Book Spotlight: DEAD HEAT TO DESTINY by J.B. Rivard

DEAD HEAT TO DESTINY by J.B. RIvard book cover: outline of a young female on the left, looking to the left and back to the front beside a male wearing a hat facing right with his back aligned to the female, superimposed over a warship with a biplane flying over their headsDead Heat to Destiny by J.B. Rivard
ISBN: 9780996836364 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9780996836371 (eBook)
ASIN: B0BL5P29YP (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 392
Release Date: February 7, 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction | Adventure

Four lives. Three destinies. Two continents. One devastating war.

It’s the early 1900s in Europe, and young Adrienne Boch is pursuing her dream: a successful career in the booming world of high fashion. When she meets Will Marra, a debonair American with a passion for aviation—and Adrienne—romance is the last thing on her mind. Aside from her career, she’s focused on writing to her cousin, Gregor Steiner, who’s training to be an officer in the Imperial German Navy. Out at sea, Gregor waits eagerly for his letters from Adrienne, recalling their childhood romps at the Belgium shore.

Then World War I breaks out. Adrienne’s life is turned upside down as the invading German army threatens Paris, Gregor advances to captain a U-boat, Will becomes a pilot in the U.S. Army, and Adrienne’s family flees an overrun Belgium. In Central America, a spy is recruited to defeat the United States.

Adrienne’s feelings for Will have grown, but she fears it’s too late. She’s terrified for him and for Gregor, now on opposing sides of the war, and for her family, refugees from the only home they’ve ever known. As the global conflict simmers and tension rises, Will, Gregor, Adrienne, and the spy’s lives converge in an epic, unexpected clash. With life—and love—on the line, they must each fight for what they believe in…or pay the ultimate price.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Kobo eBook

Meet The Author

Author J.B. Rivard photo: older white man, wearing a khaki baseball cap, eyeglasses, khaki jacket, and blue button-down shirt
Author J.B. Rivard

J.B. RIVARD believes words can create pictures. His readers agree; one said, “I was right in the biplane cockpit with Nick,” referring to pilot Nick Mamer, the 1929 record-setting aviator in Rivard’s nonfiction book Low on Gas – High on Sky. A writer of historically accurate fiction and nonfiction, J.B. knows readers want the past to blaze up and enthrall them. His commitment to compelling and convincing writing derives from four years in the military as well as his technical career on the staff of a U.S. National Laboratory. A graduate of the University of Florida, he attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and is an award-winning artist and author. His latest novel is Dead Heat to Destiny, in which the lives and loves of three people are imperiled during the cataclysm of World War One.

Connect with the author via website | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter
This book spotlight brought to you by Books Forward

 

Guest Post: Stacy Wilder – CARMEL CONUNDRUM

Good day, my bookish peeps. Can you believe it’s already February of 2023?! I don’t know about you, but I had a nickname growing up that I positively hated. As soon as I hit puberty, I loudly and repeatedly “informed” everyone in my family that I would no longer answer to that name and firmly placed it in my past. Some people seem to embrace their nicknames, no matter how they got them, and others –like me– drop them as soon as possible and hope that they stay firmly in our past. I’m pleased to welcome as today’s special guest, “Peanut” aka Jim, a character from Carmel Conundrum by Stacy Wilder. Peanut will be giving us a glimpse into his life in this mystery read. Thank you, Peanut, for stepping out of the pages of Carmel Conundrum and joining us today. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Banner with Guest Post in a script font under a line and with a stack of books over the word "guest"

Hi, my name is Peanut, well that’s not my real name. My real name is Jim. I earned the name Peanut when I was in the Army for my ability to squeeze through small spaces. Sure came in handy in Carmel Conundrum, but we’ll get to that.

When my wife died of cancer, I was pretty down. I started taking drugs. Before I knew it, I’d lost my job and then my home. That’s when I took to the streets down by the Carmel river. I was doing ok, getting by. Then that dude Apollo showed up, promising the world. Free food, shelter, and even drugs. All for doing some jobs on his so-called compound. My friend Rumor begged me to join her, so we both climbed on that darn bus.

Rumor decided right away that she was having none of it and left that night. Apollo said he’d take her back to “from whence she came.” He was always talking fancy like that. That was my last chance to leave voluntarily.

I knew the next day I’d made a big mistake. The leaders on the compound were called disciples with weird names, like Cosmo and Atlas. Apollo’s wives had numbers tattooed on their wrists and were sometimes referred to by their numbers. Everyone acted all kumbaya, but I’m telling you the place was creepy. I had to get out of there and fast. I put my thinking cap on and came up with a plan to escape.

And it’s a good thing I did. You’ll have to read the book to find out why and how I connect with the rest of the story.

Side note from the author: Peanut was one of my favorite characters to create. Several readers who read Carmel wanted to know what happened to him next. Don’t worry, you’ll find out in Cayman Conundrum. ♦

Carmel Conundrum: A Liz Adams Mystery
by Stacy Wilder

About Carmel Conundrum


Carmel Conundrum: A Liz Adams Mystery

Stolen identities, a cult, a kidnapping, an attempted murder, and a budding romance . . .

Join Private Investigator Liz Adams, and her lie-detecting Labrador, Duke, in the scenic town of Carmel By-the-Sea, as the pair investigate the mystery of stolen identities. Complications arise when Liz becomes romantically entangled with her hot new client, Brad.

Enter Apollo, a charismatic cult leader, whose mission to save the homeless has a dark twist. Why does he continue to trespass on Liz’s property? She’s compelled to uncover the answer.

Tensions mount, as the stakes become a matter of life and death. Will Liz and Duke solve both mysteries before the damage is irreparable?

Travel with Liz from Charleston, SC to Carmel, CA, and back to discover the astounding truth.

Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Setting – California
Wild Hawk Press
Release Date: December 10, 2022
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 226 pages
ISBN13 ‏ : ‎ 9798985426625 (Paperback)
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BPQXHL7Y (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

About Stacy Wilder

Stacy Wilder has traveled to six out of seven continents Books have shaped her life and her travels. Her love of mysteries began with Nancy Drew.

Carmel Conundrum is the second book in the riveting Liz Adams Mystery series. In addition to mysteries, Stacy writes children’s stories, short stories, and poetry. She and her husband live in Houston, Texas, with a totally spoiled Labrador retriever, Eve.

Author Links: Website www.storystacy.com | Facebook https://www.facebook.com/wilderstacy | Amazon https://www.amazon.com/author/stacy.wilder | Instagram https://www.instagram.com/authorstacywilder/

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

February 6 – The Book Diva’s Reads – CHARACTER GUEST POST
February 6 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee – SPOTLIGHT
February 7 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
February 7 – Novels Alive – REVIEW – SPOTLIGHT
February 8 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – AUTHOR GUEST POST
February 8 – Baroness Book Trove – REVIEW
February 9 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT WITH RECIPE
February 9 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
February 10 – Sneaky the Library Cat’s Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
February 11 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT
February 11 – fundinmental – SPOTLIGHT WITH PLAYLIST
February 11 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT
February 12 – I’m Into Books – CHARACTER GUEST POST
February 13 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
February 13 – Brooke Blogs – AUTHOR GUEST POST
February 14 – Lady Hawkeye – SPOTLIGHT
February 15 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

Tour Giveaway:

This is a giveaway for one (1) paperback print copy of Carmel Conundrum by Stacy Wilder via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. Please see the widget for restrictions. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Have you signed up to be a Tour Host?

Click Here to Find Details and Sign Up Today!

Book Showcase: THE DIRECTION OF THE WIND by Mansi Shah

THE DIRECTION OF THE WIND by Mansi Shah book cover; purple background with gold swirling lines, red swirling leaves and two gold birds flying - one in the upper right hand corner and the other in the lower left hand cornerThe Direction of the Wind by Mansi Shah
ISBN: 9781542035422 (Trade Paperback)
ASIN: B09RWQXBQ7 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B0B3FPYKDZ (Audible Audiobook)
Page Count: 319
Release Date: February 1, 2023
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Coming-of-Age Fiction

A heartfelt story that spans continents and generations, about a young woman who searches for answers about a mother she barely remembers.

Sophie Shah was six when she learned her mother, Nita, had died. For twenty-two years, she shouldered the burden of that loss. But when her father passes away, Sophie discovers a cache of hidden letters revealing a shattering truth: her mother didn’t die. She left.

Nita Shah had everything most women dreamed of in her hometown of Ahmedabad, India—a loving husband, a doting daughter, financial security—but in her heart, she felt like she was living a lie. Fueled by her creative ambitions, Nita moved to Paris, the artists’ capital of the world—even though it meant leaving her family behind. But once in Paris, Nita’s decision and its consequences would haunt her in ways she never expected.

Now that Sophie knows the truth, she’s determined to find the mother who abandoned her. Sophie jets off to Paris, even though the impulsive trip may risk her impending arranged marriage. In the City of Light, she chases lead after lead that help her piece together a startling portrait of her mother. Though Sophie goes to Paris to find Nita, she may just also discover parts of herself she never knew.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org 

Praise for The Direction of the Wind:

Advance Praise: "THE DIRECTION OF THE WIND will both break your heart and send it soaring. Bravo, Mansi Shah." Allison Winn Scotch, bestselling author of THE REWINDAdvance Praise: "...a gritty, lyrical, heartbreaking, and deeply moving novel." by Barbara O'Neal, USA Today bestselling author

Read an Excerpt:

1
SOPHIE

2019

Sophie Shah presses her slim body against the cold wall that separates her bedroom from her papa’s. What used to be Papa’s, she reminds herself, but can’t dwell on that thought for too long. If she does, tears will flow, and it is senseless to let that happen again. A strand of her long, thick black hair loosens from her braid and falls across her forehead, irritating her eye. She does not dare tuck it behind her ear, fearful that if she moves even a centimeter, her fois will hear the thin gold bangles on her arms jingle and stop their conversation. She blinks hard, forcing her eyes to obey and not tear up again, and she concentrates on the exchange in the next room.

