2017 Book 409: STRONG TO THE BONE by Jon Land



Strong to the Bone (Caitlin Strong Novel #9) by Jon Land
ISBN: 9780765384645 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780765384669 (ebook)
ASIN: B06XK6QSKH (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 5, 2017 
Publisher: Forge


Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong takes on a gang of neo-Nazis in Strong to the Bone, an action-packed novel of the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series by Jon Land

1944: Texas Ranger Earl Strong investigates a triple murder inside a Nazi POW camp in Texas.

The Present: His granddaughter, fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, finds herself pursuing the killer her grandfather never caught in the most personal case of her career a conspiracy stretching from that Nazi POW camp to a modern-day neo-Nazi gang.

A sinister movement has emerged from the shadows of history, determined to undermine the American way of life. Its leader, Armand Fisker, has an army at his disposal, a deadly bio-weapon, and a reputation for being unbeatable. But he’s never taken on the likes of Caitlin Strong and her outlaw lover, Cort Wesley Masters.

To prevent an unspeakable cataclysm, Caitlin and Cort Wesley must win a war the world thought was over.  



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Caitlin Strong, Texas Ranger, is back and starts things off with a blast…of water. Caitlin’s current day story begins in Austin, Texas where she has delivered a speech to law enforcement officers. After she and her lover, Cort Westley Masters, eat dinner and attend a show, there’s a ruckus down the street at Stubb’s Barbeque when a university party gets out of control and a woman has been sexually assaulted. It’s virtually impossible to get inside, so Caitlin commandeers a fire truck and uses a fire hose to blast the drunken collegiates out of the way. She finds the assault victim, shooting a suspect in the process, and considers her job done. Until she’s told the DNA from this assault victim matches the DNA collected from her rape kit 18-years ago. That’s one blast from the past that Caitlin could have done without. Now, she’s told she can’t investigate the assault case by none other than Jones at Homeland Security, but when does Caitlin ever truly follow orders. If that isn’t enough to contend with, the medical examiner, along with Captain D.W. Tepper, and even Jones fill Caitlin in on one of her grandfather’s cases from 1944 dealing with the Nazis in prison camps in Texas. Just to throw a little icing on the cake, so to speak, Cort Westley’s eldest son, Dylan, is still on sabbatical from college and is working at a garage with a Mexican-Americans of the legal and illegal variety AND he’s started mouthing off to a bunch of neo-Nazis harassing schoolgirls and others in the community. Things quickly go downhill from there with the neo-Nazi international drug cartel, the rape/assault cases, and more. Can Caitlin deal with the emotional and psychological trauma of her rape while continuing to investigate the current assault case, even if she’s not supposed to be investigating said case? What will happen to Dylan if he continues to stand up for what is right against insurmountable odds? What could possibly link Earl Strong’s 1944 case with the 2017 investigation into the neo-Nazis?

Strong to the Bone by Jon Land is another amazingly fast-paced, thrill-packed, and suspense-filled read. Mr. Land packs quite a punch when he presents his Caitlin Strong stories and I love every single one of them. Strong to the Bone, as most Caitlin Strong stories, begins with an older story about the Texas Rangers (usually one featuring Caitlin’s father or grandfather) that loosely ties to the current story being told. Each section of the book is prefaced with a bit of Ranger history or lore. Then we get to Caitlin, who is a throwback to the Rangers of yore, and doesn’t always do things “by the book” (I’m not even sure she’s read the book, but it works for her). I love reading each new Caitlin Strong book because I feel as if I’m visiting long-lost friends, such as Cort Westley Masters, Caitlin’s lover; Colonel Guillermo Paz, Caitlin’s erstwhile friend and protector and former would-be assassin; Captain D.W. Tepper, Caitlin’s boss and Texas Ranger leash-holder; and Jones (formerly Smith) with Homeland Security. Does it seem strange that Caitlin has a long list of friends and protectors and they’re all male? Not to me, she doesn’t really need these protectors because she can definitely take care of herself, but she inspires that sense of loyalty in people, especially men. Strong to the Bone introduces us to some really nasty bad guys along with returning cast of favorites. Armand Fisker took over the Aryan Brotherhood from his father and grew it into what is basically the equivalent of a Fortune 500 international business (without the taxes). Davey Skoll is a former hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical company owner. He raised the prices of several older drugs almost 10,000% in order to make a profit (sounds vaguely familiar) and is also in cahoots (love that word) with Fisker to supply Oxycodone and Vicodin in massive quantities. Yes, there’s a lot going on in Strong to the Bone, but everything intersects towards the end (no, I won’t tell you how…read the book!). I enjoy the multiple storylines, the characters (even the bad guys), the action, and the settings. I know that I’ve said it before with this series, but if you enjoy reading suspense thrillers then you really need to read this book and this series. I’ve probably told you that about four or five times now already. What on earth are you waiting for?! Start from the beginning and work your way up to Strong to the Bone or read this and then go back to the beginning. I’m looking forward to reading the next Caitlin Strong story because I need to know what happens next! Before I forget, yes I enjoyed reading Strong to the Bone and will probably be rereading it along with the others in this series before the next book is released.


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



Author Bio:


Jon Land

Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 43 books, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller, and Strong Light of Day which won the 2016 International Book Award for Best Thriller-Adventure, the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller, and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery. Strong Cold Dead became the fourth title in the series in a row to win the International Book Award in 2017 and about which Booklist said, “Thrillers don’t get any better than this,” in a starred review. Land has also teamed with multiple New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham on a new sci-fi series, the first of which, The Rising, was published by Forge in January of 2017. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.


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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com gift Card AND 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Strong To The Bone by Jon Land. The giveaway begins on December 4 and runs through February 2, 2018.


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2016 Book 127: THE WAGES OF SIN by Nancy Allen

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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Book Showcase and Giveaway: DECEIVED by Ashlee Mallory


Deceived


by Ashlee Mallory


Book Blast on April 18, 2016




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

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

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

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



Book Details:


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

Read an excerpt:

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

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

I opened my eyes and managed to turn my head.

Blood.

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

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

Someone might still be here.

Where was Charlotte?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, so still.

