Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Heroes Ever Die by J. A. Crawford

Heroes Ever Die by J A Crawford Banner

Heroes Ever Die

by J. A. Crawford

August 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Heroes Ever Die by J A Crawford

In his world, everyone wears a mask.

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

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

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: August 16th 2022
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 0744305926 (ISBN13: 9780744305920)
Series: Ken Allen Super Sleuth Series, #2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound | CamCat Books

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

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

I was about to meet my hero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dude, what the hell?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah,” Ray said. “Wait here.”

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

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

Someone’s assistant approached me.

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

“Mr. Allen?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That you, Ken Allen? Get in here!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flint West was my masterpiece.

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

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

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

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

You felt what Flint was feeling.

“What’s on your mind?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It has to do with Dave King.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

speaks for itself.”

This time, Flint’s laugh was genuine.

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

“It’s too small.”

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

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

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

I was stunned silent.

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

“I wish.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that it was a rare occurrence.

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

Only he wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Flying Freeman!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This one’s on me, old buddy.”

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

“Is that Foxman?”

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

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

Or on this set.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



Author Bio:

J A Crawford

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

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

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

Catch Up With J. A. Crawford:
Instagram - @josephoforb
Twitter - @josephoforb
Facebook - @jacrawfordoforb
TikTok - @josephoforb



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My Take: This is the second book in the Ken Allen Super Sleuth series. I have not read the first book but I may be looking for it after reading this book. If you are a superhero fan then this would probably be right up your alley. Ken Allen is a failed superhero actor but when the actors who play superheros start to end up dead and Ken's friend special effects expert Ray Ford is accused of the crimes Ken starts to investigate. I kept thinking of people that would probably like this book as I was reading it and all three of my children like superheros. I would recommend this if you like comics, superheros. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Dead in the Alley by Sharon Michalove

Dead in the Alley by Sharon Michalove Banner

Dead in the Alley

by Sharon Michalove

July 18 - August 12, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Dead in the Alley by Sharon Michalove


When Bay Bishop's husband was murdered in the alley behind their northern Michigan restaurant, she thought she'd lost the love of her life.

Now she's a suspect.

And her high-school boyfriend, who left her broken-hearted years ago, is one of the detectives on the case.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Indie Published
Publication Date: August 10, 2022
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1736918753 (ISBN13: 9781736918753)
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Derrick Anderson walked out the back door of the restaurant kitchen, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and his lighter. His wife, Bay, didn’t like him smoking but he definitely needed one, or three, to be the genial host this evening.

He didn’t mind that his day started at 3:00 a.m. The quiet in the restaurant soothed him and he forgot everything while he baked all the bread and prepared the desserts for the evening, maybe even try out a new idea or two. Then he’d take a nap before helping Bay set up the tables for the dinner service.

Today had been fraught. When he got back late in the day, he’d had it out with Vince about the missing cases of wine and, despite the man’s protestations of innocence, gave him his notice. Then he had a call from Wally Volker, their financial backer. Derrick needed to break Wally’s stranglehold on his balls before he left for a new life in the Maldives. A friend there had offered him the chance to manage the four themed restaurants at a new luxury resort. Besides the career boost, diving and surfing made the whole package irresistible. Why had he thought that Michigan would be a good place to escape his New York problems?

Just now, he’d had an argument with the sous chef, Ellen Paschen, and needed to cool off. He dropped the cigarette butt and ground it viciously with his toe when he heard the roar of a motorcycle revving up…

Chapter 1

New Eleanor, Michigan

The back door had slammed on the suffocating kitchen atmosphere. Derrick going out to the alley for a smoke, even though he knew I wanted him to stop. Ellen, our sous chef, glowered over a lemon sauce. Vince, our sommelier, leaned sulkily against the backdoor. Leaving them to brood on their own, I did a last-minute check of the fifteen tables for the first dinner service. We were booked for both seatings.

As the only fine-dining establishment in Sherburne, we realized early on that having set dining times worked better than a constant stream of customers. People from all over the area, both locals and tourists, had embraced the concept and our restaurant over the last two years. Our dream of creating a destination restaurant in my Northern Michigan hometown had become a reality.

We renovated a disused 1889 brewery located on the edge of town, close to the highway, creating the perfect space for our upscale restaurant. The venture cost more money than we planned, so we found a guy in Detroit who specialized in funding start-ups.

Rubbing my back as I straightened up for the last time, I looked with pride at the dining room. We had wanted an upscale but rustic feel. Snowy white tablecloths were covered with Inox hammered stainless-steel silverware; the handles designed to look like twigs. Handmade pottery that looked like the lakeshore in blues, greens, purple, and sand, came from Claybanks Pottery, down the road in New Era. Deep forest green napkins were folded into double stars, part of our signature look. In a few short years, Derrick and I had managed to make a success of our move from the frenzy of the New York City restaurant scene to my hometown of Sherburne, Michigan.

Above the dark paneled wainscoting, we had exposed brick darkened from years of brewing. Rough hardwood flooring stained black, and a pressed-tin ceiling enhanced the antique look. We festooned one exposed brick wall with enormous prints. Derrick matched his brilliance as a pastry chef with a natural gift for photography. His award-winning pictures illustrated our cookbook, Sherburne Bistro: American Classics.

