2016 Book 127: THE WAGES OF SIN by Nancy Allen

The Wages of Sin: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen 
ISBN: 9780062438768 (paperback – available June 14, 2016)
ISBN: 9780062438751 (ebook)
ASIN: B0166JUGPM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 12, 2016 
Publisher: Witness Impulse 


In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom’s boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.

When Madeleine’s first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie’s advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general’s office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O’Hara joins the defense.

Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows… 



A pregnant woman is viciously beaten and dies. Her boyfriend is the murderer. The pregnant woman’s six-year-old daughter is a witness to the beating. Elsie Arnold, a prosecuting attorney in rural Barton City, McCown County, Missouri has the chance to try a death penalty case in The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen.

Normally, Elsie Arnold, is the last person in the prosecuting attorney’s office expected to assist in a death penalty case, but there are major issues within the prosecuting attorney’s office that afford her this opportunity. The chief assistant prosecuting attorney had to recuse himself as he witnessed the defendant beat the accused at a campsite just a few days prior to the murder. Elsie’s best friend and fellow assistant prosecuting attorney, Breeon Johnson, recuses herself because she doesn’t believe in the death penalty. Elsie is relatively confident she can more than handle this case as second chair with her boss, prosecuting attorney Madeleine Thomas, until her boss decides to contact the States Attorney General’s office for assistance, and enter Samuel Parsons. Just as things are heating up with Elsie’s professional life (or so she thinks), her personal life is slowing down as her lover, Detective Robert Ashlock, has obtained custody of his fourteen-year-old son. Unfortunately for Elsie, she has to function as the liaison between the prosecuting attorney’s office and Family Services on behalf of the six-year-old witness, establish a relationship with a six-year-old witness, and do all of the scut-work for the legal case against the murderer. It isn’t until the actual trial begins, that Elsie begins to realize that all is not as it appears and there’s a lot more to this case than meets the eye. Will she be able to determine all of the major players before it’s too late for her witness and her case?

The Wages of Sin is the third book in the Ozarks Mystery series by Nancy Allen and the first book in this series that I’ve read. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to read the previous books in this series in order to understand what is happening in the current book, as each book seems to function as a standalone with recurring characters. I found The Wages of Sin to be a rather quick read. Ms. Allen provides plenty of colorful characters to keep things interesting (Elsie and Ivy are a riot!). Ms. Allen seems to capture the essence of rural life without being apologetic about the poverty, deprivation, or depravation. If you enjoy reading mysteries  or legal thrillers, then look no further as The Wages of Sin is equal parts mystery and legal thriller.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes 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.”



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The Wages of Sin

Excerpt: THE WAGES OF SIN by Nancy Allen

The Wages of Sin: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen 
ISBN: 9780062438768 (paperback – available June 14, 2016)
ISBN: 9780062438751 (ebook)
ASIN: B0166JUGPM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 12, 2016 
Publisher: Witness Impulse


In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom’s boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.

When Madeleine’s first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie’s advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general’s office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O’Hara joins the defense.

Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows… 



Read an excerpt:

Oh my God. Let this be over, Elsie thought, doodling on the page of a legal pad. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Elsie Arnold had been tied up in Judge Carter’s court for nearly two hours that morning, representing the State of Missouri in a preliminary hearing. The criminal defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree. Only Judge Carter, Elsie thought, would be coldhearted enough to subject her to a robbery prelim on the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend.

Public Defender Josh Nixon was grilling the bank president, Donna Hudson, in cross-examination.

“So you were present at the time of the alleged robbery?”

“Yes—I said so. In my office.”

“But isn’t it true that, if you were shut up in your office, you did not have occasion to hear whether the defendant threatened any harm?”

“The buzzer sounded. I heard it.” The woman sat stiff, with righteous indignation in every wrinkle of her face.

“The alarm, right? But you didn’t hear any statements made by the defendant, did you? Because you remained safely in the back of the bank.”

“I saw the bomb.”

A comical grin grew on the defense attorney’s face; Elsie closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see it.

“The bomb?” he repeated.

“The box. The box with the tape.”

The criminal complaint filed by the prosecution did not allege that the defendant had threatened the bank employee with a bomb. The criminal charge stated that the defendant threatened the use of what appeared to be a bomb.

“Describe this box, please.”

“It was a box, about this size,” she said, making a rectangle shape with her hands. “And it was covered with duct tape.”

“Did the defendant detonate this deadly bomb? This dangerous instrument you described?”

The banker eyed the defense attorney with resentment. “You know what happened.”

“Tell me. For the record.”

“The bank teller gave him the money. Everything in her drawer. He ran out, left that box on the counter.”

“Then what happened?”

“The bomb squad came and took over.”

“What did they do? If you know.”

“They exploded it.” The lines deepened around the woman’s mouth. “They blew it up. And the mess went everywhere.”

“Mess? What kind of mess?”

Elsie wanted to cover her ears to block out the answer that was coming.

“The chocolate, the cherries.”

Josh Nixon leaned on the empty jury box, nodding sagely. “So the bomb was not a bomb at all? It was—what did you say?”

“A box of candy. Chocolate-covered cherries. Wrapped in duct tape.”

“And for the record, Ms. Hudson: was the money recovered? The money from the bank teller’s drawer?”

“Yes, it was. But—”

Before she could complete her sentence, the defense attorney turned his back to her, cutting the witness off. “No further questions,” he said, and walked back to the counsel table. Nixon slid into his seat, stretching his long legs out in front of him and tucking his longish sun-streaked hair behind his ear. He hadn’t bothered to don a tie.

Judge Carter, a slim man in his forties with prematurely silver hair, peered at Elsie over his glasses. “Redirect?”

Elsie stood at the counsel table, looking at the bank president with an encouraging face. “But did it appear to be a bomb? When the defendant threatened the teller with it?”

“Objection,” Nixon said, sitting up straight. “The witness wasn’t present, has no way of knowing other than hearsay!”

Elsie barked back. “You’re the one who opened the door on this line of questioning. In your cross-examination.”

The bank president rose from her chair, the picture of aggrieved fury. “What I want to know,” she said, “is who is going to pay? For that mess? The cleaning of the bank lobby?”

Judge Carter slammed the gavel. The bank president jumped, startled, and hopped back onto her seat on the witness stand.

“Ms. Arnold—further questions?”

“No.”

“Any further witnesses on behalf of the defense?”

“No,” said Nixon.

The judge turned to his clerk. “The court finds probable cause. Defendant is bound over to Circuit Court on the charge of robbery in the first degree. Arraignment to be held Friday at 9:00 A.M.”

When the judge left the bench, Josh Nixon turned to whisper with his client, a long-haired young man with a bushy mustache. The president of Bank of the Hilltop, Donna Hudson, stormed off the witness stand and bore down on Elsie.

“How could I be treated this way in a court of law?”