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

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

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

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

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



Author Bio:

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


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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Ashlee Mallory. There will be SIX (6) winners for this tour. One winner will receive one $25 gift card from Amazon.com (US Only) the other 5 winners will each receive an eBook copy of Deceived by Ashlee Mallory. This giveaway is for **US residents only**. The giveaway begins on April 18th and runs through April 30th, 2016.


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Book Showcase: NOTORIOUS by Carey Baldwin


Notorious


by Carey Baldwin


on Tour April 5 – May 13, 2016





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

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


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



Book Details:


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


Want to know more about Notorious? Read this excerpt:


CHAPTER 1



Sunday, October 13

10:00 P.M.

Dallas, Texas



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He doesn’t love me.

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

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

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

But she had no choice.

The cost of defeat would be unbearably high.

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

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


© 2016  Witness Impulse & Carey Baldwin



Author Bio:

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

Both Judgment & Confession are BOOKSELLERS BEST AWARD Finalists 

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

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


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Book Showcase: THE GOOD TRAITOR by Ryan Quinn


The Good Traitor


by Ryan Quinn


on Tour April 5 – May 13, 2016




The Good Traitor by Ryan Quinn

The US ambassador to China is killed in a suspicious plane crash just days after a news article links Chinese spies to US business interests. The American intelligence community is left scrambling to investigate possible connections between the crash and a series of other high-profile deaths.

On the other side of the world, ex-CIA operative Kera Mersal returns to the United States determined to clear her name after being branded a traitor for exposing illegal government surveillance. There, former colleague and fellow fugitive J. D. Jones contacts her with a new assignment: find out who is staging accidents to murder news sources. As the news site continues to publish stories about top-secret CIA programs and Chinese government corruption, Mersal reunites with old allies to uncover the truth and prove her loyalty to her country once and for all. But Mersal’s investigations put her on the trail of a sinister hacker whose own motives may influence a vaster—and more deadly—geopolitical conspiracy than either of the world’s two largest superpowers is prepared to handle.



Book Details:


Genre:  Thriller
Published by:   Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date:   April 5, 2016
Number of Pages:  334
ISBN:   978-1503954625
Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads



Author Bio:


Ryan Quinn

A native of Alaska, Ryan Quinn was an NCAA champion and an all-American athlete in skiing while at the University of Utah. He worked for five years in New York’s book-publishing industry before moving to Los Angeles, where he writes and trains for marathons. Quinn’s first novel, The Fall, was an award-winning finalist for the 2013 International Book Awards.  


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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Ryan Quinn. There will be 1 winners of 1 $10 Amazon.com US Gift card. The giveaway begins on April 5th and runs through May 13th, 2016.

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Book Showcase: UNCOMMON STOCK: VERSION 1.0 by Eliot Peper


Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0


by Eliot Peper


on Tour February 15 – March 31, 2016



Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 by Eliot PeperBook 1 of The Uncommon Series – Continued in Book 2, Uncommon Stock: Power Play.

Mara Winkel is rock climbing, mountain biking, and ‘studying’ her way through school at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

But when her best friend James asks her to partner with him to start a disruptive new software company she discovers that the world of technology startups is fraught with intrigue, adrenaline, soaring successes, and scorching failures. It turns out this is especially true when your technology threatens entrenched drug cartels.

Mara has to juggle mysterious investors, opaque partners, critical customers, and a team that is as brilliant as it is dysfunctional until only one question remains: win or die.



Book Details:


Genre:  Technothriller
Published by:      Previously FG Press; now Self-Published 
Publication Date:   March 2014
Number of Pages:  231
ISBN:   9781517513214
Series: Uncommon, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


Chapter 1



Mara Winkel turned onto the muddy single track and lifted her body off the seat as her mountain bike plunged down the slope through the aspens. It jolted up and down beneath her, the suspension struggling to keep up with gravel and rocks. She yanked the handlebars to the right to avoid a nasty root. Mara quickly corrected her course to keep her front wheel on the two-foot-wide path.

She accelerated as the track cut down the slope at a sharp angle, sucking in a deep breath of Rocky Mountain air as the bright yellow leaves and white trunks flashed by. She lived for this, adrenaline pumping through her body, complete mental focus, and high-speed natural beauty. What more could a girl want?

Craig let out a “Whhoooooppp,” as he launched down the path behind her. He was fast but she had enough of a head start to keep her lead to the bottom.

The course dropped off into a steep switchback and Mara threw her body to the left and torqued the front wheel around hard to the right to make it through the turn. She raised her body farther off the bike and hit the next section of rolling bumps, catching some air in between each one. The suspension thumped rhythmically and she jerked the bike up onto the mossy side of the path to avoid a large mud puddle.

As Mara turned around the next switchback, a small clearing dropped away from the bottom side of the path and she had a clear view of the surrounding mountains awash in textured patches of green and yellow, battling for deciduous September supremacy. The white trunks of the aspens flashed up again as the track dropped into another thick grove.

It took half an hour to get to the bottom of the mountain. By the time Mara sped through the last section of the trail her quadriceps burned and her knuckles had a death grip on the handlebars. She came around a turn and jumped the bike up over an angled rock in the path. Her front wheel landed on a bare aspen root and skittered to the right along the slick wood. Shit.

She desperately tried to wrench the wheel to the left but the bike nosed into the ground and her momentum carried her up and over the handlebars. Goddamnit. She was in the air and her stomach instantly turned into a roiling pit of butterflies, instinctively clenching her jaw so she wouldn’t shatter her teeth on impact. The green-brown blur ended abruptly as she hit the ground so hard it knocked the wind out of her. As she cleared the cobwebs from her head, she realized she was lying in another muddy puddle that tasted like dirt. Oh well, what’s fun without a little danger? Ever since the situation with her and James’ family she’d always liked adrenaline.

She rolled over and spat, heard a metal screech, and then “Fuuuck.” She lost all of her air again as Craig’s shoulder slammed into her stomach and he landed in the same puddle. Shit, she had forgotten he was so close behind her. Stars glimmered and her vision narrowed as she gasped for breath again.