Sharmila Foi and Vaishali Foi, Papa’s older sisters, are packing his clothing and personal effects. As a dutiful adult daughter, Sophie should have handled that task. But she couldn’t. The clothes still smell of him—of the almond oil he used each morning on his unruly black hair and the talcum powder that kept his skin dry during the blistering summer heat in Ahmedabad. She cannot bear to see the dress shirts neatly pressed, folded, and stacked according to their muted tones inside the wardrobe, knowing Papa would never wear them again. Knowing that when he placed them inside, he did not know it would be the last time he would do that. His death was sudden. Heart attack. He’d been at his office, and an employee had found him on the cold white marble floor. Sophie often wonders what his last moments were like. Could he feel the life drifting out of him? Was he in pain? Has he moved to his next life already? Will his soul find Sophie again as she continues through this one? Will she feel his presence against her skin like a gentle breeze on a warm night?

Vaishali Foi has a ring of keys on a clasp tucked into the top of her sari slip, just below the exposed, doughy belly rolls that separate the top of the slip and her blouse. The keys clink against each other as she moves through the room. Sophie has grown up in this house and knows every corner of it, including the perfect place to cup her ear against the wall to listen to what is going on in the bedroom next door. She’d learned that spot as a little girl, when she used to hear her parents speaking in hushed tones.

“This will be better for her,” Vaishali Foi says to her sister in Gujarati, their native language.

Sharmila Foi clucks her tongue. “Hah, it is the only way.”

“Who knows how it will end up if we wait much longer, yaar. An unmarried girl her age living by herself would be unthinkable.”

Sophie cringes. Papa passed away nine days ago, and these two women are the only family she has left. She has no siblings, and her mummy died when she was six years old. It has been her and Papa alone in this house for the twenty-two years since. She would give anything to stay in her home, but it is not proper for a twenty-eight-year-old woman to be living alone. Her fois made that very clear. And even if they hadn’t, Sophie knows living in the house is no longer possible. Customs are not up for debate, and she has always abided by them. Well, almost always.

By this point, she should have been married and living with her husband’s family. Her friends had all married years ago, like they were supposed to. Sophie has always been an avid rules follower, and not being married yet is the only custom she has broken, but she could not leave Papa. And now, after such a quick and unexpected end, it is she who is suddenly left behind. So, when her fois approached her not even three days after Papa’s death to tell her that they had found a suitor available for her marriage, she agreed. What other option did she have? She had managed to avoid her arranged marriage for longer than most. People would raise their eyebrows after she passed the age of twenty-five and had yet to marry, but they assumed she was the devoted daughter looking after her widowed papa. And they hadn’t been wrong. After her mummy died, she knew she had to take care of him. But now there were no more excuses.

“She’s a good girl,” Sharmila Foi, the younger and softer of the two, says. “She knows she cannot live in this house by herself. I just wish we had more time to give her.”

“Time is not up to us,” Vaishali Foi says. “The auspicious dates are running out, and then we would have to wait for the next propitious period. We are lucky the Patels are willing to take her at this point. Who knows if they will find someone more suitable if we wait? Young men these days are so fickle. It’s not like it was when we were young. Now, they want too many choices and don’t know how to work for the marriage, hah?”

“The Patels are a good family,” Sharmila Foi says. “Local. Good biodata. Kiran has good height-body. Rajiv would have approved of this match.”

Vaishali Foi clucks her tongue. “Whether he approves or not, it must be done. Sophie is smart with her numbers, but she knows nothing of the ways of the world. Rajiv made sure of that. She needs someone to take care of her properly.”

“It is true,” Sharmila Foi says. “We will not be here forever . . . someone must protect her when all the blood relatives are gone.”

“That is the husband’s duty,” Vaishali Foi says.

Sophie hears their bangles clinking as her fois move about the room.

“It’s good that it only took us two days to teach her to make a proper Gujarati meal,” Vaishali Foi continues. “It would be such an embarrassment if after all of this, she cannot perform the basic duties of a wife. Rajiv let this go on too long, not teaching her the proper roles she must serve.”

Sophie flinches, feeling the sting of their words. Her fois have served as her surrogate mummies since hers passed away, but she knows they have never understood why Papa didn’t arrange her marriage earlier, when Sophie would have had her pick of the suitors. Their children had followed conventions when it came to beginning the marriage phase, and for the past three years they had begged Rajiv to make this a priority for Sophie so she didn’t end up with a half-wit, or, worse still, alone. Rajiv made the occasional inquiry, but ultimately no one seemed worthy enough for his only daughter, and he could not bear to part with her. After he passed, her fois made it their top priority to find someone to take care of her when all of them were gone.

But their task was not easy because Sophie is damaged goods in the Indian marriage market. A now orphaned spinster whose papa allowed her to focus on her education, obtain an accounting degree, and pursue a career rather than forcing her to learn the ways of the kitchen and management of servants. Her fois were relieved to have found a man from a good family willing to marry her despite her untraditional lifestyle. Sophie knows marriage is for the best, but as she thinks about her future surrounded by strangers and the fact that she will never see her papa again, the cloak of loneliness wraps more tightly around her.

“Maybe if Nita had been around, Sophie would have been raised to do the right things at the right times,” Sharmila Foi says.

Vaishali Foi scoffs, the keys at her waist jingling as she walks. “Like that woman could have taught anyone right. Look what she did with her life.”

Sophie pushes her ear closer to the wall. Nita was her mummy, but Sophie recalls so little about her now. Just a few distant memories: the heady smell of paint while she worked on canvases near the dining room window, the round red chandlo between her brows signifying she was a married woman, the way she would stare at the sky when she sat with Sophie on the family’s hichko in the front yard, that she brushed her hair with 101 strokes every morning and every night and did the same to Sophie, counting each one aloud. The main thing Sophie recalls about her mummy is that although she had never set foot in the country, she loved France.

That was why Sophie ended up with her French name. Nita had shunned the cultural norms that mandated that Rajiv’s mummy select Sophie’s name based on the location of the stars, and so Sophie has spent her entire life explaining to everyone in India why she doesn’t have a normal name like Swapna, Reena, Ketan, or Atul, like her cousins do. As a child, she often wished that Papa had been less progressive and lenient with Nita and had forced the traditional naming conventions upon her so that Sophie could blend in. She had hated saying her name aloud in school or at work and having people stare at her. She took after Papa and did not crave the attention of others, and living in Ahmedabad with a name like Sophie meant she went noticed more often than she cared to be.

After Nita died, Papa and their family barely spoke of her. With the passage of time, Sophie’s memories of her mummy started to fade, and with no one willing to speak about her, there was no way to revive them. Yet even though she remembers very little, Sophie still feels the urge to defend her mummy from her fois’ words. After all, who else is left to do it?

Sophie begins to move from the wall when she hears Sharmila Foi say, “I wonder how Sophie would have turned out if she hadn’t left.”

Vaishali Foi murmurs something Sophie cannot hear, and then, in a louder tone, says, “She would have filled Sophie’s head with all those crazy dreams of hers. She would have turned her into the same rebellious spirit who doesn’t know her place. The best thing for this family was when she ran away. With her gone, Rajiv at least could teach Sophie duty without disruption.”

Ran away?! Sophie’s mind reels. Her mummy died.

As Sophie mulls over her fois’ words, she scans her memories of the events surrounding Nita’s death twenty-two years earlier. She recalls that she had been too young to attend the funeral. But she remembers her fois coming home from it and putting a garland of vibrant orange marigolds around the framed photo of Nita that had been added to the puja room. Sophie presses her ear even closer to the wall, sure she has misheard her fois because she would have known if the story of her mummy was something different. In Ahmedabad, the streets have eyes and the wind has ears, so secrets like this would have been impossible to keep from her for all these years.

Sophie wants to burst into the room and ask them what they are talking about, but she knows better. She would only be chastised for eavesdropping. A good Indian girl should never speak out of turn is what they would say while looking at her disappointedly. And she has been that—a good Indian girl—for as long as she can remember.

If only Papa were still here, she thinks to herself as tears continue to prick her eyes, then I could ask him what they were talking about.

The burden of truly being alone in the world sits heavy on her heart. Because it had been just Papa and her in this big house for most of her life, they had developed a tight bond—closer than the average parent-child relationship she saw with her friends and cousins. He would never lie to her, and she never lied to him. It is what made her such an obedient daughter. She never wanted to disappoint him, so she’d never snuck out of the house with friends or tried alcohol that someone in university had gotten from a foreigner with a liquor license. Instead, she always behaved as was expected. And she will honor him by continuing to do that even though she desperately wants to tell her fois not to speak poorly about her parents when her memories are all she has left of them.

Sophie had convinced her fois to let her stay alone in the bungalow for one final night before moving into Vaishali Foi’s home until her wedding the week after, and then into her husband’s family home, where she will spend the rest of her life among the strangers who will become her new family. She has never been alone in the bungalow she grew up in. There were always servants or Papa or another relative, but now the servants have been dismissed, and her fois are in their own homes tending to their own children and grandchildren after having spent the majority of the last week and a half dealing with Rajiv’s passing.