Breathing deeply, I drank in the scent of grouse that permeated the space. Today marked the opening of grouse season in Michigan and our special prix fixe menu featured a British-themed dinner for tonight. Derrick’s friend, Jason, and my brother, Toby, went out hunting a couple of days ago, giving me time to hang them before plucking and cleaning them. I had brined them using a mixture of hard apple cider, fresh orange juice and peel, herbs, and spices for four hours. Then I put a sprinkling of bay leaves into the pan, giggling a little while I brushed olive oil over their fragrant flesh. My parents loved trees in the laurel family and named the three of us girls Laurel, Bay, and Olivia—guess they couldn’t stomach Olive. They told us that they expected all their children to be crowned with success, but maybe my capricious fairy godmother thought with a name like Bay, fate meant me to be a chef.

Looking at the array of oysters heaped up, ready to be opened, I reached for one and rubbed my thumb over the shell, admiring the geologic pattern. Then I picked up the curved oyster knife sitting nearby. Prying it open, I examined the flesh clinging to the pearlescent interior, then lowered my nose to inhale the scent of the ocean, briny and enticing. I loosened the flesh and slid the mollusk into my mouth, savoring the salty, mineral flavor. I had to walk away, before I ate them all.

We’d had a special menu printed up for the dinner, which I laid carefully on top of each plate, planning to offer it once a week through the end of the year.

Sherburne Bistro
The Glorious Grouse Dinner
Basket of Breads

Oysters with champagne mignonette

Rhode Island Moonstone ◾ Maine Glidden Point, Belon, Pemaquid ◾ Chesapeake Bay Olde Salt ◾ Washington State Shigoku, Kumamoto ◾ California Pacific Gold


Frisée with foie gras, pear, and cherries dressed with oil and sherry vinegar

Main Course

Whole roasted grouse napped with a wild cranberry game sauce
Pilaf of rice and mixed mushrooms garnished with chopped hazelnuts
Sweet and sour red cabbage

Dessert Selection

Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness Cake. Cambridge Burnt Creme.
Sticky toffee pudding. Cranachan. Treacle tart

Cheese Plate

White Stilton with mango and ginger
Colton Bassett Stilton
Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar
Parmigiano Reggiano DOP
Water biscuits made in-house

Hearing Ellen’s bad-tempered instructions to the commis, I went back into the open kitchen with its Wolf range and two freestanding ovens—a deck oven for breads and a convection oven for pastry. When I heard the sound of a motorcycle revving up outside over Ellen’s harangue, I saw the door to the alley propped open. Vince must have gone out to join Derrick in a last cigarette. The skid, the scream, and the sound of breaking glass got my attention. Vince barreled through the door and grabbed me by the shoulders. “You don’t want to go out there, Bay.”

I tried to push around him. “Why not?”

“Oh my God. Derrick,” he choked out, eyes rolling. “It’s…it’s a hit and run. Call 911.”

“An ambulance?”

He shook his head. “Too late for that. Just have the police come.”

Vince dropped heavily to a chair and clutched the sides of his head with shaking hands. When he finally looked up at me, his eyes were swollen, and rivulets ran down his cheeks. He kept clearing his throat, but no words came out.

I stumbled across the room to the phone at the reservation stand and dialed 911 and gave them the small amount of information I had. They told me to stay on the phone until someone arrived. Only a few minutes elapsed before I heard the sirens. I informed the dispatcher, hung up, then went back to Vince. He watched as a team of police officers exited the two squad cars. An ambulance pulled up behind them.

Putting a hand on his shoulder, I tried to shake him to attention.

When he turned to look at me, tears dripped from his red-rimmed, swollen eyes. “Hit by a motorcycle. When I got out there, the rider peeled out. Left him there, surrounded by trash, broken and bleeding. I rushed over but he… he… died. Never said a word.”

Tremors hit me. I sank to my knees as the sound of screaming enveloped me. “Dead, dead, no, no, no.” I wanted the voice to shut up, leave me to mourn. My voice. And I couldn’t stop the screaming or the tears as I curled on the floor in a ball of despair.

I don’t know how long I lay there, helpless to do anything more than cry. By the time the police swarmed in, Vince had helped me to my feet and got me into a chair. With the backdoor open, late afternoon sun lit the scene, but my vantage point didn’t allow me to see Derrick.

I looked down and my watch glinted back at me. We were supposed to open in a little over an hour. Vince hovered in the corner. I called out. “Vince, could you put a sign on the door and start calling people with reservations? Tell them we’re closed.”

He nodded and walked toward the reservation stand.

“Mrs. Anderson?” A policewoman stood in the doorway.

“Bishop,” I croaked.

She checked me out, her lips pursed, eyes narrowed. “O-kay, Ms. Bishop.” Her arms were folded across her chest. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Fresh tears welled but I wiped them away as I sniffled a few times. “Thanks.” I could barely push the word out.

“Did you see anything?”

My head bobbed a negative.

“I wouldn’t let her see, Macie,” Vince yelled from the dining room, sounding both protective and belligerent.

My head snapped up and I stared at her. Macie Collier had gone to school with my younger sister, Livvy. Even though I had been back for more than two years, I didn’t realize that Macie had joined the police force here. And how the hell did Vince know her?

