will be treated with dignity and discretion.’ That’s all I ask.”

I looked into her eyes and said, “Okay.”

She seemed to sense my reluctance and started, rushing, “Those bedroom windows are papered-over twenty-four hours a day! And the begonias, you didn’t see him destroy those begonias! I saw how he severed their stalks and shredded their root systems. You don’t do that to flowers you’ve tended for an entire season. Not if you’re a person of sound mind.”

“Gardening is more challenging for some than others. I love rhododendrons, but I can’t keep them alive. I over-water, I under-water. I plant them in the wrong spot.”

“Have you ever massacred them in a fit of rage?”

“No.” I smiled. “But I’ve wanted to.”

Martha couldn’t help returning the smile. But her eyes stayed on Kent Kirkland’s house.

I said, “Some men aren’t blessed with impulse control. Maybe he was a lousy gardener, he’d tried fertilizing and everything else, and the plants just refused to—”

“But he wasn’t a lousy gardener. He was excellent. I think he grew those begonias from seed. He wanted them to be perennials, is my theory, but we’re in zone seven—they’re annuals here. He couldn’t accept them dying off.”

Again, I was at a loss. I liked Martha Dodson. She had seemed like a reasonable person, right up until she’d started talking about kidnappings and Venezuela.

She scooted closer on the couch. “You didn’t see the rage, Miss McGill. I saw it. I saw him that day. He walked out of the garage with hand pruners, but he took one look at those begonias—leaves browning at the edges, stems tangled like green worms—and flipped out. He turned right around, put away the hand pruners and came back with clippers.”

She mimed viciously snapping a pair of clippers closed.

“Rage is one thing,” I said. “Kidnapping is another.”

“Of course,” Martha said. “That’s why I’d like to hire you: to figure out what he might be capable of.”

Her pupils seemed to pulse in place.

“I want to help you out, honestly.” I took her hand. “I do.”

“Is it money? I—I could pay you more. A little.”

Saying this, she seemed to linger on my jacket. I’d recently swapped out my boiled wool standby for this slightly flashier one, red leather with zippers. I had no great ambitions about an image upgrade; it’d just felt like time for a change.

“The fee we discussed will be sufficient,” I said. Martha had mentioned she was paying out of her own pocket, not from her and her husband’s joint account. “My concern is more about the substance of the case. It feels a bit outside my expertise.”

She clasped her hands at her waist. “Is it a question of danger? Do you not handle dangerous jobs?”

I balked. In fact, I’d done extremely dangerous jobs before, but only as part of Third Chance Enterprises, the freelance small-force, private arms team led by Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones. We’d stopped an art heist in Italy. We’d saved the world from anarchist-hackers. Sometimes I can hardly believe our missions happened. They feel like half dream, half blockbuster movies starring me. Every couple years, just about the time I start thinking they really might be dreams, Quaid shows up again on my front porch.

“I don’t mind facing danger on a client’s behalf,” I said. “But McGill Investigators isn’t meant to replace the proper authorities. If you believe Mr. Kirkland is involved in these disappearances, your first stop should be the police.”

“Mm.” Martha’s face wilted, reminding me of those unlucky begonias. “Actually, it was.”

“You spoke with the police?”

She nodded. “Yes. Well, more of a front desk person. I told him exactly what I’ve been telling you today.”

“How did he respond?”

There was a floor loom beside the couch. Martha threaded her fingers through its empty spindles, seeming to need its feel.

“He said the department would ‘give the tip its due attention.’ Then on my way out, he asked if I’d ever read anything by J.D. Robb.”

“The mystery writer?” I asked.

“Right. He told me J.D. Robb was really Nora Roberts, the romance novelist. He said I should try them. He had a hunch I’d like them.”

My teeth were grinding.

I said, “Some men are idiots.”

Martha’s face eased gratefully. “Oh, my husband thinks the same. I’m a Yancy Park housewife with too much time on her hands. He says Kirkland’s just an odd duck. When I told him about the begonias, he got this confused expression and said, ‘What’s a perennial?’”

I could relate. My first husband had once handed me baking soda when I asked for cornstarch to thicken up an Italian beef sauce. The dish came out tasting like soap. After I traced back the mistake, he grumbled, “Ah, relax. They’re both white powders.”

As much as I probably should have, I couldn’t refuse Martha. Not after this conversation.

“I suppose I can do some poking around,” I said. “See if he, I don’t know, buys suspicious items at the grocery store. Or puts something in his garbage that might have come from a child.”

Martha lurched forward and clutched my hands like I’d just solved the case of Jack the Ripper.

“That would be amazing!” she cried. “Thank you so much! I know this seems far-fetched, but my instincts tell me something’s wrong at that house. If I didn’t follow through, if it turned out I was right and those little boys…”

She didn’t finish. I was glad.

CHAPTER TWO

The state of New Jersey offers private investigator licenses, but I’ve never gotten one. It doesn’t entitle you to much, and you have to put up two hundred and fifty dollars, plus a three-thousand-dollar “surety bond.” Besides the money, you’re supposed to have served five years as an investigator or police officer. Which I haven’t.