“No one meant to mistreat you,” Elsie said in a soothing voice. “It was just cross-examination—the defense attorney gets to ask questions. I explained that to you before.”

“But I am the victim. My family owns the bank.”

“That’s right, Donna. But the defense has the right to confront the witnesses against him.”

“Who gave that criminal the right to confront me? I am a taxpaying citizen.”

Elsie backed up a step, angling to make a getaway. “The US Constitution. Sixth Amendment.”

The banker’s eyes narrowed; Elsie sensed that the woman didn’t appreciate the finer points of the Bill of Rights.

“When will the court make him pay for the cleanup? The cleanup of the bank lobby?”

Edging closer to the door, Elsie shook her head. “Hard to say. You think this guy has any money?”

Mrs. Hudson’s unhappy expression showed that the conversation wasn’t over. But as she was about to speak again, Elsie’s friend and coworker, Breeon Johnson, hurried into the courtroom and grabbed Elsie’s arm.

“Downstairs,” Breeon said.

“Now? Right now?” Elsie asked.

“Just one darned minute,” Donna Hudson said. She opened a Louis Vuitton handbag and pulled out a Kleenex, rubbing furiously at her nose. Elsie eyed the bag with curiosity. It was probably the real article. Though as an employee of a rural county in the Ozarks, Elsie didn’t have sufficient acquaintance with designer goods to distinguish the genuine product from a knockoff.

Elsie gave Breeon an inquiring look. “Can you wait a sec?”

Breeon tugged at her arm. “Can’t wait. It’s an emergency.”

Elsie could see from Breeon’s face that she was deadly serious. “Okay,” she said. Looking back at the banker, Elsie spoke hastily. “The system is working, Mrs. Hudson. Your bank robber has been bound over; he’ll be arraigned in Circuit Court, and his case will be set for jury trial. I appreciate your cooperation, and your testimony. But I have to get downstairs.” She looked over to the door; Breeon had just vanished through it. “Something major is going on.”

“But will he pay?”

The woman’s voice rang in Elsie’s ears, and she was tired of hearing it. Turning away, she said, “Yeah. Yes, Mrs. Hudson. He’ll pay.”

“How?”

“The old-fashioned way, I expect. With his liberty.”

The banker protested, her voice shrill, but Elsie departed at a fast pace, and scrambled down the worn marble staircase of the McCown County Courthouse, catching up to Breeon at the back entrance to the Prosecutor’s Office.

“What?” Elsie demanded, as Breeon punched the security buttons to access the private entrance. “What is it?”

Breeon shook her head in disgust. “Another murder. They found the body in a trailer home, right outside the city limits. Can you believe it?”

“Again?” Murder cases were rare in rural McCown County, a small community nestled deep in the Ozark hills of southwest Missouri. Elsie had handled a murder case over the summer, prosecuting a juvenile for the death of a bus driver. A second homicide, occurring within such a short period of time, would shake the entire community.

“Yeah, another woman,” Breeon said, pushing the door open. “But a young one this time.”

“Aw, shit,” Elsie said.

Breeon gave her a look, righteous anger evident in her face. “She was eight months pregnant.”

The news stopped Elsie in her tracks. “A double murder,” she whispered.

© Nancy Allen




Author Bio:

Nancy Allen




Nancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She has tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University. Her first novel, The Code of the Hills, was published by HarperCollins in 2014. The Wages of Sin is the third book in her Ozarks mystery series.






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Review of PRETTY GIRLS by Karin Slaughter

Now Available in Paperback



Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
ISBN: 9780062429070 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062430878 (large print)
ISBN: 9780062429063 (ebook)
ASIN: B00VES8D6K (Kindle version)
Publication Date: April 26, 2016 (paperback edition)
Publisher: William Morrow


#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.  




Claire Scott is the perfect wife and is married to the perfect husband. At least she thought she was married to the perfect husband until he was murdered and she finds he was keeping plenty of secrets from her. Lydia Delgado is far from perfect, but she has turned her life around and continues to struggle to do the best for herself and her daughter. These two sisters come together to search for the truth in Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.


Claire Scott and Lydia Delgado are sisters that have already lived through one tragedy. Their oldest sister, Julia, disappeared twenty-four years ago and that disappearance ripped their family apart. Lydia was already on her way to becoming a wild child, experimenting with drugs before succumbing to addiction. Claire was the quiet, perfect child that grew into the quiet, unassuming, perfect adult. Claire’s life is torn apart when her husband is killed at the hands of a mugger. Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, she arrives back at her home after her husband’s funeral to find out there was a burglary attempt. While trying to find documentation on the valuables in the home, she uncovers some truly nasty porn on her husband’s computer. Shocked and shamed, she does the only thing she can think of and turns it over to the police. But the local police chief tells her it is only a “snuff” film and not a very good one at that. Claire doesn’t quite believe him and turns to her sister Lydia for assistance. What they discover leads them to believe these “films” are linked to current and possibly past abductions/disappearances. Why is the FBI involved in a local murder case? What exactly was Paul Scott involved in before he was murdered? Can Claire and Lydia find out the truth before it is too late?

I found Pretty Girls to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. The story is just as much about the abduction/disappearance of Julia and how a family survives without closure, as it is the present murder of Claire’s husband and the current abduction/disappearances. Ms. Slaughter has crafted a hauntingly beautiful story about family, secrets, betrayal, and survival. The characters are realistic and well-developed. The storylines (and there are stories within stories within stories presented) are wholly believable. There are good guys, not-so-good guys, and really bad guys, and times when it is difficult to determine who the really bad guys are from the not-so-good guys (much like life). Claire is presented as “perfect,” but she is just as flawed as Lydia. I liked that they were able to overcome their past and come together as sisters in the present. Obviously, there’s a lot more going on in this story, and no I’m not going to reveal everything (buy the book!). Just in case you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Pretty Girls and can highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys reading suspense-thrillers. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Slaughter, Pretty Girls is an excellent place to start.

Read an excerpt from Pretty Girls here.


Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss and a print copy via BookSparks PR. 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.”

This review originally posted on 12/25/2015 as part of a BookSparks PR blog tour.

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Book Showcase and Giveaway: THE ADVOCATE’S DAUGHTER by Anthony Franze


The Advocate’s Daughter


by Anthony Franze


on Tour April 2016



The Advocate's Daughter by Anthony FranzeA Washington, D.C. lawyer and a frequent major media commentator on the Supreme Court, Anthony Franze delivers a high-stakes story of family, power, loss and revenge set within the insular world of the highest court of our country.


#1 New York Times bestseller Lee Child called The Advocate’s Daughter “smart, sophisticated, suspenseful, and written with real insider authenticity.” Suspense Magazine hailed it as “the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to suspense.” And Library Journal said it “gives readers an inside peek at the world of the Supreme Court, and tossing in an intriguing mystery only adds to the thrills.”