“I thought you moved to Detroit.”

She flinched at my tone. “Didn’t like the big city life. I came back about a year ago. Guess you didn’t notice.” Hands on hips, she said, “You came back too.”

“Livvy didn’t say anything.”

She shrugged. “We don’t hang out much these days. Our lives kind of moved on different tracks after she went to Pratt.” She cleared her throat.

“Are you going to question me now?”

“Just waiting for Detective Fairchild. He’ll be in charge of the case.”

I stood and rolled my shoulders. “Do I need to ID the body?”

“Not necessary. The scene is pretty gruesome. Just as well that Vince kept you from looking.”

Gruesome. What did that mean? I slumped back into the chair, my lungs working hard to get in any air.

“I’m sure the detective will explain everything,” she said.

Macie leaned against the open kitchen door watching us, occasionally turning her head to look out as the police team scoured the alley for evidence. Then a man in a plaid sports jacket loomed up behind her. “Excuse me, Officer Collier.” She stepped aside. “Ms. Bishop? I’m Detective Fairchild.”

I looked past Macie as she moved to let Fairchild pass through. A few inches taller than my five five, shaven head, dark eyes, and stubble dotting his jaw. He closed the door, scratched his cheek, and leaned against the big worktable.

“Not a typical hit and run. Your husband looked like he might have been targeted. Whoever hit him deliberately ran over the body a couple of times.”

I could picture Derrick, lying in the alley, his body mangled, blood everywhere. My gag reflex kicked in, along with my overactive imagination, and I barely made it to the large commercial sink, pushing the dishwasher as I doubled over. When I wobbled to my feet, Ellen handed me a glass of water. Swishing warm water around cleared out the sour taste in my mouth.

I put down the glass and stared at the floor, my mind a whirl of conflicting ideas. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want him dead. True, he could be prickly, but that didn’t get you killed. People came to the restaurant for his desserts. None of that added up to being murdered by motorcycle.

“Could it have been mistaken identity?”

Macie snorted. “He’s dressed in his chef clothes, minus the tall hat.”

“Toque,” I said absently. Fairchild glared and her mouth snapped shut.

I stared at the grouse [k1] [SM2] and began putting plastic wrap over the pans. Seeing my sous chef, slack-eyed, leaning against a counter, I called out, “Ellen. Start putting these back in the cooler.” She jerked to attention, then robotically came over and picked up the pan, immediately dropping it on the floor.

“S-S-Sorry.” Her face drooped, a study in misery.

I motioned to the commis. “Just get it cleaned up.” Then I went back to covering the birds. Ellen picked up another pan and shoved it in the refrigerator.

Fairchild cleared his throat as he gazed around the kitchen at the small audience.

“Do you have an office?”

As we walked out of the kitchen and down a short corridor, he said, “Are you contacting your customers?”

I looked over at the edge of the desk, then nodded.

“Don’t give out any information. Just say unforeseen circumstances.”

“I’ll go tell Vince. He’s making the calls.”

When I got back, Fairchild sat behind the desk, fingers tented under his chin.

I bristled at the way he had co-opted my space. Then reality socked me in the eye. I collapsed into the chair.

“Did your husband have any enemies you know of?”

My lips pursed while I thought over his question. Derrick fit in surprisingly well for a big-city boy, learning to fish and hunt. He hung out with my brother and his friends. Joined Rotary and went to the lunches.

“Not here. We moved from New York to open the restaurant, but I don’t think he had any enemies who would have followed him.”

“Why did you choose Sherburne?” He leaned the chair back, his tone conversational.

“I’m from here. We wanted to open our own place, and Northern Michigan is much less expensive than New York. Less competition for fine dining too. We could see a better future.”

Fairchild’s phone beeped and he gave me a look that said get out. “Excuse me, but I need to take this.”

I walked out the door, leaving it slightly ajar, and leaned against the wall. He mumbled something, but I couldn’t catch the words.

Then he called out. “Ms. Bishop, you can come back in.”

He started to speak as I crossed the threshold. “The ambulance is going to take him now.”

Then the office door slammed against the wall as my dad walked in and glared at Fairchild. “Bay. You okay?”


“Why are you here, Mr. Bishop?” Fairchild asked with icy politeness.

“Vince called me. I’m going to take you home, Bay. You can find her at the Bishop Inn, Detective Fairchild.”

I almost laughed at that description. Bishop Inn hadn’t been my home for almost two decades. Even though I’d agreed to move back to Sherburne, our uneasy truce kept me on edge. My parents fell in love with Derrick; I felt like the outsider. My dad arriving on the scene threw me.

Fairchild’s lips twisted at my dad’s pronouncement, but he managed to say, “Fine. We’re still working the scene and the medical examiner has to look at the body. I’ll be at the Inn sometime in the next few hours. In the meantime, may I use your office, Ms. Bishop? I’ll let you know if we need to remove anything.”

My eyes searched the office, but I didn’t see anything incriminating. “What would you need to remove?”

“We’ll need to go through your business records and check the computer. I’ll need the password. I can have an officer work here, but we’d rather take everything back to the station.”