For all these reasons, my first stop after taking any case involving possible crimes is the local police station. Sometimes the police are impressed enough by what I tell them to assign their own personnel, usually some rookie detective or beat cop.

Other times, not.

“Begonias, huh?” said Detective Art Judd, lacing his fingers behind a head of bushy brown hair. “The ones with the thick, fluffy flower heads?”

“You’re thinking of chrysanthemums,” I said.

“Nnnno, I feel like it was begonias.”

“Not begonias. Maybe peonies?”

“Don’t think so,” he said. “I’m pretty sure the gal in the garden center said begonias.”

I was annoyed—one, at his stubborn ignorance of flowers, and two, that he’d segued so breezily off the subject of Kent Kirkland.

“The only other possibility with a thick, fluffy flower-head would be roses,” I said. “But if you don’t know what a rose looks like, you’re in trouble.”

Art Judd’s lips curled up below a mustache. “You could be right.”

I waited for him to return to Kirkland, to stand and pace about his sparsely decorated office, to offer some comment on the bizarre behavior I’d been describing for the last twenty minutes.

But he just looked at me.

Oh, I didn’t mind terribly being looked at. He was handsome enough in a best-bowler-on-his-Tuesday-night-league-team way. Broad sloping shoulders, large hand gestures that made the physical distance between our chairs feel shorter than it was.

I’d come for Martha Dodson, though.

“Leaving aside what is or isn’t a begonia,” I said, “how would you feel about checking into Kent Kirkland? Maybe sending an officer over to his house.”

He finally gave up his stare, kicking back from his metal desk with a sigh. “The department barely has enough black-and-whites to service the parking meters downtown.”

“I’m talking about missing boys. Not parking meters.”

“Point taken,” he said. “Why didn’t Mrs. Dodson come herself with this information?”

“She did. Your front desk person brushed her off.”

The detective looked past me into the precinct lobby. “They see a lot of nut jobs. You can’t go calling in the calvary every time someone comes in saying their neighbor hung the wrong curtains.”

“They aren’t curtains,” I said. “The windows are papered-over. Completely opaque.”

He rubbed his jaw. I thought he might be struggling to keep a straight face.

I continued with conviction I wasn’t sure I actually felt, “I saw it. It isn’t normal how he obscures that window. Martha thinks it’s weird, and it is weird.”

“Weird,” he said flatly. “Two votes for weird.”

“You put those Neighborhood Watch signs up, right?” In response to his slouch, I stood. “You encourage citizens to report anything out of the ordinary. When a citizen does so, the proper response would seem to be gratitude—or, at the very least, respect.”

This, either the words or my standing up, finally pierced the detective’s blithe manner.

“Okay, I give. You win.” His barrel chest rose and fell in a concessionary breath. “It’s true, with police work you never know which detail matters until it matters. Please apologize to Mrs. Dodson on behalf of the department. And I’ll be sure to have a word with Jimmie.”

He gestured to the lobby. “Kid’s been getting too big for his britches for a while now.”

I thanked him, and he ducked his head in return.

Then he said, “I suppose she thinks one of those boys being held is Calvin Witt.”

The boy whose parents had lost track of him.

“Yes,” I said. “The timing does fit.”

I considered mentioning the scooter, Calvin’s Christmas wish, but decided not to. We didn’t need to go down the rabbit hole of box shapes and labeling, and whether grown men rode scooters.

Detective Judd looked ponderously at the ceiling. I didn’t expect him to divulge information about a live case, but I thought if he knew something exculpatory—that Calvin Witt had been spotted in Florida, say—he might pass it along and save me some trouble.

“I hate to say this, but I honestly doubt young Calvin is among the living.” Art Judd smeared a hand through his mustache. “The father gambled online. Mom wanted out of the marriage, bad. She told anybody in her old sorority who’d pick up her call. Both of them methheads.”

“That’s disheartening,” I said. “So you think the parents…”

He nodded, reluctance heavy on his brow. “It’ll be a park, under some tree. Downstream on the banks of the Millstone. Pray to God I’m wrong.”

I matched his glum expression, both a genuine reaction and a professional tactic to encourage more disclosure. “Does the department have staff psychologists, people who study these dysfunctional family dynamics? Who’re qualified to unpack the facts?”

“Eh.” Art Judd flung out his arm. “You do this job long enough, you start recognizing patterns.”

This was a common reaction to the field of psychology: that it was just everyday observation masquerading as science, than anyone with a little horse sense could practice it.

I said, “Antipathy between spouses doesn’t predict antipathy toward the offspring, generally.”

The detective’s face glazed over like I’d just recited Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

“Perhaps I could conduct an interview,” I said. “As a private citizen, just to hear more background on Calvin?”

He chuckled out of his stupor. “Good try. You’re free to call as you like, but I don’t think the Witts are real receptive to interview requests now—with the exception of the paying sort.”

I crossed my legs, causing my skirt to shift higher up my knee. “Is there any further background you’d be able to share? You personally?”

His gaze did tick down, and he seemed to lose his first word under his tongue.

