Monday, October 18, 2021

Sales Blitz: Dare to be a Duchess by Sapna Bhog

 



He’s a powerful duke. She’s his uncle’s ward. They have forever been at war, until one night, one masquerade, and one kiss…


Lara Ramsay is no stranger to scandal. As the orphaned daughter of a British colonel and his beloved Indian wife, whispers follow her everywhere. Not even the protection of the formidable Duke of Wolverton, a man she can’t stand, keeps the gossips at bay.
The audacious Lara has driven Tristan Wentworth, The Duke of Wolverton, to distraction since the day his uncle took her in—and he’s quite certain doing so is her favorite pastime. After catching her and his younger sister at a salacious masquerade, he’s had enough scandal and issues a marriage ultimatum: find a husband within six months or one will be chosen for her.
Unfortunately, no one in the ton appeals to her. Except, perhaps, the duke himself. The battle of wills has only just begun, and when Lara kisses him, their fate is sealed.
Sometimes even the most proper duke needs to break the rules to win the heart of the woman he loves...



Book Links:


Quotes from Dare to be a Duchess:

“Here, right at this moment, I’m giving you an ultimatum: Find someone from the ton to marry in the next six months or I will choose someone for you.” – Duke of Wolverton

“Well then the plan is simple, ‘Divide and Rule.’” – Lara Ramsay

“You’ll be surprised that a gentleman with the best intentions can behave like a rake when faced with temptation.” – Duke of Wolverton

“I think, Wolf, that you go on and on about my undesirability and my unattractiveness as a way to convince yourself more than me. The fact is that you kissed me because I am desirable and I am very attractive indeed.” – Lara Ramsay.

“You know very well that I’m accepted in the ton, albeit grudgingly, thanks only to you. No man wants to marry me, and I don’t want to marry any of those men.” – Lara Ramsay.


Read an Excerpt from Dare to be a Duchess:

Wolf crossed his arms and glared at Lara. Despite being at fault, she was as unrepentant as ever. Her absolute nonchalance drove him mad, always. 

“It is my concern. Getting into trouble is second nature to you, so I’d be lying if I said that it gave me any pleasure to be the one to help you out.” Wolf scowled at her. “Paxton is not a fool. He only has to think closely as to whose identity I would desperately want to protect and then remember your dark hair and he will come up with your name. You truly have no sense at all.”

“Well then you shouldn’t have bothered coming to my aid,” Lara retorted. “I could have handled the situation perfectly well by myself.” 

Wolf put his hands on his hips. “And how may I ask would you have done that?”

“I’ve heard that a well planted knee on a delicate part of a man’s anatomy would normally do the trick.”

His eyebrows shot up. “You’re crazy to think that you could have deterred Paxton that easily.”

Lara merely stared at him, her head held high, further fueling his temper. 

“What, nothing to say?” he snapped. “Which brings me back to my first question. What in the world are you doing here in this depraved place?” 

Lara continued to watch him with those deep blue eyes, her lips set in a mutinous line. Her lack of response irked him even more. 

“Answer me,” Wolf demanded, his tone sharp.

She met his gaze head on. “We had no inkling this place would be so bad. And nothing untoward has occurred, so stop shouting at me.”

 “Unbelievable,” he growled. “Do you know how bad this place can be for two innocent girls like yourselves? Behind their masks and costumes, the men here have only one thing on their minds when they look at you, and you, as usual, don’t care that you could be completely ruined if discovered, let alone taken advantage of, in this den of vice. You are wild and irresponsible and you give no thought to your actions or the consequences thereof. And you 

brought Anne here? Just because you don’t care about your reputation doesn’t mean you can play fast and loose with hers.”

Lara’s eyes blazed with fury. “Anne is not a child. She is a grown woman who has a mind of her own.” 

“And that is justification for you to come here?” Wolf countered.

“I, too, have a mind of my own,” she shot back. “And I do not appreciate you telling me what I can and cannot do.”

His nostrils flared. He was the Duke of Wolverton, one of the most powerful men in England. No one defied him. And yet this one woman stood against him at every turn. Why couldn’t she understand the potential danger for her or Anne here?

About the Author:
Sapna Bhog is an author from India who writes contemporary and historical romance novels. As a self-proclaimed die-hard romantic, her books are filled with swoon-worthy heroes and feisty heroines who clash all the time, but do get their happy ever after. Sapna has always surrounded herself with books and when she is not writing she is reading. Originally from Dubai, she now lives in Western India with her husband, kids and a Siberian Husky. Sapna gave up a successful IT career and took a foray into writing and has never looked back since. Her favourite pastimes are reading, writing, traveling and shopping—not necessarily in that order. She loves to hear from readers.

Sapna on the Web:

 

Showcase: Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot

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Death Rang The Bell

by Carol Pouliot

October 1-31, 2021 Book Tour

Synopsis:

Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot

21st-century journalist Olivia Watson thinks traveling back in time to 1934 to attend a Halloween party with her friend Detective Steven Blackwell will be a lot of fun. And it is...until she witnesses the head of the Shipley Five-and-Dime empire murdered, and fears the killer saw her face.

The smart move is to return to the safety of the present, but Olivia possesses a secret and is about to defy the unwritten rules of time-travel. She convinces Steven to let her stay in his time and help unravel the motives behind the murder, even if it means risking her own life to save another.

When Steven delves into the investigation, he discovers how a bitter relationship, a chance encounter, and a fateful decision converged to set the stage for murder. In a maze full of unreliable clues and misdirection, dark secrets refuse to stay buried and forgotten ghosts won’t fade away. Steven is reminded that old sins cast long shadows.

Can Steven catch the killer before time runs out for Olivia?


Praise for Death Rang the Bell:

"This highly inventive series serves up a real treat--a perfect combination of mystery, time travel, and romance."
~~ Deborah Crombie, New York Times Bestselling author of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels

"Pouliot has the period details mastered, adding realism and depth to this wholly satisfying read."
~~ Marni Graff, author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries

"With engaging characters, a murder mystery, and a trip back in time, Carol Pouliot’s Death Rang the Bell will keep you turning the pages all night!"
~~ Nancy Allen, New York Times Bestselling Author

"A Halloween setting, a house where time folds back on itself, and a crime with deep roots in the past make Carol Pouliot’s Death Rang the Bell a joy for fans of crisp writing and twisty, character-driven plots."
~~ Connie Berry, Agatha-nominated author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries

"A delightfully immersive story, filled with surprising twists and turns, a touch of romance -- plus a heroine you will happily follow as she jumps between decades, Death Rang the Bell is a truly great escape."
~~ Alison Gaylin, USA Today and international bestselling author

"This intriguing and beautifully written series will draw you in and make you feel right at home in a time period you’ll wish you could visit."
~~ Grace Topping, USA Today bestselling author of the Laura Bishop Mystery Series.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery (Traditional Police Procedural with a Time-Travel Twist)
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Number of Pages: 311
ISBN: 978-1-68512-000-9
Series: The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, #3 || Each is a Stand-Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | BN.com | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

NOVEMBER 1916 − SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

Chapter 1

Hot coffee spilled over the rim and burned her hand. Lillian wanted to cry. At nine in the morning, she’d been on her feet since six and had seven long hours to go. She didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to keep it up. She was constantly exhausted and the struggle to breathe was worsening; some days it was nearly unbearable. She knew the disease was going to overpower her, and that moment was coming soon.

Lillian slid around some tables and set a heaping plate of eggs and bacon, potatoes, and toast in front of Arnie McCormack, then topped off his cup from the pot in her other hand. McCormack lowered his newspaper and leered, pinching her behind as she stepped away. Rude bastard. She’d like to pour the scalding coffee over his head and dump his breakfast right in his lap.

The only thing that kept her going every day was the thought of her beautiful little boy. Well, not so little anymore. He was growing up fast, nine years old in January. She managed a smile and wiped away a tear before it became a flood. Best not to think too much about things. Especially money. Lillian knew if she didn’t get the money somehow, she’d never see her son grow into a man.

And what about her letter? It had been four weeks since she’d mailed it. Surely he should have written back by now. She hadn’t been unreasonable, hadn’t asked for much, only enough to pay for treatment at the Little Red Cottage in Saranac Lake.

