Author: G M Ford
Performed by Patrick Lawlor
Publisher: Brilliance Audio, released on Audible April 2014
Category: Hardboiled, Noir
Sometimes it’s the things you don’t do that come back to haunt you, just as surely as some questions are best left unanswered.
When “Leo” is the last word a stranger speaks, the Seattle private eye launches himself into a search for answers. Not only does the dead man have a connection to Leo’s past, but he was also worth millions—and some very dangerous people know it.
After years of struggling to make ends meet as a Seattle PI, Leo Waterman recently inherited the trust fund from his late father’s less than legal dealings and has lapsed into semi-retirement, although he can’t quite come to terms with having such a large sum of unearned wealth. His thoughts and feelings show a conscious awareness of himself and give a roundness to his character.
This story has our hero involved in a new relationship and life is going well. Until there’s a burglary at the house next door to where he and his girlfriend are house sitting. The arrival of the police result in the death of a man whose last word was Leo’s name. It seems Leo and retirement don’t mix, especially when the realisation hits he was acquainted with the dead man. And the more he learns, the more answers he wants and the deeper the investigation pulls him in.
The Morrison’s door frame bristled with fresh splinters. The white, four panel door hung from a single hinge, oscillating slightly as the wind swirled about. A muddy boot print adorned the centre of the door. Probably not the UPS guy, I figured.
I heaved an inward sigh. I don’t know exactly what propelled me forward. I’d prefer to think I was motivated by a sense of responsibility, of being my brother’s keeper, or something vaguely noble like that, but when you look at my history, it’s hard to attribute it to anything except the mule-headed stupidity that’s taken a chunk out of my hide so many times in the past. I guess some folks never learn.
Leo is a nonconformist, realistic and sometimes laugh out loud funny – a great protagonist who is immediately likeable. He’s a mixture of smart, funny, good-hearted and doesn’t stand for injustice even if it means trouble with a capital T. Before long Leo is caught in the middle of a high risk situation where finding the truth could cost the ultimate price.
Colourful and entertaining characters, especially the new side kick, Keith, who makes a bad call in the beginning of the story which results in a big change in his life. He wants desperately to make amends as best he can. Conversely the villains are menacing and sadistic in the extreme, maybe a little stereotypical, but a classic good guys versus bad guys scenario involving big money, a casino and controlling mobsters, with some quite graphic scenes. A chilling look at how those who want absolute power and control consider people as disposable.
I like G M Ford’s writing style very much, employing humour and compelling story lines but I did miss Leo’s ‘team’ of misfits helping him out on this one albeit they did make a brief appearance at the tail end of the story. Patrick Lawlor really performed this story, great characterisations and he gives the narration just the right amount of emotional impact.
Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest in the family - Hannah - who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened. Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page-turner, about secrets, love, longing, lies and race.
Celeste has very kindly shared the thoughts and ideas that prompted her to write her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You.
My husband was reminiscing about his school days—in particular, about a friend who’d been a bit of a troublemaker in his youth. When they were seven or eight, my husband said, he’d been playing at this friend’s house and his friend had pushed his own little sister into a lake.
It was a funny anecdote with a happy ending: the parents pulled the sister from the water, the friend was in big trouble. But I kept thinking: what had this brother-sister relationship been like before that day? What would it be like after? And—this was the question that haunted me, perhaps because I’m a writer, perhaps because I’m a morbid thinker, perhaps simply because I’m a terrible swimmer—what if the parents hadn’t been there?
The story grew from that little seed. Lydia, drowning, was the first image I wrote. I pictured the lake in my own hometown, a beautiful pool we called the Duck Pond. It is small enough to see across, but a boy in my grade had nearly drowned in it when he was six or seven, and it had always seemed a bit sinister to me after that. I imagined it at night, when it would be very quiet and the lake water would be almost black, and imagined Lydia plunging below the surface. Then I tried to trace the story back, to figure out how she’d gotten there, and why she’d been at the pond that night.
As the novel developed, the particulars changed: Lydia, the girl in Everything I Never Told You, is sixteen when she drowns, and the circumstances of her death aren’t immediately clear. But it all started with that image of a girl falling into the water.
Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son. www.celesteng.com @pronounced_ing
“If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now… Ng has set two tasks in this novel’s doubled heart—to be exciting, and to tell a story bigger than whatever is behind the crime. She does both by turning the nest of familial resentments into at least four smaller, prickly mysteries full of secrets the family members won’t share… What emerges is a deep, heartfelt portrait of a family struggling with its place in history, and a young woman hoping to be the fulfillment of that struggle. This is, in the end, a novel about the burden of being the first of your kind—a burden you do not always survive.” — ALEXANDER CHEE, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"[A]n accomplished debut... It's also heart-wrenching. Ng deftly pulls together the strands of this complex, multigenerational novel. Everything I Never Told You is an engaging work that casts a powerful light on the secrets that have kept an American family together — and that finally end up tearing it apart.’ — LOS ANGELES TIMES
‘The mysterious circumstances of 16-year-old Lydia Lee's tragic death have her loved ones wondering how, exactly, she spent her free time. This ghostly debut novel calls to mind The Lovely Bones.’ - MARIE CLAIRE
[A] moving tale... of daughters for whom cultural disconnect is but the first challenge – VOGUE "Both a propulsive mystery and a profound examination of a mixed-race family... [an] explosive debut."— ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
A "cleverly crafted, emotionally perceptive debut ... Ng's themes of assimilation are themselves deftly interlaced into a taut tale of ever deepening and quickening suspense."— O MAGAZINE
‘Emotionally involving [...] Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliché. Ng’s prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn.’ — ★ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (STARRED REVIEW)
‘Ng constructs a mesmerizing narrative that shrinks enormous issues of race, prejudice, identity, and gender into the miniaturist dynamics of a single family. A breathtaking triumph, reminiscent of prophetic debuts by Ha Jin, Chang-rae Lee, and Chimamanda Adichie, whose first titles matured into spectacular, continuing literary legacies.’ — ★ LIBRARY JOURNAL (STARRED REVIEW)
‘I couldn't stop reading Everything I Never Told You . . . the writing is so smooth and keenly observed. The portrait of each member of the Lee family, the exploration of their mixed-race issues and the search for the killer of their sister and daughter, Lydia, pulled at my heartstrings to the very end.’ - UWEM AKPAN
Author: Anne Allen
Published: August 2014 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Category: Contemporary, Romance
Two violent deaths. Separated by time, but with a fatal connection… A man loses his father. A young woman loses her mother. Both in tragic circumstances that lead, when they meet, to surprising revelations from the past.
At the heart of the two deaths lie stolen jewels. Valuable enough to kill for. Twice.
Malcolm Roget was born in Canada to where his mother fled after her fiancé, Malcolm’s father, was murdered just before the start of WW2. He has been a successful hotelier and now wants a change of direction. Having spent a considerable time in India exploring the concept of making life style changes though meditation and relaxation, he travels to Guernsey, his mother’s birthplace, to open a spa hotel and sanctuary at what was his father’s beautiful island home. While renovation works are in progress, human bones are discovered buried in the grounds. The remains prove to be those of Roland Blake, Malcolm’s father, and Malcolm’s search begins to see if his father’s killer is still alive and so bring him to justice.
Several meetings later and they were firm, if unlikely, friends. Paul agreed to help Malcolm improve his health – providing Reiki healing, personal meditation sessions and a foul tasting herbal concoction, all of which left him feeling better than he’d done for years. He became a firm believer in what he’d once thought to be codswallop and had nothing but respect for Paul. He could understand why people might want to visit a centre that offered such healing and asked Paul if he’d be interested in working for him if he were to invest in a centre.
Louisa Canning, recovering after a botched attempted burglary caused her mother’s untimely death, decides she must honour her mother’s dying wish and try to find the father she has never known. Her search takes her to La Folie, a health spa in Guernsey and brings her much more than she would ever have imagined. She and Malcolm both learn valuable lessons about life, love and family.
Louisa and Malcolm are both troubled by buried secrets and past events and, as their relationship grows, they begin to discover, not only their warmth and affection for each other but also the threads of the mystery and intrigue that binds their pasts together.
