Guest Post: Beth Castrodale – IN THIS GROUND

Good day, my fellow readers. I hope you’re all ready to sit back and enjoy some good reads for 2019. I consider myself very fortunate because I get introduced to new-to-me books and authors all the time with the blog tour companies I’m blessed to work with throughout the year. I may not always get the opportunity to review the books, but I always add the books to my ever-growing TBR list and look forward to discovering something new. Today, I’m honored to introduce you all to one such book and author, In This Ground by Beth Castrodale. Ms. Castrodale has taken a few minutes out of her busy schedule to stop by and discuss the intriguing setting for her book, In This Ground, a cemetery. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Beth Castrodale.

One of the most common questions I get about my novel In This Ground is, “Why did you set the novel in a cemetery?” 

The short answer is that I’ve been fascinated with cemeteries since I was a kid, when a friend and I would wander a local graveyard, read the names on the tombstones out loud, and make up stories about the lives we imagined these people to have led. The notion that cemeteries contain a multitude of stories lingered at the back of my mind for a long time, and a few years ago, it sparked the idea for In This Ground, which brings together the tales of people who are buried in a particular cemetery or who have some other business there. 

As the novel took shape, I came to understand that its setting (the fictional Bolster Hill Cemetery) would need to be more than a static background for the story. Instead, it would have to do what the settings in some of my favorite novels do: help drive the plot and, ideally, become a sort of character in its own right. 

It took me several drafts to figure out how to make the most compelling connections between the cemetery setting and the narrative arc of the novel. Looking back, I can identify a few major ways in which the setting fuels conflict and action:

The cemetery constantly reminds the protagonist of unresolved guilt from his past. For years, Ben Dirjery, a former rock guitarist who is now the gravedigger-in-chief at the cemetery, has believed that he bears at least some responsibility for the death of his former band’s lead singer, Vince Resklar, who is buried, literally, under Ben’s feet. 

The fact that devotees of the band have made Vince’s grave a kind of shrine further aggravates Ben’s guilt and constantly reminds him of everything he left behind when he dropped out of the band–just as it was about to make it big. (Ben quit the band after learning that his girlfriend was pregnant, trading the rock-and-roll lifestyle in for fatherhood and the stability of a job at the cemetery.)

Vince’s grave becomes a night-time assembly spot for aspiring musicians, including Ben’s daughter, whom Ben has kept in the dark about his history with the band, and with Vince. Eventually, after uncovering clues about Ben’s past, she forces him to confront his guilt over Vince’s death.

The cemetery becomes the center of a community conflict. The conflict concerns a court order to move the gravesite of a legendary local figure–a nineteenth-century vagabond known as the Unknown Vagrant–from just outside the cemetery gates to within them. The move is deemed necessary because the grave is dangerously close to an ever-busier roadway, which has caused certain visitors to the gravesite to be injured or killed.

The move is controversial because the local historical society wants to use the exhumation as an occasion to analyze the DNA of the Unknown Vagrant and, in this way, learn more about him. However, many people see this as a violation of the rights and dignity of the Unknown Vagrant, who was notoriously private. This objection has protesters rallying at the cemetery’s gates.

Ben is in an uncomfortable position because while he’s slated to be part of the exhumation crew, he too has reservations about violating the privacy of the Unknown Vagrant. The whole situation tests his beliefs about what it means to be doing his best by both the living and the dead: what he sees as his most important mission at the cemetery.

The cemetery attracts a variety of characters whose agendas help advance the story. As I’ve mentioned, Vince Resklar’s grave attracts night-time visitors (mainly, musicians, including Ben’s daughter) who stir up uncomfortable feelings in Ben and ultimately force him to confront his past. Also, the protests at the site of the Unknown Vagrants’ grave eventually prompt Ben to consider ways in which the exhumation of this historical figure might be avoided.