Dr. Trudeau’s Little Red Cottage. It sounded like heaven. Lillian had heard wonderful things about people being cured there. Imagine, cured! The thought made her dizzy.

Lillian returned to the lunch counter, using the backs of chairs for support. When she arrived at the griddle, she was breathing hard.

Tomorrow, she thought, if I don’t get an answer tomorrow, I’ll send another letter.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1934

Chapter 2

The Three Witches of Macbeth were doing a swell job. Annie, Molly, and Lilly led the parade of pirates, sailors, and fairy princesses through Knightsbridge, picking up ghosts, goblins, and a mummy along the way. Crowds of families followed the costumed children down Victoria Avenue to the entrance of The Elks Club, where, from the top of the staircase, The Three Witches hissed, “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble.”

Molly cried out, “Beware, all ye who enter here.” Then she thumped a tall gnarled staff on the stone step, and Annie and Lilly grasped the thick iron rings with both hands and heaved. As the massive oak doors creaked open, the masquerading children flew up the stairs and into the community room, awash with the scents of apples and cinnamon.

Carved pumpkins flickered in the semi-darkened room, revealing white cobweb-filled corners and big black spiders and bats hanging so low that adults had to duck. Seeing colorful bags piled on black-draped tables, one little boy jumped up and down, clapping his hands in glee. A girl grabbed her friend’s hand, and they did a little dance, and three teenagers slapped each other on the back. A Halloween treat awaited each of them. Eager to explore, the kids fanned out.

“Ooh! I feel like I’m ten again,” said Olivia, shaking the black-and-orange tin noise maker. “Why didn’t we wear costumes?”

Steven gave her a look. “What if I had to rush out for an emergency?” he asked.

“You could’ve dressed like a cop.” She smirked.

“Hi, Steven.” Decked out in an eye patch and pirate gear, Jimmy Bourgogne appeared from behind Olivia, swept off his hat, and gave a courtly bow, bending low to the floor. “Miss Watson.”

“Jimmy, you look fantastic,” exclaimed Olivia. “I didn’t recognize you with that mustache and goatee.”

“Congratulations, Jimmy. You fellas did a swell job,” Steven said.

“Thanks, but the credit really goes to Leon here.”

A slender young man with light brown hair joined them. He sported a plaid shirt with a tin sheriff’s badge pinned over his heart, red kerchief around his neck, and holster holding a toy gun attached to a leather belt.

“Hi, Leon.” Steven extended his hand. “This is my friend Olivia Watson. Olivia, Leon Quigg is my mailman.”

“Nice to meet you, Miss Watson.” Leon said, nodding as he doffed his cowboy hat.

“I’m glad to meet you, too. This is a wonderful party.”

Jean Bigelow sidled up to Olivia, yelling amidst the racket. “You made it!”

“Jean! Isn’t this swell?” Olivia chuckled to herself. Liz and Sophie would crack up hearing her talk like a real 1934 person.

After several months, acting like she belonged here had become second nature, but Olivia Watson didn’t belong here. She lived in 2014 and only visited 1934 from time to time.

This week Olivia was spending several days in Steven’s time. No passport, no suitcase, no plane ticket required. All it took was a simple step across the threshold of her bedroom door into Steven’s Depression-era house−simple but the key to her recently discovered ability to time travel.

“What are you reading tonight?” Olivia asked the librarian.

“Edgar Allan Poe. ‘The Cask of Amontillado.’”

“That’s the one where the guy gets walled up, isn’t it?”

Jean nodded. “I’ve been practicing creepy voices for days.”

“Well, you look the part. I love your cape, very 19th-century.” Olivia touched a fold of Jean’s costume. “Ooh, velvet. I wish I’d worn that.”

The organizers had packed the evening full of entertainment. Steven and Olivia watched a magician pull pennies out of children’s ears and a rabbit out of his top hat, and wondered how he made the mayor’s watch disappear. The kids bobbed for apples, the water sloshing out of the metal washtub soaking the floor. The younger children played Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey and Drop-the-Handkerchief, while the older ones played charades and told ghost stories.

At seven thirty, the kids crowded along the row of tables where members of the Elks handed out treats. Noses in their black-and-orange bags exploring the treasures within, they moved to the far end to select their favorite soda, handing the tall glass bottles of Hires Root Beer, Orange Crush, and Coca-Cola to Jimmy Bou and Leon Quigg, who were armed with metal bottle openers.

The evening culminated with story telling. The village librarian led the young children into a side room, spooky picture books in hand. The older ones gathered behind the curtain on the shadow-filled stage where Jean Bigelow waited in flickering candlelight. When they’d settled in a circle on the floor, Olivia among them, the librarian cleared her throat and began.

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge....”

***

Excerpt from Death Rang the Bell by Carol Pouliot. Copyright 2021 by Carol Pouliot. Reproduced with permission from Carol Pouliot. All rights reserved.

  

Author Bio:

Carol Pouliot

Carol Pouliot holds a BA in French and Spanish and an MA in French. She has taught French, Spanish, German, and English. She owned and operated a translating agency for 20 years. Her work has been published in Victoria magazine.

Carol is the author of The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, which includes Doorway to Murder (book 1), Threshold of Deceit (book 2), and Death Rang the Bell (book 3).

Carol is passionate about the world and other cultures. She has visited 5 continents thus far and always has her passport and suitcase at the ready.


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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carol Pouliot. There will be Four (4) winners for this tour. Two (2) winners will each receive a $15 Amazon.com gift card; Two (2) winners will each receive 1 print edition of Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot (US Only). The giveaway begins on October 1 and ends November 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Showcase: The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power

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The Ghosts of Thorwald Place

by Helen Power

October 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power
Trust No One. Especially your neighbors.

Rachel Drake is on the run from the man who killed her husband. She never leaves her safe haven in an anonymous doorman building, until one night a phone call sends her running. On her way to the garage, she is murdered in the elevator. But her story doesn't end there.

She finds herself in the afterlife, tethered to her death spot, her reach tied to the adjacent apartments. As she rides the elevator up and down, the lives of the residents intertwine. Every one of them has a dark secret. An aging trophy wife whose husband strays. A surgeon guarding a locked room. A TV medium who may be a fraud. An ordinary man with a mysterious hobby.

Compelled to spend eternity observing her neighbors, she realizes that any one of them could be her killer.

And then, her best friend shows up to investigate her murder.


Praise for The Ghosts of Thorwald Place:

“[An] enticing debut . . . Distinctive characters complement the original plot. Power is off to a promising start.” —Publishers Weekly

“A creative, compulsively readable mystery—haunted by strange entities and told from the unique perspective of a ghost. I couldn’t put it down.” —Jo Kaplan, author of It Will Just Be Us

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller/Supernatural
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: October 5th 2021
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0744301432 (ISBN13: 9780744301434)

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 3

It takes forever for someone to find my body. At six, the elevator is called to the fourth floor, and an early riser greets the sight of my body with a shrill scream. He stumbles backward, clutching his briefcase to his chest. I get the impression that he’s never discovered a grisly crime scene before. I, on the other hand, am enveloped in the cool indifference that seems to accompany death.

He staggers back to his apartment, shrieking hysterically all the way. Several of his neighbors rush out into the hall. Each person is in various stages of undress. A pregnant woman wearing a silk bathrobe and only one slipper. A man whose face is coated in shaving cream, save for a single bare strip down his left cheek. The look of horror on their faces would have been amusing if I were in the mood for dark humor. The elevator doors slide shut, and I am launched to another floor, where I startle another early commuter. The elevator doors close on the stunned woman’s face, lurching toward its next stop. I’m destined for repetition. Perhaps this is hell.