“Urb, I—I guess it’s all more or less leaked in the press anyway,” he said, and proceeded to give me the story—as the police understood it—of Calvin Witt.

Calvin had a lot to overcome. His parents, besides their drug and money problems, were morbidly obese, and had passed this along to Calvin. A social worker’s report found inadequate supplies of fresh fruit and lean proteins at the home. They’d basically raised him on McDonald’s and ice cream sandwiches. Calvin had learning and attention disorders. He started fights in school. His parents couldn’t account for huge swaths of his day, of his week even.

“They let him run like the junkyard dog,” Detective Judd said. “All we know about the night he disappeared, we got off the kid’s bus pass. Thankfully it’d been registered. We know he boarded a bus downtown, late.”

I opened my mouth to ask a follow-up.

“Before you get ideas,” he said, “no, the route didn’t pass anywhere near Martha Dodson’s neighborhood. We always crosscheck Yancy Park in these cases. That’s where the Ferguson place is.”

“Ferguson?”

“Yeah. Big rickety house, half falling over? Looks like the city dump. You shoulda passed it on the way.”

I shook my head.

“Well,” he continued, “that’s where the Fergusons live, crusty old married couple. Them and whatever riffraff needs a room. Plenty of crime there. Squalor. The neighbors keep trying to get it condemned.”

I definitely didn’t remember driving past a place like that. “Were there any witnesses who saw Calvin on the bus? Saw who he was with?”

“Nobody who’d talk.”

“Camera footage?”

The detective palmed his meaty elbow. “Have you seen the city’s transportation budget?”

I incorporated the new information, thinking about Kent Kirkland. He was single according to Martha. Mid-thirties. He worked from home—something to do with programming or web design, she thought.

Did he have a car? I’d noticed a two-car garage, but I hadn’t seen inside.

Did he go out socially? To bars? Or trivia nights?

Could he have ridden the bus downtown?

“Martha mentioned another case,” I said. “Last summer, I think it was. Another boy in the same vicinity?”

At first, Detective Judd only squinted.

I prompted, “There was some connection to Venezuela. The father was born there, maybe he—”

“Right, that Ramos kid!” Judd smacked his forehead. “How could I forget? Talk about red tape, my gosh. So he’s boy number two, is that it?”

I couldn’t very well answer “yes” to a question posed like that.

I simply repeated, “Martha mentioned the case.”

“Yep. That was a doozy.” As he remembered, he walked to a file cabinet and pulled open a drawer. “Real exercise in frustration.”

“There was trouble with the Venezuelan government?”

“And how.” He swelled his eyes, thumbing through manila folders, finally lifting out an overstuffed one. “I must’ve filled out fifty forms myself, no joke.”

He tossed the file on his desk. Documents slumped from the folder out across his computer keyboard.

I asked, “You never located the boy?”

“Not definitively. We had a witness put him with the paternal grandparents, the day before Dad put the whole crew on a plane.”

“Did you interview him?”

“Who?”

“The father.”

Detective Judd burbled his lips. “Nope. The Venezuelans stonewalled us—never could get him, not even on the horn. He told some website he had no clue where the kid was, but come on. They took him.”

I’d been following along with his account, understanding the logic and sequence—until this. I thought about Zach, my fourteen-year-old, and what lengths I would’ve gone to if he’d disappeared with his father.

“So you…stopped?” I said.

He stiffened. “We hit a brick wall, like I said.”

“Yes, but a boy had been taken from his mother. What did she say? Was she satisfied with the investigation?”

“No.” Judd’s mouth tightened under his mustache. His tone turned challenging. “Nobody’s satisfied when they don’t like the outcome.”

I tugged my skirt lower, covering my knee.

He continued, “I get fifty-some cases across my desk every week, Miss McGill. I don’t have the luxury of devoting my whole day to chasing crackpot theories just because somebody looks angry snipping their flowers.”

“Of course,” I said. “Which makes me the crackpot.”

He closed his eyes, as though summoning patience. “You seem like a nice lady. And look, I admit I’m a Neanderthal when it comes to matters—”

“‘Nice lady’ puts you dangerously close to pre-Neanderthal territory.”

He smiled. In the pause, two buttons began blinking on his phone.

“Pleasant as it’s been getting acquainted with you,” he said, “I can’t commit resources to this begonia guy. Just can’t. If you can pursue it without stepping over any legal boundaries, more power to you.”

I felt heat rising up my neck. I gathered my purse.

“I will pursue it. Two little boys’ welfare is on the line. Somebody needs to.”

He spread his arms wide, good-naturedly, stretching the collar of his shirt. “Hey, who better than you?”

The contents of the folder labeled Ramos were still strewn over his keyboard. “I don’t suppose I could borrow this file…”

“Official police documents?”

“Just for twenty minutes. Ten—I could flip through in the lobby, jot a few notes.”

He’d walked around his desk to show me out, and now he stopped, hands on hips, peering down at the file. The top paper had letterhead from the Venezuelan consulate.

I stepped closer to look with him, shoulder-to-shoulder. Our shoes bumped.

“Or even just this letter,” I said. “So I have the case number and contact information for the consulate. Surely there’s no harm in that?”

