Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A Train from Penzance to Paris by Laura Briggs





Purchase on Amazon 

When Maisie accepts a celebrated author’s invitation to mentor her, she finds herself leaving Cornwall behind on train tracks bound for the glitter city of Paris.
Instead of making beds and serving coffee at the Penmarrow hotel in Cornwall, she’s making notes on her manuscript while sitting in a French cafe, meeting famous writers at private dinner parties, and trying to ferret the secrets behind the author’s unfinished future novel. It’s glamorous, it’s breathtaking … but it’s also an ocean channel away from the place that she loves, and, more importantly, the person to whom she just recently confessed her deepest feelings. Separated from Sidney by distance and circumstances, Maisie fears that their connection will be lost despite her words to him – and maybe because of those words, and the ones she didn’t allow him to say in return.


Meanwhile, there are plenty of things in her new life trying to distract her – the professional editor hired to critique her novel, the eager young literary agent who sees pie-in-the-sky potential for Maisie’s talent, but Maisie finds solace in the eclectic group of amateur writers into whose midst she finds herself by accident. Their critique and advice is fast becoming as important as the editors – maybe even more important than the published author Maisie believed held the keys to refining her skill.

But it’s missing Sidney that fills Maisie’s thoughts the most, along with her life back in Port Hewer, and she can’t stop wondering whether his feelings are the same as her own. His unspoken answer has become one of the most important pieces of her life, even as she struggles to match the pace of her new life and keep her dreams in sight. And when she unwittingly becomes privy to a seeming literary conspiracy, she must decide what to do in light of its truth – and decide what’s most important in her quest to become a professional writer.

Join Maisie in a whirlwind tour across two of the world’s greatest cities, filled with questions, dreams, and a chance for fame that she believed far beyond her grasp, as she discovers herself as a writer, and how to embrace an unexpected future on her own terms.





The story in this book will bring you up to date, but I know you will appeciate it all the more if you have read at least one of the previous books in this series. That said, do not miss THIS book, with its wonderful, descriptive prose and more than one m major twist. WOW what a twist near the end, with so much promise for what is yet to come.
I am getting ahead of myself.
At the end of the previous book (only a slight spoiler) Maisie has met her mentor, her hero/role model, the person she started this journey to meet and learn from. That was a twist on its own.
She had also met a potential love interest and had to make a choice that would affect her life. Continue to follow her dream or stay in Cornwall and see if Sidney also has feelings for her. WHY has he left her hanging?
In previous books we get a glimpse into what Maisie is writing and have enjoyed her s an author as much as we enjoy her "real life" adventures and experiences. The train ride with Alistair has such an adventurous and dreamlike quality to it, I felt pulled into the novel as if I was sitting beside Maisie. And then the glamorous life of a celebrated author with an unlimited income! The glamorous people and parties. However it seemed like the dream was still on hold.
Had Maisie made the right decision? Would her mother say "I told you not to take this risk?"
Will it be worth it in the end? I am NOT going to spoil this for you.
I highly recommend you grab all the books in this delightful series and lose yourself within the pages.
 





