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!




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Thursday, April 2, 2020

DOUBLE Cover reveal

                  Josie James and The Teardrops of Summer by Lily Mae Walters


Genre - MG/YA Urban Fantasy (Ages 8 - 12)
Cover Reveal Date: 2nd April 2020
Blog Blitz Dates: 12th May 2020
Publication Date: 1st June 2018
Standalone First book in Josie James series
Estimated Page Count - 264

Josie James is an ordinary 13 year old until something extraordinary happens during her summer holidays.Whilst staying at her Great Grandmother’s cottage in the country she finds herself swept into the cursed world of Suncroft where it is perpetual winter.Her new friends believe she could be the Chosen One who it is foretold will lift the curse, but there are more pressing matters.


The Teardrops of Summer – magical crystals that render the owner immortal – have been stolen. Along with her telepathic husky-dog Protector Asher and her new friends, Josie must race to find the Teardrops and prevent catastrophe for their world.





                                  Josie James and The Velvet Knife by Lily Mae Walters


Genre - MG/YA Urban Fantasy (Ages 8 - 12)
Cover Reveal Date: 2nd April 2020
Blog Blitz Dates: 12th May 2020
Publication Date: 2nd April 2019
Standalone Second book in Josie James series
Estimated Page Count - 194

“For you to find the Velvet Knife, you must solve the riddles thrice.” A mysterious hooded figure, known only as the Velvet Knife has appeared in the cursed village of Suncroft. No one knows who he is or what he wants but when he starts leaving riddles around the village, it is time for Josie to return to Suncroft for a second time.

With Asher, her faithful husky Protector by her side, Filan, a half elf, and her great grandad, will they be able to solve the clues in time and discover his identity? The Velvet Knife is not the only one causing problems for Josie. Her rival for the position of the ‘Chosen One’ continues to grow stronger, and now he has a Protector of his own.


What does all this mean for Josie? Is she destined to lift the wintery curse of Suncroft or will another take her place as the ‘Chosen One’?





Lily Mae Walters chose her pen name in honour of her beloved grandparents who also stare in the Josie James series.

She is married with two teenage children, and two huskies that are the inspiration behind Murphy and Asher in the books.

Lily Mae lives in Nuneaton, England and finds herself using local  places and even her old school in her stories.

Family and friends mean the world to Lily Mae and many will find themselves popping up throughout the series.

Lily Mae also writes for adults under the name of Florence Keeling.




Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Missing Sister



The Missing Sister by Elle Marr

 The Missing Sister

THE MISSING SISTER  
Thriller 
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 1, 2020) 
Paperback: 299 pages 
ISBN-10: 1542006058 
ISBN-13: 978-1542006057 
Digital ASIN: B07QYMXX41

In Paris, her twin sister has vanished, leaving behind three chilling words: Trust no one.
 
Shayna Darby is finally coming to terms with her parents’ deaths when she’s delivered another blow. The body of her estranged twin sister, Angela—the possible victim of a serial killer—has been pulled from the Seine. Putting what’s left of her life on hold, Shayna heads to Paris. But while cleaning out Angela’s apartment, Shayna makes a startling discovery: a coded message meant for her alone…
 
Alive. Trust no one.
 
Taking the warning to heart, Shayna maintains the lie. She makes a positive ID on the remains and works to find out where—and why—her missing sister is hiding. Shayna retraces her sister’s footsteps, and they lead her down into Paris’s underbelly.
 
As she gets closer to the truth—and to the killer—Shayna’s own life may now be in the balance…
 

About Elle Marr

                                                       elle marr
Originally from Sacramento, Elle Marr explored the urban wilderness of Southern California before spending three wine-and-cheese-filled years in France. 
There she earned a master’s degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris. 
Now she lives and writes outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband and one very demanding feline.
 When she’s not busy writing her next novel, she’s most likely thinking about it. 
Connect with her online at ellemarr.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Author Links
Website - ellemarr.com
  Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/ellemarr1/
  Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ellemarrauthor/
  Twitter - https://twitter.com/ellemarr_

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Monday, March 30, 2020

No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane

No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane Banner

 

 

No Stone Unturned

by Andrea Kane

on Tour March 16 - April 17, 2020

Synopsis:

No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane

WHAT IF YOU FOUND YOUR FRIEND DEAD AND FEARED YOU'D BE NEXT?