After a few seconds her sight returned to normal and she turned her head to look at Craig. He was spitting out mud and looked up at her looking at him and then they were both laughing and laughing as the cold rush of adrenaline surged through their systems. He leaned over and kissed her hard on the mouth and she could taste sweat, mud, and Clif Bar. She kissed him back and then punched him playfully in the stomach. “I thought you were supposed to be good at this whole mountain biking thing.”

“I wasn’t expecting you to be one of the obstacles.” He raised an eyebrow.

“Dynamic course design — the track changes while you’re on it. But you make a good point, I’m an obstacle you have no chance of overcoming.”

“We’ll see about that,” he laughed, dimples creasing the scar on his right cheekbone.

They walked the bikes the rest of the way to the base of the mountain. Luckily the worst of the damage seemed to be a few bent spokes and several bruises that would no doubt surface the next day. Mara was still feeling shaky when they reached the car. Her muscles were disobedient noodles.

She glanced at Craig as they loaded the bikes onto the rack. She still wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. They met in a Greek history course they were both taking to fulfill general education requirements and had been dating for the past two months. He wasn’t really her type, a little too jockish for her taste. On the other hand, he was smart, ambitious, liked the outdoors, and had fantastic shoulders.

They got in the car and Craig pulled out on the highway. Mara’s phone beeped from her purse on the floor and she reached down to grab it. Craig glanced over, annoyed. “Let me guess, little Mr. Precious as always?”

“Shut the hell up! Just because I actually have friends of the opposite gender and don’t resort to fucking them doesn’t mean you have the right to judge me.”

“Come on… whatever.” He looked back to road, pouting.

“Get a life.” It was going to be a long ride back to Boulder.

Mara pulled up the text message on her phone. It was from James after all. All it said was, “3 p.m. tomorrow, The Laughing Goat.”

Chapter 2

“Double cap extra dry?” James’ hair was long, straight, and black. It came down almost to his shoulders, but outside of that he looked more or less like he had since high school. He had on a long-sleeve T-shirt with “e=mc2” emblazoned on the front, jeans, and brown leather flip-flops. Mara was always amazed at his tenacity for wearing sandals through Colorado winters. He pushed the cup and saucer across the table to her. Like all Laughing Goat espressos, the foam was drizzled on in abstract swirls reminiscent of Japanese stone gardens.

“You know me too well. Thanks for the drink.” She took a sip, savoring the airy richness of the steamed milk and the sharp earthy bite of the espresso.

“Oolong for me.” James’ mother had fled from western Taiwan in the 80s and he had inherited her love for tea. He had an entire cupboard filled with exotic varieties and drank it like water. “How’s the quarter going?”

“Meh, lots of work ahead. I’m in Swarson’s governance class, which would need its own library to house the reading list. The rest of my courses are fine but the real pain in the ass is doing LSAT prep at the same time. It’s incredible how illogical logic can be.” She wasn’t a fan of the how the LSAT classes were starting to eat into her free evenings. “How’s life on the other side of campus? Is your massive brain tearing apart whatever syllabi the computer science professors have tried to throw at it?”

James smiled thinly. “Hardly.” He glanced down at his coffee and pursed his lips. Mara could see he was thinking hard about something. He looked up again. “Do you really want to be a lawyer?”

“Yeah, I mean, obviously my parents are lawyers. There are a number of family friends who are partners at law firms who would give me an internship. I’ve done well in all the recommended prerequisites. Plus, it seems pretty cool to argue with people for a living.”

“But do you want to be a lawyer, like, day-to-day?”

“Yes, well, yeah I think so. It just seems natural, you know?”

“Oh yeah, I’m sure you’d excel at law school and everything. It just seems like it’s so, well, detail-oriented. You’re so outgoing and active. Mike is a lawyer now, and don’t get me wrong, he loves it.” His older brother was halfway through Hastings Law School in San Francisco. “But I just have sort of a hard time picturing you enjoying pulling all-nighters reading through thousands of pages of contracts and stuff.”

“Well, you’re nerdy and introverted so programming seems perfect for you.” Mara was put off by his attitude. He was acting sort of strange. “Sorry, I guess I haven’t really devoted that much thought to it. James, what’s up? Why the mystery text? You know Craig got all pissy again because you’re my best friend.”

James grimaced with obvious distaste. “I really don’t like that guy. He thinks that just because you two are dating, you can’t hang out with any other guys. He’s such a frat boy, seriously, what do you see in him?”

“Dude, get off my back already! I don’t need two men jealous of each other over nothing. You don’t get to decide who I get to date any more than he gets to decide who I’m friends with. I’ll have you know he’s extremely well endowed.”

He held up his hands in mock surrender. “Alright, alright, T.M.I.! I just don’t like the guy…”

“James, I know you like beating around the bush, but why are you interrogating me about my legal ambitions and romantic prerogatives? What’s the deal, man? Are we just here to sip coffee or do you actually have something that you want to talk about?”

James took a sip of tea, put the cup down and looked directly into Mara’s eyes.

“I’m dropping out,” he said.

Chapter 3

This made no sense at all. Mara had known James since he had fallen out of a canoe and she had pulled him back out of the water at a camp near the Russian River in Northern California. He had proceeded to explain that he was trying to figure how the water skeeters did their skeeting and was so focused that he didn’t even notice the branch that knocked him out of the boat. They talked for the rest of the way down the river and it was the first time in Mara’s eleven years that she had met someone she thought might actually be smarter than her. Ever since then they had been inseparable. She remembered the shocking brightness of blood on tablecloth. But that was another story.

James went on to blitz every mathematics competition he could find and his parents sent him to nerd camps at MIT and UC Berkeley during high school summers. He loved chess but his real passion was go, the ancient Chinese strategy board game. Mara had never understood. She didn’t like either game. Why play with toys when the real world was so much more interesting?

Though James still had to master the social side of life, he was a genius, or at least the closest to a genius that Mara had ever met. There was simply no way he was flunking out of college.

Mara drained the last of her cappuccino and tried to regain her composure. “What are you talking about, James? I thought you were blowing all of your C.S. coursework out of the water. Last February one of your professors invited you to be a research assistant in his lab. You can’t be dropping out of school.”

James took a deep breath. “What do you know about pattern recognition?”

After an hour of discussion, the espresso had worked its way through Mara’s system and she had to take a bathroom break. Thoughts were spinning through her head. She took a deep breath and tried to clear her mind as she entered the restroom.

