Book Promo: FOUND NEAR WATER by Katherine Hayton









Crime / Thriller / Mystery


Date Published: July 2014



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Rena Sutherland wakes from a coma into a mother’s nightmare. Her daughter is missing – lost for four days – but no one has noticed; no one has complained; no one has been searching.


As the victim support officer assigned to her case, Christine Emmett puts aside her own problems as she tries to guide Rena through the maelstrom of her daughter’s disappearance.


A task made harder by an ex-husband desperate for control; a paedophile on early-release in the community; and a psychic who knows more than seems possible.


And intertwined throughout, the stories of six women; six daughters lost.














About the Author




Katherine Hayton is a 41 year old woman who works in insurance, doesn’t have children or pets, can’t drive, has lived in Christchurch her entire life, and currently resides a two minute walk from where she was born. For some reason she’s developed a rich fantasy life.





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Book Showcase: PERDITA by Hilary Scharper

Perdita by Hilary Scharper
ISBN: 9781492602446 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781492602453 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M1UM7N0 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 20, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark



“Stunning…richly complex and unpredictable.” —Historical Novel Review

Marged Brice is 134 years old. She’d be ready to go, if it weren’t for Perdita . . .

The Georgian Bay lighthouse’s single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There’s blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief…or worse…

Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.

Everyone knows about death. It’s life that’s much more mysterious…




Excerpt


MARGED BRICE

Cape Prius—1897

July 3

Seven hours passed, and the waves were—Mr. Thompson said they were fifteen feet or more in front of the Lodge. The rain had not ceased, but the sky had turned an evil gray, and we heard thunder far off in the distance….

“The storm is moving fast,” said Mr. Thompson, and he shook his head glumly.

I began to pray fervently. It was but three o’clock in the afternoon, but the entire sky had turned a livid gray, and it seemed as if night had dropped upon us like a curtain falling. Now we could see lightning blaze across the horizon….

The rain came down in sheets, and the waves took on an even more ominous and angry aspect. My heart sank as I thought of the boats in that water.

Then—”There,” shouted Mr. Thompson, gesturing toward the eastern skyline.

And appearing suddenly from around the Point, we could see the outline of a large boat. Its foremast was rolling horribly—up and down, back and forth—and we could see, as it neared, that the first jib sheet was ripped to pieces. The mainsail was shredding rapidly in the wind, and the waves were pushing it toward the shore, where it would surely be smashed into pieces against the rocks. We saw the men lowering the lifeboats and then push off, desperately making for shore.

“Allan,” I cried. He had run out into the storm without warning toward the boats, and I leaped out after him.




About the Author

Hilary Scharper, who lives in Toronto, spent a decade as a lighthouse keeper on the Bruce Peninsula with her husband. She also is the author of a story collection, Dream Dresses, and God and Caesar at the Rio Grande (University of Minnesota Press) which won the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award. She received her Ph.D. from Yale and is currently Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto.



Author Website      |      Goodreads 









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Book Showcase: DUKE CITY HIT by Max Austin

Duke City Hit by Max Austin
ISBN: 9780553390315 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L6YJ67W (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Alibi (Random House)
Publication date: December 16, 2014



Duke City Hit (Duke City Trilogy, #2)







Book Synopsis: 

Max Austin takes readers back to Albuquerque for another action-packed thrill ride in Duke City Hit, as an elite assassin takes aim at—well, everyone.

 According to Vic Walters, the secret to happiness is low overhead and few demands. Living rent-free in a modest bachelor pad behind his boss’s house, he has no debts, no entanglements, and no expensive relationships. He works just a few days a month, but his bank accounts keep growing.

Vic is a high-priced hitman with a legendary record of success. That is, until someone starts eliminating his marks before he can get to them . . . until his manager puts him in the middle of a vicious drug-cartel feud . . . and until a young man walks into his life with a big .45 and a startling revelation.

For Vic Walters, it’s time to step out of the shadows. Which means it’s killing time in Duke City.


About the author:

Max Austin is the pseudonym of writer Steve Brewer. He lives in Duke City (Albuquerque), New Mexico.









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Book Showcase: FAVORS AND LIES by Mark Gilleo

FavorsandLiesBannerFavors & LiesDan Lord is a forty-year-old private detective with a law degree working the blurred line between right and wrong in the Nation’s Capital. As a self-employed solutions broker and legal consultant, he works for a very select clientele. He doesn’t advertise and only takes cases on referral. But when two people close to him are murdered, Dan’s work becomes very personal.

With the assistance of a newly hired female intern, extracting clues from a ladder of acquaintances, Dan bounds through both the underbelly and elite of society, each step bringing more questions and yet ultimately taking him closer to the answer he seeks. A bail bondsman, a recluse hacker, a court clerk, a university student, an old-school barber, a high-class madam, an intelligence officer, a medical doctor, and a police detective are among the list of people Dan must cajole for help. His quest will lead him to discover things he never wanted to know, and put him in the position to reveal things that important people would prefer remain unrevealed.

Tense, ingenious, and filled with the unforgettable characters, Favors and Lies is Mark Gilleo’s most thrilling novel yet.

Buy on Amazon | Website





Read an excerpt from the book:

The cab pulled to the curb on one of the city’s myriad one-way streets and Dan spoke through the holes drilled in the security glass. “What’s the damage?”

“Nineteen even.”

Dan stepped from the back of the cab and slipped a twenty through the front passenger window. “Keep the change.”

“Thanks, big spender,” the burly driver replied, shoving the cash into the front pocket of his sweaty shirt.

Dan bent at the waist, his manila folder in hand, and peered into the open window. The glare from Dan’s light-blue eyes melted the driver’s bravado, bringing long-sought momentary silence to the interior of the car. The cabbie muttered something unintelligible and the car pulled away from the curb into evening rush-hour traffic.

Dan straightened his dark blue suit and his red tie before heading down H Street. The business side of the White House sat just beyond Lafayette Square to his left. As a white male in a suit, within spitting distance of the White House, Dan was perfectly camouflaged. Despite the changing face of American society and the dual terms of President Obama, those making the rules remained largely as it always had been – lily white. An hour watching C-Span was the only proof needed.

Dan walked deliberately to the corner of H and 16th streets and silently mingled with a half-dozen likeminded suits waiting for the light. The pedestrian signal changed from an illuminated red hand to the depiction of a person walking. The crowd moved. Dan took three steps toward the street and then froze at the edge of the curb. He scanned his environment for a mirror reaction from anyone in the vicinity. Sometimes the best way to see if you are being followed is to stop. It was a standard counter-surveillance move, likely perfected a hundred thousand years ago by an animal on the Serengeti trying to avoid becoming dinner.

The sidewalk around Dan emptied as the pedestrian signal on the far side of the street began to count down. Dan swiveled his head slowly, finishing with a glance over each shoulder. No one, he thought. At least no one on foot. Walking against traffic on a one-way street mitigated most of the possibilities of being trailed by car.

He waited until the countdown on the pedestrian signal reached five and then crossed the street illegally in the opposite direction, dissecting a group of lawyers and think-tankers on their way to a local watering hole to finish their briefs and pontifications for the evening.

On the far side of the street Dan turned right and headed back in the direction from which he came. Once again he checked for surveillance. Nothing.

Near the end of the block, with a taxi queue ten yards ahead, Dan checked his watch with a casual glance and turned left down an alley without looking back.

He passed several dumpsters and looked up at the darkening sky framed by the buildings on both sides of the alley. A light scent of urine wafted through the air. Under a fire escape near the corner of the building Dan turned again. He followed a staircase downward, his hand running along a worn metal handrail, his shoes trampling cracked concrete steps. Three stories above the urban crevasse, room rates started at eight hundred a night.