“Get it later, Fairchild. Can’t you see she’s in no state to talk to you?” Fairchild brushed past my dad. I tried to stand up again, but my legs wouldn’t hold me and I dropped back to the chair. Dad leaned down and kissed my cheek, then pulled out a handkerchief to mop my face. Deciding that today, my family could be my refuge, I stood and let him put his arm around me. “Let’s go, kiddo. Let your staff close the place up.”

I scanned the dining room. The kitchen had emptied out and everyone stood around, looking at me. Ellen, our sous chef, made shooing motions. “Go home with your dad, Bay. We’ve got this.”

I threw her a grateful look as my dad led me out.

A siren stuttered, then blared. The ambulance. I swallowed down the bile that rose in my throat as I thought of Derrick, encased in a body bag, being loaded into the meat wagon. We’d been together for ten years, married for six. We were a team. I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to go on without him.


Mourning had to take a back seat to business. When Derrick’s mother and father went back to New York, I breathed a sigh of relief at being able to go home. Three days had seemed more like three weeks. I let them stay at our place, and I stayed at the Inn, which made everyone but me more comfortable.

Helen and Frank seemed more interested in what would happen to the restaurant than the fact their son had died. Smiles morphed into frowns when they realized that they would not get a fat payoff. In fact, they had expected to inherit everything. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they hadn’t really believed Derrick and I were married, even though we’d invited them to join us at City Hall.

The empty feeling in the cute cottage Derrick and I had bought made me think of selling, but I needed to face the challenge of living by myself head-on. Family to roommates to Derrick, I had never lived alone. I looked around at the cream-colored walls, overstuffed couch, bookcases stuffed with cookbooks, and a big-screen TV in the corner. Maybe I’d get a cat.

An early morning meeting drove me out of the house to the restaurant. I picked my way down streets made unrecognizable in the morning fog. I pulled into the parking lot with relief and parked, not worrying about lines and spaces. I could move the car after the haze burned off. After a few days of being closed, the building smelled of dust and the faint reminder of hops and barley.

Empty filing cabinets and no computer greeted me when I opened the office door. I would have to call Detective Fairchild and find out about getting everything back. In the meantime, we’d have to use the backup laptop from home.

Food hadn’t been appealing lately but today hunger gnawed at me now. With no food in the cottage, I crossed my finger that I could forage something in the restaurant freezer. I thawed some of the sourdough bread Derrick made for the restaurant and grilled toast.

Nibbling on a slice slathered with rich butter and homemade cherry jam brought comfort as I remembered the two of us in the kitchen for hours before the staff arrived. Derrick kneading the bread in the big mixer while I planned menus. A faint hint of the yeasty smell of rising dough and the scent of freshly baked boules, as they came crackling from the specially built bread oven, had me hiccupping with emotion.

The memories warmed me, even as the sense of loss rolled over me like the tide washing up the beach. I wanted to cry out to Derrick. Who could hate you that much? How do I go on without you? I looked down at the plate of half-eaten toast and no longer saw any comfort.

My stomach turned and I quickly slid the remnants into a small plastic bag I retrieved from one of the cabinets. The jam jar shone like a jewel in the sun and the fat slab of butter mocked me as I thrust them into the small fridge. I tied the bag handles into a knot and slipped out the back door. The dumpster sat near our back door into the alley, the aroma of stale fat and decaying vegetables assaulting me when I tossed away my traitorous memories and my anger with the crusts.

As I turned back to the door, a rusty stain on the door sill caught my eye. Derrick’s blood. Scuttling back into the kitchen, I threw up the little I had eaten, then went back into the office for the cardigan I kept in the armoire that covered the wall behind the desk. Shivering, I wrapped my arms around myself, wishing for Derrick to hold me close. A sob tore through my chest. Derrick wasn’t here, and nothing would ever be right again.

A knock at the door alerted me to the arrival of our financier, Wally Volker. A Detroit venture capitalist, he specialized in financing restaurants. When we first decided to move to Sherburne and open our own place, Derrick approached several firms. Wally showed an interest in the concept, the location, and after sampling our food, he told us he could definitely help.

I spent a few moments staring at him through the glass paneled wood doors, then turned the lock and let him slip in before relocating it and pulling down the blinds. Even at 10:00 a.m. he has dark circles under his eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he said.


Wally yawned. “Sorry. I picked up coffee before I left, and a donut, so I wouldn’t have to stop along the way. There’s a place down the road from me. Guess one cup didn’t really get my engine going.” He held out an empty cup, shaking it. I could hear the rattle of paper inside. I pointed to a wastepaper basket and he tossed it in like a basketball.

“Do you want more coffee? I can make some French press.”

“Nah. Let’s get this over with. Then we can go somewhere for lunch.” He put down a briefcase that seemed to bulge. Papers, maybe?

I looked at him, nonplussed. He had extended his condolences at the visitation that Derrick’s parents had insisted on and again at the funeral. Did he intend to condole me every time he saw me until the end of time? I sighed.

Now unencumbered, he clasped my hands in his and kissed me. His silvery white beard scraped against my cheek, and I drew back.

Voice surprisingly high, eyes like dark wells under the black brows that contrasted sharply with his shaggy salt-and-pepper hair, and a long, narrow, vulpine face reminded me of the big, bad wolf. Was I Little Red Riding Hood or would he huff and puff and blow my house down? For the last couple of days, dreams of fairy tales gone bad disturbed my sleep. The scowl on his face signaled more bad news. He opened the case and dumped a load of paper on the desk. “I picked up the paperwork from the police on my way over.”