The blossoming relationship between Malcolm and Louisa is realistically drawn and, although I did find some of the dialogue a little unconvincing at times, the hopes and fears expressed are just as I would imagine. The vividly scenic descriptions of Guernsey paint a beautiful picture and bring the island to life, the beaches, the countryside and the fabulous sounding restaurants, evoking fond memories from my visit to the island many years ago and making me long for a return visit.
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. She was born in Rugby, to an English mother and Welsh father. As a result she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learnt to love the sea. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.
By profession Anne is a psychotherapist but has long had creative ‘itches’, learning to mosaic, paint furniture, interior design and sculpt. At the back of her mind the itch to write was always present but seemed too time-consuming for a single mum with a need to earn a living. Now the nest is empty there’s more time to write and a second novel is gestating, but novels take a lot longer than children to be born!
I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of things beyond my knowledge, unseen, spiritual, call it what you will. As with anything ‘ otherworldly’ it’s a very emotive subject with very differing views and, of course, each to their own beliefs.
But, after reading Linn’s series Angels Among Us I was intrigued to find out more and Linn very kindly agreed to this guest post. Thanks so much for taking the time, Linn, over to you…
Orbs, spiritual energy and romantic novels – all in a day’s work!
People often ask me why I write psychic romance and why, even in my chick lit novels, there’s always some little reference to the help we get from the other side.
The reason is simple. I’ve had more than enough proof in my life to know that this life isn’t the sole point of our existence and that loved ones are with us always. To me having psychic experiences, validation of that, and seeing things as simple as orbs, is a natural part of life. As I write about life and love, there is no way I can leave out something so fundamental, because I believe the help we receive (whether we realise it, or not) often helps shape the decisions we make.
In June 2012 the loveahappyending.com website that I began in June 2011, held a one-off event in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. It was a very stressful thing to organise, as I had never done anything like that before and it was a day of talks and writing sessions. A few weeks’ prior to the big day, I went to a psychic medium event and received a message. I was told that my Uncle Ron was helping me and I wasn’t to worry, the day would be fine. There were a few very unique validations that it was indeed him – for starters he was a prisoner of war and the only one of my uncles who was captured and reported as missing. On the day of the event literally hundreds of photos were taken and many were from the same angle. The best ones were used in a post on the website to capture the excitement of the day.
However, a few weeks’ later one of the authors (the very talented Emma Calin) sent me a string of photos, in the middle of which were some that appeared to show a ball of energy around my head and several with orbs (although they were quite faint). She also sent me the photos immediately prior to, and after, these unusual ones, to show that it wasn’t simply something on the lens. As I had already seen so many taken from virtually the same point in the room, I knew it wasn’t simply light reflecting from overhead etc. as it would have appeared in many more of the shots taken.
But most importantly of all, I wasn’t surprised. I could feel the energy around me that day and being quite a shy person, I knew that I was getting assistance. I’m very familiar with orbs, having lived in numerous houses and cottages where both my husband and I have witnessed them simultaneously. But that’s another story and one I’ve already written in the true story, ‘Being A Sceptic Is Oh So Easy’.
When you see an orb, or cluster of orbs up close, it can be a very uplifting thing. Often they are muted but sometimes close up they are so bright it is like a little circle of intense white, or coloured, light (see below). They can travel slowly, or whizz across a room. On one occasion a really bright orb, the size of a ten pence piece, alerted me to a situation that could have been life-threatening for someone … everything happens for a reason. At the time, it was such an indisputable experience that I knew something was wrong with someone I loved. A phone call confirmed that and, I believe, diverted a situation that could have spiralled out of control with fatal consequences.
As I prepared to write this article, just yesterday I was watching a short video clip taken of a young family member. As I watched I saw one orb zoom across the top of the clip, and then seconds later another one zoomed upwards from the bottom of it. I showed my husband and we watched in amazement, hoping it was a sign that my mother was there watching over him. She died before he was born and even though I know she’s around us all, it was still a thrill to see.
A friend had a problem after moving into a property to begin renovating it, with a spirit determined to make him feel ill-at-ease. We talked through what to do and eventually, after some gentle but firm persuasion, his visitor left. He did manage to capture two orbs in his work room and they are pretty clear (below).
Then there is the glorious photo of the orb in the garden of the cottage we purchased in December 2013. The moment I saw the photos on Rightmove and spotted the orb in the garden I knew it was the one for us. The former owner had died and it had been empty for a year – but it was waiting for us. I know that she approves of what we have done and while she is very quiet, we often see an orb here and there. I also believe I have seen her, and, a cat … although we have a cat of our own, too. This one is very different! My husband and I take that as a positive and reaffirming thing; we gain comfort from it.
For me, the point is that whenever I’ve felt anything bad, I get myself as far away as I can. Everything else I’ve experienced has been uplifting and helpful, comforting. At first it spooked my husband and he wouldn’t even let me talk about the things that happened around me. My earliest memory is a psychic one. Then he had his first, personal, experience. It took him a while to talk about it, but since then we haven’t looked back. For us it’s taken away the fear of death and the fear that loved ones are lost to us when they pass. What is clear is that whilst it is human nature to look for mundane causes and be sceptical, there are times when you can rule out potential explanations; especially when someone you love, and who you trust implicitly, witnesses the same thing at the same time. Then, it’s easier to believe and accept. The more you relax, the more you notice what is going on around you all the time.
When I wrote the Angels Among Us series for HarperImpulse, it took three years of research for me to be able to explain, as a part of the fictional story, how angels ‘work’. It’s a love story first and foremost, but the explanation had to fit in with what I’d experienced and believed. Some of the research didn’t fit with that, but I found plenty that did. Some of it came from messages I’ve received from my mum and dad via various mediums; enough little pieces of info to make me formulate a picture. But there is a gap – no one knows for sure until they are on the other side. If we live more than one life, maybe no one ever comes back with ‘full’ knowledge because that’s not how it’s meant to work. I filled the gap with what I felt might be a plausible leap of faith … one day I will know for sure!
I hope you enjoyed Linn’s post as much as I did and, if nothing else, it’s given you food for thought!
Author: Iain Reading
Published: February 2014 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Category: Adventure, Young Adult
Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the RMS Titanic is the thrillingly cryptic fourth installment of the exciting Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series featuring the intrepid teenage seaplane pilot Kitty Hawk and her various adventures of mystery and intrigue as she follows in the footsteps of Amelia Earhart on an epic flight around the world……..Filled with fascinating and highly Google-able locations and history the reader will find themselves immersed in brand new worlds that are brought to life before their very eyes as Kitty Hawk experiences the stories and history of a doomed ocean liner and unravels the Tragedy of the RMS Titanic.
This is definitely my favourite Kitty Hawk adventure up to date, although I’ve enjoyed all Kitty’s adventures and the places she has visited so far on her round the world flight. This story begins in Dublin where Kitty is helping to promote the opening the new branch of Wasabi Willy’s, the company that, thanks to Kitty’s friend Charlie, is funding her trip.
Kitty is soon involved in a race to help her new friend Andrew, whose great-uncle was First Officer William McMaster Murdoch aboard the Titanic, unravel the mystery that has been baffling his family for generations. Travelling from Ireland to London and back again they hope to solve confusing clues and a puzzling code that Andrew’s family received in the 1930s in the form of a newspaper clipping and a postcard. Andrew is desperate to clear his Great Uncle’s name which was dishonoured in the accounts following the tragedy.
The account of the sinking of the Titanic, even though events have been well documented, is written in such a way as to bring renewed feelings of poignancy. There’s a huge amount of information woven into the story and highlights just how many circumstances seem to have conspired against the ship that momentous night. The weather conditions, the sea state and extremely dark night and especially the seeming ineptitude of the captain of the Californian. The story of the Titanic will always be fascinating and catastrophic.
For a moment, the lights of the ship blazed brightly before flickering into darkness. A terrible roar arose from deep inside the Titanic as the entire contents of the enormous ship broke free-everything from gigantic boilers to tiny teaspoons. High in the air the ship’s stern seemed to hang motionless for an eternity before finally plummeting down into the icy black abyss.