Detective Judd didn’t move his shoe. He smelled like bagels and coffee.

He placed his fingertip on the letter and pushed it my way.

“I can live with that.”

“Thanks,” I said, grinning, snatching the paper before he could reconsider.

CHAPTER THREE

I drove home through Yancy Park, thinking to get a second look at Kent Kirkland’s property. As I pulled into the subdivision, I noticed a dilapidated house up the hill, off to the west. It rose three stories and had bare-wood sides. Ragged blankets flapped over its attic windows.

The Ferguson place.

Somehow I’d missed it driving in from the other direction. Art Judd had been right: the place was an eyesore. Gutters dangled off the roof like spaghetti off a toddler’s abandoned plate. A refrigerator and TV were strewn about the dirt yard, both spilling their electronic guts.

I made a mental note to ask Martha Dodson about the property. I found it curious she suspected Kirkland instead of whoever lived in this rats’ den. Art Judd had mentioned crosschecking Yancy Park. Maybe the police had already been out and investigated to Martha’s satisfaction.

I kept driving to Martha and Kent Kirkland’s street. I slowed at the latter’s yard, peering over a rectangular yew hedge to a house that was the polar opposite of the Ferguson place. The paint job was immaculate. Gutters were not only fully affixed, but contained not a single leaf or twig. Trash bins were pulled around the side into a nook, out of sight.

***

Excerpt from The Begonia Killer by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2021 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond

Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. The Pinebox Vendetta received the gold medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and the first two entries in the Third Chance Enterprises series — Anarchy of the Mice, Dear Durwood — were named to Kirkus Reviews' Best 100 Indie Books of 2020.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond:
ThirdChanceStories.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @jeff_bond
Instagram - @jeffabond
Twitter - @jeffABond
Facebook - @jeffabondbooks

 

 

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Enter the Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be one (1) winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021 and runs through July 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

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My Take: This book is in the same atmosphere as The Anarchy of the Mice but it has Molly as the main character. It has some really weird kind of things going on and Molly is trying to raise her kids along with trying to solve this mystery. I enjoyed this book as much if not more than Anarchy and although this is technically the 3rd book it can be read alone. If you like mysteries with a bit of weird then I would recommend this book. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to leave a positive review.

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Redemption by C. L. Tolbert

The Redemption by C.L. Tolbert Tour Banner

The Redemption

by C.L. Tolbert

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

by C.L. Tolbert

Emma Thornton is back in The Redemption, C.L. Tolbert’s second novel in the Thornton Mystery Series.

When two men are murdered one muggy September night in a New Orleans housing project, an eye witness identifies only one suspect - Louis Bishop- a homeless sixteen-year old. Louis is arrested the next day and thrown into Orleans Parish Prison. Emma Thornton, a law professor and director of the Homeless Law Clinic at St. Stanislaus Law School in the city agrees to represent him.

When they take on the case, Emma and her students discover a tangle of corruption, intrigue, and more violence than they would have thought possible, even in New Orleans. They uncover secrets about the night of the murders, and illegal dealings in the city, and within Louis’s family. As the case progresses, Emma and her family are thrown into a series of life-threating situations. But in the end, Emma gains Louis’s trust, which allows him to reveal his last, and most vital secret.

Book Praise:

“With The Redemption, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling read in her Thornton Mystery series, as law professor Emma Thornton’s fight to save a teen wrongly accused of murder endangers her own life in this gripping tale of corruption and crime in the 1990s Big Easy.”
Ellen Byron, Agatha Award Winning Author of the Cajun Country Mysteries

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 9th 2021
Number of Pages: 286
ISBN: 978-1-947915-43-5
Series:Thornton Mysteries, Book 2 || Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

September 9, 1994


8:05 p.m.

Just before dark on the night of his death, Brother Reginald Antoine stepped out of the cottage where he lived. He slammed the door shut to prevent the soggy heat of the late summer evening from invading the front room. Except for occasional river breezes, the New Orleans climate was swamp-like until late October. His exits had become swift and cat-like to avoid escalating power bills and a strain on the house’s only window-unit air conditioner.

He stood on the front porch for a moment, staring at the entrance to the Redemption housing project. All was quiet. No one was in sight.

He was looking forward to the evening. He’d promised to help Alicia Bishop complete forms for a scholarship to Our Lady of Fatima, the top girls’ school in the city. He found himself singing under his breath as he locked the front door.

Most of the kids Brother Antoine worked with never finished school, and he was painfully aware that he’d failed far more than he’d helped. But Alicia’s story would be different. Her graduation would be her family’s first. Clear-headed and determined, much like her Aunt Juanita, the woman who had raised her, she was destined to earn far more than a high school diploma. He believed she was destined for great things.

Brother Antoine surveyed the street familiar to him from childhood. Alicia and her Aunt Juanita lived in an apartment was only a few blocks over, but well within the Redemption housing project. Driving such a short distance would be silly, plus he felt like a little exercise. It was a good evening for a walk, even though no one felt completely safe walking around any neighborhood in the city at night. At least one person had been killed in New Orleans every day that year, so far. Sometimes more. Too many drugs were on the streets. But he didn’t worry about any of that.