“Why did I pick it up or what brought me to the police station?”


“The police called to let me know they found my stolen motorcycle.”

“Oh,” I said dully, not really interested.

“When I mentioned meeting with you, Detective Fairchild gave me the documents to bring over and said they’d return the computer later this morning.”

Rubbing my hands together on this chilly late September morning, I gestured toward the piles of paper on the table. “Have you looked through these?”

He shrugged. “I thought we could go over it together.”

I stalked back to the table and picked up a stack of documents, leafing through them, my jaw going slack as I took in the contents. “Unpaid vendor bills.” Checking another stack, I groaned. “A late notice on our insurance.”

My eye fell on several documents lying on the blotter. I blanched. My voice a cobra’s hiss, I said, “A missive from the bank, impressing on me the necessity discharging the outstanding payments on the house mortgage.

I picked up two others and waved them in his face. “Notices for nonpayment on the mortgage on the restaurant building.” I paused, gasping for air, picturing a Dickensesque scene with huge, uniformed men with mutton-chop whiskers carrying out all the furnishings.

Wally had been looking at yet another pile. He looked more basset hound than wolf, as his jowls slackened and drooped. “Your bank accounts are almost at zero. A few dollars in checking. Saving account empty. Investments cashed in.” My anger boiled up at his look of pity.

I threw the papers back onto the table, then slammed my fist into the hard wood before turning back to him, tears coursing down my cheeks.

“What’s going on here? Did Derrick know? Why didn’t you do something?” He came toward me, and I backed away, pushing a chair aside in my haste to move out of his reach.

“I’m sorry, Bay. All the paperwork Derrick sent me looked fine. My percentage payments arrived on time. But he must have known. Maybe there is another set of books? A lock box in the safe? Do you have a safety deposit box?”

“I didn’t find anything like that.”

Wally grabbed another fistful of documents, rapidly scanning them and sorting them into piles. “Late payments for supplies. But enough to keep the suppliers from cutting you off completely. Looks like he used cash advances to meet payroll. There were no indications of where the money went. The receipts looked healthy enough, assuming they were legit.” He tapped long, narrow fingers against the unpaid bill pile, rubbing his chin with his other hand. “Any signs of new accounts, Bay?”

New accounts? I twisted my rings around my finger over and over.

“Not that I know of.” My legs started to buckle, and Wally jumped up and shoved a chair against the backs of my knees before I could topple.

We stared at each other across the table. The silence stretched out and I thought our conversation might be over. My face dropped into my hands, and I fought not to cry, my swollen eyes almost closed.

The clatter of chair legs alerted me he had gotten up. His footsteps made a sharp, rapping sound against the wooden planks. His voice distant. “If he siphoned off money, he wouldn’t use a local bank. We’ll have to look through all the paperwork and the computer files. Maybe there will be a trail.”

“What do I do in the meantime?”

“Well, my dear, if we can’t find the money, I’m afraid you will have to close the restaurant and sell the assets.”

“Wha-wha-what about insurance?” I wiped my eyes with one of the pristine napkins still adorning the tables. Through swollen lids I peered at him. I could almost see the wheels turning.

Wally flicked one of the paper piles. “Since you owned the business jointly, insurance won’t cover this. As an owner, technically he had a right to the money. Besides, you don’t have any insurance.”


“You said he hadn’t paid the premiums.”

My heart sank as I reached for a jokey response. “Guess burning down the building won’t get me anywhere.”

Black humor that went nowhere. “You’ll have to sell the house too.”

His words pummeled me like a sudden fall of golf-ball-sized hail. My teeth chattered. I couldn’t help the hopeless moan his words wrenched out of me as a vision of crawling home to Bishop Inn rose in my mind’s eye. Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can’t go home again. Wrong, Tom. Sometimes you have no choice.

Pressure built in my chest, and I felt heat rising from my toes up through my trunk. Fire burned in my face and ears. Wally’s phone rang. I strained but couldn’t hear the whispered conversation. “Who?” I mouthed.

He turned off the phone. “The police. They’ll be by in a few minutes with your computer. In the meantime, call the bank and make an appointment for this afternoon to talk about your next steps. I’m afraid this mess won’t be resolved for a while.”

Sell my house. Lose the restaurant. Deal with betrayal. I wanted to mourn Derrick in peace but now I couldn’t mourn him at all. All remembrances of love, of happy times—gone. Bitterness at his betrayal filled my mouth with acid. I ran into the kitchen, filled a glass with water, and washed out my mouth over and over.

When I walked back out, Wally looked over and waved a sheaf of papers at me. “Go make copies of these. I’ll bring you the rest. After we consult with the bankers, I’ll take them back to Detroit and see if I can find anyway to fix at least some of this.”

I grabbed the papers and started backing toward the corridor that led to the restrooms and the office. He called after me. “After lunch, you can also forward me anything involving the business that’s on the computer.”

An hour later, two uniformed officers arrived and handed me the restaurant computer. One of the officers talked to Wally about the theft of his motorcycle.

“I reported the theft in Detroit,” I heard him say.

“We found an abandoned Yamaha that matches the description of yours.”

“You’re joking.”