The evocative descriptions of London and Ireland are rich and distinct giving a complete sense of place and local colour. Initially, I wasn’t too sure about the graphic accounts of Jack the Ripper’s victims being suitable for the target age range, but I did find myself engrossed even though it’s very gruesome and chilling. As with all the stories in this series, the wonderful accounts of the different countries and areas make me desperately want to visit. Newgrange and Brú na Bóinne is an intriguing sounding place and amazing to think was constructed around 3200 BC!
Kitty’s character is developing nicely and her adventures continue to be exciting and very entertaining for readers of any age.
Author: Barb Taub
Published: December 2013 by Hartwood Publishing Group
Category: Urban Fantasy, Steampunk
Hope flares each morning in the tiny flash of a second before Lette touches that first thing. And destroys it.
Her online journal spans a decade, beginning with the day a thirteen-year-old inherits an extreme form of the family “gift.” Every day whatever she touches converts into something new: bunnies, bubbles, bombs, and everything in between.
Lette’s search for a cure leads her to Stefan, whose fairy-tale looks hide a monstrous legacy, and to Rag, an arrogant, crabby ex-angel with boundary issues. The three face an army led by a monster who feeds on children’s fear. But it’s their own inner demons they must defeat first.
The morning after Lette Simoneau turns thirteen she awakens to find she can feel colours. Weird? Lette thinks so. Not quite the superpowers she might have dreamed of. It was so bizarre to be able to tell what colour an object is just by touching it. Lette couldn’t see the point of such a lame power, but she didn’t realise this was just the beginning.
As the summer weeks and months pass, the touch as Lette calls it, manifests in different ways and on an ever-increasing number of occasions. Each day’s manifestation is different, Lette could be turning objects into gold one day, or cupcakes or sandwiches another day, and sometimes into much more dangerous things.
I love the interaction between Lette and George, her mother’s evil cat. Eventually the inevitable happens and Lette inadvertently touches George with hilarious consequences.
The book is written in journal entries and through this we get to know, like and sympathise with Lette and, as one disaster follows another, she decides living alone is her only option. Despite this less than satisfactory way of life Lette copes with her situation very well. She’s a strong protagonist with a great character.
Some days I can’t believe I’m almost twenty-three, or that I’ve spent the past five years living in my parents’ little mountain cabin. Luckily, it’s close enough that my parents visit most weekends. And money is never a problem because Mom’s friend Eric, who runs a pawn shop off Pioneer Square in Seattle, is always able to take the melted down gold or other valuables I’ve touched and change them to cash with no questions asked.
Sure, there were bad days, but lots of good ones too. I discovered I love working in my garden. But even with heavy gloves over my surgical gloves, gardening is hell on latex. Still, most of the craters from that landline-touch day are now filled with dirt, and it looks like a really good year for my tomatoes. That is, if I can just get them to stay tomatoes and not turn them into small pink bunnies or straw hats or whatever that day’s touch is.
Lette isn’t destined for this kind of life much longer though, as she learns of a place where she could live normally. There’s much more to life than living as a virtual prisoner and when the opportunity to travel to Null City arises Lette doesn’t think twice. What follows is an amazingly imaginative and innovative adventure with Stefan and Rag, two great central characters. Lette has to make some hard decisions and, at the same time, learns some valuable lessons, on her journey, not least of which is making the best of a sometimes challenging situation.
I love that the villain of the piece is a horrific beast-like creature of folklore, said to be the son of Hel, and is part of a tradition which is centuries old. You just know when you read something written by Barb Taub it’s going to be vividly imaginative and full of humour, fun and excellent writing. This intriguing and engaging story is no exception.
Author: Andrew E Kaufman
Performed by Luke Daniels
Published: Brilliance Audio, released by Audible April 2013
Category: Crime/Suspense, Paranormal
Distance separates them..
A dark secret connects them..
A voice from the grave will draw them together...
Cameron Dawson is trying to get to grips with his tragic past by coming home to Faith, New Mexico. He has taken the job of assistant Sheriff in the sleepy, quiet little town and his life seems to be settling into a peaceful routine. Until, that is, a sequence of gruesome and baffling murders strike the usually crime free town. Cameron can’t comprehend what is happening to people he has known for most of his life.
Dr Kyle Bancroft, miles away from Faith, is being bombarded with flashbacks, dreams of terrible occurrences, and paranormal experiences. A ghostly child is appearing to Kyle with a pressing and crucial message. Kyle has five days to stop something horrific happening. She can’t evade the feeling of dread and her chilling premonitions and perceptions are drawing her to Faith although she no idea why. She can only hope to be taken seriously and offer what help she can.
Cameron has never before been witness to events such as he now finds himself having to face. The suspects couldn’t be more unlikely, and there are several of them. As the evidence mounts up it takes an appalling direction. There’s no logic he can apply, no way to can rationalise events so he goes with a quote from Sherlock Holmes…when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ Trusting Kyle’s psychic visions is his last hope.
The clock struck midnight.
Something in the air seemed to change. Something sudden, mysterious, and filled with bad intent. Wind-driven clouds gaining momentum, swirling into the path of a fiery moon.
What once was settled began to stir. Where there had been order, there was unrest, and from the gathering darkness, new life emerged.
The sort born of pure evil.
A very fast-moving and multi layered storyline with high level suspense and, be warned if you’re squeamish, a very graphic, gruesome and, obviously very well researched given the attention to detail, forensic aspect in the first part of the book. Short and intensely descriptive chapters, some ending on mini cliff hangers, relentlessly draw you in.
The central figures are strong and compelling. Listening to the audio adds an extra dimension to their portrayal. Cameron especially, during his recollection of the heartbreaking events that changed his life. Luke Daniels puts a huge amount of emotion into his narration and so gives the characters that extra authenticity.
The only thing that didn’t quite gel for me was the relationship between Cameron (although he absolutely deserves some happiness after what he’s been through) and Kyle, but nevertheless it was a fantastic listen. And the ending had the tears flowing.
Andrew E. Kaufman is a broadcast journalist-turned-author, living in Southern California, along with his Labrador Retrievers, two horses, and a very bossy Jack Russell Terrier who thinks she owns the place.
Andrew was named one of the highest-grossing independent authors in the country when his total number of books sold pushed well past the six-figure mark. His recent release, The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted: A Psychological Thriller was on Amazon’s Top 100 for more than one hundred days. It became their seventh bestselling title out of more than one million e-books available nationwide and number one in its genre. His first novel, While the Savage Sleeps, made the Top 100 as well and was number one in its genre, passing up two of Stephen King’s current releases at the time. Both books are bestsellers in the UK and Germany, and both books were simultaneously number one in their genres in the U.S.
His success resulted in signing an international dual publishing deal with Thomas & Mercer and 47North. His newest work, Darkness & Shadows, an intense psychosexual thriller, was released in 2013.
He was also a writer for, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book (Simon & Schuster/2009) where he chronicled his battle with the disease.
After receiving his journalism and political science degrees at San Diego State University, Andrew began his writing career as an Emmy-nominated writer/producer, working at the CBS affiliate in San Diego, and then in Los Angeles. For more than ten years, he produced special series and covered many nationally known cases, including the O.J. Simpson Trial.
Author: Carol O’Connell
Published: In paperback 2003 by Arrow Books
Fifteen years have passed since a junkie whore and police informer, known simply as Sparrow, cared for a feral child when she was lost and alone. Now, on a hot August afternoon, in an East Side apartment, a woman is found hanged. Carefully placed red candles and an enormous quantity of dead flies suggest a bizarre ritual.
I was supplied with a copy of the book through Bookbridgr in return for an honest review.
This is the 6th book in the Kathy Mallory series. I had enough background from previous books, although I haven’t read them all, not to be left floundering. Mallory is an enigma, a child of the streets who survived on her wits and was looked after by hookers. She is damaged emotionally, unable or unwilling to allow herself to trust anyone. She was adopted by NYPD Detective Louis Markowitz and his wife Helen and became very close to them both. Since their deaths the people closest to her are Detective Riker, Markowitz’s former partner, now Mallory’s and her business partner and friend, Charles Butler, who worships her.
