Posted in excerpt, Historical, Spotlight, Supernatural, suspense on March 12, 2017

Synopsis

Devil in the Countryside is a story about the most famous werewolf investigation in history, brimming with intrigue and war, love and betrayal, and long-kept vendettas.

It’s 1588, the height of the Reformation, and a killer is terrorizing the German countryside. There are reports that the legendary Werewolf of Bedburg has returned to a once-peaceful land. Heinrich Franz, a cold and calculating investigator, is tasked with finding whomever — or whatever — the killer might be. He’ll need all the help he can get, including that of a strange hunter who’s recently stumbled into town. Though they’re after the same thing, their reasons are worlds apart. And through it all, a priest tries to keep the peace among his frightened townsfolk, while a young woman threatens his most basic beliefs.

In a time when life is cheap and secrets run rampant, these four divergent souls find themselves entwined in a treacherous mystery, navigating the volatile political and religious landscape of 16th century Germany, fighting to keep their sanity — and their lives.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

1588 – Near the town of Bedburg, Germany

It had been some time since Investigator Heinrich Franz had inspected a murder scene, and he relished the opportunity. As he removed his black gloves to inspect the body, a tingle ran down his spine.

The victim’s body was situated near a tree, tucked away from any trails or passing eyes.

“Our killer wanted to make it difficult to identify the victim, but not to find her,” Heinrich said to his right-hand man and bodyguard, Tomas.

He crouched over the body. Her exposed entrails had been dragged around the trunk of the tree, separating her legs from her torso. Her right foot was missing three toes, and her left arm was missing altogether. Her mangled face was a canvas for flesh-eating insects. He could only tell the victim was female by the tattered blue dress she wore and the stringy blonde hair plastered against her head.

Heinrich glanced at the dress. Maybe it will help to identify her, he thought, and then looked at her face. Because that certainly won’t.

Heinrich prodded beneath the dress, but found no signs of defilement. The stench of decay was not yet overwhelming, but still strong enough to offend his keen nose.

“She’s been dead for less than twenty-four hours,” the investigator said. He turned to the frightened farmer standing behind him. “And you found her when?”

“This morning, sir.” The farmer held a grimy cap close to his chest. “I was walking my dogs when the wind brought her smell right to me. Then I saw crows circling—”

“I didn’t ask how,” Heinrich said, “just when.

The investigator circled the tree and bent down to examine the torso with a magnifying glass. Flies and maggots crawled over her body and through her deep cuts. Heinrich put a finger to one of her small, exposed breasts. It was cold and clammy.

“She was killed in broad daylight, sir?” the farmer asked.

Heinrich ignored the man. He pocketed his magnifying glass, stood up with creaking knees, and wrestled his hands back into his gloves. “Judging by the size of her breasts and feet, I’d say she was no more than fifteen years of age.”

“Just a child,” the farmer murmured. He started fidgeting with his cap, and then stammered. “There wouldn’t perhaps be any kind of . . . reward for finding the body, would there, sir?”

Heinrich gave the man an icy glare and spat on the grass. Heartless swine, he thought, shaking his head. Trying to profit on the death of a child. He started pacing in front of the farmer, and then stroked his chin and twirled his thin, wispy mustache. He stared at the man’s fat, doughy face. He was middle-aged, with a patchy gray beard. His eyes were soft, and he looked harmless, but Heinrich knew that appearances never made the man, nor told the whole story.

“The real question I have,” Heinrich said, “is what was a young girl doing out here alone, so far from any roads?”

“Perhaps she was lured here?”

The investigator eyed the farmer. “A fine observation,” Heinrich said with a disingenuous smile. Then it vanished. “My next question is what were you doing out here so far from the trails?”

The farmer scratched his scalp, and then his face slowly distorted and his mouth fell open. He stammered some more. “Y-you can’t believe that . . . that I . . .” he trailed off. “I told you, sir, I was leading my dogs—”

Heinrich nodded and Tomas came to the farmer’s side and grabbed his arms. The farmer shouted and squirmed and tried to break free.

“You can’t do this, sir! I came to you only trying to help!”

Yes, trying to help your purse.

Tomas looked pale and queasy as he wrestled with the farmer.

“Take him to the jail,” Heinrich ordered. “I’ll be by a bit later. Find out whatever you can.”

Tomas nodded and turned away.

“And Tomas,” Heinrich added. The soldier spun on his heels, and Heinrich stared into his eyes. “Whatever means necessary.”

Tomas nodded again. “What are your thoughts, sir?”

Heinrich sighed and put his hands on his hips. “I’m thinking the Werewolf of Bedburg has returned.”

About the Author

As far back as he can remember, Cory Barclay has always loved the “big picture” questions. How much knowledge did humanity lose when the Library of Alexandria was burned down? Why has the concept of Heaven remained intact, in one form or another, throughout most of human history and how has it impacted life on Earth?

And even before that, when he first began writing stories in grade school, he’s been fascinated with histories and mysteries. Whether Norse mythology, the Dark Ages, or the conquests of great leaders, Cory’s been that kid who wants to know what’s shaped our world and write about it. Especially the great unsolved mysteries.

So Devil in the Countryside was a natural for him.

Born and raised in San Diego, he graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz, where he studied Creative Writing and Modern Literary Studies. He’s also a songwriter and guitarist, and – no surprise – many of his songs explore the same topics he writes about – the great mysteries of our crazy world.