Sidney had no phone, nothing but a post office address for mail. Missing him like crazy made me desperate enough to dial Dean's number, after holding the phone in my hand and debating whether it was a good idea or a bad one. Sidney's friend was temperamental at the best of times, and he and I were hardly close. Would he like receiving a random phone call from me, or would he simply be annoyed? I could always say I called to share what little gossip I had gathered on book number four. He had read Alistair Davies' novels, all three of them as I surmised by his bookshelf. That seemed like a good excuse.
"Hello?" It was Dean's voice on the line and not one of his nurses. He must have answered it using the speakerphone activation designed for his disability. The sound of his voice felt like a little piece of home, though I was no more a native of Port Hewer than he was. It was just the way its familiarity made my heart feel.
"Dean? It's Maisie," I said. "I'm calling you from Paris to say hello."
A pause. I wondered if Dean was thinking how odd it was for me to call him. "I'm flattered," he said at last, though dryly.
"You remember me — the girl with the daisy in her hair, whom Sidney was always dragging over to your cottage?" I asked, jokingly. "I know I'm not the most fascinating person on the planet, but I thought I made a better impression on you than that."
"Of course. That very annoying girl who watched childish Christmas specials on telly," he answered. This was Dean's usual manner of joking, with just a bit of meanness in it. "I presume you planned to do more than remind me you existed?"
"Maybe I just called to be annoying." I waited to see how this joke fared with him.
"I see. And I made the mistake of thinking you called to tell me about life in Paris. Otherwise it seemed hardly to be worth the trouble of dialing my number internationally." I heard the soft whir of his motorized wheelchair.
I told him about Alistair's slow simmer for book four's creation, and about the paintings I had seen in the Musee d'Orsay, the beautiful stained glass at the Brasserie Printemps. Things and places I knew that as an artist he must have seen, too. Maybe he would enjoy explaining their history to someone as ignorant of it as I was.
All the time, I gathered my courage and waited for the right moment to bring up a question that was on the tip of my tongue the whole time.
"Are you alone, or is Sidney there with you?" I asked. I had deliberately chosen an hour when I knew Callum would be out shopping, increasing the chances that Sidney would stop by. "If so, I'd like to say hello to him."
Silence on the other end. I held my breath. I could hear the murmur of a voice talking in the background, which proved Dean was not alone. I couldn't be sure, but I thought it was Sidney's I heard, though my mind could be playing tricks on me. Wanting to hear something that wasn't there.
I heard Dean's breathing, his voice close to the phone again. "I'm afraid you've missed him, Maisie," said Dean. "When I see him, I'll tell him you send your regards, if you like."
I could tell he was feigning his nonchalance — in short, that he was lying. "Of course." I tried not to sound disappointed, though I was. "Tell him I miss him."
"I will." There was nothing more left for either of us to say after that.


Author Bio –
Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller 'A Wedding in Cornwall'. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.
Social Media Links –
Author Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1JjeMoI
Twitter at 
http://bit.ly/1ME9ivJ



Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Perils and Lace: A Ghostly Fashionista Mystery (Ghostly Fashionista Mystery Series) by Gayle Leeson


Perils and Lace: A Ghostly Fashionista Mystery (Ghostly Fashionista Mystery Series) by Gayle Leeson

 Perils and Lace

 
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series 
Publisher: Grace Abraham Publishing 
Number of Pages - 212 (approx.) 
Digital ASIN: B086KXY34W
A murderer outwitting a quirky flapper ghost? Seams unlikely!
Budding retro fashion designer and entrepreneur Amanda Tucker is thrilled about making costumes for Winter Garden High School’s production of Beauty and the Beast. But when the play’s director Sandra Kelly is poisoned, Amanda realizes there’s a murderer in their midst. She’s determined to keep herself and the students safe, so when her ghostly fashionista friend Max suggests they investigate, Amanda rolls up her sleeves and prepares to follow the deadly pattern…

About Gayle Leeson


Amanda Lee, she wrote the Embroidery Mystery series, and as Gayle Trent, she writes the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series. 
Going forward, Gayle intends to keep her writing until the Gayle Leeson name. 
She has a series of women's fiction novellas set in a shopping mall that has been converted to include micro-apartments (the Kinsey Falls series) and is enjoying writing the Ghostly Fashionista Mystery Series, the Down South Cafe series, and co-writing the Victoria Square series with Lorraine Bartlett.

  Author Links
  Websites: https://www.ghostlyfashionista.com/current-release and https://www.gayleleeson.com
Newsletter sign-up form: https://forms.aweber.com/form/14/1780369214.htm
  Twitter: @GayleTrent
  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GayleLeeson/
  Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Gayle-Leeson/e/B01NBSTBDU/
  BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/gayle-leeson
  Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/426208.Gayle_Trent

  Purchase Link - Amazon

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Book Blast Participants

Have you signed up to be a Tour Host?
Click Here Find Details and Sign Up Today!    