Fifteen years had passed since Kathy Mallory had roamed the streets as a child. Being homeless was damned hard work and running the tired little girl to ground had been the job of Riker’s old friend, Louis Markowitz, but only as a hobby. Lost children had never been the province of Special Crimes Unit, not while they lived. And they would have to die under unusual circumstances to merit a professional interest. So Kathy had become the little blond fox of an after-hours hunt. The game had begun with these words, spoken so casually: “Oh, Riker? If she draws on you, don’t kill her. Her gun is plastic, it fires pellets – and she’s only nine or ten years old.”
This story unravels more of Mallory’s complicated and dubious past when a serial killer strikes. One of the victims is Sparrow, a whore who held a special place in the young Kathy’s heart until, as Kathy saw it, Sparrow betrayed her. They never spoke again. Now Mallory has to confront her demons as the investigation progresses. Twenty years ago a similar murder occurred but due to bad policing the murderer was never caught. But what bearing does that have on the present murders? Is the connection Mallory herself?
A very grim, grisly and complex murder plot with very graphic descriptions, sometimes too much so. Mallory is definitely a unique protagonist, someone who could conceivably be dangerous, and is now in the homicide division of the NYPD. Tough and intimidating, she takes no prisoners and can be very cruel and insensitive. Towards the end there is a slight glimmer, are emotions beginning to tap on the hard shell surrounding Mallory? A character development of sorts is long overdue for Mallory. How much longer can she continue to be so cold, contained and manipulative towards the those who care for her. Surely she has been shown enough kindness and love since the Markowitz’s adopted her to merit even a small crack in her armour.
I found the writing distracting and a little awkward in parts, not quite as I remember. It was a long time ago though, and maybe I should have caught up with previous books before embarking on this one.
After reading Alison Williams’ extremely interesting “A Witchcraft Tour of England’ post (which you can find here) I decided to check out one of the places I’d never seen and actually knew nothing about. Rougemont Castle in Exeter. The castle was built on a small hill and the name Rougemont came from the Norman French rouge mont, meaning red hill, because of its red volcanic rock.
Only the castle walls and gatehouse, which you can walk round, remain, but nevertheless when I see something like this…
especially since reading Alison’s book The Black Hours, I get chills imagining what could, and more than likely did, happen on the other side of those bars. The so-called witches, Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards, Mary Trembles and Alice Molland were the last to be tried here. They were found guilty and executed. This plaque is by the gatehouse.
Author: Chris Patchell
Published: March 2014 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
As a teenager, Jill Shannon fell victim to her stepfather’s cruel abuse. Now, as an adult, Jill’s made it—she has a successful career and a solid, if not static, marriage to Detective Alex Shannon. Together they live out what seems to be a perfect life in Seattle.
The vow she made as a teenager to never again be a victim lies dormant—until one day a reporter lures her to his hotel room under the pretense of an interview—and suddenly it all comes rushing back.
Jill seeks revenge on the reporter, triggering a series of events that leads Jill down a wormhole of retribution, forcing her to spin an ever-widening web of lies.
Meanwhile, Alex is on the case of a series of murders that began as cyber relationships. There seems to be a familiar fingerprint on these crimes, but Alex refuses to believe that the murderer could be so close to him.
Husband and wife stand on opposite sides of a divide created by lies and rooted in a dark and deadly past…
Alex and Jill are facing marital problems. Their jobs keep them apart for most of the week and it doesn’t help that Jill is having an affair with her boss, until, that is, he decides to move on to someone else. While trying to resolve the awkward situation Jill has manoeuvred herself into something totally unexpected and horrific occurs but after the initial shock she sees how this could work to her advantage.
After the abuse at the hands of her stepfather, Jill resolved never to be at the mercy of another man. When she is compromised by a reporter supposedly wanting an interview she takes matters into her own hands. Jill’s behaviour, even as you feel for the young girl she was, is totally disproportionate and spirals out of all control.
“Ready or not, here I come,” her stepfather, Master Sergeant Samuel Morris, called out in that creepy, singsong voice, like this was some sort of sick game.
Her hands shook, and she clasped them in a tight knot under her chin. Her mother’s scent – baby powder and cinnamon – filled the small space, enveloping her like a warm cloak, and she wished she could hide here forever. Safe. Untouched.
Tears stung her eyes. God, she missed her mother. It was bad before. His punishments had always been harsh, but since her mother’s death, everything had changed.
Alex is a detective with the Seattle Police Force and is investigating the disappearance of his ex fiancée’s sister, which is linked to a serial killer. During the course of his investigations he begins to wonder how much he really knows his wife. He realises she has changed in an elusive way but can’t quite rationalise how or why. He is shocked and unbelieving at where the clues are leading him.
This is a very skilfully written debut novel, with strong, well-developed characters. The absorbing storyline is full of intrigue and suspense. Alex is someone I could relate to immediately and, for all Jill is a very complex and complicated character, and because of childhood suffering I could understand, up to a very definite point, what drove her. And Alex’s partner, Jackson, is a great character too, always having Alex’s back.
The detail and descriptive prose gives a very intense and realistic slant….and the ending! I didn’t see that one coming! There is nothing I dislike about this book, although the ending did leave me quite shell-shocked. Definitely an author to look out for. Many thanks to JB Johnson at Brook Cottage Books for sending me a copy. So glad I didn’t miss this one.
When 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 live 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.”
To learn more about Chris and her debut novel, DEADLY LIES, visit www.chrispatchell.com/
Join her on Facebook for book giveaways and more gritty fun at www.facebook.com/authorchrispatchell
“Chris Patchell”s debut novel, Deadly Lies, is a taut, fast-paced thriller that grabs you from the start and doesn’t let go. Patchell is a master storyteller with a real talent for creating pulse-pounding suspense.”—Kevin O’Brien, New York Times Bestselling Author of Unspeakable.
Author: E.L. Lindley
Category: Crime, Mystery, Romance
A thrilling crime novel, introducing Georgie Connelly a feisty protagonist along with a cast of loyal and likeable characters who surround her. If you enjoy novels that have heart and humour why not give it a try.
Many thanks to E.L. Lindley for sending me a copy as part of Rosie Amber’s book review team
As we meet former teacher, now a Los Angeles based documentary film maker, Georgie Connolly, she is about to start a stint of community service. Due to an embarrassing mix up she was convicted of driving under the influence. Her penance is to teach media studies to decidedly uncooperative students one day a week. Georgie is a volatile character, with an explosive temper, and sometimes (a lot of the time actually) acts before thinking things through properly, landing her, and sometimes the people around her, in precarious situations. But underlying her irritability and tendency to jump in with both feet, she has a good and caring heart and is quite sensitive.
James Finn, an ex Marine, is hired, albeit reluctantly on James’ part, by his friend, Eric, who is also Georgie’s boss and her best friend’s husband, to protect Georgie from a white supremacist, out for revenge and sending death threats. Georgie exposed the group in a previous documentary and as Georgie bounces from disaster to disaster James is in turn infuriated with her and trying to deny the spark of attraction growing between them.
“Stay there,” he ordered, disconnecting the call. He didn’t need to tell Georgie that he would be there as fast as humanly possible. More and more, she was coming to rely upon James’ strength and his innate sense of always knowing what to do and, for the second time that day, she had an uneasy feeling, wondering what her life would be like once he had moved on.
When one of Georgie’s students goes missing, Georgie’s attention is drawn to Maxim Petrov, a questionable Russian and suspected abductor, with ties to ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ and the seedier side of life. Not one to let an opportunity pass her by, Georgie decides to investigate Petrov by making him her next documentary subject, not realising just how dangerous and corrupt he is until it’s too late.
I like the twist of Georgie making documentaries instead of being connected to law enforcement. The cast of characters surrounding Georgie are all interesting, real and easy to identify with. The relationship between Georgie and James had me wanting to knock some sense into them both at times though.
This is a fun and entertaining read, even though there are darker aspects and menacing connotations involving corruption, prostitution and trafficking, both in drugs and girls. This adds to the drama, and the action and suspense is kept on the boil throughout. The story flows, and is paced well. I look forward to following more of Georgie’s adventures.
