Book Spotlight: CAJUN KISS OF DEATH by Ellen Byron

Cajun Kiss of Death: A Cajun Country Mystery by Ellen Byron

About Cajun Kiss of Death

Cajun Kiss of Death: A Cajun Country Mystery

Cozy Mystery

7th in Series

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crooked Lane Books (August 10, 2021)

Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 164385738X

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1643857381

Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08N6SMX1J

The next shot from Cupid’s bow may be fatal in USA Today bestselling, Agatha Award-winning author Ellen Byron’s hearty and delightful seventh Cajun Country mystery.

In Pelican, Louisiana, Valentine’s Day has a way of warming the heart, despite the February chill. But the air at Crozat Plantation B&B turns decidedly frigid when celebrity chef Phillippe Chanson checks in. And when the arrogant Phillippe–in town to open his newest Cajun-themed restaurant–perishes in a fiery boat crash, Maggie Crozat’s dear friend JJ lands in very cold water.

Did JJ, proprietor of Junie’s Oyster Bar and Dance Hall, murder Phillippe because he feared the competition? Might Maggie’s mother, Ninette, have bumped off the chef for stealing one of her cherished recipes? Or was the culprit a local seafood vendor, miffed because Phillippe was somehow able to sell oysters for a remarkably reasonable price, despite an oyster shortage?

Maggie had planned to devote her February to art lessons in New Orleans, a present from her sweetheart, Bo. But now she has to focus on helping her friend and her mother cross a murder charge off the menu. Meanwhile, Maggie receives a series of anonymous gifts that begin as charming but grow increasingly disturbing. Does Maggie have an admirer–or a stalker? And are these mysterious gifts somehow related to Phillippe’s murder?

Blood may be thicker than water, but this case is thicker than gumbo. And solving it will determine whether Maggie gets hearts and roses–or hearse and lilies–this Valentine’s Day.

Purchase Links – PenguinRandomHouseAmazonB&NKoboIndieBound

About Ellen Byron

Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. She writes the Catering Hall Mystery series, which are inspired by her real-life, under the name Maria DiRico. Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart.

Author Links
Newsletter: https://www.ellenbyron.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ellenbyronauthor/
https://www.facebook.com/CateringHallMysteries/
https://www.instagram.com/ellenbyronmariadirico/
Bookbub:
https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ellen-byron
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/maria-dirico
Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/23234.Ellen_Byron?from_search=true&from_srp=true
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19130966.Maria_DiRico?from_search=true&from_srp=true

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Guest Post: Lindsay Marcott – MRS. ROCHESTER’S GHOST

Good day, book people. Do you have a favorite classic? One of my favorite classics is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’ve loved this book since I read it for the first time many, many years ago in junior high school (aka middle school). Since my love affair began with Jane Eyre, I’ve become invested in all things Jane Eyre, i.e., movie and television adaptations, book adaptations, book retellings, books influenced by, etc. Needless to say, I was very excited when I heard about Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott. I’m beyond excited to welcome none other than Lindsay Marcott today as she discusses with us a modern take on Jane Eyre. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say and will add Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost to your TBR list, if it isn’t already there. Thank you, Ms. Marcott, for stopping by, the blog is now yours.

Jane Eyre for the Modern Age

by Lindsay Marcott

What is it about Jane Eyre that has made it a blockbuster for over a hundred and seventy years? The breathtaking writing, yes. The gripping plot: part Gothic romance, part coming-of-age story. The swooning romance between a rich man and a poor orphan, and the shock of the mad wife secreted in an attic.

But I think most of all it’s the voice of Jane herself: a young woman with an extraordinary sense of her own worth and independence. A voice that was revolutionary in 1847 when Charlotte Brontë published it. At the time, women had little say outside family and home. Their career opportunities outside of marriage were limited to underpaid servants and schoolteachers. Female characters in early Victorian novels were usually portrayed as either sugary too-good-to-be-true angels or fallen women seeking repentance.

Jane is neither. She’s constricted by the society she lives in—she needs to keep a stifling job as a governess or else starve to death—but she makes it clear she’d rather starve than sacrifice her will or stifle her intelligence. As a child, she has a temper and a will, even though she’s punished harshly for it. Later, when her employer, Mr. Rochester, grills her, she responds with strong opinions and engages in spirited debates. And when he tempts her to go live in sin with him in Europe, she escapes through the only means available to her—by running off to the surrounding moors, though it probably means she will die in those wilds. And she will not return to him until she learns he has fundamentally changed, and she can now love him passionately and physically without compromising her true self.

I believe it’s this will and independence of Jane’s that keep modern readers coming back for more (not to mention that throbbing romance!), and these are the same elements that inspire continual adaptations of the story. I had long dreamed of creating modern versions of these characters, because they so thrilled and delighted me and taught me life lessons over many years of my rereading the book. A nervy dream, yes. But also one that presented huge challenges: there are so many elements of the book that just won’t fly in an updated story.

For example: a current-day Jane would not be able to keep her curiosity under wraps about all the strange and spooky things going on in Mr. Rochester’s house. She wouldn’t just accept vague explanations or agree to his request to simply not ask about them. She would be itching to find out more.

Also a sexual relationship outside of marriage is no longer a taboo for most women of today. Jane wouldn’t have to flee that temptation. And of course a modern Mr. Rochester would be able to divorce a mad wife, though no doubt having to pay a heavy alimony for her future care. So that’s no longer even an obstacle.

But lies are always a problem in a relationship. Especially big lies.

A secret bigamist is a pretty big lie.

Being a secret murderer would be an even bigger one.

It was thinking about this that gave me the idea of adapting the book as a modern thriller. One in which Rochester does not have a stashed-away wife—instead he’s suspected of murdering a famous wife who has now disappeared. Jane would have to surreptitiously seek out the truth about him–guilty or not?–before she could give in to falling in love. And when spooky things happened, she would need to confront those as well. She would be risking an enormous amount. Losing the love of her life. And maybe also losing her life.

And so I set about writing a thriller, adding startling new twists, putting in jumps and shivers. The result is Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost. It was a joy to write, and I certainly hope it’s an equal joy to read.


 

Mrs. Rochester's GhostMrs. Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott
ISBN: 9781542026383 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781542026390 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781713561422 (audiobook)
ISBN: 9781713561415 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08DFSR14S (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B08L9LPFZP (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: August 1, 2021
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Thriller | Retelling

 In a modern and twisty retelling of Jane Eyre, a young woman must question everything she thinks she knows about love, loyalty, and murder.

Jane has lost everything: job, mother, relationship, even her home. A friend calls to offer an unusual deal—a cottage above the crashing surf of Big Sur on the estate of his employer, Evan Rochester. In return, Jane will tutor his teenage daughter. She accepts.

But nothing is quite as it seems at the Rochester estate. Though he’s been accused of murdering his glamorous and troubled wife, Evan Rochester insists she drowned herself. Jane is skeptical, but she still finds herself falling for the brilliant and secretive entrepreneur and growing close to his daughter.

And yet her deepening feelings for Evan can’t disguise dark suspicions aroused when a ghostly presence repeatedly appears in the night’s mist and fog. Jane embarks on an intense search for answers and uncovers evidence that soon puts Evan’s innocence into question. She’s determined to discover what really happened that fateful night, but what will the truth cost her?

 

Read An Excerpt:

The fog streamed in white scarves and pennants, with a bright half moon playing hide-and-seek among them. I walked briskly down the asphalt drive, Pilot racing figure eights around me. We cut across switchbacks toward the highway. I kept to the gravel shoulder as the grade descended.

A pair of headlights glowered in the mist, then swept swiftly by.

The highway continued to dip. Pilot romped ahead and disappeared from my sight around a curve.

“Pilot!” I heard him barking but couldn’t see him. I quickened my steps.

I found myself in the middle of a dense cloud. Fog gathered in the depression in the road.

“Pilot?” I yelled again. “Where are you?”

Excited yapping. But he was a ghost dog.

The roar of a motorcycle echoed from around the far side of the bend. Through the blanketing cloud, I caught a glimpse of the poodle trotting onto the road.

“Pilot, get back here!” I screamed.

The motorcycle’s headlamp glowed dimly as it appeared on the near side of the bend. Pilot barked with sudden frenzy. The headlamp veered crazily. Pilot darted off the road into the underbrush. A sickening sound of tires skidding out of control on gravel. A shout.

With horror, I watched motorcycle and rider slam down onto the gravel shoulder.

I ran toward the rider. He was sprawled crookedly next to the bike, but his limbs, encased in black leather and jeans, were moving stiffly. Alive, at least. With a groan, he hoisted himself up onto his elbows.

“Are you okay?” I shined my flashlight on him. He whipped his head. “What the hell are you?”

“Just a person,” I said quickly.

He yanked his goggles down. “For Chrissake. I meant who are you? What are you doing here?”

“Taking a walk.”

“What kind of lunatic goes out for a walk in this kind of fog?”

“Maybe the same kind of lunatic who drives way too fast in it.”

“You call that fast? Christ.” He gingerly gathered himself into a sitting position, then flexed his feet in the heavy boots experimentally. He took off his helmet and shook out a head of rough black curls. A week’s tangle of rough salt-and-pepper beard nearly obscured a wide mouth. The prominent nose might be called stately on a more good-natured face. “What the hell was that creature in the middle of the road?”

“A dog.”

“A dog?”

“A standard poodle. Unclipped.”

He put the helmet back on, then pulled a cell phone from his jacket and squinted at the screen. “Nothing,” he muttered.

“The reception’s kind of iffy around here.”

He flung out an arm. “Help me up, okay?”

I approached him tentatively. He was over six feet and powerfully built. About twice my weight, I guessed. “I’m not sure I can pull you.”

“Yeah, you probably can’t. Stoop down a little.”

God, he’s rude. I did, and he draped his arm around my shoulder, transferring his weight. My knees buckled a little but didn’t give. He began to stand, crumpled slightly, then got his balance and pulled himself up straight.