Jewelry designer Fiona McKay is working on her latest collection of Celtic-inspired jewelry. She's excited by the possibilities uncovered by Rose Flaherty, the antiquities dealer helping her research the heirloom tapestries inspiring her new collection. So when Rose calls to tell her she has answers, Fiona hurries to meet her. But her artistic world is shattered when she finds the lifeless body of the elderly woman.

Why would anyone kill such a harmless person? And what if Fiona had arrived just a few minutes earlier? Would she have been killed as well? Unnerved, she heads for her brother's Brooklyn apartment seeking advice and comfort.

Ryan McKay, Forensic Instincts' technology wiz is not amused by his little sister interrupting his evening with his girlfriend and co-worker, Claire Hedgleigh. But when Ryan and Claire hear the details of Rose's murder, they fear that Fiona could be next, and quickly assume the role of her protectors. What they're unaware of is how many people are desperately seeking the information now buried along with Rose.

A former IRA sniper. A traitorous killer who worked for the British. Two vicious adversaries taking their epic battle to America. A secret Irish hoard as the grand prize in a winner takes all fight to the death.

As the story woven into the tapestries passed down from McKay mother to daughter unravels, Forensic Instincts realizes that Fiona and her family are in grave danger. Together, the team must stay one step ahead of two rival assassins or risk Fiona's life and the McKay family tree.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC
Publication Date:
Number of Pages: March 17, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-68232-039-
Series: Forensic Instincts
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Slowly, Rose Flaherty made her way over to the front window of her Greenwich Village antique shop, leaning heavily on her cane as she did. Preoccupied with the ramifications of her research findings, she barely took note of the passersby on Bedford Street, most of them headed home for the evening. A few of them glanced in her window, their unpracticed eyes seeing none of the beauty attached to the treasure trove of antiques and antiquities, instead seeing only the dusty surfaces, the random pieces, and odd assortment of furnishings that bespoke unwanted junk from the past.
At seventy-nine years old, Rose had long ago stopped caring what people thought. She knew who and what she was. And she knew it was no accident that her established clientele, many of whom were wealthy and educated in the realm of ancient civilizations—including Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman, Byzantine, Greek, and her beloved Celtic—came to her for her expertise as well as her one-of-a-kind offerings. Her knowledge was vast, her list of contacts vaster still.
The levels of research she performed were always a labor of love. However, her current project was even more than that. It was a thrilling adventure, a fascination of possibilities that transcended anything she’d dealt with in the past.
She couldn’t wait to delve deeper.
Impatiently, she squinted at her watch, barely able to make out the hands without the aid of her glasses, which she’d left somewhere. Ah. Five fifteen. Forty-five minutes to go.
Given the magnitude of her findings, there was just one way to pass the time.
She limped her way over to her Chippendale desk, sliding open the bottom drawer and pulling out the bottle of rare, old Irish whiskey she kept on hand for special clients. It was sinfully expensive. How fortunate that one of her prominent clients, Niall Dempsey, was a wealthy real estate developer who also appreciated fine Irish whiskey and who had been kind enough to gift this to her.
She poured the whiskey into a glass, making sure to put out a second for her client. They certainly had something to toast to. She would just get a wee bit of a head start.
“Rose?” Glenna Robinson, Rose’s assistant, poked her head out of the back room. Glenna was studying archeology at NYU and thoroughly enjoyed her part-time job at the shop. The fragile, white-haired owner was an intellectual wonder. Learning from her was an honor—even if she was becoming a bit more absentminded as she neared eighty. Absentminded about everything except her work. In that precious realm, her mind was like a steel trap.
“Hmmm?” Rose lifted her lips from her glass and turned, initially surprised to see Glenna was still here. Ah, but it wasn’t yet five thirty, and Glenna never left before checking in, so she should have expected to see her shiny young face. Such was the level of Rose’s absorption with the task at hand. “Yes, dear?”
Glenna’s gaze flickered from the glass in Rose’s hand to its mate, sitting neatly beside the whiskey bottle on the desk. “Do you need me to stay late? You mentioned an evening appointment, obviously an important one… even if it’s not in the calendar.”
“It was last minute.” Rose smiled, giving a gentle wave of her hand. “There’s no need for you to stay. This is a meeting, not a transaction. If you’d just collect the mail and drop it off, you can go and enjoy your evening.”
Glenna smiled back, trying not to look as relieved as she felt. Her friends had invited her to join them for pizza and beer. After a long week, that was exactly what she needed. But she wouldn’t leave Rose in the lurch.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Positive. Now run along.”
“Thank you. See you tomorrow afternoon.” Glenna blew Rose a kiss, then retraced her steps into the small back room—the business office, as she and Rose laughingly called it. It was barely larger than a closet, but it served its purpose. Glenna used it to answer phone calls, schedule appointments, email invoices, do reams of paperwork, and keep track of the countless Post-its Rose stuck on every inch of available surface space. She called it Glenna’s to-do list, but Glenna was well aware that the reminders were really for Rose, not for her. All part of Rose’s charm. The Post-it-spotted room contained a jam-packed file cabinet, a rusty metal desk, an on-its- last-legs photocopier, and a computer that Glenna had nicknamed Methuselah because it was older than time. Still, it was enough for their needs and Rose didn’t know how to use it anyway. That was part of Glenna’s job. She’d been doing it since she was sixteen, and she had no desire to go elsewhere.
She scooped up the stack of mail and was about to leave when she spotted a manila envelope propped up against the outbox with the name of the addressee penned on it in Rose’s neat hand. No street address. No postage.
Typical forgetful Rose.
Recognizing the client’s name, Glenna quickly scanned their contacts list, found the requisite address, printed it on a label that she adhered to the envelope, and carefully marked the parcel: hand cancel. She’d take care of the postage at the post office. Jimmy would move the process along. He was an efficient postal worker with a wild crush on her. She’d be in and out in a flash.
After tucking the envelope beneath the rest of the mail, she shut down Methuselah for the night, then grabbed her lightweight jacket and left the shop.
The tinkling sound of the bells over the door echoed behind her.
Twenty minutes later, they tinkled again.
Rose had been sitting in a chair midway in the shop, her back turned to the entrance as she sipped her whiskey and stared idly at the marble fireplace that stayed lit year-round to ward off dampness and mildew. Hearing the bells, she reached for her cane and came to her feet, surprised but delighted. Her client was early.
She turned, a greeting freezing on her lips.
It wasn’t a client who had come for her.
***
Excerpt from No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane. Copyright 2019 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Andrea Kane. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Andrea Kane
Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty novels, including sixteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles. With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully-researched stories, pushing them to the edge―and keeping her readers up all night.
Kane’s first contemporary suspense thriller, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, became an instant New York Times bestseller. She followed with a string of bestselling psychological thrillers including NO WAY OUT, TWISTED and DRAWN IN BLOOD.
Her latest in the highly successful Forensic Instincts series, NO STONE UNTURNED, showcases the dynamic, eclectic team of maverick investigators as they solve a seemingly impossible case while narrowly avoiding an enraged law enforcement frustrated over Forensic Instincts’ secretive and successful interference in a murder case. The first showcase of Forensic Instincts’ talents came with the New York Times bestseller, THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE, followed by THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE, THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, THE SILENCE THAT SPEAKS, THE MURDER THAT NEVER WAS, A FACE TO DIE FOR, and DEAD IN A WEEK.
Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include MY HEART’S DESIRE, SAMANTHA, ECHOES IN THE MIST, and WISHES IN THE WIND.
With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages. Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She’s an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan.