* * *


Among Washington D.C. power players, everyone has secrets they desperately want to keep hidden, including Sean Serrat, a Supreme Court lawyer. Sean transformed his misspent youth into a model adulthood, and now has one of the most respected legal careers in the country. But just as he learns he’s on the short list to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, his daughter, Abby, a talented and dedicated law student, goes missing. Abby’s lifeless body is soon found in the library of the Supreme Court, and her boyfriend, Malik Montgomery, a law clerk at the high court, is immediately arrested. The ensuing media frenzy leads to allegations that Malik’s arrest was racially motivated, sparking a national controversy.


While the Serrat family works through their grief, Sean begins to suspect the authorities arrested the wrong person. Delving into the mysteries of his daughter’s last days, Sean stumbles over secrets within his own family as well as the lies of some of the most powerful people in the country. People who will stop at nothing to ensure that Sean never exposes the truth.



Book Details:


Genre:      Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Published by: Minotaur Books


Publication Date: March 22nd 2016


Number of Pages:  320


ISBN:   1250071658 (ISBN13: 9781250071651)


Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads


Excerpt:


CHAPTER 1



Washington, D.C., Suburbs

Present Day

There should have been a sign. A feeling. Some sense of impending doom. But Sean Serrat’s day started like any other.

“Daddy, guess what?”

Sean always felt a tiny rush of emotion when his children called him Daddy, a word that was fading to extinction in his home.

“Daddy,” Jack repeated. Sean glanced at his son, who was perched on a stool at the granite kitchen counter shoveling Cheerios into his mouth. Sunshine cut through the window and a shadow fell across the seven-year-old’s round face. Jack’s teenage brother, Ryan, sat next to him crunching a bagel.

“What is it, buddy?” Sean stood near the stove, bowl in one hand, spoon in the other, trying not to drip on his tie.

“I told my friend, Dean, about our family Money Jar.”

“Yeah?”

“I told him that some families have Swear Jars where you have to put money in if you say a bad word. But we have a Money Jar that has money in it and you say bad words into the jar.” Jack cupped his orange juice glass over his mouth and demonstrated with a muffled, “Butt, poop, ass.”

Ryan blurted a laugh, spattering flecks of bagel over the countertop.

Sean tried to hold back a smile. “I don’t think you should tell your friends about the Money Jar,” he said. “And maybe let’s not tell Mommy about—”

“Don’t tell Mommy what?” Emily said, strolling into the kitchen. She wore black yoga pants and a T-shirt and her skin glistened from her morning jog. The boys snickered and Sean reached for the coffee pot and poured Emily a cup.

Emily’s eyes narrowed. “What are you boys up to?”

“Us? Up to something?” Sean said, handing her the coffee.

Emily gave a sideways look: Silly boys. She smelled the coffee, smiled, and took a sip. “You look so handsome,” she said. She set the mug on the counter and adjusted the knot on Sean’s tie. “The new suit looks great. Are you excited for your first day?”

Sean gave a fleeting smile, trying to look sufficiently enthusiastic, something he knew his wife would see through. The job change had been Emily’s idea. No, her demand.

“Hey Dad,” Ryan said, “what’s with the suit? I thought you were gonna be the boss, so doesn’t that mean you can just wear jeans or whatever you want?”

“It’s a big law firm, kiddo, and I’m not the boss. And anyway, I don’t take fashion advice from eighth-graders who need a haircut and can’t keep their pants pulled up.”

“Seriously, go with jeans,” Ryan said. “Set the tone. Show a little confidence.”

“Leave Dad alone,” Emily said. “He’s going to be the talk of the ladies at the office.” She clasped Sean’s chin in her hand and pressed his cheeks together. “How often do you think a tall, dark, and handsome man walks into that stuffy law firm?” She tippy-toed and gave Sean a soft kiss.

“Guys, please.” Ryan lifted a hand to shield his eyes.

Sean grabbed his wife’s bottom to torture his fourteen-year-old.

Ryan shuddered. “Really, stop.”

“You and Jack go get your backpacks together for school,” Sean said. “Unless you want us to make out a little first.” He wrapped his arm around Emily’s waist and pulled her to him.

“I’m out,” Ryan said. Hands on his temples like horse blinders, he marched out of the kitchen. His little brother imitated the move and followed after him.

“You said you might see Abby today?” Emily asked.

“Yeah. I’m going to a reception this afternoon at Georgetown for Justice Malburg’s retirement. Jonathan told me she’d be there.”

“Did Jon say how she’s doing?” Emily opened the refrigerator door. Its face was a collage of family photographs and Jack’s artwork held in place with magnets. Under one of the magnets, a bumper sticker: STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT, EVEN IF YOU’RE STANDING ALONE.

“He says Abby’s the star research assistant of all his students.”

“Tell her to call me. And that she’d better come to dinner tonight. She missed last week, and tonight’s a celebration.”

Sean nodded. “That reminds me,” he said, “did she talk with you yesterday?”

“No, why?”

“I missed her call when I was at Brooks Brothers. She left me a voice mail that she wanted to talk about something, but with all the running around to get ready for today, I forgot to call back.”

“Did she sound okay?” Emily asked. Her smile lines were always more pronounced when she was worried. “I haven’t heard from her in a couple days.”

“It didn’t sound urgent. And she didn’t call back, so I’m sure she’s fine. I’ll see what she needs today at Georgetown.”

Distorted music whined from the kitchen counter. “Who Knew” by Pink. Last summer Abby had changed her mother’s ringtone as a joke, and Emily never figured out how to switch it back. Abby and Emily both now walked around with Pink blaring from their phones whenever someone called.

“Maybe that’s her.” Emily scanned the iPhone, then tapped on the screen, sending the call to voice mail. “Just Margo,” she said with a frown.

“Abby’s fine. I’ll tell her to give you a call.”

Sean kissed his wife and called out good-byes to his sons. On the walk to the subway he thumbed a text to Abby. She didn’t reply.

CHAPTER 2

Sean made his way down the escalator into the concrete arches and dim light of the Metro. The station smelled of smoldering rubber, and his tie blew over his shoulder in the push of air from a train entering the platform. He waved his SmarTrip card over the scanner at the gate and stepped into the train car just before the unforgiving doors clamped shut.

The orange vinyl seats were filled, and Sean gripped the metal handrail, trying not to lose his footing as the train jerked and jostled. He looked about the subway car. It was the usual cast: college students hypnotized by their phones, tourists wearing flip-flops and studying their travel guidebooks, and government workers with laminated security badges dangling from cords around their necks, the quintessential Washington status symbol. He caught one of the government types stealing a look at him. The man’s gaze dropped back to the Washington Post. Sean wondered if the guy recognized him from the story in that morning’s paper. Sean had already received several e-mails from friends about the piece: Nice photo—smile much? Don’t forget us little people. Mr. Big Shot, and the like. The story, and others like it over the past two weeks, speculated that Sean had resigned from the solicitor general’s office in anticipation that the president would soon nominate him to the Supreme Court; that Sean needed some daylight between himself and the controversial abortion and privacy cases that the office would handle next term. As is often the case in Washington, the truth was more pedestrian. The two Fs: family and finances. Heading the appellate group at a large law firm meant he’d have dozens of junior lawyers at his disposal—a large staff would allow him to be home more for the boys. And the firm paid ten times what he made at the solicitor general’s office, ending his constant worries about surviving in overpriced D.C. on a government salary.

For most lawyers, the prospect of being on the short list for a Supreme Court nomination would be thrilling, an actor’s Oscar nomination. For Sean, though, the newspaper story was unsettling. Not because of the job. After years of representing the federal government before the Supreme Court, he could do the job. History had shown that several justices had been dummies, and they’d gotten by. It was the attention. A nomination meant public scrutiny. A vetting. Which meant a deep look into his past. And that was something he didn’t want or need.

The train pulled into Dupont Circle. Sean stepped aside to let an elderly woman totter out. It was then that he felt a hard shoulder bump from behind. It wasn’t a brush-by—it had some energy to it. Purposeful. He watched the man with greasy hair and flannel shirt push roughly out of the subway car into the crowd on the platform. As the train doors started to close, the man twisted around and looked Sean in the eyes.

“They know, Sean,” he said. “They know.”

Sean did a double take. Did he just say my name? The train pulled away from the station, and Sean watched through the window as the man vanished into the sea of commuters. Sean must’ve misheard. Then it dawned on him. That damn story in the Post. But the guy said, They know. All the attention was making him paranoid.

The train hit Sean’s stop at Farragut North, and he walked the two blocks to the Harrington & Caine building. In the lobby, he paused for a moment and took it all in. A glass and steel atrium spiraled up twelve stories, each floor occupied by more than a hundred lawyers. Three women in headset mikes sat behind a sleek reception table. Copies of The Wall Street Journal were neatly folded beside leather chairs in the waiting area. The setting was a stark contrast to the ornate fifth floor of the Justice Department building where Sean had spent most of his career. No portraits, no crown moldings, no American flags or other pretentious symbols of the Office of the Solicitor General and its important work representing the United States before the Supreme Court. Harrington & Caine had a modern, ruthless design. A fitting metaphor, Sean thought, for his move from the self-important government sphere to the rainmaking-obsessed planet of Big Law.

As Sean checked in at the front desk, his phone vibrated and he read the text message from Emily:

Good luck today! I love you!

p.s. still no word from Abby 😦

CHAPTER 3

The morning at Harrington & Caine was a haze of computer training, tax and benefit forms, and lots of people whose names Sean would never remember. By early afternoon, he was eager to see some familiar faces at the reception for Justice Malburg.

He took a cab to First Street and walked to the Georgetown Law campus. A small fleet of black Cadillacs were parked along First, which Sean assumed was the security detail for the Supreme Court justices attending the event. A clock tower stood under a cloudless April sky, cutting a narrow shadow over the only patch of grass on the urban campus.

“Sean,” Cecilia Lowenstein called to him in her husky voice. She gave him a cheek-to-cheek kiss. He’d once told her that he hated the faux European greeting, but that only encouraged Cecilia. Sean scanned the queue at the entrance of the Hotung International building. The line was filled with Washington’s upper echelon: the Supreme Court Bar. A group of insufferable blowhards. Intellectual elitists. Terrible dressers. His people.

“Well, if it isn’t the ‘modest superstar’ I’ve read so much about,” Cecilia said, flapping a copy of the Washington Post.

Sean frowned and shook his head. “Let’s not…”

“You’re no fun.” Cecilia adjusted her skirt and wobbled slightly in heels that seemed taller than she could handle. “So how’s your first day in private practice? Realized how much it sucks yet?”

“They’re still just showing me where the restrooms are and how to turn on my computer, so I haven’t had to deal with billable hours yet.”

“Ugh, don’t get me started about billables. We were spoiled at OSG.” Cecilia, like most of the Supreme Court community, spoke in abbreviations and acronyms. It wasn’t the Office of the Solicitor General, it was OSG. It wasn’t Justice Robert Reeves Anderson, it was RRA. A case wasn’t dismissed as improvidently granted, it was DIG-ed. There was the GVR (granted, vacated, and remanded) and the CVSG (the court calling for the views of the solicitor general), and the list went on. An ivory tower version of annoying teenage text-speak.

Cecilia scrutinized the line ahead of them. “Most of these schmucks charge a thousand bucks an hour for lower court appeals, but will take the Supreme Court cases for free just so they can get oral arguments. With the justices hearing fewer and fewer cases every term, times are tough, my friend. And your law firm’s gonna be so starstruck the first year that they won’t give you grief that you’re not pulling in much money, but that’ll change.”

Sean had heard this a million times from Cecilia, who’d left OSG two years ago to head the appellate group at Beacher & Bishop. She was right that getting Supreme Court cases in private practice wasn’t easy. At OSG, they were part of a small band of elite government lawyers whose sole job was to represent the United States government in cases before the Supreme Court. The office was so influential with the nine justices that the solicitor general often was called “The Tenth Justice.” They didn’t have to go out and hustle for work; the cases came to them. The court accepted only about seventy out of seven thousand petitions requesting review each term, so in private practice the competition for a piece of that 1 percent was fierce. It was an open secret that when the court granted certiorari in a case, even the most prominent Supreme Court lawyers would engage in the distasteful practice of cold calling or e-mailing the parties offering to take the case for free. Still, it gave Sean solace that despite her gloom and doom, Cecilia already had racked up seven arguments while in private practice.

“Thanks for the pep talk,” Sean said wearily. “I can always count on you, Cel.”

“So, you really don’t want to talk about this?” Cecilia flapped the newspaper again.

Sean rolled his eyes.

“You know I hate modesty,” Cecilia said.

“I’m hardly being modest. We all know who’s getting the nomination.” Sean’s gaze cut to Senator Mason James, who was at the front of the line.

Cecilia wrinkled her nose. “Maybe you’re right. Those dumb shits on the Hill are determined to get one of their own on the court—even if it means a schemer like James. But clients will still be impressed, so you should take advantage of the attention.” All nine of the current justices had been federal judges at the time of their appointment, something a block of senators had criticized as a departure from history that left the court too detached from the policy implications of its decisions. Senator James, the former attorney general of Virginia and a brilliant legal mind, offered the best of all worlds, they said. But Sean considered James as nothing more than a politician.

At the entrance, the dean of the law school and Professor Jonathan Tweed greeted guests.

Cecilia scowled at the sight of Professor Tweed. “Your buddy seems to be relishing the attention as usual.”

“Can you be nice today?”

Cecilia didn’t respond. When they reached the receiving line, she skipped by Tweed and greeted the dean with a hug.

Tweed gripped Sean’s hand. “I see some things never change,” Tweed said, shooting a glance at Cecilia.

Sean shrugged.

“No wait, I take that back,” Tweed said. “Things do change. I thought you’d never sell out and join the private sector.”

“Maybe if law schools didn’t pay professors so much, we parents wouldn’t have to change jobs to afford the tuition.”

“You obviously haven’t seen my pay stub,” Tweed replied.

Sean grinned and then eyed the bandage that ran from Tweed’s left temple to the middle of his cheek. “I hope the other guy looks worse.”

“If only my life was so exciting,” Tweed said. “Biking accident—hit some gravel in Rock Creek Park. I was on a date, so it was a little embarrassing.”

“Hard to keep up with the nineteen-year-olds, I guess,” Sean said.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Tweed said, scanning for who was in earshot. “She was twenty.”

Sean emitted a small, dry laugh.

Tweed said, “I’ll come by and chat in a bit. And, hey, you’re in private practice now, so you need to actually say hello to people and be friendly.”

“Is Abby here?” Sean asked.

“I haven’t seen her. But you don’t think she’d miss out on being the envy of her classmates, do you?” Tweed pointed up. Windows lined the second-floor atrium overlooking the reception area. Law students were pressed against the glass gawking at the assemblage of legal elite.

Sean smiled. “I suppose she wouldn’t. If you see her before I do, please send her my way.”

Tweed nodded, already shaking hands with the next person in line.

“Get you a drink?” Cecilia asked. She plucked a cracker with olive tapenade from a silver tray offered by a server. Sean looked about the room. All clans accounted for. The former solicitor generals, the legal giants who got the best Supreme Court cases in private practice, mingled near the bar. At the boundaries, huddled in groups of three or four, the current staff of OSG. They talked in whispers and studiously displayed their non-alcoholic drinks. And at the center of the room, the VIPs: the dean, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress. Circling them were the nakedly ambitious. Sean saw Senator James chatting with Justice Scheuerman. The senator let out a big laugh at whatever the justice had said. Sean was sure it wasn’t that funny.

Cecilia clutched Sean’s arm. “There’s Justice Carr, let’s say hello.”

“I’d really rather just wait for the program to start.” Carr was the newest member of the high court, confirmed just a few months ago. He was the only member of The Nine whom Sean had never met. From what he knew, though, Thaddeus Dupont Carr—”T.D.” or “Touch Down” to friends—was one of those guys you loved to hate. College football star (thus the nickname), editor of the Stanford Law Review, and the youngest judge appointed to the Ninth Circuit until he breezed through the Supreme Court confirmation process.

“Come on, you’ll like him. He’s got a dry sense of humor, like you,” Cecilia said. “You’re coming.”

Cecilia soon had Justice Carr laughing. She was famously profane and didn’t censor herself for anyone, Supreme Court justices included. Carr finally turned to Sean and said, “I don’t envy you.”

Sean gave an apologetic smile and said, “Oh, Cecilia’s harmless, you just have to get used to her lack of a filter.” He’d spent a career apologizing for Cecilia.

The justice chortled. “No, I meant this morning’s story in the Post. I remember when the press was speculating about my nomination. Reporters actually dug through the trash cans at my house.”

Sean furrowed his brow. “Seriously?”

“Dead serious,” Justice Carr said. “Be careful.”

Sean nodded, not sure how to respond. After a few seconds, he opted for changing the subject. “My daughter met you recently.”

“Oh yeah?”

“She’s a law student here. Jon Tweed brought a group of his students to the court in January. Abby said your talk was ‘inspirational.’ Her word.”

The justice laughed. “Oh, to be young and so easily fooled.”

Senator James brushed by. Justice Carr’s eyes traced James’s path.

“Want some free advice?” Carr asked.

“From you?” Sean said. “Of course.”

“When I was being considered for the nomination, someone wisely told me to always keep an eye on the competition.”

Sean nodded.

“But in your case,” Carr tilted his head toward Senator James, “you might want to get a food taster.”

Cecilia was right. Sean was starting to like Justice Carr.


Copyright © 2016 Anthony Franze.



Author Bio:

Anthony Franze

ANTHONY FRANZE has garnered national praise for his work as a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court practice of a major Washington D.C. law firm. The New York Times, Washington Post, and other prominent news outlets have quoted or cited Franze concerning the Supreme Court, and he has been a commentator on high-court issues for The New Republic, Bloomberg, and National Law Journal. He lives in the Washington D.C. area with his family.





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Book Showcase and Giveaway: DECEIVED by Ashlee Mallory


Deceived


by Ashlee Mallory


Book Blast on April 18, 2016




Deceived He took everything. Now it’s her turn…

Former foster kid Olivia Michaels is finally about to have it all. She’s recently engaged, and on the cusp of earning a big promotion at a job she loves. But her perfect life is ripped apart by accusations of insider trading and fraud, and ultimately the murder of her best friend. Faced with the possibility of life in prison—or worst, death—she accepts a deal. A plea of guilty for something she didn’t do, in exchange for three years in prison.

Olivia’s lost everything. The only thing she has left now is time. Time to remember what she’s lost. Time to realize who had the most to gain. Time to plan exactly how she’s going to exact her revenge. When she leaves those prison walls, she’ll have more than just a new family of friends who’ll have her back; she’ll have a plan. And he’ll never see her coming.

Grab hold for this fast-paced, high-stakes caper that won’t let go!



Book Details:


Genre:  Thriller
Published by:   Indie
Publication Date:   April 18, 2016
Number of Pages:  299
ISBN: 9780997003505  
Series: A Final Justice Thriller, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The hammering pain in my head finally brought me into consciousness, although I couldn’t yet bring myself to open my eyes. I lay there, trying to remember what happened. Someone had struck me. But Charlotte had been next to me and the blow…

I was wet, cold, and there was a strange smell in the air, an earthier smell, like copper, like…

I opened my eyes and managed to turn my head.

Blood.

I sat up and winced as pain and nausea hit me over the sudden movement. Why was I wet? Why was there blood on my hands? My shirt? Had my head been bleeding? And where was Charlotte?

I couldn’t rise, not just yet, and came to my knees, crawling to the coffee table and my cell phone. This wasn’t right. Something was wrong.

Someone might still be here.

Where was Charlotte?

There was pounding again, only not from my head and voices called out. Police? Then there were officers swarming in.

Relieved, I sat back on the carpet, dropping my head to my hands. What had just happened? There was so much talking, someone asked me if I was okay, who I was, if anyone else was in the house. I shook my head as I tried to make sense of their questions.

“We have a body,” a female officer called out.

I turned to the officer, who was looking down at something behind the couch, already calling it in.

“What do you mean?” I stumbled to my feet, but wavered instantly. Before I could buckle back down, arms were around me.

“Olivia? Are you okay?” It was Ethan. He’d arrived and was holding me up. “Oh my God, what happened? Is that your blood? Are you bleeding?”

But I was barely listening. They’d said a body and I threw myself forward, trying to see something, anything.