“The lab guys are checking it out. But we’re pretty sure it’s yours.”

“Why would someone steal a motorcycle in Detroit and dump it here?”

“You’d have to speak with Detective Fairchild about that.”

I had tried to believe in Derrick’s death as accidental. Wally’s motorcycle as the murder weapon? Once I thought it, the word became a chant in my head. Murder, murder, murder.

My guts clenched in agony. I ran to the women’s bathroom and vomited bile over and over, eventually collapsing on the cold tile floor. Wally found me there and helped me out into the dining room.

Then I took a deep breath and called my parents to ask if I could come home.


Excerpt from Dead in the Alley by Sharon Michalove. Copyright 2022 by Sharon Michalove. Reproduced with permission from Sharon Michalove. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Sharon Michalove

Sharon Michalove grew up in suburban Chicago. She received four degrees from the University of Illinois because she didn't have the gumption to go anywhere else, and spent most of her career at the university, eventually earning a PhD, working in departmental administration, publishing and libraries. Her specialties are 15th-16th century European history, polar exploration, and food history. She may be one of the few people in America to never live outside her home state.

In graduate school, she met and married the love of her life. They shared a love of music, theater, travel and cats. He died in 2013.

Sharon also loves hockey, reading, cooking, writing, and various less elevated activities like eating cookies and sampling gins and single malts. After spending most of her life in a medium-sized university town she moved back to Chicago in 2017 so she could go to more Blackhawks games and spend quality time at Eataly. In 2021 she accomplished a lifetime goal by publishing her first novel. Unfortunately her other lifetime goal, to be English, is likely to remain unfulfilled.

Catch Up With Sharon Michalove:
BookBub - @sdmichalove
Instagram - @sdmichaloveauthor
Twitter - @sdmichalove
Facebook - @sharonmichalove



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My Take: This was a good cozy mystery with Bay Bishop meeting up with her high school sweet heart who is the detective that is assigned to her husbands murder after her husband is found in the alley behind their restruant. Bay is quickly deemed a suspect and she and Greg must figure out who the real culprit is and clear her name. A bit of romantic suspense is in the book as well. Recommended. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Tours and was not required to write a positve review.

Half Moon Lake by Steve Brock

Crease Williams lived a charmed life with a bright future. Only in his junior year at Texas Christian University, his skills as a wide receiver had already captured the attention of NFL scouts. Then a tragedy cost him his family and his desire to play football. Personally devastated, he left his old life behind and got as far from Ft. Worth, TX, and football as he could get. Keeping mostly to himself, he became a float-plane pilot in the far north of Minnesota. Flying fisherman and hunters into remote locations was how he spent his time. When a group he had flown to Roudy's Cabin goes missing, he faces accusations and more turmoil than he could have ever imagined. To make matters worse, his quiet existence is upturned by an element from his past bent on vengeance. A suspenseful mystery written with likable characters and a lighthearted flavor. My Take: This was a good book with relatable characters and a great mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat and guessing till the very end. I would highly recommend this book as it has gotten me out of a reading slump and I enjoyed my time with Crease and Sheriff Maurice and Rebecca as they find oout what really happened at Roudy's Cabin. I received a review copy of this book from Pump Up Your Book tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Edge of Dusk by Colleen Coble

Edge of Dusk

by Colleen Coble

July 11 - August 5, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Edge of Dusk by Colleen Coble

Even though secrets lie off the coast of Rock Harbor, the truth will set Annie Pederson free—if it doesn’t kill her first.

Nine-year-old Annie Pederson’s life changed the night her sister was kidnapped. The two had been outside playing on a dock, and Annie never forgave herself for her role in her sister’s disappearance. Twenty-four years later and now a law enforcement ranger, Annie is still searching for answers as she grieves a new loss: the death of her husband and parents in a boating accident.

But Annie and her eight-year-old daughter, Kylie, aren’t the only people in the town of Rock Harbor whose lives have been marred by tragedy. While managing the property around the Tremolo Resort and Marina she inherited, Annie discovers a dead body floating in the cold Superior surf and begins to work with the sheriff’s office to tie the death to a series of other mysterious reports in the area.

At the same time, her first love, Jon Dustan, returns after nine years away, reigniting the town’s memory of a cold case he’d been suspiciously linked to before he left to pursue his orthopedic residency. For the sake of her investigation and her heart, Annie tries to stay away. But avoiding Jon becomes impossible once Annie realizes she is being targeted by someone desperate to keep secrets from the past hidden.

In this new series, bestselling romantic-suspense author Colleen Coble returns to one of her most beloved towns, where familiar faces—and unsolved cases—await.

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 12th 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 078525370X (ISBN13: 9780785253709)
Series: Annie Pederson #1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook.com | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:



Vitanen yanked her little sister’s hand to pull her to a stop in the deep shadows of the pines. Chills trickled down her spine, and she stared into the darkness. “Did you hear that?”

“It was just the loons,” Sarah said. “Daddy said there’s no such thing as the Windigo.”

Annie shuddered. “You’re only five—you don’t know that.” While at school she’d heard the story about the fifteen-foot- tall monster who ate humans. Annie peered into the shadows, searching for sunken red eyes in a stag skull staring back at her. The Windigo particularly liked little girls to fill its hungry belly. Sarah tugged her hand free. “Daddy said it was just an old Ojibwa legend. I want to see the loons.”