Dan forced himself to relax. Feeling out of place was the single greatest contributor for being spotted in an area where one had no earthly business. But with the appropriate behavior and movement, a man in a suit in an alley was no more out of place than a man in overalls in the lobby of an office building. Properly portrayed, every appearance could be overlooked.

Dan reached the bottom of the stairs and admired the collection of discarded cigarette butts thrown half-heartedly at an empty coffee can resting just outside the door. He took one more calming breath and pushed through an unlocked metal door that read “Exit Only” in neat white print.

Unlocked doors were goldmines. Half the buildings in the Nation’s Capital were circumventing million-dollar security systems with propped open doors. A brick here. A doorstop there. If you knew where to look, an employee with a smoking habit could be better than a week of surveillance. Not to mention cheaper and less risky than paying off a doorman.

Inside the building, Dan entered an elbow-room-only foyer facing another door. He watched the light under the closed door and waited for the telltale movement of people on the other side to subside. When the timing was right and the movement ceased, he pulled the knob.

An attractive blonde in an off-the-shoulder red dress took a breath of surprise. Dan muted his response and without pausing pointed towards the men’s room with his chin. “Wrong door.”

The lady in red smiled and Dan followed through on his impromptu ruse and entered the restroom.

“Shit,” Dan whispered, looking into the mirror over a granite sink with gold fixtures. He had rules. One adjustment in the plan was standard. Two put him on notice. Three unforeseen adjustments to a plan and he aborted – immediately and without exception. There was little he could do about the woman in the hall so he pushed it aside. That’s one, he thought. A little early for an adjustment.

The lower level back door at the Hay Adams Hotel was a direct line into the living room of the elite. Off the Record – the appropriately named bar in the basement of the Hay Adams Hotel – boasted a history as long as its client list. It was where the rich blew off steam. People with faces too famous to enjoy a quiet drink in Georgetown or along Connecticut Avenue. Faces from the morning paper and evening news. Off the Record embraced customers who didn’t mind overpaying for drinks or the forty bucks it cost to valet their cars. Money was rapidly becoming the last legal barrier for keeping out the riffraff.

The Hay Adams Hotel, and its subterranean watering hole, was public. Dan could have chosen to walk through the lobby. He could have nodded at the bellhop and doorman as he strolled in unquestioned and unmolested. He could have slowly crossed the ornate wood-paneled entrance and past the polite scrutiny of the front desk as he made his way to the stairs. But why announce your arrival when you didn’t have to? Especially so close to payday.

In the mirror in the bathroom, Dan checked his watch, his hair, his face, his glasses, his teeth, his fingers. He peeked inside his manila folder. He exited the room and walked through the lone swinging door into the bar. He located his target before his first foot hit the deep burgundy carpet. He completed his room assessment by the time his second foot landed. Nine men and four women, he calculated, parsing his headcount before anyone noticed he was in the room. Five men at the bar, two of them seated together, most likely coworkers. Two women alone at a table on the far side of the room in similar black dresses. Waiting for dates, he thought. A table of three huddled in the opposite corner, far enough away to be out of most contingency scenarios. Dan added two more to the headcount for the bartender and waitress, and one more for the lady in red who was now in the bathroom.

Dan stepped from the dark corner near the bathroom and approached a man in his early fifties sitting alone at a table, his hand caressing a glass of Maker’s Mark.

“Judge McMichael,” Dan said, sitting quickly without invitation.

The judge tried not to look surprised but the corner of his eyes betrayed him as they danced towards the entrance of the bar.

“The back door?” the judge asked.

“Bathroom window,” Dan replied straight-faced.

“Am I at the correct table?”

“Yes. Thank you for following instructions.”

Dan didn’t take his eyes off the judge. The judge looked older than his pictures in the press. More stately. Fifty and fit with large hands and sharp eyes. The lighting at the table was romantic – enough light to see the judge, but dark enough to erase cosmetic imperfections from across the table. Perfect call-girl ambiance.

The judge stared back across the table at a short grey mop of curls and wild blue eyes dancing behind thick black-framed glasses. The judge’s eyes dropped to Dan’s hands and the manila folder on the table. Dan noticed the judge’s attention and he covered one hand with the other, both on top of the folder.

“Why don’t we both agree to keep our hands on the table,” Dan suggested before getting to work. “See the two guys at the far end of the bar?”

The judge turned his head slightly.

“They are with me.”

The judge nodded.

“I will make this short and sweet. Your wife has divorce papers for you to sign. She also has an agreement regarding alimony and the custody of your stepson and stepdaughter. She says you have been refusing to sign these documents and have threatened her and her children.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yes. Judge Terrance J. McMichael. Born in Naperville, Illinois. Educated at Princeton. Law School at Dartmouth. Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit… also known as the D.C. Circuit. Wife is named Cindy. Stepdaughter is Caroline. Stepson is Craig.”

“And you are?”

“Someone willing to ruin your life. Your wife hired me to make a request on her behalf. You are a highly intelligent man so I’m going to assume you heard my request the first time and that I don’t need to repeat myself.” Dan paused for effect. “You are going to sign the papers.”

“Do you have any idea what I can do to you?”

Dan slid the manila folder into the middle of the table and opened it. The first photograph showed the judge’s wife with raccoon eyes, her nose broken, swollen to…




About the author:

mark gilleoMark Gilleo is the author of three award-winning novels.  His books have won both the National Indie Excellence Award and the Readers’ Favorite Award.   His two most recent novels were finalists in the 2014 International Book Awards.  His latest novel, Favors and Lies, was named Runner-Up for fiction in both the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival and the 2014 New York Book Festival.  Mark has a graduate degree in international business from the University of South Carolina and an undergraduate degree in business from George Mason University.  He enjoys traveling, hiking and biking.  He speaks Japanese.  A fourth-generation Washingtonian, he currently resides in the DC area.  Follow the author on Twitter | Goodreads




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Book Showcase: DON’T FORGET ME, BRO

Don’t Forget Me, Bro by John Michael Cummings
ISBN: 9781622880782 (paperback)
Publication date: December, 2014
Publisher: Stephen F. Austin State University Press (Texas Book Consortium)


Don’t Forget Me, Bro deals with themes of childhood abuse, mental illness, and alienated families. The book opens with the main character, forty-two-year-old Mark Barr, who has returned home from New York to West Virginia after eleven years for his older brother Steve’s funeral. Steve, having died of a heart attack at forty-five, was mentally ill most of his adult life, though Mark has always questioned what was “mentally ill” and what was the result of their father’s verbal and physical abuse during their childhood. The book unfolds into an odyssey for Mark to discover love for his brother posthumously in a loveless family.     

Don’t Forget Me, Bro is a portrait of an oldest brother’s supposed mental illness and unfulfilled life, as well as a redeeming tale of a youngest brother’s alienation from his family and his guilt for abandoning them.



Excerpt:

Crossing the field back to my mother’s house, I walked myself deeper into dread of having these photos. To my mother there was one person in the world more pathetic than herself, and she needed Steve, alive or dead, to be that person.

He was her dead baby in her arms. She should have protected him from the man she married, but she didn’t. So she lived with the nails and knots of self-persecution.

Steve smiling, having fun, enjoying himself? Steve getting out of his shoebox apartment and living a little? I did not come here to snap anyone’s twisted thinking. No to showing these photos to my family.

After stashing them in the backseat of my rental, I stepped inside my mother’s house to find a worse surprise: my father sitting in the center of the lemon-yellow sofa, Granddad’s deathbed. It was, I immediately thought, the one inevitable location for him.