Catch Up With Andrea Kane:
AndreaKane.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!




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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green




Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Café


Molly Hooper has a secret. It haunts her dreams and casts a dark shadow over life with her gorgeous three-year-old daughter, Eva. Arriving in Sunnybrook has given her a glimpse of sunshine. The Little Duck Pond Cafe crew seem so welcoming and there's even the chance of a new job. Baking delicious cakes has always taken Molly to a happy place, so the job - at the glorious Brambleberry Manor Cafe - might just be perfect for her. It would mean she and little Eva could finally put down some roots at last. But is Sunnybrook the sanctuary Molly is searching for? Or will the past come back to haunt her, wherever she hides?

Purchase Link - https://amzn.to/2slp10U


Even in a small town where everyone knows each others' business,  there are secrets.
Molly has a beautiful three year old daughter she is raising by herself. She manages to get a part time job which will help them to survive but the landlord is a nightmare. Molly doesn't dare tell her new friends and coworkers.
She meets her new work neighbor just before her first shift at the Brambleberry Cafe, when she has a muddy accident. Happily, he is a frequent customer at the cafe. Sadly, the cafe is not busy enough to keep all the staff employed. They must pull together to come up with an idea to bring in more customers.


This is a story about being good to others as well as to oneself. It is about survival and lonliness, and not making assumptions. It is a sweet and clean read that will grab your heart and make you feel good.  I enjoy the setting and the characters and how each book stands alone, yet we watch as their relationships grow.



Rosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little.

Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by 'the baddies'.

Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all - unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

Rosie's series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. The latest, ‘A Winter Wedding at the Little Duck Pond Cafe', is out now.

Rosie has also written a full-length, standalone book, 'Snowflakes over Moondance Cottage', out now.

Follow Rosie on Twitter - https://twitter.com/Rosie_Green1988



Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Old Man's Request


THE OLD MAN'S REQUEST 
by Joab Stieglitz
 Historical Suspense, 117 pp.
 $11.99 (paperback)
 $2.99 (Kindle)

Title: THE OLD MAN’S REQUEST
Author: Joab Stieglitz
Publisher: Rantings of a Wandering Mind
Pages: 117
Genre: Historical Suspense



An Innocent Favor for a Dying Old Friend…

Fifty years ago, a group of college friends dabbled in the occult and released a malign presence on the world. Now, on his deathbed, the last of the students, now a trustee of Reister University enlists the aid of three newcomers to banish the thing they summoned.

Russian anthropologist Anna Rykov, doctor Harry Lamb, and Father Sean O’Malley are all indebted the ailing trustee for their positions. Together, they pursue the knowledge and resources needed to perform the ritual.

Hampered by the old man’s greedy son, the wizened director of the university library, and a private investigator with a troubled past, can they perform the ritual and banish the entity?

ORDER YOUR COPY:

______________________






CHAPTER 1


June 18, 1929

Final papers in hand, Anna  emerged from the Edison science building and made her way toward Olson Street to catch the trolley to the house she was renting on the other side of the river. She was petite, with dark bobbed hair, and smooth pale skin, and wore a fashionable blue, knee-length skirted suit, white blouse, and a loose, black necktie which flapped gently in the breezes blowing eastward off the slow-moving Woolley River.
It was another typically beautiful day, warm and dry, in Wellersburg.  About halfway across the quad, she spied Father O’Malley approaching hurriedly.  “Hello. Father,” she said with a smile, her Russian accent revealing her origins. “Is it not a fine day?” O’Malley, a tall, slender man with short, curly brown hair, usually had a warm, engaging smile, but today his expression was grim.
“Jason Longborough is in the hospital again,” O’Malley said. “It doesn’t look good, and he’s asked to speak to you with some urgency.”  Anna was concerned and a little surprised. The ailing trustee of the university had been her champion in the faculty selection committee last summer, but she had neither seen nor spoken with him since that time. He was directly responsible for her appointment to fill Dr. McMahon’s chair for three years while he and his team were on their expedition to Australia. Longborough was also instrumental in Father O’Malley’s appointment to the Ancient History department to fill similar vacancies during the Egyptian expedition, which was to occur concurrently.
“Of course,” Anna replied without hesitation, “I will just drop off these papers in office.”
“He may not hold out that long. Please come with me now. It may be your only opportunity.”  With that, the priest took the pile of exam papers from her and led the way toward the Reister University Hospital.


Anna was born Tatyana Trevena, the sole daughter of poor Russian immigrants. In exchange for passage to Brooklyn, the sixteen-year-old was married to the much older, exiled Fyodor Rykov shortly after their arrival in America in 1912. Rykov was an old world man. He treated his young wife as his property and she lived in submission to him until he died of a heart attack two years later.
Tatyana inherited a modest fortune. Wanting to be more American, and having the means to do so, she adopted the name Anna and attended Columbia University, where she studied Anthropology. She completed her degree in three years and went on to pursue a doctorate. In 1924, she did field research for the Russian archaeologist Aleksey Sergeyevich Uvarov in Gnyozdovo, a part of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the site of a ring of 10th century Viking settlements.
Upon returning to the United States in 1926, Dr. Anna Rykov, expert in the Varangians, or Russian Vikings, found that there was little interest in a female professor, especially one of Russian descent, who had done field work in the Soviet Union and could have potentially been a Bolshevik. When Jason Longborough reached out to her with a temporary position at Reister University filling in for tenured staff while they were on a three-year expedition, she gladly took the offer.
There were many new instructors at Reister. Among them, Anna met Harry Lamb and Sean O’Malley. Dr. Lamb had just completed his residency at Reister University Hospital and was teaching Basic Anatomy to first year medical students. Father O’Malley was well-versed in Middle and Far Eastern history and served as an Ancient History instructor. Anna, Harry, and Sean were all new to the area, and the three quickly became friends exploring their new home together.
She was enjoying the small college-town life in Wellersburg and its uncrowded streets. The people of Wellersburg were courteous and friendly, even to a Russian immigrant, on account of the more cosmopolitan influences of the university. She enjoyed the peace and tranquility of a small town where everyone knew everyone, and no one locked their doors.