James had been working on a new project for over a year now. Apparently it had started when he was hired as a course reader for one of the upper division math courses. The professor asked him to grade the final assignments for all seventy students in the class. The projects had been submitted online. James started to read them but soon discovered that each one took at least an hour to thoroughly review. Mara couldn’t see James spending two weeks going through assignments and apparently James hadn’t been able to see himself doing it either. Instead, he combined a series of algorithms into a computer program that could automatically flag problems in the student assignments, resulting in much less to review.

The approach ended up working so well that he started adding new functionality. He called the program “Mosaic” after the first popular web browser developed by Marc Andreessen in the early 90s. By the end of the grading process, Mosaic could not only identify incorrect final answers, but also where the logic in students’ proofs had gone awry. At this point, James’ description started going over Mara’s head.

He had shared the program with a few other course readers to test it out and the results were strong. Mosaic was able to ferret out mistakes extremely accurately. Then James had added some “machine learning” layers to Mosaic. Apparently that meant that the program could adapt and evolve on its own based on the problems it faced. Mara had thought that that was the realm of Hollywood robots, but James assured her it was standard practice in computer programming. Mosaic then started to identify not only incorrect answers in the student assignments but also to flag other irregularities. James thought there was a bug in the code and it had stymied him for two weeks before he double checked a few assignments and realized they were plagiarized. Mara grinned. How like James to train a computer to catch cheaters.

As Mara was washing her hands her phone chirped. It was a text from Craig asking if she wanted to go trail running. It was enticing. She hadn’t worked out today and her mind was racing. But she needed to find out what was really going on with James so she texted back that tomorrow might be better. As she slid her phone into her pocket her elbow throbbed, a painful reminder of yesterday’s bike crash.

She walked back out into the flurry of sounds and smells of the coffee shop and sat back down at the table. “Okay, so what gives? Your program can catch math geeks copying each other’s homework?”

James smiled. “I call it ‘quantitative pattern recognition.’ Mosaic can take a dataset and deduce how logic sort of flows through it. It can tell when there’s something that doesn’t fit. I set it up to play chess against the freeware game on my computer and after it had played about ten games it started to win every time. Then I set it up to play go against me. I won ninety-five times in a row but then it started to beat me.” James flushed.

“Okay… who cares? I mean, can’t you play any game against a computer?” Mara was more impressed that he had won almost a hundred times in a row.

“No, no, you don’t understand. Go is infamous because, unlike chess, computers can’t beat even moderately good human players. There are just too many different strategic approaches to the game. The analytical artificial intelligence of the computer can’t match the flexibility and pattern recognition of the human brain. It’s crazy that Mosaic is beating me, I haven’t lost to a computer in years.”

“Fine, so Mosaic can beat you in go. But where is this conversation going? Why are you dropping out of school?” she asked.

James squared his jaw. “I’m going to start a company. And I need your help to do it.”





Author Bio:

Eliot PeperEliot is a writer and strategist based in Oakland, CA. He is the author of The Uncommon Series and when he’s not hacking away at his next novel, he works with entrepreneurs and investors to build new technology businesses as a drop-in operator and adviser. He was an entrepreneur-in-residence at a venture capital firm where he accelerated portfolio companies, sourced/vetted deals and advised foreign governments on innovation policy and capital formation. He has been a founder and early employee at multiple startups.



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Book Showcase: IN THE DARK by Chris Patchell

Partners In Crime Virtual Book tour for In the Dark by Chris Patchell




In the Dark


by Chris Patchell


on Tour February 1-29, 2016



In the Dark by Chris PatchellWhen the worst happens and her daughter goes missing, a mother will do anything to find her…

Marissa Rooney’s daughter, Brooke, has been missing for days. Her roommate hasn’t seen her since that night in the bar. Standing in the middle of her daughter’s dorm room with a half-used vial of insulin clenched in her hand, Marissa comes to the terrifying realization that if she has Brooke’s insulin, it means that Brooke does not.

The missing person’s investigation takes a sudden and deadly turn when the police discover the body of another college student who went missing a week before Brooke. Desperate to find her daughter, Marissa fears time is running out.

But she isn’t alone in her terror. A phantom from Marissa’s past is lurking in the shadows, waiting in the night, and holding her family captive… In the dark.

“An edge-of-your-seat suspense novel. It scared the hell out of me. Read it with the lights on!”–Robert Dugoni, Amazon #1 and New York Times bestselling author of My Sister’s Grave.



Book Details:


Genre:  Suspense, Thriller
Published by:   Kindle Press
Publication Date:   August 2015
Number of Pages:  426
ISBN:   9781514790069
Purchase Links: Amazon  Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


Prologue



The heavy gate groaned shut. After engaging the lock, he pulled the backpack out of his Jeep and slung it over his shoulder. It was a rare fall day in the Pacific Northwest, and he planned to take full advantage of the good weather.

He had work to do.

He walked a quarter of a mile along the fence line and stopped. Then he pulled a “No Trespassing” sign from the pack and propped it against the fence. With a few sure strokes of a hammer, he nailed it to the post. The dull blows echoed in the quiet woods.

Branches and fallen leaves popped and crackled beneath his feet as he worked his way methodically along the ridge, checking the barbed wire fence for gaps. The cinnamon smell of the turning leaves was a sure sign that hunting season would soon begin, and he couldn’t afford to have strangers stumbling onto his property.

He nailed the last sign to the post.

There. That should keep the bastards out.

He turned and started down the rugged trail carved into the steep hillside. A couple of hundred feet below, the valley floor glimmered like an emerald in the late-day sun. Three cabins stood in the clearing beside the Tolt River. A half dozen more were scattered along the upper ridge, overlooking Lake Langlois.

The place had been a youth camp once, before the drowning of a teenage girl had destroyed its reputation. Afterward the camp had closed and the cabins had fallen into disrepair.

It was a shame, really. He had fond memories of the place. While his father had spent the summer basking in an alcoholic haze, he’d spent it exploring the woods, far away from his father’s violent mood swings. By any measure it was a win-win.

Dappled sunlight shone through the thick canopy of branches overhead. He loved days like this. Alone in the woods, he felt at peace with the world.