When the sofa was moved into our house from Grandma’s, Mom immediately made it off-limits to us, including Dad. Dad never liked Granddaddy Roy. One time they actually had words in front of us. For most of my childhood, the sofa was invisibly roped off. It was also pulled out from the wall like a hideously colored, cotton upholstered sarcophagus. After all these years, my father, who hadn’t lived in this house since I was in high school, when he and Mom separated, was happily sitting on the sofa—no, triumphantly parked on it, one-upping both Mom and his long-dead father-in-law once and for all. 

I closed the front door behind me, and my eleven years had never happened. No battered car or truck outside, nothing to warn me he was here.

He raised his head as if expecting me.

“Well, the prodigal son returns,” he said. 

He was in front of my eyes before I had a chance to be startled. His voice was no different, still piping out the same sarcasm. In the primrose-yellow light of afternoon coming through the wavy old window panes, his complexion was a strange off-shade of creamed coffee. His short hair was this same muddy-ash.

“Hello,” I said.

Two syllables. With my father, every uttered sound was a tripwire. 

“You wanna see something?” he asked.

He lifted from his lap and held out an exceptional vase—teal, metallic, finely grooved, as if turned on a lathe.

I stepped past so much in this living room that was still his—a brass powder horn lamp and, on an end table, a miniature Viking ship with a dragon’s head bow and a lashing tail stern, a dozen little oars on either side, which my father had put together from a kit.

When I extended my arm to take this curious-looking vase from him, he pulled it back.

“Know what it’s for?” he asked. 

Flowers? That would be my guess. 

“You don’t?” His voice rounded down in disappointment.

As soon as he turned a veiny temple toward me, I knew. 

Steve’s urn.

A glint in his eyes as he again raised the urn. Warily, I reached for it, eyeing his big-knuckled hand. At the last minute, he tomahawk-chopped the base of the urn down snugly into my palm—not hard, but hard enough.

He held tight to it. But so did I. Then he gave it a sharp pull, sending a snap through my arm and shoulder, and a tug-of-war over the urn was underway. I had no good hold on the wide end of the urn, and he had every advantage grasping the narrow neck. He grinned slightly, the faintest indication of affection. Then, as strangely as it had all started, our arms became relaxed, and the urn felt like a prosthetic handshake between us. He let go, and I stepped back with it.
Just like him to make a little game out of handing it to me.

Everything on his terms.

The urn—not metal, ceramic, or painted glass—and lightweight. If dropped, it would bounce like a plastic water pitcher.

My redneck brother inside this thing? He’d drink beer out of it. 

“Now I understand from your mother you gave her some words. Some nonsense about being buried?” He pointed across the living room at the big framed picture of my grandfather.

“Near old Roy the family man?”

Roy the family man, as my father liked to put it, had a halo around him for being everything my father was not—soft-spoken, devoted to his children, a good neighbor.

“It wasn’t nonsense,” I muttered. “Steve told me he did.” 

My father leaned forward on the deathbed. 

“He told you? Well, whoop–de–do! That damn boy told me a lot of things too. Never carried through with one of them. Told me he was going into the Air Force—but did he?”

I didn’t answer.

“But since he told you, well hell, I guess I should just run out and do whatever he says—is that what you drove all the way down here to say?”

There was but one move here. The nowhere move. Like in chess, when you just stare down at the board, pretending to think, knowing it’s hopeless.

“Laziness. That was Steve’s problem his whole life…quit that good job at Jacobs Concrete. Not a word to anyone, just walked off the site. Damn his foolish little heart.”

I actually understood my father’s ugliness. His sons hated him. Didn’t he realize why we did?

Even as a child I had known that his slapping me and kicking me made him a bad man. Five times my age of five and didn’t know or care? As an old man, he was still a bully. 

I rolled Steve’s urn around in my hands.

“Now when you’re finished looking, you can set it down”—he pecked his finger down on the coffee table—”right beside his picture, just where the little devil can look at what he did to himself.”

I was finished. I put the urn beside Steve’s high school graduation picture, which I couldn’t look at, and turned toward the darkened kitchen doorway. I got the feeling my mother wasn’t in the house.

“And for your information, buster, before you run off, the church doesn’t want him buried.”

Caught in a pivot, I glared over my shoulder. 

“You heard me. Not in St. Mary’s Cemetery anyway. Your brother—and careful how you look at me—had a reputation.”

“Yeah, well, he was still Catholic.”

“The hell he was—and don’t smart mouth me!” He leaned down with one forearm against his knee and sighted me as if I were a billiard ball at the end of a pool cue. “Another thing, old family sweetheart Roy over there wouldn’t want your damn brother buried near him.”

Clearly the old bastard didn’t want me here. I got that. But what could I do? Erase myself for another decade until someone else died?



Meet the author:

John Michael Cummings’ short stories and essays have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including The Iowa Review, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Kenyon Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story “The Scratchboard Project” received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

He is the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2009), winner of The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12) and one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY for Black History month.

He is also the author of the short story collection Ugly To Start With (West Virginia University Press, 2011), which The Philadelphia Inquirer calls a work of “sharp observation and surpassing grace.”


*Please check back in December for links to purchase this book.

Book Showcase & Giveaway: BLOND CARGO by John Lansing

Blond Cargo
by John Lansing

Book Blast on October 7th

on Tour at October 8 – November 30, 2014



Blond Cargo by John Lansing | Coming Soon  



Book Details:



Genre: Mystery/Thriller


Series: Jack Bertolino, 2nd


* Blond Cargo does include some graphic violence.


Published by: Karen Hunter


Publication Date:  10/20/2014


Number of Pages:  320


ISBN: 9781476795515 


Purchase Links:    




Synopsis:

“A pulse-pounding thriller with a charming protagonist” (Kirkus Reviews), this gripping ebook continues the story that began in The Devil’s Necktie.

Jack Bertolino’s son, Chris, was the victim of a brutal murder attempt and Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss, provided information that helped Jack take down the perpetrator of the crime. Jack accepted the favor knowing there’d be blowback. In Blond Cargo the mobster’s daughter has gone missing and Cardona turned in his chit. Jack discovers that the young, blond, mafia princess has been kidnapped and imprisoned while rich, politically connected men negotiate her value as a sex slave.

A sizzling whodunit for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell, Blond Cargo taps into the real-life crime world to deliver a thrilling, action-packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the explosive, unprecedented finale.



Read an excerpt: (NOTE: Excerpt contains some profane language)



4

Jack carried a Subway turkey sandwich, a tall unsweetened iced coffee, a bottle of water, and a smile as he keyed the security gate that led to the dock in Marina del Rey where his boat was moored. The marina was always quiet during the week. Just the way he liked it.

He stopped to admire his twenty-eight feet of heaven before stepping onto his boat’s transom and then. . .

“Yo, Mr. B.”

Jack never forgot a voice, which explained his reluctance to turn around.
“Yo, yo, Mr. B.”

Miserably persistent, Jack thought. He turned to face Peter Maniacci, who was dressed head-to-toe in black. With his outstretched arms draped over the chain-link fence, Peter looked like an Italian scarecrow. The black circles under his eyes belied his youth. The sharp points of his sideburns, his boots, and the .38 hanging lazily from a shoulder holster added menace to his goofy grin.

So close, Jack thought. His only worry that day had been whether to eat his sandwich dockside or out on the Pacific with a view of the Santa Monica Pier.

“How you doing, Peter?”

“How you doin’?”

Jack let out a labored sigh. “We could do this all day. What’s up?”