The police finally arrive, call the elevator to the ground floor, and put it out of service. I have now informally met a quarter of the building’s occupants, which is more than I met in the two years I lived here. A handful of police officers form a perimeter, trying to block the sight of my corpse from the prying eyes of my nosey neighbors. I hover by the elevator door as forensic investigators get to work examining my corpse. I try not to watch—disgusted by the sight of my limp body, which is coated in blood that has begun to cake—but the process is mesmerizing. The flash of cameras, the murmur of voices, and the hypnotic movement of pencils as they scribble in pristine, white notebooks. The forensic experts step gingerly around the scene, careful not to disturb anything, as they scrutinize my body from all angles. As they work, I can’t stop staring at my face. My eyes are still open and glazed over with a milky white sheen. My skin is nearly white, a shocking contrast to the deep crimson gash across my neck. My lips are parted in a soundless scream. A forensic investigator in a white bodysuit steps in front of me, cutting off my view. Relief floods through me, and I turn away before the sight of my own corpse enthralls me once again. I know I gained consciousness only minutes after my death, because blood was still dripping where the arterial spray arched across the walls, looking as if an artist had decided to add a splash of color to the monochromatic gray. I was reluctant to leave my body, but I had no idea what else to do. I had no moment of shock, no moment of revelation where I realized I was dead. I knew it from the instant I opened my eyes and saw the world from the other side. A world which looks different in death. Everything is a little grayer, a little faded. Voices and sounds have a slight echo. It’s as though I’m experiencing everything through a thin film—some indescribable substance that separates the world of the living from mine.

But why am I still here? My body has been found; the police are clearly investigating. It won’t take long for them to figure out it was he who killed me. I leave the elevator and glance around the lobby. I don’t see any obvious doorways or bright lights to follow. How will I know where to go? I bite back the pang of disappointment when I realize that none of my lost loved ones are here to welcome me. No husband. No parents. No Grumpelstiltskin, my childhood dog. Where are they, and how do I find my way to them?

I’m self-aware enough to know that I’ve always feared the unknown, and it’s obvious that this hasn’t changed in death. Instead of searching for my escape, I stay locked in place, eyes glued to the crime scene investigators. After what feels like an eternity, the medical examiner deposits my body into a black bag and wheels it out of the building. I begin to follow. Maybe if I slip back into my body, I’ll awaken, and everyone will laugh, like this was all just one big misunderstanding.

I’ll spend the rest of my days wearing a scarf, elegantly positioned to hide my gaping neck wound, like the girl in that urban legend.

I slam into an invisible wall about a dozen feet from the elevator. Slightly disoriented, I shake my head. I press forward.

Again, I’m stopped by an imperceptible force. I reach out, and my hand flattens midair. I run my hand along this invisible barrier, but it seems to run as high as I can reach and down to the marble floor.

I follow the barrier, tracing my hand along it. It cuts across the entire lobby, but not in a straight line. It’s slightly curved. Beyond the wall, I can see the medical examiner exit the building with my body, leaving my soul behind. I slam a hand against the invisible wall once again, but there’s no give.

My attention is drawn by the sound of a familiar grating voice. Elias Strickland, the concierge, is speaking with a police officer who looks like he’s desperate to leave. The invisible wall can wait. I approach the pair to eavesdrop.

“We have excellent security here,” Elias says. His perpetually nasal voice is exacerbated by the tears that stream down his face. “How could this have happened? My residents will want an explanation immediately.”

“We have someone reviewing the security footage of the exits. If the killer left the building, we’ll have them on film,” the police officer says.

If they left the building? Are you saying they might still be here?” Elias tugs at his cheap tie.

The killer might still be in the building. I look around and notice for the first time that the residents aren’t allowed to simply leave. Police officers guard the front door, questioning each individual before they allow them to go to work or to the spa or to do whatever they think is more important than mourning my death.

“What can you tell me about the victim? Ms. Rachel Anne Drake?” the police officer asks.

“Well . . .” Elias runs a hand through his thinning, brown hair. “She is—was—an odd one. She rarely spoke to anyone. She kept to herself. I think I was her only friend in the building.”

I stare at him, just now realizing that the tears streaming down his face are for me. I feel a pang of guilt. I’ve never considered us “friends.” I interact with him once every few weeks—only when I have mail to pick up or complaints about the security guards.

Elias continues, “She even had her groceries delivered. I haven’t seen her leave the building in months.”

The police officer suddenly looks interested. He pulls a small, wire-bound notebook from his pocket and uncaps his pen.

“Do you think it’s possible that she may have been hiding from someone?”

“Possibly . . . She was always really interested in the security in the building. Like that was the main reason why she moved here, not the fabulous party room or the services I provide as concierge.” I wince in pity as he says the word with a dreadful French accent. He should have picked a line of work that he could pronounce.

“Did she have any visitors?”

“There was a man who used to come around, but I haven’t seen him in a few months,” Elias says. At the police officer’s prompting, he continues on to describe him. I realize he’s talking about Luke.

The police officer asks a few follow-up questions, and I’m surprised by just how much Elias knows. He knows the date and time of my weekly grocery deliveries, that once every couple of weeks I’ll treat myself to pizza delivered from the greasy place down the street, and that I get a haul of books delivered every time BMV Books has a sale.

“Well, if you think of anything else, please contact us immediately.” I peer over the police officer’s shoulder to look at the scribbles in his notebook, but he’s used a shorthand that I can’t decipher.

A nearly identical police officer emerges from the security office holding a flash drive. He glances at the concierge, then turns to his partner and begins speaking rapid French.

“The video doesn’t show anybody leaving the building between one and two this morning. But apparently, there was a power outage for about five minutes, and the killer could have left during that window.”

“No! That power outage happened before I died. The power came back, and then he killed me.” I blink and glance around. I hadn’t thought I’d be able to speak.

It makes no difference. Neither police officer reacts to the sound of my voice. I look at Elias, but he’s watching the officers intently. I turn my attention to the rest of the people milling about, but none of them seem to have heard me either. But I’m not yet discouraged.

I approach the pot-bellied man standing the closest to the crime scene tape. He cranes his neck to see into the elevator.

“THERE’S NOTHING TO SEE HERE!” I shout into his face. He doesn’t react. I try to shake him, but my hands fall through his fleshy body. I feel nothing—no chill, no warmth—as I slide my hands through him. I examine his face, but it’s clear that he doesn’t sense me in the slightest.

I strategically progress through the lobby, shouting at each bystander, attempting to reach them through any means.

I try everything I can remember having seen in movies about ghosts—from waving my hands through their heads to shouting obscenities in their ears. No one reacts. No one so much as shivers.

I’m angry, disappointed, and beginning to feel helpless. I brace myself, preparing to do my calming breathing technique, but there are no symptoms of a panic attack. My body is overcome by the numbness of being incorporeal. I could get used to this. I suppose I’ll have to.

I glance around, noticing that the police officers have long gone, and they’ve been replaced by a cleaning crew of four burly men who are crammed into the elevator. They’ve already bleached the walls in an attempt to remove all trace of my messy execution. The lobby is nearly empty now. Only Elias stands at his station, compulsively wringing his hands in between fielding calls from curious residents and the media.

I survey the expansive, high-ceilinged lobby. Unlike the rest of the building, it was designed with the sole purpose of impressing visitors. The floors are marble, polished to near perfection. The wallpaper is a pale blue with gold foil accents in the shape of falling leaves. A hefty, ornate clock is the only decoration on the stretch of the wall across from the front desk. There are two wing chairs and a sofa positioned underneath it. It serves as a sort of waiting area, though in my two years living in this building, I’ve never seen a single person sitting out here.

I can only access half of the lobby, so I need to find a way around this invisible barrier. I approach the elevator and look down the hall to the right. I tentatively step through the wall. I’m in the guest suite that’s reserved for visitors of building residents. The bed is neatly made, with the corners of the bedspread tucked tightly. There’s a lounge area sparsely decorated with cool tones. A gray, leather couch is angled toward an impressively-sized TV.

The room is windowless, but a single painting of a blue sky over a grassy field hangs on the wall opposite the door, creating the illusion of something beyond.

I stride across the plain gray rug and easily pass through this wall as well. I’m in the ground-level parking garage, which is located below the building. I continue to walk until I slam against the barrier. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s disorienting.

I place my hand on the barrier and follow it around until I reach the wall twenty feet from where I entered. The barrier is clearly circular. Is it meant to keep me contained? I shake my head at that thought, then I continue to follow the barrier through the wall, out of the garage, and into the library.

With gorgeous oak-paneled walls and towering bookshelves, the building’s library is quite a sight to behold. The leather couches look comfortable, with antique copper lamps strategically positioned between them. I’ve been down here several times over the last two years, but I never dawdle. I usually grab a handful of books and hurry back upstairs to the safety of my apartment, where I can actually relax and enjoy my reading.