The night is eerie as Sophie moves through the bungalow. The windows are open, and Sophie inhales the smells that waft in, letting them linger around her. Jasmine that blooms just outside the living room and releases the sweetest scent at night, the smell of fire and charcoal from the street vendor who roasts cashews with black pepper at his tiny cart, and lemon from the water the servants use to mop the floors. She will never smell this combination again. She will never smell home again.

Sophie hears a pack of dogs nearby, rickshas and scooters tooting their horns as they swerve through the streets, and firecrackers off in the distance. There must be a wedding somewhere, she thinks, knowing that October is the start of the wedding season in Ahmedabad. Her heart feels so broken and empty that she cannot contemplate celebrating anything. She cannot fathom that in a week she will be part of a wedding herself and embark on the most unknown chapter of her life. Who will greet her on the mandap? One of her fuas?

She glides across the cool marble floor and brushes her fingers along the ornately carved wooden dining room chairs. Last month, she and Papa were sitting in those chairs, going over the wedding schedule for this year. With so many weddings, each spanning a week or more, they strategized about which events to attend for which couple. They considered which families would have the best food and planned to go during mealtimes for those. They talked through which ones were all the way across town, requiring them to navigate hours of Ahmedabadi traffic, and came up with polite excuses. Of the nineteen weddings on the calendar between late October and the middle of December, before the auspicious period ended, none of those weddings were meant to be Sophie’s. Until now. Papa’s passing had made her Wedding Number Twenty for this season among their family and social circle.

She slowly climbs the marble staircase and pauses outside of Papa’s bedroom. Her fois had left the door open, his bed littered with piles of clothing, evidence of their efforts to pack his belongings. Having spent today removing all the valuables and transporting them to the safes in their homes, tomorrow they will ask the servants to finish what remains.

She moves into the closet room and tugs on a door, wanting to smell Papa’s shirts one last time. Memorize the scent. So she never forgets, the way she forgot the smell of her mummy. She knew it as a child, but it faded so many years ago despite how much she tried to conjure it, and she doesn’t want that to happen again. She has a set of house keys fastened to the waistband of her panjabi, and she finds the right one and begins to unlock the wardrobe doors, opening them all. She touches Papa’s button-down shirts and slacks, some still folded and wrapped in thick brown paper bundled together with twine from the cleaners. The paper crinkles as she unties the twine and exposes the shirts. She buries her face in the starched cotton and inhales deeply, knowing that unmistakable smell of Papa that lingers even after the clothes are washed. His shoes are lined up along the bottom. Everything in its place. Just as he had taught her. She smiles as she pulls open the drawers. His watches and rings are now gone, tucked away in his sisters’ safes; only the red velvet lining remains, and she imagines the items that used to be there.

In the very back of one drawer, she sees a box covered with dust. Her fois must have forgotten to look that far back. Wanting to make sure all Papa’s treasured possessions are preserved, she removes it. It is the size of a shoebox but is ornately decorated, like her fancy jewelry boxes that are wrapped in cloth and adorned with colorful stones.

She lifts the lid, expecting to find watches or cuff links, but is surprised to see a stack of thin blue onionskin airmail letters. Papa used to send this type of letter to their distant relatives in America or Australia, and they would send the same back. Par avion, the envelopes say. By plane, she thinks, remembering the only bit of French Papa had let her learn.

The Gujarati lettering on them is a feminine scrawl. She knows these are private but is unable to resist the temptation to share in whatever memories her stoic papa had cherished enough to save all these years. She doesn’t see a return address or sender name on the outside of the first one and opens it. It is addressed to Rajiv. Without reading the body, she quickly moves to the signature and sees her mummy’s name scribbled at the bottom. An icy chill sweeps through her body. She turns back to the postmark on the letter and sees March 23, 2000. She freezes.

Sophie’s eighth birthday. A year and a half after her mummy had died.

Then she sees the postmark from Paris, France.

She collapses to the floor, the letter falling from her fingers as if she has been burned by it. She had not misheard her fois. Her dead mummy is alive.

Excerpt from The Direction of the Wind by Mansi Shah.
Copyright © 2023 by Mansi Shah.
Published with permission of Lake Union,
an imprint of Amazon Publishing.
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Mansi Shah author photo, headshot of a woman of Asian Indian descent, wearing a royal blue top with wavy dark hair
Mansi Shah Author Photo by Ron Derhacopian

Mansi Shah lives in Los Angeles. She was born in Toronto, Canada; was raised in the midwestern region of the United States; and studied at universities in Australia, England, and America. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling and exploring different cultures near and far, experimenting on a new culinary creation, or working on her tennis game. She is also the author of The Taste of Ginger.

Connect with the author via: BookBub | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

 

Giveaway

This is a giveaway for one (1) print copy of The Direction of the Wind by Mansi Shah. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States only. All entries by non-US residents will be voided. To enter use the Rafflecopter link below or click here.

This giveaway begins at 12:01 AM ET on 02/01/2023 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on 02/07/2023. The winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on 02/08/2023. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

This book excerpt and giveaway brought to you via Blankenship Public Relations

 

Book Showcase: THE MAN WHO SCREAMS AT NIGHTFALL… by Rush Leaming

The Man Who Screams At Nightfall…
and other stories

by Rush Leaming

January 16 – February 10, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Man Who Screams At Nightfall… and other stories by Rush Leaming

Thailand. The Congo. Greece. Spain. America…

Four continents and 40+ years in the making.

The Man Who Screams At Nightfall is a landmark collection of short stories depicting a young man on a classic voyage of self-discovery, scouring the earth in search of some purpose in life.

From childhood to parenthood and everything in between—these tales are at times raw and unflinching, at other times poignant and moving.

Get ready for a literary journey unlike any you’ve experienced before.

WARNING: Some of these stories contain strong language, depictions of graphic violence, and sexual situations.

Book Details:

Genre: Literary Fiction
Published by: Bridgewood Publishing
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 150
ISBN-10: 0999745670 (Paperback)
ISBN-13: 9780999745670
ISBN: 9798215340615 (eBook)
ASIN B0BCZ9NW3S (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | BookShop.org | Kobo eBook | Goodreads

Praise for The Man Who Screams At Nightfall…and other stories:

“A powerful, gritty, and exquisitely written anthology —not to be missed.”

J. Miller, Reader’s Favorite

“A short story collection that excels in its sense of literary psychological growth and discovery. Libraries looking for interconnected short stories that represent life journeys and revelations will find The Man Who Screams At Nightfall…and other stories an appealing acquisition that promises much fodder for discussion to book club readers interested in fictional blends of psychological and social revelation.”

Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan

“Sharply observed, nuanced, precise, and morally challenging…”

“Leaming’s light hand with dialogue and keen sense of human psychology create a book that highlights weighty issues by putting a compassionate human face on human struggles. Sharp, inventive, and deeply moving: a fine literary collection.”

Book View

“Without a lengthy description of the characters, just enough to provide the imagery necessary to identify them, he catches and holds the reader’s attention like no other I’ve experienced in the hundreds of books and stories I’ve read over the years.”

Reader’s Favorite, L. Allen

Read an excerpt:

…I could see the glow of a fire up ahead of us, and as we reached the mango tree, Pumbu motioned for me to stay low and follow him along a small wall of honeysuckle bushes. We crouched down, and from our hiding place, I saw Kachamba furiously pacing back and forth in his yard in front of a small bonfire. He swung his arms wildly in the air as if he was fighting off something that was falling on him. He dropped to his knees and then suddenly sprang three feet off the ground. Then he began to dance, swaying and spinning his body so close to the fire that I was certain he was going to fall in. All the while he screamed and shouted deep into the empty black night.

He spoke in a dialect that I couldn’t understand, so I had to ask Pumbu to tell me what he was saying. I asked him many questions: Why was he doing this? Who was he speaking to? Was he drunk? What was going on? Pumbu patiently explained to me that no, he was not drunk, and that he really didn’t know who he was speaking to, but that Kachamba’s wife had left him a few years ago, run off with another man and taken their children, and that ever since, he had not been right in the head. He was not from this village and had been kicked out of all the other places he had lived. He came here only because Kachamba’s father, the chief of Kitengo’s uncle, had once saved the life of the chief’s father (Kachamba’s uncle) and so the chief had to let him stay to repay that old favor. It was all very complicated, Pumbu said, and he didn’t fully understand it himself.

I was hardly listening, instead transfixed and horrified by what I saw. Spinning, swirling, shouting, and screaming—Kachamba’s face, so calm and happy as I had seen it earlier that day, was now knotted and twisted like a grotesque carnival mask, like some gargoyle sprung from the lowest depths of hell. The glow of the fire cut fierce shadows and gorges in his face, adding to the haunting vision that I saw.

For a long while, Pumbu and I hid behind the honeysuckle bushes and watched Kachamba shriek and wail and try to push back the night, until suddenly, all at once, he just stopped. Suddenly, he just stood still and quiet and stared at the sky. I followed his gaze and saw another shooting star. When I looked back, Kachamba had disappeared.

“Is that it?” I asked.

“That’s it,” said Pumbu. “He usually only does this for an hour or so.”

“And he does this every night?”

“Almost,” said Pumbu and yawned. “Mmm. I’m tired. I think I am going to go home.”

We left the bushes, went past the mango tree, and said good night. I walked home alone, both exhilarated and troubled by what I had seen.