He tucked the bundle of papers he’d pulled for the meeting under his arm and headed out. When he was a kid he’d found the Redemption overwhelming - so vast it couldn’t be taken in, visually, from his porch or from any single location. A crowded jumble of russet brick, broken down porches, and peeling army-drab paint, it stretched across the lower garden district from Magazine Street to the Mississippi River. When he was about six he tried to count the buildings, but gave up when he got lost. Everything looked the same to him back then. When he returned to live at the mission house he realized he’d been wrong. Each place was unique. Every apartment, every stoop, every front door was distinct, because everything inside was different. Every place had its own family, its own problems, its own joys. Every place had its own family, its own problems, and joys. He didn’t realize how much he’d missed it until his return.

He passed the community garden planted around the corner from the mission house with its patches of brave sprouts pushing out of the ground. He was proud of that little spot, and equally excited for the people who were involved, especially those few who returned week after week to dig, and prod, and encourage the seedlings to grow. Some of the plants even promised to bear fruit, which was reason enough to celebrate.

As he walked he could smell urine from the street gutters where drunken men or stoned boys had relieved themselves. A recent rain only added a steamy intensity to the mix, creating a cauldron of odors which would vanish only when the next day’s sunlight parched the streets.

The Redemption was teeming with human spirit, poverty, and crime. It was home to many, but with rare exception, no one chose to live there. And everyone who did, even the very young, understood how fragile life could be.

He walked up the steps to Juanita Bishop’s apartment and rapped on the front door.

***

9:00 p.m.

Sam Maureau pulled his car into the Redemption and parked at a curb at the end of Felicity Street. He was alone. Jackson, his partner, couldn’t come. But Sam wasn’t worried. He checked his watch. He was right on time. Things were under control.

He turned off his lights and, except for the murky glow of the half-obscured moon, was surrounded by a blanket of darkness. It took several seconds for his eyes to adjust, but even after he waited, he still strained to see. Most of the streetlights on that block had been shot out, and several apartment windows had been boarded over. He peered in between the last two buildings on the corner for any sign of movement.

Sam kicked aside a beer can as he stepped out of his car. He didn’t expect any trouble that night. Marcus, a dealer who ran the Gangsta B’s, the largest gang in the city, had asked for a meeting to discuss ‘some business’, but they’d never had problems before. Their businesses had always co-existed, side-by-side. Sam had begun selling crack in small quantities ten years earlier, when he was twenty-five, and had remained one of the smaller distributers in the city. He figured that Marcus, who was younger by at least ten years, either wanted to bring him and his territory into the Gangsta B’s, or he wanted to buy him out. He didn’t see the need to change anything right now, unless the price was right. He was making pretty good money. His clients were happy with him. But he didn’t mind talking with Marcus.

Sam patted his jacket pocket. The gun was still there. It never hurt to be careful. He locked his car, checking to make certain nothing was in the back seat. Marcus had asked him to meet around the corner.

Sam made his way across the grassy common area, dodging the few mud puddles he could see reflected in the wan moonlight, to an old iron bench across from Marcus’s grandmother’s apartment where they had met once before. He sat down to wait. The bench hadn’t quite cooled from the daytime heat. The faint breeze from the river ruffled what scant remnants remained of his once luxurious surfer-boy hair and sent greasy paper bags, discarded whiskey bottles, and random debris scurrying across the sidewalk. He absent-mindedly patted his bald spot to make certain it was covered.

He couldn’t see them, but their chatter floated over to his bench. Even though the words were indecipherable, Sam heard three distinct voices. Then he heard Marcus speak.

“Go get Louis.”

Out of habit, Sam felt his jacket pocket again, reassuring himself that his piece was still there. Marcus and one other young man came into view. Sam nodded as they approached.

Marcus was a commanding presence. Tall, and athletic, intricate tattoos of black ink woe across his dark skin, tracing his biceps, and emphasizing his ropy, muscular arms and powerful shoulders. His long hair, pulled back into a pony-tail, flowed down his back. No one questioned his authority.

“We’re gonna wait a minute for Louis,” Marcus pulled out a cigarette from his back pocket and lit it, blowing billowy clouds into the night air.

“Yeah, sure. But what’s this all about?” Marcus ignored Sam’s question and pulled hungrily on his cigarette, blowing smoke rings, refusing to make eye contact with Sam.

Several minutes later a tall young man and a boy who couldn’t have been over sixteen joined them.

“You and your people gotta go. You’re right in the middle of my territory. I’m claiming it, and I’m taking it – now. Ain’t nothing you can do about it.” Marcus threw down his cigarette and stomped it into the grass.

Sam stood up to face Marcus. “Fuck you, Marcus. You don’t need my three blocks. I’ve had it for years, and its outside your territory anyway. You can’t just take it.” Sam clenched the fist of his left hand and shoved his right hand in his jacket pocket where the gun was hidden.