I walk through the room divider into the “party” area. The dim overhead lights reveal a bar in the corner, which is framed by tall mirrors, making the room seem larger than it actually is. I scan the rest of the room. Circular tables are set up around a polished dance floor. I quickly hit another barrier only a few feet into the room.

I follow this barrier, clockwise, until I’ve made an entire lap of the enclosure. I was right. It is a circle. There are no breaks or gaps in the wall; nothing I can slip through to escape. What is this barrier? Who put it here? I have so many questions and no one to answer them.

Back in the lobby, the cleaning crew has finished their sterilization of the elevator. A starchy-looking woman stands in Elias’ face, complaining loudly about the inconvenience of having only one operating elevator. I’m glad that my death is nothing more than a disruption to her “busy” life. Shouldn’t she be disturbed that a brutal murder occurred hours ago in that very elevator? That the killer hasn’t even been caught? Hell, she should be worried that it’s haunted.

She spins on her heel and leaves a bedraggled Elias in her wake. She scowls at the cleaners, who are gathering their supplies and politely averting their eyes from her shrewd gaze. She presses the elevator button and boards the other one, which was already idling on this floor. She didn’t even have to wait five seconds. I’d love to see what a convenient elevator experience is like for her.

After she’s left, Elias tips the cleaners and reactivates the elevator. The doors slide shut, as if sealing my fate.

A man in snug jogging shorts strolls into the building, salutes Elias, and heads to the elevators. Elias nods and returns to his station. I decide to head over toward him to see what exactly he keeps behind the desk. It lies just beyond the invisible wall, so I might be able to see what he always stares at so intently on his computer.

Just as I reach the edge of the invisible barrier, a powerful sensation of vertigo overcomes me. My skin begins to crawl. I stare down at my arms in astonishment. My entire body is vaporizing, shredding into a million pieces, wisps of flesh fading into the world around me. I squeeze my eyes shut tightly, willing the end to come quickly.

***

Excerpt from The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power. Copyright 2021 by Helen Power. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Helen Power

Helen Power is obsessed with ghosts. She spends her free time watching paranormal investigation TV shows, hanging out in cemeteries, and telling anyone who’ll listen about her paranormal experiences. She is a librarian living in Saskatoon, Canada, and has several short story publications, including ones in Suspense Magazine and Dark Helix Press’s Canada 150 anthology, “Futuristic Canada”. The Ghosts of Thorwald Place is her first novel.




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Monday, October 4, 2021

Showcase: The Thief Catcher by Jonette Blake

The Thief Catcher by Jonette Blake Banner

The Thief Catcher

by Jonette Blake

October 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Thief Catcher by Jonette Blake

A holiday in this tropical resort could be her last.

Delia Frost is ready to quit her job and take a holiday. But she wants a relaxing holiday, not the one her husband dreams of; traveling in a motorhome. Sending airfare money to her two children who are holidaying abroad so they can all meet up for this family holiday, she packs her and her husband’s bags for seven glorious days in a tropical island resort.

But even thieves need to take a holiday, and once more Delia finds herself caught in a web of thievery and murder. And this time it is not only her life in danger, it is the lives of her children.

Can she catch this murderous thief before it's too late?

 

 

Book Details:

Genre: Murder Mystery
Published by: Self-Published
Publication Date: August 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: 978-1922694003
Series: A Delia Frost Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Room 101

ONE DAY AGO

A door slammed, startling the cleaner who had left the balcony door open to air out the smell of bleach. The wind liked to whip across the ocean straight into the rooms on this side of the resort. Josephine pulled the glass door closed, slipped a mask over her face to block out the acrid stench of cleaning products, and popped her headphones onto her head.

Cleaning the hotel rooms with headphones was against hotel policy. It was written on the board in the staff room: PLEASE DON’T WEAR HEADPHONES WHILE CLEANING THE ROOMS. It had something to do with a cleaner once surprising a male guest who had left a sign on the door handle to make up the room, but had forgotten something and returned. The cleaner, a young woman from the Pacific Islands named Roxy, had not heard him return. The way Josephine had heard the story; Roxy claimed the guest had groped her, and the guest claimed he’d busted Roxy rummaging through his suitcase. Roxy had a habit of stealing items, so Josephine had believed the guest’s story. But Roxy was also stunningly beautiful, and often international guests would offer her money to come live with them, so Josephine had also believed Roxy’s story. Both were probably right.

Bottom line: the cleaners always got blamed.

Deep in her thoughts, Josephine hadn’t heard the door to the bathroom open. And she hadn’t heard someone creeping across the tiled floor. But the song on her music list ended and she heard a noise coming from within the closet.

This room was empty. Guests weren’t due to arrive until tomorrow.

Glancing at the balcony door, she saw it was closed.

Her mother believed in ghosts. Josephine did not.

She switched off the music. There. Something was inside the closet.

Probably a possum, she thought. Or a stupid bird. The resort was swarming with wild animals that liked to break into rooms and steal food or other items. Once, a magpie had flown in and stolen a woman’s bikini and used it in its nest.

Josephine crept towards the closet door. She was deathly afraid of animals. But she had to get it out of the room before it caused the worst kind of mess to clean.

Halfway across the room, the closet door opened.

Someone stepped out.

They wore a white billowing top and pants and a large straw hat, as if they were a ghost, and her breath caught in her throat. She slipped off her mask, suddenly unable to breathe.

“You can’t be in here,” Josephine said. “This room isn’t supposed to be occupied till tomorrow. How did you get in?”

The intruder held up a hand and pointed a finger at the balcony door. This room was on the second floor. The intruder would have to have climbed thin air to get inside.

She still couldn’t see the intruder’s face: the hat was pulled down low. They were a small build, nothing discernible, and she was too startled to pull her gaze away to check for features that might tell her more about this person’s identity and intention.

It could have been a man beneath the loose-fitting clothes, but it could also have been a woman. And until she saw the face, she had no idea if they were young or old.

“I have to call the manager,” Josephine said.

The intruder’s finger wiggled in the universal sign of ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you’.

Suddenly loud music blasted out of the small stereo – each room had a DVD player, a TV, a small stereo, and a selection of CDs. This was loud, noisy, angry music.

Josephine’s insides chilled. This was just how Roxy had described her attack.

At last the intruder lifted their head. She stared into a set of dark eyes that brimmed with anger.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, shouting to be heard.

The intruder stood there, blocking her exit through the front door. The balcony door wasn’t an option because it was a sheer drop to the pool area below.

“Okay,” Josephine said. “You can leave now. I won’t report you. I can keep my mouth shut. You ask my cousin if I’ve told anyone about the money she stole from her in-laws’ restaurant.”

Angry, dark eyes stared back at her.

“Okay. I’ll leave and you stay.”

Josephine took a step toward the door.

The intruder took a step forward.

She quickly backed up.

A knife appeared in the intruder’s hand.

Her weapon of defence was a spray bottle containing bleach, which she threw at the intruder before spinning to bolt for the balcony door.

She felt a hand grab her long hair, which hotel rules stated had to be tied back, only now her ponytail was being used like a rope to drag her into the room.

She started kicking and screaming. Realised that nobody would hear her screams over the music, but she screamed anyway.

A hand landed on her mouth.

She bit it.

She bit harder, so hard that she was flung across the room. She scrambled up, hissing like a cat, curling her fingers into claws, her long nails now her only defence.

The glint of the steel knife stopped her. And then the intruder surprised her by tossing the knife onto the lounge.

Her gaze was fixated on the knife as it swung through the air, and she followed its trajectory to the lounge. Her reflexes sprung into action. She lunged for the knife, but the intruder lunged at her, barrelling into her and knocking her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her.

“What’s the combination to the safe?” a gruff voice asked.

“I. Don’t. Know.”

“Liar.”

“I…”

The hands around her throat were squeezing tight.

“Tell me.”

“I...”

Tears coursed down her cheeks, blinding her.

Play dead, her brain commanded.

And so she did. She let her body go limp, her mind go free, and she closed her eyes and took herself to a quiet place, a special place, one reserved for moments of enlightenment.

And then the tight feeling around her throat was gone.

She lay there, too afraid to move, and equally afraid not to leap up and run for her life.

And the music stopped.

In the distance, she heard seagulls squawking. A warm breeze blew into the room. Laughter billowed up from the pool. The balcony door must have been open for her to hear the sounds of activity down below.