The cemetery also becomes a target of yarn bombers, whose “temporary form of public art” fuels reflection and debate on the best means to honor the dead aesthetically. Additionally, the grounds attract mushroom foragers. Over many years of mushroom hunting at the cemetery, one of these foragers, Dolores Fielding, becomes a kind of mentor to Ben. And like him, Dolores advocates for ways to make the grounds more environmentally sustainable.

Eventually, Ben learns that Dolores is dying and that she would like to have a green burial at the cemetery, a practice that Ben has pushed for but that the cemetery’s board has resisted approving. (A green burial aims to commit a body to the earth in the least environmentally intrusive way possible. Bodies aren’t embalmed or enclosed in heavy caskets or concrete vaults, though they might be contained in a shroud or biodegradable casket.) Out of a desire to honor Dolores’s wishes, Ben tries unconventional methods for making green burials a reality at the cemetery.

While writing In This Ground, I understood that certain perceptions and assumptions about cemeteries would be working against me: for one thing, the idea that they are mournful landscapes concerned only with honoring the dead. Although cemeteries do fulfill that purpose, they are also settings for a good deal of drama, as I learned in the process of researching the novel. I hope that I made the fictional cemetery at the heart of In This Ground not only a worthy stage for the dramas that unfold there but also a central element of the novel, one that is compelling in its own right.

About Beth Castrodale

Beth Castrodale has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. Her novels include Marion Hatley, a finalist for a Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press (published by Garland Press in 2017), and In This Ground (Garland Press, 2018). Beth’s stories have appeared in such journals as Printer’s Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, and the Mulberry Fork Review. Get a free copy of her novel Gold River when you sign up for her e-newsletter, at

Connect with Beth

In This Ground by Beth Castrodale
ISBN: 9781940782041 (paperback)
ASIN: B07FXSXRGH (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Garland Press
Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Just as his indie-rock band was poised to make it big, Ben Dirjery traded it all in for fatherhood and the stability of a job at Bolster Hill Cemetery. Now closing in on fifty, the former guitarist finds himself divorced and at loose ends, and still haunted by the tragic death of his former band’s lead singer, who is buried, literally, under Ben’s feet. Then Ben’s daughter begins questioning a past he has tried to bury. If he can face her questions, he might finally put to rest his guilt over his bandmate’s death, and bring music back into his life.

“Startlingly incongruous parts–graveyards, guitars, and mushrooms–come together in satisfying and unexpected ways. Sharp writing and an unconventional plot make for a darkly enjoyable read.”–Kirkus Reviews

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Monday, January 7th: Seaside Book Nook

Wednesday, January 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 10th: Books and Bindings

Monday, January 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, January 15th: The Book Diva’s Reads – author guest post

Wednesday, January 16th: Booklover Book Reviews

Thursday, January 17th: @crystals_library

Monday, January 21st: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, January 22nd: Really Into This and @mountain_reader_

Wednesday, January 23rd: Lit and Life

Thursday, January 24th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, January 28th: Book By Book

Tuesday, January 29th: Erica Robyn Reads

This excerpt and blog tour brought to you by TLC Book Tours

Book Showcase: THE COMPANY FILES – THE GOOD MAN by Gabriel Valjan

The Company Files

The Good Man

by Gabriel Valjan

on Tour January 14-26, 2019


The Company Files: The Good Man by Gabriel Valjan

Jack Marshall had served with Walker during the war, and now they work for The Company in postwar Vienna. With the help of Leslie, an analyst who worked undercover gathering intelligence from Hitler’s inner circle, they are tasked to do the inconceivable: recruit former Nazis with knowledge that can help the U.S. in the atomic race. But someone else is looking for these men. And when he finds them, he does not leave them alive.

In this tale of historical noir, of corruption and deceit, no one is who they say they are. Who is The Good Man in a world where an enemy may be a friend, an ally, the enemy, and governments deny everything?