“That’s where you’re wrong, mother fucker.” Marcus grabbed another cigarette and rammed it three times against the pack. “I got business coming to me from uptown all the time now. It’s time for you to give it up.” Marcus nodded to the three boys, who formed a circle around Sam and Marcus.

“No way, bro’!” Sam’s hand instinctively tightened around the gun.

Surrounded by the group of young men, Sam saw an opening, turned, and simultaneously pulled the gun from his jacket. As he stepped toward his escape, he saw something moving along the sidewalk next to the street. It appeared to be a man dressed in dark clothes, but it was impossible to be certain. Sam heard one shot, and felt it whizz by him. The distant figure dropped. Sam twisted around, and aimed his weapon toward the sound of the gun fire. Then he heard another shot.

Feeling something hot in his chest, he crumbled to the ground. The last thing he saw was the young kid, the one they called Louis, running toward the river.

***

Brother Antoine said good night to Alicia on the front porch of her aunt’s apartment and started his walk back home. He was feeling good, lighthearted. He and Alicia had completed her application and she had nearly finished her essay. He was certain she was a shoo-in for the scholarship. He’d only traveled a few feet down the sidewalk when he saw a group of men and a few boys gathered together in the grassy area next to one of the buildings. The cloud-covered moon offered enough reflection to allow him to make out the scant silhouette of the tallest member of the group. There was no doubt. His swagger and perpetual cigarette were unmistakable. Marcus Bishop. They had to be up to no good.

Brother Antoine followed the curve of the sidewalk, which brought him a little closer to the group. He noticed there was movement, perhaps a scuffle. He heard a shot, then felt a searing pain in his chest. He placed his hand on his shirt where he felt dampness, and, struggling to breathe, fell to the ground. He grabbed the scapular around his neck, praying, as he lay there, someone would come administer the last rites.

***

Excerpt from The Redemption by Cynthia Tolbert. Copyright 2021 by Cynthia Tolbert. Reproduced with permission from Cynthia Tolbert. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Cynthia Tolbert

In 2010, Cynthia Tolbert won the Georgia Bar Journal’s fiction contest for the short story version of OUT FROM SILENCE. Cynthia developed that story into the first full-length novel of the Thornton Mystery Series by the same name, which was published by Level Best Books in December of 2019. Her second book in this same series, entitled THE REDEMPTION, was released in February of 2021.

Cynthia has a Master’s in Special Education and taught children with learning disabilities for ten years before moving on to law school. She spent most of her legal career working as defense counsel to large corporations and traveled throughout the country as regional and national counsel. She also had the unique opportunity of teaching third-year law students in a clinical program at a law school in New Orleans where she ran the Homeless Law Clinic and learned, first hand, about poverty in that city. She retired after more than thirty years of practicing law. The experiences and impressions she has collected from the past forty years contribute to the stories she writes today. Cynthia has four children, and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With Cynthia:
CLTolbert.com
Goodreads
Instagram - @cltolbertwrites
Twitter - @cltolbertwrites
Facebook - @cltolbertwriter

 

 

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My Take: I really enjoyed this book. The book had a law professor as the person who does the crime solving. IN this particular book she takes on the case of a 16 year old who has been accused of a murder he did not commit. This also takes place in New Orleans. She uses the case for her students. This is the second book in a series but I haven't read the first book and had no difficulty following along. If you like mysteries then you probably will like this book. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Sleeping Beauty & the Cursed Code by Emma Jean

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This is my stop during the blog tour for Sleeping Beauty and the Cursed Code by Emma Jean. In Sleeping Beauty and the Cursed Code Sleeping Beauty uses science and technology to battle dark magic and free herself from 100 years of caused sleep.

This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 5 till 18 June. You can see the tour schedule here.

Sleeping Beauty and the Cursed Code book cover
Sleeping Beauty and the Cursed Code (The STEM Princess Series #1)
By Emma Jean
Genre: STEM Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: 5 June, 2021

Blurb:
Sleeping Beauty's thirteenth birthday looms on the horizon as she and her friends hole up in the cursed princess lab, determined to prove that science and technology can defeat dark magic and save the kingdom from 100 years of cursed sleep.


Links:
- Goodreads
- Bookbub
- Amazon

About the Author:
Emma Jean writes books for children of all ages.

She lives in Massachusetts, near the Mayflower (the one the Pilgrims sailed on... or at least a pretty good replica), with her husband, two sons and one troublesome Basset Hound.

She studied Creative Writing at Holy Cross then earned her Masters in School Counseling at Assumption College.

She spent years working in adolescent mental health both in academic and therapeutic settings. Like her reporters in the Charles McCheese series, she found time to travel the world, helping with the Katrina clean up effort in New Orleans, studying abroad in Sri Lanka, and working alongside the Peace Corps. in Armenia. She worked with the Red Cross and counseled children in some of the toughest cities in Massachusetts.