Devil in the Countryside is his second novel and he’s hard at work on its sequel.

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Posted in Crime, Spotlight, suspense, Trailer on February 7, 2017

Synopsis

When you’ve lost it all, how far would you go to get it back?

Bennett Covington has a good life. The support of a loving, growing family. A satisfying job. A roof over his head. Not perfect, but close enough.

Nothing lasts forever, of course. After stumbling into the middle of a back-alley murder, Bennett becomes entangled in a web of violence set in motion by members of a shadowy criminal organization.

Subjected to psychological torment, Bennett struggles to understand the depth of their evil intentions – intentions that threaten to take much more than just his life.

Through it all, one question endures: why have they taken such a keen interest in him? When he runs, they catch him. When he hides, they find him.

The only way out is to fight back.

About the Author

Chip Scarinzi is an award-winning communications executive and the author of two books. His first book, Diehards, is a work of non-fiction about sports fandom. Ghosts is his first novel. Scarinzi lives in the San Francisco Bay Area island community of Alameda with his wife and two young daughters.

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Posted in excerpt, suspense, Thriller on January 1, 2017

Synopsis

A man serves on a jury for the trial of a murder that he committed.

Peter Robertson, 33, discovers his wife is cheating on him. Following her suspected boyfriend one night, he erupts into a rage, beats him and leaves him to die – or so he thought. Soon he discovers that he has killed the wrong man – a perfect stranger.

Six months later, impaneled on a jury, he realizes he realizes that the murder being tried is the one he committed. After wrestling with his conscience, he works hard to convince the jury to acquit the accused man. But the prosecution’s case is strong as the accused man had both motive and opportunity to commit the murder. As the pressure builds, Peter begins to slip up and reveal things that only the murderer would know – and Christine, a pretty and intelligent alternate juror, suspects something is amiss.

Meanwhile, Peter’s wife leaves him, his mother suffers a series of debilitating strokes, and his best friend and employee, accused of sexual harassment, needs Peter’s help that he’s too preoccupied to give. As jurors one by one declare their intention to convict, Peter’s conscience eats away at him and he careens toward nervous breakdown, revealing details about the crime that had not been disclosed in court.

“Lying in Judgment” is a 95,000-word story about a good man’s search for redemption for his one unfortunate mistake, pitted against society’s search for justice.

Excerpt

Two hours late.

Peter checked his voice mail. No messages from Marcia.  After eight years of marriage, he should know better, but hell. Hope springs eternal.

So much for surprising her with dinner and flowers tonight.

He rested his elbows on the dining table, careful not to disturb the place settings – his on the end, hers around the corner, close enough so their legs could touch during dinner. For the third time ever, he’d broken out the good Waterford china and hand-polished the silver – even the little salad forks neither of them ever used. The crystal wine glasses and tumblers. Good cloth napkins that matched the tablecloth. A big deal for her, God knows why.

For grins, he leaned his full weight, 190-ish pounds, onto the table. It didn’t wiggle in the slightest. Good, good. While Marcia worked long hours to build her career, he’d spent countless evenings and weekends building this beast – cutting, sanding, gluing, and finishing hundreds of dollars worth of select cherry. As lumber manager at Stark’s Building Supply, he could hand-pick the very best pieces from his suppliers’ stocks, all at wholesale price. That was his second-favorite perk of the job. Number one was taking the occasional afternoon off to turn it into beautiful furniture, cabinets, and picture frames for his wife’s art.

But too often lately he’d been enjoying his creations all alone.

He speed dialed her. Two rings, then voicemail. “Hi, you’ve reached Marcia Robertson, Vice President for Business Development at Metro Dental. I’m sorry I missed your–”

He punched the pound key to bypass the greeting. “It’s me again. Did you have plans I didn’t know about tonight? Oh, wait a sec.” The rays of the September sunset reflected off the hood of her charcoal Ford Explorer easing into the driveway. He hung up, opened a chilled bottle of Pinot Blanc, and lowered the dimmer over the dining table. He lit the tall scented candles and slid them apart so they wouldn’t singe the
arrangement of fresh lilacs and wild African daisies – her favorites.

She entered the front door moments later, cell phone stuck to her ear. Her oversized handbag dangled from her other shoulder. “Sure, I can make the seven a.m. if you can reschedule the finance briefing with Marwick to Friday. (Hi, hon.) What? No, I was talking to my husband. I’m just getting home.” She gave him a quick wave and pointed to the phone. “Sylvia,” she mouthed – her secretary.

“I’ve been waiting–”

She held one finger to her lips and turned away. He tapped her arm. She extended her hand behind her, and he slid a glass of Pinot between her fingers. “Thank you,” she mouthed over her shoulder, and drained the drink in one gulp.

“Sylvia, I gotta go.” She set the empty glass on the coffee table. “I’ll let you know about dinner Friday. See you in the morning.” She sighed, clicked her phone shut and leaned against the back of a recliner. “What a day. How was yours?”

“Oh, fine.” He leaned in for a kiss. She pecked him on the mouth and bent down to remove her two-inch heels. Her black slacks hugged the slender arc of her hips. Nice. “Nobody’s buying lumber today, so I put Frankie in charge and cut out early. Thought I’d surprise you by having dinner ready when you got home.” He pointed at the table. “I expected you two hours ago.”