Book Details:

Genre: International Mystery, Crime Fiction
Published by: Winter Goose Publishing
Publication Date: December 15 2017
Number of Pages: 251
ISBN: 1941058736 (ISBN13: 9781941058732)
Series: The Company Files: 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

At 0300 his little black beauty warbled from the nightstand, and stirred Walker from his semi-erotic embrace of the pillow. Grable, his .45, was sleeping next to the receiver. She could sleep through anything. He was jealous.

“Awake?” Jack’s distinctive voice came over the wire.

“I am now.” Eyes focused on becoming alert.

“Meet me at the Narrenturm, ninth district.”


“The IP are here already.”

Walker washed a hand over his face, still in the fog.

“What is it, Jack?”

“Dead body in the Fruitcake House.”

The informative sentence ended with a click. The IP, the International Police, presence was a guarantee that the crime scene would not be kept contained.

Walker got out of bed.

His room was square, clean, and impersonal. The room measured 50 square meters and served as living room where the nice, upholstered chair was and bedroom where stood the bed. A modest walnut armoire rested against the wall space next to the bathroom door. There was a set of doors out to the balcony so small that it was an insult to a poor man’s suicide.

There was no pretension to domesticity or habit, like paintings, books, or luxurious furniture. His mirror in the bathroom was his daily reminder of what he presented to the world, and on the nightstand rested his Leich desk phone with its felt-covered base, curled cord, and petite Bakelite body that he answered when the outside world called him.

Each night before bed Walker draped a towel over the upholstered chair, and he placed a pail of water on the balcony. Then he inventoried the room. He knew that if something changed in the room he would wake up. Out of habit he slept without socks, his feet in the open air, so he could respond to anything that moved uninvited in the room.

The AKH is the General Hospital in Vienna, the Allgemeines Krankenhaus, the largest in the country, and the Narrenturm was the second mental hospital in Europe after Bedlam in London. The German word for the place was Gugelhupf because of its architecture. The asylum housed the mentally ill, the criminally insane, and political prisoners.

The AKH boasted the first lightning rods in Vienna on its roof and breakthroughs in hygienic practices. Walker wondered whether the lightning rods had anything to do with the electroconvulsive therapy he had read about back home, as he walked over to the chair, grabbed the towel, and tossed it onto the floor by the balcony door. Blood groups had first been typed in thorough Teutonic style at the AKH, while patients were chained to lattice doors at the Narrenturm, screaming like the forgotten poor and unrepentant heretics in medieval dungeons well into the nineteenth century.

He took off his shorts, went out onto the balcony naked in the cold air, picked up the pail of now freezing water and poured it over his head.

He had learned this trick from a Russian POW. Cold water forces the body to discharge negativity and disease. The POW, he was told through a translator, did this ritual every single day without fail regardless of season. The water made his skin scream. Walker never got used to the shock. The heaviness went out of him through his heels and his mind focused.

He toweled off, dressed, and coaxed Grable out of her sleep and under his arm.

Any time of night the Narrenturm is a nightmare. The building had a corkscrew circular corridor that spun off twenty-eight patient rooms on each of its five floors. Dessert cake. Each room had slit windows that only a starving bird could contemplate for roosting. Escaping the place was as formidable as finding it.

After Walker had given a brief flash of his papers and had inquired after directions, the MP told him in factual German that Courtyard 6 was accessible from one of several entrances. ‘Take Alserstrasse, Garnisongasse, or Spitalgasse, and then consult any one of the gateway maps.’ It was just the right number of precise German details to confuse him.

In darkness and frustration Walker found the wrought-iron gate with a nice curvy snake that he thought was the caduceus. He looked at the serpent. Was it the caduceus of Hermes or the rod of Asclepius? He touched the single snake, ran his fingers across the diamond-shaped iron fixtures. Old man Hermes must have stolen back his staff and had just enough time to get away from the crazies with only one of his snakes. The caduceus, he remembered, had two.

Above him, darkness; ahead of him, in the curving hall as he climbed, voices. He saw Jack, who, intuitively turning his head to his shoulder, saw him before turning his head back to face forward, as International Police and some suits swarmed around, the air charged in a Babel of languages. Even in a crowd Jack Marshall stood out as a man not to crowd.