I entered my room and prepared for bed, but long after I had extinguished my petrol lantern, I lay there staring into the darkness. I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. It wasn’t that unusual—I noticed that it had been happening a lot lately, that I couldn’t sleep. I got up and found the bottle of Johnnie Walker and knocked back a tall glass until at last I was floating, and at last, my eyes did shut…

***

Excerpt from The Man Who Screams At Nightfall… and other stories by Rush Leaming.
Copyright 2022 by Rush Leaming.
Reproduced with permission from Rush Leaming.
All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Rush Leaming

RUSH LEAMING has done many things including spending 15+ years in film/video production working on such projects as The Lord of the Rings films. His first novel, Don’t Go, Ramanya, a political thriller set in Thailand, was published in the fall of 2016. His second novel followed suit in the summer of 2018, entitled The Whole of the Moon, set in the Congo at the end of the Cold War. 2021 saw the 5-star reception of his crime thriller Dead Tree Tales. His short stories have appeared in Notations, 67 Press, Lightwave, 5k Fiction, and The Electric Eclectic.

He has lived in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Zaire, Thailand, Spain, Greece, South Carolina, England, and Kenya.

Catch Up With Rush:
LeamingRush.wixsite.com/Nightfall
Goodreads
BookBub – @RushLeaming
Instagram – @RushLeaming
Twitter – @LeamingRush
Facebook – @RushLeamingStories

Tour Participants:

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

ENTER TO WIN:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Rush Leaming. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

https://kingsumo.com/js/embed.js

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours 

Book Showcase: VAMPIRE WEEKEND by Mike Chen

VAMPIRE WEEKEND by Mike Chen book cover, gray and reddish-black background with an illustrated image of a woman with short hair in blackVampire Weekend by Mike Chen
ISBN: 9780778386964 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369722485 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488218217 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0B4BPKPZW (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09VLBFGPX (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 352
Release Date: January 31, 2023
Publisher: Graydon House/HarperCollins
Genre: Fiction | Coming-of-Age | Family Life | Urban Fantasy

Being a vampire is far from glamorous…but it can be pretty punk rock.

Everything you’ve heard about vampires is a lie. They can’t fly. No murders allowed (the community hates that). And turning into a bat? Completely ridiculous. In fact, vampire life is really just a lot of blood bags and night jobs. For Louise Chao, it’s also lonely, since she swore off family ages ago.

At least she’s gone to decades of punk rock shows. And if she can join a band of her own (while keeping her…situation under wraps), maybe she’ll finally feel like she belongs, too.

Then a long-lost teenage relative shows up at her door. Whether it’s Ian’s love of music or his bad attitude, for the first time in ages, Louise feels a connection.

But as Ian uncovers Louise’s true identity, things get dangerous–especially when he asks her for the ultimate favor. One that goes beyond just family…one that might just change everything vampires know about life and death forever.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | B&N Audiobook | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Read an Excerpt:

CHAPTER 2

VAMPIRE POWER MYTH #2: We can bite into anything.

In movies, veins pop like a balloon hitting a nail. But in reality? Kids constantly bonk into sharp objects and get light scrapes. Construction workers work around nails and metal, but somehow buildings go up without anyone bleeding out. I worked in a hospital, so I saw this firsthand.

In practical terms, biting someone for blood was not easy. Newly turned vampires don’t exactly have functional teeth. A gradual sharpening takes place over the course of a week, but we’re not the instant kill machine from movies.

The so-called “vampire attacks” in the news? Sounded like algorithm-driven clickbait to me. And that was exactly how I thought about it—or didn’t think about it—when I got to work.

Because today was a blood day. And blood days were literally life and death for me.

Not that I gave off that vibe. Instead, I went about my business, pushing my janitorial cart into the blood bank of San Francisco General Hospital. The automatic door shut behind me, my cart’s squeaking wheels announcing my arrival to Sam, the department’s night manager, and some staffer who looked more on break than actually working. They leaned over a monitor, attention pulled away by whatever was on the screen. Which worked to my benefit.

Some vampires worked with blood volunteers—usually fetishists who gladly let someone feed off them, likely thinking it was a kink or a new obscure fad diet rather than real vampire sustenance. That still involved the wholly unhygienic and socially awkward process of drinking from a live human. Underground dealers also existed, pumping blood from their arms into a bottle for an in-person transaction.

Me? I went with blood bag theft.

Which, to be fair, I held zero guilt over. Did you know that hospitals waste about 25 percent of blood bags every year? Thus, my weekly pickup during my janitorial rounds hardly made a dent. It all fell within the normal range of lost, misplaced, or expired. In fact, the managers viewed me as helpful for bringing the soon-to-expire bags to disposal. If some happened to make it into my backpack along the way, no one was the wiser.

This, of course, assumed that there were actually blood bags to take.

Today, the usual inventory of expiring blood bags was empty.

As in, nothing on the shelves. Nothing to deliver. Nothing to steal.

Nothing to feed from.

In fact, even the main storage units for in-date blood bags appeared low.
Any stress from the Copper Beach audition evaporated, as things do when food sources suddenly disappear.

I paused the music on my phone and pulled the earbuds out. Some things required a little more professional behavior. I began scouring the other storage possibilities when I overheard the words the vampire community feared the most.

“I swear, it’s a vampire.”

Eric constantly preached that if humans did discover us, racists would find new reasons to fearmonger, while scientists would capture us for all sorts of poking and prodding. Given that we’d all managed to abide by this for centuries, it seemed like a pretty good suggestion to follow.

My hands squeezed the cart’s handle tighter as I listened.

“That’s ridiculous,” Sam said, shaking his head.

“No, think about it.” The man turned, the tag on his scrubs revealing the name Turner. “After everything we know about viruses these days, who would actually drink blood? Only vampires.”

“Okay, look,” Sam said, rubbing his cleft chin. “You’re assuming someone drank this guy’s blood—”

“Police said he’s missing about ten ounces of blood. Same as the other two attacks.”

“Alright. Let’s assume someone—or something—drank ten ounces from that poor guy. They said his neck looked chewed, dozens of stitches needed. If you’re gonna believe something ridiculous, go with a werewolf.”

Suddenly, that headline didn’t seem like simple clickbait. Ten ounces. Roughly the same amount my body needed daily, though half that offered cranky survival. So that was the typical amount a vampire needed to sustain until the next feeding. And the chewed neck like a werewolf bite? That was a real concern, not because werewolves were real (they’re not), but because biting into a human was not easy.

In theory, you first had to properly locate the carotid artery, then make sure it was easily accessible by positioning the head and neck the right way. Then you needed a well-placed bite—millimeters of accuracy here, from an angle where things are hard to see. I challenge any human to try and bite precisely into a piece of Red Vines stuck on a loaf of sourdough to gauge its difficulty. This was in addition to the fangs’ fairly mediocre ability to puncture.
Biting humans was messy. Factor in an especially scared nondonor human and tools to make the process smoother and, well, the result could easily be mistaken for werewolves.

With the hospital’s blood shortage, their conversation ratcheted my anxiety enough for me to mutter, “Oh shit.”

That little phrase pulled Sam and Turner away from the screen. Their desk chairs creaked as they turned my way, the headline—San Francisco’s Latest “Vampire Attack” Victim Stable In Hospital—now clearly visible on their monitor.

If there was a fixer working in the community, they weren’t doing a great job.

“Oh, hi, Louise,” Sam said. “Need anything?”

Blood bags. A safe community, one without rogue vampires possibly revealing ourselves to humans. While I was at it, someone to play in a band with—human or vampire—though right now neither seemed to be working out.

“No pickups today,” I managed as I pushed the cart through. “What pickups?” Sam asked, his thick eyebrows furrowing. “Expiring blood to pick up on second Fridays. You know,” I said, switching to a very bad generic European accent, “because I’m a vampire and I need to drink it instead of biting people on the neck.” That joke always worked, but doubly so today. Both men laughed, and I almost held up claw hands for emphasis. But no, that joke belonged only to me and Marshall. “I knew it,” Sam said, “you’re the vampire attacker.” “I thought you suspected a werewolf,” Turner said, an Irish lilt to his gravelly voice. “Sorry, boys. It’s a little more boring than that. Management tallies these and I don’t want to piss them off.” That was a lie; I knew they didn’t because otherwise I’d never get away with my theft.

“Right, right. Let me go check in on that.” Sam stood and went to the computer on the far desk, his leg catching his chair enough to kick it over a foot. “You’re right, our last delivery was low. Must not be as many donors. There’s a note saying this might be a thing for a few weeks but it doesn’t say why.”

Just like that, my food supply went from “comfortably fed” to “empty.”

“Cool, cool, no worries,” I said despite the onslaught of emerging worries. I built my whole life around a job that provided blood—and that dried up? Maybe in a parallel universe, I might have my own recording studio with session time paid in blood bags. But here?

I loaded my email as soon as I stepped into the hallway. My fingers mashed over the virtual keys, autocorrect pulling all the wrong words and constantly changing blood to brood, which I supposed was fitting for a vampire. The message went to the local Red Cross chapter’s volunteer manager, a request for shifts as a Volunteer Transportation Specialist.

Basically, someone who drove donated blood around.

I’d actually trained for the role when I was in between hospital gigs, but never took any actual shifts since most of them were during the day—which wasn’t impossible with proper precautions, but still uncomfortable, and required a lot of extra effort, in addition to messing up my sleep cycle. Circadian rhythm still applied to vampire life.

But this was different. If the supply saw shortages, I’d need alternatives just like the early days when I first started and had no clue what I was doing.
Which really wasn’t my fault. Because no guidebook existed for this life, and the woman who made me only came around a few times to check on me before disappearing forever. Despite the physical transformation to vampiredom creating several months of fuzzy memories, I still clearly pictured her during that last visit: a tall, pale woman with long brown hair in peak late-70s punk styling.