This Magical Marmot



This Magick Marmot (An Abracadabra Mystery) by Sharon Pape

 This Magick Marmot

 
Cozy Mystery 5th in Series 
Publisher: Lyrical Press (April 7, 2020) 
Paperback: Pages: 200 
ISBN-10: 1516108752 
ISBN-13: 978-1516108756 
Digital ASIN: B083TXHJLH

A fatal case of school spirit . . .
Kailyn Wilde, owner of the Abracadabra potion shop, feels some dread anticipating her ten-year high school reunion at the new hotel in New Camel—but it turns out even worse than she feared. Running into her very first boyfriend is pleasant enough. Chatting with Ashley—who still can’t let go of a tragedy that happened on prom night—is a bit more uncomfortable. But the worst part comes when one of Kailyn’s oldest friends is found dead in the ladies’ room.
Soon this upstate New York town is in an uproar. And with some help from time-traveling wizard Merlin—who has adopted an unusual and alluring creature as his familiar—it’s up to Kailyn to identify the alumnus most likely to commit murder . . .




No matter who you were in high school, or how well you are doing today, reunions are always stressful. Kailyn Wilde isn't even sure she is going to attend hers. She is happily running her aunt's magical potion shop, has plenty of friends and furry family, her mother and grandmother "pop in" from time to time from the great beyond, where they are causing mischief and walking a thin line between coming back and saying too much about what happens when our time in this world is finished.
Merlin, Kailyn's "Eccentric English Uncle" who is really someone else, quite reknown, had a familiar of his own in another time and place. He feels it is his RIGHT to have one once again, yet his magical skills never have the desired results, even after repeated attempts. After a disasterpus first attempt results with a literal Elephant in the Room, he manages to bring forth a marmot. But I am getting ahead of myself and don't want to give too much away or make this review too long.

The focus of the book is Kailyn's high school reunion and the connections between a death there and an accident that happened ten years earlier...or WAS it an accident? Why are only the people who were in both places being targeted? Can Kailyn figure outthe connection and solve these mysteries?
Wonderful characters and interesting plot twists will keep you entertained for hours, as well as Merlin's new familiar. I recommend you read the entire series but pick up this book NOW and enjoy the magical ride.

About the Author



Sharon Pape describes her writing career as having two stages. 
Back in the dark ages, before computers were in every household, she had three paranormal books published. The first one was condensed by Redbook Magazine, the first paperback original they had ever condensed. Around the same time, Redbook published her first short story.

Then life brought her an unexpected challenge that went by the name of breast cancer.
When her treatment was over, she became a volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery Program and went on to be the program’s coordinator for Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.
Several years later, with the help of her surgical oncologist and two other survivors, she started her own not-for-profit organization to provide information and peer support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.  Once the organization was running smoothly and didn’t require as much of her time, she returned to her first love – writing. 
During this second stage of her career, she’s been writing cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist and a splash of humor.

Author Links
  Website – http://sharonpape.com/
  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sharon.pape.94
  Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbpape
  Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/641079.Sharon_Pape

  Purchase Links – AmazonB & N

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR PARTICIPANTS
  April 6 – Elizabeth McKenna - Author – SPOTLIGHT
  April 6 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
  April 7 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT
  April 7 – Laura's Interests – REVIEW
  April 8 – Christy's Cozy Corners – GUEST POST
  April 8 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
  April 9 – MJB Reviewers – REVIEW
  April 9 – Baroness' Book Trove – REVIEW
  April 10 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST
  April 10 – I'm All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
  April 11 – Nadaness In Motion – SPOTLIGHT
  April 11 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
  April 12 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW
  April 12 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
  April 13 – ebook addicts – REVIEW
  April 13 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews - SPOTLIGHT
  April 14 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
  April 14 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW
  April 14 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book - REVIEW
  April 15 – A Wytch's Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
  April 15 – Rosepoint Publishing – REVIEW
  April 15 – Dee-Scoveries – SPOTLIGHT

  Have you signed up to be a Tour Host?
Click Here Find Details and Sign Up Today!      

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Flight Risk by Cara Putman

Flight Risk

by Cara Putman

on Tour April 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

Flight Risk by Cara Putman

Bestselling author Cara Putman returns with a romantic legal thriller that will challenge the assumptions of truth tellers everywhere.

Savannah Daniels has worked hard to build her law practice, to surround herself with good friends, and to be the loyal aunt her troubled niece can always count on. But since her ex-husband’s betrayal, she has trouble trusting anyone.

Jett Glover’s father committed suicide over a false newspaper report that ruined his reputation. Now a fierce champion of truth, Jett is writing the story of his journalism career—an international sex-trafficking exposé that will bring down a celebrity baseball player and the men closest to him, including Savannah’s ex-husband.