Her feet were the first thing I spotted. She’d been wearing her black Jimmy Choos that we’d picked up on her birthday four months before, but one had fallen off and was next to her now bare foot.

Still, so still.

Another officer came over, stepping around the bod—around Charlotte. “I think we have a weapon.”

I’d reached the area where Charlotte was lying, her eyes glassy as they looked up, lifeless. Her pretty blonde hair streaked with fresh blood. The carpet underneath her deep crimson. Sure enough, by her side was something. The lamplight made the surface of the long scissors almost glisten—except where the dark color that could only be blood covered them.

The female officer squatted down along with the male officer to look at her, neither of them touching anything. The eggshell blouse she’d been wearing was now mostly red and it was apparent from the wound and the blood pooled underneath that she’d been stabbed in the throat.

I couldn’t stop the sob this time as I screamed her name. Over and over.

And then there was a prick in my arm and I was floating, adrift. And darkness again took me.



Author Bio:

Ashlee MalloryAshlee Mallory is a USA Today Bestselling author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Thrillers. A recovering attorney, she currently resides in Utah with her husband and two kids. She aspires to one day include running, hiking and traveling to exotic destinations in her list of things she enjoys, but currently settles for enjoying a good book and a glass of wine from the comfort of her couch.


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Book Showcase: NOTORIOUS by Carey Baldwin


Notorious


by Carey Baldwin


on Tour April 5 – May 13, 2016





Notorious by Carey BaldwinThe woman everyone loves to hate is dead.

Dallas socialite Cynthia Langhorne is infamous for her beauty, her philanthropy, and her home wrecking—until she’s found shot through the heart and posed nude at a fundraising ball. The case is high profile, and there’s a bigger problem: Cindy is the wife of a decorated FBI special agent—the prime suspect in her murder.


When the Bureau sends FBI profiler Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy to Texas on behalf of Dutch Langhorne, the special agent-turned-suspect, they’re suspicious of the very man whose interests they’re supposed to protect. But with a psycho hitman on their heels and a trail of evidence leading up the food chain, it quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary case. The truth points to someone—or something—larger than Spenser and Cassidy ever thought possible. Solving this case is no longer a matter of clearing Dutch’s name—it’s a matter of national security.



Book Details:


Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Published by:   Witness Impulse
Publication Date:   Feb 2, 2016
Number of Pages:  336
ISBN:   006238709X (ISBN13: 9780062387097)
Series: Cassidy & Spenser #3
Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads


Want to know more about Notorious? Read this excerpt:


CHAPTER 1



Sunday, October 13

10:00 P.M.

Dallas, Texas



When heading for a secret rendezvous with her lover, it simply wouldn’t do to appear to be sneaking off. So it was with a proud, unflinching spine, that Cynthia Beasley Langhorne ascended the grand staircase at the Worthington Mansion—one of Dallas’s most celebrated historic landmarks.

Golden light from opulent chandeliers flooded the plush, red carpet runner on the steps, giving her the eerie feeling she was wading into a river of blood. To keep from tripping, she lifted her Stella McCartney gown above her ankles. Its blue silk-chiffon swooshed, whispering secrets against her skin and tickling her bare legs. The mingled scents of money, power, and perfume floated up from the ballroom, along with the strains of Mozart and crashing cymbals. To those looking on with interest, and there were plenty of gawking eyes fixed on her, she supposed she appeared to be gliding with ease. But in truth, the crushing weight of her charmed life made each demure step as tortuous as a death march.

Bracing herself with a deep breath, she cast a glance over her shoulder at her handsome, unreachable husband, who was posted in the middle of the marble foyer below. She kept her head turned long enough to catch Dutch’s eye, allowing a few paparazzi to capture her impenetrable smile. Mona Lisa had nothing on her. No one would ever guess her thoughts or her true purpose—at least so far, no one ever had. And that was her curse in life. Blessed with wealth and notoriety, her heart would remain forever unseen, her diary her only confidante.

In spite of her determination, her steps slowed involuntarily, giving Dutch every chance to stop her. If he had so much as raised an eyebrow at her, she might’ve turned back and run straight for his arms. But, of course, he didn’t, and his indifference bolstered her faltering courage. She tossed her head, knowing the effect of her silky, auburn hair swinging across her bare shoulders would be dazzling. The music lulled, as if paying its respects like a gentleman rising to his feet when a lady exits the room. A flurry of flashing lights was accompanied by the electric sound of cameras clicking.

When her husband had asked her where she was going, she’d answered truthfully, “I’m meeting Matthew Cambridge, darling. I promise I won’t be long.”

Dutch’s eyes had glinted dangerously—but only for a moment. Then he sent her an insouciant smile. “Tell Matt that I’m the one who brought you to this god-awful-boring fund-raiser, and I’d like to dance with my wife at some point, let’s say before midnight.”

“Before midnight it is,” she’d promised.

Then he’d taken her hand, and she’d willed him not to let it go—not to let her go. But let her go he did.

Now a resigned sigh escaped her lips because it was too late for regrets. Her husband was married to his work. His passion was reserved for the FBI, and there was nothing to be done about that. Though she would give her own life to protect the damnable fool, the separate paths she and Dutch had chosen were paved with the cold stone of one irrefutable truth.

He doesn’t love me.

As her brown eyes locked with his frosty blue ones, she raised her chin and blinked away the moisture that blurred her vision. When her chest tightened, she commanded her body to relax, then raised her hand to her lips and blew him a kiss. She turned her back fully, then continued her march—not because she didn’t love her husband but because she did.

And because if she didn’t go through with this, the only thing that mattered would be destroyed.

Up the stairs, down the hall, and behind a closed bedroom door, she shed her clothing. She folded her silks, laying them neatly on a side chair, then hung her delicate gown in the closet. A chill seeped down to her bones, and a shiver swept over her. Without her garments, she felt as vulnerable as a soldier going into battle without armor.

But she had no choice.

The cost of defeat would be unbearably high.

Naked now, she arranged herself seductively on the bed, pressing her hand on her stomach to suppress the wave of anticipatory nausea. Pretending she was somewhere else, she closed her eyes. A creak of floorboards signaled her paramour’s approach. The door whooshed open. She steeled her resolve and forced her eyelids up.

But what she saw, there, in the doorway, turned her blood to ice and froze a scream, forever, in her throat.


© 2016  Witness Impulse & Carey Baldwin



Author Bio:

GREAT NEWS! Judgment, the first book in my Cassidy & Spenser Thriller series, has been named one of the “BEST BOOKS of 2014” by SUSPENSE MAGAZINE. 

Both Judgment & Confession are BOOKSELLERS BEST AWARD Finalists 

Judgment is a DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN MYSTERY/SUSPENSE Finalist and a SILVER FALCHION finalist.

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.