For more information on the author, and to see pictures of the aforementioned basset hound, find her on instagram @Emma.Jean.Author or visit 4Pigs2Fly.com

Author links:
- Website
- Instagram

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My Take: I found this tale to be very charming and it keept my attention throughout. I would gladly give this book to my granddaughters to encourage them to take up coding so they can write their own code for various computer programs. This book made coding to be fun and to be able to solve various problems and it encouraged teamowrk. I would recommend this book. I received a review copy of this book from Lolastours and was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Status - 6: An Ncis Special Ops Thriller by W. Craig Reed

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STATUS-6

by W. Craig Reed

May 1 - 31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Status-6 by W. Craig Reed

Deep beneath the Arctic Ocean, a covert team of Chinese operatives uses stolen U.S. technology to capture Russia’s newest attack submarine. Loaded with 100-megaton nuclear torpedoes, the sub is headed west. The Americans want to sink her, the Russians want her back, and the Chinese claim they’re not responsible.

NCIS agent Jon Shay is a former SEAL Team Two operator. Still shattered by the murder of his wife a year earlier, he places the barrel of a revolver against his temple, spins the cylinder, and squeezes the trigger. He hears only a click—and the chime of his phone. Activated for a mission in the Arctic, Jon pairs with British scientist Kate Barrett to battle a ticking clock, trained operatives, and top government officials. Together, they must find and stop the world’s most lethal submarine. The stakes are raised when they learn that the Russian sub is controlled by an infected AI system bent on completing its mission to create a nuclear winter.

Praise for Status-6:

"W. Craig Reed's Status-6 is my vote for Thriller of the Year. The protagonist is Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan meets Lee Child's Jack Reacher." -- Grant Blackwood, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy's "Under Fire"

"W. Craig Reed's latest novel, Status-6, is the best book I've read this year—a ripped-from-the-headlines military technothriller that literally left me awake at night, fearful of where we're headed as a nation and a species. What's next after the nightmare coronavirus pandemic? Don't miss this first book in the NCIS Special Ops series that promises to shatter the thriller genre." -- James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of "The Demon Crown (Sigma Force)"

"W. Craig Reed's Status-6 grabs you from page one and doesn't let you go. The global security crisis revealed in this book is all-too-real and could well be tomorrow's headlines. The characters are well-nuanced and provide a powerful urge to root for or against them. Don't read this thriller before going to bed—you'll be awake all night!" -- George Gladorisi, New York Times bestselling author of the Tom Clancy Op Center series

Status-6 Book Details:

Genre: Military Thriller
Published by: Post Hill Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 1682619354 (ISBN13: 9781682619353)
Series: Status-6 is the first book in the NCIS Special Ops Thriller series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt from Status-6:

With his legs sore and lungs burning from the cold, Jon arched his back and stretched when the group finally stopped marching thirty minutes later. To his right, about a quarter-mile distant, the bright blue stripes covering the mess tent signaled the location of the ICEX camp. Two holes, three feet in diameter, had been carved into the ice a few feet from where the group now stood. Jon surmised they were the spent practice torpedo holes drilled by Navy Divers. Liang and company must have parked the ASDS nearby and used the holes as infiltration points. Also, Liang must have had some inside help to deactivate the intruder detection system surrounding the holes. But who? Rinaldo? When would she have had access to that system? More unanswered questions.

Rinaldo approached and said, “Since you’re the former Navy SEAL, why don’t you help our female guest suit up?”

Jon crossed his arms. “This has gone far enough. Time for some answers, Rinaldo.”

Rinaldo pointed her M-16 at Kate’s head. “How’s this for an answer—she suits up or dies.”

Jon uncrossed his arms and fought to quell the ire-stoked coals in his chest. He turned toward Kate. “Are you a certified diver?”

Kate’s nose and cheeks were red. She shivered. “I hate water.”

“Drinking or swimming?” Jon said, hoping to diffuse Kate’s angst.

It didn’t work. Kate looked like a small child being forced to brave a dark alley. “I can’t do this.”

While donning a dry suit, Rinaldo cocked an ear. “What’s the problem?”

Kate stared at the hole in the ice. Frigid blue water lapped against the sides. She backed up and turned away.

“I think she has a water phobia,” Jon said.

“Get her over it,” Rinaldo said.

Jon bristled. The muscles in his face tightened. He grabbed Kate’s suit and brought it to her. Facing her back, he said, “Turn around.” Shaking, Kate remained facing away.

“Please, turn around.”

Kate turned.

“Good,” Jon said. “Now look at me.”

Kate’s eyes met his. Though full of fear, they were riveting, like a blue morning sky touching the edges of a Nebraska corn field. Jon felt his heart flutter. He tried to hold on to the feeling, but it refused to linger. A year had come and gone since he’d lost his wife, but the pain in his chest still held the high ground.

“I’m not setting a foot in that water,” Kate stammered. Her eyes burned with defiance.

“What about a toe?”

Kate crossed her arms and said nothing.

“Just put on the suit to keep the witch happy while I think of something,” Jon said.

“Something?”

“Yeah, something.”

“Like what, mate?”

Rinaldo called over from the other side of the ice hole. “Five minutes, Shay.”

Jon held up the suit. “Just put it on, please. I promise I’ll think of something.”

Kate rolled her eyes and held out her arms. “Fine, but you’d better not be lying to me.”

“Who’s your colleague?” Jon asked as he moved in close to help Kate don the dry suit.