“That’s funny, Mr. B. How’s the boy? How’s his pitching arm?”

Jack’s face tightened. He wasn’t happy that Peter knew any of his son’s particulars. When he didn’t answer, Peter continued.

“Hey, nice boat. I used to fish for fluke off the north shore. Long Island. I think I must be in the wrong business.”

“Count on it,” Jack said. “What can I do for you?”

“My boss was wondering if you could spare a few minutes of your time.”

As if on cue, a black Town Car materialized behind Peter and came to a smooth, silent stop. The car rose visibly when Peter’s boss, a thick, broad-shouldered man, stepped out of the rear seat.

Vincent Cardona. Expensive suit, the body of a defensive linebacker—fleshy but muscled. Dark, penetrating eyes. Cardona looked in both directions before leveling his feral gaze on Jack. An attempt at a smile fell short of the mark. A thick manila envelope was tucked under one beefy arm.

Jack had been aware there would be some form of payback due for information Cardona had provided on Arturo Delgado, the man responsible for the attempted murder of his son. He just didn’t think it would come due this quickly. He opened the locked gate and let the big man follow him down the dock toward his used Cutwater cabin cruiser.

As Peter stood sentry in front of the Lincoln Town Car, Jack allowed the devil entry to his little piece of paradise.

“How’s your boy? How’s the pitching arm?” Vincent asked bluntly. Just a reminder of why he was there.

“On the mend.” Jack gestured to one of two canvas deck chairs in the open cockpit of the boat. Both men sat in silence as Jack waited for Cardona to explain the reason for his visit.

Jack wasn’t comfortable with Cardona’s talking about Chris, but the big man had taken it upon himself to station Peter outside Saint John’s Health Center while his son was drifting between life and death. Cardona’s enforcer had scared off Delgado, and that might have saved his son’s life. The unsolicited good deed was greatly appreciated by Jack. The debt weighed heavily.

“It rips your heart out when your children have problems and you can’t do nothing to help,” Cardona said with the raspy wheeze of a man who had abused cigars, drugs, booze, and fatty sausage for most of his life.

“What can I do for you?” Jack asked, not wanting to prolong the impromptu meeting.

Cardona, unfazed by Jack’s brusqueness, answered by pulling out a picture and handing it to Jack.

“Angelica Marie Cardona. She’s my girl. My only. My angel. Her mother died giving birth. I didn’t have the heart to re-up. I raised her by myself.”

Mobster with a heart of gold. Right, Jack thought. But Cardona’s wife must have been a stunner because Angelica, blond, early twenties, with flawless skin and gray-green eyes, didn’t get her good looks from her father. Cardona’s gift was her self-assured attitude, which all but leaped off the photograph.

“Beautiful.”

Jack Bertolino, master of the understatement, he thought.

“And doesn’t she know it. Too much so for her own good. You make mistakes, my line of business. Whatever.”

“What can I do for you, Vincent?” Jack said, dialing back the attitude.

Cardona tracked a seagull soaring overhead with his heavy-lidded eyes and rubbed the stubble on his jaw.

Jack would have paid good money to change places with the gull.

“I shoulda never moved out here. L.A. I’m a black-socks- on-the-beach kinda guy. East Coast all the way. Never fit in. But I’m a good earner and the powers that be decided they were happy with the arrangement. Everyone was happy except Angelica and me.”

“She turned thirteen, didn’t wanna have nothing to do with her old man. Turned iceberg cold. I tried everything— private schools, horses, ballet, therapy, live-in help; nothin’ worked. She closed up tighter than a drum. I finally threatened to send her to the nuns.”

“How did that work out?”

“I’m fuckin’ sitting here, aren’t I? On this fuckin’ dinghy . . . no offense meant,” he said, trying to cover, but the flash of anger told the real story. “I hear you’re an independent contractor now.”

It was Tommy Aronsohn, his old friend and ex–district attorney, who had set him up with his PI’s license and first client, Lawrence Weller and NCI Corp. But Jack Bertolino and Associates, Private Investigation, still didn’t come trippingly off his tongue.

And thinking of the disaster up north, he said, “We’ll see how that goes.”

“This is the point. I haven’t seen my daughter in close to a month. Haven’t heard word one since around the time your son was laid up in Saint John’s,” he said. Reminder number two. “It’s killing me,” he continued. “I’m getting a fuckin’ ulcer. Then this.”

Cardona pulled out the L.A. Times with the front-page spread reporting on the woman who had died when her boat crashed on the rocks at Paradise Cove. As it turned out, a second woman down in Orange County had washed up on the beach a few weeks earlier at the Terranea resort, scaring the joy out of newlyweds taking photos at sunset. Talk about twisted memories, Jack thought. As if marriage wasn’t tough enough. He’d already read both articles with his morning coffee and hadn’t bought into the pattern the reporter inferred.

“And the connection?”

“I got a bad feeling is all. She’s never disappeared like this before—not for this long anyway,” he said, amending his statement. “And then. . .” Cardona said, waving the newspaper like it was on fire. “It says here they were both blonds. Both about Angelica’s age. They could be fuckin’ cousins. Could be nothing.”

“Did you file a missing-persons report?”

Cardona gave him a hard side eye. “Jack, don’t fuck with me. We take care of our own.”

Jack thought before he spoke. “I’m not one of yours.”

“Semantics.”

“What about your crew?”

Cardona flopped open his meaty hands. “I get angina, I don’t call my cousin Frankie, who has a certain skill set but stinks when it comes to open-heart surgery. Look, I get it. You were on the other team. But this is straight-up business. One man to another. One father to another. I need you to find my girl. You got my number. Use it, Jack. Money’s no object. Find my baby.”

Strike three.

Jack didn’t answer. He stared out at the navy-blue water of the marina, past row upon row of beautiful yachts, symbols of dreams fulfilled, and knew they were empty notions compared to family.

Cardona hadn’t actually spoken the words you owe me, but they filled the subtext of everything he’d said. He was not subtle. The big man had reached out when Jack was in need, and Jack had accepted the offer. Now Vincent Cardona wanted his pound of flesh.

“This is everything I know. Last address, phone numbers, phone bills, e-mail accounts, bank, credit cards, friends and whatnot. The whole shot,” Cardona said, holding the manila envelope out in Jack’s direction.

“I have other commitments,” Jack stated.

“You look real fuckin’ busy, Jack, if you don’t mind my sayin’.” His eyes crinkled into a sarcastic grin. Vincent Cardona does charm.

Jack accepted the overstuffed envelope with a sigh.

 “If she don’t want to come back, fine. No funny business, no strong-arm bullshit from my end. You got my word. I just need to know that my blood is alive. I’m fuckin’ worried and I don’t do worry too good. Sleep on it, Jack. But do the right thing.”

Cardona’s eyes locked on to Jack’s. Jack remained silent. He’d take a look. No promises, not yet.

Vincent’s knees cracked and the canvas chair squeaked like it was in pain as he stood up. He covered a belch behind his fist and rubbed his gut as he moved stiffly past Jack. The boat rocked when Cardona stepped off and walked heavily away, his Italian leather shoes echoing on the wooden dock.

The weight of the world. Jack could relate.

Peter Maniacci opened the gate for his boss and then the door to the Lincoln Town Car, which plunged to curb level as the big man slid in. Peter ran around to the other side of the car and tossed Jack a wave like the queen mum. He jumped into the Lincoln, which lurched forward before Peter could slam the door shut.

Jack walked into the boat’s deckhouse, grabbed a bottle of water, and downed two more Excedrin. He stretched his back, which was going into a spasm from yesterday’s violence, and chased the pills with a Vicodin to stay one step ahead of the pain that he knew was headed his way.