“Sorry. I thought I told you I had drawing class.”

He frowned. “Drawing’s on Tuesday, isn’t it? Today’s Wednesday.”

For a second, she looked panicked, but her confident smile returned. “Yeah, but we had an extra session. Field work.” She brushed a stray curl away from her face.

About the Author

Gary Corbin is a writer, actor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. In addition to his novels, he writes on assignment for private sector, government, individuals, and not-for-profit clients, and his articles have been published in BrainstormNW, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, and Global Envision, among others.

Gary earned his B.A. in Political Science and Economics at Louisiana State University (Geaux Tigers!) and his Ph.D. at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!), writing his dissertation on the politics of acid rain (1988). After working variously on farms, construction, in restaurants, and in various information technology positions, in 2005 he founded Gary Corbin Writing and Consulting.

Gary is a member of the Willamette Writers Group, the Northwest Editors Guild, the North Bank Writers Workshop, PDX Playwrights, and the Portland Area Theater Alliance, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area. A homebrewer as well as a maker of wine, mead, cider, and soft drinks, Gary is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and garden, and hopes someday to train his dogs to obey. And when that doesn’t work, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetie.

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Posted in excerpt, paranormal, Spotlight, suspense, Thriller on December 19, 2016

Synopsis

Out of darkness and danger

You can’t hide your secrets from Lathan Montgomery—he can read your darkest memories. And while his special abilities are invaluable in the FBI’s hunt for a serial killer, he has no way to avoid the pain that brings him. Until he is drawn to courageous, down-on-her-luck Evanee Brown and finds himself able to offer her something he’s never offered another human being: himself.

Dawns a unique and powerful love

Nightmares are nothing new to Evanee Brown. But once she meets Lathan, they plummet into the realm of the macabre. Murder victims are reaching from beyond the grave to give Evanee evidence that could help Lathan bring a terrifying killer to justice. Together, they could forge an indomitable partnership to thwart violence, abuse, and death—if they survive the forces that seek to tear them apart.

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Excerpt

Minds of Madness and Murder. The glossy poster advertising today’s seminar was taped to the closed auditorium door. Someone had drawn tears of blood dripping from each of the M’s.

Lathaniel Montgomery’s gut gnawed at his backbone, but not because of the poster or the bloody tears.

Holy Jesus. How was he going to manage being in an audience surrounded by hundreds of people, with all their smells, all their memories?

Gill touched his arm like he always did to get Lathan’s attention. “Going in?”

“Yeah.” But Lathan’s feet had grown roots into the floor. He hated how nothing in his life was normal. He hated the f*ed-up sequence of genetic code that had enlarged the olfactory regions of his brain. He hated that he smelled everything. And he especially hated the ability to smell the energy imprints of people’s memories. Scent memories. Memories that could overwhelm him and annihilate his reality.

Gill stepped up close and examined Lathan’s left eye—the eye the SMs always invaded first, the eye that would roll around independently of the other one, making him appear in need of an exorcism.

“Quit with the eye exam. I’m all right.” For now. Concentration kept the SMs out of his mind. Vigilance kept them under control.

“Your seat is directly in front of the podium. You won’t have any trouble reading Dr. Jonah’s lips. After the presentation, introduce yourself. He’ll recognize your name.” Gill gave him the don’t-screw-this-up look. “Convince him about the Strategist.”

The Strategist.

Lathan’s freakish ability had generated leads for nearly every cold case he worked. Except for the Strategist’s.

“Explain how each person has a scent signature. Explain that you smell the same signature on thirty-eight unsolved murders. Explain that the FBI won’t do anything unless he confirms there is a connection among the kills.”

“Save the lecture. This whole f*ing thing was my dumbass idea.” Could he maintain control of the SMs long enough to make it to the end of the presentation? “If I—”

“There is no if. You’re not going to lose control.” Gill had read his worries as easily as Lathan read his friend’s lips. “Maybe I should go in with you.”

“I don’t need you holding my hand.” Lathan showed him a raised middle finger—a salute they always used in jest, forced a smile of bravado across his lips, and then pushed through the doors before he made like a chickenshit and bolted from the building. Barely inside, the SMs hit. Millions of memories warred for his attention, tugged at the vision in his left eye. He sucked air through his mouth to diminish the intensity, to maintain control.

Never in his life had he been around so many people at once and been coherent. Maybe he should leave.

No.

He clenched his fists. Knuckles popped, grounding him, giving him an edge over the SMs.

He strode down the steps toward the front of the room. Thank whoever-was-in-charge the presentation hadn’t started yet.

An empty seat in the front row had a pink piece of paper taped to it: RESERVED. Lathan would’ve preferred the anonymity of the back row, but he couldn’t see Dr. Jonah’s face from that far away. He ripped off the sheet and sat in the cramped space.

His shoulders were wider than the damned chair. His arms overflowed the boundary of his seat. The woman on his left angled away from him, the cinnamon scent of her irritation infusing the air. Typical reaction to his size. And with the tattoo on his cheek, she probably assumed he’d served a sentence in the slammer.

The woman on his right reeked. But it wasn’t her fault. The rot of her body dying was a stench he recognized, along with the sharp chemical tang of the drugs that were killing her so she could live. Cancer and chemo. Her emaciated features evidenced the battle she fought. And yet, she was here. At this presentation. She was a warrior. And he was a f*ing pussy for bellyaching about the SMs.

His ears picked up a faint snapping noise. Clapping. Everyone applauded enthusiastically.

Dr. Jonah walked to the podium. His clothes were baggy and ill fitting, his face wrinkled, his head topped with a mass of fluttery gray hair. Even though he looked like he’d just awakened from sleeping under an overpass, he possessed the look of frazzled genius. The look of someone whose work mattered more than living life. The look of the nation’s most respected profiler.

A door on Lathan’s right opened. A young woman lugged a folding chair across the room. Toward him.

He held his breath.

No. She couldn’t be there for him. No one here knew him. Knew about him. Except Gill. And Gill wouldn’t—

She opened her chair and sat facing him. With an overly enthusiastic smile that showed the silver in her back molars, she started to sign.

He looked away. A long bitter whoosh of air escaped his lips.

About the Author

Abbie Roads is a mental health counselor known for her blunt, honest style of therapy. By night she writes dark, emotional novels, always giving her characters the happy ending she wishes for all her clients. Her novels have finaled in RWA contests including the Golden Heart. Race the Darkness is the first book in the Fatal Dreams series of dark, gritty romantic suspense with a psychological twist.

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Posted in Giveaway, Interview, Spotlight, suspense on November 22, 2016

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Synopsis

The Indian Queen would risk torture and worse to keep her secrets from these barbarians in suits of metal and their search for cities of gold. They never found the gold. Empires rose; empires fell, the centuries passed. Legend became fireside myths, but no treasure was ever found. Yet, among the grey-green drapes of wisteria and wild jasmine along the misty shrouded lowlands of bayous and marshes of the Westo River, the folktales persist.

In the lazed creep of a near-tropical dawn lit the pungent Turkish coffee permeates Moccasin Hollow. Beyond the kitchen door Lucky, Craige Ingram’s German shepherd gnaws a favorite bone. Looted burial mounds seem a world away until plundered mounds on Moccasin Hollow land brings amateur archaeologist PI Craige Ingram into the cross-hairs of kidnapping. Stealthy hideaways are concealed in old colonial brick-lined river grottoes beneath the big house of Ardochy plantation. Sex-tape underage blackmail and thrill killings on federal land spur a medical examiner’s preliminary postmortem to more than a hired cleaner’s quickie cover-up passed off as drug deals gone sour. Greed tangles a witch’s pigswill of illicit affairs and murder-to-hide-murder. Shady investigators and shadier politics stir an unexpected concoction that threatens the lives of those at Moccasin Hollow in a spiteful plot against ex-SEAL Craige Ingram and the woman he loves.

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Interview

Do you write every day? 

Absolutely…even if that comes down to scratching notes between airport boarding gates or boarding an overnight sleeper riding the rails–laptop gadgets really do come in handy for the quickie note-takin’.

Where do you write?

In a secluded no-window study…UNLESS…I’m out and about where there’s lots of warm bodies letting me make notes for downside-up characters/faces/body-shapes/clothes/ruffle-hair…the out of the ordinary or blend into the wallpaper.

What is your writing schedule?

Though not a written in stone schedule – early in the sunrise a.m. after my sunrise cup of Marine bilge-slurry coffee…then brunch…then afternoon usually deleting or editing “stuff” followed by an early snack. Take a walk or go to the gym and p.m. editing.

In today’s tech-savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

All of them. For the written word computers/laptops are typewriters with pages made into pictures; paper and pen bundled into printers/copiers/faxes. These contraptions are tools, and make 15-20 edits/drafts possible for a manuscript. First drafts are written pen-to-paper for scribble and scratch-outs…churning imagination/fantasy into warp-drive…developing characters, grabbing the setting, pace, theme, conflict and so much fun.

If you’re a mom writer, how do you balance your time?

Balancing time isn’t gender related. It’s a budget with one EXCEPTION…a body can’t buy more time. Spend more money (or time] than one has…one’s peace of mind vanishes. Cram one’s time beyond the rim of the proverbial over-filled glass can be destructive…Mother Nature will win – and sometimes win very unpleasantly. Keeping that in mind, I always try to pace myself and not schedule more in a day than I know I can handle.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

…back to my horses and dogs BUT only if I could take what I’ve learned from my mistakes. I miss unencumbered country living with all its worldwide ‘tools’ it hammered into me.

About the Author

Internationally acclaimed author and public speaker, Hawk MacKinney began writing mysteries for his school newspapers. He served in the US Navy Reserve for over 20 years, and was a tenured faculty member at several state medical facilities, teaching postgraduate courses in both the United States and Jerusalem, Israel. Since retiring Hawk has authored several novels that have received national and international recognition. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel, was nominated for the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award. The Cairns of Sainctuarie, his science fiction series, includes The Bleikovat Event and The Missing Planets, with a third book in the works. Hawk’s latest project focuses on The Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series. Book 1 in the series, Hidden Chamber of Death, was released early 2016.

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Posted in Book Release, mystery, suspense on November 15, 2016

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WINTER SONG

Book 1 of the SEASON PASS Series

by Susan C. Muller

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

I’m excited to announce Susan C. Muller’s new four book series:

Seasons Pass: Murder is always in Season.

Starting in November, and releasing one each month, enjoy Winter Song, Spring Shadow, Summer Storm, and Autumn Secrets.

Meet Homicide Detective Noah Daugherty and his partner, Conner Crawford. Follow them through four seasons worth of cases full of hit men, stalkers, vigilantes, and serial killers.

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Synopsis

In Winter Song, homicide detective Noah Daugherty is on a mission: solve cases, lock up murderous scum, and get on with what’s left of his life. He’s on the clock, and his time is steadily ticking away. His path leads him to an icy Houston street, where a car has careened out-of-control and crashed, the driver, a beautiful young socialite, is dead. All the clues lead straight to her husband, but Noah’s intuition screams the case is more than meets the eye.

Not willing to give up until he solves this cold-blooded murder, he finds the unthinkable . . . a hitman no one saw coming, with a chilling personal agenda that now targets Noah.

Can he solve the case and save himself before winter is finished singing her song?

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About the Author

susan-mullerSusan C. Muller is a fourth generation Texan. She attended Stephen F. Austin State University where she studied business administration but took creative writing classes on the side. She started her first novel at age eleven, but it wasn’t until after she had worked many years and raised a family that she returned to her first love, writing.

She enjoys speaking to book clubs and writer’s groups. Susan lives in Spring, Texas with her rescue dog, Maggie. She loves to travel and has been fortunate to see much of the world. Her favorite places include Kenya, New Zealand, and the Galapagos Islands.

When not writing, she can be found doing volunteer work at a local hospital. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, snorkeling and taking long walks.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, mystery, Spotlight, suspense, Thriller on November 4, 2016

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THE FISHER KING

A JACK McBRIDE MYSTERY

by

Melissa Lenhardt

Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Date of Publication: November 1, 2016

Number of Pages: 380

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synopsis

cover-fisher-kingWhen the dust settles in this Texas town, who will be left standing?

It’s been six weeks since Jack McBride’s life went to hell: the resolution of his first case as chief sparked a countywide drug war, his brother Eddie rode into town with a pocket full of cocaine and trouble on his mind, his estranged wife returned from her one-year sabbatical determined to win him back, and Ellie Martin ended their brief affair.

To the Stillwater natives, the increase in local crime can be traced directly back to the day the outsider McBride took the job, and they’re gunning to get rid of him. One particular group is led by Joe Doyle, a successful local businessman who’s running for city council against Ellie and her plan to revitalize downtown. Now Jack has discovered proof Doyle is the biggest crime lord in the county, and, with murders piling up and the drug war intensifying, Jack suspects the crimes aren’t business, but personal—and he’s the target.

The bitter election and Jack’s investigation spark old rivalries and new jealousies, making Ellie and those who love Stillwater most wonder if it’s even worth saving.

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PRAISE FOR THE FISHER KING

A fast-moving whodunit with compelling subplots and an appealing protagonist who’s likely to keep winning fans.” — Booklist

“The Fisher King is a haunting novel about different people’s claims on a place, and the power struggles, violence, and deception they use to seize it. Dark and ominous, the novel strikes the perfect mood and will be sure to appeal to fans eager for more of McBride’s adventures.” — Foreward Magazine

“[T]his combination of police procedural and romance puts the pedal to the metal and revs up the action.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Melissa Lenhardt’s Jack McBride is a complex and fallible protagonist you will root for. In The Fisher King, McBride takes on small town greed and corruption to his own peril in this sexy, gritty, and gripping thriller. A terrific new series!” —Deborah Crombie, New York Times bestselling author of the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones series

“Lenhardt draws you so deep into Stillwater, Texas, you’ll think you live there and know everyone in town. In-depth characters, finely drawn descriptions, and a sure-fire plot make The Fisher King a very satisfying addition to the Texas crime fiction scene.” —Terry Shames, Macavity Award Winning author of The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake

“Melissa Lenhardt’s second Jack McBride novel, The Fisher King, is a terrific soap opera of an East Texas noir. A riveting tale of disgrace, betrayal, and redemption. . . . Lenhardt writes a hard story with a soft hand. Evocatively descriptive and painfully believable, The Fisher King is Peyton Place meets The Godfather in small-town Texas. Top notch.” —James W. Ziskin, author of the Ellie Stone series”

 

Excerpt

EXCERPT – CHAPTER ONE

The Fisher King

Fred Muldoon needed new shoes.

Leaves and twigs worked their way through the hole in the sole of his right shoe as he walked the woods behind Doyle Industries. He stopped at the chain link fence and stared at the gravel lot, dreading the journey across its uneven surface to his home for the night. He hadn’t drunk enough to ignore the pain those damn rocks would put him through, lodging as they would beneath his big toe. Goddamn gout.

He patted his coat pocket for his bottle of Old Crow. He could sit here, against the fence, drink his whiskey. The night wasn’t too cold, and this was as good a spot as any. He sat down against the sagging fence, unscrewed the cap, and lifted it to his lips. A low roll of thunder interrupted him. He took a quick gulp and replaced the bottle. He hated being wet. It used to be an occupational hazard for the town drunk until Fred stole a pair of wire cutters and used them to cut a hole in a remote corner of Doyle Industries’ fence. Between sleeping in the cabs of Doyle’s trucks and earning whiskey money from telling Jack McBride innocent lies and useless information about the seedier side of Stillwater, Fred Muldoon hadn’t had it this good since 1969.

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about the author

melissa-lenhardtMelissa Lenhardt writes mystery, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in Heater Mystery Magazine, The Western Online, andChristmas Nookies, a holiday romance anthology. Her debut novel, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest. She is a member of the DFW Writers’ Workshop and vice president of the Sisters in Crime North Dallas Chapter. Melissa lives in Texas, with her husband and two sons.

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Posted in Giveaway, Guest Post, Spotlight, suspense, Thriller on October 27, 2016

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Synopsis

A call for help from an old friend lands Bianca and the crew back in Boston. On a timeout with Dante, due to revelations in the aftermath of the showdown in Naples, Bianca is drawn to a mysterious new ally who understands the traumas of her past, and has some very real trauma of his own. Murder, designer drugs, and a hacker named Magician challenge our team, and Bianca learns that leaving Rendition behind might be much harder  than she thinks.

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Guest Post

Today we welcome author Gabriel Valjan to StoreyBook Reviews.  He gives us his insights about why he set his books in Italy.  Very fascinating read!

Why Italy?

I’ve been asked why I have set the Roma Series in Italy and not elsewhere. There is no doubt that my choice of country provides rich material for the writer. Whether Italy was Empire, a series of city-states, or at last united in 1861, it has given the world millennia of culture and history, splendid art, a republic and humanism. I choose Italy because it shares some not-so obvious similarities with the United States. I’m speaking in broad terms here.

First, The United States is not a democracy. Both Italy and the U.S. were founded as patrician republics. Both countries had an aristocratic class born of the mercantile class, unlike the British or French aristocracy, which drew its ranks from those who fought, the knights. Both Italy and the United States had profound regional differences. In America, those socioeconomic differences between an industrial north and an agrarian south would lead to the Civil War. Just as in America’s Gilded Age, northern Italy would have its own ‘capitani di ventura,’ venture capitalists who would control entire industries and territories. Southern Italy, where organized crimes started, would exist on and off again, with or without Sicily, as a united state from the Middle Ages to the Risorgimento. Unification came late to Italy in 1861; and yet the country, just as the United States, would emerge, after World War II, as one of the world’s leaders in manufacturing and scientific technology, with one glaring exception separating them: Italy had a viable Communist party. The Years of Lead, 1969 to about 1980, would exterminate that anomaly in Western Europe.

When Americans think of the mafia and organized crime, they think of glamorous movies such as The Godfather, with its emphasis on familial loyalty, honor, and silence. The reality is less Hollywood. The Camorra started around the time the Spanish occupied Naples. Did not Don Quixote have bizarre ideas about chivalry and honor? The Sicilian mafia began as hired enforcers to keep farmers afraid of landowners. Is there an American counterpart? Look to the Progressive Era and the violence between hired thugs and striking workers. Look earlier and the Democratic Party was synonymous with corruption and ward bosses.

There is one stark and fundamental difference between the two countries that I explore in the Roma Series, and that is the concept of society. While what constitutes ‘society’ in Europe is different from what we have in the U.S., I think it is more pronounced in Italy, which rates high in quality of life, and for long life expectancy. The ‘capitani di ventura’ may have faded into history, but in the U.S. the captains of industries and their corporations still affect every aspect of society, wielding inordinate power and influence, for better or worse. These imbalances breed crime at its worst, political activism and legislative reform at their best. The problem is when those in power, those captains of industry and their corporations, are the criminals.

American holds the rebel, the individual — the quintessential cowboy — in high esteem; it values the underdog; and yet, American society is Malthusian and Darwinian at its core, meaning fate is a function of individual choices. The Republican Party advocates the ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ philosophy life. I don’t know: Is this merely the Protestant idea of predestination dressed up in the Emperor’s New Clothes? Italy is a Catholic country — and Catholicism has its own tainted history — but the Christian ideal of looking out for ‘the least of your brothers’ does not mean that feeding them is encouraging the poor and less fortunate to remain poor and less fortunate. The ways Italy combats organized crime differ from the way the U.S. does – but that is another matter altogether.

 

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ROMA, UNDERGROUND (Book #1)

Savvy forensic accountant Alabaster Black is hiding in Rome from her former employer, covert U.S. organization “Rendition.” While there under an assumed name she meets Dante, an investigator, erstwhile explorer and member of the Roma Underground, a band of amateur archaeologists who map the city beneath Rome. With Italian artifacts disappearing at an alarming rate, Alabaster and Dante search for answers and create a trap for the thieves. Through a mysterious online contact Alabaster learns she is being followed, and with her safety at risk she is forced to rethink her chosen alliances and discover hidden truths about herself.

“A provocative thriller with a riveting and surprising plot.” —M.J. Rose, International bestseller

“…the strong, captivating heroine and an allure of conspiracy and organized crime make this novel an undoubted success.”  –Kirkus Book Reviews

“Conspiracy, double identities, car chases and espionage, all against the backdrop of magical Rome, with its great food and marvelous art history, make this an entertaining, intriguing read.” —Blogcritics Book Reviews in Brief

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WASP’S NEST (Book #2)

In the highly anticipated sequel to Roma, Underground, Bianca returns to the U.S. for her former employer, the covert organization Rendition, to investigate Cyril Sargent and Nasonia Pharmaceutical. Although ambivalent about the assignment and uneasy about her online “friend,” Loki, she is enticed into researching what Sargent is doing with insect genetics that might upset the world of cancer research and treatment. Old friends Farrugia and Gennaro uncover a twisted conspiracy from their past and join Bianca in Boston where they will experience conflicted loyalties, question allies, and confront uncertain enemies, as they’re drawn into the wasp’s nest.

“Again, Valjan successfully conflates multiple sophisticated narratives that bring the past and present together, which the archaeological theme of the last novel also helps accomplish . . . Black is back and just as entertaining as ever.”  —Kirkus Book Reviews

“…a compelling reading, action-packed and with intriguing characters. The plot had plenty of twists and turns, some surprising secrets, and it kept me on the edge of my seat, guessing until the very end.”  —The Book Junkie

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THREADING THE NEEDLE (Book #3)

Milan. Bianca’s curiosity gets a young university student murdered, but not before he gives her a file that details a secret weapon under development with defense contractor Adastra. Guilt may drive her to find justice for the slain Charlie Brooks, but she is warned by the mysterious Loki to stay away from this case that runs deep with conspiracy. Bianca must find a way to uncover government secrets and corporate alliances without returning Italy to one of its darkest hours, the decades of daily terrorism known as the “Years of Lead.”

“It is even more to Gabriel Valjan’s credit that with Threading the Needle he, as an American, was nonetheless capable of unusual insight into the Misteri Italiani, the Italian Mysteries, without taking any prejudicial standpoint, one way or the other, or putting the blame on anyone, but rather inviting readers to judge for themselves.” —Claudio Ferrara, Italian journalist and translator

“But after the first few pages, I knew I was committed to the end of the book … and would be reading the two earlier books…Characters, plot, ideas, background: In Threading the Needle, Valjan weaves it all into an international crime novel worth the read.” —Beth Kannell of Kingdom Books, a specialty mystery bookshop in northeastern Vermont.

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TURNING TO STONE (Book #4)

Forensic accountant Alabaster Black has always been steps ahead of her former employer, Rendition, a clandestine and apparently lethal organization. Once the star investigator of financial crimes, she fled from the United States to Italy, under a new name: Bianca Nerini. She carries on her work with a group of trusted friends, although a mysterious contact by the name of Loki reaches out to her on occasion. In this fourth installment, Bianca is in Naples against the Camorra, a crime syndicate unlike the American or Sicilian mafia.

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About the Author

gabriel-valjanGabriel Valjan lives in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the author of the Roma Series, available from Winter Goose Publishing. Gabriel has also written numerous short stories and essays found online and in print.

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Giveaway

Prizes:

5 winners get a paperback copy of CC

5 winners get an ebook copy of CC

1 winner gets whole set of Roma series in paperback (signed)

1 winner gets whole set of Roma series in ebook format

12 winners total

Print copies open to USA and ebooks open international

Giveaway ends Dec 17

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Posted in excerpt, Spotlight, suspense on September 22, 2016

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Synopsis

Julie and Brad Evans are house flippers. They buy low, clean out the old occupants’ junk, and try to make a profit. Enter Hemmings House on Bedlam Street in scenic Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Too good a deal to pass up, but with an ominous secret. The old Victorian Mansion has dwellers that do not want to be dispossessed. As the house reveals it’s past, will the couple’s marriage survive The Flip?

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From Publisher’s Weekly- The Flip

Michael Phillip Cash (Stillwell) again succeeds in setting an engaging supernatural thriller in the world of Long Island real estate, though he’s stronger at depicting human relationships than he is at generating scares. Julie and Brad Evans have hinged their hopes of financial security on house flipping, a work-intensive strategy that offers them few opportunities for relaxation. Brad has misgivings about their latest acquisition, a creepy Victorian mansion, ominously situated on Bedlam Street in Cold Spring Harbor. Those feelings are validated when he’s victimized by Tessa, a voracious female ghost with very carnal appetites. Cash is effective at creating his version of the afterlife, where ghosts like Tessa exist in fear of more powerful entities known as the Sentinels. His best work comes, however, in his plausible portrayal of a marriage under stress from the need to hustle to stay solvent. (BookLife)

Excerpt

I said I’m not going back there. That house is haunted. There, I’ve said it. It’s a haunted house.” “Julie!” Heather protested. “Stop that. You are so much better than this.”

Brad sighed. “Look, I’ll call Sal. His girlfriend works or that medium you talked about. If she comes with us to the house, will you come home?”

“It isn’t home, Brad. I thought you hated the house.”

“I did. I do. Well, it’s been kind to us,” he said.

“Are you nuts? What are you talking about?”

“The crap we’ve pulled out of there. We stand to make a considerable amount of money. I feel like the house is sort of saving us. Come home with me, Julie.”

Julie looked at his face, the lines of worry around his eyes. She put her hand in his, asking, “You’ll call the lady, Georgia?”

Brad pulled out his phone and dialed Sal. “Hi. Yeah, fine. Listen, Sal, you think you can ask Molly if she can get the psychic out to Bedlam House? Just because. For Julie. OK, call me back.” He turned to his wife. “He’s calling. He said he’s sure he can get her out there. She was interested in the house when he had coffee with her last week.”

“He had coffee with her?” Heather asked. “Small world.”

“What should I do?” Julie asked her sister.

“You know what you should do. You belong with Brad. Go home, Julie. Go confront your ghosts.”