She’d brought weekly bottles, introduced me to a few Southern California sources for no-questions-asked back-alley blood, gave a very uncomfortable primer on feeding off farm animals in emergencies and offered a very dramatic lecture on the importance of not revealing ourselves to humans in any way. Yet, all of those came during surprise drop-ins and sudden departures, and even her final visit was nothing more than a quick hello before “You’ll figure the rest out. You’ll be fine.”

In fact, she never bothered to tell me her name. Or maybe she did and I just forgot it in my fugue state. Whatever the case, I’d have to rely on those lessons now, to ride out any shortages. I spent the rest of my shift trying to recall how many bags remained in my fridge, and how best to ration them. Hours came and went, a low-level panic setting my night to fast-forward all the way until I stepped into an empty parking garage.

Then my phone buzzed. Multiple buzzes, actually. Though I hoped it was something about the Red Cross volunteer gig, that seemed impossible, given the late hour. No, a quick look showed another text from Eric. And this time, I bothered to read it.

I’ve received a few notes tonight about tomorrow evening’s agenda. I share your concerns, but there is a plan to address this. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our community.

Something was definitely up. A blood shortage, someone attacking humans in the wild, texts about “health and safety.” A second message loaded up, words pushing the first message off the screen.

If you want to learn more, please come to the event. In the meantime, I encourage you all to download our new community app to stream the discussion. Do NOT discuss the media’s ‘vampire attack’ headlines with anyone, not even jokingly. Blood will be served. Reply to RSVP for in person attendance.

Did I want to learn more? Of course. Did I want an app that both invaded my privacy and knew I was a vampire? No. Did I want to get involved with the vampire community?

Not really. Especially given my history with Eric. But I needed blood, and this was a source, however fleeting.

Besides, maybe Eric had forgotten about our last encounter. Still, I refused to download his stupid app. On principle.

Count me in, I typed in a reply text, complete with a little white lie. By the way, I had trouble downloading the app. Maybe later.

On most work nights, I came home just before dawn, changed from scrubs to sweats, let my dog out, and drank blood. Today, that last part remained a sticking point. Lola greeted me as usual, a pitter-patter that told me she needed a potty break. I left the back door ajar for her to go into the small backyard, then checked my blood bag supply in the fridge.

If I’d been more responsible, thorough, careful, and whatever other descriptions my parents threw at me decades ago, I’d have a managed stockpile. Instead, three bags remained, a supply for about four or five days. I could stretch it to a week, though I’d be a grouchy, tired mess. After that? Movie vampires went on killing rampages when they needed blood, but in reality, it meant fatigue and delirium.

And if that went on long enough? Death by starvation.

No wonder someone got desperate enough to bite humans.

I grabbed a mug from the cabinet, white ceramic with a faded photo of a white schnauzer printed on it; Aunt Laura’s old teacup, now used for blood. Mostly empty shelves stared back at me from the fridge, daring me to make a choice.

Did I take one now? Did I really need to drink or could I wait?

Lola returned from the backyard, hopping over the threshold with her short corgi legs, and her nails clacked on the floor as she ignored my mood and waddled past. The jingling of her collar faded as she went down the hall, and I told myself to do the smart thing. I shut the fridge door and left Aunt Laura’s mug on the counter, then followed my dog.

Light flooded the space in my music room as I flipped the wall switch, illuminating everything from the guitars hanging on the walls to the drum kit and keyboard rig sitting in opposite corners. But no dog waited for me. Instead, her collar jingled from across the hall.

The bedroom.

The hour or so before bed normally saw me noodling on a guitar, playing with different pedal effects combinations or trying to work out a lingering melody while Lola stayed at my feet. But as I stood between the two rooms, a crushing fatigue washed over me, something that I knew had nothing to do with appetite.

I peeked in on Lola, the hallway light showing enough that I could see she’d skipped the circular dog bed on the floor to leap straight onto my spot. Usually she’d wait till I fell asleep to pull that off, and perhaps she took advantage of my vulnerable state today. She stretched her little legs into the air, then craned her neck to look at me with ears up, yawning before settling back down.

Maybe she just knew what I needed today.

Instead of going back into my music room, I stepped inside and shut the door, leaving the bedroom in a complete UV protected blackout state as I crawled under soft sheets. I stayed still, the quiet silence of a moment without vampires, without humans, without blood shortages, just a happy corgi resting against my stomach and worries in my head.

Excerpt from Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen.
Copyright © 2023 by Mike Chen.
Published with permission from MIRA Books.
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Photo of Mike Chen, an Asian man wearing a black sweater standing in front of a gray wall with block windows
Mike Chen photo by Amanda Chen

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

Connect with the author via: Instagram | Twitter | Website

 

This book showcase and excerpt brought to you by MIRA Books

 

Book Review: ENCORE IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

ENCORE IN DEATH by J.D. Robb coverEncore In Death, In Death #56, by J. D. Robb
ISBN: 9781250284082 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250284310 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250878267 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250878274 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B09YHZCR89 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09Y46SX9G (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 384
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: February 7, 2023
Genre: Fiction | Romantic Suspense | Suspense | Police Procedural

The homicide cop with a passion for justice returns in the captivating crime thriller series by the #1 New York Times bestselling author.

It was a glittering event full of A-listers, hosted by Eliza Lane and Brant Fitzhugh, a celebrity couple who’d conquered both Hollywood and Broadway. And now Eve Dallas has made her entrance—but not as a guest. After raising a toast, Fitzhugh fell to the floor and died, with physical symptoms pointing to cyanide, and the police have crashed the party.

From all accounts, he wasn’t the kind of star who made enemies. Everyone loved him—even his ex-wife. And since the champagne cocktail that killed him was originally intended for Eliza, it’s possible she was the real target, with a recently fired assistant, a bitter rival, and an obsessed fan in the picture. With so many attendees, staff, and servers, Eve has her work cut out determining who committed murder in the middle of the crowd—and what was their motivation. As one who’s not fond of the spotlight herself, she dreads the media circus surrounding a case like this. All she wants is to figure out who’s truly innocent, and who’s only acting that way…

If you’ve been following my blog for more than a year, you’ve probably noticed that I eagerly await the release of the new additions to the “In Death” series each Winter and Fall. I never tire of reading and re-reading this series. I re-read at least the previous five books before each new release and every other year I actually re-read the entire series including the novellas. (Yes, I know that I never seem to tire of re-reading a lot of books, but that’s one of my book diva things!) Encore in Death is the 56th installment of the “In Death” series, and although it contains some elements seen in previous books (see book 10: Witness in Death and book 34: Celebrity in Death), it still presents as a fresh and altogether new story. Encore in Death features a beloved and well-respected actor dying from a poisoning in his own home during a farewell party (he’s scheduled to leave the country the next day to film a movie). Lieutenant Eve Dallas must determine if this death was a simple mistake as the poison was found in a drink made for someone else or intentional. Was the wife the intended victim? If so, why? If not, who could possibly want to kill such a loved and respected man?

It’s always a pleasure being reunited with Lieutenant Eve Dallas, her beloved billionaire husband Roarke, various members of the NYPSD (Detective Delia Peabody, Detective Ian McMcNab, Captain Ryan Feeney, Dr. Charlotte Mira, Commander Jack Whitney, Coroner Li Morris, and others), as well as Eve’s friends: Reporter Nadine Furst, Singer/Performer Mavis Freestone, Clothing Designer and Mavis’s Spouse: Leonardo, Mavis & Leonardo’s adorable daughter: Bella, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney: Cher Reo, the butler/majordomo of the Roarke household: Charles Summerset, and the household pet: Galahad). Yes, there are plenty of other “regular” characters that make an appearance in this story, but you’ll simply need to read Encore in Death to see if any of your favorites appear.

As with most of the “In Death” stories, this centers around death. The death is very public and most of the witnesses seem to respect if not care for the deceased. No one really has a bad thing to say about the man. His wife, on the other hand, is respected but found to be somewhat exacting. She is respected but not as “beloved” as her husband. The problem is that the poisoned drink was made specifically for her and raises the question of whether someone intended for her to die rather than her husband or not? That question keeps coming up and, after a few days, forces Eve to re-evaluate the context of the murder in an effort to determine just what happened. Yes, she solves the case and yes, there’s a nice twist (no, I didn’t figure it out). In addition to the murder mystery, the reader gets to follow along with the ongoing renovation of the house purchased by Mavis and Leonardo. Ms. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) seems to have an endless supply of fresh stories for her readers to enjoy. And I did enjoy Encore in Death and will probably re-read it before the next book is released in the Fall. Encore in Death has the requisite murder investigation, continued development of Eve and Roarke’s romance/marital relationship, the ongoing development of Eve’s friendships with coworkers and others, as well as the continued progression of the renovation of the home of Eve’s friends. The action was plausible and the characters realistic. I found Encore in Death to be a fast-paced and gripping read. I can only hope that you’ll enjoy reading Encore in Death as much as I did.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Showcase: THE ACCIDENTAL SPY by David Gardner

The Accidental Spy

by David Gardner

January 9 – February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Accidental Spy by David Gardner

Harvey Hudson is an emotionally scarred, fifty-six-year-old history professor who has lost his job, his wife, and his self-respect. In desperation, Harvey takes a high-tech job for which he is totally unqualified.

So he outsources it to India.

Then Harvey discovers that a Russian intelligence agency owns the outsourcing company and are using him to launch a cyberattack on the U.S. petroleum industry.

Harvey now finds himself in a world of trouble with the Russians and the FBI, and he has fallen in love with the woman from New Delhi who’s doing the job he’s outsourced—who might be a Russian agent.