Jack had already decided to take the case.



Author Bio:


John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. “The Devil’s Necktie” was his first novel. “Blond Cargo” is the next book in the Jack Bertolino series. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.


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Book Showcase: STRONG DARKNESS by Jon Land


Strong Darkness


by Jon Land


on Tour at Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours October 1-31, 2014



 



Book Details:



Genre: Thriller


Published by: Forge 


Publication Date: Sept 30, 2014 


Number of Pages: 368 


ISBN: 978-0765335111 


Purchase Links:    


Synopsis:



1883: Texas Ranger William Ray Strong teams up with Judge Roy Bean to track down the Old West’s first serial killer who’s stitching a trail of death along the railroad lines slicing their way through Texas.

The Present: Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself pursuing another serial killer whose methods are eerily similar to the one pursued by her great-grandfather almost a century-and-a-half before. But that’s just the beginning of the problems confronting Caitlin in her biggest and most dangerous adventure yet, starting off when the son of her reformed outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters is nearly beaten to death while at college.

The trail of that attack at Brown University leads all the way back to Texas and a Chinese high-tech company recently awarded the contract to build the nation’s Fifth Generation wireless network. Li Zhen, a rare self-made man in China and the company’s founder, counts that as the greatest achievement of his career. But it’s an achievement that hides the true motivations behind a rise fueled by events dating back to the time of Caitlin’s great-grandfather. Because the same era that spawned a serial killer who has impossibly resurfaced today also hides the secrets behind Li’s thirst for nothing less than China’s total domination of the United States.

His fiendishly clever plan is backed by all-powerful elements of the Chinese underworld that will stop at nothing to insure its success. Up against an army at Li’s disposal, Caitlin and Cort Wesley blaze a violent trail across country and continent in search of secrets hidden in the past, but it’s a secret from the present that holds the means to stop their adversary’s plot in its tracks, even as a climactic battle dawns with nothing less than the fate of the U.S. at stake. Because there’s a darkness coming, and only Caitlin Strong can find the light before it’s too late.



Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

San Antonio, Texas

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

Caitlin Strong listened to the chant repeated over and over again by the Beacon of Light Church members who’d decided to picket a young soldier’s funeral here in San Antonio in pointless protest. The words were harder to make out across the street beyond the thousand-foot buffer the protestors were required to keep, but clear enough to disturb the parents of an army hero who just wanted to bury their son in peace.

“What are you going to do about this, Ranger?” Bud Chauncey, the young man’s father, asked her.

“I’ve requested that they vacate the premises, sir,” Caitlin told the man. “My orders are to do no more than that as long as they keep their distance. It’s the law.”

Chauncey, who owned several car dealerships in the area, turned toward the Beacon of Light Church members gathered on a patch of fresh land up a slight rise across the road Mission Burial Park had purchased in order to expand. His eyes looked bloodshot and weary, his face held in an angry glare that captured the frustration over being able to do no more about their presence here than he could for the son he was about to lay to rest. He stretched a hand through stringy gray hair to smooth it back down, but the breeze quickly blew it out of place again. Chauncey always looked so strong, vital and happy on his television commercials, leaving Caitlin to wonder if this was even the same man. His neck was thin and marred by discolored patches of skin that looked to have come from radiation treatments. His hands were thin and knobby and she noticed them trembling once he moved them from his pockets. She caught a glimpse of tobacco stains on the tips of his fingers and nails and thought of those radiation treatments again.

“Thousand feet away?” Chauncey questioned.

“Legislature passed a law restricting protests to that distance to funerals held in the state.”

Chauncey gazed back at the mourners gathered by his son’s gravesite waiting for the service to begin. He and Caitlin stood off to the side of the building funeral cortege at Mission Burial Park, the cemetery located on the San Antonio River where her father and grandfather were buried in clear view of the historic Espada Mission.

“Why don’t you explain that to my boy, Ranger?”

It sounded more like a plea than a question, a grieving father looking for a way to reconcile his son’s death in the face of picketing strangers paying him the ultimate disrespect. Blaming gays and their lifestyle for the landmine that had taken a young man’s life when he threw himself on two other soldiers to save them.

“The world might be full of shit,” Chauncey resumed with his gaze fixed across the road, electricity seeming to radiate out of his pores with the sweat to the point where Caitlin figured she’d get a shock if she stretched a hand out to comfort him. “But that doesn’t mean we ever get used to stepping in it.”

“I’ll be right back, sir,” she told Bud Chauncey and headed toward the street.



CHAPTER 2

San Antonio, Texas

It seemed like too nice a day to bury somebody as gifted as Bud Chauncey’s son Junior. An All-District athlete in three sports, Homecoming King and senior class president who’d joined the Army’s ROTC program. He went to Afghanistan already a hero and came back in a box after his platoon was hit by a Taliban ambush while on patrol. It was bad enough when good boys died for no good reason Caitlin could see. It was even worse when it happened while a war was winding down and most back home had stopped paying attention.

Caitlin was thinking of Dylan Torres, the eighteen-year-old son of the man she considered, well, her boy friend, as she walked toward the road and grassy field across it in the process of being dug out to make room for Mission Burial Park’s expansion. Bud Chauncey’s son Junior had been barely a year older when he died and she couldn’t help picturing Dylan patrolling a desert wasteland with M-16 held in the ready position before him. Still a boy, no matter how much he’d been through or how many monsters with whom he’d come into contact. Currently in Providence, Rhode Island where he was in the midst of his freshman football season for Brown University.

Caitlin had read that Junior Chauncey had been accepted for admission at the University of Texas at Austin where he hoped to do the same. Dylan had a junior varsity game next weekend, if she remembered correctly. Junior would never don helmet and pads again.

That thought pushed a spring into her step as she strode across the road now crammed with cars, both parked along the side and inching along in search of a space. The funeral was being delayed to account for that, giving Bud Chauncey more time to suffer and the Beacon of Light Church more time to make their presence known. Alerted to their coming, television crews from five local stations and at least two national ones she could see had arrived first, their cameras covering all that was transpiring on both sides of the road.

Crossing the street, Caitlin thought she felt a blast of heat flushed by a furnace slam into her. It seemed to radiate off the protesters turning the air hot and prickly as they continued to chant. The sky was cloudless, the heat building in the fall day under a sun more like summer’s from the burn Caitlin felt on her cheeks.

Caitlin recognized the leader, William Bryant Tripp, from his wet-down hair, skin flushed red and handlebar mustache, and angled herself straight for him across the edge of the field that gave way to a drainage trench the width of a massive John Deere wheel loader’s shovel. The trench created a natural barricade between the Beacon of Light Church members and what might as well have been the rest of the world, while the big Deere sat idle between towering mounds of earth set further back in the field.

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

“Mr. Tripp,” she called to the leader over the chants. He’d stepped out of the procession at her approach, smirking and twirling the ends of his mustache.

“It’s Reverend Tripp,” he reminded.

Caitlin nodded, trying to look respectful. “There’s people grieving a tragic death across the way, Reverend, and I’d ask you again as a man and a Christian to vacate the premises so they might do so in peace. You’ve made your point already and I believe you should leave things at that.”

The smirk remained. “Peace is what this church is all about, Ranger, a peace that can only be achieved if those who debauch and deface the values of good honest people like us repent and are called out for their sins.”

“Gays had nothing to do with putting that brave boy in a coffin, sir. That was the work of a bunch of cowardly religious fanatics like the ones serving you here today.”