Author: Russell Blake
Performed by RC Bray
Published: Janda Management, released by Audible September 2014
Category: Hardboiled, Noir Fiction
BLACK To Reality is the fourth in the acclaimed BLACK series of noir detective fiction featuring Artemus Black, the world’s losingest Hollywood Private Investigator. In this installment he is saved from financial calamity when he takes a case that requires him to work undercover on a reality television show, posing as an over-the-hill rocker trying for one last shot at success.
Black is back, broke and down on his luck. The rent’s overdue on his apartment, Roxie’s had no wages and there are no clients beating down his door. Add to that the move to a swanky new office, which unnecessary luxury, according to Black, is taking what little money he has left. Roxie is forced to look for another job until things improve. Then Black gets a call about a new client.
Reality shows are in the firing line in this story as Black is assigned to investigate possible shady dealings in a reality TV competition, Rock of Ages. He gets a chance to relive his long-lost fame by joining, as lead guitarist, one the groups who were knocked out last year. Brushing up on his guitar skills and getting a rock star make over, Black is again in the thick of the action. Could he actually have another shot at a career in the music business again?
I just love Black’s character, his decency, generosity and sense of humour, not to mention his relationships with Stan, Roxie and Mugsy, who takes centre stage in this episode and eventually provides something of a life line for Black. Black is an authentic individual with normal, everyday issues in his personal as well as professional life, which most people can relate in one way or another.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about it.”
“Oh, well, then sure. I’ll drop the triple homicide ticket I picked up this morning and get right on the dope fiend. What’s his name?”
“Rick Pearson. Lived in Hollywood.”
Stan paused. “Wait a minute. You’re not saying a guitar player in Hollywood was taking drugs! No wonder you’re suspicious…”
“Ha ha. Just consider it a favour to me.”
“Like you aren’t running a bigger deficit than the government.”
“I can pay it off in beer.”
“You make a compelling case…”
Underneath all the humour there’s some serious subject matter, including Black realising he’s reached the age of 43 with not a lot to show for it except ‘an eccentric wardrobe and an old Cadillac’, complex emotional issues and dealing with abandoned and ignored dreams. His character development has advanced and he’s less angry and bitter about the way his life has turned out.
Jack Bertolino’s son, Chris, was the victim of a brutal murder attempt and Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss, provided information that helped Jack take down the perpetrator of the crime. Jack accepted the favor knowing there’d be blowback. In Blond Cargo the mobster’s daughter has gone missing and Cardona turned in his chit. Jack discovers that the young, blond, mafia princess has been kidnapped and imprisoned while rich, politically connected men negotiate her value as a sex slave.
A sizzling whodunit for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell, Blond Cargo taps into the real-life crime world to deliver a thrilling, action-packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the explosive, unprecedented finale.
Ahead of the release of Blond Cargo (Jack Bertolino #2) on Monday 20th October, I’m very pleased to welcome John Lansing to Between The Lines.
1) John, where did the inspiration for Jack Bertolino’s character come from?
Jack Bertolino is an amalgam of all my favorite detectives that I’ve read about in books, written about on television, seen in film, met in real life, or just wanted to be. I’ve always been drawn to flawed characters that were interested in reinventing themselves. Maybe because of my own personal demons and varied career paths.
I wanted to write about a detective who was standing at the crossroads, recovering from a nasty divorce, retiring from the NYPD, leaving the old neighborhood in Staten Island, and moving west to find some peace in his life.
It certainly didn’t work out the way he planned. Twenty-five years of taking down drug dealers, money launderers and thieves, came back to haunt him and shook up his newfound state of bliss in Marina del Rey, California.
2) What’s more important, character or plot?
This question also encompasses question #4.
When I first began writing, I was writing scripts for network television. In that arena, an outline was imperative. First of all, you would never get an assignment until a story, and then the outline was approved. And then once you were green-lit, if another script fell out of the schedule, you might be asked to turn in a finished script in a week’s time. An almost impossible feat without a concise outline.
When I started writing books, my process changed. I began with a premise, which dictated the characters I’d need to tell the story, and they defined the plot. No outline. Flying without a net. Frightening and exhilarating, but it seems to be working. It’s not a better way, just different.
If you have well defined characters that people can empathize with, care about, you can lead them most anywhere. But ultimately, it’s the plot that shows the audience how your protagonist responds to conflict, how he thinks, what makes him tick, and why you should care about him.
So, long winded answer, I think it’s a 50-50 split.
3) This is your second novel, did you find the process any easier/different this time round?
The only process that’s been easier for me the second time around is the marketing of the book. When I wrote The Devil’s Necktie, I didn’t know what a blog was. I’d never heard of a blog tour. I didn’t have a clue what social media was all about, and it was damn intimidating. It was a difficult learning curve, but I’m starting get the hang of it.
Writing a book is difficult work. There’s no other way to say it. It’s gratifying when you’re in the zone and the words are flying off the page, but it’s not for the faint of heart. But as I was telling someone, it’s the only discipline in the creative arts where you don’t have to be hired to ply your craft. You can write a book on a napkin, on a plane, in a one-room shack, all you have to do is commit to writing every day, and you can end up with a completed first draft. I think that’s pretty cool.
4) Could you describe your writing day, and do you work to a structured outline or where ever the characters take you?
When I’m writing a book, it’s pretty much a 24/7 kind of thing. The characters are bouncing around in my head most of the day. I’m problem solving in my sleep. I sometimes wake up with the answers and head for the computer. I write the scene, pour some coffee, walk the dog, and then rewrite the work.
My biggest production occurs in the afternoon. And then the dog demands another walk. I’ll get a little lunch, take a hard look at what’s on the page, and I might do a simple step outline for the next sequence, just to keep things straight in my head. It’s only a road map. Nothing is set in stone. I like to end the day, having some idea of the direction I want to take the next day.
5) Are you planning more Jack Bertolino stories?
I’m knee deep into the third book in the Jack Bertolino series. And in November, Chris Sulavik at Tatra Press is publishing my short story, The Test. It’s a coming of age tale, set on Long Island in 1963 that deals with race, violence, social politics, and young love.
6) That’s good to know! What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
This is a hard question. I began my career, out of college, as a theatre actor before getting into television and film. I started writing for television and moved behind the camera, creating for the first time in my life instead of interpreting. Writing novels is my third career.
I think the best advice I could give to my younger self would be to pick up a pen every day. Fight the negative voices. Make writing a habit. It might be the only habit you have that can enrich your life.
7) On your bucket list?
Bucket list, huh? To have ten Jack Bertolino novels published in the next eight years. Okay, and to find the time to travel more. There’s too much of the world I haven’t seen.
8) Best gift you ever received?
I think the best gift I’ve ever received was getting cast as an understudy for Danny Zuko in the first national tour of Grease. It was a life changer. I rode that train until I won the title role. I spent a year playing Zuko on Broadway. It was a gift that set me on a life course, which allowed me to become a writer. All of my past experiences come into play when I’m sitting in front of my computer.
9) If you won the lottery what would you do first?
Well, now that I’ve won the lottery, I can afford to take that time to travel I was talking about on my bucket list. Maybe spend a few months at a time in another country where I can get Jack Bertolino involved in new cases in exotic locals.
Thanks so much, John, for taking the time to share your thoughts
Excerpt from Blond Cargo
Jack carried a Subway turkey sandwich, a tall unsweetened iced coffee, a bottle of water, and a smile as he keyed the security gate that led to the dock in Marina del Rey where his boat was moored. The marina was always quiet during the week. Just the way he liked it.
He stopped to admire his twenty-eight feet of heaven before stepping onto his boat’s transom and then . . .
“Yo, Mr. B.”
Jack never forgot a voice, which explained his reluctance to turn around.
“Yo, yo, Mr. B.”
Miserably persistent, Jack thought. He turned to face Peter Maniacci, who was dressed head-to-toe in black. With his outstretched arms draped over the chain-link fence, Peter looked like an Italian scarecrow. The black circles under his eyes belied his youth. The sharp points of his sideburns, his boots, and the .38 hanging lazily from a shoulder holster added menace to his goofy grin.