How long should I lie here, she wondered? Five minutes. Ten? An hour?

She finally opened her eyes.

And realised that she couldn’t move. Her body was numb. Her mouth wouldn’t open. None of her limbs worked.

And then loud music blasted again.

Chapter 2

SUNDAY

Twilight reflected on the water like millions of fireflies, casting a shimmery haze to reflect off the surface. The white hulls of the luxurious cruisers in the harbour captured the remaining afternoon sun. Smaller boats bobbed gently up and down. Seagulls flew overhead. Pelicans settled to roost on the streetlights. A gentle breeze blew in as if it also sought a place to settle for the night.

A perfect balmy evening. Just the way I liked it. Not too hot. Not too cold. Moments like this were called Goldilocks moments, where everything was ‘not too this’ or ‘not too that’. I stood motionless, gazing out across the marina, soaking up the perfect moment, wishing for a glass of champagne to toast this magnificent sight. I could see why this placed was called Majestic Island.

I tore my gaze away from the marina and pulled it toward the mainland, eight kilometres away and yet still visible from the island. At least for another few hours until night closed its curtains. A moving light on the water’s surface caught my eye. It belonged to a small dinghy. The white anchor light moved up and down, as if it was drifting along the current. Darkness had not yet fallen so I could see that the dinghy was without its master.

“What are you looking at, Mrs Frost?”

I flinched. Richard had startled me. And why was my husband suddenly referring to me as Mrs? He knew I hated the reference, it made me feel old. Worse, it made me feel like his mother, who insisted on everyone calling her Mrs Frost. I liked his mother, and she liked me, but I wasn’t interested in becoming her.

His lips lifted in a smile; he was teasing me.

“Just watching the harbour, Old Man,” I replied, using the term he disliked the most. His silvery hair was the only indication that he was almost fifty-five, but his hair had been silver for so long, strangers had difficulty guessing his age.

He stopped beside me and joined me in gazing out over the bay. “Gorgeous view.”

“Yes, but that boat is floating in the water without a master.” I pointed a finger; it took Richard a few seconds to locate the slow-moving anchor light.

“Are you sure it’s adrift?”

“I’ve been watching it for a while. It’s moved with the current, but there isn’t anyone on board. It’s out there, floating aimlessly, alone, lost.”

“Delia, you make it sound like it’s in the depths of despair.”

“It could be dangerous when the ferry arrives.”

“You’re right. I’ll tell the restaurant manager about the boat. He can call the marina manager to check it out.”

The ferry had dropped us on Majestic Island an hour ago. I’d hardly had time to unpack: Richard had made dinner reservations at the marina restaurant. We’d been on our way there when Richard had told me to wait while he went on ahead to check on our booking. I hadn’t questioned his reasoning: this might have led to a long discussion about something I was too tired from the ten-hour drive today to feign interest in. So I’d let him go on ahead while I stopped to soak up the sunset.

“Our table is ready,” Richard said. “We can go in now.”

I nodded, too distracted to give him my full attention. The dinghy was keeping me mesmerised. To wish to be in that boat as it floated out to sea was an irrational desire to escape, and yet I couldn’t stop the idea from settling in.

At last, I pulled my attention away from the boat and headed inside the restaurant, a place named The Shack, with wooden walls and floors, and marina paraphernalia strung about. Fishing nets hung from the ceiling. A large aquarium with colourful fish inside sat behind the main desk. There was a large metal artwork with the four cardinal directions hanging behind the bar. A massive blue marlin fish was mounted to a wooden beam.

The waiter smiled at me and held out his arm like he was directing traffic. I’d lost sight of Richard, so I had no idea where our table was located.

“Where are we sitting?” I asked the waiter.

He turned and headed for the table against the window.

I caught a glimpse of myself in a porthole-shaped mirror: white Capri pants with a red and black off-the-shoulder top. I could take no credit for the top – it had belonged to my twenty-two-year-old daughter Georgia, and I’d inherited it after she’d left for her overseas trip. I hadn’t had the chance to wear it until now; summer wouldn’t reach our hometown of Batemans Cove for another few months. My suitcase was filled with whatever of my daughter’s tops and summer shoes were suitable for a fifty-three-year-old woman, and whatever I could fit into.

The waiter stopped at the table.

Richard sat on the left, and there were two other people seated around the table.

“Mum.” Georgia leapt up, hugged me and planted a kiss on my cheek. I noticed that she’d cut her dark hair so that it fell in curls just below her shoulders. Her skin was golden brown, that I almost hadn’t recognised her.

My son stood up next. Tristan was two years older than Georgia. I had last seen him a few months ago, and yet I was taken aback at how much he’d changed. He had a neatly-trimmed beard and he seemed to have grown another two inches taller. I had to stand on my toes to accept his kiss on the cheek.

“What are you doing here?” I said to them both. “You weren’t supposed to be arriving until tomorrow.”

Georgia grinned. “Dad wanted to surprise you. Surprise.”

I spun to find Richard grinning like a man with the winning lottery ticket.

“If I’d known you were coming,” I said feigning annoyance, “I’d have had my hair done and worn make up.”

Georgia laughed. “Oh, mum you look great. Hey, isn’t that my top?”

I grabbed them both and pulled them close. They were my rocks and I felt anchored by their presence. All thoughts of drifting out to sea were instantly forgotten.

The waiter arrived, his presence breaking apart our huddle. Standing beside him was a gorgeous woman with long dark hair, dark eyes, and a pale yet not sickly complexion. She wore an off-the-shoulder yellow top and a denim skirt. I suddenly wondered if we had been seated at her table and the waiter was here to move us.

Tristan brushed past me to stand beside the woman. “Mum. I’d like to introduce you to Mary Ramirez. She’s my fiancé.”

My hand reached for the back of the chair for support. Three months ago, Richard had suffered a heart attack. I finally knew how it felt to have one’s heart just stop.

“Way to go, big brother,” Georgia said, hugging Tristan tightly then throwing her arms around Mary.

“Congratulations,” I said, finding my voice. “This is a bit of a shock. A nice shock, but still a shock.”

“I’m sorry to spring this on you,” Tristan said with an apologetic smile. “But there’s no easy way to announce something like this.”

I supposed there wasn’t.

“Tristan stressed about how to tell you on the plane ride over,” Mary said. Even her voice was gorgeous, throaty and melodic.

She flashed her finger at me; it was as if a star had exploded and one bright shard had fallen to earth and landed on her finger. How could Tristan have afforded such a ring?

While Georgia gushed over the diamond, I sought out Richard’s hand. From the corner of my mouth, I said, “Did you know about this?”

“As if I’d keep something this big a secret from you,” he stage-whispered back.

It was my turn to admire the ring. All those years of wondering if my son would find true love drifted away.

I glanced up to see that Mary was staring at something happening in another part of the restaurant. She finally turned back to face us; her smile seemed forced.

“I thought you were in Africa on holidays,” I said to Tristan.

He grinned. “I was on holidays. That’s where I met Mary.”

“Let’s all sit down,” Richard said. He turned to the waiter. “We’d like a bottle of sparkling wine please.”

“Make it two bottles,” I said.

My nerves were in overdrive. I could literally have drained one of them on my own.

The waiter nodded and left. He returned with two bottles of sparkling wine and two buckets with ice, fussing over opening the first bottle, making so much noise with the ice bucket it was like listening to a cat at a litter box. I grabbed the other bottle and handed it to Richard to open.

I felt Tristan’s gaze on me.

“Aren’t you happy for me?” he asked.

“Of course I’m happy. I’m just a little shocked.”

“It’s still a bit of a shock to me too. I mean, who’d have thought I’d ever land a woman like Mary.”

He began to move his cutlery around on the table. That was when I suspected that Tristan was nervous about something.

Georgia blurted out what had been on my mind a few minutes ago. “So did you pay for the ring or did Mary?”

“That doesn’t matter,” he said.

Georgia address Mary next. “Well, if you take it off to go swimming, my advice is to leave it in the hotel main safe. The safes in the rooms are like toys. They’re too easy to break into.”

Chapter 3

Georgia nudged me. “What are you having to eat?”