She took off down the needle-strewn path toward the water.

Annie’s heart seized in her throat. “Sarah, wait!”

Daddy had always told Annie she was responsible for her little sister, and she didn’t want to get in trouble when their parents found out they were out here in the dark. Sarah had begged to come out to see the loons, and Annie found it hard to say no to her. This was the first time they’d been to their little camp on Tremolo Island since the summer started, and it might be a long time before they had time to visit again. Daddy only brought them to get away when he had a lull at the marina. Annie loved it here, even if there wasn’t any power.

Her legs pumped and her breath whooshed in and out of her mouth. She emerged into the moonlight glimmering over Lake Superior. Her frantic gaze whipped around, first to make sure the Windigo hadn’t followed them, then to find her sister.

Sarah sat on the wooden dock with her legs dangling over the waves. Lightning flickered in the distance, and Annie smelled rain as it began to sprinkle. Clouds hung low over the water, and the darkness got thicker.

“We need to go back, Sarah.” While they could still find their way in the storm.

“I want to throw bread to the loons.” Sarah gave her a piece of the bread they’d gotten from the kitchen.

Annie jumped when the loon’s eerie yodel sounded. The oo-AH-ho sound was like no other waterfowl or bird. Normally she loved trying to determine whether the loon was yodeling, wailing, or calling, but right now she wanted to get her sister back into bed before they got in big trouble. They both knew better than to come down here by themselves. Mommy had warned them about the dangers more times than Annie could count.

She touched her sister’s shoulder. “Come on, Sarah.”

Sarah shrugged off her hand. “Just a minute. Look, the loon has a baby on its back.”

Annie had to see that. She threw in a couple of bread pieces and peered at the loons. “I’ve never seen that.”

“Me neither.”

The loons didn’t eat the bread, but she giggled when a big fish gulped down a piece right under their feet.

When she first heard the splashing, she thought it signaled more loons. But wait. Wasn’t that the sound of oars slapping the water? A figure in a dark hoodie sat in the canoe. Did the Windigo ride in a canoe?

The canoe bumped the dock, and a voice said, “Two to choose from. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

The voice was so cheerful, Annie wasn’t afraid. Before she could try to identify who it was, a hard hand grabbed her and dragged her into the canoe. “I think the younger one would be better.”

The sudden, sharp pain in Annie’s neck made her cry out, and she slapped her hand against her skin. Something wet and sticky clung to her fingers. In the next instant, she was in the icy water. The shock of the lake’s grip made her head go under.

She came up thrashing in panic and spitting water. Her legs wouldn’t kick very well, and she felt dizzy and disoriented. She tried to scream for Daddy, but her mouth wouldn’t work. Her neck hurt something awful, and she’d never felt so afraid.

She’d been right—it was the Windigo, and he meant to eat her sister.

“Sarah!” Annie’s voice sounded weak in her ears, and the storm was here with bigger waves churning around her. “Run!”

Her sister shrieked out her name, and Annie tried to move toward the sound, but a wave picked her up and tossed her against a piling supporting the dock. Her vision went dark, and she sank into the cold arms of the lake.

The next thing she knew, she was on her back, staring up into the rain pouring into her face. Her dad’s hand was on the awful pain in her neck, and her mother was screaming for Sarah.

She never saw her sister again.



her eyes after staring at the computer screen for the past two hours. She’d closed the lid on an investigation into a hit-and-run in the Kitchigami Wilderness Preserve, and she’d spent the past few hours finishing paperwork. It had been a grueling case, and she was glad it was over.

“I’ll be right back,” she told her eight-year-old daughter, Kylie, sitting on the floor of her office playing Pokémon Go on her iPad.

Kylie’s blonde head, so like Annie’s own, bobbed, too intent to respond verbally.

Kade Matthews looked up when Annie entered his office. Over the past few years he’d moved up and become head ranger. Kade’s six-feet-tall stocky frame and solid muscles exuded competence, and his blue eyes conveyed caring. Annie thanked the Lord every day for such a good boss. He was understanding when she needed time off with Kylie, and he let her know he valued her work and expertise. “Ready for a few days off?”

“Really? With all this work on your shoulders?”

He nodded. “I can handle it. I know this is a busy time for you.”

“I do have a lot of work to do out at the marina.”

Since her parents and husband died two years ago, she’d been tasked with running the Tremolo Marina and Cabin Resort. She managed with seasonal help and lots of her free time, but summer was always grueling. It was only June 3, and the season was off to a good start.

He cleared his throat, and his eyes softened. “I’m glad you stopped in. I didn’t want to send this report without talking to you first.”

“What report?” Her tongue felt thick in her mouth because she knew the likely topic.

“A child’s remains were found down around St. Ignace.”

It didn’t matter that it was so far. That route could have easily been chosen by the kidnapper. It was a common way to travel from lower Michigan to the U.P. “How old?”

“Five or six, according to the forensic anthropologist. I assume you want your DNA sent over for comparison?”

“Yes, of course.”

They’d been through this scenario two other times since she’d begun searching for answers, and each time she’d teetered between hope and despair. While she wanted closure on what had happened to her sister, she wasn’t sure she was ready to let go of hope. Though logically she knew her sister had to be dead. People didn’t take children except for nefarious purposes. Annie didn’t know how she’d react when word finally came that Sarah had been found.