I suddenly became aware of his intense physicality. The power of his arm and shoulder against my body, the taut spring of the muscles in his chest. As if he sensed what I was feeling, he shook off my support and stood on his own feet.

“At least you can put weight on your feet,” I said. “That’s a good sign.”

“Are you a medical professional?”

“No.”

“Then your opinion doesn’t count for much at the moment.”

Go to hell, was on the tip of my tongue. But the fog’s chill was making me sniffle. It seemed absurd to attempt a stinging retort with a dripping nose. I swiped it surreptitiously with the sleeve of my jacket.

He walked, limping slightly, to the Harley. “This thing’s supposed to take a corner. That’s the main reason I bought it!” He gave the seat a savage kick. Then he hopped on his nonkicking boot and shook a fist as if in defiance of some bully of a god who particularly had it in for him.

I laughed.

He whirled on me. My laughter froze. The look of fury on his face sent a thrill of alarm through me. I edged backward; I felt at that moment he could murder me without compunction and leave my corpse to be devoured by coyotes and bobcats.

But then, to my astonishment, he grinned. “You’re right. I look like an ass.”

Pilot suddenly came crashing out of the underbrush.

“Is that your mutt?”

“Yes. Though, actually, not mine. He’s a recent addition at the place I’m staying.”

He stared at me, a thought dawning. I forced myself to stare back: deep-set eyes, dark as ink. I was about to introduce myself, but he yanked the goggles back over his eyes and stooped to the handlebar of the bike. “Help me get this up. Grab the other bar. You pull and I’ll push.”

“It’s too heavy.”

“I’ll do the heavy lifting. Just do what you can.”

Obstinately, I didn’t move.

“Please,” he added. He made the word sound like an obscenity.

I took a grudging step forward and grabbed hold of the handlebar with both hands. I tugged it toward me as he lifted his side with a grunt. The bike slowly rose upright.

“Hold it steady,” he said.

It felt like it weighed several tons—it took every ounce of my strength to keep my side up as he straddled the seat. He grasped both bars. Engaged the clutch, cursing in pain as he stomped on the pedal. He glanced at me briefly.

And then, sending up a heavy spray of gravel, the Harley roared off into the enveloping fog.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Rochester!” I shouted into the deepening gloom.

Excerpt from Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott. Copyright © 2021 by Lindsay Marcott. Published by Thomas & Mercer. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Lindsay Marcott_(c) Kenneth LockerLindsay Marcott is the author of The Producer’s Daughter and six previous novels written as Lindsay Maracotta. Her books have been translated into eleven languages and adapted for cable. She also wrote for the Emmy-nominated HBO series The Hitchhiker and co-produced a number of films. She lives on the coast of California. You can contact the author on her website at https://www.lindsaymarcott.com/.

Connect with the author at:
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Book Spotlight: THE DREAMCATCHER CODES by Barbara Newman

THE DREAMCATCHER CODES - BNewmanThe Dreamcatcher Codes by Barbara Newman
ISBN-10: 1733653473 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9781733653473 (paperback)
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Publisher: Green Writers Press
Genre: Fiction | Young Adult | Speculative Fiction

FOUR GIRLS. FOUR DIRECTIONS. ONE PURPOSE.

Powered by the elements earth, air, fire, and water, and secret messages from mystical dreamcatchers, four girls join forces on a quest to recover the stolen piece of the coveted Crystal Horseshoe. Snatched by a giant raven during a raging storm, this sacred talisman holds the Codes of Nature and is the very key to its survival. Maia from the North has been called by Sophia, Guardian of Mother Earth, to find and lead the Crystal Warriors on this daring path into the unknown. Falcon, Ava, and Yue complete the circle of four, and together, bravely face what lies ahead. But time is running out. The bees are dying. The oceans are filled with plastic. Humanity has lost its way. And the girls’ search is threatened by shapeshifters in the sky who want the crystal destroyed. Will this fierce cowgirl sisterhood, mythical horses by their side, overcome the destructive forces of greed and heal Mother Earth? Guided by the ancestors, wisdom from river and rock, symbols and stones, and the plant and animal kingdoms, each girl must rely on her own courageous spirit in order to protect the future of the planet she loves.

The Dreamcatcher Codes builds cultural bridges, unity, and hope, and illuminates two important issues of our time: climate change and girls claiming their voices and vital place in the world.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | BookDepository.com

Advance Praise

“Imagination, adventure and hope rests within these pages” —Great-grandmother Mary Lyons, Ojibwe Elder and Author

“The essence of the divine feminine is captured in the stories within The Dreamcatcher Codes. This compassionate and creative force touches the heart with visions of the natural world and of unity amongst earth’s diverse plant, animal and human nations. It is a call to action to heal humanity’s relationship with the planet.” —Alexis Estes, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe

“This book is a work of art. It is also timely and necessary for it calls the inheritors of today’s world, home to the sacred connection with nature that is their birthright and their teacher if they can remember how to listen, or keep the connection alive. This book is a homecoming, it is medicine for the soul and it is frankly glorious. Savor it, share it, be touched deeply by it.” —Clare Dubois, Founder TreeSisters.org

“Now, more than ever, teenage girls need to step into the possibilities of who they are and have the potential to become. The Dreamcatcher Codes invites them to cultivate their imaginative power and explore how Mother Nature, along with the deep and nurturing bonds of sisterhood, can guide them to know themselves, and connect to their own strengths. At an age when girls are seeking to belong, this mythic and empowering story helps them discover how nature is a part of all of us. The author ingeniously interweaves messages of wisdom and insights from a culturally diverse array of ancient traditions that honor our common humanity as caretakers of our planet, and of each other.” —Ellen Feig Gray, M.A. Parent Coach, Developmental Psychologist, Author, TEDx Speaker

“Barbara Newman is a visionary. Using her pen like an artist uses a brush, she creates landscapes that take us out of ourselves and into worlds of wonder. I flew with the cowgirls through lush pink skies and over the stunning beauty of the open desert. And I didn’t want to stop.” —Jana Laiz, award-winning author of The Twelfth Stone

The Dreamcatcher Codes is a book stuffed to the brim with empowerment, artistry, adventure, and solidarity. It is one of those stories that sticks in your heart and reminds us of the ability to bring about change no matter how impossible it might seem. It is a reminder of hope to those in a generation that feels powerless against a catastrophe that looms, and a reminder that there are few things stronger than the true bonds of sisterhood and love, where friends suffer and triumph together. I believe that every young woman who goes on this journey with these four guardians will come out on the other side a little bit stronger, a little bit braver, and much more aware of her power to change the world.” —Cassandra Taylor, GWP Bennington College Field Work Term Intern

“Weaving magic and womanhood with love of our beautiful planet, the writer has brought a story to life I wish I’d been able to read as a young girl. The Dreamcatcher Codes will inspire you to speak up for what is right, to have hope and above all…be brave… just like a cowgirl.” —Adrian Brannan, singer/songwriter, author Dear Cowgirl

Meet The Author

Author - Barbara NewmanBarbara Newman always wanted to be a cowgirl. Growing up in New York didn’t stop her. She took that can-do spirit and became an award-winning global creative director, leaving an indelible mark on brand culture. After hearing an NPR story about the American cowgirl, she was so inspired, she left the ad world and found herself in Montana, Wyoming, and Texas filming a documentary about their lives. An advocate for empowering girls, Barbara facilitates girls’ leadership programs, and was part of the think tank that inspired the Fred Rogers Center for Children’s Media/Education. The Dream Catcher Codes is her first novel.

Connect with the the author via:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway for one (1) print copy of The Dreamcatcher Codes by Barbara Newman courtesy of Saichek Publicity. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States. Any non-US entry will be disqualified. This giveaway is open from 12:01 AM ET on 07/27/2021 through 11:59 PM ET on 7/31/2021. The winner will be selected and announced by 10:00 AM ET on 08/01/2021. Please note that the book will be sent to the winner by Saichek Publicity. Void where prohibited by law.

Addendum 07/28/2021: Due to issues with my Twitter account (account was hacked/suspended/and is in the process of being reactivated), this giveaway has been amended. Sorry for any problems you might have had with this one in the past 24 hours, Vivian aka The Book Diva.

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Guest Post: Colleen J. Shogan – DEAD AS A DUCK

Good day, book people. Can you believe we more than halfway through July?! Am I the only one that felt like 2020 seemed to drag on forever but 2021 is flying by a little too quickly? Perhaps it was the unknown pandemic scenario that added to the feeling that life seemed to drag by in slow motion last year. Although there seem to be a host of unknowns remaining with COVID-19, 2021 just seems to by speeding by like a bullet train. Although I’m glad things are getting back to some semblance of normal, I miss the slower pace of things during the quarantine, which I primarily spent reading, drinking tea, reading, and even more reading. I’ve wondered how authors used their “downtime” during the quarantine, and Colleen J. Shogan, author of Dead as a Duck, joins us today to discuss how she spent some of her quarantine time. Thank you, Ms. Shogan for joining us today, the blog is now yours.

In November 2019, my husband and I purchased a small vacation home in the town of Duck, located in the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina. Completely unaware of what would happen in the months ahead, we hoped to spend long weekends at the beach and our usual vacation in early September.

Of course, those plans were upended in March 2020, when the world came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After learning that our work would be virtual for the foreseeable future, we began spending more time at our home in the Outer Banks.

This was an unexpected twist of fate, and certainly not anticipated. I was finishing the initial draft of Dead as a Duck. For the purposes of writing, it was fortuitous that I found myself in the location which served as the setting of the seventh book in my series. Instead of remembering the iconic places I was describing in the book, they were only a stroll away.

The Outer Banks is primarily a summer beach destination. There are full-time residents in all of the towns, but the population drastically shrinks once the warm weather dissipates. Such silence is conducive to writing, contemplation, and even relaxation. For the first time in twenty years, I could actually feel myself slow down to a manageable pace. At night, I sat outside on a balcony and gazed at the stars, twinkling in the evening sky. Most evenings, I could hear the gentle roar of the ocean, only three hundred yards away. There was no noise or light pollution to drown out the sounds of the waves and the brightness of the night sky.