So close, Jack thought. His only worry that day had been
whether to eat his sandwich dockside or out on the Pacific with a view of the Santa Monica Pier.
“How you doing, Peter?”
“How you doin’?”
Jack let out a labored sigh. “We could do this all day. What’s up?”
“That’s funny, Mr. B. How’s the boy? How’s his pitching arm?”
Jack’s face tightened. He wasn’t happy that Peter knew
any of his son’s particulars. When he didn’t answer, Peter continued.
“Hey, nice boat. I used to fish for fluke off the north shore. Long Island. I think I must be in the wrong business.”
“Count on it,” Jack said. “What can I do for you?”
“My boss was wondering if you could spare a few minutes of your time.”
As if on cue, a black Town Car materialized behind Peter and came to a smooth, silent stop. The car rose visibly when Peter’s boss, a thick, broad-shouldered man, stepped out of the rear seat.
Vincent Cardona. Expensive suit, the body of a defensive linebacker—fleshy but muscled. Dark, penetrating eyes. Cardona looked in both directions before leveling his feral gaze on Jack. An attempt at a smile fell short of the mark. A thick manila envelope was tucked under one beefy arm.
Jack had been aware there would be some form of payback due for information Cardona had provided on Arturo Delgado, the man responsible for the attempted murder of his son. He just didn’t think it would come due this quickly. He opened the locked gate and let the big man follow him down the dock toward his used Cutwater cabin cruiser.
As Peter stood sentry in front of the Lincoln Town Car, Jack allowed the devil entry to his little piece of paradise.
“How’s your boy? How’s the pitching arm?” Vincent asked bluntly. Just a reminder of why he was there.
“On the mend.” Jack gestured to one of two canvas deck chairs in the open cockpit of the boat. Both men sat in silence as Jack waited for Cardona to explain the reason for his visit.
Jack wasn’t comfortable with Cardona’s talking about Chris, but the big man had taken it upon himself to station Peter outside Saint John’s Health Center while his son was drifting between life and death. Cardona’s enforcer had scared off Delgado, and that might have saved his son’s life. The unsolicited good deed was greatly appreciated by Jack. The debt weighed heavily.
“It rips your heart out when your children have problems and you can’t do nothing to help,” Cardona said with the raspy wheeze of a man who had abused cigars, drugs, booze, and fatty sausage for most of his life.
“What can I do for you?” Jack asked, not wanting to prolong the impromptu meeting.
Cardona, unfazed by Jack’s brusqueness, answered by pulling out a picture and handing it to Jack.
“Angelica Marie Cardona. She’s my girl. My only. My angel. Her mother died giving birth. I didn’t have the heart to re-up. I raised her by myself.”
Mobster with a heart of gold. Right, Jack thought. But Cardona’s wife must have been a stunner because Angelica, blond, early twenties, with flawless skin and gray-green eyes, didn’t get her good looks from her father. Cardona’s gift was her self-assured attitude, which all but leaped off the photograph.
Jack Bertolino, master of the understatement, he thought.
“And doesn’t she know it. Too much so for her own good. You make mistakes, my line of business. Whatever.”
“What can I do for you, Vincent?” Jack said, dialing back the attitude.
Cardona tracked a seagull soaring overhead with his heavy-lidded eyes and rubbed the stubble on his jaw.
Jack would have paid good money to change places with the gull.
“I shoulda never moved out here. L.A. I’m a black-socks- on-the-beach kinda guy. East Coast all the way. Never fit in. But I’m a good earner and the powers that be decided they were happy with the arrangement. Everyone was happy except Angelica and me.
“She turned thirteen, didn’t wanna have nothing to do with her old man. Turned iceberg cold. I tried everything— private schools, horses, ballet, therapy, live-in help; nothin’ worked. She closed up tighter than a drum. I finally threatened to send her to the nuns.”
“How did that work out?”
“I’m fuckin’ sitting here, aren’t I? On this fuckin’ dinghy . . . no offense meant,” he said, trying to cover, but the flash of anger told the real story. “I hear you’re an independent contractor now.”
It was Tommy Aronsohn, his old friend and ex–district attorney, who had set him up with his PI’s license and first client, Lawrence Weller and NCI Corp. But Jack Bertolino and Associates, Private Investigation, still didn’t come trippingly off his tongue.
And thinking of the disaster up north, he said, “We’ll see how that goes.”
“This is the point. I haven’t seen my daughter in close to a month. Haven’t heard word one since around the time your son was laid up in Saint John’s,” he said. Reminder number two. “It’s killing me,” he continued. “I’m getting a fuckin’ ulcer. Then this.”
Cardona pulled out the L.A. Times with the front-page spread reporting on the woman who had died when her boat crashed on the rocks at Paradise Cove. As it turned out, a second woman down in Orange County had washed up on the beach a few weeks earlier at the Terranea resort, scaring the joy out of newlyweds taking photos at sunset. Talk about twisted memories, Jack thought. As if marriage wasn’t tough enough. He’d already read both articles with his morning coffee and hadn’t bought into the pattern the reporter inferred.
“And the connection?”
“I got a bad feeling is all. She’s never disappeared like this before—not for this long anyway,” he said, amending his statement. “And then . . .” Cardona said, waving the newspaper like it was on fire. “It says here they were both blonds. Both about Angelica’s age. They could be fuckin’ cousins. Could be nothing.”
“Did you file a missing-persons report?”
Cardona gave him a hard side eye. “Jack, don’t fuck with me. We take care of our own.”
Jack thought before he spoke. “I’m not one of yours.”
“What about your crew?”
Cardona flopped open his meaty hands. “I get angina, I don’t call my cousin Frankie, who has a certain skill set but stinks when it comes to open-heart surgery. Look, I get it. You were on the other team. But this is straight-up business. One man to another. One father to another. I need you to find my girl. You got my number. Use it, Jack. Money’s no object. Find my baby.”
Jack didn’t answer. He stared out at the navy-blue water of the marina, past row upon row of beautiful yachts, symbols of dreams fulfilled, and knew they were empty notions compared to family.
Cardona hadn’t actually spoken the words you owe me, but they filled the subtext of everything he’d said. He was not subtle. The big man had reached out when Jack was in need, and Jack had accepted the offer. Now Vincent Cardona wanted his pound of flesh.
“This is everything I know. Last address, phone numbers, phone bills, e-mail accounts, bank, credit cards, friends and whatnot. The whole shot,” Cardona said, holding the manila envelope out in Jack’s direction.
“I have other commitments,” Jack stated.
“You look real fuckin’ busy, Jack, if you don’t mind my sayin’.” His eyes crinkled into a sarcastic grin. Vincent Cardona does charm.
Jack accepted the overstuffed envelope with a sigh.
“If she don’t want to come back, fine. No funny business, no strong-arm bullshit from my end. You got my word. I just need to know that my blood is alive. I’m fuckin’ worried and I don’t do worry too good. Sleep on it, Jack. But do the right thing.”
Cardona’s eyes locked on to Jack’s. Jack remained silent. He’d take a look. No promises, not yet.
Vincent’s knees cracked and the canvas chair squeaked like it was in pain as he stood up. He covered a belch behind his fist and rubbed his gut as he moved stiffly past Jack. The boat rocked when Cardona stepped off and walked heavily away, his Italian leather shoes echoing on the wooden dock.
The weight of the world. Jack could relate.
Peter Maniacci opened the gate for his boss and then the door to the Lincoln Town Car, which plunged to curb level as the big man slid in. Peter ran around to the other side of the car and tossed Jack a wave like the queen mum. He jumped into the Lincoln, which lurched forward before Peter could slam the door shut.
Jack walked into the boat’s deckhouse, grabbed a bottle of water, and downed two more Excedrin. He stretched his back, which was going into a spasm from yesterday’s violence, and chased the pills with a Vicodin to stay one step ahead of the pain that he knew was headed his way.
Jack had already decided to take the case.
John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead role in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. “The Devil’s Necktie” was his first novel. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.