A scream rent the air, shattering the stillness of the afternoon.

It was shrill. Human.

Crows fled the safety of the trees, a torrent of black wings flooding the blue sky. Heart racing, he started to run. The uneven ground slid beneath his boots. Branches slapped at his face, and he ran faster, driven on by her panicked cries.

The valley floor was muddy after the long weeks of rain. The spongy earth slowed his pace as he raced toward the river.

Another scream. Louder.

“Help me. Oh God. Please.”

It was coming from the cabin farthest from the water’s edge.

His boots pounded up the wooden steps. Hinges squawked in protest as he crashed through the door.

The stench hit him hard—stale sweat and human waste. His stomach churned.

At first he could see nothing, his eyes blinded in the dim light. Then her slender form materialized out of the darkness—a slip of a girl, barely more than a hundred pounds. She was standing near the center of the room, her hands bound behind her back. A soiled University of Washington T-shirt hanging from her skinny frame. Pink panties. And nothing else.

The relief on her face froze the instant she spotted him. A small sob escaped her lips. She stepped back, retreating into the shadows.

As if she could hide.

“Now, Kim,” he said. “What was the rule?”

Her jaw worked, but no sound emerged. She took another pitiful step back, her wide eyes brimming with fear.

“What was the rule?”

His voice boomed in the small cabin. She flinched like a beaten dog.

“No calling out,” she mumbled.

“I can’t hear you. What’s the rule?”

“No calling out.”

“No calling out,” he repeated, smiling thinly. “That’s right. You leave me no choice.”

“Please,” she said, voice trembling, tears leaking from her eyes. “I’ll do better, I promise. I promise…”

He stepped toward her, his tread echoing on the bare plank floor. She shrank back, trembling, and stumbled over the bucket. Without her hands to stop her, she crashed to the floor.

He stopped. His six-foot frame loomed above her. She averted her gaze, looking anywhere but at him.

This will not do.

He hunkered down and gripped her narrow chin, forcing her gaze to meet his.

“Please,” she whispered.

Her mouth trembled.

“Aw, princess,” he said, running his thumb slowly across her swollen bottom lip. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that.”

He reached down and unbuckled his belt.

Chapter 1

There was something seriously fucked up about turning a mortuary into a bar, Drew Matthews thought as he walked through the heavy oak doors of the Chapel. While much of the original architecture of the 1920s building remained intact, the interior displayed the tumors of decades of evolving taste. There were a few recent growths, like the U-shaped bar in the center of the former embalming room. Lit up like a runway at Sea-Tac International Airport, it guided him in.

The drink menu read like the King James Bible, with parables about sins and martinis.

Arm propped against the bar, he ordered the Bruce Lee, a fast, tawny drink that howled like a banshee with fists of fury. It was named after the famous Seattle martial artist whose embalming had reportedly taken place in this very bar.

But there was nothing dead about the place now. Swarming schools of urban hipsters out for their Saturday-night fix swelled like dividing cells. So many desperate souls crowding the bar, looking for that elusive thing missing from their lives. Attention. Sex. Connection. Drew felt the pulsing need, so palpable he could almost taste it.

Tension rippled across his shoulders, into the base of his brain. If ever there was a night he’d felt like getting good and truly shitfaced, this was it. He knew he couldn’t give in to the impulse though. Meeting the friends was a rite of passage he must endure for his relationship with Alicia Wright to progress. And he had every intention of taking their relationship to the next level.

He’d already picked out a sparkly new ring.

A hand ran up his back and he turned. Alicia had dressed well for her starring role. A fitted white blouse hugged her athletic curves, the plunging neckline low enough to reveal a delectable view of her cleavage. A tight black miniskirt rode up her well-toned thighs. In highheeled boots, she was almost at eye level with Drew. He found the accumulated effect arousing.

Alicia leaned in close. He caught a whiff of her perfume. Dark. Floral. Orchids. Her ruby lips brushed his ear, sending sparks jangling along his taut nerve endings.

“Hey, look who finally decided to show up,” she said in a sexy, throaty murmur.

“Sorry, I had to work a little late. Came straight here.”

“Well, grab your drink and let’s go. Gretchen’s waiting.”

Drew raised a finger and drained his glass in a long swallow. Alicia raised her eyebrows.

“You okay?”

“I’ve got some catching up to do.”

So what if he was a little nervous? Who wouldn’t be? Alicia and her pack of prep-school friends had grown up in a different world. While their nannies had dropped them off at private schools and playdates, he’d watched cancer devour his mother and his father fall to pieces. What could they possibly know about being hungry enough to steal food, or hiding in the woods all night, afraid to come home because your father was a mean drunk? Or being left behind, abandoned by your evil stepmother?

Alicia grasped his hand and tugged him away from the bar. Drew followed her up a narrow staircase to a wide balcony overlooking the main floor. The speakers blared and the upper deck swarmed with life.

He definitely needed another drink.

Alicia threaded her way to the front of the platform, where she stopped. Her back to the railing, she looped an arm around the shoulders of a chubby girl.

“Drew, this is Gretchen Lange. We’ve been friends since we were kids.”

“What she means to say is that we’ve been BFFs since third grade,” Gretchen tittered.

Bright-blue eyes sparkled in her doughy white face. A ridiculous mass of strawberry blonde
curls bounced and jiggled when she laughed.

Drew stretched out his hand.

“Gretchen, at last. Alicia’s told me so much about you.”

“Not too much, I hope.”

“She didn’t tell me you were so lovely,” he said.

She wasn’t really. Clad in a skintight floral dress, she looked like a gaudy pink hibiscus.

Smelled like one too. Up close, her perfume made his eyes water. But he knew the comment would score points with both women, so he said it anyway.

“Shame on you, Alicia, for keeping this one all to yourself.”

“She was afraid I’d embarrass her,” Drew said.

“You? Looking all James Bond? Not likely.”

“James Bond?” Drew asked, his lips stretching into a grin.

“Careful, Gretchen,” Alicia said. “You’ll only feed his ego, which is enormous, by the way.”

Drew’s mouth dropped open in mock incredulity.

“Don’t you believe a word of it,” he said, splaying a hand across his chest. “I’m the very embodiment of modesty.”