The hospital room was small and dark, illuminated by a lone window on the far side of the room. Jason Longborough lay in his bed. The withered old trustee was frail beneath his shock of gray hairs. He had looked much stronger when Anna had seen him last. Now his yellow complexion and paper-like skin clearly indicated his infirmity. Dr. Harold Lamb stood over the patient, taking his pulse. Lamb was taller than average and muscular, with broad shoulders and short, black hair neatly parted on the right. He wore a blue, pinstriped suit and a yellow tie under his lab coat. The doctor smiled slightly when the two entered the room. Longborough was alerted to their presence by the closing of the door.
“It was good of you to come,” the patient said with some effort. “My time draws to an end soon, and there is a grave matter from my past that must be addressed.”  Some strength returned to his voice. “I fear I have become too feeble to attempt it myself, and wish to enlist your services in this matter.”  He sighed heavily.
“How can I be of service to you, sir?” Anna asked. While she was indebted to Longborough for her position at the university, she was hardly acquainted with the man. What could a businessman like Longborough need of an archaeologist?
“Sit. I have a story to tell you.”  He gestured to two chairs by the side of the bed.
“I’ll be back to check on you later,” Dr. Lamb said as he started for the door. Suddenly, with uncharacteristic dexterity, the ailing trustee reached out and grasped his wrist.
“I wish you to aid me as well, Doctor.”  His gaze was fixed on Lamb’s eyes. The physician left the room, and a moment later brought a chair in from the hall.
“I can spare a few minutes, but then I must complete my rounds.”
“This is not a long story.”  The trustee cleared his throat and Anna poured a glass of water for him. He took a few sips from it, and then cleared his throat again. “Back in the spring of ‘71, when I was a freshman here at Reister, I came upon an interesting upperclassman named Brent Hanke, an amateur occultist.”  He coughed painfully.
“Five of us formed a group to explore the secrets of the unknown. We called it ‘the Cabal.’ It was quite innocuous at first, but after a while other students became disturbed by our activities, and so we bought an old farmhouse in Stuckley for some privacy.”  He coughed again and took another drink of water.
“It was at the farmhouse that things grew out of hand. Brent Hanke’s family was in shipping, and as a result, he was able to obtain rare and unique items from the Old World. He used these trinkets to keep us interested. Among these was a small gold box of Russian origin,” he indicated a length of about eight inches with his bent fingers, “that contained a piece of amber. According to a ritual he found in an ancient tome, this amber could be used to contact a powerful oracle. Being precocious lads, we set out to cast the spell at the farm and seek our fortunes.”
Longborough’s subsequent coughing fit caused the onlookers to jump, and Dr. Lamb went to call a nurse, but the old man recovered quickly and motioned for them all to sit again. After a few fairly deep breaths and another drink of water, he continued his tale.
“It was clear that night in March of 1871. I remember the full moon illuminating the living room of the farmhouse so brightly that Brent was worried that there might be too much light. Still we continued, lighting the fire in the fireplace as well as several candles, and drawing a pentagram in chalk on the floor. In the center, Brent placed the amber. As designated observer, I sat in a corner and wrote down the events of the evening in my journal. The others sat in a circle and recited the incantation while Brent threw some foul-smelling powder into the fire.”
“This continued for nearly two hours. Finally, something happened. A plume of smoke arose from the amber and it began to melt. Then it came!”  Longborough began to hyperventilate. Dr. Lamb sprang to the bedside and adjusted his position, putting the patient’s head back to open his throat. After a moment of coughing and wheezing, Longborough recovered.
“It was insubstantial.”  The trustee’s voice was still agitated. “Barely perceptible in the moonlight, but it was there. And it made a horrible growling sound. Brent threw some of the powder on the creature, and all chaos broke out. Most of us were paralyzed by the sight. John Dalton, however, rose to his feet and stepped forward to embrace the entity. The creature grasped his head in its indescribable appendages and twisted it with a terrible snap. Then it threw the head back to land in Homer Cunningham’s lap. Homer's face turned white and he began making that chirping sound.”  Longborough stared off into space for a moment.
“Roger Furlong apparently doomed us all,” he continued after a pause. “He destroyed part of the pentagram. Free from the bonds of its confines, the creature burst from the house with the force of a hurricane and was gone.”  He stopped to catch his breath. “Nevertheless, Hanke believed there was still hope. The spell bound the creature to the house, so it would have to return, and the many glyphs and warding symbols Hanke had previously carved into its structure allowed the creature to only inhabit the attic.”