Relief? Depression? Maybe a combination of the two. Maybe even a tailspin that would unhinge her. All these years later, and she still couldn’t think about that night without breaking into a cold sweat. Avoidance had been her modus operandi. Not many even knew about the incident. Kade did, of course. And Bree. Jon too. Probably some of the townspeople remembered and talked about it, too, but it had been long ago. Twenty-four years ago.

Nearly a quarter of a century and yet just yesterday. “How long before results are back on DNA?”

“Probably just a few days. With children they try to move quickly. I’ll get it sent over. You doing okay?”

She gave a vigorous nod. “Sure, I’m fine. I’ll file this report and get these pictures sent to you.”

“Bree told me to ask if you wanted a puppy, one of Samson’s.

There’s a male that looks just like him.”

She smiled just thinking of her daughter’s delight. “Kylie has been begging for a puppy since we lost Belle. How much are they going for?”

The little terrier had died in her sleep a month ago at age sixteen, and they both missed her. Samson was a world-renowned search-and-rescue dog, and his pups wouldn’t come cheap. She ran through how much she had in savings. Maybe not enough.

“We get two free pups, and Bree told me she would give you one.” “You don’t want to do that,” she protested. “You’d be giving up a lot of money.”

He shrugged. “We have everything we need. Head over there in the next few days, and you can take him home with you before our kids get too attached and bar the front door.”

She laughed. “Hunter says he’s marrying Kylie, so I think he will stick up for her.”

Kade and Bree’s little boy was four and adored Kylie. She was good with kids, and she loved spending time with the Matthews twins.

“You’re right about that. I’ll let Bree know you want him. He’s a cute little pup.”

“What are you doing with the other one?” “Lauri has claimed her.”

Kade’s younger sister was gaining a reputation for search-and- rescue herself, and she already had a dog. “What about Zorro?”

“He’s developed diabetes, and Lauri knows he needs to slow down some. She wants a new puppy to train so Zorro can help work with him.”

“She might want the one that looks like Samson.” “She wants a female this time.”

She glanced at her watch and rose. “I’ll get out of here. Thanks again for the puppy. Kylie will be ecstatic.”

She went back to her office. “Time for your doctor appointment, Bug.”

Kylie made a face. “I don’t want to go.”

At eight, Kylie knew her own mind better than Annie knew hers most days. She was the spitting image of Annie at the same age: corn silk–colored hair and big blue eyes set in a heart-shaped face. But Annie had never been that sure of herself. Her dad’s constant criticism had knocked that out of her.

She steered her daughter out the brick office building to the red Volkswagen crew-cab truck in the parking lot, then set out for town.

The old truck banged and jolted its way across the potholes left by this year’s massive snowfall until Annie reached the paved road into town. She couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than where the Snow King ruled nine months of the year. There was no other place on earth like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With the Keweenaw Peninsula to the north and Ottawa National Forest to the south, there could be no more beautiful spot in the world. Her devotion to this place had cost her dearly nine years ago, but every time she saw the cold, crystal-clear waters of the northernmost Great Lakes stretching to the horizon, she managed to convince herself it was worth it.

Part of the town’s special flavor came from the setting. Surrounded by forests on three sides, it had all the natural beauty anyone could want. Old-growth forests, sparkling lakes where fish thronged, and the brilliant blue of that Big Sea Water along the east side.

They drove through town, down Negaunee to Houghton Street to the businesses that comprised Rock Harbor’s downtown. The small, quaint village had been built in the 1850s when copper was king, and its Victorian-style buildings had been carefully preserved by the residents.

Dr. Ben Eckright’s office was a remodeled Victorian boardinghouse on the corner of Houghton and Pepin Streets. She parked in his side lot and let Kylie out of the back.

She glanced across the street to the law office, and her breath caught at the man getting out of the car. It couldn’t be. She stared at the sight of a familiar set of shoulders and closed her eyes a moment. Opening them didn’t reassure her. It really was him.

Jon Dunstan stood beside a shiny red Jaguar. Luckily, he hadn’t seen her yet, and she grabbed Kylie’s hand and ran with her for the side door, praying he wouldn’t look this way. She was still trembling when the door shut behind her.

/ / /

Excerpt from Edge of Dusk by Colleen Coble. Copyright 2022 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:
Instagram - @ColleenCoble
Twitter - @ColleenCoble
Facebook - @ColleenCobleBooks



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My Take: I really enjoy Colleen Coble and I liked this return to Rock Harbor, Michigan. This time it has to do with Annie Pederson who works for the Parks Department and she has a little girl named Kylie. When she was young her little sister was kidnapped and now is believed to be dead. A couple of years ago two girls who were hitchhiking went missing and Annie's fiance was suspected as he was one of the last people to see the girls. Hi name is Jon and he has returned to Rock Harbor to get his father's cottage ready to sell and they meet up again. There is a lot of drama between the two and the story is a realy good thriller. I didn't know till it was revealed who the true bad person was. There are still alot of strings that need to be connected so there are at least one more book in this series to look forward to. I received a review copy from Partners in Crime tours and was not required to write a positive review.

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