It was therapeutic to spend time in the Outer Banks during those unpopulated weeks and months. At times, there might have only been one or two other occupants in residence on my street. The beach was empty all day long, and I cherished the early morning walks on the sand with my aging beagle mutt.

At first, it was difficult to write during the pandemic. But once I adjusted to the imposed quarantine and social distancing, writing became more of an escape than anything else. When I wrote, it was like time travel into a familiar world where a horrible virus hadn’t killed millions of people. It was a comforting reminder that there was a way of life before the pandemic, and that we would hopefully someday return to social interaction and discourse.

My quiet days have ended. The summer tourists now occupy the beaches, and I will return to my office near the White House soon. The devastation of the pandemic far outweighed any positives. However, I will remember my quiet days in the Outer Banks as an extraordinary, unusual experience in which life as we knew it changed forever and stood still at the same time.

Dead as a Duck (A Washington Whodunit) by Colleen J Shogan

About Dead as a Duck

Dead as a Duck (A Washington Whodunit)

Cozy Mystery 7th in Series

Publisher: Camel Press (July 14, 2021)

Paperback: 230 pages

ISBN-10: 1942078323

ISBN-13: 978-1942078326

Digital ASIN: B08WTPNBD6

Congressional staffer Kit Marshall is looking forward to a much-deserved summer vacation in the Outer Banks. When the mayor of the beach town turns up dead, Kit and her friends need to put their fun and relaxation on hold to help solve the crime.

August has been a busy month for congressional staffer Kit Marshall. She hit the road with her boss, Congresswoman Maeve Dixon, who is considering running for the United States Senate in North Carolina. After endless town halls and meet-and-greets, Kit is happy to end the tour in Duck, an upscale beach town in the Outer Banks.

Before Kit can relax on her much-deserved vacation with her husband Doug, brother Sebastian, best friend Meg, and beagle mutt Clarence, the body of Duck’s mayor is found floating in the shallow waters of the Currituck Sound.

Kit’s brother Sebastian, who got in a public kerfuffle with the victim the day before, becomes the prime suspect. Solving the mystery takes her to popular hotspots in the Outer Banks, including a private tour featuring the wild horses of Corolla.

Kit must sacrifice sun-filled days of relaxation to clear her brother. In the end, Kit and Sebastian put their own lives on the line to secure a confession from the killer and make sure justice is served.

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKobo
 

Praise for the Series

“The mystery is perplexing—for Kit and company, and for me—and well done. I was impressed by the complexity of the murder plot. I enjoyed the political theme, and all the details about lobbyists.” —Jane Reads

“To someone who has mastered that uniquely Washington skill of bobbling two cell phones and a glass of wine without spilling a drop, solving a murder is practically child’s play.” —HillRag

“A solid choice for political junkies and readers of ­Maggie ­Sefton, Fred Hunter, and Mike Lawson.” —Library Journal

“The fourth volume in author Colleen J. Shogan’s simply outstanding ‘Washington Whodunit’ series, K Street Killing is a consistently entertaining read with many an unexpected twist and turn by a true master of the genre.” —Midwest Book Review

“Shogan does a good job depicting the creaky, squeaky wheels of government, and Marshall plays politics and sleuth with equal dexterity in this capital Capitol Hill mystery.” —Publishers Weekly

“Loads of inside scoop about the workings of Senate offices—complete with all the gossiping, back-stabbing, and procedural maneuvering—plus an appealing young sleuth, sprightly pacing, and an edge-of-your-seat showdown on the Hart-Dirksen underground train.” —Literary Hill

“An excellent whodunit…. I was really impressed with this very smart story. The author is a former Senate staffer so she is writing what she knows, less the murder, I hope.” —Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book

“Readers who enjoy amateur sleuth mysteries written in the style of Agatha Christie will enjoy this promising debut mystery.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books

About Colleen J. Shogan

Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at numerous universities. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as a senior executive at the Library of Congress. Currently, she’s a Senior Vice President at the White House Historical Association. A member of Sisters in Crime, Colleen splits her time between Arlington, VA and Duck, NC.

Authors Prior titles: STABBING IN THE SENATE, HOMICIDE IN THE HOUSE, CALAMITY AT THE CONTINENTAL CLUB, K STREET KILLING, GORE IN THE GARDEN, LARCENY AT THE LIBRARY

Author Links
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/washingtonwhodunit/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/cshogan276
Website – www.colleenshogan.com
GoodReads – www.goodreads.com/cshogan276

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July 26 – Brooke Blogs – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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July 28 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

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Book Showcase: SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY by Katharine Schellman

Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman Banner

Silence in the Library

by Katharine Schellman

July 12 – August 6, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman

Regency widow Lily Adler didn’t expect to find a corpse when visiting a family friend. Now it’s up to her to discover the killer in the charming second installment in the Lily Adler mysteries.

Regency widow Lily Adler has finally settled into her new London life when her semi-estranged father arrives unexpectedly, intending to stay with her while he recovers from an illness. Hounded by his disapproval, Lily is drawn into spending time with Lady Wyatt, the new wife of an old family friend. Lily barely knows Lady Wyatt. But she and her husband, Sir Charles, seem as happy as any newly married couple until the morning Lily arrives to find the house in an uproar and Sir Charles dead.

All signs indicate that he tripped and struck his head late at night. But when Bow Street constable Simon Page is called to the scene, he suspects foul play. And it isn’t long before Lily stumbles on evidence that Sir Charles was, indeed, murdered.

Mr. Page was there when Lily caught her first murderer, and he trusts her insight into the world of London’s upper class. With the help of Captain Jack Hartley, they piece together the reasons that Sir Charles’s family might have wanted him dead. But anyone who might have profited from the old man’s death seems to have an alibi… until Lily receives a mysterious summons to speak with one of the Wyatts’ maids, only to find the young woman dead when she arrives.

Mr. Page believes the surviving family members are hiding the key to the death of both Sir Charles and the maid. To uncover the truth, Lily must convince the father who doesn’t trust or respect her to help catch his friend’s killer before anyone else in the Wyatt household dies.

Praise for Silence in the Library:

“Schellman’s gracefully written whodunit is equally a tale of 19th-century female empowerment and societal conventions…More than a clever murder puzzle, this is an immersion in a bygone era.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The fast-paced, engrossing story has a climactic confrontation worthy of Rex Stout or Agatha Christie.”
Library Journal, starred review

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 1643857045 (ISBN13: 9781643857046)
Series: Lily Adler Mystery #2 | The Lily Adler series are stand alone mysteries but even more fabulous if read in sequence
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookShop | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Given the way she hadn’t hesitated to interfere in the Wyatt family’s affairs, Lily expected Lady Wyatt to politely rescind her invitation to ride the next morning. But she had insisted, saying her arm was sure to be better by morning. So after breakfast, Lily instructed Anna to lay out her riding habit.

Though she had forgone her usual routine of breakfasting in her own room and instructed Mrs. Carstairs to lay breakfast in the parlor, Lily hadn’t seen any sign of her father. She didn’t mind. If she couldn’t be cozy while she dined, she was at least happy to be alone. And it gave her the opportunity to go over the week’s menus with her housekeeper and offer several suggestions for managing her father’s requests while he was with them.

“And do you know how long might that be, Mrs. Adler?” Mrs. Carstairs asked carefully. “Mr. Branson was unable to say when I spoke to him last night.”

Lily pursed her lips. “For as long as he needs, Mrs. Carstairs. Or as long as I can bear his company. My record on that score is fifteen years, however, so let us hope it will not come to that.”

The housekeeper wisely didn’t say anything else.

Lily’s pleasant solitude lasted until she was making her way back upstairs to change, when she found her path blocked by her father’s belligerent frame. Unwell he might be, but George Pierce was still a solid, imposing man, and Lily had to remind herself to square her shoulders and meet his scowl with a smile as he did his best to tower over her from the step above.

“Good morning, Father.”

He didn’t return the greeting. “I am going to breakfast,” he announced, eyebrows raised.

Lily waited for a moment and then, when no more information was forthcoming, nodded. “I hope you enjoy it. Mrs. Carstairs is an excellent cook.”

He sniffed. “And I assume your excessively early rising is an attempt to avoid my company?”

“It is past nine o’clock, father,” Lily said. “Hardly excessive. And I have an appointment this morning, so if you will excuse me—”

“What is your appointment?”

He couldn’t curtail or dictate what she did with her time, Lily reminded herself. Even if having him in her home left her feeling as if her independence were being slowly stripped away once more, in practical terms he had no say in her life anymore. Answering his question was only polite. “An engagement with a friend—”

“That sailor again, I assume?”

Lily took a deep breath. “Captain Hartley was also invited, but no, the engagement is to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Which I assume you would approve of?” Seeing that she had momentarily surprised him into silence, she took the opportunity to push past her father. “You would like her, I think. She is charming and elegant.”

“And her husband’s a fool for marrying again,” Mr. Pierce grumbled, but Lily was already heading down the hall and didn’t answer.

Jack was coming just before ten to escort her to the Wyatts’ house, and Lily was in a hurry to dress and escape her father once again. Her room was empty when she walked in, but Anna had laid out her riding habit on the bed, pressed and ready, its military-style buttons glinting in the morning light amid folds of emerald-green fabric.

Lily stared at it without moving. She had forgotten that her habit wasn’t suitable to wear when she was in mourning.

She was still staring when Anna returned, the freshly brushed riding hat in her hands. When she saw Lily’s posture, Anna paused.

“You don’t have another, I’m afraid,” she said gently.

Lily nodded, unable to speak. One hand reached out to brush the heavy fabric of the habit; the other clenched a fold of the gray dress she wore. She had stopped wearing colors even before Freddy died—in those last months of his illness, she had traded all her pretty dresses for drab gowns more suited to nursing an invalid who would never recover. And even after full mourning was complete, she had lingered in the muted shades of half mourning long past when anyone would have required it of her, even Freddy’s own family. Laying aside the visual reminders of her grief felt too much like leaving behind her marriage.

But that had meant more than two years of sorrow. And in the last few months, since she had come to London and taken control of her life once more, something had shifted inside her.

“Yes, thank you, Anna,” Lily said quietly, her voice catching a little. She cleared her throat and said, more firmly, “I will wear this one.”

***

She managed to leave the house without encountering her father again. When her butler, Carstairs, sent word that Captain Hartley was waiting in the front hall, Lily felt a pang of anxiety. Jack had loved Freddy like a brother. And he had never given any indication that he thought her mourning had gone on long enough.

Jack was in the middle of removing his hat, and his hand stilled at the brim as he caught sight of her. Even Carstairs fell still as they watched her come down the stairs, the heavy folds of her green skirts buttoned up on one side to allow her to walk freely and a single dyed- green feather curling over the brim of her hat and flirting with her brown curls.

Lily felt exposed as she descended the final few steps, though she was bolstered by the approval that softened Carstairs’s smile. She had never considered herself a shy person, but she could barely meet Jack’s eyes as she crossed the hall to give him her hand.

For a moment neither of them spoke, and when she raised her gaze at last, Lily thought she saw the captain blinking something from the corner of his eye. “That was Freddy’s favorite color,” he said at last, his voice catching.

Lily nodded. “I know.”

Jack’s jaw tightened for a moment as he swallowed. But he smiled. “Well done, Lily,” he said quietly. “Good for you.”

***

There was a lightness between them as they made the quick journey to Wimpole Street. As Jack waved down a hack carriage and handed her in, Lily found herself laughing at all of his quips or droll pieces of gossip, even the ones she normally would have chastised him for repeating. And Jack kept glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Do I look that dreadful?” Lily asked at last as he handed her down from the carriage in front of the Wyatts’ home.

“Quite the opposite,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck as he released her hand. “Did you know, you are actually quite pretty?”

“You mean you did not find me pretty before?”

“I think I had forgotten to consider it one way or another,” Jack admitted, grinning. “What a shame everyone has left London already; you would cause quite a sensation.”

Lily shook her head. “I know full well I am not handsome enough for that.”

“Surprise can cause as much of a sensation as admiration,” Jack pointed out.

“Captain!” Lily exclaimed in mock indignation. “You were supposed to argue with me!”

They continued bantering as they mounted the steps to Sir Charles’s townhouse, only to fall silent and exchange a puzzled glance as they realized that the door was half-open, the sounds of raised voices echoing from within.

Lily glanced at Jack, an uneasy sensation beginning to curl in the pit of her stomach. “Should we knock?”

He shrugged and did so, rapping firmly on the wood of the door. There was no response, but it swung open a little more. After hesitating a moment, Lily bit her lip and said, “Well, we ought to at least make sure Lady Wyatt knows we’ve come. If it is no longer convenient to ride, she can certainly tell us to leave.”

“And you were already happy to interfere yesterday,” Jack pointed out, though she could hear the unease lurking beneath his playful tone. “We might as well do it again.”

“Very true.” Lily pushed the door the rest of the way open and strode in, Jack following close behind.

The front hall was empty, but they could still hear voices not far away, now low and urgent, and the sound of quiet crying from somewhere just out of sight. The uneasy feeling began to spread through Lily’s chest and arms, and she reached out her hand in blind anxiety. She was relieved to feel Jack take it and press it reassuringly into the crook of his arm.

She had just decided that they should leave after all when quick steps echoed down the stairs. A moment later Frank Wyatt came rushing down, checking himself at the bottom as he stared at them in surprise.

His face was pale and his eyes red as he gaped at them, his easy manner vanished. “Lily? And Captain . . . I’ve quite forgot your name. You must excuse . . . what are you doing here?”

“The door was open, and no one answered our knock,” Lily said, feeling a little ashamed of their hastiness in entering. “I apologize, Frank; we did not mean to intrude, but we had an appointment to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Is everyone well?”

“Is everyone . . . No. No.” Frank gripped the banister with one hand, his knuckles white. “I am afraid that Lady Wyatt will not be able to ride today. My father . . .” He swallowed. “My father has died.”

Lily stared at him, unable to make sense of his words. They had seen Sir Charles just the day before. If he had seemed a little older and weaker than she remembered, he had still been utterly vital and alive. “Died? But . . . how?”

“In point of fact,” a new voice said quietly from behind them. “It seems Sir Charles Wyatt has been killed.”

***

Excerpt from Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman. Copyright 2021 by Katharine Schellman. Reproduced with permission from Katharine Schellman. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and currently the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Katharine currently lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her family and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Find her online:
katharineschellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatharineSchellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: Linda Lovely – WITH NEIGHBORS LIKE THESE

With Neighbors Like These

by Linda Lovely

July 12 – August 6, 2021 Tour

Good day, book people. One of my many quirks, and I have quite a few, is that I enjoy reading about small towns but don’t like living in one. Although I live in one of the largest cities in my home state, it has a population of less than 50,000 so definitely has that small-town vibe. I love big cities, the bigger the better. Readjusting to small-town life after nearly 30 years of living in cities like Boston, MA and Atlanta, GA is huge. Having said that, I really enjoy small town life as it is portrayed in books. Today, I’m pleased to welcome an author that is no stranger to living and writing about small town life. Linda Lovely is the author of numerous books, including the recently released With Neighbors Like These. Ms. Lovely will be sharing with us why she’s attracted to writing about small town life. Thank you, Ms. Lovely, for stopping by and sharing with us today, the blog is all yours.

A Small Town Mold

As unlikely as it might seem, the heroines of my nine mystery-suspense novels have one thing in common—they’re native Iowans. This may seem rather odd given that only two of my books are set in Iowa, and one of these is a 1938 historical suspense.

My heroines range in age from late twenties to early fifties. Their professions run the gamut from forensic accountant to vegan chef. Two of my leading ladies retired from military careers—one as an Army Intelligence officer, the latest, as a Coast Guard Investigator. These women tend to live in the South. Not a big surprise since my husband and I have called the South home for four decades.

Yet, like me, my heroines either grew up in Keokuk, Iowa—my hometown—or another small Midwestern city.

Why? With my active imagination, it’s easy to picture what life might be like today for a vegan chef or a retired Coastie. What I can’t seem to envision is growing up someplace other than the Midwest. My values, frames of reference, figures of speech, experiences and outlook are rooted in my small town, middle-America upbringing. As a consequence, my heroines tote the same bags (for better or worse).

I’m talking lifestyle not politics. My heroines are independent and stubborn, partially as a result of growing up with smart, working mothers. These moms lectured their girls on the importance of education and encouraged their daughters to speak their minds. Since money was tight, my heroines worked summer jobs. They picked strawberries and tomatoes, taught swimming, waitressed, and worked as cooks. In addition to girlfriends, their friendship circles included boy pals. My heroines played softball, and rode their bikes to the public swimming pool. As members of high school debate teams, they traveled the state, arguing one side of a question one week, the opposite, the next.

I realize girls who grew up elsewhere may share the same values, determination and optimism as my heroines. I’m just not confident my writing can conjure up appropriate coming-of-age experiences for young women growing up in the Big Apple or LA, on a Deep South farm, or in a wealthy suburb. As a result, my heroines are stuck with the lessons and memories of my early years. Plus, their Iowa upbringing gives them a legit reason to call something “hinky” and share my other figure-of-speech peculiarities that sometimes stump my Southern-born critique partners.

That said, while my heroines all began their lives in Iowa, they’ve succeeded in diverse careers and they’ve found plenty of adventure, friendship, laughter and love in their new homes.


Synopsis:

With Neighbors Like These by Linda Lovely

MANAGING AN HOA IS MURDER…

He championed shooting deer inside the HOA’s nature sanctuary. Now his corpse is posed curbside, cradling a trophy deer head. The theatrical murder panics residents, and Ted Welch asks Kylee Kane, retired Coast Guard investigator, to help his HOA management firm calm fears. Kylee agrees. Her own mother is getting death threats over her crusade to protect the deer.

HOA=DOA TERROR REIGNS…

When a belligerent owner in another HOA is murdered, terror reigns. The Sheriff’s Department blames Ted for letting HOA feuds spiral into homicide. Kylee discovers links between the victims and suspects a recently-pardoned general is next. Authorities and the arrogant general dismiss her warning. Can she foil the third act in the crafty killer’s death-as-theater game or will she be the next corpse on display?

Praise for With Neighbors Like These:

“Linda Lovely delivers another twisty mystery with the perfect mix of wry humor and quirky characters. Anyone looking for a fun, fast page-turner, here it is!”
–Tami Hoag, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“HOA communities seem deceptively safe, but the mix of gossip and politics in rule-bound groups can be a fertile breeding ground for murder. For the gutsy Kylee Kane, a fact-finding gig in South Carolina’s Lowcountry turns increasingly complex and dangerous. With Neighbors Like These offers a distinctive setting, a tenacious female sleuth and captivating suspense.”
–Katherine Ramsland, bestselling author of How to Catch a Killer

“Low Country murder, intrigue, and even a little romance abound in With Neighbors Like These. Kylee Kane is a welcome addition to the genre, and author Linda Lovely knows how to stir the pot with crackling dialogue and a tidy little mystery. Highly recommended!”
–Richard Helms, Derringer and Thriller Awards winning author of Brittle Karma

Book Details:

Genre:Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 326
ISBN: 9781953789457
Series: HOA Mystery Series, Book 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

A journalism major in college, Linda Lovely has spent most of her career working in PR and advertising—an early introduction to penning fiction. With Neighbors Like These is Lovely’s ninth mystery/suspense novel. Whether she’s writing cozy mysteries, historical suspense or contemporary thrillers, her novels share one common element—smart, independent heroines. Humor and romance also sneak into every manuscript. Her work has earned nominations for a number of prestigious awards, ranging from RWA’s Golden Heart for Romantic Suspense to Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery. A long-time member of Sisters in Crime and former chapter president, Lovely also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. For many years, she helped organize the Writers’ Police Academy. She lives on a lake in Upstate South Carolina with her husband, and enjoys swimming, tennis, gardening, long walks, and, of course, reading.

Catch Up With Our Author:
www.LindaLovely.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @LindaLovely
Twitter: @LovelyAuthor
Facebook: @LindaLovelyAuthor

 

Tour Participants:

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Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Linda Lovely. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs July 12 through August 8, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: James L’Etoile – BLACK LABEL

BLACK LABEL by James L'Etoile tour banner; aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge in background, book cover on the right: aerial view of Golden Gate Bridge at night highlighting lights on the bridge, BLACK LABEL at the top of the cover with a broken pill capsule emptying into the final "L" of the word LABEL.

Good day, book divas and divos. Are you anything like me and wondering what path writers’ have taken to get to them to where they are now? Do you question if they write about what they’ve experienced or are they simply incredibly creative and gifted at making it all up in their heads? If you’re like me and ask yourself those kinds of questions as you read, then you’re going to love today’s guest. Please help me welcome, James L’Etoile, author of the soon-to-be-released Black Label and more. Mr. L’Etoile has been kind enough to share with us his path to writing. I hope you’ll enjoy his visit, follow the blog tour, and add Black Label to your ever-increasing TBR list. Thank you, Mr. L’Etoile, for taking the time to join us today, the blog is now yours.

guestpost.png

Thank you for letting me guest post on your blog today. I’m James L’Etoile and I write thrillers and suspense. My latest, Black Label (Level Best Books) is set for release next week—gulp. Black Label will be my fourth traditionally published novel and I’m incredibly grateful for the readers, editors, reviewers, and bloggers who make everything that goes into a book worthwhile.

I’ll be bringing Black Label out on the road in 2021, after a strange and painful year. I enjoy talking about the book, writing and what goes into creating a story. A regular question I get at author events (remember when we could hold those live and in person) and conferences is, “When did you become a writer?” It’s a common question and several of my author friends are able to gleefully pipe off that they’ve been writing since they were nine years old, or they’ve published a dozen books by the time they were twenty-five.

That ain’t me.

I didn’t start my journey down the publishing trail until I’d retired from a twenty-nine year career working in California prison system. I served as a facility captain, hostage negotiator, associate warden of a maximum security prison, and the director of the state’s parole system. In my precious off time, I would read as a way to disconnect from the violence and madness of the world behind the bars. The reading continued after I quit working, but the characters and situations I experienced over those years stuck with me.

I don’t remember the book I was reading at the time, but the ending seemed a little flat and the characters felt somewhat recycled. I muttered to myself, “I could do better than that.” It hit me like a flash. I could do this. But what about all the writing workshops and MFA degrees? Don’t you need all that before you can write? The short answer is, no. You don’t have to pass any litmus test to call yourself a writer. The difficult part is the transition from writer to published author.

Confidence is the fuel you’ll need to burn on your journey to becoming a published author. It’s hard to come by in this business and burns quick. You’ll find your confidence in yourself and your ability to tell a compelling story. It takes time and patience to fill your tank. Some people believe they must have an MFA under their belt to feel confidence, while others dig deep upon their life experiences to fuel their quest. I fell into the latter and drew from the rich exposure to people who inhabit a darker world few come back from. Prison, parole, and probation are where you find people at their lowest, their most vulnerable, and in some cases you catch a faint glimmer of hope. Early in my career I worked as a probation officer writing pre-sentence reports for the sentencing judge. I’d go in the jail, interview the defendant and get their version of the crime, review all of the police reports and documents, talk with the victims, and put it all together for the judge into one document on which he would base his sentencing decision. I didn’t know it at the time, but even back then, I was, in a sense, writing crime stories. That ability to distill the elements of a story down to the essential elements, helped give me the confidence to transition into a published author.

Writing publishable commercial fiction meant learning more about the craft—the mechanics of writing if you will—of creating something that would grab a reader’s attention. Writers conferences and workshops like the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference are a great opportunity to learn all those things you didn’t know went into creating a story. Book Passage holds an annual craft-centered conference to help writers learn about story structure, voice, point-of-view, character development, and pacing—all elements a writer needs to bring to their work. I’ve attended Book Passage’s Mystery Writers Conference as a participant, and as a faculty member in recent years. The exposure to the tools and the authors at the event was priceless. I thank them in the acknowledgement pages of Black Label.

As a writer you’re constantly learning and honing your ability to tell stories. As a reader myself, I can sense when an author is phoning it in. While there is comfort in familiar characters, every novel, or short story, has to be better than the one before. There is a risk in the familiar and comfortable. If I’m not a little excited, apprehensive, and pulled in by the story I’m writing, there is a good chance that the reader won’t be all that excited either.

Writing and the daily practice of putting words on the page has been very therapeutic. The stress and violence I washed in everyday for nearly thirty years, now has a place to go. In my stories, there is justice for the aggrieved, redemption for the fallen, and a look into how the real-life criminal justice system interacts with those caught up in the process.

Every writer’s path is unique to their experience. Your mileage may vary…

I hope you have a chance to take a look at Black Label. I’ve taken the fear of being out of control, being in a place where no one believes you, and mixed it with the undercurrent of greed in the pharmaceutical industry. One woman is caught between greed, corporate corruption, and murder. Her life is on the line for a crime she doesn’t know if she committed, or not.


Black Label

by James L’Etoile

July 12 – August 8, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Black Label by James L'Etoile

Sanity is something you don’t miss until it’s gone. Hard charging pharmaceutical executive Jillian Cooper fears she’d destined to inherit her mother’s history of mental illness when she finds herself accused of murdering her boss. All the evidence tells her she’s either a murderer, or insane. When Jillian struggles to find the truth, she uncovers a web of black market pharmaceuticals, prison gangs, and greed. She begins to believe she may have killed to cover up the off-the-books drug operation.

Can she discover the truth before she’s condemned to life in prison, or a mental hospital?

Praise

“Tight, terrific, terrifying. BLACK LABEL delves into the murky world of pharmaceuticals where profit is prioritized above all else. L’Etoile creates a strong female lead in Jillian Cooper, a woman who faces obstacle after obstacle, but still charges into the abyss. More unnerving than a fistful of amphetamines. Unputdownable.”
—K.J. Howe, international bestselling author of SKYJACK

“James L’Etoile’s BLACK LABEL is a delightfully complex and twisty thriller with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot that will make you think long and hard before you swallow your next dose of medication. Add in an intrepid heroine willing to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth no matter the cost, and L’Etoile’s newest offering is a winner!”
— Karen Dionne, author of the #1 international bestseller THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER and THE WICKED SISTER

“Relentlessly fast-paced and compellingly twisty! The talented James L’Etoile sets up an irresistibly high-stakes situation: a woman is certain to be charged with murder and doesn’t remember a thing. Can she prove her innocence before she’s silenced forever? A dark journey through the world of big Pharma and big money—you will turn the pages as fast as you can.”
— Hank Phillippi Ryan USA Today Bestselling author of THE FIRST TO LIE

“If this book had a tag, it would say ‘proceed with caution’ because nothing is what it seems. Told with a vivid and visceral style, this is le Carré’s Constant Gardener meets The Fugitive. As the title suggests, BLACK LABEL is a top of the line thriller.”
Gabriel Valjan, Agatha and Anthony Award nominated author

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 20, 2021
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1-953789-14-3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

James L'Etoile

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations. He has been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River -The Other Side of Paradise.

Catch Up With James L’Etoile:
www.JamesLEtoile.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @jimletoile
Instagram – @AuthorJamesLEtoile
Twitter – @JamesLEtoile
Facebook – @james.letoile

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=302258

 

Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for James L’Etoile. There will be Seven (7) winners for this tour. Two (2) winners will each receive a $20 Amazon.com gift card; Three (3) winners will each receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card; and Two (2) winners will each receive 1 signed print edition of At What Cost and Bury the Past by James L’Etoile. The giveaway begins on July 12 and runs through August 10, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: C.L. Tolbert – THE REDEMPTION

Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tour Banner: THE REDEMPTION, Thornton Mystery Series by C.L. Tolbert; quote "...a gripping tale of corruption and cime in the 1990s Big Easy, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling Emma Thornton mystery." Ellen Byron; Book cover has a sepia-toned photo of storefronts with a partial view of the street, THE REDEMPTION, A Thornton Mystery, C.L. Tolbert.

Good day, book people. I can’t believe it’s June. I’m looking forward to sunnier days although my photosensitivity issues are worse in the Spring and Summer, I still look forward to those sunny days. In my mind, longer days means more daylight hours to read despite the fact that I’d read 24/7 if it were physically possible. In addition, to longer and sunnier days, I also look forward to all of the wonderful books I get introduced to during this time of the year…okay, any time of the year is a good time to be introduced to new-to-me books. I don’t know about you, but sunny days seem to be the perfect time for me to read more emotionally-charged fiction and non-fiction. One book that fits in the emotionally-charged fiction category is The Redemption by C.L. Tolbert. I’m pleased to welcome Ms. Tolbert today to the blog. She’ll be providing us with the backstory for writing The Redemption. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say and add The Redemption to your TBR list. Ms. Tolbert, thank you for joining us today. The blog is now yours.

What was the Inspiration for Writing The Redemption?

C.L. Tolbert

In 1995, I was teaching at a law school in New Orleans, and also served as the director of the law school’s Homeless Law Clinic. Individuals who fell within the poverty guidelines, and who were also homeless were able to come to the law school for legal services. Students provided those services under my supervision.

A case came in to the clinic from the public defender’s office concerning a sixteen-year-old boy who’d been indicted for the murder of a thirty-eight year old man. The murder had occurred in the St. Thomas Housing Projects. The director of the law school clinic program asked me if I wanted to take the case.

Since we were providing legal services to a homeless population, my students and I typically dealt with housing issues, or helped clients retrieve benefits from social security or the VA. It was difficult to teach trial advocacy, which was one aspect of my job, if we were limited to helping clients with social services and housing issues. My students wanted to learn trial skills, and I wanted to provide an actual trial for them so that they could learn.

The young man charged with murder, whom I will call Evan, didn’t fit perfectly into the homeless clinic guidelines, but he was close. He didn’t live with his mother. He “floated” around from family member to family member, living with his grandmother, and aunts, and friends. Technically, he wasn’t homeless, but he didn’t have a permanent address either. Plus, he fit within the poverty guidelines. So, I accepted the case.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Evan. A student and I traveled to Orleans Parish prison where a deputy walked us back to the attorney/ prisoner conference area. The room, a large white cell which contained a single table and three chairs, was as chilly as a refrigerator. Glaring fluorescent lights hung overhead. Another deputy walked a chained Evan down the hall. I watched from inside the room as his orange jumpsuit cleared each bar. He shuffled into the space with shackled feet, through the barred opening, then approached us. The deputy stood by the door as if he were guarding its entrance. I indicated Evan should sit.

I was struck by how young he was. He was clearly terrified. Evan wouldn’t make eye contact. His upper lip was covered with perspiration, and his knee was moving up and down like a piston. He refused to speak about the night of the murder, other than to deny that the murder weapon was his. He saw nothing, knew nothing.

Even though Evan was a juvenile, the DA had filed a motion to try him as an adult based on a statute which allowed sixteen-year-olds to be tried as adults for murder, or other crimes, such as sexual assault or armed robbery. The prosecution had also threatened the death penalty as a possible punishment, which was permissible for juveniles at that time.

Our investigation later revealed that Evan’s family, especially his older brother, who was there the night of the murder, were well-known in the community for drugs and gang involvement. We also learned that gangs often ask younger members to take responsibility for crimes so that older members could avoid jail time. Typically, the younger members serve their time in the juvenile system, and are released at age 21. But this plan seemed to be backfiring on Evan, who the DA wanted to try as an adult.

Evan’s case haunted me for years and inspired The Redemption. I was shocked by the callous attitude the prosecutors had toward the death penalty, especially since a juvenile was involved. Capital punishment was popular in Louisiana. The District Attorney brought his top prosecutor to argue their motion to transfer the case to the adult system, and packed the court with an unusual number of attorneys on the day of the hearing. It was a highly political case. I wasn’t prepared for that sort of display, but we were prepared for our argument, which I made, and we won. We were able to keep Evan in the juvenile system.

In the actual case, Evan never revealed the events on the night of the murder. He protected his brother, and even though we were able to prove there were at least two shooters involved in the murder, the judge ruled that Evan was guilty. He served time in the juvenile system until the age of twenty-one which was his brother’s plan all along.

At its core, The Redemption is a story of social justice and hope. I’ve shown how easy it is to manipulate a sixteen-year-old, which is what often what leads to their arrest and incarceration. In The Redemption, I changed the facts of the story to show how Evan could have turned his loyalty and courage around and help save himself.

 

The Redemption

by C.L. Tolbert

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

THE REDEMPTION - CLTolbertEmma Thornton is back in The Redemption, C.L. Tolbert’s second novel in the Thornton Mystery Series.

When two men are murdered one muggy September night in a New Orleans housing project, an eye witness identifies only one suspect – Louis Bishop- a homeless sixteen-year old. Louis is arrested the next day and thrown into Orleans Parish Prison. Emma Thornton, a law professor and director of the Homeless Law Clinic at St. Stanislaus Law School in the city agrees to represent him.

When they take on the case, Emma and her students discover a tangle of corruption, intrigue, and more violence than they would have thought possible, even in New Orleans. They uncover secrets about the night of the murders, and illegal dealings in the city, and within Louis’s family. As the case progresses, Emma and her family are thrown into a series of life-threating situations. But in the end, Emma gains Louis’s trust, which allows him to reveal his last, and most vital secret.

Book Praise:

“With The Redemption, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling read in her Thornton Mystery series, as law professor Emma Thornton’s fight to save a teen wrongly accused of murder endangers her own life in this gripping tale of corruption and crime in the 1990s Big Easy.”
Ellen Byron, Agatha Award Winning Author of the Cajun Country Mysteries

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 9th 2021
Number of Pages: 286
ISBN: 978-1-947915-43-5
Series:Thornton Mysteries, Book 2 || Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - CL TolbertIn 2010, Cynthia Tolbert won the Georgia Bar Journal’s fiction contest for the short story version of Out From Silence. Cynthia developed that story into the first full-length novel of the Thornton Mystery Series by the same name, which was published by Level Best Books in December of 2019. Her second book in this same series, entitled The Redemption, was released in February of 2021.

Cynthia has a Master’s in Special Education and taught children with learning disabilities for ten years before moving on to law school. She spent most of her legal career working as defense counsel to large corporations and traveled throughout the country as regional and national counsel. She also had the unique opportunity of teaching third-year law students in a clinical program at a law school in New Orleans where she ran the Homeless Law Clinic and learned, first hand, about poverty in that city. She retired after more than thirty years of practicing law. The experiences and impressions she has collected from the past forty years contribute to the stories she writes today. Cynthia has four children, and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With Cynthia:
CLTolbert.com
Goodreads
Instagram – @cltolbertwrites
Twitter – @cltolbertwrites
Facebook – @cltolbertwriter

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: W. Craig Reed – STATUS-6

Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope you’re all enjoying the warmer weather and getting plenty of reading done. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been reading quite a bit of romance, not to mention re-re-reading some favorites. This Spring has been the first time in almost year that I’ve been reading other genres, namely more historical fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense, etc. Yes, I know that I have thousands of titles already on my TBR list, but I’m always looking for new books and new-to-me authors. This is just one of many reasons I love virtual book tours. Today, I get to introduce you to a new-to-me author and I hope that you’ll be adding his books to your TBR list. Please help me welcome, W. Craig Reed, author of Status-6, a military thriller. Mr. Reed is retired submariner and a writer of nonfiction as well as fiction oft focusing on the military. I’m incredibly honored to welcome him to the blog today as he discusses the Kursk submarine disaster. Thank you, Mr. Reed, for taking the time to join us today, the blog is now yours.

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The Untold Truth About the Kursk Submarine Disaster

August 12, 2020 marked the twentieth anniversary of the most terrifying tragedy in submarine naval history. The Russian submarine Kursk was lost with all hands—118 souls—during a naval exercise in the Barents Sea. The Russians claimed that an antiquated torpedo had exploded and caused the incident, that the twenty-three survivors in the aft section died on the first day, and that a U.S. spy submarine had collided with the Kursk. The first two claims were lies. The last may have been true. Moreover, the Kursk submarine propelled Putin to power and its demise allowed him to rebuild Russia and ignite a new cold war with the West.

In August 1999, the Kursk undertook a secret mission to sneak in close to the USS Theodore Roosevelt—an aircraft carrier featured in the news in 2020 due to a COVID-19 outbreak. At that time, U.S. antisubmarine warfare (ASW) forces could not detect the Kursk, which could have obliterated the Roosevelt with one push of a button.

The Kursk returned to fanfare, and Vladimir Putin, struggling in the polls with only 2 percent of the presidential vote, met with the Kursk’s captain and praised the crew. Putin, whose father had been a Russian submariner, later visited a Russian naval base and completed a ceremony to become an honorary submariner. He then pointed to the Kursk’s mission success and promised to rebuild the Russian navy, which would provide jobs and prosperity to an impoverished nation. This platform propelled Putin to 53% of the vote in March 2000.

Eight days after Putin was elected president, he ordered a U.S. spy—former naval officer Edmond Pope—thrown into jail for trying to obtain plans for Russia’s top secret Shkval rocket torpedo. This frightening weapon used secret technology that allowed it to hit 200 knots underwater, making it four times faster than a U.S. MK48 torpedo. Now desperate for intelligence information, the NSA tasked two spy subs, the USS Memphis and USS Toledo, to monitor an upcoming Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea in August 2000.

The Kursk had been selected to test fire the Shkval torpedo during the exercise, and on August 12, the USS Toledo snuck in close to record the firing. The tragic events that unfolded during this exercise were covered up by Russian and NATO officials for almost twenty years.

The Russians claimed that an unstable propellant in an outdated Type 65 torpedo caused the initial explosion. They suggested that the torpedo was loaded into an unclean tube moments before the scheduled firing, and the irritants ignited the unstable fuel. Any torpedoman, whether NATO or Russian, knows that torpedoes are loaded and ready in clean tubes hours before a test-firing. Also, two civilian experts from the Dagdizel military plant were in the torpedo room monitoring the exercise and would not have allowed an unstable weapon to be mishandled.

Several high-ranking officials aboard the Kursk and the target warship, the Peter the Great, observed the exercise. The two vessels were thirty miles apart. A Type 65 torpedo at top speed would have taken thirty minutes to reach the target and would have run out of fuel before arriving—an event not likely to attract an audience of senior military personnel. Experts and officials have since revealed that the Kursk was not test firing an old Type 65 weapon, but rather the new Shkval rocket torpedo.

Interviews with numerous experts and officials have verified that a Shkval became lodged in the tube during the firing exercise. After the firing mechanism was triggered, the Shkval was programmed to light off the rocket engine. Unable to leave the tube, the torpedo blew off the aft torpedo tube door, and two minutes later, the fire ignited the fuel in other torpedoes and caused the second, catastrophic explosion. Interviews with submariners aboard the USS Memphis and Toledo, the two U.S. spy subs monitoring the exercise, also reveal that a U.S. sub may have inadvertently caused the Shkval to become lodged in the tube due to a scrape or near-collision with the Kursk.

The secondary explosion disintegrated the forward sections of the Kursk, but the aft compartments remained intact. Twenty-three survivors awaited a rescue that never arrived. New and shocking evidence revealed by the dive teams involved in the rescue operation show that the Russians, while using antiquated rescue vehicles, may have accidentally flooded the aft escape trunk on the Kursk, which led to the demise of the survivors.

A month after the incident, Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton met in New York and inside sources believe they conspired to cover-up facts to prevent a conflict or even a war. Putin then leveraged the Kursk tragedy to wrest control of energy firms from oligarchs and rebuild Russia’s wealth. He invested much of that wealth into building a formidable new navy that now threatens vital sea lanes.

Given that 90 percent of the goods we buy are transported across ocean sea lanes, any compromises or conflicts that disrupt shipping might cause shortages and economic hardships that could be worse than what we have witnessed during the pandemic.

Now that Putin has been granted an extension of power until 2036, what’s next on his agenda and how might that affect all of us? China, Iran, and North Korea have reverse-engineered the Russian Shkval torpedo to create unbelievable weapons of mass destruction that now threaten sea lanes and could one day trigger another world war. Perhaps this is why the infamous Doomsday Clock is now at only two minutes to “world annihilation” midnight.

Source: http://wcraigreed.com/nonfiction/spies-of-the-deep/


STATUS-6

by W. Craig Reed

May 1 – 31, 2021 Tour

 

Synopsis:

 

Deep beneath the Arctic Ocean, a covert team of Chinese operatives uses stolen U.S. technology to capture Russia’s newest attack submarine. Loaded with 100-megaton nuclear torpedoes, the sub is headed west. The Americans want to sink her, the Russians want her back, and the Chinese claim they’re not responsible.

NCIS agent Jon Shay is a former SEAL Team Two operator. Still shattered by the murder of his wife a year earlier, he places the barrel of a revolver against his temple, spins the cylinder, and squeezes the trigger. He hears only a click—and the chime of his phone. Activated for a mission in the Arctic, Jon pairs with British scientist Kate Barrett to battle a ticking clock, trained operatives, and top government officials. Together, they must find and stop the world’s most lethal submarine. The stakes are raised when they learn that the Russian sub is controlled by an infected AI system bent on completing its mission to create a nuclear winter.

 

Praise for Status-6:

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 is my vote for Thriller of the Year. The protagonist is Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan meets Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.” — Grant Blackwood, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy’s “Under Fire

“W. Craig Reed’s latest novel, Status-6, is the best book I’ve read this year—a ripped-from-the-headlines military technothriller that literally left me awake at night, fearful of where we’re headed as a nation and a species. What’s next after the nightmare coronavirus pandemic? Don’t miss this first book in the NCIS Special Ops series that promises to shatter the thriller genre.” — James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Demon Crown (Sigma Force)”

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 grabs you from page one and doesn’t let you go. The global security crisis revealed in this book is all-too-real and could well be tomorrow’s headlines. The characters are well-nuanced and provide a powerful urge to root for or against them. Don’t read this thriller before going to bed—you’ll be awake all night!” — George Gladorisi, New York Times bestselling author of the Tom Clancy Op Center series

Status-6 Book Details:

Genre: Military Thriller
Published by: Post Hill Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 1682619354 (ISBN13: 9781682619353)
Series: Status-6 is the first book in the NCIS Special Ops Thriller series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - W Craig Reed

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction military and business books including Spies of the Deep: The Untold Story of the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War and the critically acclaimed Red November (HarperCollins). Also, The Seven Secrets of Neuron-Leadership (Wiley), an award-winning business book, and Tarzan, My Father (ECW) co-written with the late Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.

Reed served as a U.S. Navy submariner and diver during the Cold War and earned commendations for completing secret missions, some in concert with SEAL Team One. Reed’s military experience and inside contacts help infuse his writing with intrigue and realism, and inspired his next non-fiction book, Also, this novel: STATUS-6 about a former SEAL Team Two operator turned NCIS agent that teams with a British female scientist to stop a Russian submarine controlled by an infected artificial intelligence.

Reed holds an MBA in Marketing and was a former vice president and board director for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association. Reed is the co-founder of Us4Warriors, an award-winning Veterans Non-Profit and serves on the Board of Aretanium, a wellness firm that leverages the neuroscience he wrote about in his leadership book to provide personalized wellness and professional development programs to accelerate brains, careers, and relationships.

Catch Up With W. Craig Reed:
WCraigReed.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @wc14
Instagram: @wcraigreed
Twitter: @wcraigreed
Facebook: @wcraigreed

Tour Participants:

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Enter the Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for William Craig Reed. There will be ONE (1) winner who will receive TWO (2) physical William Craig Reed books (including The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership AND Spies of the Deep). The giveaway begins May 1, 2021 and ends on June 1, 2021. This giveaway is available only for shipping addresses located in the US, UK, and Canada. Void where prohibited.

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Book Blast: DEAD IN THE WATER by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Dead In The Water

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

April 27, 2021 Book Blast

DEAD IN THE WATER - JBeauvoir

 

Book Details:

Family Can Be Murder

Sydney Riley’s stretch of planned relaxation between festivals is doomed from the start. Her parents, ensconced at the Race Point Inn, expect her to play tour guide. Wealthy adventurer Guy Husband has reappeared, seeking to regain her friend Mirela’s affections. And the body of a kidnapped businessman has been discovered under MacMillan Wharf!

Sydney is literally at sea (by far not her favorite place!) balancing these expectations with her supersized curiosity. Is the murder the work of a regional gang led by the infamous “Codfather” or the result of a feud within an influential Provincetown family? What’s Guy Husband’s connection, and why is it suddenly so important that her boyfriend Ali come for a visit—especially while her mother is in town?

Master of crime Jeannette de Beauvoir brings her unique blend of irony and intrigue to this humorous—and sometimes horrendous—convergence of family and fatality.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: HomePort Press
Publication Date: May 1st 2021
Number of Pages: 309
ISBN: 9781734053371
Series:Sydney Riley Series, Book #8 | Each is a stand alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from Dead In The Water:

Chapter One

It was, I told myself, all my worst nightmares come true. All at once.

I may live at Land’s End, out at the tip of Cape Cod where the land curls into itself and for centuries foghorns warned of early death and disaster; I may have, yes, been out on boats on the Atlantic waters, laughably close to shore; but no, I’d never gotten used to any of it. I like floors that don’t move under my feet. I like knowing I could conceivably make it back to land on my own steam should something go wrong. (Well the last bit is a fantasy: without a wetsuit, the cold would get me before the fatigue did. But the point still stands.)

I was having this plethora of cheerful thoughts for two reasons. I had allowed myself to be persuaded to go on a whale watch. And the person standing beside me on the deck was my mother.

Like all stories that involve me and my mother, this one started with guilt. I’d had, safe to say, a rough year. I’d broken my arm (and been nearly killed) at an extremely memorable film festival here in Provincetown in the spring, and then during Women’s Week that October had met up with another murderer—seriously, it’s as if my friend Julie Agassi, the head of the town’s police detective squad, is right, and I go looking for these things.

I don’t, but people are starting to wonder.

Meanwhile, my mother was busily beating her you-never-call-you-never-write drum and I just couldn’t face seeing her for the holidays. My life was already complicated enough, and there’s no one like my mother for complicating things further. She’s in a class by herself. Other contenders have tried valiantly to keep up, before falling, one by one, by the wayside. Not even death or divorce can complicate my life the way my mother manages to. She perseveres.

On the other hand, circumstances had over the past year given her a run for her money. My boyfriend Ali—who after several years my mother continued to refer to as that man—and I had become sudden and accidental godparents to a little girl named Lily when our friend Mirela adopted her sister’s unwanted baby. And the godparents thing—which I’d always assumed to be a sort of ceremonial role one trotted out at Christmas and birthdays—had become very real when Mirela was arrested, incarcerated, and investigated as to her parenting suitability last October, and suddenly we were in loco parentis. I took the baby to Ali’s Boston apartment and we holed up there for over a month. Mirela had joined us for the last week of it and I can honestly say I’ve never been more relieved to see anyone in my life.

I was trying, but motherhood was clearly not my gig. Maybe there’s something to that DNA thing, after all.

What with one thing and another, it was this January before I was thinking straight. I’d gone back to my life in P’town and my work—I’m the wedding and events planner for the Race Point Inn, one of the town’s nicer establishments, though I do say it myself—and really believed I was finally feeling back to what passes for normal again when my mother began her barrage of guilt-laden demands. Had I forgotten I had parents? I could travel to Boston, but not to New Hampshire?

It hadn’t helped that, because there was absolutely nothing on the inn’s events calendar for February, Ali and I decided to be the tourists for once; we’d taken off for Italy. Okay, let’s see, the short dark days of February… and a choice between snowy New Hampshire and the charms of Venice. You tell me.

Which was why I’d run out of excuses by the time my mother started taking about being on her deathbed in March. (She wasn’t.) And that my father had forgotten what I looked like in April. (He hadn’t.)

I couldn’t afford any more time off—Glenn, the inn’s owner, had already been more than generous as it was—and there was only one thing to do. I had a quick shot of Jameson’s for courage and actually called my mother, risking giving her a heart attack (the last time I’d called was roughly two administrations ago), and invited her and my father to come to Provincetown.

Which was why I now found myself on the deck of the Dolphin IV, looking for whales and listening to my mother read from the guide book. “The largest living mammal is the blue whale,” she reported.

“I know,” I acknowledged.

“The humpback whale doesn’t actually chew its food,” she said. “It filters it through baleens.”

“I know,” I replied.

She glanced at me, suspicious. “How do you know all this?”

“Ma, I live in Provincetown.” It’s just possible one or two of the year-round residents—there aren’t that many of us, the number is under three thousand—don’t know about whales, but the possibility is pretty remote. Tourism is our only real industry. Tourists stop us in the street to ask us questions.

We know about whales.

She sniffed. “You don’t have to take an attitude about it, Sydney Riley,” she said. Oh, good: we were in full complete-name reprimand mode. “You know I don’t like it when you take an attitude with me.”

“I wasn’t taking an attitude. I was stating a fact.” I could feel the slow boil of adolescent-level resentment—and attitude, yes—building. I am in my late thirties, and I can still feel about fifteen when I’m having a conversation with my mother. Breathe, Riley, I counseled myself. Just breathe. Deeply. Don’t let her get to you.

She looked around her. “Are we going to see sharks?”

I sighed. Everyone these days wants to see sharks. For a long time, the dreaded story of Jaws was just that—a story, something to watch at the drive-in movie theatre in Wellfleet (yeah, we still have one of those) and shiver deliciously at the creepy music and scream when the shark tries to eat the boat. But conservation efforts over the past eight or ten years had caused a spectacular swelling of the seal population around the Cape—we’d already seen a herd of them sunning themselves on the beach today when we’d passed Long Point—and a few years later, the Great White sharks realized where their meals had all gone, and followed suit.

That changed things rather a lot. A tourist was attacked at a Truro beach and bled out. Signs were posted everywhere. Half-eaten seal corpses washed up. The famous annual Swim for Life, which once went clear across the harbor, changed its trajectory. And everybody downloaded the Great White Shark Conservancy’s shark-location app, Sharktivity.

The reality is both scary and not-scary. We’d all been surprised to learn sharks are quite comfortable in three or four feet of water, so merely splashing in the shallows was out. But in reality sharks attack humans only when they mistake them for seals, and usually only bite once, as our taste is apparently offensive to them. People who die from a shark attack bleed out; they’re not eaten alive.

“We might,” I said to my mother now. “There are a number of kinds of sharks here—”

The naturalist’s voice came over the loudspeaker, saving me. “Ah, so the captain tells me we’ve got a female and her calf just up ahead, at about two o’clock off the bow of the boat.”

“What does that mean, two o’clock?”

He had already told us. My mother had been asking what they put in the hot dogs in the galley at the time and hadn’t stopped to listen to him. “If the front of the boat is twelve o’clock, then two o’clock is just off—there!” I exclaimed, carried away despite myself. “There! Ma, see?”

“What?”

The whale surfaced gracefully, water running off her back, bright and sparkling in the sunlight, and just as gracefully went back under. A smaller back followed suit. The denizens of the deep, here to feed for the summer, willing to show off for the boatloads of visitors who populated the whale-watch fleet every year to catch a glimpse of another life, a mysterious life echoing with otherworldly calls and harkening back to times when the oceans were filled with giants.

Before we hunted them to the brink of extinction, that is.

“This is an individual we know,” the naturalist was saying. “Her name is Perseid. Unlike some other whales, humpbacks don’t travel in pods. Instead, they exist in loose and temporary groups that shift, with individuals moving from group to group, sometimes swimming on their own. These assemblages have been referred to as fluid fission/fusion groups. The only exception to this fluidity is the cow and calf pair. This calf was born eight months ago, and while right now you’re seeing her next to Perseid, she’s going to start straying farther and farther away as the summer progresses.”

Now that my mother was quieter—even she was silent in the face of something this big, this extraordinary—I recognized the naturalist’s voice. It was Kai Bennett, who worked at the Center for Coastal Studies in town; he was a regular at the Race Point Inn’s bar scene during the winter, when we ran a trivia game and he aced all the biology questions. “And we have another one that just went right under us… haven’t yet seen who this one is,” said Kai.

The newcomer spouted right off the port side of the boat and the light wind swept a spray of fine droplets over the passengers, who exclaimed and laughed.

“I wish they’d jump more out of the water,” my mother complained. “You have to look so fast. and they blend right in.”

My mother is going to bring a list of complaints with her to give to Saint Peter when she assaults the pearly gates of heaven. I swear she is.

Kai’s voice on the loudspeaker overran my mother’s. “Ocean conservation starts with connection. We believe that, as we build personal relationships with the ocean and its wildlife, we become more invested stewards of the marine environment. Whales, as individuals, have compelling stories to tell: where will this humpback migrate this winter to give birth? Did the whale with scars from a propeller incident survive another year? What happened to the entangled whale I saw in the news?”

“Look!” yelled a passenger. “I just saw a blow over there! Look! I know I did! I’m sure of it!”

Kai continued, “For science, unique identifiable markings on a whale’s flukes—that’s the tail, folks—and on the dorsal fin allow us to non-invasively track whale movements and stories over time. By focusing on whales, we bring attention to the marine ecosystem as a whole and the challenges we face as a global community.”

“He sounds like a nice young man,” my mother remarked. “He sounds American.”

Don’t take the bait, I told myself. Don’t take the bait.

I took the bait.

“Ali is American,” I said. “He was born in Boston.”

“But his parents weren’t,” she said, with something like relish. “I just wish you could find a nice—”

I cut her off. “Ali is a nice American man,” I said.

“But why would his parents even come to America?” my mother asked, for possibly the four-thousandth time. “Everyone should just stay home. Where they belong.”

Breathe, Riley. Just breathe. “I think they would have liked to stay home,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady. “There was just the minor inconvenience of a civil war. Makes it difficult to enjoy your morning coffee when there’s a bomb explosion next door. Seriously, Ma, don’t you hate it when that happens?”

“You’re taking a tone with me,” my mother said. “Don’t take a tone with me.”

Kai saved me yet again. “That’s a good question,” his voice said over the loudspeaker. “For those of you who didn’t hear, this gentleman just asked how we know these whales by name. Of course, these are just names we give to them—they have their own communication systems and ways of identifying themselves and each other! So as I said, these are whales that return to the marine sanctuary every summer. Many of them are females, who can be counted on to bring their new calves up to Stellwagen Bank because they can feast on nutritious sand lance—that’s a tiny fish humpbacks just love—and teach their offspring to hunt. Together with Allied Whale in Bar Harbor at the College of the Atlantic, the Center for Coastal Studies Humpback Whale Research Group runs a study of return rates of whales based on decades of sighting data. So, in other words, we get to see the same whales, year after year. The first one ever named was a female we called Salt.” He didn’t say what I knew: that Allied Whale and the Center for Coastal Studies didn’t always play well together. For one thing, they had totally different names for the same whales. I managed to keep that fact to myself.

“Your father will wish he came along,” my mother said.

My father, to the best of my knowledge, was sitting out by the pool at the Race Point Inn, reading a newspaper and drinking a Bloody Mary. My mother was the dogged tourist in the family: when we’d gone on family vacations together, she was the one who found all the museums and statues and sights-of-interest to visit. She practically memorized guide books. My father, bemused, went along with most of it, though his idea of vacation was more centered around doing as little as possible for as much time as possible. Retirement didn’t seem to have changed that in any significant way.

“You’re here until Sunday,” I pointed out. “You can take him out.”

She sniffed. “He doesn’t know anything about whales,” she said.

“Then that’s the point. He’ll learn.” Okay, come on, give me a little credit: I was really trying here.

“Maybe,” she said darkly. “What are those other boats out there?”

I looked. “Some of them are just private boats. And a lot of the fishing charters come out here,” I said. “And when there are whales spotted, they come and look, too. Gives the customers an extra thrill.” I knew from Kai and a couple of the other naturalists that the whale-watch people weren’t thrilled with the extra attention: the private boats in particular didn’t always maintain safe distances from the whales. Once a whale was spotted and one or two of the Dolphin Fleet stopped to look, anyone within sight followed their lead. It could get quite crowded on a summer day.

And dangerous. There had been collisions in the past—boats on boats and, once that I knew of, a boat hitting a whale. Some days it was enough to despair of the human race.

Kai was talking. “Well, folks, this is a real treat! The whale that just blew on our port side is Piano, who’s a Stellwagen regular easy to identify for some unfortunate reasons, because she has both vessel propeller strike and entanglement scars. This whale is a survivor, however, and has been a regular on Stellwagen for years!” Amazing, I thought cynically, she even gave us the time of day after all that.

“I didn’t see the scars,” said my mother.

We waited around for a little while and then felt the engines start up again and the deck vibrate. I didn’t like the feeling. I knew exactly how irrational my fear was, and knowing did nothing to alleviate it. I’d had some bad experiences out on the water in the past, and that vibration brought them all back. I’d tried getting over it by occasionally renting a small sailboat with my friend Thea, but—well, again, I always thought I’d be able to swim to shore from the sailboat if anything went wrong. Not out here.

And then there was the whole not-letting-my-mother-know side to things. If she did, she’d never let me hear the end of it.
At least when we were talking about whales we weren’t talking about her ongoing matrimonial hopes for me, the matrimonial successes of (it seemed) all her friends’ offspring, and the bitter disappointment she was feeling around my approaching middle age without a husband in tow. That seemed to be where all our conversations began… and ended.
And I wasn’t approaching middle age. Forty is the new thirty, and all that sort of thing.

“The captain says we have another pair coming up, folks, off to the port side now… I’m just checking them out… it’s a whale called Milkweed and her new calf! Mom is traveling below the surface right now, but you can see the calf rolling around here…” There was a pause and a murmur and then his voice came back. “No, that’s not abnormal. The baby’s learning everything it needs to know about buoyancy and swimming, and you can be sure Mom’s always close by. We’re going to slowly head back toward Cape Cod now…” And, a moment later, “Looks like Milkweed and the baby are staying with us! Folks, as you’re seeing here, whales can be just as curious about us as we are about them! What Milkweed is doing now—see her, on the starboard side, at three o’clock—we call it spyhopping.”

“Why on earth would they be curious about us?” wondered my mother.

“That,” I said, looking at her and knowing she’d never get the sarcasm, “is a really good question.”

Just breathe, Riley. Just breathe.

***

Excerpt from Dead In The Water by Jeannette de Beauvoir. Copyright 2021 by Jeannette de Beauvoir. Reproduced with permission from Jeannette de Beauvoir. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Author - Jeannette de Beauvoir

Jeannette de Beauvoir didn’t set out to murder anyone—some things are just meant to be!

Her mother introduced her to the Golden Age of mystery fiction when she was far too young to be reading it, and she’s kept following those authors and many like them ever since. She wrote historical and literary fiction and poetry for years before someone asked her what she read—and she realized mystery was where her heart was. Now working on the Sydney Riley Provincetown mystery series, she bumps off a resident or visitor to her hometown on a regular basis.

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