The Accidental Spy Trailer:

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Thriller with Literary Pretensions
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC
Publication Date: November 2, 2022
Number of Pages: 274
ISBN: 9781645994206 (Paperback)
ASIN: B0BDS7QNDG (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository.com | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Encircle Publications

Read an excerpt:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both.”
Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Spy: “A person employed by a governmental agency to obtain secret information on a hostile country.”
The Philips Dictionary of Espionage

Accidental Spy: “Some poor jerk dragged into a world of trouble.”
Harvey Hudson

Chapter 1: Bunny Ears

Summer, 2019

Harvey Hudson released the steering wheel and swatted at the blue balloon (“Congrats! You Did It!”) that was banging against the back of his head.

What was the ‘It’ for? Someone earned a law degree? Pulled off a bank heist? Successfully underwent potty training? All three?

One day before turning fifty-six, and here he was, delivering balloons. How had he let this happen to him?

He chewed on the last of the Skittles he’d swiped from a bulky candy basket attached to a red balloon shaped like a birthday cake. Too many sweets for some spoiled kid. He was doing the pudgy brat a favor. The Snickers bar was tempting. Maybe later.

Harvey reached across the front seat, grabbed a handful of candy bars from the Skittle-less basket ($149), and dropped them into its modest neighbor ($39). He often shifted candy from larger baskets to lesser ones. He thought of himself as the Robin Hood of balloon-delivery individuals.

He’d had just $87 in the bank a few weeks ago when he’d shambled past a help-wanted sign in the front window of the Rapid Rabbit Balloon Service. He paused and reread the sign. “Part-time Delivery Person Needed. Become a Rapid Rabbit!” Yeah, what the hell. He hurried inside before he came to his senses. He would have taken any gig—balloon-delivery specialist, male stripper, or get-away driver for a grizzled bank robber.

With his part-time job delivering balloons and his full-time work as a beginning technical writer, Harvey could just stay afloat. His ex-wife had cleaned him out.

He double-parked on a smart street of brick-front homes on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Hesitating, he clamped the hated bunny ears over his head and attached the spongy red nose. Sighing, he grabbed the $149 basket and, head down, ambled up the walkway and rang the bell. The balloon bobbed overhead, taunting him.

The woman who opened the door was a slim and pretty brunette in her fifties. She had a narrow face and large, dark eyes.

She was his boss at his day job.

Also his high school sweetheart.

Harvey wanted to disappear into the ground.

Margo took a step back. “Oh.”

Harvey pulled off the bulbous red nose and stuffed it into his shirt pocket. “Uh…this is where you live?”

Margo shook her head. “I’m here with my daughter for a birthday party.”

Harvey shifted from one foot to the other. “I’m…um…delivering balloons just for tonight to help out a buddy who had two wisdom teeth pulled this morning, a professor who lost his job the same time I did.”

Margo blinked twice.

“A sociologist,” Harvey added.

Margo gripped the edge of the door.

“Named Fred,” Harvey said.

Margo nodded.

“The guy took the job in desperation because he’s broke, recently divorced, and down on his luck,” Harvey said and realized he was describing himself.

He handed the basket to Margo.

Did she believe him? Probably not. Did the company have a rule against moonlighting? He’d soon find out.

Margo poked around inside the basket. “There’s too much candy in here.”

“At least there aren’t any Skittles.”

Margo selected a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. “I’ve moved tomorrow’s team meeting up to 10:00 A.M. Did you get my email?”

Harvey nodded.

Was that her way of telling him that moonlighters don’t get fired? He hoped so. He was pathetically unqualified as a technical writer, and his job was in jeopardy.

Harvey hated meetings. Sometimes he thought the software engineers asked him questions he couldn’t answer just to see him squirm. Many were kids in their twenties, making double his salary.

And he hated lying to Margo. At least he could be honest about one small thing. “Actually, this is my night gig. I’ve had it for a few weeks.”

Margo unwrapped the Reese’s, nipped off a corner, chewed and said, “Is that why I caught you asleep at your desk yesterday?”

No, it’s because the job is so goddamn boring. He shook his head. “I wasn’t sleeping. I have the habit of relaxing and closing my eyes whenever I’m searching for the perfect way to convey a particularly difficult concept to our worthy customers.”

“And snoring?”

Margo was smiling now. That same cute smile from high school. He remembered it from the time they’d sneaked a first kiss in the back row of calculus class. The girl he’d loved and lost.

She set the basket down and pulled a twenty from the side pocket of her slacks. “Um…would you…uh…accept a tip?”

“No.”

She shoved the bill into his shirt pocket. “Yes, you will.”

Harvey shifted his weight to his left foot. A liar doesn’t deserve a $20 tip. At most, a few dimes and nickels, couch-cushion change.

Margo finished the peanut butter cup in silence.

He didn’t quite know what to say now.

Yes, he did know. He should tell her the truth.

He’d outsourced his job to India.

Was that illegal? Probably not. But highly unethical. Would she protect him after he’d confessed? Unlikely, which meant he would lose his job. But living a lie was exhausting and just plain wrong. She’d hired him and trusted him. She deserved better. He cleared his throat, once, twice, a third time. “Margo, there’s something I have to tell you. It seems I—”

“Is that the balloon guy?” a young woman called from inside the house.

“That’s my daughter,” Margo said and picked up the basket. A blue balloon bobbed on a string attached to the handle. “I’ll be right back.”

Harvey stood at the open door, trying to think of some way to soften his upcoming confession. Or maybe just blurt it out and get it over with?

“Happy birthday, Dad!”

The daughter’s voice again from inside.

“Candy and a kid’s balloon again this year! Are you trying to tell me something?”

The daughter laughed.

Harvey recognized the man’s voice.

Tucker Aldrich was the CEO of the company where Harvey worked. He was also Margo’s ex-husband and a first-class dickhead.

So, it meant the balloon and candy basket were for Tucker and not some child. Harvey was sorry he’d passed on the Snickers bar.

The hell with telling the truth.

Margo came back out, holding a glass of white wine. She leaned against the door frame. “What were you going to say earlier?”

“Uh…that you’re an over-tipper.”

“Only when the delivery person is a cute, curly-haired guy with a spongy red nose,” she said and sipped her wine. “Did I mention that the meeting’s moved to 10:00?”

“Yes.”

Silence, then Margo said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She closed the door behind her.

Harvey stared at the bronze horsehead knocker. He wanted to rip it off. The door too. He in fact wanted to tear the whole damn building down on Tucker’s head.

Margo hadn’t forgotten that she’d told him about the meeting. Margo was incapable of forgetting. She was warning him to show up.

Team meetings were a nightmare. The scruffy programmers spoke computerese, argued over stuff Harvey didn’t understand, and gleefully pointed out errors in his documentation.

But way off in New Delhi, lovely Amaya understood, and with luck she might save his job.

Tomorrow’s meeting would make or break him.

Harvey shuffled down the walkway, his head lowered, his bunny ears slipping down his forehead. He’d been so shocked to see Margo that he’d forgotten to take them off. One of life’s bad moments.

Still, she had called him cute.

Yeah, sure. He was just hours from turning fifty-six, had found addional gray hairs while shaving that morning, and was thickening around the waist from too many Skittles and Snickers.

Harvey climbed into his car and slumped in the driver’s seat. He was angry with Tucker for stealing Margo and angry at Margo for not offering him a glass of wine. But most of all, Harvey was angry with himself for letting her see him in bunny ears.

When he’d first started making deliveries a few weeks earlier, he’d refused to wear them, then thought, what the hell? Doesn’t everyone at some time want to play the fool? There was no pressure to succeed, to show off, to one-up a colleague.

What if everyone from a prisoner sitting out a life term to the President of the United States had to set aside one day a year and play the fool, to go out in public wearing a spongy red nose and bunny ears?

What-Ifs and Whys had obsessed Harvey as a child, who from morning to night had trailed behind his father and mother and pestered them with questions. (What if there was a ladder to the Moon? What if everyone had four arms? Why is cousin Alice getting those bumps on her chest?)

Later, he would turn his pestering curiosity into a profession. He thought of himself as a ‘speculative historian.’ (What if the Allies had lost the Second World War? What if Caesar hadn’t crossed the Rubicon? What if no one had invented the computer?)

Harvey started the engine, reached over to tap the next address into the GPS, then leaned back.

Why humiliate himself like this? His ex-wife had always insisted he was punishing himself in guilt over his younger brother. Harvey denied this, but he knew she was right.

Enough. He had reached his lifetime quota of humiliation.

Here’s another What-If: What if he quit this goddamn job?

Harvey shut off the engine, climbed out of the car, went around back, and popped the trunk.

A dozen balloons bobbed on basket handles, aching to go free.

Harvey tied the spongy red nose to a balloon that read “Get Well Soon!” He cut it loose. Next, he liberated a black balloon picturing a racecar (“Turning Ten!”). Finally, he tied his rabbit ears to a cluster of white orbs trailing a banner that read, “Congrats, New Parents!” and set the bunch free.

He watched until the last of the balloons caught the breeze and disappeared into the night sky.

He slammed the trunk closed, climbed into his car, and right away started to fret. What if a balloon floated to the harbor for some sea creature to swallow (Headline: “Reckless Ex-Professor Kills Orca!”).

Just one more reason to be angry with himself.

***

Excerpt from The Accidental Spy by David Gardner.
Copyright 2022 by David Gardner.
Reproduced with permission from David Gardner.
All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

David Gardner

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces, and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry.

He co-authored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller,” “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian,” and “The Accidental Spy” (all with Encircle Publications, LLC).