When Jett’s story breaks, tragedy ensues. Then a commercial airline crashes, and one of Savannah’s clients is implicated in the crash. Men connected to the scandal, including her ex, begin to die amid mysterious circumstances, and Savannah’s niece becomes an unwitting target.

Against their better instincts, Jett and Savannah join ranks to sort the facts from fiction. But can Savannah trust the reporter who threw her life into chaos? And can Jett face the possibility that he’s made the biggest mistake of his life?

Book Details:

Genre: Political/Romantic Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: April 7th 2020
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 078523327X (ISBN13: 9780785233275)
Series: This is a Stand Alone Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The conversation flowed over the antipasti course and into the pasta della casa. Every bite of Savannah’s manicotti alla fiorentina was wonderful, the ricotta and spinach blending perfectly. Just when she knew she couldn’t take another bite and get anything done afterward, thanks to the food coma, a waiter came out with a slice of cheesecake. Her mouth watered as she took in the raspberries atop the homemade delight. She put a hand on her stomach and then smiled. “I hope you brought fresh forks for everyone.”
The handsome waiter flashed a bright smile. “Whatever the birthday donna wishes is my command.” He gave a slight bow and turned away. A moment later when he returned, a fist of forks at the ready, his demeanor had changed.
Emilie watched him a moment. “What’s wrong, Antonio?”
“There has been a horrible accident. It is on the TV in the office.”
“What kind of accident?” Savannah leaned toward him. “Does it involve someone you know?”
“No.” The man shook his head, and not one of his dark hairs moved. Yet his eyes were weighted with sadness and the shadow of something more. “It is a plane. It looks bad.”
“Oh no.” The memory of a plane careening by as she looked out a courtroom window in downtown Washington, DC, years earlier flashed through her mind. Savannah fought a shudder as she withdrew a credit card from her phone case and placed it on the bill, only for Hayden to slide it back to her and replace it with her own.
“Thank you.”
Please let this be a terrible accident and not the beginning of another 9/11.
Jaime’s head was bowed over her phone as she clicked the screen. “Looks like an isolated crash.”
All Savannah could think was that Jaime should add so far to her sentence. “That’s what we all thought on 9/11 too.”
Then a second plane careened into the Twin Towers. She saw the plane that hit the Pentagon, and a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania, killing one of her fellow law students. She cleared her throat and stood, motioning the gals to join her.
“Let’s get back to work and see what we can learn.”
As they left her favorite restaurant, her phone buzzed and she paused to pull it out of her pocket. She glanced at the text message on the screen and her blood froze.
911. From Addy. Their emergency code.
***
Excerpt from Flight Risk by Cara Putman. Copyright 2020 by Cara Putman. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Cara Putman
Cara Putman is the author of more than twenty-five legal thrillers, historical romances, and romantic suspense novels. She has won or been a finalist for honors including the ACFW Book of the Year and the Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. Cara graduated high school at sixteen, college at twenty, completed her law degree at twenty-seven, and recently received her MBA. She is a practicing attorney, teaches undergraduate and graduate law courses at a Big Ten business school, and is a homeschooling mom of four. She lives with her husband and children in Indiana.

Visit her at:
CaraPutman.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter - @Cara_Putman, & Facebook - Cara.Putman!




Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!






Enter To Win!!!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Cara Putman and Thomas Nelson. There will be 2 winners. Each winner will receive a set of three (3) print copies by Cara Putman. The giveaway begins on April 1, 2020 and runs through May 2, 2020. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.
a Rafflecopter giveaway




Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Dirty Old Town

Dirty Old Town

by Gabriel Valjan

Dirty Old Town by Gabriel Valjan Banner

 

 

Dirty Old Town

by Gabriel Valjan

on Tour March 1 - April 30, 2020

Synopsis:

Dirty Old Town by Gabriel Valjan
"Robert B. Parker would stand and cheer, and George V. Higgins would join the ovation. This is a terrific book--tough, smart, spare, and authentic. Gabriel Valjan is a true talent--impressive and skilled--providing knock-out prose, a fine-tuned sense of place and sleekly wry style."-- Hank Phillippi Ryan, nationally bestselling author of The Murder List