The smirk slipped from Tripp’s expression, replaced by a look that brushed Caitlin off and sized her up at the same time. “We’re breaking no laws here. So I’m going to ask you to leave us in peace.”

Caitlin felt her muscles tightening, her mouth going dry. “You have every right to be here and I’m here to protect your rights to peaceful assembly as well as the rights of the Chauncey family to bury their son without a sideshow. The problem is that presents a contradiction it’s my duty to resolve. And the best way to do that is to ask you and your people to simply leave in a timely fashion.”

Tripp shifted his shoulders. He seemed to relish the threat Caitlin’s words presented. “And if we choose not to?”

“You’ve made your point for the cameras already, sir. There’s nothing more for you to prove. So do the holy thing by packing up your pickets and heading on.” Caitlin gazed toward the protestors thrusting their signs into the air in perfect rhythm with their chanting. “Use the time to paint over those signs, so you’re ready to terrorize the next family that loses a son in battle, Mr. Tripp.”

Tripp measured her words, running his tongue around the inside of his mouth. It made a sound like crushing a grape underfoot. Caitlin could feel the sun’s heat between them now, serving as an invisible barrier neither wanted to breach.

“It’s Reverend Tripp,” he reminded again.

“I believe that title needs to be earned,” Caitlin told him, feeling her words start to race ahead of her thoughts. 

Tripp stiffened. “This church has been serving Him and His word since the very founding of this great nation, Ranger. Even here in the great state of Texas itself.”

“Those other military funerals you’ve been picketing from Lubbock to Amarillo don’t count toward that, sir.”

“I was speaking of our missionary work back in the times of the frontier; the railroads and the oil booms. How this church tried to convert the Chinese heathen hordes to Christianity.”

“Heathen hordes?”

“It was a fool’s errand,” Tripp said, bitterness turning his expression even more hateful. “The Chinese made for an unholy, hateful people not deserving of our Lord’s good graces.”

“But you believe you are, thanks to hurting those good folks across the way, is that right? Problem is you’re not serving God, sir, you’re serving yourself. And I’m giving you a chance to square things the easy way instead of the hard.”

Tripp sneered at her. “Such threats didn’t work in Lubbock or Amarillo and they won’t work here either.”

“I wasn’t the one who made them in those cities, Mr. Tripp. You’d be well advised to listen this time.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

The chanting had picked up in cadence, seeming to reach a crescendo as the funeral goers squeezed themselves around Junior Chauncey’s gravesite across the road so the ceremony could begin. Caitlin watched the members of the Beacon of Light Church thrusting their picket signs into the air as if they were trying to make rain, the image of their feet teetering on the edge of recently dug drainage trench holding in her mind.

“I guess I’ll have to think of something,” she told Tripp and started away.



CHAPTER 3

San Antonio, Texas

Caitlin looped around the perimeter of the protesters, her presence likely forgotten by the time she reached the John Deere wheel loader parked between matching piles of excavated earth. She recognized it as a 644K hybrid model boasting twenty tons of power that could probably level a skyscraper. Caitlin had learned to drive earlier, more brutish versions while helping to rebuild a Mexican family’s home after they’d been burned out by drunken kids for a pot deal gone wrong. Trouble was the drug dealer who’d screwed the kids actually lived across the street. Caitlin’s father had arrested the boys two days later. Considering them dangerous criminals, Jim Strong made them strip to their underwear and left them to roast in the sun while he waited for back-up to assist him in a cavity search. Jim had organized the rebuilding effort, financed ultimately by the restitution paid by the accused boys’ parents to keep them out of jail. Caitlin’s father had brokered that deal as well.

The hybrid engine of the 644K sounded a hundred times quieter than the roar coughed by the older version and handled as easy as a subcompact, when Caitlin started it forward.

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

She couldn’t hear the chanting anymore, imagining it in her mind with each thrust of the picket signs into the air. It was loud enough to keep the protestors from detecting her approach, even when she lowered the shovel into position and let its teeth dig maybe a foot down into the ground.

Caitlin plowed the growing pile of dirt forward as if it were snow after a rare Texas blizzard. The back row of the protesters turned just as the wall of gathered earth crested over the shovel. Caitlin imagined the panic widen their eyes, heard screams and shouts as they tried desperately to warn the others what was coming.

Too late.

The massive power of the John Deere pushed the earthen wall straight into the center of the pack fronted by William Bryant Tripp himself, driving the mass forward without even a sputter. The last thing Caitlin glimpsed were picket signs closer to the front stubbornly clinging to the air before those holding them were gobbled up and shoved forward.

Down into the drainage trench.

Caitlin pictured Reverend Tripp toppling in first, imagined the trench as a mass grave or, better yet, the week’s deposit zone in the local landfill. Because that’s where the members of the Beacon of Light Church belonged in her mind, dumped in along with the other stench-riddled trash.

Some of the protesters managed to peel off to the side to escape the John Deere’s force and wrath, and Caitlin didn’t brake the big machine until the earthen wall she was dragging stopped on the edge of the trench. Portions of it sifted downward, forestalling the efforts of Tripp and his minions to climb out. So she gave the Deere just a little more gas to trap them a bit longer.

Caitlin cut off the engine at that point. Her gaze drifted across the street to the funeral ceremony for Junior Chauncey where to a man and woman everyone had turned around to face the other side of the road. They saw the members of the Beacon of Light Church visible only as hands desperately clawing for purchase to pull themselves from the trench into which Caitlin had forced them. She hopped down out of the cab and walked around the wall of dirt and grass the John Deere had helped her lay.

Then, to a man and woman led by Bud Chauncey himself, the funeral goers started to clap their hands, applauding her. It got louder and louder, reaching a crescendo just as the television cameras began rotating feverishly between both sides of the road and reporters rushed toward Caitlin with microphones in hand.

She leaped across the trench, brushing the microphones and cameras aside, the sun hot against her flesh.

“You’re going to pay for this, Caitlin Strong!” she heard Tripp scream at her, as he finally managed to hoist himself from the ditch. “The Lord does not forget!”

“Neither do I, sir,” Caitlin said calmly, regarding the dirt clinging to him no amount of shaking or brushing could remove. It turned his ash gray hair a dark brown, making him look as if he was wearing a vegetable garden atop his head. “And you’d be wise to remember that.”



Author Bio:

Hailed as “the greatest thriller writer alive today” by Bookviews and called “a creative genius” by Romantic Times, Jon Land is the author of 36 books, twenty-one of which have been national bestsellers, Jon is published in over fifty countries and six different languages, including German and Japanese. There are currently almost 7 million copies of his books in print. RT Book Reviews honored him with a special achievement award for being a Pioneer in Genre Fiction.

Jon’s latest series features female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong who debuted in STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE (May ’09, Forge Books). The Associated Press wrote “The book is a page-turner, the pace blistering, the characters well-drawn and the action hot. Caitlin Strong is a female version of John McClane from Die Hard.” That was followed by STRONG JUSTICE (June ’10, Forge) which Publisher’s Weekly lauded with a starred review calling it, “Intense and skillfully plotted.” The San Jose Mercury News added that, “I’ve always wondered why there isn’t an estrogen driven, sometimes skirt wearing female competitor to James Bond, Jack Reacher, Mike Hammer, Spenser … Well ladies and gentlemen, now there is and her name is Caitlin Strong.” STRONG JUSTICE was named a Top Thriller of the Year by Library Journal and was named runner-up for Best Novel of the Year by the New England Book Festival. The third Caitlin Strong novel, STRONG AT THE BREAK (June ’11, Forge) was called “the best book I’ve read this year” by the San Jose Mercury News. “A terrific plot, vivid characters, suspense, a fast pace, all the ingredients of a great thriller,” adds Strand Magazine which included the book on their Best Books of the Year list as did Library Journal which named it, again, as a Top Thriller of Year. The next book in the series, STRONG VENGEANCE (July ’12, Forge) garnered the highest praise in series so far, including from the Huffington Post which proclaimed it, “a rare combination of meticulous research and good old-fashioned shoot-em-up action.” STRONG RAIN FALLING (August ’13, Forge) Caitlin’s latest adventure, won the 2013 USA Best Books Award and 2014 International Book Award in the Mystery/Suspense category. STRONG DARKNESS, the next in the series, was published in September of 2014.