“Mr. Longborough,” Doctor Lamb said with skepticism, “this kind of superstitious fantasy is probably what caused your condition in the first place. You were probably enjoying the effects of some hallucinogenic drugs this Hanke character threw into the fire.”
“John Dalton was found decapitated the next morning.”  The aged and frail patient bore down on Lamb with a look of rage. “We staged an accident with a carriage and said he was run over. The authorities believed us, and they took Homer Cunningham to the Old Oak Sanitarium. He was never released. Brett said that if the spell is cast again in reverse, the creature could be destroyed, or at least sent back to where it came from . That is what I want you to do.”
“Still,” Dr. Lamb continued, “you can’t expect us to believe that reciting some ancient poetry will lay a ghost to rest?”
Anna was divided. The story was completely unbelievable, especially by a scientist such as herself, but how could she deny the request of a dying man?
“You want us to cast this spell?” Father O’Malley asked indignantly.
“Yes,” Longborough said, his features calm and sharp, “I do.”
“By all that is holy, that is the worst kind of sacrilege.”  But Sean O’Malley was not a typical parish priest. He was a Professor of Ancient History specializing in the Dark Ages. His training had been under the tutelage of Father Christophé, the exorcist from Martinique regarded as the Church’s leading “expert” on the activities various “nameless cults.” O’Malley was more than prepared to accept Satan’s intervention in the sorry affairs of this once gullible youth. The sly smile from his lips surprised his two colleagues. Finally, he said, “But I accept your request.”
“Are you crazy?” Lamb exclaimed. “This delusion has gone far enough. It’s nearly killed this man. Father, I think we should let this matter, and this patient, rest.”  He rose and started off to return his chair to the hall.
“What difference does it make?” Anna asked in earnest. “Mr. Longborough believes that there is threat to all in Stuckley. If it is just a fantasy, then all that will come of it is the easing of his conscience for the unfortunate incident with his friends.”
“Then you’ll help me?” the old man inquired of Anna with hope in his eyes.
“Yes, sir,” she said, holding his hands in hers. “I owe it to you for all you have done for me.”  He smiled.
Rykov and O’Malley cast questioning glances at Dr. Lamb. He looked at them incredulously, and then back at Longborough, who returned his gaze with a pitiable look. After a moment, he sighed and said, “O.K., I’m in. But nothing is going to happen. You’ll see.”
“You don’t understand,” the patient started. “You must believe in the innate power in all of us. You must tap into that power to perform the ritual. Only if you are committed will the spell be successful. If you fail, the creature will be released from the house!  The little remaining power I can still muster won’t be able to keep it there much longer. Whenever I let my guard down, it got out and killed someone.”  He started to gasp and wheeze. Immediately, Dr. Lamb burst from the room to get assistance.
Longborough indicated the drawer of the nightstand beside Rykov and she picked up a locked metal box from it. Then he removed a key from around his neck and handed it to her.  “Take these,” he said with the last of his breath, “it is all the help I can give you.”  With that, his breathing became erratic. Moments later, Lamb returned with some orderlies and a nurse and ushered the pair from the room.



This book reminded me of the horror novels I read back when I was in high school. Dark, brooding, paranormal with a Gothic feel.  It will keep upi on the edge of your seat.
 Do not read this book if you will be alone in the house for the rest of the night.
Great characters and enough plot twists to keep you consumed with curiosity.


Joab Stieglitz was born and raised in the Warren, New Jersey. He is an Application Consultant for a software company.  He has also worked as a software trainer, a network engineer, a project manager, and a technical writer over his 30 year career. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Joab is an avid tabletop RPG player and game master of horror, espionage, fantasy, and science fiction genres, including Savage Worlds (Mars, Deadlands, Agents of Oblivion, Apocalypse Prevention Inc, Herald: Tesla and Lovecraft, Thrilling Tales, and others), Call of Cthulhu, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Pathfinder.

Joab channeled his role-playing experiences in the Utgarda Series, which are pulp adventure novels with Lovecraftian influences set in the 1920’s.

Website Address: http://joabstieglitz.com
Twitter Address: @joabstieglitz





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