We were both hiding behind our menus to whisper between ourselves. It used to infuriate Richard and Tristan that we’d deliberate over the menu items with the precision of generals heading to war. What if you ordered ‘this’ and I ordered ‘that’ and then we shared? What else have you eaten today? What if we shared ‘this’ or ‘that’ meal and then each got a dessert? What dessert would we order? What if you ordered ‘this’ dessert and I ordered ‘that’ dessert and then we each got a taste? Should we have the creamy dessert knowing we are having the creamy main meal? Perhaps we should rethink our main meal selections? All the while deflecting the looks of exasperation from Richard and Tristan because they knew what meals they were having, because for them it could only ever be the most calorie-laden foods on offer.

But I wasn’t studying the menu. I was clutching it like a lifeline, using it as a shield, and as a means to study Mary. I had known that Tristan was bringing his girlfriend with him on this holiday – I had learned that he was serious about a girl, via my sister Madison, so I’d insisted that Tristan’s new girlfriend accompany him on this trip. If they were serious, I wanted to meet her. I hadn’t expected her to turn up waving an engagement ring around.

Though, I ought not to have been surprised. This was Tristan, the boy who fell in love with whoever smiled at him.

Lowering my menu, I snuck a glance in Georgia’s direction, and she wasn’t the slightest bit subtle about studying Tristan’s fiancé.

Tristan swatted her with his napkin. “Cut it out.”

“I’m not doing anything.” Georgia was unable to keep the grin off her face. “So are you two having an engagement party?”

Tristan’s gaze flickered to Mary who was placing her napkin in her lap. She looked up and gave Tristan a polite smile.

“It all happened rather quickly,” Tristan stammered. “We haven’t thought about it yet.”

“How did it happen, exactly?” Georgia sat with her arms folded over themselves, leaning in close. With one hand she lazily grabbed for the wine glass and took a sip. “I want all the details. How did you two meet?”

Tristan shot her a cautionary look. “We met at work.”

“I thought you weren’t working. That was the last email I received from you. ‘Still haven’t found a job’. I wondered how you were paying for your travels. Unless mum and dad loaned you money.”

Richard scowled. “We didn’t loan him money.”

“You got an email?” I asked, feeling left out.

Georgia flicked her curly hair. “So, big brother, how can you afford such a lovely ring? Can I look at it again? It’s so big and shiny, it’s like it needs planets orbiting it.”

She didn’t wait for Mary to offer her finger. Georgia grabbed Mary’s hand and stroked the ring.

There were times when my daughter’s boldness could grate my nerves as thinly as dust, and then there were moments like this when her boldness was inspiring. The ring must have cost thousands of dollars. Tristan didn’t have thousands of dollars.

At last, Georgia let go of Mary’s hand. Mary returned to calmly sitting at the table, as if she had trained for this inquisition. Precisely what had Tristan told her about our family?

I topped up my glass. “How about we go around the table and catch up on what we’ve been up to. Who wants to start?”

“Well, Tristan’s already caught everyone up,” Georgia said. “So it must be my turn. I’ve been having a ball in Europe.” She took the bottle off me and topped up her glass. “It’s amazing how cheaply you can travel if the right people tell you where the non-touristy places are. I’ve tasted so much new food. I’ve picked grapes at vineyards and berries at orchards.” She set down the bottle and took a drink from her glass. “Not bad. I stayed at a villa in France recently where I learned to distinguish good wine from bad. This is not bad.”

“I thought you were in Finland,” I said.

“I’ve been all over Europe. You can get to most places by train. Or you can hitch a ride.”

“Who are you running away from this time?” Tristan said, giving her a wry smile.

Mary sat up. “Why would she run away?”

Tristan shrugged. “The moment a guy gets interested in my sister, she’s suddenly not interested in him.”

Richard tossed his napkin onto the empty plate. “Georgia, you will not hitch rides in foreign countries. We’ve taught you better than that.” He turned to me. “Haven’t we? We’ve told her not to hitch rides.”

“Of course we’ve told her not to.”

Georgia was giggling. “Relax, Dad. I was joking. Just waiting to see how long before you got all fired up.”

“You are so immature,” Tristan said. “And you should know better than to rile Dad up in his condition.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Richard snapped.

Tristan spoke to Mary: “Dad had a heart attack a few months ago.”

“A mild heart attack.” Richard leaned in close to Mary. “I’m as fit as I was when I was twenty-four.”

Good lord, was he flirting with her?

“He’s supposed to take things easy,” Tristan added.

Georgia groaned. “Can’t you take a hint, big brother? I’m trying to deflect the attention off you by lightening the mood. You’ve sprung this engagement on Mum and Dad, but fine, you still want the limelight. You’re up. Tell us everything.”

All heads swivelled to stare at Tristan, whose face was turning bright red. Obviously Georgia had hit a nerve.

Mary stood up and swept her polite smile around the table. “Perhaps I’ll go to the bathroom to freshen up. Excuse me.”

Tristan and Georgia glared at one another.

“That’s enough out of you two,” I said. “We are here for a holiday and I will not have you ruin it with your constant bickering.”

“Sorry,” they both said in unison.

Then Tristan lowered his voice and snuck a furtive look over his shoulder. “The thing is, Mary comes from a very wealthy family and her parents don’t approve of her job.”

“And what job is that?” I asked.

“She works with a large security firm. Her parents want her to return to the family business.”

“Which is?”

Honestly, this holiday would be over by the time Tristan finished connecting the dots of this story, which was his way of saying he didn’t want to tell me anything; this had been his way of avoiding telling me about a bad grade or a fight he’d gotten into at school. Give only vague answers. Better than Georgia though, who had, between the age of fourteen and fifteen, chosen to grunt as her method of communication.

“They own a chain of jewellery stores,” he said.

“In Africa?”

“No, in Argentina.”

“What’s the issue about not wanting to work there?”

“She lives in Africa. The stores are in Argentina.”

“Tristan!”

“I don’t know exactly what the issue is. I haven’t met her family. Please don’t make a big deal out of this. We’re planning on visiting them after this holiday.”

My insides warmed that Tristan had wanted Mary to meet us before he met her family.

“What about siblings?” Georgia asked. “How many?”

“I don’t know. Shut up, will you. It’s not like you know anything about the men you date.”

Georgia’s sly grin deepened. “I’m not marrying any of the men I’ve dated.”

The conversation around the table halted abruptly when Mary appeared. She wore a confused look on her face.

“I didn’t get a chance to explain,” Tristan said with a sigh.

“Oh.” Mary looked back toward the toilets. “Perhaps I should…”

“Our apologies, Mary,” Richard said. “It appears as if our children have returned to Australia without their manners. I’d have thought holidaying abroad would have matured them.”

“We’re not cheese,” Georgia said, slugging back the wine.

I’d lost count if this was her third or fourth glass. Not that I could criticise. I’d almost finished my bottle: it had done nothing to settle the shock of learning that my son was getting married and I wasn’t getting his emails.

As Mary took her seat, she appeared to be sending Tristan a silent message that I couldn’t interpret. Then the waiter arrived with a basket of warmed rolls and none of us got to hear any more about how Tristan and Mary met.

During the lulls in conversation, Tristan refused to fill in the gaps. Mary was polite, charming, she spoke of her life in a vague way, never giving specific details. She lived ‘near the coast’. She worked ‘in security’. Her family was ‘just like any other family’. How would the two of them even be able to open a joint bank account if neither of them could provide any real information?

Georgia tried her best to pry the finer points out of the two of them, but Tristan wasn’t talking and Mary wasn’t offering anything, and I realised it wasn’t them being vague. It was as if the two of them had an arrangement in place: no spoilers. Which meant there was something better to come.

My hand shook as I tore my bread roll in half. Good lord she was pregnant. It was the only explanation for this sudden engagement. Because now that a little of the shock had worn off, they didn’t look like a young couple in love. They looked like two scared teenagers.

***

To get things back on track, I tapped my glass with my fork and waited until all eyes were on me.

“I too have an announcement,” I said. “I’ve quit my job and your father and I are travelling for the next nine months.”

“It was meant to be twelve,” Richard said. “But we’ve spent the last three months getting things organised.”

“Anyway, I think we should have a birthday party for your father while we are here.”

“That’s a great idea,” Tristan said.

Richard’s eyes lit up. “I do like a party in my honour.”

“Mum and I can organise it,” Georgia said. “It’ll be fun, like old times.”