Meanwhile, BETRAYAL (January ’12, Forge), Jon’s first nonfiction effort that reached as high as #5 on the Boston Globe bestseller list, was optioned by Fox as a vehicle for Denis Leary, and named Best True Crime Book of the Year by Suspense Magazine as well as winning the 2013 International Book Award for Best True Crime. Most recently, Jon has resurrected his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken in THE TENTH CIRCLE (December ’13, Open Road Media) and PANDORA’S TEMPLE (November ’12, Open Road Media) which was nominated for a 2013 Thriller Award in the Best E-Book Original category and won the 2013 International Book Award for Best Adventure Thriller.

No stranger to the world of the film, Jon’s first film, a teen caper-comedy called DIRTY DEEDS, was released theatrically in the summer of 2005 and in DVD in January of 2006. Among numerous others, his current film projects include CHALK (Handpicked Films and Millennium) and STRANDED (Milk & Media Productions).

Jon graduated Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude. He continues his association with Brown as alumni advisor to the Greek System, and vice-president of the Brown Football Association. He bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research, as well as a twenty-year career in the martial arts. He is an associate member of the United States Special Forces, has volunteered frequently in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing and chairs the Marketing Committee of International Thriller Writers. He lives in Providence, RI and can be found on the web at:




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Book Showcase: GHOSTING by Edith Pattou



Ghosting by Edith Pattou
ISBN: 9781477847749 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781477847893 (paperback)
ASIN: B00ICWYTPA (Kindle edition) 
Publication date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Skyscape



On a hot summer night in a Midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes altering lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario all too familiar from current real-life headlines. But victims can also become survivors, and as we come to know each character through his/her own distinctive voice and their interactions with one another, we see how, despite pain and guilt, they can reach out to one another, find a new equilibrium, and survive.

Told through multiple points of view in naturalistic free verse and stream of consciousness, this is an unforgettable, haunting tale.



Excerpt:

MAXIE

When I was a little girl

ghosting was

a sheet of paper and

a drawing in

black ink.

A crudely sketched ghost,

with a Tootsie Roll

taped on.

Not scary.

A fun Halloween prank.

You slipped it under a neighbor’s door,

ran away,

giggling.

“You’ve been ghosted!”

Exciting.

Harmless.

But now

ghosting is:

this can’t be happening,

screams like knives in your ears,

pooling glistening blood.

Everywhere.

And death, bellowing

hot and loud

in

your

face.




Meet the author:

Edith Pattou has found acclaim as a writer in middle-grade fantasy with such award-winning books as East, which received starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal; was selected as a Top Ten Book for YA, an American Library Association Notable Book, a School Library Journal Top Ten YA Book, one of the 100 Best of the Best YA Books for the 21st Century by the Young Adult Library Services Association; and was nominated for numerous state awards. It’s a nominee for NPR’s all-time Best YA Novels list. 


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Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads




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Book Showcase: THE MYSTERY OF MOUTAI

The Mystery of Moutai by G.X. Chen
ISBN: 9781496055491 (paperback – CreateSpace)
ISBN: 9781310078590 (ebook – Smashwords)
ASIN: B00JOWF4Y2 (Kindle edition)                   
Publication date: April 20, 2014


A teenager returns home from school to find a gruesome scene: the apartment he shares with his mother, Shao Mei, in Boston’s Chinatown has been ransacked and she is dead. There is a bottle of Moutai—the most exotic and expensive Chinese liquor—left at the scene and traces of rat poison in one of the two shot glasses on the kitchen counter. This was evidently a homicide, but who could possibly be the killer?

Ann Lee and Fang Chen, close friends of the victim, team up with the Boston police to solve this mystifying crime: why would anyone want to murder a harmless middle-aged woman, one who worked as an unassuming mailroom clerk, with no money, no connections, and presumably, no enemies?

Realizing that important clues behind the motive may be buried deep in the victim’s past, they travel to Beijing, where Shao Mei spent more than fifty years of her life. While there, surrounded by the antiquities of China’s rich and complex history, they stumble unwittingly into a cobweb of mystery and danger. Fearing for their lives but determined to press on, they end up unearthing a scandal more deceptive and far-reaching than either could have imagined.



Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

In the spring of 1994, John Chan, an athletic teenager, vaulted up the stairs of an old apartment building on the edge of Chinatown in the city of Boston, taking two steps at a time while carrying a hockey stick and a duffel bag full of shoulder pads, helmets, gloves, and skates. He was tired but very excited because he had just played an important hockey game at his school—the winner would go on to the division finals—and he could hardly wait to tell his mother that he had a winning goal in the second period and was congratulated by all of his teammates and his coach. John was starving. Looking forward to a hug; a hot shower; and a hearty, homemade meal, he was rushing toward his apartment, which was located on the third floor of the five-story brick building.

After the door swung open by a touch of the end of his hockey stick, John stopped in alarm. Even if she was expecting a guest, his mother always locked the apartment door—she was afraid of burglars ever since their next-door neighbor had a break-in several months ago. John dropped the duffel bag, placed the hockey stick against the wall and peeked inside the apartment apprehensively. It was late in the afternoon, but the west-facing apartment was still well lit by the sun, which was sinking slowly on the horizon.

His jaw dropped when he saw what had become of his home, which was always neat and clean no matter how hectic the occupants’ lives were. The living room was in total disarray, the floor covered with bits and pieces of books and magazines, and all the drawers and cabinet doors in the kitchen were pulled open—his home had been turned upside down, ransacked.

His voice echoed as he called out, “Mom, I’m home! Where are you?”

No response; the apartment was eerily quiet. Hesitantly, John opened the door wider and entered, trying not to step on the fallen books because he knew his mother, Shao Mei, loved them. A former physics professor at Beijing University, Shao Mei kept all the books she had brought with her from China, even though most of them were getting flimsy and falling apart.

Among all the messes, a shiny object drew John’s attention almost immediately. Sitting on the coffee table in the living room was a slick and colorful porcelain bottle of Moutai, the most famous liquor in China. His mother had been working as a mailroom clerk for an insurance company in Boston and could never have afforded an authentic bottle of Moutai, which would have fetched more than a hundred dollars on the black market in her native country.

He walked over and stood in front of the battered coffee table, looking down at the exquisitely designed liquor bottle, which seemed empty. Then, he noticed something bulky stuck between the sofa and the coffee table. It was his mother, face-down on the floor. On her partially hidden, painfully distorted face, blood trickled from her nose and her mouth. His legs started trembling violently. John screamed, but no sound came from his mouth. It was seemingly a long time before he was able to control his limbs. He ran to the kitchen, picked up the phone, and dialed 911.

The rest of the day was a blur. Police officers and detectives came and went, along with a team of forensic specialists and an ambulance. Everything in the apartment and around the body was checked, including a fancy gift box in the trash can, two shot glasses on the kitchen counter, and the empty bottle of Moutai. The forensic officers used protective gloves, putting all the items, one at a time, carefully into separate evidence bags.