Walker went to stand next to Jack. Standing at ease – hands behind his back – out of habit. Jack uttered his words just audibly enough for Walker to hear. “The German word for magician is Der Zauberer. Our friend is a magician. He sets the stage, does his trick, and then poof he’s gone. No clues. Nothing.”

Approaching them were the four-to-a-jeep policemen, one representative for each of the national flags that controlled the city. They were reporting to the Inspector in their respective languages. Walker knew the Inspector would summarize the scene for him and Jack in English.

The Frenchman who wore a long haggard face from smoking too many cigarettes, spoke with a phlegmatic bass. The Brit recounted events in his reedy voice with an affected posh accent; no doubt picked up from the BBC back in Birmingham. The Russian, after he had spoken, stood at attention with winter in his face, whereas the American, a young kid, gave a smiling report, about as graceful as a southpaw in a room of righties. Walker’s ears listened for any German, keen for the second verb at the end of the sentence so he could understand what was being said. The Inspector scribbled notes with a very short pencil that took brevity to an art form.

Finally. In his lilting Austrian-inflected English: “Gentlemen, it appears we have an unfortunate scenario here. The victim was discovered this evening, two hours ago to be precise. The police arrived at the scene after hearing a tip from an informant that this facility was being used for black-market trading. Thinking that they might discover black-market penicillin or other commodities popular these days, they made this discovery. Our medical examiner is making an assessment as I speak.”

Jack and Walker remained silent.

The man continued as the four policemen lingered solemnly and choir-like behind him. “The victim in question was, according to our preliminary findings, a man of the medical profession with questionable ethics.”

“You mean a Nazi doctor,” Jack said in his tone of an officer weary of formality and needing facts.

The Frenchman murmured “Bosch” and covered his racist word with a cough. The Inspector’s eyes looked behind him without turning his head.

“Yes, a doctor. The deceased is said to have performed unseemly medical experiments on prisoners in the camps. He did horrible things to children, women, and particularly, Russian prisoners of war. Unconscionable.”

The Russian, a silent Boris, stared ahead without a flinch or thaw.

The Inspector with a modest bow of the head and genteel click of his heels handed Jack a piece of paper. It was a preliminary. Jack said nothing. His eyes took in the paper with a downward glance and he began the short walk to the scene.

Walker and Marshall entered the patient’s cell. The room smelled of something tarry. Some other men who had just been there left in whispers, leaving them alone with the doctor and the body. When the doctor, who was dressed in the all-black priestly garb of his profession, saw his helpers leave and these new men arrive, he switched from his native language to English the way an owl with fourteen neck bones moves his head in ways not humanly possible.

“How’s the patient?” Marshall asked the little man near the body.

“Dead a day or two by his liver temperature. Rigor has set, as you well can see from the positioning.” The doctor was making his own notes while he talked.

“Any thoughts to cause of death, Herr Doktor?” Walker asked, knowing that coroners had looked at enough mortality to be either humble or inhumanly arrogant.

The doctor used his fingers to show an invisible syringe and did the motion of pressing the plunger. Abgespritzt. Lethal injection. I would say, carbolic acid.”

“Sounds to me that would be a fast way to go, Doctor,” Jack said with his hands in his topcoat’s pockets.

“Not necessarily. Ten to fifteen millimeters of the liquid, if injected directly into the heart, should induce ventricular tachycardia in, say, fifteen seconds. Our man here was not so lucky. First, I found no such puncture in the chest. I did find, however, a puncture in one of the extremities. I would say this man took an hour to die. Look at him.”

With this pronouncement, the small birdlike man clicked his little black bag shut and left Jack and Walker inside the cell.

Walker’s eyes took in the history of the room. He estimated that the room was tall enough, walls thick enough, that a man could scream all he wanted and nobody would know he existed. He imagined centuries of such screams within this room and maybe some claw marks on the walls, too. “How did he get in here?”