Mum is on holidays,” I told her. “The resort must have an event planner. At the very least we can have a fancy dinner.”

“We could have a combined birthday and engagement party.” Georgia was giggling, so I knew it was a joke. Richard, however, could not see the funny side.

“I’m not having a combined party,” he said. “No offense to the happy couple, but I spent my childhood having a combined birthday with your Uncle Reggie. It’s not fun.”

All heads swung in the happy couples’ direction, and once again I was struck by how much they looked like frightened children.

They were a happy couple, weren’t they?

***

Excerpt from The Thief Catcher by Jonette Blake. Copyright 2021 by Jonette Blake. Reproduced with permission from Jonette Blake. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Jonette Blake

Jonette Blake writes supernatural thrillers and suspense thrillers. She is the author of over ten books and dozens of short stories, writing as D L Richardson. ​She was born in Ireland and grew up in Australia. She lived through the 80s and music is still a big part of her life. When she is not writing, she plays her piano and guitar, listens to music, reads, and enjoys the beach. ​She has held jobs in administration, sales and marketing, has worked in HR, payroll, and as a bank teller. Her latest novel "The Widow Catcher" is based on the coastal town she lives in and her own bank teller experience.

Catch Up With Jonette Blake:
www.JonetteBlake.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @iandebr
Instagram - @debbielrichardson
Twitter - @DLRichardson1
Facebook - @JonetteBlake

 

 

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Monday, September 27, 2021

Showcase: A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines

A Plague Among Us

A Chautauqua Murder Mystery

by Deb Pines

September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines

When Al Martin, the editor of a satiric newspaper in Chautauqua, N.Y., reportedly dies of COVID-19, the local consensus is: good riddance.

A sister suspects foul play. She wonders why Al was cremated in a hurry.

The police stay out of it.

So it takes reporter and relentless snoop Mimi Goldman to try to find which of Al's haters— including an estranged wife, three bitter siblings, a secretive caregiver, old enemies and the many targets of Al's poison-pen sarcasm—might be a ruthless killer.

The novel, No. 8 in a series called “an Agatha Christie for the text-message age,” once again offers page-turning suspense. Wit. And the unforgettable setting of Chautauqua, a quirky, churchy, lakeside, Victorian cottage-filled summer arts community that launched an adult-education movement Teddy Roosevelt called “the most American thing in America.”

Kirkus Reviews calls A Plague Among Us “an intriguing and engaging crime tale” and “enjoyable novel” with “captivating characters.”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: KDP
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 979-8525017368
Series: Mimi Goldman Chautauqua Mysteries, Book 8 | Each book can be read as a Stand-Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Mimi and Sylvia were on the road again, heading to the Tissue Donor Center in Jamestown to chase Winston Suarez.

The center wasn’t far from the Loves’ funeral home. But this time Google Maps was directing them to take the highway, not back roads.

They started out the same way, heading west on 394, passing the same early landmarks: the Institution’s empty parking lots, busy golf course and We Wan Chu Cottages.

“So what’s new?” Sylvia asked.

“Too much,” Mimi said. “It’s crazy how I keep learning stuff without seeing how any of it means anything.”

“Because the medical examiner still hasn’t called?”

“Uh-huh.”

Sylvia sighed heavily. “Maybe he’s just as difficult as his dad.”

Tom Love Sr., in Mimi’s opinion, wasn’t difficult. All he had done was stand up for his son before Sylvia picked a fight with him. But Mimi let it go.

“Well, one thing I’ll grant the older one,” Sylvia said.

“What?”

“He’s above average in the looks department.”

Mimi chuckled.

“What?”

“I thought you’re done with all of that nonsense.”

“I am.”

Sylvia moved to the left lane to take the ramp onto Route 17/Interstate-86 East and floored it.

“Whoa, hey,” Mimi said. “Mario Andretti, slow down.”

Okay, okay,” Sylvia said. “Just had to get us on the highway.”

Sylvia slowed down to fit into the slow lane, sticking behind a FedEx truck going a steady 70 miles an hour.

Mimi filled Sylvia in on what she had heard from Shannon about Liam and Patrick. Their denials of knowing anything about the pranks. Their claims the decisions to have no autopsy and a quick cremation were just expedient—so Patrick could get home.

“So what time does Winston Suarez get off work?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s 5.”

Mimi had reached Winston once, described why she was calling. He got quiet, then hung up. After that, she called Winston and never reached him—leaving something like five or six messages.

They stayed on the highway about ten miles before taking the Jamestown airport exit, then winding around a maze of city streets until signs with a big “H” led them to the UPMC Hospital campus.

“Hopefully,” Sylvia said, “we’re more irresistible in person.”

The Tissue Donor Center was one of many outbuildings with medical-sounding names surrounding the redbrick main hospital.

Some were done in their own architectural style. Most, like the Tissue Donor Center, imitated the low-slung, redbrick design of the hospital, down to having a white number (for their address) and a primary-colored letter on their sides.

The letters were explained on campus signs. Building A was the main hospital. Building B, the signs said, was Outpatient Svcs. C was the Sherman Medical Bldg. D was Imaging & Medical Bldg. E was Physical Therapy, Pharmacies. F was the Tissue Donor Cntr.

Sylvia zipped past the early letters of the alphabet, slowing at F, the Tissue Donor Cntr. The main door had its name above it, an intercom to the right. Near the curb, another sign said, “No Standing any time. Ambulance Lane.”

They didn’t see any ambulances, but Sylvia decided to wait for Mimi anyway in a parking lot across the street.

“Break a leg,” Sylvia yelled as Mimi got out.

Mimi laughed.

If she did break a leg, no question, this was the place to do it. Her limb could be X-rayed at the Imaging Bldg.(D) and then set at Outpatient Svcs. (B).

At the door of the Tissue Donor Center, Mimi knocked.

“Who is it?”

The woman’s voice, through the intercom, was familiar.

“My name is Mimi Goldman,” Mimi said. “And—"

“Let me guess? You’re looking for Winston?”

Mimi laughed. “I guess I’m pretty predictable. Is he here?”

“He is. This is Hannah, by the way. We keep speaking on the phone. Why don’t I see if he’ll come out?”

Mimi had high hopes. How hard would it be for Winston to take a few steps to walk outside and see her?

On the other hand, blowing her off might be easier.

When she heard a ping, Mimi examined her phone. Sylvia, after coaching from her grandkids, texted like a teenager.

Wassup?

I asked for WS and someone said they’d get him. Just waiting.

kk

Standing there, Mimi went through her email. Then she switched to her latest word game addiction: Spelling Bee in The New York Times.

Players have to make the most words, four letters or longer, from seven given letters, including one letter that had to be used in every word. The words that day had to be made from BLWCHAE, with all using an E.

Mimi started with the obvious ones: BLEACH, BLECH, BEACH, EACH, LEACH, LECH. She was moving on to trickier words when the center’s door swung open.

Out stepped a tall, handsome, dark-featured young man in a white surgical mask and blue scrubs with the name SUAREZ above his shirt pocket.

“I don’t know who you are,” he said. “I don’t know why you keep asking me about this case, but . . . I’m pleading with you to drop it and just go.”

Mimi had expected an asshole, too lazy or too self-important to talk. Not a frightened young man.

“Can you say why?” she asked. “I have no idea why this case is at all sensitive.”

Winston shook his head.

“How about off the record? You have my word that I’d never tell anyone you ever spoke to me.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t risk losing my job.”

***

Excerpt from A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines. Copyright 2021 by Deb Pines. Reproduced with permission from Deb Pines. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Deb Pines

Deb Pines, an award-winning headline writer for the New York Post, is the author of seven Mimi Goldman novels and one novelette all set in the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York where they are top sellers.
A former reporter, Deb is also a lover of puns, show tunes and indoor cycling. She lives in New York City with her husband Dave.

Catch Up With Deb Pines:
DebPines.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @debpines
Instagram - @pinesdebbie
Twitter - @pinesdeb
Facebook - @deborah.pines.9

 

 

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Monday, September 20, 2021

Showcase: The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery

The Memory Bell

by Kat Flannery

September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery

Grace Penner's safe haven crumbles when a body is found outside of town.

Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather's will, Grace's excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing.