“Oh, I can see that,” Gretchen cried. “Modest and charming. A killer combination.”

Gretchen wasn’t very bright, but watching her was fun—in a train-wreck kind of way.

Alicia shook back the dark curtain of her glossy hair and leaned into him. The warm press of her body had him thinking more about the after-party than the festivities at hand, and he wished he could push the fast-forward button on the evening. Get to the part where she was his alone.

Glancing around, he spied the waitress on the other side of the platform. Raising his hand, he caught her eye. She hustled over and he ordered another drink—a nod to the serial killer Ted Bundy this time.

Moments later more of Alicia’s friends arrived. Amid a flurry of hugs and kisses, Alicia made the introductions.

“Tracy, Madison, and Liam,” she said, her bright eyes glittering.

The anorexic spandex twins could have passed for sisters with their long blonde hair and skintight dresses. The guy was tall, with a swimmer’s build and a bored, pouty look that said exactly what he thought: they were all beneath him. Ice-blue eyes stared at Drew through a fringe of wispy blond bangs in a messy, chin-length cut that could easily have cost a couple of hundred bucks.

Liam’s hand wedged into the small of Alicia’s back, his little finger inches above the curve of her ass. Eyeing Drew with the clinical stare of a scientist assessing his subject, Liam smiled. The bastard was baiting him. Wondering just how far he could push before Drew lost his shit.

He wanted to plow the prick in the face. Instead he grasped his ring and twisted it around his finger. The bloodstone ring glimmered red in the light. He remembered his father’s fist lashing out, how the ring had gashed his cheek. But he was no longer that boy. Now he knew there was more than one way to win a fight.

Drew tore his gaze away from Liam and scanned the upper deck.

Where the fuck is the waitress?

Apparently the universe heard him because just then the beer wench appeared, hefting a tray of jewel-colored cocktails. Like a frat boy at a freshman party, Drew inhaled half of his in a single swallow. Vodka burned a fiery path down his throat, and he realized with regret that he should have ordered a double.

“Drew, is it? Tell us how you met Alicia,” Liam shouted over the throbbing house music.

“We met at the investment firm where she works. I was meeting with my financial advisor when she walked in. She took pity on me when I asked for her number.”

Alicia smiled. “Pity had nothing to do with it. He asked me out for dinner, and the rest is history.”

“Investments, eh? Tell me about your portfolio,” Liam said, swirling an electric-blue drink around in his glass with his free hand.

“Why? Do you have some wisdom to share?” Alicia asked.

“Not likely,” Gretchen scoffed. “You see, Drew, Liam here is Seattle royalty. His father founded one of the first successful dot-coms and sold before the bubble burst. Unlike the rest of us working stiffs, he doesn’t worry about petty things like money.”

“I like to dabble in stocks.” Liam shrugged, sipping his drink.

“That’s sweet,” Gretchen quipped with a small, sour look that made Drew smile.

“Don’t you have people to do that for you?” Drew asked.

“Sure, but everyone needs a hobby.”

“A hobby? Now that’s funny,” Gretchen snorted, sloshing her drink onto her dress.

Cheeks flushing red, she glanced around for a napkin. Drew handed his over. Dabbing at her dress, Gretchen scowled at Liam.

“See what you made me do?”

“Not me, Gretch. You always were a sloppy drunk.”

“Liam!” Alicia said.

“It’s true. Don’t you remember the time we all went to dinner at that place?” Liam said, snapping his fingers like he was trying to recall. “You remember, Alicia, the posh little place in Madison Park.”

“Crush?”

“Yeah, that’s it, Crush. Gretchen got so wasted, the maître d’ hauled her out of there…”

“Escorted her, you mean,” Alicia said.

Liam waved a hand. “Whatever. The whole way out of the restaurant, she’s yelling at him, calling him names…”

“Until she threw up on his shoes,” Alicia blurted, before slapping her hand across her mouth like she’d just spilled a secret.

“Sweetheart,” Liam said. He paused and turned his affectionate gaze on Alicia. “You stripped down to your panties and danced in the fountain.”

“That’s right,” Gretchen said, her flaming-red face breaking into a smile.

“It was epic,” Liam roared, and the whole group erupted in laughter.

They spent the next half hour reliving highlights from their glory days—like the time Liam and Alicia took his father’s private jet to Paris for the weekend—while Drew stood at the edge of the group and looked on. An outsider. He laughed at the right moments. Feigned interest.

Checked his watch. The minutes crawled by.

By eleven thirty the party was in full swing, but he was done. Alicia turned to him, as if suddenly recalling his presence.

“Get me another drink?”

It came out sounding more like a command than a request, and Drew bristled. Liam shot him a condescending smile and smoothed his hand over Alicia’s ass.

A hot burst of anger surged through Drew.

“Sure,” he said.

He grabbed Alicia by the hand and tugged her toward him. His eyes boring deep into hers, he leaned down and kissed her hard. Through the thin fabric of her shirt, he felt her stiffen, resist. So he deepened the kiss. His tongue probed the depths of her mouth.

All conversation stopped. The throbbing beat of the house music pulsed, and Alicia’s face glowed bright red as she pulled away.

Drew released her and winked at Liam on his way by. Last call. He had to get out of here before he did something stupid. But first he needed another drink.

And then what?

Then he’d do the smart thing. He’d go home and cool off. He’d deal with Alicia later.

After all, she wouldn’t have any trouble finding a ride home.




Author Bio:

Author Chris PatchellWhen Chris Patchell isn’t hiking in the Cascade Mountains or hanging out with family and friends, she is working at her hi-tech job or writing gritty suspense novels. Writing has been a lifelong passion for Chris. She fell in love with storytelling in the third grade when her half-page creative writing assignment turned into a five-page story on vampires. Even back then Chris had a gift for writing intricate plots that were so good her father refused to believe she didn’t steal them from comic books.

Years later, Chris spent long afternoons managing her own independent record store and writing romance novels. After closing the record store and going to college, Chris launched a successful career in hi-tech. She married, had kids but amid all the madness, the itch to write never really went away. So she started writing again. Not romance this time – suspense filled with drama, and angst, speckled with a little bit of blood.

Why suspense? Chris blames her obsession with the dark on two things: watching Stephen King movies as a kid and spending ridiculous amounts of time commuting in Seattle traffic. “My stories are based on scenarios I see every day, distorted through the fictional lens. And my stories come with the added bonus of not having to be restrained by socially acceptable behavior.”

Recipient of the 2015 Indie Reader Discovery Award for DEADLY LIES.

To learn more about Chris and her books, visit:


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Guest Post: IN THE DARK by Chris Patchell


Partners In Crime Virtual Book tour for In the Dark by Chris Patchell

       I’m always excited when book people stop by for a visit. Today TBDR is pleased to host a visit from Chris Patchell, author of Deadly Lies and In the Dark. Ms. Patchell will be offering advice on building a story, likening the process to building a campfire. 


Campfire Stories

For me, stories start out with a simple idea. Sometimes it’s just a fragment, an image, sometimes it’s a scene, and while it starts out small, like a campfire, it’s a living, breathing thing that can be built up until it grows into something much bigger. I mean like eighty thousand words bigger, give or take.

The Spark

The spark is the thing that sets you off on a journey in the first place. Could be a New Year’s resolution to get in better shape, finding a new job, learning a new skill, or playing an instrument. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, the spark is the initial catalyst for you setting off to achieve your goal. For me, the spark is the original story idea for any writing project that I take on.

Deadly Lies started out with an image. A wife finds stumbles across a video on her husband’s computer, and now that she’s seen it, she can no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that her husband has a secret life. Just to make it a little more fun, I tipped the story idea on its head, so it was the woman who had a secret life, and when her husband finds out, things will never be the same. While the execution of the ideas between the two scenarios are different, the underlying theme is the same. Lies. Betrayal. Consequences. 

In essence, the spark is about motivation, and if you feel yourself flagging on your journey (plateaued with your weight loss, can’t break through the training barrier you’ve reached on your fitness journey, feeling rejected because you made it all the way to your final round of interviews and didn’t get the job offer), sometimes reconnecting with the spark, the original idea for why you started out on this journey in the first place, will give you the energy to keep going.


Let it Breathe

Some ideas need space to develop. As a writer, I’ve always got a timeline in mind. Finish the first draft by here, the second draft by here—well, you get the idea. I’m motivated by goals and timelines. But there are times when ideas can’t be forced along, and you need to step back from a current project, and allow it to take shape on its own.

Yeah, I know. That’s hard. Like when you’ve thrown a bunch of resumes out into the void, and they haven’t resulted in any leads. Or you’ve been waiting for a promotion that hasn’t come through yet. Great things take time, and although it’s human nature to want to rush them, letting go control and focusing on the things you can concretely do to move forward is time well spent.

In every novel I’ve ever written, I’ve reached a point where something in the story isn’t working. Although it’s in my nature to put my shoulder to the plow and push through to the end, I know it would result in a weaker story. Believe me, I’ve been there.

A half million words later, I’ve learned to take a step back, re-examine the flow of the story and the character goals, and give my subconscious time to work the problem out. Maybe I work on something new, or do some free association writing to help get me unblocked, but whatever the solution, taking a step back and letting the work breathe always helps. 

But don’t wait too long. You’ve got work to do!


Throw some more wood on the fire

Okay, so things are moving again. The pounds you’ve lost are starting to show, you’re lifting more weight, got a few more job interviews, now it’s time to throw some wood on the fire. Think about the things that can take your journey to the next level and commit to them. This may entail training with a coach, taking some courses, or getting a support group to help you increase your impact.

From a story point of view, I always think of this as increasing the stakes for the characters or making the obstacles harder. The third act of In the Dark was all about making the way ahead seem impossible, and forcing the characters to do things that are not in their nature to do in order to overcome. 


Let it burn

Every journey reaches an inevitable outcome. Whether you succeed in fully achieving your goals or not, it’s a good thing to take a step back and review. What have you learned on your journey? Have you made progress on what you wanted to achieve? Is the story better? Did you get that new job? Did you run a half marathon? Whatever it is you set out to do, what did you learn along the way that has enriched you as a person?

Finishing my second book, In the Dark, has made me a better writer, but there is still lots of learning to do. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I know if I keep going, eventually I’ll get there. And whatever your personal journey may be, with hard work and a little grit, you will too!




Author Bio:


Author Chris PatchellWhen Chris Patchell isn’t hiking in the Cascade Mountains or hanging out with family and friends, she is working at her hi-tech job or writing gritty suspense novels. Writing has been a lifelong passion for Chris. She fell in love with storytelling in the third grade when her half-page creative writing assignment turned into a five-page story on vampires. Even back then Chris had a gift for writing intricate plots that were so good her father refused to believe she didn’t steal them from comic books.

Years later, Chris spent long afternoons managing her own independent record store and writing romance novels. After closing the record store and going to college, Chris launched a successful career in hi-tech. She married, had kids but amid all the madness, the itch to write never really went away. So she started writing again. Not romance this time – suspense filled with drama, and angst, speckled with a little bit of blood.

Why suspense? Chris blames her obsession with the dark on two things: watching Stephen King movies as a kid and spending ridiculous amounts of time commuting in Seattle traffic. “My stories are based on scenarios I see every day, distorted through the fictional lens. And my stories come with the added bonus of not having to be restrained by socially acceptable behavior.”

Recipient of the 2015 Indie Reader Discovery Award for DEADLY LIES.

To learn more about Chris and her books, visit:


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Don’t Miss Out On Your Chance to Win In the Dark!


This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Chris Patchell & 2 Market Books. There will be 5 winners of an eBook copy of In The Dark by Chris Patchell. The giveaway begins on Feb 1 and runs through March 2, 2016.


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Book Showcase: DARK MONEY by Larry Thompson

Dark Money by Larry ThompsonDark Money by Larry Thompson cover


Dark Money
by Larry Thompson
on Tour January 25- February 29, 2016


Synopsis:



Jackson Bryant, the millionaire plaintiff lawyer who turned to pro bono work in Dead Peasants, is caught up in the collision of money and politics when he receives a call from his old army buddy Walt Frazier. Walt needs his assistance in evaluating security for Texas Governor Rob Lardner at a Halloween costume fundraiser thrown by one of the nation’s richest Republican billionaires at his mansion in Fort Worth.