“And what does the staging job mean?” Jack said.

The dead man was propped on a stool, naked. A metal T, evidentially meant for chaining prisoners, was behind him with one part of the cross bar holding his left arm secure while his right hand, bent in rigor, rested over his heart. The corpse’s left arm had received the injection, the head was cocked back, the throat muscles taut but the mouth closed shut in typical Germanic reticence. The eyes were clouded over, the light gone from them when the heart had stopped. The legs were neutral, the back straight in a way that any mother would be proud of such perfect posture.

Walker and Jack walked around the body without saying a word. In front of the corpse was an SS uniform, folded neatly in a stack. The shirt’s right collar patch bore the runic double lightning bolts, the left patch and matching right shoulder board said, with its three diamonds and two double bars, Hauptsturmführer, Captain. His .32 was holstered and accounted for at his feet, next to his shined-to-a-sheen boots.

Jack said nothing. His mind had already processed the scene.

They descended the stairway towards the exit. Both stopped to look at the display of the hydrocephalic baby inside a formaldehyde jar. Walker and Marshall stopped, looked at it, and said nothing, because there was nothing to say.

“What do you think, Walker?” was the question once they were outside.

“The Inspector said that this dead man was a medico but there was no serpent badge on the uniform. That tells me he wasn’t in the Medical Corps. He had to be a straight-up SS man, maybe with some medical knowledge or simply passing through the camp. But he’s no doctor, so I don’t know how the Inspector could say he was doing medical experiments, unless that report of his says something I’m missing.”

Jack answered, “It doesn’t. Anything else?”

“Those slacks,” Walker replied. “They had cat hair on them.”

“So the dead guy either had a cat…”

“Or the killer has one, because there are no cats here that I can see. Another thing: those clothes were pressed and regulation-folded. He wasn’t wearing them when he was killed. Besides, nobody would walk through Vienna these days with that uniform. They either were placed in front of him as he was dying, or after he was dead. It’s all staged to make some kind of statement. Question is, where did his street clothes go.”

Jack touched his breast pocket, where the Inspector’s report rested privately. “We have another problem, Walker.”

“And what might that be?” Walker thought he knew what Jack was thinking but he waited.

Jack was quiet.

“What? You want me to go chase down an orange tabby?”

“Relax, Walker. That Inspector’s report is in German. That’s why I didn’t show it to you.”

“So my German isn’t perfect, but I can manage. What does it say?”

“It gives us the man’s name.”

They stood outside together as the sun was arriving.

“That man…” Jack pointed with his eyes upward to the stone turret from hell “was on our list. Either way we’ll never be able to talk to the Captain.”

“So what’s your recommendation?” asked Walker, afraid of the answer.

They walked to the curb together. Jack had hailed a cab, opened up the suicide door, got in, but delayed the driver with a few words in German, and from the car window said to Walker, “Talk to Leslie later to see what she thinks after I get tonight’s details to her. I’ll get a report on your desk that might interest you.”

He banged on the side door as a signal to the driver to take off.


Excerpt from The Company Files: 1. The Good Man by Gabriel Valjan.  Copyright © 2018 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

Gabriel Valjan

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series and The Company Files from Winter Goose Publishing as well as numerous short stories. In 2018, he was shortlisted for the Bridport and Fish Prize Short Story Prizes.

Gabriel lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.

Catch Up With Gabriel On:, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gabriel Valjan. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Gift Card. The giveaway begins on January 14, 2019, and runs through January 27, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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2019 Book 6: THE BURNING ISLAND by Hester Young

The Burning Island (Charlie Cates #3) by Hester Young
ISBN: 9780399174025 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780698190795 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780525590941 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07CR3T912 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 12, 2019 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 

The newest haunting mystery from the beloved author of The Gates of Evangeline, featuring Charlie Cates, a headstrong heroine who must confront her unwanted supernatural gift and bring dark secrets to light if she ever wants to leave the Big Island . . .