He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography, and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

Catch Up With David Gardner:
DavidGardnerAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @davidagardner07
Instagram – @davidagardner07
Facebook

Tour Participants:

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


Click here to view The Accidental Spy by David Gardner Tour Hosts

Enter to Win!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for David Gardner. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

https://kingsumo.com/js/embed.js

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

Book Showcase: LIFEFORCE by Annie Rodriguez

Lifeforce by Annie Rodriguez
ISBN: 9780999499535 (Paperback)
Publisher: Green Writers Press
Release Date: February 2019
Genre: Fiction | Young Adult | Romantic Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Gillian Cassidy couldn’t save her mother. That was the day immortality lost its appeal. Eight years later, and now a powerful witch in her own right, Gillian has an unwanted visitor haunting her dreams: Sean, her first love. He’s immortal, thanks mainly to her, and seems determined to be with her for eternity. Has she created a monster?

Scared and desperate to escape her nightmares, Gillian must rely on her friends for help. Should she turn to Addie, her mom’s best friend, and a short-tempered vampire? Or should she consult Forrest Wolfe, a lycan who’s looking more handsome every day? Gillian is in trouble, and this time, magic can’t fix it.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

Read an Excerpt:

Gillian gasped as the sound of the office door opening jarred her awake. To her horror, she saw a pencil float up from her desk and speed towards her visitor, moving at a faster pace than she could control right now. Her focus was currently nowhere to be found. It was a surgeon, judging by his scrub cap, and he moved his head slightly to avoid it. She would’ve sighed in relief if she hadn’t set sight on the surgeon’s misty blue eyes.

“Josh, don’t you knock?” It wasn’t as if they were friends.

“Jeez, Gillian, I know you don’t like me very much, but throwing potentially lethal things at me is a little drastic, don’t you think?”

“I’m a witch, Josh. A pencil through the heart would be awfully messy on a white tile floor, wouldn’t you agree?”

“And here I thought your office had an open-door policy.” He didn’t seem offended in the slightest.

“For the one who broke Addie’s heart? Try again.” Gillian crossed her arms and stood up. Josh gave her an uneasy feeling whenever he was around.

“I’m not the one who ended it. That was her doing.”

“And I suppose you had nothing whatsoever to do with that?” Gillian hated when he did this, trying to sound ever so blameless. Someone else might buy it, but she was too well acquainted with Josh’s habits.

“Well, I’m not the one biting lycans, am I?” His smirk told her he couldn’t wait to bring that one up. No wonder Addie had looked more than mildly upset last night.

“To tell the truth, Josh, I’d rather not get into those details.”

“Tell me the werewolf has a thing for you and not Addie.”

Now that she wasn’t expecting.

She let out a deep breath she didn’t know she was holding. Why was he asking? Had Forrest told him something?

“Why would I tell you that?” She tried to sound as calm and nonchalant as possible.

“Because I asked politely, and I want to know.”

She sighed as she took her seat. “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint.”

“Look, next to Addie, you’re the one he spends the most time with and maybe you haven’t noticed, but he does look pretty darn nervous around you.”

“Maybe he trusts Addie more that he trusts me. Did that ever occur to you?”

“With that look he gives you, it’s not a trust issue, I can tell you that.”

“I thought you immortals never looked beyond your own species. Good gracious, are you telling me I’ve been wrong all these years?” Gillian was seldom sarcastic, but she knew the best way to end a conversation with Josh was by annoying him.

“Maybe we don’t, but whoever made lycans immortal was retarded if you ask me. Oh, did I strike a nerve?”

Gillian cleared her throat. Josh’s last remark about immortality had brought her nightmare back to her mind. But that was not a topic she was going to discuss with Addie’s ex.

“Well, seems like you have your mind made up. Why bother to consult with me then?”

“You haven’t confirmed it. Why don’t we make it snappy? I’ve got surgery soon and I’d like to spend it figuring out how to get Addie back. That stupid lycan. She always did have a soft spot for him, and they were friends when I first asked her out, I know. I get it, he saved her life and all, but enough already, I mean—”

“Gillian, do you have a minute?” Gillian looked beyond Josh to find Forrest by her door. He was carrying a bunch of roses wrapped in brown paper.

Excerpt from Lifeforce by Annie Rodriguez.
Copyright © 2019 by Annie Rodriguez.
All rights reserved.
Published by Green Writers Press.

 

Meet The Author

Author photograph, headshot of a Latinx woman with dark brown shoulder-length hair, wearing a brown sweatshirt
Author Annie Rodriguez

Annette “Annie” Rodriguez was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and started to write consistently when she was in tenth grade. As her writing and creative imagination progressed over the years, Annie became confident enough to share her work and create her own characters to go with these magical plots, and alas, the first draft of Lifeforce was born.  

Fast forward to what felt like endless revisions and consultations, Annie’s beloved writing project was picked up for publication by Green Writers Press, and her first novel was published in February 2019! Lifeforce‘s sequel, Immortality’s Peril, is already in the works! 

Annie’s writing is accompanied by her impressive background as a practicing attorney, holding 2 Bachelor’s degrees and 2 Masters! Lifeforce was actually published during her first year of law school! A minority woman who has worked with students, Annie’s passion for writing keeps her sane in the sometimes harsh reality of training to practice law and her many other endeavors.

Connect with the Author: Amazon | Facebook | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Website

This excerpt and showcase brought to you by Farrow Communications

 

Book Showcase: ASSUMED by MHR Geer

ASSUMED by MHR Geer book cover; blue-washed photo with palm tree leaves in the foreground and a yacht on stormy seas in the backgroundAssumed by MHR Geer
ISBN: 9798987115923 (Paperback)
ASIN: B0BLXK18LR (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 296
Release Date: December 2, 2022
Publisher: MG3 Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Thriller

When her friend Sandy asks for help, Anne Wilson leaves her small, lonely life in Miami for the picturesque island of Saint Martin. But as soon as she arrives, Sandy is murdered, and her death exposes lies: an alias, a secret past, stolen money. Suspected of murder and trapped on the island, Anne is shocked when a cryptic message arrives:

Find the money. Take it and run.

She follows Sandy’s trail of obscure clues, desperate for proof of her innocence and must decide if she can trust the two men who offer help-the dark, mysterious Brit or the American with a wide grin and a pickup truck. When memories resurface-dark truths she’d rather leave buried and forgotten, her past becomes intertwined with her present.

Her only way forward is to face her own secrets.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

Read an Excerpt:

A constant stream of jubilant holiday-goers jostled my suitcase as I paced the arrivals gate, but Sandy’s mobile went to voicemail a fourth time. I hung up without leaving another message and strolled past the baggage carousel. Again.

“Where are you, Sandy?” I muttered under my breath.

A man in a white Panama hat vacated a bench, and I collapsed onto the cold metal and hugged the handle of my suitcase. The other passengers exchanged greetings and gathered their baggage, and the automatic door slid open with a swoosh to receive them. Every time the door opened, humid air blasted my face.

The man in the white hat reappeared but saw me and turned away, presumably to find a bench without a slouching, scowling American. I raised my shoulders from a slump and crossed my legs.

“What now, Anne?” I asked myself, tapping the screen of my phone and resisting the urge to check the time.

A young boy, about five years old, wandered over and climbed onto the bench next to me. We exchanged nervous smiles. Couples and families regrouped near the door, and I watched their faces, expecting someone to claim the boy, but the door opened and closed, over and over, and he remained.

I was just about to ask where the boy’s parents were when a tall woman entered and rushed toward us, shouting in French. Her profile was dark against the bright sunlight outside, and her long hair swirled in the vortex of the doorway. The boy pressed against me, and I almost wrapped my arm around him, but the door closed, and she smoothed her hair back into place.

She pulled the boy from the bench, gripping his arms with long, slender fingers. I couldn’t understand her words, but her reprimand was clear. Her green eyes flashed with fear and anger. She blamed me for his disappearance. I shrugged, trying to remember how to apologize in French. Je suis desole? But I was unsure of the words, so I didn’t say anything, and she didn’t wait for my explanation.

He left with her, his little hand firmly inside hers, and when the door opened and whipped her hair back into the air, the boy turned back to me with a smile. I waved.

And then I was alone again.

I jumped when my phone buzzed.

Sorry, Sandy texted. Can’t make it. Take a taxi to 16 Rue de l’Aile Perdue.

I stared at the text and considered purchasing a ticket for a return flight, but my phone buzzed again with a second text.

Please, Anne.

I squared my shoulders and pulled on my sunglasses. Then I walked through the whoosh of the doorway and into the sunlight.

The taxi line had already thinned; it took only a few minutes before a lively man ushered me into the back of a bright green sedan. The driver offered a brusque “Welcome to Saint Martin,” and turned up her radio. Taxi code for no talking. Fine with me.

We sped through narrow streets, dangerously close to sunburned tourists wandering street markets. Stalls spilled out from under a rainbow of awnings, hawking loud shirts and oversized beach towels. The air was thick with cardamom and curry, mixed with the yeasty smell of a patisserie. My stomach rumbled. In my rush to make the early morning flight, I’d skipped breakfast.

We left town and traveled up and down winding roads that cut into the hillsides. The villas grew larger and farther apart and then disappeared into thick foliage behind security gates. I caught occasional glimpses of dirt lanes and even fewer paved driveways. When the driver pulled off the road, I leaned out the window to watch the tops of towering palm trees lining a long gravel driveway. We stopped on a cobbled motor court in front of a massive house.

I stared up at the imposing facade from within the safety of the taxi before I bravely stepped into the blazing sun. I thought there must be some mistake, but before I could say anything, the taxi drove away. Why had Sandy sent me to a dismal mansion and not to one of the dazzling resorts I’d passed?