After the body was taken away, a tall and sturdy man in his early fifties came into the bedroom where John was sitting and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Paul Winderman,” he said in a soft voice, “detective sergeant from the Boston Police Department. And your name please?”

“John Chan,” John murmured without looking up at the police officer.

“John,” Paul said, kneeling down to face the kid at the same level. “Do you have any relatives in town?”

“No,” John said and shook his head, looking into Paul’s deep and pale blue eyes in despair. What’ll happen to me now? He thought in panic. Where will I go? His mother was the only family he had in the US. He dropped his head and started weeping.

Paul kept his large hand on John’s shoulder. What a pity. The poor lad might have to be sent to social services, he thought sympathetically. “Do you know anyone in the city—your mother’s friends, for example?” he asked hopefully.

John lifted his head and nodded. “My mom was friendly with Auntie Ann Lee and Uncle Fang Chen,” he told the detective between sobs. According to Chinese tradition, he addressed all of his parents’ friends as “uncles” and “aunties” even though they weren’t blood relations. As far as John knew, Auntie Lee and Uncle Chen visited his mother often when she was alive—sometimes they’d take him along to have dim sum in Chinatown, an area he and his mother lived on the edge of, where the rent was cheaper than most places in downtown Boston.

Paul Winderman’s eyes lit up when he heard the names. He had dealt with both of them in a previous murder case a few years ago. He liked Ann a lot, a very capable young woman and a straight arrow, but he didn’t trust Fang Chen because the professor had played hocus-pocus with the police rather than cooperating the last time they met.

Paul processed the facts in his head for less than a minute before placing a few calls. Due to the fact that Ann didn’t own a car, he dispatched a police cruiser to pick her up. Half an hour later, a sober and red-eyed Ann Lee showed up at Shao Mei’s apartment to take John away.

“I’ll pack up everything you need and deliver to you as soon as I can,” Paul told the kid, who had rested his head on Auntie Lee’s shoulder and was crying.

Lifting his head, the kid said nothing but nodded with tears in his eyes. With Ann’s help, he stuffed a few sets of clothes into his duffel bag, picked up his backpack and the hockey stick, and left his home in the US for the last time.

***

Friday, April 24

Another warm night; the breeze coming from the open windows makes me feel it’s an early summer rather than spring day.

It has been a thrill to know that I will soon meet my old friend who suffered much at the hands of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to renew our friendship. I don’t have many old friends anymore, having lost all the contacts when I moved. I particularly crave the comrade-ship we forged during the formidable years when we were both young.

It’s fascinating for me to think what this friend of mine will say or what her reaction will be when I show up at her door. I probably should call her first or send her an e-mail, but I’m not sure if she has an e-mail account, or even a computer—still a luxury item for most people. I heard she has fallen on hard times since she left China. The poor thing! 

I’m sure I can cheer her up with my visit and my unique gift. It’s only fitting that I should bring her the best.



Meet the author:


G.X. Chen is a freelancer who lives in Boston with her husband (both of her mystery novels are based in Boston). She permanently moved from China to the US after Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. Previously published books include The Mystery of Revenge (a mystery novel) and Forget Me Not: A Love Story of the East (a historic fiction/romance) and several other novels in Chinese. 

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 




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Book Showcase: WILD WITHIN by Melissa Hart



Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart
ISBN: 9780762796809 (hardcover)  
Publication date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Lyons Press


Melissa Hart, a desperately lonely young divorcée and L.A. transplant, finds herself stranded in rainy Eugene, Oregon, working from home in the company of her two cats and two large mutts. At the local dog park, she meets a fellow dog owner named Jonathan: a tall, handsome man with a unibrow and hawk-like nose. When he invites her to accompany him on a drive to Portland to retrieve six hundred pounds of frozen rats and a fledgling barred owl, sparks fly!

Their courtship blossoms in a raptor rehabilitation center where wounded owls, eagles, falcons, and other iconic birds of prey take refuge and become ambassadors for their species. Initially, Melissa volunteers here in order to “sink her talons” into her new love interest, but soon she falls hopelessly in love with her fine feathered charges: Archimedes, a gorgeous snowy owl; Lorax, a fractious great horned owl; and Bodhi, a baby barred with a permanently injured wing. As “human imprints,” these birds see themselves and people as the same species yet retain a wildness that hoodwinks even the most experienced handlers. Overcoming her fears, Melissa bravely suffers some puncture wounds to get closer to these magnificent creatures.

Melissa and Jonathan start out convinced they don’t want children, but caring for birds who have fallen from their nests triggers a deep longing in Melissa to mother an orphaned child. Thus they embark on a heart-wrenching journey to adoption. Every page sparkles with vivid imagery and wit in this beautifully written memoir of parallel pursuits. Wildness Within is, above all, about the power of love—romantic, animal, and parental—to save lives and fulfill dreams.



Excerpt:

Prologue

“Clip Me”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

The urologist with the slicked-back hair and tawny soul patch regarded me perched on a stool beside my husband in his chilly white office. The man’s latex-sheathed fingers held the stainless steel scalpel with practiced ease, the way Jonathan wielded a syringe before tube-feeding electrolytes to an emaciated hawk. The doctor was maybe in his early forties, healthy and cheerful like usbut sober in the face of our request.

“You’ve got to assume you won’t be able to conceive a child after your vasectomy.” His eyes sought Jonathan’s, and then mine: “You need to treat this surgery as irreversible.”

He emphasized the last word; it hung in the disinfected air a moment before dissipating. Jonathan and I traded raised brows. The doctor’s gaze dropped discreetly to the floor, then lifted slightly to focus on the great horned owl tattooed on my ankle, just visible beneath the rolled-up cuff of my Levi’s.

Irreversible. I remembered how the artist’s needle had punched permanent black-and-brown feathers into my skin, the stinging exhilaration of each jab to commemorate my transition from Los Angeles urbanite to Oregon nature girl. No going back.

Perfect.

My husband lay down on the exam table, sheet pulled to his waist. He reached for my hand, and his T-shirt sleeve stretched up to reveal the outspread wings of a hawk inked on one bicep. He entwined his fingers in mine and grinned so that I could see his crooked right incisor, subtle but sharp as the tomial tooth a falcon uses to sever the vertebrae of its prey.

“Now I know how the raptors feel when we’re about to do a procedure,” he told me.

For years Jonathan had suffered from epididymitisinfections that rendered him mute with fever and achingly swollen testicles. We celebrated our third date in the ER, my hand gripping his as a nurse ran the ultrasound wand over his groin. A vasectomy would remove the path which the infection traveled.

An easy outpatient surgery, the doctor informed us. “I do several a day.” His scalpel glowed under fluorescent light.

I pondered the gravity of the moment, but only just. Never to be pregnant, never to give birth, never to see the curious amalgamation of his-nose-my-eyes-his-chin-my-mouthall of this felt irrelevant as long as I could spare Jonathan further physical pain.

I squeezed his hand. He looked up at the urologist with that deferential gratitude he’d reserved for all medical professionals since breaking his back in a car accident fourteen years before. Then he issued his humble mandate to the doctor.

“Clip me.”



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Meet the author:

Melissa Hart lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband (photographer Jonathan B. Smith) and their daughter. 

Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Orion, High Country News, The Advocate, Adbusters, Hemispheres, Horizon Air Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.

She teaches Feature Writing courses at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon, and speaks frequently for writing-related organizations and conferences in the Pacific Northwest.

In her free time, Melissa likes to hike and run half-marathons, kayak and camp and cook and travel to quirky places.


Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 



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Available at:     BookDepository     |     Alibris
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