Determined to find them, she is halted when the new detective, Bennet James, investigates her family. Grace is intent on showing the detective her family isn't capable of murder, but as the investigation deepens, and pieces of the bell show up with ominous notes, Grace soon realizes the Penners are not what they seem. Amidst the tightly knit family; dark secrets, deception, and possibly even murder unfold.

Will Grace be able to save the family she loves more than anything without losing herself forever?

Praise for The Memory Bell:

"A naïve small-town girl and a disillusioned big-city cop, drawn together by an unsolved crime that is itself only the tip of the iceberg, The Memory Bell serves up the perfect steamy summer read."
–Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

"The story moves beyond a small town whodunit to probe the underlying bonds of history that connect a family."
-Midwest Book Review

"Wonderful, engaging, and fast-paced! Flannery knows what she's doing!"
-Jonas Saul, author of the Sarah Roberts series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 1684337089 (ISBN-13:978-1684337088)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often, it’s the place where we find the deepest heartache.” ~ Iyanla Vanzant

CHAPTER ONE

Detective Bennet James stood over the remains of a hand dug grave. The morning air was brisk for July, and a foggy cloud permeated the air as he exhaled. He’d woken as the first rays of dawn crept through his hotel window casting sundogs along the planked floor.

Bones were found by the grain elevators at the mill in Oakville. The sleepy town was an hour’s drive from Chicago and where he’d been stationed for the last two weeks. It was hell, but anything was better than sitting at home waiting to hear his fate. He flexed his shoulders. The muscles ached from the mounting pressure.

He took a sip of the coffee he’d bought at the local gas station. The bitter blend was cold and old. Probably made the night before and just waiting for some poor soul to drain the last of the dregs from the decanter.

With no details other than the presence of human remains to work with, Ben made quick work of taping off the area and closing all access in and out of the mill. The trains were halted and all productivity near the tracks was at a standstill. He surveyed the grounds. Three metal silos stood in a row to his left with tracks laid in front of them. Directly behind were wooden buildings with peaked roofs, and a single track led to a dead end.

He gathered the mill was over fifty years old by the way the boards heaved and sagged. Out of commission for some time, he wondered why no one had torn the dilapidated buildings down. Being that the place was pretty much deserted it’d make things difficult in the investigation. He snorted. It wasn’t his investigation, and if things didn’t work out for him with the state, he’d never see another one again.

He rubbed his hand across his face. His heart quickened with the familiar feeling of piecing together a puzzle. It was the same feeling he got every time he was dealt a new case. Except this one was different. It wasn’t his, and even though the thought of having something to occupy his mind was appealing, he doubted Sheriff Rhoads would let him take the lead on it, much less be a part of it.

Ben glanced down at the body. Nothing left but bones and a few fragments of hair which signified the death happened years before. The grave was not shallow, but not deep either. Ben guessed it was four feet into the ground. A blue blanket caught his eye. He fingered the soft cotton with a gloved hand, a crocheted throw that was now pulled from the knots someone delicately placed there. Whoever had wrapped the victim in it did so with pristine care.

“Where is the witness?” he asked the young deputy standing to his left. He couldn’t remember the boy’s name, or was it he didn’t care? It didn’t really matter. He’d stopped caring about those around him a long time ago.

The deputy looked a bit flushed, and Ben figured the kid living in the small town had never seen anything like this before. Regret settled in his stomach at making the boy stay with him while he looked over the body and its surroundings. Ben remembered seeing his first body, a young girl, no more than six. Her image still haunted him on nights when sleep wouldn’t come.

He blinked, collected his thoughts, and faced the young man.

“You’re no longer needed here,” he said.

“The men who found the body are over there,” the kid stammered. His hand shook as he pointed to the two silhouettes standing twenty yards away.

“Thanks.” Ben dismissed him and walked toward the two men sipping coffee from their mugs. A part of him wanted to turn back to his car and leave now that Rhoads was here, but his pride and his duty wouldn’t allow it. He pulled out the small note pad and pen he kept in his pocket.

“Morning. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Ain’t you the new fella?” one of the men asked.

“Yeah.”

“You’re that swanky detective from the city.”

Ben didn’t answer.

“Why in hell would you want to come out here?”

He remained silent. It was none of the old man’s business why he’d been placed in this shithole town.

“Talk is you got into hot water up there.”

“I need to ask you some questions,” Ben repeated, an edge creeping into his voice. He wasn’t about to discuss his shit with these guys. He shifted from one foot to the other, took a deep calming breath, cleared his throat, and waited.

“Not much to tell,” the man said. His thick white moustache spanned the whole of his upper lip and the bottoms of his cheeks.

“Your name?” he asked.

“Walter Smythe.” The man leaned in to read what Ben wrote and tapped his index finger onto the paper. “That’s Smythe with a Y not an I.”

Ben nodded.

“Can you tell me how you came upon the body?”

“Ol’ Russ was the one who found it.”

He turned to the other man.

“I ain’t Russ,” the farmer said.

“Who is—”

“That’s my dog.” Walter whistled. A large St. Bernard came loping up from the field behind the buildings.

“The dog found the body?”

“That’s right.”

“What were you doing out here?”

“I come out from time to time.”

“Why if the place is closed down?”

The man shrugged.

“Have you brought Russ out here before?” Ben asked, still trying to piece together how the remains were found.

“Sure. I bring him everywhere.”

“Why was he in the elevators?”

Walter’s wide shoulders lifted underneath the plaid jacket.

“Did the dog take anything from the grave, or disturb it in anyway?”

“Once I seen him diggin’, I called him over.” Walter guffawed. “But the damn mutt just kept on going back. So, I went over to see what the hell he was after.”

“At what point did you figure out it was a body?”

“Right away when I saw the bones.”

“Russ dug up most of the grave?”

“Nah, maybe a foot of it.” Walter nudged the farmer beside him. “I called Bill and we determined it was best to call the sheriff.”

“Why didn’t you call the sheriff first?”

Walter didn’t answer.

“Did you remove or touch anything?” Ben asked.

“Nope.”

As much as the farmer was rough around the edges, he could tell Walter Smythe spoke the truth.

“One more question. Has anyone gone missing in the last ten years?”

“Not around these parts. Most people who go missing leave for the city.”

“Why is that?”

“Small towns ain’t for everybody.” Walter’s eyes narrowed. “Stuff like this don’t happen around here.”

Ben nodded before he walked away and headed back to his car. He opened the door but didn’t get in. Tall silos, train cars and tracks were surrounded by a field. Waist-high stalks of yellow waved in the breeze and from what he knew of farming, it looked to be canola. Why wasn’t the body buried in the field? There must be over a hundred acres of land. Until he received the coroner’s report, he couldn’t begin to guess at anything yet. Before he left, he’d need to talk to Sheriff Rhoads and see about any missing persons reports in the area.

“Well, that is odd.” Rhoads sauntered toward him, brows furrowed.

“What is?” Ben asked.

“A body, here, at the elevators, in Oakville.” His forehead wrinkled, and a perplexed look crossed his face. “Nobody has been here in years.”

“These things can happen anywhere. There are no rules for death.”

Rhoads focused on him, but remained quiet for some time before he said, “Not here.”

“I’d like to take the lead on this,” Ben said. The words surprised him, but he couldn’t take them back now. Besides, he needed something to keep him busy. The minor misdemeanors at the old folk’s home, break-ins, and an occasional kid in trouble wasn’t enough to keep him from going crazy with boredom.

“Not sure that’s wise, with your probation and all.”

Ben nodded, figuring that would be the answer.

“But I don’t see it as more than an unfortunate accident, so go ahead.”

Ben wasn’t so sure.

***

Excerpt from The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery. Copyright 2021 by Kat Flannery. Reproduced with permission from Kat Flannery. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Kat Flannery

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. A member of many writing Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. When she’s not busy writing, or marketing Kat volunteers her time to other aspiring authors. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and guest author inspiring readers and writers at every event she attends. Kat’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines. A bestselling author, Kat’s books are available all over the world. The BRANDED TRILOGY is Kat’s award-winning series. With seven books published, Kat continues to plot what story will be next. Creativity is in all aspects of Kat’s career. She does Social Media and Marketing for her own career and businesses, writing ads, and other content.


Catch Up With Kat Flannery:


Tour Participants:

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ENTER TO WIN:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kat Flannery. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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