Beyond the house, the sea stretched to the horizon. Sunlight reflected off the water, awakening childhood fantasies of pirate ships and mermaid tails. But the hot sun quickly melted the daydream, and I retreated into the shadow of the mansion.

Up close, the house was shabby and weather-beaten. Peeling gray paint revealed a history of more colorful choices. The porch railing leaned at a precarious angle, and as I cautiously climbed the rotting steps, the wood complained but held, and I reached the front door and knocked. The sound echoed within the house, but only silence followed. I knocked again, louder, and waited. Nothing.

“Now what?” I asked the house.

The house ignored me, but a piece of paper stuck between two floorboards fluttered in the ocean breeze. I stepped over and picked it up. She’d left a note—an inconsiderate welcome, even for Sandy. I exhaled loudly and unfolded the scrap of paper.

Excerpt from Assumed by MHR Geer.
Copyright © 2022 by MHR Geer.
Published with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

MHR Geer photo: black and white headshot photograph of a white woman with wavy dark-colored hair
Author – MHR Geer

MHR Geer was born in California but grew up in the Midwest. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara to study Physics. After school, she moved to Ventura, CA, and started a small bookkeeping business. She lives with her two sons and her unicorn husband (because he’s a magical creature).

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Website

Giveaway

This is a giveaway for one (1) signed ARC copy of Assumed, one (1) branded tote, one (1) branded koozie, one (1) bookmark, AND a $20 bookstore gift card to a winner in the US or Canada courtesy of MHR Geer. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States and Canada only. All entries by non-US/Canadian residents will be voided. To enter use the Rafflecopter link below or click here.

This giveaway begins at 12:01 AM ET on 01/16/2023 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on 01/22/2023. The winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on 01/23/2023. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

This book tour, excerpt, and giveaway brought to you via Author Marketing Experts

"I am a blog tour host for AME: Author Marketing Experts" button

Book Showcase: THE BLUE BAR by Damyanti Biswas

The Blue Bar by Damyanti Biswas
ISBN: 9781662503917 (Paperback)
ASIN: B09S6TF52M (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09NKMQ9RK (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 385
Release Date: January 1, 2023
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Fiction | Literary Thriller

On the dark streets of Mumbai, the paths of a missing dancer, a serial killer, and an inspector with a haunted past converge in an evocative thriller about lost love and murderous obsession.

After years of dancing in Mumbai’s bars, Tara Mondal was desperate for a new start. So when a client offered her a life-changing payout to indulge a harmless, if odd, fantasy, she accepted. The setup was simple: wear a blue-sequined saree, enter a crowded railway station, and escape from view in less than three minutes. It was the last time anyone saw Tara.

Thirteen years later, Tara’s lover, Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, is still grappling with her disappearance as he faces a horrifying new crisis: on the city’s outskirts, women’s dismembered bodies are being unearthed from shallow graves. Very little links the murders, except a scattering of blue sequins and a decade’s worth of missing persons reports that correspond with major festivals.

Past and present blur as Arnav realizes he’s on the trail of a serial killer and that someone wants his investigation buried at any cost. Could the key to finding Tara and solving these murders be hidden in one of his cold cases? Or will the next body they recover be hers?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

Advanced Praise for The Blue Bar:

“An intense, visceral thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Biswas brings India to life in this tale of a determined detective fighting against his own department’s bureaucracy to catch a twisted serial killer who has spent years mastering his craft. Will leave you breathless!” —Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling suspense novelist

“Immersive, propulsive, and beautifully written. In this gaspingly authentic police procedural about a missing dancer and the police officer who cannot forget her, Biswas transports us to India—not only to investigate a string of murders, but to explore the dark and disturbing life of Mumbai’s bar girls. With its heart-breaking love story and Biswas’ revealing social commentary, THE BLUE BAR will change you, haunt you, and have you understanding the world in a different way.” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today Bestselling Author of HER PERFECT LIFE

Read an Excerpt:

Use the scroll bar on right to read full excerpt

Chapter One

Tara

2002, Borivali Station

Endings are overrated. There’s only one true, certain end—everything else a load of bullshit, or how you call it, bakwaas. Beginnings, though. Beginnings are everywhere. It all began with that midnight-colored saree, thick with dark-blue sequins, its endless sea of shimmering dots stitched by hands that must have cracked and bled over the months of needle in and out of taut cloth in some dingy, godforsaken hole in one of Mumbai’s stinking alleyways.

The saree, draped well below Tara’s navel, scratched against her skin. The low-necked silver blouse scraped her shoulders, but she tried not to think about any of this, or the sweat trickling down her back while she maneuvered through the crush of bodies.

It had rained that afternoon, cooling the air, but not enough for the wide, dark shawl Tara had worn as per instructions. It was never cold enough in Mumbai for shawls. Especially not on a platform at Borivali Station during rush hour, which swarmed thicker than ants on a dead beetle. The voices of hundreds of men and women rose around her, red-uniformed porters yelling at everyone to stand back, squalling children, announcements of all the trains departing from or arriving in India’s city of dreams.

To reach the end of the platform, Tara elbowed her way through the milling passengers. Many regional languages. Body odor. Perfumes. She pushed back against the women, stepping aside for the children and the men who hustled toward her in their rush to leave the platform. If she didn’t give way to the men, they’d shove her at the shoulder if she was lucky; lower, if she wasn’t.

She reached the finish line, where she could step no farther without falling off the platform. A little stretch of emptiness in a cramped city. In the distance stood slums with their tin-and-tarpaulin roofs. Towering above them, shiny billboards advertising refrigerators and televisions, with posters featuring building-sized faces of film stars, the drunken-eyed Shah Rukh Khan, dewy Aishwarya Rai, and the tall, lean figure of the heartthrob all girls swooned over, the sweet, baby-faced Karan Virani.

At seventeen, Tara had learned enough not to swoon over a man, not even Arnav, the police constable who made her heart beat faster these days. She dismissed the posters and did as asked. Stood facing the tracks as if poised to jump down and sprint after departing trains through scattered debris.

When she’d been brought to Mumbai on one of those trains four years ago, the stench of the city had overwhelmed her: a mix of rotting vegetation, frankincense, urine, perfume, frying fish, and the hopes and despair of more people than she’d ever seen gathered in one place. She didn’t notice it anymore. Just like she took for granted her own changed smell—talcum powder and flowery perfume borrowed from the other bar girls. She could never leave, nor did she want to.

She dug in her heels instead, the expensive, pointy-toed silver shoes paired with her blue outfit, and ignored the passengers stepping off the train and navigating their way out of the mob of others waiting to board. A black-coated ticket checker gave her a quick once-over but continued his frenzied rush, sticking charts beside each of the compartment doors.

Tara shifted her weight from one heel to another. She usually got lost in crowds. Most men and even a few women towered over her. Not anymore. She felt tall, and these were absolutely the most glamorous clothes she’d worn, despite the whiff of dry cleaning each time she received them. She’d never looked better. Pity she wasn’t allowed to wear these when gyrating at the bar, where they’d have fetched her a shower of hundred-rupee notes.

Her boss never explained why he paid nearly as much for each of these weird trips to the railway station as she made in a month dancing to lewd Bollywood numbers. Sometimes she wished for more of these trips in a week. Don’t be greedy, Tara, she scolded herself, the way her mother used to, in another life.

The vibrating phone felt like a live thing in her hand. Shetty, the hefty, dark-skinned owner of the bar, had given it to her a month ago, saying she must take care not to lose this toy with its cracked screen and tiny beetle buttons, or else. She pressed the green button he’d showed her, raised the phone to her ear, and said a shaky hayylo into it. Now, said a voice at the other end. She didn’t recognize the speaker but knew what to do.

Dropping her shawl, she posed as per Shetty’s instructions, and counted off the seconds for the phone to buzz again. She donned her I-don’t-give-a-damn look, while all the male passengers, vendors, and policemen noted the drape of her blue saree, the way it left most of her slim midriff exposed, called attention to her breasts. She paid no mind to the breeze at her back, bare but for the two silver strings that held her blouse together. Her breath steady, the same as before going onstage, she longed for the swig of alcohol that helped her through the first part of each evening’s catcalls and groping.

Several low-throated lewd comments and snatches of Bollywood songs followed, but she bit back her litany of swear words. She focused on the rail tracks as if another train were on its way, one she alone knew about.

When the phone shivered in her sweaty palm, she didn’t let her relief show, nor pick up the call. Instead, as instructed, she snatched up the shawl without wearing it, and headed for the stairs leading up to the bridge. An ebb in the crowd after a mass exit of passengers allowed her to make good time. She’d practiced running in these heels.

Breathing hard, she stumbled once at a crack in the platform pavement before she took the stairs as fast as the crowd and her saree would allow her. The slanting afternoon sun caught the sequins, lighting her up. Blind to all but the gaps she slipped through, and the bodies she must kick or elbow past while not losing her balance, she kept up her pace. She must exit the station in precisely three minutes. Her boss had never told her what might happen if she didn’t. Forgetting her resolve to give up on prayers, she sent one up to Ma Kaali and raced on.

From the sixth-floor window of a nearby high-rise, a pair of binoculars stalked her progress as she ran.

Excerpt from The Blue Bar by Damyanti Biswas.
Copyright © 2023 by Damyanti Biswas.
Published with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Headshot photo of Damyanti Biswas, female from India with short brown hair, wearing a black top, in front of a blurred framed print

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine.

Apart from being a novelist, she is an avid reader of true crime, a blogger, and an animal lover. Her ambition has always been to live in a home with more books than any other item, and she continues to work toward that.

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website