Shane Cleary, a PI in a city where the cops want him dead, is tough, honest and broke. When he's asked to look into a case of blackmail, the money is too good for him to refuse, even though the client is a snake and his wife is the woman who stomped on Shane's heart years before. When a fellow vet and Boston cop with a secret asks Shane to find a missing person, the paying gig and the favor for a friend lead Shane to an arsonist, mobsters, a shady sports agent, and Boston's deadliest hitman, the Barbarian. With both criminals and cops out to get him, the pressure is on for Shane to put all the pieces together before time runs out.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Procedural, Historical Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: January 14th 2020
Number of Pages: 162
ISBN: 1087857325 (ISBN13: 9781087857329)
Series: A Shane Cleary Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The phone rang. Not that I heard it at first, but Delilah, who was lying next to me, kicked me in the ribs. Good thing she did because a call, no matter what the hour, meant business, and my cat had a better sense of finances than I did. Rent was overdue on the apartment, and we were living out of my office in downtown Boston to avoid my landlord in the South End. The phone trilled.
Again, and again, it rang.
I staggered through the darkness to the desk and picked up the receiver. Out of spite I didn’t say a word. I’d let the caller who’d ruined my sleep start the conversation.
“Mr. Shane Cleary?” a gruff voice asked.
“Maybe.”
The obnoxious noise in my ear indicated the phone had been handed to someone else. The crusty voice was playing operator for the real boss.
“Shane, old pal. It’s BB.”
Dread as ancient as the schoolyard blues spread through me. Those familiar initials also made me think of monogrammed towels and cufflinks. I checked the clock.
“Brayton Braddock. Remember me?”
“It’s two in the morning, Bray. What do you want?”
Calling him Bray was intended as a jab, to remind him his name was one syllable away from the sound of a jackass. BB was what he’d called himself when we were kids, because he thought it was cool. It wasn’t. He thought it made him one of the guys. It didn’t, but that didn’t stop him. Money creates delusions. Old money guarantees them.
“I need your help.”
“At this hour?”
“Don’t be like that.”
“What’s this about, Bray?”
Delilah meowed at my feet and did figure eights around my legs. My gal was telling me I was dealing with a snake, and she preferred I didn’t take the assignment, no matter how much it paid us. But how could I not listen to Brayton Braddock III? I needed the money. Delilah and I were both on a first-name basis with Charlie the Tuna, given the number of cans of Starkist around the office. Anyone who told you poverty was noble is a damn fool.
“I’d rather talk about this in person, Shane.”
I fumbled for pen and paper.
“When and where?”
“Beacon Hill. My driver is on his way.”
“But—”
I heard the click. I could’ve walked from my office to the Hill. I turned on the desk light and answered the worried eyes and mew. “Looks like we both might have some high-end kibble in our future, Dee.”
She understood what I’d said. Her body bumped the side of my leg. She issued plaintive yelps of disapproval. The one opinion I wanted, from the female I trusted most, and she couldn’t speak human.
I scraped my face smooth with a tired razor and threw on a clean dress shirt, blue, and slacks, dark and pressed. I might be poor, but my mother and then the military had taught me dignity and decency at all times. I dressed conservatively, never hip or loud. Another thing the Army taught me was not to stand out. Be the gray man in any group. It wasn’t like Braddock and his milieu understood contemporary fashion, widespread collars, leisure suits, or platform shoes.
I choose not to wear a tie, just to offend his Brahmin sensibilities. Beacon Hill was where the Elites, the Movers and Shakers in Boston lived, as far back to the days of John Winthrop. At this hour, I expected Braddock in nothing less than bespoke Parisian couture. I gave thought as to whether I should carry or not. I had enemies, and a .38 snub-nose under my left armpit was both insurance and deodorant.
Not knowing how long I’d be gone, I fortified Delilah with the canned stuff. She kept time better than any of the Bruins referees and there was always a present outside the penalty box when I ran overtime with her meals. I meted out extra portions of tuna and the last of the dry food for her.
I checked the window. A sleek Continental slid into place across the street. I admired the chauffeur’s skill at mooring the leviathan. He flashed the headlights to announce his arrival. Impressed that he knew that I knew he was there, I said goodbye, locked and deadbolted the door for the walk down to Washington Street and the car.