What should have become a powerful alliance between charismatic Attorney General Will Guidry, and his strategist, Tucker Callahan, deteriorates into a bitter feud once Tucker realizes that beneath Guidry’s polished persona lurks a calculating sociopath.
Caught in the crossfire is Carter, Tucker’s betrayed brother and the story’s narrator. Carter wants nothing to do with the escalating feud until he stumbles on a monstrous crime and finds himself being drawn into the vortex of his brother’s private war.
From a bungled execution through a brass-knuckled political campaign, a no-holds-barred courtroom showdown and a climactic bloodbath by the side of a bayou, Destiny’s Anvil promises to give readers a sleepless night as it races across the new, dark landscape of modern American politics.
Excerpt from Destiny’s Anvil
THE MERCURY WAS STILL HOVERING ABOVE NINETY when the three of us rolled up to the first set of gates at the state penitentiary in Angola. Climbing out of my car, I glanced toward the sun dropping over the cotton, bean and sweet potato fields that stretched unbroken toward the horizon. I wondered if the hapless bastard who had fewer than fifteen minutes left was gazing out a window, watching the last day of his life ebb toward eternal darkness.
I didn’t want to be there. I was twenty-six years old, secure in the prospect of at least fifty more years of a generous life, and didn’t want to see a man put to death before my eyes, no matter what he did. My brother Tucker had tried to worm his way out of witnessing the execution as well, but he couldn’t come up with an excuse that Will Guidry might buy. We both knew that over the previous fourteen years Will had worked up a hankering for blood that eclipsed any reverence he ever may have held for justice.
Two guards checked our names against their clipboard, opened the back doors of a cruiser and we got in. Without a word, they drove us through the prison compound to the no-frills building where Louisiana’s executions were carried out. We were led through several sets of barred doors until we reached a stark room with two rows of wooden chairs at one end and the electric chair at the other, maybe fifteen feet apart, maybe less.
The drifter who had raped and smothered Will’s kid brother Robby in the clearing of a cane field was already strapped into the chair and an electrode was being attached to his left calf. He watched the process, showing no emotion beyond detached curiosity. His expression didn’t change as his shaved head was straightened and a man wearing a threadbare black suit put a moistened sponge on the crown of his head and covered it with a metal skullcap. His eyes never wavered as he declined to buy final seconds with last words.
Father had told Tuck and me about how the dog, after nosing the sneaker around the drainage ditch, took off through the canebrake, how the three men looked at each other and started working their way into the thicket behind the dog, their hands and forearms collecting nicks and scratches as they hacked through the stalks of cane, how they were barely twenty yards into the cane when they heard the single bark followed by whimpers. I was later told that my father had been the first of the three to make it into the clearing, and that once he realized what he had stumbled upon, the only thing he could whisper was, “Oh, Jesus.” The dog’s chin was between its forepaws, and inches from the tip of its nose lay the second sneaker, still on the foot of Robby Guidry’s lifeless body. Even in the rose light of fading afternoon, the sock on the boy’s other foot glowed white, in stark relief from the blue jeans that had been yanked down to his ankles. A rivulet of blood had seeped out of his rectum, and was drying halfway down his left thigh. Once his face was pulled out of the mud into which it had been pressed, the parish coroner said he wouldn’t be able to tell if Robby had been strangled or forcibly drowned in mud until he got the body hosed off for the autopsy.
While the warden read the sentence in a bland monotone, the drifter’s eyes scanned across the faces on our side of the room. I felt myself shudder when his eyes locked on mine. He looked at me for an eternity that lasted less than a second, and my eyes followed his as he shifted them to his left and into the steady eyes of Will Guidry. Will’s face was stone except for the slightest movement of his lips, and I heard him whisper, “Fry in hell, dickhead.” Even though I knew there was no way the drifter could hear Will at that distance, I swear I saw him smirk at Will as a sweating guard stretched a black blindfold across his eyes before knotting it against the back of his skull.
The warden nodded his head and the electricity rocketed through the convict with the hiss and crackle of bacon in a dime store skillet. His hands tensed into claws as he dug his nails into the arms of the chair and his body thrashed against the leather restraints until thirty seconds had passed and the current was switched off. The silence was thick and underlined by the stench of smoldering flesh.
A doctor with a stethoscope moved toward the convict, but stopped once he realized the body would need a few seconds to cool down enough to touch. I let my held breath release and was gulping for any whisper of sweet evening air when the doctor looked at the warden and said, “He isn’t dead.”
Robby Guidry was only the murderer’s first victim. Three months after her son’s desecrated corpse had been discovered in the cane field, a disconsolate Marie Guidry had shoved her head in the family oven and turned on the gas. Having lost his wife and younger son within less than one hundred days of each other, Frank Guidry’s drinking ran away from him until the day that an increasingly withdrawn Will showed up at school with a shiner everyone couldn’t help but notice. The news of Will’s black eye hit my father particularly hard. Father was a good neighbor, the kind of man who always kept jumper cables in his trunk or saw to it that your garden was watered if you’d gone out of town and forgotten to ask anyone for help. I knew for a fact that Father felt acutely sorry for Will Guidry when he stepped up his regular prodding of both Tucker and me to spend more time and behave like brothers from the womb with Will. But Tuck was better at being an open hearted brother than I ever was, and as Tuck and Will became more like actual brothers, Tuck and I became less.
The second jolt was set to last a full minute, but I doubt thirty seconds had gone by when tongues of orange flame blazed from beneath the skullcap, followed by billows of steam and acrid smoke. A urine stain spread across the front of his pants, his skin bloomed scarlet as the temperature rose, and his body swelled to the point his flesh began to split. Blood streamed from his nose and mouth, and the smell of sizzling flesh mixed with the stink of where he’d fouled himself. I was ready to scream for someone to cut off the power for God’s sake when the room went silent except for the retching coming from Tucker as he lurched forward and vomit spattered on the waxed linoleum floor.
After letting the lifeless body cool, the doctor listened to his stethoscope, nodded and read the time off the wall clock in the death chamber. Two guards wheeled in a wobbly cart, on top of which was a state-issue coffin covered with a cheap, nubby fabric, while a third guard started to absentmindedly whistle between his teeth as he unbuckled the restraints. We were herded out with the other witnesses and taken back to our car at the prison’s main gate as the evening’s first stars pierced the twilight.
The emotional canyon separating me from Tuck had widened during our time at LSU, and I was neither surprised nor disappointed, in fact I was relieved, when Will Guidry realized he’d find more butter on my brother’s side of the bread than he ever would on mine. Hell, Will glommed so close to Tucker that people on campus started to snicker that Tuck was having the devil of a time trying to figure out how he might ever separate himself from his Siamese twin.
Following graduation, Tucker and Will had set off in search of stars beyond their reach while I returned home to New Acadia, a house that had grown empty during my time away and no prospects for any kind of meaningful work.
None of us had said the first word to each other since we pulled up at Angola, and I didn’t think any of us knew what to say after what we’d just witnessed. I glanced at the rearview mirror expecting to see a brooding Will Guidry, only to find one who was downright chipper as he said, “That was great. Let’s go find us someplace to eat.”
Destiny’s Anvil was published in June 2014 and is available for sale on Amazon
Steven Hicks came to Mississippi in 1974 and spent the next quarter century writing for various advertising agencies, including his own. He wrote commercials and print ads about hot dogs and other baloney, used cars, barbecue shacks, sunscreen, banks galore, white bread, undertakers, churches, casinos, turkey calls, finger-lickin’ chicken and symphony orchestras. Some of the work was thoughtful. Some was funny. Most was neither.
During that period of time, he earned the enmity of his competitors and peers by being named Mississippi’s top copywriter nine times, winning six certificates of excellence in the International CLIO Awards, over 150 ADDY Awards, Radio Mercury honors and being included in Who’s Who in American Advertising.
A major portion of his advertising and marketing income came through his work as a political consultant, engineering the media and messaging efforts for more than six dozen campaigns, culminating with the POLLIE Award for best statewide/national commercial from the American Association of Political Consultants in 1989.