Journalist Charlie Cates has always believed in facts, in what can be proved–her career depends on it. Which is why she has never truly accepted the supernatural visions that guide her to children in danger. After her work on a high-profile missing-child case brings unwanted fame, she reluctantly flees to the lush Big Island of Hawaii with her best friend, Rae. Determined to avoid her disturbing visions, Charlie begins writing what seems to be a harmless interview of a prominent volcanologist, Victor Nakagawa. But her hopes for a peaceful vacation are soon dashed by haunting dreams of a local girl who went missing six weeks earlier.

In the small and sleepy town of Kalo Valley, Charlie and Rae come to realize that even paradise has its ugly secrets, and the Nakagawa family is no exception. In order to find the missing teenager and stop a dangerous predator from striking again, Charlie is forced to embrace the gift she has always tried to conceal. Meanwhile, someone is watching her every move, and the closer Charlie gets to the truth, the more distant her chances of ever leaving the island alive.

With a deliciously eerie and fast-paced story told in vivid prose, all with an overlay of supernatural suspense, The Burning Island is a pulse-pounding mystery perfect for fans of Jennifer McMahon and Kate Atkinson.

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We were all introduced to Charlotte “Charlie” Cates in The Gates of Evangeline. (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it…again!). Since then, Charlie has relocated to the Southwest, enlarged her family, and continues to struggle with her paranormal or “psychic” gifts. The Burning Island begins with Charlie out with her fiancé, Noah Palmer, in an attempt to locate a missing boy. They find him just in the nick of time, but not before the local police scrutinize them closely in fear they may have had some part in the boy’s disappearance. It isn’t until Charlie’s fiancé unwittingly reveals that Charlie is psychic and her abilities led her to the boy’s location that the police begin to back off. It helps that their story is confirmed when the young boy wakes up from his ordeal and reveals that he wandered off after a disagreement with his parents and got lost in the desert. But now the public knows that Charlie has psychic abilities and their home is surrounded by media and their phones are bombarded with interview requests and calls for help by other parents. Fortunately, Charlie’s best friend Rae talks her into a “girls week” instead of their usual “girls weekend.” Then Charlie’s editor gives her a plum assignment in Hawaii making this a working vacation for Charlie and an opportunity to get paid whilst enjoying a tropical paradise. The job is to profile a local volcanologist that is also a triathlon competitor and winner. Little does Charlie know that this man’s daughter has been missing for more than six weeks and she may be leaving one taut and restrictive situation for another. Can she determine the truth about this missing Hawaiian teen in just one week? Can she do so without bringing undue attention and possible harm to herself and others?

As with the previous two books in this series, The Gates of Evangeline and The Shimmering Road, I found The Burning Island to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. I would have liked to get more of the family vibe with Charlie’s growing family (she’s had the baby and her newly discovered, much younger sister has been incorporated into the family), but it was nice to see the friendship dynamic between Charlie and Rae. Charlie is still a bit unhinged by her “gift” and isn’t quite sure how to deal with it, so it was also interesting to see her comfort level grow over the course of this book. There’s a lot more going on The Burning Island than just the case of a missing teenager, such as an isolated and possibly abused family residing next door to the inn Charlie’s staying at, the skewed family dynamics in the Nakagawa family, and more. Both Charlie and Rae have issues they need to deal with and trying to think about them and come to a possibly life-changing decision in just a week seems more than difficult to me. Can they do it? Possibly. Do they do it? Read the book to find out for yourself! Like I said, there’s a lot going on in this story and it’s part personal quest, part thriller, and part mystery with paranormal aspects. For those of you that have already read The Gates of Evangeline and The Shimmering Road I probably don’t have to recommend that you read The Burning Island, but I will anyway. For those of you that haven’t read The Gates of Evangeline and The Shimmering Road, I strongly encourage you to grab copies of both of those books, read them, and then grab a copy of The Burning Island to read. Seriously, this is a #mustread series. Happy reading!

Disclaimer:  I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ for review purposes. 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 Burning Island

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