Outside the air, severe and cold as the city’s forefathers, slapped my cheeks numb. Stupid me had forgotten gloves. My fingers were almost blue. Good thing the car was yards away, idling, the exhaust rising behind it. I cupped my hands and blew hot air into them and crossed the street. I wouldn’t dignify poor planning on my part with a sprint.
Minimal traffic. Not a word from him or me during the ride. Boston goes to sleep at 12:30 a.m. Public transit does its last call at that hour. Checkered hacks scavenge the streets for fares in the small hours before sunrise. The other side of the city comes alive then, before the rest of the town awakes, before whatever time Mr. Coffee hits the filter and grounds. While men and women who slept until an alarm clock sprung them forward into another day, another repeat of their daily routine, the sitcom of their lives, all for the hallelujah of a paycheck, another set of people moved, with their ties yanked down, shirts and skirts unbuttoned, and tails pulled up and out. The night life, the good life was on. The distinguished set in search of young flesh migrated to the Chess Room on the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets, and a certain crowd shifted down to the Playland on Essex, where drag queens, truck drivers, and curious college boys mixed more than drinks.
The car was warmer than my office and the radio dialed to stultifying mood music. Light from one of the streetlamps revealed a business card on the seat next to me. I reviewed it: Braddock’s card, the usual details on the front, a phone number in ink. A man’s handwriting on the back when I turned it over. I pocketed it.
All I saw in front of me from my angle in the backseat was a five-cornered hat, not unlike a policeman’s cover, and a pair of black gloves on the wheel. On the occasion of a turn, I was given a profile. No matinee idol there and yet his face looked as familiar as the character actor whose name escapes you. I’d say he was mid-thirties, about my height, which is a liar’s hair under six-foot, and the spread of his shoulders hinted at a hundred-eighty pounds, which made me feel self-conscious and underfed because I’m a hundred-sixty in shoes.
He eased the car to a halt, pushed a button, and the bolt on my door shot upright. Job or no job, I never believed any man was another man’s servant. I thanked him and I watched the head nod.
Outside on the pavement, the cold air knifed my lungs. A light turned on. The glow invited me to consider the flight of stairs with no railing. Even in their architecture, Boston’s aristocracy reminded everyone that any form of ascent needed assistance.
A woman took my winter coat, and a butler said hello. I recognized his voice from the phone. He led and I followed. Wide shoulders and height were apparently in vogue because Braddock had chosen the best from the catalog for driver and butler. I knew the etiquette that came with class distinction. I would not be announced, but merely allowed to slip in.
Logs in the fireplace crackled. Orange and red hues flickered against all the walls. Cozy and intimate for him, a room in hell for me. Braddock waited there, in his armchair, Hefner smoking jacket on. I hadn’t seen the man in almost ten years, but I’ll give credit where it’s due. His parents had done their bit after my mother’s death before foster care swallowed me up. Not so much as a birthday or Christmas card from them or their son since then, and now their prince was calling on me.
Not yet thirty, Braddock manifested a decadence that came with wealth. A pronounced belly, round as a teapot, and when he stood up, I confronted an anemic face, thin lips, and a receding hairline. Middle-age, around the corner for him, suggested a bad toupee and a nubile mistress, if he didn’t have one already. He approached me and did a boxer’s bob and weave. I sparred when I was younger. The things people remembered about you always surprised me. Stuck in the past, and yet Braddock had enough presence of mind to know my occupation and drop the proverbial dime to call me.
“Still got that devastating left hook?” he asked.
“I might.”
“I appreciate your coming on short notice.” He indicated a chair, but I declined. “I have a situation,” he said. He pointed to a decanter of brandy. “Like some…Henri IV Heritage, aged in oak for a century.”
He headed for the small bar to pour me some of his precious Heritage. His drink sat on a small table next to his chair. The decanter waited for him on a liquor caddy with a glass counter and a rotary phone. I reacquainted myself with the room and décor.
I had forgotten how high the ceilings were in these brownstones. The only warm thing in the room was the fire. The heating bill here alone would’ve surpassed the mortgage payment my parents used to pay on our place. The marble, white as it was, was sepulchral. Two nude caryatids for the columns in the fireplace had their eyes closed. The Axminster carpet underfoot, likely an heirloom from one of Cromwell’s cohorts in the family tree, displayed a graphic hunting scene.