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2016 Book 109: GLASS SHATTERS by Michelle Meyers

Glass Shatters by Michelle Meyers
ISBN: 9781631520181 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781631520198 (ebook)
ASIN: B01BZYZWX4 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 12, 2016 
Publisher: She Writes Press


A man wakes up in a living room he doesn’t recognize, unable to remember anything about himself. All he has are the few remnants of his identity scattered throughout the house clues to his past. He soon learns that he is Charles Lang, a brilliant scientist whose wife, Julie, and daughter, Jess, mysteriously disappeared several years ago. Soon, he begins to recover memories—memories that may or may not be his own and as he does, he realizes that only by uncovering the details of his former life will he have any hope of being reunited with Julie and Jess. A haunting tale of love and longing, fate and free will, and the easily blurred lines between fiction and reality, Glass Shatters explores the risks of trying to reinvent oneself, and the dangers of pushing science to its limits. 




Charles Lang is, by all accounts, a famous and gifted scientist. Sadly, he has no memory of who he is, what he’s been doing for the past few months or years, or even where he’s been. The only thing he does seem to remember is that his wife and daughter have disappeared in Glass Shatters by Michelle Meyers.

Charles is, or rather was, a renowned scientist in the fields of biotechnology and bioengineering. As his story is gradually revealed, we learn that he had disappeared for six months. His neighbors, Iris and her daughter Ava, have missed him and are glad for his return. Charles realizes that he has only vague memories of these two, as well as vague memories of his life before his disappearance. As he begins to reacquaint himself with his past, he begins to have memories of his wife Julie and his daughter Jess. But these memories seem almost false as if he’s remembering on behalf of someone else. As he tries to rationalize his memories with what he’s being told, he also has a mysterious roommate; an older gentleman that he initially presumes is his father. Memories gradually return and he realizes his parents died when he was just eighteen-years-old, so this person can’t be his father, but who is he? The more Charles uncovers, the more he feels that things are off. The more questions he answers, the more questions arise. Where are Julie and Jessica? Whose memories is he remembering? Who exactly is he?

Glass Shatters was a relatively fast-paced read, but one that kept me off-balanced from beginning to end. It is highly probable that Ms. Meyers has done this intentionally in an effort to keep the reader as off-balanced as the main character. Charles’s story is revealed in alternating glimpses of the past and the present. One minute we’re dealing with the thirty-four-year-old Charles and the next he’s eight, thirty-one, twenty-three, eighteen, four, etc. It isn’t until the last few chapters that Ms. Meyer’s reveals all and it is quite the shocker (no, I’m not going to tell you what happens . . . read the book!). Glass Shatters is part mystery, part psychological thriller, and part science-fiction. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Well, I’m still trying to decide simply because this was a vastly different read for me (okay, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either). This confusion isn’t because Glass Shatters is such a mash-up of genres or even that it was told in alternating past and present; it’s more because of the strange ending. Yes, it makes sense when you read it and provides closure, but it is still a little strange and came at me from left field. In the end, I can say that if you’re looking for a quick read that offers something vastly different from most mystery-thrillers, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Glass Shatters to read. Although I’m still up in the air about liking this book, I look forward to reading more from Ms. Meyers in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and a print galley via BookSparks PR. 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.”




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Book Blast: ALAS, SHE DROWNED by Monica Knightley


Alas, She Drowned by Monica Knightley
ASIN: B01E0R0ID2
Publication Date:  April 12, 2016
Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Murder. Betrayal. Duplicity.

When ex-novice nun, turned steamy romance writer, Maggie O’Flynn moves to the charming village of Stratford Upon Avondale to open a tea room she expects plenty of murder, betrayal, and duplicity. On the stages of the town’s renowned Shakespeare Festival. But when a theater critic is found murdered on the town’s riverbank and the prime suspect turns out to be the sexy bookshop owner Maggie has had her eye on, she takes matters into her own hands. Will she be able to dig through the layers of betrayal and duplicity to find the true murderer before that handsome bookseller, Nate Larimer, finds himself behind bars? With the help of her loud, brash, spitfire of a friend, Gina Mattucci, Maggie plans to do just that.

With a bit of Shakespeare, copious amounts of tea, and a faux-English setting to rival anything the real England has to offer, Alas, She Drowned is the first book in The Stratford Upon Avondale mystery series. Lovers of cozy mysteries will find a cozy home in Stratford Upon Avondale.


Read an excerpt:

As I placed the sandwich board advertising, “Authentic English Cream Teas, $7.99”, outside my twee tea room I came to a realization. In the past two weeks alone, I’d had all the murder, mayhem, scandal, and treachery I could handle.

When I’d moved from my home in Philadelphia to this small town four months earlier I had no idea it was such a hotbed of scandal. Murders were commonplace; duplicity abounded; treachery was to be expected.

And yet the place is bucolic beyond words. Nestled in a rural corner of a western state, it is surrounded by orchards and vineyards. But much of its claim to fame is the center of town which resembles a quaint English village, with every building seeming to have been lifted from Tudor or Victorian England. Mullioned windows, exposed timbers, bay windows, gables, and jettied top floors appear to be building code requirements.

But still, all that murder and duplicity.

Murder and duplicity that could be found on Stratford Upon Avondale’s two renowned stages. The five-month long Shakespeare festival is the town’s raison d’être.  

In my short time in the village I had already attended three plays—two Shakespeare and one production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Yes, that was indeed plenty of murder and scandal, and the festival had just begun. 

“Morning, Maggie,” called out Mrs. Vachon from the souvenir shop three doors down the street, where she was meticulously sweeping the sidewalk. After a few days of clouds and rain, the morning sun felt warm and welcome, and I noticed Mrs. Vachon wasn’t the only merchant outside tidying up.

“Good morning.” I waved at the energetic, gray-haired woman who’d been running her shop for over forty years.

Maggie O’Flynn—I was the newbie in town. Most of the business owners in the town dedicated to all things Shakespeare and England,— despite being five thousand miles from English soil—had been here for years. Yet they all welcomed me with open arms when I purchased the Merry Wives Tea Room and settled into their town.



Meet the author:

Monica Knightley began creating compelling characters and stories at the age of three, when she had a plethora of imaginary friends, all with complete backstories. Today any characters that come knocking on the door of her imagination find themselves in one of her mysteries, young adult novels, or paranormal romances.

When not fueling her reading addiction or writing her next book, Monica loves to travel with her husband, with England being her favorite frequently visited destination, and perhaps France coming in a close second. She can’t live without perfectly steeped tea, a good bold red wine, and dark chocolate. Monica loves her time with family and friends and can never get enough of either.

Monica lives in Portland, Oregon where the frequent rainy weather is perfect for curling up with a good book and a cup of tea.


Connect with the author:

Website: http://www.monicaknightley.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/monicaknightleyauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/monicaknightley
Blog: http://knightleymusings.blogspot.com/ 





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Book Blast: KILLER PURSUIT by Jeff Gunhus










Thriller


Date Published:<span font-family:="" sans-serif="" style="font-family: "garamond" ,
 January 18, 2016





<span font-family:="" sans-serif="" style="font-family: Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 14pt; line-height: When a secret webcam is found in the Georgetown bedroom of a murdered high-society call girl, everyone in Washington, DC wants the recording…especially the killer.  