“You don’t believe me?”

“I think you believe you’ve had a ghostly encounter. But, honestly, I think you’re just overtired.”

“Come with us, Heather. Maybe if you’re there, you’ll see it, too.”

“Just go with Brad. Call me.” Heather kissed her sister. “It will be fun—the psychic—go on.”

Brad’s phone rang loudly. It was Sal. Georgia Oaken had agreed to visit them tomorrow morning. Everybody was looking forward to it. Sort of.

About the Author

michael-cash-authorMichael Phillip Cash is an award-winning novelist and screenwriter. His novels are best-sellers on Amazon under their genres – Young Adult, Thriller, Suspense, Ghost, Action Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Horror.

Michael writes full-time and lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wonderful wife and screaming children. You can follow him @michaelpcash.

 

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Posted in excerpt, Monday, mystery, suspense on September 19, 2016

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Title: Touching Death
Author: Becky Johnson
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 209
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Synopsis

Rachel Angeletti knows things. She always has. With one touch she sees secrets, emotions, lies. Her gift helps her to be the best museum curator in Chicago. It also makes her personal relationships difficult.
Her life is complicated enough when a run in with her ex and an unanticipated vision sends her reeling. One touch and she sees death. One touch and she is thrown into the midst of killer’s dark fantasy. Now Rachel is in a fight for her life against a killer she knows too little about.

With danger stalking her around every turn Rachel is in a thrilling race against the clock. Can she catch a killer before he catches her?

Touching Death will take you on a riveting, page-turning, journey into the mind of a killer and the heart of a survivor.

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Excerpt

I was eleven the first time I saw someone die.

It was hot. The kind of hot where your shirt sticks to your back and every breath feels thick and heavy. The waistband of my plaid, pleated school uniform was itchy. It was always itchy, but in Chicago in early September with the temperature in the nineties, I could barely stand it.

“Look,” my best friend April gave my arm a sharp and eager tug, “I can’t believe he’s talking to her.”

I looked across the museum where she was pointing. Jonathan Adams. With his dark hair and blue eyes he was the cutest guy in our class. He was talking to Carol, the prettiest girl in our class and our sworn enemy. April had such an intense crush on Jonathan. She had already named their children and when we played the name game she always wanted to get him.

While April plotted revenge on her arch nemesis, I looked across the Ancients room in The Chicago Museum of Anthropology and Archeology to where Billy Masters stood by a glass display case. His hair was unruly and stuck up in odd peaks from his forehead in complete disregard of the rules. His white, button-down shirt hung out over his waistband. Technically, he was wearing the school tie; he just wore it tied around his belt loop, a bright red flag of rebellion. I never wanted to admit it, but when I daydreamed and played the name game, I was always looking for Billy Masters.

Our class slowly moved through the large room. My teacher, Ms. Daniels, stood at the front of our group lecturing on the Egyptian Empire. With her graying hair pulled back into a tight bun, her stockings sagging around her skinny legs, and her soft and squeaky voice the lecture didn’t keep my attention. Her high-pitched voice faded to the background as I gazed at the surrounding exhibits. They were all so beautiful and fascinating. My imagination ran wild with stories and images. I imagined hands cupping a bowl or pulling a comb through a child’s hair. In my mind’s eye a thousand stories and possibilities ran wild.

We walked through the center aisle of a room, clustered with pottery and remnants of houses. I felt the strangest urge, the almost all consuming desire to touch. My fingertips itched. The power of it drew me. The crumbled edges of the pottery bowl almost begged me to touch them. Only a velvet rope and a few feet separated me from that tantalizing edge.

One touch. No one will know.

I didn’t even realize I’d stepped forward until the velvet rope stopped me from going any further. Vaguely, I heard my teacher discussing social structure and family groups, but the pounding of my own heart overpowered all other noise.

Rachel, the past whispered, “come. See. Life and death.”

I reached my hand out and my fingers brushed the edge of the bowl.

Laughter.

Raised voices.

Yelling.

Screams.

Crying.

The images bombarded me — a woman sat in front of a fire pit making dinner for her family. A dispute nearby grabbed her attention. Two men were fighting. The crowd surged and pulsed with the energy of the fight. Screamed words sounded foreign to my ears, but the emotion made perfect sense — fear, anger, uncertainty.

Only the woman with the bowl saw the little boy standing too close to the fighters. Only the woman with the bowl saw the danger. She screamed his name. Her screams went unheard in the din. The crowd moved with the fight, their bodies cutting off her view.

The bowl was clutched tight in her fingers as she struggled forward, pushing people aside. It grew eerily quiet. The crowd slowed, then paused responding to a different energy. Shoulders and heads slumped as they parted before her. The little boy was on the ground. A bloody rock lay near him. She dropped the bowl as she surged forward, screaming.

I awoke on the ground in front the display my face wet and my throat raw with the echo of the screams still ringing in my ears.

About the Author

becky-johnsonBooks are Becky Johnson’s passion and always have been. She used to get in trouble in school for reading during class!

Becky has Master’s degrees in social work and history, and for her day job she is a social worker. In her writing she tries to answer a question that is important to both social work and history: Why? She always wants to know why people do the things they do or feel the way they feel.

When not reading or writing she enjoys yoga, photography, cooking, and makes a pretty mean chili!

Her latest book is the mystery/suspense, Touching Death.

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