I took one look at the decanter, saw all the studded diamonds, and knew Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would have done the set number of paces with a pair of hand-wrought dueling pistols to own it. Bray handed me a snifter of brandy and resumed his place in his chair. I placed my drink on the mantel. “Tell me more about this situation you have.”
“Quite simple, really. Someone in my company is blackmailing me.”
“And which company is that?”
“Immaterial at the moment. Please do take a seat.”
I declined his attempt at schmooze. This wasn’t social. This was business.
“If you know who it is,” I said, “and you want something done about it, I’d recommend the chauffeur without reservation, or is it that you’re not a hundred percent sure?”
I approached Bray and leaned down to talk right into his face. I did it out of spite. One of the lessons I’d learned is that the wealthy are an eccentric and paranoid crowd. Intimacy and germs rank high on their list of phobias.
“I’m confident I’ve got the right man.” Brayton swallowed some of his expensive liquor.
“Then go to the police and set up a sting.”
“I’d like to have you handle the matter for me.”
“I’m not muscle, Brayton. Let’s be clear about that. You mean to say a man of your position doesn’t have any friends on the force to do your dirty work?”
“Like you have any friends there?”
I threw a hand onto each of the armrests and stared into his eyes. Any talk about the case that bounced me off the police force and into the poorhouse soured my disposition. I wanted the worm to squirm.
“Watch it, Bray. Old bones ought to stay buried. I can walk right out that door.”
“That was uncalled for, and I’m sorry,” he said. “This is a clean job.”
Unexpected. The man apologized for the foul. I had thought the word “apology” had been crossed out in his family dictionary. I backed off and let him breathe and savor his brandy.
I needed the job. The money. I didn’t trust Bray as a kid, nor the man the society pages said saved New England with his business deals and largesse.
“Let’s talk about this blackmail then,” I said. “Think one of your employees isn’t happy with their Christmas bonus?”
He bolted upright from his armchair. “I treat my people well.”
Sensitive, I thought and went to say something else, when I heard a sound behind me, and then I smelled her perfume. Jasmine, chased with the sweet burn of bourbon. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them I saw his smug face.
“You remember Cat, don’t you?”
“How could I not?” I said and kissed the back of the hand offered to me. Cat always took matters one step forward. She kissed me on the cheek, close enough that I could feel her against me. She withdrew and her scent stuck to me. Cat was the kind of woman who did all the teaching and you were grateful for the lessons. Here we were, all these years later, the three of us in one room, in the middle of the night.
“Still enjoy those film noir movies?” she asked.
“Every chance I get.”
“I’m glad you came at my husband’s request.”
The word husband hurt. I had read about their marriage in the paper.
“I think you should leave, dear, and let the men talk,” her beloved said.
His choice of words amused me as much as it did her, from the look she gave me. I never would have called her “dear” in public or close quarters. You don’t dismiss her, either.
“Oh please,” she told her husband. “My sensibility isn’t that delicate and it’s not like I haven’t heard business discussed. Shane understands confidentiality and discretion. You also forget a wife can’t be forced to testify against her husband. Is this yours, Shane?” she asked about the snifter on the brandy on the mantel. I nodded. “I’ll keep it warm for you.”
She leaned against the mantel for warmth. She nosed the brandy and closed her eyes. When they opened, her lips parted in a sly smile, knowing her power. Firelight illuminated the length of her legs and my eyes traveled. Braddock noticed and he screwed himself into his chair and gave her a venomous look.
“Why the look, darling?” she said. “You know Shane and I have history.”
Understatement. She raised the glass. Her lips touched the rim and she took the slightest sip. Our eyes met again and I wanted a cigarette, but I’d quit the habit. I relished the sight until Braddock broke the spell. He said, “I’m being blackmailed over a pending business deal.”
“Blackmail implies dirty laundry you don’t want aired,” I said. “What kind of deal?”
“Nothing I thought was that important,” he said.
“Somebody thinks otherwise.”
“This acquisition does have certain aspects that, if exposed, would shift public opinion, even though it’s completely aboveboard.” Braddock sipped and stared at me while that expensive juice went down his throat.
“All legit, huh,” I said. “Again, what kind of acquisition?”
“Real estate.”
“The kind of deal where folks in this town receive an eviction notice?”