Miriam Van Zandt is the best marksman among The Alamo Defenders, an anti-government militia group in West Texas. She attends the fundraiser dressed as a cat burglar–wounds the governor and murders the host’s brother, another Republican billionaire. She is shot in the leg but manages to escape.

Jack is appointed special prosecutor and must call on the Texas DPS SWAT team to track Van Zandt and attack The Alamo Defenders’ compound in a lonely part of West Texas. Van Zandt’s father, founder of the Defenders, is killed in the attack and Miriam is left in a coma. The authorities declare victory and close the case-but Jack knows better. The person behind the Halloween massacre has yet to be caught. When Walt and the protective detail are sued by the fundraiser host and the widow of the dead man, Jack follows the dark money of political contributions from the Cayman Islands to Washington to Eastern Europe, New York and New Orleans to track the real killer and absolve his friend and the Protective Detail of responsibility for the massacre.

Dark Money is a thriller, a mystery and an expose of the corruption of money in politics caused by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. 



Dark Money Details:


Genre:  Mystery, Thriller
Published by:   Story Merchant Books
Publication Date: December 8th 2015   
Number of Pages:  430
ISBN: 0996990801 (ISBN13: 9780996990806)  
Series: A Jackson Bryant Legal Thriller, 2
Purchase Links: Amazon  Goodreads

Read an excerpt of Dark Money:


The convoy of three troop trucks made its way through the northeastern part of Saudi Arabia on their way to join up with other American troops in Dhahran. Jack Bryant, a lawyer from Texas who was called up from his practice in Beaumont, was riding shotgun in the front truck. He was a sergeant and the senior NCO in the convoy. They passed through several villages deserted or nearly so out of fear of the rapidly moving Iraq army. The convoy approached another village, apparently abandoned, when Jack raised his hand.

“Stop. I saw a glint of metal in a balcony about a hundred yards ahead on the right, and then it disappeared. I’m getting out my side and will use the door as a shield. Open your door as quietly as possible. Go back to the men and tell them to maintain complete silence. I don’t even want to hear the click of a cigarette lighter until I signal.”

Seconds turned into minutes. Jack continued to focus on the balcony. After twenty minutes the driver was thinking that his sergeant must have been imagining something when a head slowly surfaced above the wall on the balcony. Jack waited until he could see the mouth and fired one round, striking the Iraq sniper directly between the eyes. The enemy soldier dropped from sight.

Bryant climbed back into his seat and told his driver they could now move out.

“You sure, Sarge? Could be you only wounded him.”

“Trust me. I don’t miss from this distance. He’s dead. Let’s get going. I hope we’ll still have a little light when we get to the barracks.”







Author Bio:


Larry D. Thompson | Author

Larry D. Thompson is a veteran trial lawyer and has drawn on decades of experience in the courtroom to produce riveting legal thrillers. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Thompson founded the Houston trial firm where he still serves as managing partner. The proud father of three grown children, he lives and works in Texas but spends his summers in Colorado, where he crafts his novels and hikes the mountains surrounding Vail. His greatest inspiration came from Thomas Thompson, his brother, who wrote many best-selling true-crime books and novels.


Catch Up:


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Join In:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Larry D. Thompson. There will be 1 winner of 1 $15 Amazon.com US Gift card. The giveaway begins on Jan 24 and runs through Feb 29, 2016.

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2015 Book 366: WHAT SHE KNEW by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan
ISBN: 9780062413864 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062413871 (ebook)
ASIN: B00WR12MEC (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 1, 2015 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks


In her enthralling debut, Gilly Macmillan explores a mother’s search for her missing son, weaving a taut psychological thriller as gripping and skillful as The Girl on the Train and The Guilty One.

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.  

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking…  


Rachel Jenner is dealing with every parent’s nightmare, the disappearance and possible abduction of her eight-year-old-son, Ben. As the hours tick by, the police and the public begin to suspect Rachel, her ex-husband, her sister, and more without any real leads. Rachel’s despair mounts in What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan.

Rachel Jenner is a divorced single mother. She has been forced to make a new life for herself and her son Ben since her ex-husband, John Finch, walked out after last Christmas. Rachel didn’t handle the separation and divorce well, but the only shining light in her life has been Ben. She blames herself for allowing Ben to run ahead into the forest towards the swing. She feels guilty, not because she did anything to Ben to cause him harm, but because she didn’t protect him the way a parent should. As the days pass, Rachel is at her wit’s end and only wants her son to be found. The police aren’t really providing any information to her or to John. The online world has eviscerated her as a bad mother and her sense of failure mounts. The detective in charge of the case, DI James Clemo, is very close-mouthed about the investigation and the tension and emotions explode when he confronts Rachel’s sister Nicky with their family’s past. It’s been seven days and it doesn’t seem like the police are any closer to finding Ben then they were hours after he disappeared. Could Nicky have had something to do with Ben’s disappearance? If not, who took Ben and is it possible he’s still alive?

I found What She Knew to be a fast-paced and engaging read, as well as one that was difficult to put down. I enjoyed the alternating narratives of Rachel and DI James “Jim” Clemo, as it made it feel as if I were being presented with both perspectives of a missing child story — the investigative and the family’s sides. Both Rachel and Jim are well-developed and realistic characters with plenty of flaws. There are many facets to a police investigation that the public never gets a chance to see, despite the plethora of television shows about police and their investigations. This story provided some insight into the emotional impact this type of investigation has on police officers. Ms. Macmillan takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride with this story, as there are numerous twists and turns and we think we’re heading in one direction only to be led in another direction. No, this isn’t a police procedural. What She Knew is a taut, psychological thriller that does not disappoint (note: What She Knew was originally published in the United Kingdom as Burnt Paper Sky). No, I’m not going to tell you if Ben is found safely or not…read the book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading What She Knew and look forward to reading more from Ms. Macmillan in the future.

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


Enter the giveaway:

Enter to win 1 of 5 copies of What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan. This giveaway is hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gilly Macmillan & William Morrow Books. The giveaway begins on December 1st, 2015 and runs through January 3rd, 2016. For US residents only.


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