While the embarrassing abundance of honors mean next to nothing to Hicks, the education he got through the process meant everything. He learned how to write what people like. He learned to write with economy and clarity, because consumers won’t buy things from long-winded peddlers of perplexity. He learned when words have to be polished and when they’re best left plain.
Through it all, people kept telling Hicks he should write books and he kept saying, “Maybe one day,” until the day came when a near-fatal stroke in 1997 forced him into an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with his own mortality, and he realized he wanted to be remembered for something more consequential than gimmicky commercials.
There was only one hitch. The stroke had taken away his ability to read.
For the next thirteen months, Hicks stubbornly stared at newspaper letters until he could form words, read sentences, then paragraphs, and finally had the ability to once again read novels, albeit at a far slower pace and with cognitive problems enhanced by lingering reading difficulties stemming from alexia, an aphasia problem caused by brain lesions.
It made the headstrong Hicks more determined than ever to take a shot at those novels people had been encouraging him to write for years.
Ten years and eleven revisions later came his debut novel, The Gleaner, a trans-racial romance set in a sleepy Mississippi whistle-stop. In a competition of 5,000 entries, The Gleaner was named a quarter-finalist in Amazon.com’s prestigious “Breakthrough Novel” competition. Upon its heels came two comic novels in 2009, The Fall of Adam, a satire of Deep South advertising, and Horizontal Adjustment, a farce about sexual escapades among competitors for a news anchor position in a tank town television station along the Florida Panhandle.
Deciding to take a breather from novels, Hicks started publishing New Orleans restaurant guidebooks on an annual basis in 2011, all of which have become mainstays on Amazon.com’s list of the 100 top-selling books about world dining.
In May of 2014, Hicks published his fourth novel, Destiny’s Anvil, which marked a stark departure from the breezy style of his earlier works.
“The final product is the polar opposite of the novel’s original intent. It is dark, violent bordering on savage, as it strips away the veneers of not only politicians, but the entire American political system. At the same time, it moves with the furious pace of a thriller overflowing with cliffhangers,” says Hicks.
Steven Wells Hicks lives in New Orleans. To learn more, go to http://stevenwellshicks.com/, or connect with Steven on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hickswrites
For further information, to request a review copy of Destiny’s Anvil, or to set up an interview or appearance by Steven Wells Hicks, contact Book Publicity Services at
Author: E.L. Lindley
Crime, Mystery, Romance
For Nicola Mills, approaching middle age doesn’t seem so bad as she enjoys the settled, ordered life she has always dreamed of. Cracks start to appear, however, with the arrival of her mother, whose chaotic life threatens to overshadow Nicola’s routine. Life becomes even more uncertain when she loses her job but, encouraged by her friend Lizzie, Nicola embraces the opportunity to follow her dream and opens a seafront cafe. Fate it seems has other ideas though and, when one of her of her employees goes missing, Nicola is thrown into a dangerous world of crime and murder, which leaves her dreams in tatters.
Dare To Lose, is a novel about friendship, loyalty and strength in the face of adversity. By losing everything, will Nicola finally be able to live?
After being forced out of her job as a school teacher after upwards of 25 years and being on the receiving end of some nasty school politics, Nicola opens the cafe she’s always dreamed of and her life begins to turn a corner. That is, apart from having her mother as a permanent houseguest and until her young American waitress, Jessica, doesn’t show up for work one day and is nowhere to be found. As Nicola becomes increasing worried she phones Jessica’s family in the United States. Nicola has no idea how this will impact on her life.
Jessica’s good looking but very uncommunicative and aloof father, Jack Nash, arrives in response to Nicola’s call. The local police aren’t making Jessica’s disappearance a priority so, as he is a detective in Chicago, Jack decides to start his own investigation and search for his missing daughter. Nicola, Jack, Nicola’s mother and her boyfriend, Ron, find themselves embroiled in a situation they could never have envisioned and are drawn into something very threatening and dangerous.
It was the voice which caught her attention first and she felt her hands freeze as, knife in hand, she turned to find herself face to face with a large, scowling mass of a man. The Texan drawl left little doubt that he was somehow connected to Jessica, as Nicola put the knife aside and picked up the tea towel to wipe her hands.
There’s a lot of action and suspense throughout the story which held my attention fully. I can’t make up my mind if Nicola is very brave or very foolish. Maybe I’ll settle for a mixture of both. It’s a nice change for the main protagonist to be an older woman and Nicola is easy to like, and someone who puts others first. She’s also someone to rely on. All the characters are well drawn and easy to picture in the vivid scenes and places running through my mind.
Nicola and her mother have a complex relationship and they exasperate and comfort each other in equal measure. I like the role reversal, Nicola being the one shocked and embarrassed by what she sees as her mother’s irresponsible behaviour. In the end though, Nicola realises family, friends and dependability are everything, finding love is a bonus.
I enjoyed the story, the humour and E.L. Lindley’s writing style, very much.
E.L. Lindley is an indie writer and general lover of books in all of their forms. She has written numerous contemporary novels, including the Georgie Connelly series as well as standalone novels. When she is not writing, she is devouring the works of other writers and is delighted by how indie publishing has thrown open the world of publishing. She sees it as a win win situation, allowing writers to publish their work, whilst providing readers with a richer and more varied choice.
Lindley has always loved writing but produced her first full length novel, Business As Usual, when she decided to move on from her career as an English teacher. She now supplements her writing by working on a free-lance basis. This also affords her time to travel and she has been fortunate enough to have travelled extensively throughout the world, using her experiences as a source of inspiration for her writing.
She currently resides in Sheffield in the UK but has lived and worked in many places including, London, Oxford, Southampton, Cheltenham and Brighton. She also studied for a couple of years at the University of Arlington in Texas and has consequently made many extended trips to the USA to visit and stay with friends. Her novels reflect this and tend to incorporate both sides of the Atlantic.
Lindley writes in a style which is both light-hearted and fun but with serious undertones, often tackling gritty subjects. In all of her novels, the characters reflect her belief in humanity and the fact that the human spirit will always prevail, regardless of the situation. Lindley’s primary goal is to entertain people but she is happy to take any response that she can get.
Author: Sarah M Cradit
Category: Paranormal, Romance
I received and ARC from the author in return for an honest review.
Broken and dispirited, the Deschanel family reels under the weight of a family curse. Lives were torn asunder, as their numbers diminished.
Amidst their pain, another prophecy takes shape. One laid by the ancient druidic Quinlan clan, in a time long forgotten. Seers across the family have borne witness to fragments. Distraught by the loss of her soul’s true love, Amelia begins to dream of an unknown man and a woman, designated by fate to live their story over and over again, throughout time.
Now, destiny reaches across the centuries.
Following on from the devastating impact of the curse in Midnight Dynasty, the Deschanel and Sullivan families reorganise and regroup. The curse seems to be dormant for the time being and has given the Magi Collective a breathing space, even though the huge emotional backlash of shock and horror is an enormous strain, being felt by members of both families.
An unimaginably grim year sends Tristan on a path of self-destruction, but he is saved by something and someone completely unexpected. The full extent of Adrienne’s misguided attempt to bind Oz and Amelia is realised. But can it be reversed? Despite her pain Amelia still believes, and needs to justify her decision to set Jacob free, is the right one.
And Jacob, oh my goodness, Jacob. Overtaken and overwhelmed by his own belief that Amelia is lost to him forever, he takes desperate measures. Nothing, not even his family disaster, could ever bring him so low.
Amelia looked up. She couldn’t hide the tears, but it didn’t matter. She had made no secret of her pain
“The night you woke up, you said you’d destroyed me. That you swore to give me a better life than the one my family left me with, but instead you’d ruined it. You didn’t destroy me, Amelia.” Now his other hand also held her face, as he kissed her trembling mouth. “You saved me.”
The more I read of this series, the more Sarah Cradit’s so very imaginative storytelling, tense and gripping, and wonderful characterisations draw me in, so completely, to the lives of this fascinating family. The future is still precarious and there is still the Empyrean confrontation hanging over them, but have the families put the worst behind them? I can’t wait to find out.
I really recommend reading this series from the beginning, in order to know the characters and for everything to make sense.