“Bobby Ruppert. He’s a bit rough around the edges and goes into panic mode in stressful situations, but he’s a brilliant engineer.”

While Jon zipped up Kate’s dry suit, the scent of her perfume conjured a memory. He shivered.

“Now what?” Kate said. Her bottom lip quivered. Annelia had also done that when she was frightened.

Jon pulled on his suit. He stepped toward Kate and said, “Let’s just put on our SCUBA gear and then I’ll make my move.”

“Your move?” Kate shot back.

Jon said nothing as he helped Kate into a BC vest, saddled up her tank, and held a Kirby Morgan diving mask in her direction. “Put this on.”

Kate’s tone turned urgent as she grabbed the mask. “You said you’d think of something.”

“Just follow my lead.” Jon pulled on his tank and ran through a system check. The action felt like a visit from an old friend and reminded him of dozens of missions survived.

Kate shook her head in defiance as she sucked in a breath. The hiss of compressed air echoed off nearby shards of ice pushed skyward by Mother Nature.

One by one, Liang’s men entered the water. Jon watched Kate recoil with each splash.

Rinaldo approached. “Ready?”

Kate’s eyes widened. She held her palms up as if to say, “Something?”

Now fully suited, Jon led Kate toward the water. He had to drag her the last few feet. He turned toward her, lifted up his mask, and said, “I’ll hold your hand all the way. This will all be over in five minutes.”

Her eyes still wide, Kate tried to step backward but Jon held onto to her hands and gently kept her in place.

“Just follow me,” Jon said. “I’ve done this hundreds of times.”

Kate shook her head as she dug her heels into the ice.

Rinaldo slapped Jon’s back. The gesture did not feel friendly.

Jon slowly guided Kate toward the hole’s edge. She fought to pull away. He held on tight and looked into her eyes, assuring her in silence that she could do this. Tears streamed down Kate’s face and dripped onto the mask’s rubber lining. Her breathing was erratic. Jon’s heart ached with compassion and guilt. He felt like a jailor forcing an innocent victim into a torture chamber. The bitter taste of choler filled his mouth as he stole a glance at Rinaldo. The beast in his gut grumbled and demanded to be set loose. Jon closed his eyes and slowly breathed in and out to quell the angst.

He opened his eyes, lifted his mask again, and focused on Kate. Softening his voice, he said, “Close your eyes.”

Kate stared at him through her mask. Jon could tell she wanted to trust him, but fear remained her master. He had seen this kind of panic before on the faces of green wannabe SEALs learning how to dive the Navy way. None of them had ever made it through training. For sure, none of them would have survived a dive in Arctic waters.

“Close your eyes and trust me,” Jon said. “Don’t open them until we’re out of the water.”

Trembling, Kate closed her eyes. Jon pulled on her fins and helped her into a seated position with her legs dangling into the water. He did all this with slow movements so as not to make a splash. Rinaldo stood by and watched with impatient indifference. Jon slipped into the hole…

***

Excerpt from Status-6 by W. Craig Reed. Copyright 2021 by W. Craig Reed. Reproduced with permission from W. Craig Reed. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

W. Craig Reed

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction military and business books including Spies of the Deep: The Untold Story of the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War and the critically acclaimed Red November (HarperCollins). Also, The Seven Secrets of Neuron-Leadership (Wiley), an award-winning business book, and Tarzan, My Father (ECW) co-written with the late Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.

Reed served as a U.S. Navy submariner and diver during the Cold War and earned commendations for completing secret missions, some in concert with SEAL Team One. Reed’s military experience and inside contacts help infuse his writing with intrigue and realism, and inspired his next non-fiction book, Also, this novel: STATUS-6 about a former SEAL Team Two operator turned NCIS agent that teams with a British female scientist to stop a Russian submarine controlled by an infected artificial intelligence.

Reed holds an MBA in Marketing and was a former vice president and board director for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association. Reed is the co-founder of Us4Warriors, an award-winning Veterans Non-Profit and serves on the Board of Aretanium, a wellness firm that leverages the neuroscience he wrote about in his leadership book to provide personalized wellness and professional development programs to accelerate brains, careers, and relationships.

Catch Up With W. Craig Reed:
WCraigReed.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @wc14
Instagram: @wcraigreed
Twitter: @wcraigreed
Facebook: @wcraigreed

 

 

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Enter the Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for William Craig Reed. There will be ONE (1) winner who will receive TWO (2) physical William Craig Reed books (including The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership AND Spies of the Deep). The giveaway begins May 1, 2021 and ends on June 1, 2021. This giveaway is available only for shipping addresses located in the US, UK, and Canada. Void where prohibited.

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My Take: I really like the TV show NCIS so when I saw this book offered as a review book I thought I would take a chance on it. I sure wasn't disappointed. This book was non stop action from start to finish and I really liked it. I have always been interested in submarines and add in the fact of being in freezing waters that is really my nightmares come to life. I found that the cast of characters were relateable and were not superheroes but did superhero things. I would this was a 3.5 to a 4 star read for me. I received a review copy of this book from Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours and was not required to write a positive review.