After a high-society call girl is brutally murdered in her Georgetown home, investigators find two cameras hidden in the walls of her bedroom. One has its memory erased, presumably by the murderer. The second is a webcam with an encrypted connection…and no-one knows who’s on the other end. Whoever has the recordings has embarrassing leverage against some of the most powerful men in DC, not to mention a video of the murder showing the identity of the killer.




<span sans-serif="" style="font-family: "garamond" , serif; font-size: 14pt; line-height: FBI Special Agent Allison McNeil is asked by beleaguered FBI Director Clarence Mason to run an off-the-record investigation of the murder because of the murder’s similarity to a case she worked a year earlier. Allison knows the most direct path to apprehending the killer is to find the videos, but rumors that the victim’s client list may include some of Washington’s most powerful men makes her doubt the director’s motives. As she starts her investigation, she quickly discovers that she’s not the only one pursuing the recording…but that the most aggressive person racing against her might be the murderer himself.










About the Author






J<span font-family:="" sans-serif="" style="font-family: "garamond" , serif; font-size: 14pt; line-height: eff Gunhus is the author thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 100 on Amazon and have been Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists.




After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active lifestyle in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.






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Book Excerpt: SCAR TISSUE by MC Domovitch



Scar Tissue by M.C. Domovitch
ISBN: 9781522914525 (paperback)
ASIN: B01804GD6M (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 10, 2016


When successful model Ciara Kelly wakes up in hospital, remembering nothing of the weeks she has been missing, her only clues are the ugly words carved into her skin. According to the police she was a victim of the Cutter, a serial killer who has already murdered three women. For her protection the police and her doctors give a press conference, announcing that because her amnesia is organically caused, her memory loss is permanent. But, whether her memory returns or not is anybody’s guess. 

Overnight, Ciara’s glamorous life is gone. Her scars have killed both her modelling career and her relationship with her rich boyfriend. With nothing to keep her in New York, she returns to her hometown of Seattle, moves in with her sister and goes about building a new life. But when her sister lets it slip that Ciara’s memory is returning, the killer comes after her again. If Ciara is to stay alive, she must keep one step ahead of the Cutter.




Read an excerpt:


I don’t want to die.

That single thought pounded through her mind as she hurtled through the woods. The blackness had dropped all at once, and now the trees were merely darker shadows against a dark night. The rain came down hard. Lightning cracked, sounding so much like a gunshot that she muffled a scream. But she had not been hit. She was still alive. She ran on.

Branches and bushes whipped at her, scratching her arms and legs. She tripped over an exposed root and crashed to the ground, but was back on her feet in an instant. 

A brilliant flash of lightning was followed by thunder. Ka-boom. Everything that had been black a moment ago became white. Had she been spotted? No, surely not. 

A crunching sound came from her right. She whipped her head toward it and picked up her pace. Her breathing was ragged, short puffs of steam in the frigid April air. It couldn’t have been more than fifty degrees. Sweat and rain mixed with the dirt and blood from her countless wounds and ran down her face and neck in rivulets. Thanks to the adrenaline pumping through her veins, she was numb to the cold and the pain, but she would feel it later—if she got out of here alive. 

Please God, let me live. 

But she’d had no real food for days, no water except the occasional sip. Her body couldn’t keep going much longer. She was close to collapsing.

Must. Keep. Going.

If she wanted to stay alive, she needed to put as much distance as possible between herself and her captor. She had no idea how long she’d been running or in which direction she was going. Had her kidnapper even noticed she’d escaped? Was that monster already on her trail, getting closer with every passing second? A horrendous thought came to her. She could be running in a circle, her every step bringing her closer to her jailer. A sob escaped her throat. 

Dear God. Please. Please. 

She squinted, trying to see through the inky night. There had to be a road, a house, something, and then she saw them. Some distance away there were lights, and her last vestiges of hope crashed.

Flashlights.

Had a posse been formed? Were they closing in on her? In her panic, she tripped and came down hard, again. This time she thought she might have broken an arm. She was crying now. She’d come so close. But she would be caught. And she would die. 

She looked up at the lights moving through the trees, and blinked. Could her imagination be playing tricks on her? She stared, and in a moment of clarity she understood. Those weren’t flashlights. They were headlights. Headlights meant cars, and cars meant a road. Just ahead, maybe a few hundred yards farther, lay safety.

She had to keep going. She struggled to her feet, cradling her sore arm. She made her way, pushing through brambles and bushes until she came to a steep embankment. She crawled up and then over the guardrail. A car whizzed by, blaring its horn. 

“Wait. Stop!” she yelled at the next one when it was still a distance away, but it drove by too. “Help me!” she shouted after it. She limped into the road, determined to make the next one stop. Tires screeched. There was a thud. And then she went flying through the air, coming to a bone-crushing thump on the hard pavement. 

Through the mist in her mind she heard the sound of running footsteps, then a woman’s voice. “Oh, my God. Is she dead?”

A man’s voice, pleading. “I swear. It wasn’t my fault. She ran right in front of me.”

The woman again. “I think she’s still breathing. Call an ambulance. Now!” She leaned into her. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”

The words came to her from a great distance, growing further and further away, until they were only a faint echo. She drifted into nothingness.




Meet the author:

Monique was born in the small town of Hearst Ontario, the oldest of ten children. “You can’t imagine the pressure,” she says, laughing. “Anything I did wrong—and I did plenty—was sure to lead my siblings into a life of sin. I therefore accept the blame for any wrongdoings by all member of my family.”

When she was twenty years old she moved to Montreal, where she became a successful model, winning the prestigious Modeling Association of American Contest and continuing on to an international career. During this time, she worked with many top photographers and graced many designer runways. “Modeling was a wonderful career,” she says. “I met so many interesting and talented people. I travelled all over the world. After ten years of facing cameras and audiences, I became very comfortable with the public. I had no idea at the time, just how much this ability would serve me later in life.”

When Monique retired from modeling, she founded Beauties Modeling Agency in Montreal. Through her tutelage, many Canadian models gained international renown. “I wanted to accept my age rather than try desperately to look young for an unforgiving camera. That was the main reason I retired from modeling when I was still young.”

Later, she became a financial adviser and planner, and soon found herself hosting her own national television show about personal finance. After four years on the air, the series ended and Monique soon retired from her financial career, remarried and embarked on her new career in writing. Her success was almost instant. She was signed on by an agent within months of finishing her first novel and soon signed two contracts for a total of six books. MC Domovitch is the author of nine books. She writes cozy mystery under the names Carol Ann Martin, humorous mysteries as Monique Domovitch, and edge-of-your-seat suspense as MC Domovitch. She lives with her physician husband and their dogs.

Connect with the author:

Website     |     Blog     |     Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Goodreads 



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 Scar Tissue