He didn’t answer that. As a kid, I’d heard how folks in the West End were tossed out and the Bullfinch Triangle was razed to create Government Center, a modern and brutal Stonehenge, complete with tiered slabs of concrete and glass. Scollay Square disappeared overnight. Gone were the restaurants and the watering holes, the theaters where the Booth brothers performed, and burlesque and vaudeville coexisted. Given short notice, a nominal sum that was more symbolic than anything else, thousands of working-class families had to move or face the police who were as pleasant and diplomatic as the cops at the Chicago Democratic National Convention.
I didn’t say I’d accept the job. I wanted Braddock to simmer and knew how to spike his temperature. I reclaimed my glass from Cat. She enjoyed that. “Pardon me,” I said to her. “Not shy about sharing a glass, I hope.”
“Not at all.”
I let Bray Braddock cook. If he could afford to drink centennial grape juice then he could sustain my contempt. I gulped his cognac to show what a plebe I was, and handed the glass back to Cat with a wink. She walked to the bar and poured herself another splash, while I questioned my future employer. “Has this blackmailer made any demands? Asked for a sum?”
“None,” Braddock answered.
“But he knows details about your acquisition?” I asked.
“He relayed a communication.”
Braddock yelled out to his butler, who appeared faster than recruits I’d known in Basic Training. The man streamed into the room, gave Braddock two envelopes, and exited with an impressive gait. Braddock handed me one of the envelopes.
I opened it. I fished out a thick wad of paperwork. Photostats. Looking them over, I saw names and figures and dates. Accounting.
“Xeroxes,” Braddock said. “They arrived in the mail.”
“Copies? What, carbon copies aren’t good enough for you?”
“We’re beyond the days of the hand-cranked mimeograph machine, Shane. My partners and I have spared no expense to implement the latest technology in our offices.”
I examined pages. “Explain to me in layman’s terms what I’m looking at, the abridged version, or I’ll be drinking more of your brandy.”
The magisterial hand pointed to the decanter. “Help yourself.”
“No thanks.”
“Those copies are from a ledger for the proposed deal. Keep them. Knowledgeable eyes can connect names there to certain companies, to certain men, which in turn lead to friends in high places, and I think you can infer the rest. Nothing illegal, mind you, but you know how things get, if they find their way into the papers. Yellow journalism has never died out.”
I pocketed the copies. “It didn’t die out, on account of your people using it to underwrite the Spanish-American War. If what you have here is fair-and-square business, then your problem is public relations—a black eye the barbershops on Madison Ave can pretty up in the morning. I don’t do PR, Mr. Braddock. What is it you think I can do for you?”
“Ascertain the identity of the blackmailer.”
“Then you aren’t certain of…never mind. And what do I do when I ascertain that identity?”
“Nothing. I’ll do the rest.”
“Coming from you, that worries me, seeing how your people have treated the peasants, historically speaking.”
Brayton didn’t say a word to that.
“And that other envelope in your lap?” I asked.
The balding halo on the top of his head revealed itself when he looked down at the envelope. Those sickly lips parted when he faced me. I knew I would hate the answer. Cat stood behind him. She glanced at me then at the figure of a dog chasing a rabbit on the carpet.
“Envelope contains the name of a lead, an address, and a generous advance. Cash.”
Brayton tossed it my way. The envelope, fat as a fish, hit me. I caught it.
***
Excerpt from Dirty Old Town by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2020 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan
Gabriel is the author of two series, Roma and Company Files, with Winter Goose Publishing. Dirty Old Town is the first in the Shane Cleary series for Level Best Books. His short stories have appeared online, in journals, and in several anthologies. He has been a finalist for the Fish Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and received an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest in 2018. You can find him on Twitter (@GValjan) and Instagram (gabrielvaljan). He lurks the hallways at crime fiction conferences, such as Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. Gabriel is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Gabriel Valjan On:
GabrielValjan.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!




Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!






Enter To Win!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gabriel Valjan. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on March 1, 2020 and runs through May 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.
a Rafflecopter giveaway




Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours