Thursday, May 30, 2019

Book Review: Karma Fights A Monster by Evan Purcell

Title: Karma Fights A Monster

Author: Evan Purcell

Publisher: Duckbill Books and Publications Pvt Ltd 





Evan Purcell’s ‘Karma Fights a Monster’ is the first book in the Karma Tandin: Monster Hunter series, which is set in Bhutan. It is the story of an average twelve-year-old kid, Karma, who fights all sorts of monsters including demonically possessed appliances that frequent the quaint town of Jakar.

Before the story begins, Karma has already fought several monsters and saved his peers and townsfolk. In this story, we see him fighting a shark-faced librarian who is also the strict new teacher with way too many rules. She loves books and her shark-daughter more than anything and takes her role as a librarian very seriously. Karma stumbles over her secret identity and wants to eliminate her for the safety of everyone around him. However, he isn’t so sure if she is really dangerous to others ones he sets out to reveal her secret to the world along with his best friend and look-out Chimmi. To him she comes across as a normal—though a monster—mother who reads her daughter the bedtime story of the three little pigs that his father read for him when he was younger. Having lost his father, this small gesture tugs at Karma’s heart.

However, one thing leads to other and even though he doesn’t intend to, the secret is out in the open. Karma realizes that he has made a mistake; more so when his friend, the beautiful Dawa, says so. He tries to rectify his mistake and is successful. But is he really mistaken? Is the librarian really harmless or is there some ulterior motive?

Purcell’s writing is easy to follow and hilarious. The characters bring out a smile on the reader’s face effortlessly. Karma and all the other students act and talk like middle-school Americans though the story is set in Bhutan. The country serves only as a backdrop and we don’t much come across the culture or lifestyle of Bhutan. But this is not a complaint in any way.

Through this monster story, Purcell has tried to introduce the issues that kids face in their lives and how everyone has to struggle against their worst impulses. His cool, shark monster represents something that we can all understand and relate to — teachers and their ways.

The story is still pleasantly entertaining and fast-paced. For monster lovers, it’s a winner.






Evan Purcell is an American teacher who has worked in Zanzibar, Kazakhstan, China and Russia. He's spent two years in the beautiful kingdom of Bhutan, where he hikes, sings karaoke badly and eats way too much of the delicious local food. He has published six novels for both adults and children.






I'd like to thank the publisher for letting me review the book. I do hope you end up liking the book when you read it. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading!




* I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

** Picture courtesy: Amazon.in, Google

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Showcase: An Eye For A Lie by Cy Wyss

An Eye For A Lie by Cy Wyss Banner

An Eye for a Lie

by Cy Wyss

on Tour May 27 - July 27, 2019

Synopsis:

An Eye for a Lie by Cy Wyss
Lukas Richter is a San Francisco police detective with a cybernetic eye and heightened senses. He can detect the same autonomous responses as a polygraph machine, so he has a leg up in determining guilt.

In An Eye for a Lie, his first full-length novel, Richter is accused of murder and the evidence seems incontrovertible, including a bullet that was somehow fired from his gun when he claims he was nowhere near the crime scene. In the background, San Francisco is aflame over Richter's shooting of an unarmed Asian man, an incident some are calling "the Asian Ferguson."

Can Inspector Richter convince a plucky and suspicious FBI agent of his innocence in the face of overwhelming accusations and public persecution?





Book Details:


Genre: Mystery
Published by: Nighttime Dog Press, LLC
Publication Date: May 27, 2019
Number of Pages: 258
ISBN: 978-0-9965465-3-9
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

"All units, active shooter in progress, be advised perp is SFPD . . ."
The police frequencies in Vessa's sedan couldn't get enough of the situation. She was hardly in her car before the address where Richter was came over the air. She headed there immediately, lights flashing, accelerator floored.
He was in a townhouse on ninth, near Tehama, only a handful of blocks from the Hall of Justice. The entire area was cordoned off and blanketed with police cars. Vessa badged her way through and got to Commander Bayes who stood with Deputy Chief Forrest several yards from the front door. The townhouse was painted lime green and the entrance stood ajar.
"Commander, what's the situation?" Vessa asked.
"He's holed up in there," Bayes shook his head toward the house. "Got a hostage."
"A hostage? You're kidding."
"Wish I was. Teenage girl, still up there. He let the rest of the family go."
Now, Bayes shook his head a different way, indicating Vessa should look near one of the ambulances. There was a man and a woman, firmly behind police lines. Both were slender with brown hair and the woman wore a red sweater. She was crying and the man and a paramedic were trying to comfort her.
"Commander, none of this makes sense. Can you imagine Richter taking a hostage? It doesn't feel right."
"C'mon, Agent Drake," Bayes said. "None of us can say we really know him now."
Vessa frowned up at the building. Between her and the front door lay perhaps twenty feet of tarmac and parked cars. Bayes turned to Forrest and they conferred. Before Vessa even knew what she was doing, she was off --crossing the street at a sprint.
"Hey!" Bayes yelled.
Forrest pointed. "Stop her!"
It was too late. She broke away from the lines and was at the door before anyone could grab her. She pushed the dark portal open and slipped inside, shutting it behind her, closing it fully so it locked. Inside, it took a couple of minutes for her eyes to adjust to the pale strobe lights coming through the front blinds and door windows. She was in an open living room. It was small and closely furnished with a dining room capping it off near the back of the building. She guessed the kitchen would be around the corner. To her right, a staircase led upward. The landing was dark.
Vessa had taken her gun out without consciously realizing it. Now, she stared at it in the undulating red and blue lights. What was she going to do with it? Shoot her lover when she found him?
She holstered the gun. "Oh, Luke," she said softly. As if in answer, something moved above her, making a dull thud on the floor. She startled.
Slowly, she made her way up the stairs. "Luke?" she called. "I'm coming upstairs."
There was no answer. At the top of the stairs were three doors. Two were dark and closed. Wan light traced the outline of the third door. She opened it cautiously.
"Luke?"
The door creaked on its hinges to reveal a seemingly empty bedroom. The air was stale although the room was tidy and sparsely furnished with a queen-sized bed and two nightstands. The fluorescent lights from the street diffused around the edges of a thick curtain drawn across a large window. The occluded light wasn't strong enough to dispel the rooms shadows.
"Luke?" Vessa noticed she was whispering. She cleared her throat and spoke with as normal a voice as she could muster. "Luke? Where are you?"
"Here," came a reply.
She was practically on top of him by that time. He sat with his back to a wall across from the foot of the bed.
Vessa jumped. "Oh! You startled me."
He was staring at her. She half expected his evil eye to glow in the dimness but instead, she saw only normal dark eyes glittering from his outlined face. He sat with his knees bent and his arms resting between his legs. In his hands was a mass of blackness-his gun. That ugly piece of metal was a cursed reminder of what was going on and why they were here, facing each other in this shadowed space.
Vessa craned her neck around but didn't see anyone else. "Where's the girl?"
Richter watched Vessa intently for several seconds before answering. "The couple's outside. I let them go."
"No, apparently there's still a teenager in here somewhere."
Richter's gaze dropped to the carpet in front of him. "That would explain why it's just you and not SWAT. They think I have a hostage. Well, I don't."
"You have me."
His head snapped up. "You're not a hostage. Why are you here, anyway?"
"I'm here to get you. I don't want them gunning you down."
"You're here to arrest me, Special Agent Vessa Belle Drake?"
"Oh, Luke. We'll figure this out."
Richter brought the gun up in his right hand and pressed it to the underside of his chin, angled back toward his brain.
Vessa gasped. "No!" She was rooted to the spot, eyes wide.
He stared at her. "I guess whether I do it or SWAT does it, it's still death by cop."
Tears burned her eyes. "No, Luke. No. Why would you even think it? There must be some mistake. There must be some reason why those bullets matched."
"I won't be locked up. I won't be put back in the cage and poked and prodded, and studied to death this time."
Vessa remembered the shaking man sweating beside her in his bed at night. Even though he didn't speak of them, she knew he was having nightmares. Was it possible he was actually capable of pulling that trigger? Her chin throbbed where he'd bitten her. She couldn't stand this. How could she have been so wrong? She was never wrong. She swallowed. Never before had she fallen for a guilty man. How was she so blinded by hubris that she could feel this way about Richter when he was a merciless killer?
He stared at her, gun in his hand. He didn't move. She shook slightly with the emotions flooding her. Here she was, at the cusp of what she felt was the most important moment in her life. The man she loved sat before her, ready to take his own life if she didn't do or say the right thing next. She was paralyzed-absolutely paralyzed. All her training, and here she was, a shaking, paralyzed ball of nerves.
She burst into tears. How utterly professional.
Richter frowned.
Vessa's nose and eyes ran uncontrollably and she heaved great sighs. She didn't dare wave her arms around and wipe her face. Instead, she simply stood there and let her emotions pour down her cheeks.
Richter sighed. He lowered the gun. He dropped it with a thud to the carpet and kicked it toward her.
"How am I supposed to kill myself with you crying like that?"
She rushed to pick up the weapon and tucked it into the small of her back, under her blazer. She faced Richter, this time allowing herself to wipe the fluids from her face with her hands and sleeves. She could only imagine how many shades of fired she would be if Bully Benson had seen her outburst. She almost felt like declaring herself unfit for duty on the spot.
"I can't stand it," she said. "I can't lose you this way."
He said nothing. What was there to say? They stared at each other. Tears fell from her eyes until the momentum of her outburst ran its course and she finally managed to get a grip on herself.
Richter sat, inordinately relaxed, leaning against the wall, hands folded innocently between his legs.
"What now?" he asked.
She glanced toward the thick curtains shielding them from the snipers across the street.
"I'll have to cuff you. Then you won't be seen as a threat. Keep your head down, and I'll stay between you and them."
He craned his neck and looked over the bed toward the window. He watched the dark cloth for several seconds.
"Is your eye working? What do you see?"
"It's working," he said. "And, I see only reflections. Your temperature is up, though."
She came over and stood beside him. "Stay low," she said softly.
He got up and they crossed the room with him crouched low. They entered the windowless landing. Vessa closed the bedroom door behind them. She looked at the other two doors. The girl was probably behind one of them, asleep or with her headphones on, completely oblivious. Vessa pulled her cuffs out. Richter stood tall.
"All right?" she asked. She needed him to cooperate. She wasn't about to subdue such a large man in such a small space.
"Just a second," he said.
He bent and kissed her. They embraced. Vessa wanted the floor to open up and swallow them so they could stay like this forever. Of course it did not, and the moment had to end.
He straightened up again, turned his back to her, and extended his arms behind him so she could easily cuff him.
"I didn't shoot him," he said.
Before she could even think about it, Vessa responded.
"I know. I believe you."
***
Excerpt from An Eye for a Lie by Cy Wyss. Copyright 2019 by Cy Wyss. Reproduced with permission from Cy Wyss. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Cy Wyss
Cy Wyss is a writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has a Ph.D. in computer science and her day job involves wrangling and analyzing genetic data. Cy is the author of three full-length novels as well as a collection of short stories and the owner and chief editor of Nighttime Dog Press, LLC.
Before studying computer science, Cy obtained her undergraduate degree in mathematics and English literature as well as masters-level degrees in philosophy and artificial intelligence. She studied overseas for three years in the UK, although she never managed to develop a British accent.
Cy currently resides in Indianapolis with her husband, daughter, and two obstreperous but lovable felines. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, and walking 5k races to benefit charity.



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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

New Release: Tabor by Roux Cantrell







๐Ÿ’ฅ.•*•.๐Ÿ*•. IT’S  LIVE  .•*๐Ÿ.•*•.๐Ÿ’ฅ

Tabor
By Roux Cantrell
 © 2019

It’s been six years, she’s still haunting him. Guilt can eat you alive. How long can he carry her memory?
 When will he get past her?

These are the questions Stephan Demidov aka Tabor has asked himself for years…
It’s not every day your very own ghost walks back into your life, but that’s exactly what happens when Tabor sees a woman walking along the streets of Lampsing. Could it be her...alive?

Echo just wants a new life for her and her daughter. The town of Lampsing on the coast of Northern California may hold all the cards for them.

Tabor had left her behind, turned his back and rode away literally leaving her standing alone in the dark, now once again Echo is watching him walk away...






Monday, May 27, 2019

Showcase: Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond

Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond Banner

Blackquest 40

by Jeff Bond

on Tour May 13 - July 13, 2019

Synopsis:

Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond
Deb Bollinger has no time for corporate training.

Her company's top engineer at just twenty-seven, Deb has blocked off her day for the one project she truly cares about: the launch of Carebnb, an app that finds spare beds for the homeless. When she's told all employees must drop everything for some busywork exercise called Blackquest 40, it's an easy no.

Trouble is, her bosses aren't really asking.

Blackquest 40 is the mother of all corporate trainings. A near-impossible project to be completed in forty straight hours. No phones. No internet. Sleeping on cots. Nobody in, nobody out. Deb finds the whole setup creepy and authoritarian. When a Carebnb issue necessitates her leaving the office, she heads for the door. What's the worst that could happen?

Armed commandos, HVAC-duct chases, a catastrophic master plan that gets darker by the hour - Blackquest 40 is a fresh take on the Die Hard formula, layering smart-drones and a modern heroine onto the classic action tale.

Praise for Blackquest 40:

"Deb's first-person narrative is brisk, gleefully snarky, and filled with indelible metaphors... A clever, spirited tale with a brainy, nimble heroine at the helm."
~ Kirkus Review

"Bond weaves an entertaining story filled with deceit, robots, Russians, and tech entrepreneurs that all combine to give the reader a reason to flip pages furiously to find out what might happen next... BLACKQUEST 40 sparkles with imagination. Code flies from keyboards, setting off ingenious flying devices, hatching plots and subplots and, ultimately, giving heroes the chance to help the good guys win. This book is a delight, and one readers should download right away."
~ IndieReader's 5 star review

Book Details:


Genre: Thriller
Published by: Jeff Bond books
Publication Date: May 15th, 2019
Number of Pages: 348
ISBN:9781732255227
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

I am in the middle of solving homelessness when my boss raps his knuckles on my cubicle border. I know it's Paul - my eyes stay on the computer monitor, what with an intractable social ill hanging in the balance - by the timid tap... tap-tap pattern. Also the smell. Paul eats McDonald's every morning for breakfast. He's a Sausage McGriddle man.
"Deb, we're heading up to the meeting - "
"Busy." I squint around the San Francisco street map on-screen, mousing over a blinking dot labeled Wanda. She isn't moving. None of them are moving.
Paul sighs. "We're all busy. But it's a Company-All, so if you - "
"Is it a Susan meeting?"
"No. It's the kickoff for Blackquest 40."
"Means nothing to me." I click Wanda. Why aren't they moving? Database problem?
Paul says the meeting invite should have explained everything. Blackquest 40 is a training exercise, mandatory for every employee in the company.
I look up and see that, indeed, he has the whole team in tow. Jared in his My Code Can't Fix Your Stupid trucker hat. Minosh fingering his spiral-bound notebook, peeking at a clock. They are watching me - all 5'2" if you count the platinum spikes, and a decade younger than them - like zoo visitors wondering if the glass is thick enough around this freak-colored poison frog.
"Susan hired me," I say, invoking our rockstar CEO again. "Susan said I don't have to participate in anything I don't believe in."
"Look, this project - "
"Is corporate training. High on my list of things to not believe in."
With that, I pop over to the log file, which confirms my worst fear: the Carebnb database isn't refreshing. The last GPS coordinates are from eight minutes ago, meaning Wanda and every other unhoused person on that map is misplaced.
Ugh.
The timing is brutal. Today is my launch, the day I am supposed to start demonstrating to all the venture capitalists not funding my side project that a little technology plus basic human decency can equal disruptive positive change.
Across the city, 137 unhoused San Franciscans are wearing 137 smart wristbands, produced at great expense by a local micro-manufacture co-op, in the hopes of connecting with a beta host. I signed up 344 hosts, but that number is dicey because many I bullied into joining. Some will have uninstalled the Carebnb app, not anticipating that I'll soon be combing my list for chicken-outs and visiting their apartments to measure, then post on social media, just how many square feet of covered living space they waste nightly.
My brain races for solutions, but Paul's voice and eau de McGriddle distract me. He's explaining that Susan is out of pocket tying up loose ends in Davos, that Carter Kotanchek has the ball until -
"Okay Paul, honestly?" I click over to the T server, the probable source of my issue. "There is no combination of words or faux-words you can say that will get me off this workstation."
"You're the principal software architect, Deb," he says. "We need you. I'm still in the dark myself, but I'm hearing Blackquest 40 is enormous."
My mouth twists. "Getting colder."
Paul hates managing me. I'm sure he goes home every night to Li Wei, his former-secretary-now-wife, and curses Susan for poaching me away from Google.
Now, as his eyes roam my workspace - hemp satchel, bin of droid Hot Wheels, Polarity of the Universe toggle currently set to Amoral, my toes in their sandals (he has a pervy thing for my feet) - his face drops another shade closer to dough.
He looks at my screen. "How much time are you spending on Carebnb?"
"Twenty-five percent, just like my contract says." I manage to keep a straight face.
It's a required Company-All. You don't badge in, you lose network privileges. It would set you back."
"You can void that."
"I can." Paul taps his ample jowls, thoughtfully paternal. "But I won't."
I've been working throughout our exchange, deciphering error messages, rebooting, tweaking this and that... nothing is helping.
I grit my teeth. Resetting my network privileges would be a big, sticky wad of red tape.
"Fine," I say, "I'll do the meeting. But I am still not participating in this Blockquest deal."
"Blackquest."
"Whatever." I can bring my laptop and troubleshoot from the conference room. "Our queue is about ten miles long - whose bright idea was some lame time-suck training?"
Paul grimaces. "Carter is driving it."
Carter Kotanchek, our chief financial officer, is warring with Paul about the makeup of the Codewise Solutions workforce. Paul favors programmers in keeping with our reputation as the leading machine-learning and optimization company on the planet.
Carter wants more salespeople and has a knack for finding third-party vendors who sport the same Gatsby slickback he does. Inexplicably, Carter is winning.
The engineers behind Paul knock in place like pens in a mug, waiting.
I flop my wrist toward the elevators. "Go, go - I'll catch up. Two minutes."
They go. Paul lowers his gaze in a final I know you will choose wisely appeal.
I focus on my screen with a wonderfully McGriddle-free breath, then try refreshing the database.
DENIED: CONNECTIVITY ERROR 612.
I rejigger a script and try again.
DENIED: CONNECTIVITY ERROR 612.
Same error every time.
This is infuriating. Have I been found out? I never officially informed Paul about routing Carebnb's unhoused-person GPS data through T, Codewise's least busy server. Did he shut me down without telling me? Coincidentally on my most important day of the year?
No way. Paul would write a huffy email or file a ticket. He won't refill our departmental stash of teabags without paperwork.
My calendar bleeps. YOU HAVE NOT BADGED INTO BLACKQUEST 40 KICKOFF (ORGANIZER: CARTER K.); NETWORK PRIVILEGES WILL RESET IN 4 MINUTES.
I stand and grab my laptop, then remember it doesn't have the software to access the T server. I won't be able to troubleshoot during the meeting after all. I'll be forced to sit there and eat an hour's worth of corporate mumbo-jumbo.
"Raven!" I call over my shoulder.
My trusty solar-powered quadcopter perks up. She hums around to my sightline, her underside dome blipping green to indicate her attention.
"Attend meeting in conference room 6-A. Badge in. Watch, back row. Record."
Raven processes each command using natural language algorithms I wrote in grad school, then lowers her claw - repurposed off a junked arcade game - to accept my keycard.
As the drone whispers up the hall, I feel a twinge of unease. She's attended meetings in my stead before but never on a different floor. She will need to push a button, read a floor indicator, possibly accommodate human riders... logic I have given her but not thoroughly stress-tested. It's asking a lot.
I work another five minutes without success.
Air blasts through my nostrils.
I need eyes on a live wristband.
I grab the phone and dial Cecil, my go-to trial user. Cecil has known me since I was a baby, when Mom would push me around in her cart, snuggled in among dumpster scraps and Styrofoam peanuts. Cecil walked me through the roughest part of the city every day of second grade, and taught me the nutcracker choke after a kid pushed a shiv through my septum in fifth.
"Lil Deb, yo," he answers in a deep baritone.
"Cec! Hey Cec, I'm seeing weirdness on my end and I need to know if you - "
"How's your mom?"
"Oh, she's cool, I talked to the orderlies and - "
"They're keeping her meds straight?"
"No no, yeah, it's all good," I say - Cecil is so unfailingly polite you have to move him along sometimes - "listen, what are you seeing with Carebnb? Is your wristband working?"
"Think so."
"Green light?"
"Yep."
"Map of available host beds showing up?"
"Yep."
"How many hosts in range? My database wonked and I gotta know if the problem is local or if peer-to-peer transfers are broken too."
A guttural breath over the line. "English, Deb. Regular English please."
I grip the keyboard tray, slow myself down. "Could we possibly meet? I think I have to see the wristband myself to diagnose this. Sorry, I hate to inconvenience you."
"I'm homeless. Where else I gotta go."
"Right. How about our usual spot, say twenty minutes?"
Before he can respond, the call drops. Bzzzzzzzzzz.
I clench my jaw and redial.
NO SERVICE.
I stand and waggle my phone outside my cube, I walk to the window, I glare at the Verizon logo and telepathically threaten to hack their transceivers to mush if they don't find me a signal.
Nada.
I plunk back down. I'm contemplating flipping my Polarity of the Universe toggle to Evil when a tinny sound announces the presence of a new window on my monitor: Raven's livestream.
She made it up to the Blackquest kickoff meeting. Atta girl. I resize the window to span my entire screen and watch as the big conference room comes into focus.
The Company-All is underway. Carter Kotanchek stands at the podium in a dapper summer-weight suit. Raven's camera won't win any TechCrunch awards, but Carter's teeth still gleam from the middle of a plastic grin.
"Like y't'meet Jim Dawson," he says, introducing a stone-faced man in chunky glasses. "Jim here runs Elite Development, the company that will be facilitating Blackquest 40. Guys are doing phenomenal stuff in a new space called Extreme Readiness. Helping organizations build capability to complete projects of extreme complexity, requiring extreme teamwork, on extreme deadlines. So far they've been working with high-leverage government agencies, paramilitary, et cetera. We, ladies and gents, are fortunate enough to be corporate client number one."
Dawson, in a bland accent - Ohio? Indiana? - thanks Carter and says he's pleased to be here today. Excited for our shared journey.
Gag. So not participating.
As my focus returns to Carebnb, I groan at the ceiling. I need to test a wristband, but if I can't meet Cecil... hmm. I have a few spares lying around, but none are initialized.
I'm figuring how long initialization would take - and how true a read I'd get from a wristband not in the field - when I hear something that stops me cold.
"... campus quarantine and data blockade will remain in place for the duration of Blackquest 40. If you absolutely require outside contact, in case of emergency or vital family obligation, a protocol exists... "
Wait, data blockade? I rewind Raven's feed and replay the last fifteen seconds. Elite Development, in the name of "improved focus and personal efficiency," is collecting every cellphone in the building and blocking all inbound-outbound internet traffic.
I feel slight queasiness at the authoritarianism of the whole setup, but mostly relief. Because now I get it. These jerks shut down T. They killed my call. Probably they're using some military-grade antenna to zap cellular signals, and a simple software block on the servers.
And that won't stop me.
***
Excerpt from Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond. Copyright © 2019 by Bond. Reproduced with permission from Bond. All rights reserved.



Jeff Bond

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond is a Kansas native and graduate of Yale University. He lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters, and belongs to the International Thriller Writers association.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond On:
jeffbondbooks.com | BookBub | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook!!





Tour Participants:

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Enter Giveaway!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on May 13, 2019 and runs through July 15, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Review: Ba’az of the Bengal Lancers by Uttiyo Bhattacharya

Title: Ba’az of the Bengal Lancers

Author: Uttiyo Bhattacharya

Publisher: Juggernaut




Uttiyo Bhattacharya’s “Ba’az of the Bengal Lancers,” set against the backdrop of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, is in essence the story of a huge treasure and the chase for it. Cloaks, daggers, and hidden messages abound in this potboiler.
 
Following the death of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Bayaz-ud-din Waris Ali Khan Bungalee of Hodson’s Ghost-Scouts becomes the sole guardian of a priceless treasure. Unsure of what to do with this treasure, Ba’az leaves behind traces and clues for those brave enough to find it. 
Several decades later, a young architect—the unnamed narrator and second protagonist of the novel—stumbles upon this secret. He decides to chase history, thereby discovering the lost treasure. The story follows his quest for this timeless treasure. While his friend Jami’s Dada-jaan becomes his first source in this quest, it is the encoded diaries belonging to Ba’az that invariably prove the most helpful.

Bhattacharya graphically recounts the happenings of 1857 through a medley of real and fictional characters. He borrows heavily from all of literature to spin this page-turner of his. While the story itself reminds one of the movie National Treasure, the description of pre-independent India evokes before one’s eyes scenes from Thugs of Hindostan. Even in characterization, his Dost Akbar, Iqbal, and Abdullah are reminiscent of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis from The Three Musketeers. But the sincerity in the author’s voice is what makes the book interesting.

A well told tale of exploration in which history is the MacGuffin.






Uttiyo Bhattacharya is an architect, writer and design producer. He has worked on theatrical productions as an actor, on museum and cultural projects as design manager and on classified military installations across geographies as architect of record. Ba’az of the Bengal Lancers is his first novel.






I'd like to thank the publisher for letting me review the book. I do hope you end up liking the book when you read it. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading!




* I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

** Picture courtesy: Amazon.in, Twitter


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Showcase: Below The Fold by R.G. Belsky

Below The Fold by R.G. Belsky

Below The Fold

by R.G. Belsky

on Tour May 1-31, 2019

Synopsis:

Below The Fold by R.G. Belsky
Every human life is supposed to be important. Everyone should matter. But that’s not the case in the cutthroat TV news-rating world where Clare Carlson works. Sex, money, and power sell. Only murder victims of the right social strata are considered worth covering. Not the murder of a “nobody.”

So, when the battered body of a homeless woman named Dora Gayle is found on the streets of New York City, her murder barely gets a mention in the media. But Clare―a TV news director who still has a reporter’s instincts―decides to dig deeper into the seemingly meaningless death. She uncovers mysterious links between Gayle and a number of wealthy and influential figures. There is a prominent female defense attorney; a scandal-ridden ex-congressman; a decorated NYPD detective; and―most shocking of all―a wealthy media mogul who owns the TV station where Clare works. Soon there are more murders, more victims, more questions. As the bodies pile up, Clare realizes that her job, her career, and maybe even her life are at stake as she chases after her biggest story ever.

Book Details:


Genre: Mystery

Published by: Oceanview Publishing

Publication Date: May 2019

Number of Pages: 357

ISBN: 978-1-60809-324-3

Series: Clare Carlson #2

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

OPENING CREDITS
THE RULES ACCORDING TO CLARE
Every human life is supposed to be important, everyone should matter. That’s what we all tell ourselves, and it’s a helluva noble concept. But it’s not true. Not in the real world. And certainly not in the world of TV news where I work.
Especially when it comes to murder.
Murder is a numbers game for me. It operates on what is sometimes cynically known in the media as the Blonde White Female Syndrome. My goal is to find a murder with a sexy young woman victim to put on the air. Sex sells. Sex, money, and power. That translates into big ratings numbers, which translates into more advertising dollars. These are the only murder stories really worth doing.
The amazing thing to me is not that there is so much news coverage of these types of stories. It’s that there are people who actually question whether they should be big news stories. These critics dredge up the age-old argument about why some murders get so much more play in the media than all the other murders that happen every day.
I don’t understand these people.
Because the cold, hard truth—and everyone knows this, whether they want to admit it or not—is that not everybody is equal when it comes to murder.
Not in life.
And certainly not in death.
It reminds me of the ongoing debate that happens every time Sirhan Sirhan—the man who killed Robert F. Kennedy—comes up for a parole hearing. There are those who point out that he’s already served fifty years in jail. They argue that many other killers have served far less time before being paroled. Sirhan Sirhan should be treated equally, they say, because the life of Robert F. Kennedy is no more or less important than the life of any other crime victim. Me, I think Sirhan Sirhan should be kept caged up in a four-foot by six-foot cell as long as he lives—which hopefully will be to a hundred so he can suffer every minute of it. For God’s sakes, people, he killed Robert—freakin’—Kennedy!
And so, to those who think that we in the media make too big a deal out of some of these high-profile murder stories, I say that’s completely and utterly ridiculous. I reject that argument completely. I won’t even discuss it.
* *
Now let me tell you something else.
Everything I just said there is a lie.
The truth is there really is no magic formula for murder in the TV news business. No simple way to know from the beginning if a murder story is worth covering or not. No easy answer to the question of how much a human life is worth—or what the impact will be of that person’s death by a violent murder.
When I started out working at a newspaper years ago, I sat next to a veteran police reporter on the overnight shift. There was an old-fashioned wire machine that would print out police slips of murders that happened during the night. Most of them involved down-market victims in bad neighborhoods whose deaths clearly would never make the paper.
But he would dutifully call the police on each one and ask questions like: “Tell me about the body of that kid you found in the Harlem pool room—was he a MENSA candidate or what?” Or, “The woman you found dead in the alley behind the housing project—any chance she might be Julia Roberts or a member of the British Royal Family?”
I asked him once why he even bothered to make the calls since none of these murders seemed ever worth writing about in the paper.
“Hey, you never know,” he said.
It was good advice back then, and it still is today. I try to teach it to all my reporters in the TV newsroom that I run now. Check every murder out. Never assume anything about a murder story. Follow the facts and the evidence on every murder—on every crime story—because you can never be certain where that trail might take you.
Okay, I don’t always follow my own advice in the fast-paced, ratings-obsessed world of TV news where I make my living.
And usually it does turn out to be just a waste of time.
But every once in a while, well . . .
Hey, you never know.
***
Excerpt from Below The Fold by R.G. Belsky. Copyright © 2019 by R.G. Belsky. Reproduced with permission from R.G. Belsky. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

R.G. Belsky
R. G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City. His newest mystery, Below The Fold, is being published in May 2019 by Oceanview. It is the second in a series featuring Clare Carlson, the news director for a New York City TV station. The first Clare Carlson book, YESTERDAY'S NEWS, came out in 2018. Belsky previously wrote the Gil Malloy series - THE KENNECONNECTIONION, SHOOTING FOR THE STARS AND BLONDE ICE - about a newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News. Belsky himself is a former managing editor at the Daily News and writes about the media from an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and TV/digital news. He has also been a top editor at the New York Post, Star magazine and NBC News. Belsky won the Claymore Award at Killer Nashville in 2016. He has finished as a Finalist for both the Silver Falchion and David Awards. And his first Clare Carlson book, YESTERDAY’S NEWS, was named Outstanding Crime/News Based Novel by Just Reviews in 2018 and was a Finalist for Best Mystery of 2018 in the Foreword INDIES Awards. His previous suspense/thriller novels include LOVERBOY and PLAYING DEAD. Belsky lives in New York City.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Book Review: Unlucky Chumki by Lesley D. Biswas

Title: Unlucky Chumki
Author: Lesley D. Biswas
Publisher: Duckbill Books and Publications Pvt Ltd




Lesley D. Biswas’ ‘Unlucky Chumki’ is the tale of a girl who is taunted by everybody in her village for being the symbol of bad luck. This chapter book is Duckbill’s newest addition to their ‘hOle Book’ series meant for young readers who are slowly making the transition from picture books to something more text heavy.

The book’s eponymous protagonist, Chumki, is deeply saddened and troubled because of the label that she has to bear on her tiny shoulders like a huge burden. She doesn’t have any friends owing to this. Even the adults avoid her, thinking she’ll bring them bad luck. Some are even scared of her. Her younger brother, Aki, is the only one initially who doesn’t believe any of this. Nonetheless, he spreads rumours about her older sister to his own advantage.

While Chumki is a kind, good person who likes to stick to rules, Aki is a careless, reckless, fun person who is always into some mischief. But the two love each other and in spite of all their bickering look out for each other. It is Aki who actually chalks out a plan to help her sister lose the tag of being unlucky.

The way their grandmother, Dadi, treats the two reflects the mindset of the older generation who cannot but help themselves from discriminating between boys and girls. We see how while Chumki is discouraged from going to school and expected to help her mother with the domestic chores, Aki is left to his own devices. But the book holds out hope for all.

The story is easy-to-read. The fact that it tackles a serious issue like discrimination in such a sensitive way is an added bonus. Chumki’s story shows us how people suffer when we label them through our stereotypes, judgments, and prejudices. Without any blatant moralizing, Biswas shows her readers the power of empathy—of treating others with equal dignity and respect.

Anupama Ajinkya Apte’s delightful illustration of Chumki and her friends is modern, funny, and expressive. It brings out the theme of the story very well.

Children will return often to enjoy the endearing characters and fresh design.





Lesley Denise Biswas grew up in McCluskiegunj, and dreamed of playing cricket. But instead of a bat, she ended up with a pen in her hand. Currently based in Kolkata, she’s a freelance writer who enjoys writing children’s stories the most. She’s also passionate about nature, gardening and bird photography. 





After a fifteen-year stint as a software engineer, Anupama Ajinkya Apte decided to pursue her childhood passion for art. She loves drawing quirky characters. An avid Urban sketcher, she deeply enjoys working in watercolours.





I'd like to thank the publisher for letting me review the book. I do hope you end up liking the book when you read it. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading!




* I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

** Picture courtesy: Amazon.in, Google






Thursday, May 2, 2019

Showcase: Caught Up In It by David Burnsworth

Caught Up In It

by David Burnsworth

on Tour April 22 - May 25, 2019

Synopsis:

Caught Up In It by David Burnsworth
The award-winning diva, C, has got a big problem: someone wants her dead. A team of mercenaries attempts to gun her down in Kuala Lumpur. Lucky for her, Lowcountry Private Investigator, Blu Carraway, is already on the job there for a different client. Double-lucky for C, they make their move when she’s chit-chatting with him in a bar. Unlucky for the mercenaries, four of them end up dead.The hunt is on now for the mega-pop star. Where does she go to hide out? The sleepy islands around Charleston, South Carolina—Blu’s backyard. He’s already proven himself once, so C hires the Blu Carraway Investigation Agency to protect her for real. The job takes Blu halfway around the world and several cities in between. The search for the truth reveals what could drive a person to want someone else dead. And Blu Carraway ends up right in the way.





Book Details:


Genre: Mystery

Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: April 23, 2019

Number of Pages: 285
ISBN: 9781635114751

Series: Blu Carraway Mystery #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mid-July, Saturday late night
Blu Carraway, Private Investigator and sometimes, like at present, private security consultant, handed off his client to her boyfriend’s security team. In truth, there wasn’t an actual handoff. It was more of a formality since Jennifer Kincaid started seeing Mandel, the industrialist’s son. His security team was rivaled only by the Secret Service.
The exclusive club they were in had several levels, each with their own VIP list. Thanks to being a one-percenter and the aforementioned wealthy boyfriend, Ms. Kincaid was at the top of every list which meant Blu was at the top of every list. He parted the strings of beads hanging down as a curtain that was some decorator’s bad idea of kitsch and entered the innermost bar, a darkened room made up of marble, mahogany, gold, and leather— the best of materials.
The only other person in the room was the bartender, a pretty- boy type with short, styled hair, a trimmed beard, a starched white shirt with knife-edge creases, and a nod. He said, “What can I get you, Mr. Carraway?”
It had been a long thirty-six hours. The last batch of Millennials, those currently in their early twenties including his client, apparently did not sleep. Blu had been on the job the whole time along with Mandel’s team. Even with exclusive VIP lists, he did not trust his client’s protection to anyone else while in public places. Blu took a seat at the bar, the soft leather stool offering comfort for his tired glutes. “Black coffee—iced.”
“You got it.” This being the club in the city and Blu being on the list meant he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. Right now he wanted—needed—nicotine. As the bartender set a glass of chilled coffee in front of him, Blu pulled out his vape pen and took a few hits. The coffee and the vapor had been the two things keeping him going but he knew he was set to crash soon.
The bead curtains parted again and C walked in. Twenty-seven years old, shoulder length hair an unnatural shade of orange, various tattoos down her arms, and the prettiest face Blu had seen all evening, C was the reason he was at this particular club. Ms. Kincaid had talked her boyfriend into contracting C for a private show. As the girl whom Rolling Stone called the hottest act of the decade with Grammys and platinum albums, C was in high demand.
Here, this morning, at what Blu felt was the end of a hellacious run, the pop star was alone.
With a loud sigh she took the seat next to him. He was not really a fan of her music, some form of synth pop with a mixture of Arabian and Latin influence. He preferred eighties alternative and punk, but she had talent and a pretty face.
To the bartender, she said, “Get me a Guinness, Jesse.” Blu took another hit on his vape pen, realized he was staring, and stopped.
She said, “I saw you with Jennifer and Mandel. I’m Ariel.” C was her stage name. He shook her offered hand. “Blu.” Jesse the bartender set a pint of dark liquid in front of her with a perfect shamrock in the head.
Raising her glass, she said, “To new friends and quiet bars.” As he clinked her glass of stout with his iced coffee, Blu said, “To the end of a long night and a soft bed with my name on it.”
With a smile, she said, “We’re both on the job, aren’t we?” Something wasn’t right about the scene, and if Blu hadn’t been so exhausted he would have picked up on it sooner.
She was alone. Twenty million albums sold, two Grammys, and no personal security at the moment. She had a unit assigned to her. Blu knew the man in charge of her safety, didn’t like him, but thought he was competent. Except that he didn’t have her covered at the moment. It was not professional and left an opening for something bad to happen to C. With as much subtlety as he could muster, Blu checked to make sure he still had his Glock.
As he did that, a clipped sound came from the other side of the beads just before they parted around a suppressor, the kind screwed on the end of a firearm.
Blu had his Glock out and aimed. To Ariel, he said, “You better follow me.”
She saw the look in his eyes and did not question. Because the entrance covered by the beads faced the right side of the room, and he and Ariel were seated at the front, he had time to take Ariel’s hand and guide her to the other end of the massive wood bar. They ducked.
The suppressed automatic fired twice, bullets ricocheting off the bar’s marble surface.
Blu leaned out from the lower part of the bar, sighted in a figure in a black suit holding the gun, and fired. His Glock barked twice and the figure, a young Asian man, went down.
A second figure, another twentyish male, dove for cover on the other side of the bar.
Blu climbed onto the marble surface to give himself a better sightline.
Jesse the bartender lay on the floor behind the bar, two red holes in his chest. His eyes were open but not seeing anything anymore.
The second figure rose up. Blu saw him first and blew him away.
An alarm sounded from somewhere in the club. Hopping off the bar, Blu asked, “Where’s your security detail?” Ariel, obviously in shock by the blanched color of her already white skin and bloodshot eyes, shook her head. She sat on the floor.
This wasn’t good. “We need to move,” he said. “In case they have friends.”
“Friends?” she asked. “More guys with guns,” Blu said. With an arm around her waist, he lifted her up and guided her to the side door of the club, the one he’d seen on the architect drawings of the building when he’d scouted the place two days ago. He kept his gun pointed where he looked, glancing back periodically to watch their six.
Another alarm started blaring when he kicked the door open but he didn’t care. They needed to get out. Who knew how many of the gunmen there were?
Through the door, they found themselves in a narrow landing with stairs leading up and down from where they stood. Blu closed the door behind them and led her down, his gun pointed directly ahead. No one met them as they descended the stairs.
Blu pulled out his phone and hit redial. The call was answered with, “Yo, you on your way or what?”
“I need a car at the back entrance to the club. Now.”
“What? I thought Goldilocks left with the baby bear?” He didn’t have time for this. “Give me an E.T.A. Now.”
“Yeah, um, hold on.” What the hell? His team had been on point the whole day and a half. An hour off the clock and they fell apart?
The man came back on the line, “We’re on our way. I hope two is enough. Are we coming in hot?”
“Safeties off. Don’t shoot until I say otherwise.”
“E.T.A. ten minutes.”
“Roger.” Blu ended the call. At the bottom of the steps, Blu leaned Ariel against the wall and inched the door open, slipping his pistol out the slight opening as he got a read on the situation.
Two men with submachine guns stood guard facing the street along with a waiting van, its side doors open. They were all dressed like the two he’d capped upstairs–nice dark suits, ties, expensive shoes. He fired twice, taking them both out with single head shots.
The van took off down the street, its open doors swinging shut. Blu kicked the back door to the club fully open and unloaded his clip into the speeding vehicle as it bucked and bounced around a corner. When the magazine was empty, he ejected it and jammed in a full one.
He checked the street which was really an alley, saw no one else around, and slipped back inside the building. Sirens wailed in the distance.
Ariel still leaned against the wall. He put an arm around her and guided her to the exit, slipping the door open as before, training his pistol out first. He didn’t see anyone else around besides the two downed mercenaries with the machine guns.
The walkie talkie app on his phone chirped with, “We’re two blocks away.”
“I’m in the alley on the south side. I’ve got a female with me. Safeties still off. Four unfriendlies down. Maybe more around.”
“Roger that.” Thirty seconds later, a black Mercedes SUV charged around the corner and screeched to a stop in front of them.
The front passenger, a man with a military build, got out holding a submachine gun. He opened the back door.
Blu pushed Ariel inside the truck and dove in after her. The armed passenger jumped back in and the driver accelerated away.
The passenger, the one Blu had called on the phone, a man named Colton, said, “What the hell, Blu? I thought we were clear for the night?”
Blu peered out the back window. “So did I.”
“Who’s th—” Colton looked at Ariel and stopped himself. “You’re C. Jesus, Blu. What the hell is going on?”
“Not sure,” Blu said. “Get us to the compound and we’ll figure it out from there.”
The driver, a man named Brack Pelton who’d recently joined Blu’s team as a wheel man, knew to keep quiet. His skills as a mercenary were many, but they paled in comparison to his driving. He hustled the two-and-a-half-ton SUV through the back streets like an ace. Of course it helped that the truck was the AMG model with 600 horsepower.
Brack didn’t drink any more but Blu couldn’t say the same for Colton whose reflexes were not one-hundred-percent at the moment.
While they rode, Blu called the compound to give the new details. He didn’t begin to relax until they’d crossed the Klang River and were almost there. His client’s father, Adam Kincaid, had homes around the world. With his daughter spending more time here since she’d met the prince charming, he’d reinforced the barriers and increased the security detail. Blu had been contracted to make improvements and had complete authority.
Ariel seemed to come out of her shock. She looked over at Blu, then the men up front, and then back at Blu.
He said, “You’re okay. We’re going to Jennifer Kincaid’s house.”
“Can you take me to my hotel?”
“Where’s your security detail?” Blu asked. “I’d feel better handing you over to them.”
Looking down at her lap, she said, “I don’t know. I thought they were at the club.”
Blu said, “There wasn’t anyone left besides you, me, Jesse, and some of the wait staff.”
She looked up. “Jesse? Where is he? Is he okay?”
“Jesse didn’t make it.”
“Huh?” she asked. “They shot him.”
“Oh, God.” With that, she collapsed in her seat again.
---
The first traces of daybreak peeked out of a halo on the horizon as they arrived. The Kincaid compound was a bungalow in the hills just outside the city. Jennifer had wanted an apartment in town but Blu and her father felt it was safer here. The home sat on the top of a hill overlooking the city.
Pelton circled the fountain and eased to a stop at the entryway of the home.
Colton got out first and opened the rear door. Blu exited and then helped Ariel get out, her tight dress preventing her from too much mobility.
She looked around. “I still don’t know why I can’t go back to my hotel.”
Blu said, “Call Teller. Find out where the h—” He caught himself. “Find out when he can be here to collect you.”
Jack Teller was supposed to be her head of security. While Ariel made her call, Blu phoned Adam Kincaid and explained what had happened. The man had enough money to fix anything. Four dead mercenaries in a foreign country were no big deal. After Blu explained that Kincaid’s daughter was safe, he described the situation. Adam listened and then said he’d call back after he found out what the authorities were doing.
---
Jack Teller showed up at the Kincaid compound four hours later. Blu watched him exit an Audi SUV, all six-foot-five of himself, blond hair, blue eyes, and tanned muscle.
Blu met him at the door. Before he could speak, Teller said, “I don’t need you butting in on my job, Carraway.”
No “thank you for saving my client” or “I’m glad my client is alive.”
“Really,” Blu said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you in the room when the two mercs with suppressed automatics came in blasting.”
Teller scowled. It seemed to Blu that the man was somewhat embarrassed and was trying to save face, but this was a stupid way to do that.
“Where’s Ariel?” Blu motioned toward the sitting room just off of the entryway. The flooring and walls were stone and the ceilings stretched twelve feet at the lowest points. Their footsteps echoed as they walked.
Ariel, sitting on one of the leather couches and hugging a pillow, looked at Teller. Without saying a word, she stood up, tossed the pillow to the other end of the couch, and walked past her head of security.
Blu hadn’t known her very long, but he got the feeling she was not happy with the service she was being provided. He’d used the opportunity of waiting for Teller to hand her a business card earlier in case she felt the need to make a change.
Teller eyed Blu one last time and then followed his client outside.
Ariel was waiting at the SUV for someone to open the door for her.
That showed a couple of things. The first was she was letting Teller and his men know that they still had a job to do, and opening the door for her was part of it. The second was that she was telling them that she was still willing to submit to being in their care.
Blu had dealt with Teller before. He might do things differently than Blu, but he wasn’t known for being sloppy. Ariel should never have been alone in that club.
At the sight of the Audi SUV’s exit off the compound and the closing of the gate, Blu turned to Colton and Pelton.
“I’m taking a shower and hitting the sack. We are back on in six hours. I suggest you rest up.”
And with that, he retired to his room.

Chapter Two

Three days later, Wednesday, Barrier Lowcountry island south of Charleston, South Carolina, Residence of Blu Carraway
“I think it’s Colic. We need to get him to his feet.”
Blu Carraway didn’t look at the man who’d spoken to him. He kept his eyes on the magnificent creature lying two feet away from him in the shade by his house. The black horse was older than Blu recollected and he was sick.
The man, a local vet named Dick Campbell, knelt by the horse Blu had named Murder and listened to his breathing with a stethoscope.
The other horses stood close by. Dink and Doofus, normally on post by the front door awaiting treats, seemed to be making the rounds comforting the other members of their ragtag herd.
Blu wiped sweat from his brow. “This horse saved my life.” Without an ounce of condescension, the vet gave him a nod. For most of his life, Murder had chosen to live on the opposite side of the island. Blu’s nine acre plot, depending on the tide, had been the place they both called home. Murder had made it his in his own way, leading the rest of the herd of Carolina Marsh Tackeys.
Dick raised himself up. “He’s going to be tough to move, so we need to make him as comfortable as we can where he is. But we need to get him up. Keep him shaded and hydrated. I’ll come back with an I.V.”
Blu wanted Murder patrolling their island forever, not lying on his sickbed, which at the moment was a mixture of crushed shells and pine needles.
“If you want,” Dick said, “I can get a canopy set up.” Blu felt his head droop. An involuntary sigh came out. He shut his eyes and opened them. “Yeah, okay. That would be nice, Dick. Thanks. How do we get him up?”
“If he won’t stand on his own, we’ll have to lift him.” He put a hand on Blu’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. I have some friends who know what to do.”
The vet gave him another nod and walked toward his Suburban which was parked in front of the house.
Murder’s chest rose and fell. If Blu listened hard, he could hear how labored the animal’s breathing had become. This was not something expected. It seemed like yesterday, this horse led the rest in a stampede in front of the house, running from one end of the island to the other. So full of life.
And now this. “Hey, Blu?” Dick called from the tailgate of his truck. “Yeah?”
“One of my assistants is on his way with the canopy and liquids. Should be here within the hour. The sun won’t be on that side of the house until later so we have some time.”
Blu didn’t think Murder really had any time to spare. It wasn’t worth debating. Whatever’s going to happen was going to happen. And it really sucked eggs.
Blu said, “Thanks.” But he didn’t really mean it. At the moment, the rumble of a Harley Davidson could be heard in the distance and getting louder.
Mick Crome idled his way across the bridge and onto Blu’s island paradise. He swung the bike in a semicircle and stopped next to Blu’s four-year-old Nissan Xterra. Wearing his normal biker garb of a do-rag to keep his long hair under control and out of his face, aviator sunglasses, handlebar mustache, black T-shirt advertising a Harley dealership in Bangkok, ripped jeans, and biker boots, Crome looked at Murder and then at Blu.
“What the hell’s wrong with him?”
“Campbell thinks Colic. He’s going to get someone to lift him back onto his feet.”
Crome took out a vape pen and inhaled a lungful. On the exhale, he said, “I guess you told him money’s no object. Cause I’m gonna chip in whatever you need.”
This vet bill could go real high in a hurry and still not save the horse. Blu said, “Thanks.”
Crome put an arm on Blu’s shoulder. “I mean it. Whatever it takes.” Not knowing what else to do for the horse at the moment, and with Dink and Doofus and Sally, another horse from the herd, standing nearby keeping Murder company, Blu felt it was okay to step away.
As they turned to go into the house, the crunch of tires on the crushed shell drive stopped them. They waited to see who it was, Blu hoping and then not hoping it was Tess Ray, the woman in his life at the moment. She was great, but made him feel both younger and older at the same time.
It wasn’t Tess; at least it wasn’t Tess’s convertible Beetle. The grey sedan had rental practically stamped into the doors and the shock of orange hair on the driver confirmed it wasn’t Tess.
Crome said, “I could be wrong, but that looks a hell-of-a-lot like that pop star named C.”
“So it is,” Blu said, suddenly concerned because like the first time he’d met her there was no security detail present. She was alone. Ariel waved and pulled in next to Crome’s bike.
Blu and Crome waved back. “You listen to C?” Blu asked. “You get a look at her?” The biker said. “Remember those pictures?”
Of course. It had nothing to do with the two Grammys she’d earned and had everything to do with the nude photos leaked all over the internet a few months back.
“One question,” Crome said. “Why’s someone as famous as she is and worth thirty-million-bucks driving herself anywhere?”
“I’m guessing, once again, her security detail has come up short.”
“Once again?” Crome asked.
“Long story,” Blu said. “The short version is Jack Teller fell down on the job.”
“Teller? Really? He’s a tool, but I never thought he was incompetent.”
Ariel got out of her car, looked at the horses, and then at Blu and Crome. “I didn’t believe it when I heard you have an island in paradise with a bunch of horses.” She swatted at a mosquito.
Dink and Doofus did not leave Murder’s side. His illness had affected the whole island.
Blu approached her. “Nice to see you again. Um...”
“Why am I here?” she asked, flailing her arms at the full on parasite assault.
“Before you answer your own question, let’s get you some bug repellant.”
He led her, rather quickly, to his side porch, picking up a bottle of the good stuff. “Are you allergic to anything that might be in this?”
She swatted at her legs. “Spray me! Spray me!”
“Close your eyes,” he said. She did and he gave her a thorough dousing. Ariel breathed a sigh of relief. She had a few welts forming, but otherwise looked like she did the last time he’d seen her.
Crome cleared his throat. Blu said, “This is my business partner, Mick Crome.” Holding out a hand, Crome said, “It’s a pleasure.” She said, “I’m sorry but I don’t remember seeing you at the club. I was kinda out of it.”
“He wasn’t there,” Blu said. “Can I offer you something to drink?”
Crome said, “He’s got tap water and cold—I mean iced— coffee.”
“Anything’s fine,” she said. “What my partner’s trying to tell you,” Blu said, “is he’s got beer in his saddle bags.”
She looked at them. “You rode a horse?”
“Naw,” Crome said. He lifted the lid on one of the bags mounted on the side of his bike. In it were an insulated pouch of ice and some cans of beer.
She took the offered can, popped the top, and took a long drink. Crome said, “Honey, try not to make everything you do remind me of your videos.”
Risquรฉ would be a polite way to describe them. Pornographic might be how a certain demographic labeled them. Either way, Crome seemed to enjoy thinking about them. She gave him a smile. “You’re cute.” He popped the top of one of his beers, tapped it to hers, said, “Here’s to your health,” and drank half of it down.
“Back to the question you asked yourself,” Blu said. “Why am I here?” She smiled. “Because I fired Jack.”
“He leave you high and dry or something?” Crome asked. She looked at Blu. “You didn’t tell him?”
“I was getting around to it,” he said. Not giving him the chance, Ariel said, “Your partner here saved my photogenic behind.”
Eyeing Blu, Crome said, “You don’t say?”
“He shot four men and got me to a safe house.” Blu said, “I meant to ask, where was Teller in all that?” She huffed, took a drink from her beer, and swallowed. “Said he thought I’d told him I didn’t need him anymore. I don’t remember saying that. All I remember is seeing Jesse lying in a pool of his own blood as you shot the second one with the gun. Say, what’s with that horse on the ground over there?”
“His name is Murder and he’s sick,” Blu said.
“He one of yours?” she asked. “In a way.” Crome said, “They sorta came with the island. Blu might be afraid to, but I’d call them family. We’re worried about Murder.”
Still looking at Murder lying on the ground, Ariel said, “That’s sad. Anything I can do to help?”
“I appreciate the offer.” Blu pulled out his vape pen and took a quick hit to calm his nerves. “My vet’s the best horse doctor in the lowcountry.”
“The what? Lowcountry? What’s that?”
“You’re standing in it. The low lands of South Carolina. Marsh and pluff mud and fill dirt. That’s what makes up most of Charleston County.”
“Yeah,” Crome said, swatting at a bug. “And parasites like Blu here.” She laughed. “And you, too?”
Crome bowed. “At your service, m’lady.” Blu took a last look at Murder and then motioned for them to sit on the chairs on the patio under the working ceiling fan. It was cooler than the inside which did not have air conditioning at the moment.
They sat. Blu and Crome watched Ariel. She said, “I guess I need to explain what I’m doing here.”
“Only if you want to,” Crome said. “We could always play a guessing game.”
As if ignoring him, she said, “Teller is no longer on my payroll.”
“Who’s managing your security then?” Blu asked. “You, I hope.” Crome said, “You mean you flew commercial from Malaysia, rented your own car, and drove yourself here all by yourself?”
She leaned in and gave him a blank look. “I can walk and chew gum at the same time as well.”
“What he’s doing a bad job of saying,” Blu said, “is that someone in your position puts themselves in danger when there is no plan accounting for risks.”
She sat back and took a breath. “Sorry. There are a lot of men in this business who enjoy cutting women down. I have a habit of not letting things go.”
Crome said, “Apology accepted. I can see you’re tough. But part of the reason me and Blu are in business is because there are some real pikers out there that tend to take things up a few notches. Wouldn’t want that to happen to you.”
“So you’ll take the job?” she asked. “What is the job?” Blu asked. “Handling my security.” Before Blu could say anything, but with thoughts of every reason his biker business partner would not want to have a long term commitment like this one, Crome said, “Hell yes.”
Blu blinked a few times. Then he said, “What is the timeframe you are looking for, here?”
“Permanent.” Holding up a hand, Crome said, “We talkin’ twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week?”
“Yes.” He looked at Blu. “I been looking for something a little more long term that our normal jobs. How about you?”
This coming from the man who vetoed a similar opportunity guarding a rich banker with six-figure paychecks for both of them and, frankly, a much easier task than trying to guard someone who books hundred-thousand-seat stadiums.
“No offense,” she said, “but I want Blu on point. He already proved he’s capable before I offered to pay.”
“Of course,” Crome said, and toked on his vape pen. The change in his demeanor was minor, but Blu could sense she inadvertently just threw Crome’s ego in a blender and hit the high- speed button.
Blu said, “We work with a few contractors, handpicked by us of course. But without knowing more specifics, I’m not sure I can tell you we’ll be able to handle the job.”
Brushing strands of orange hair off her face from the ocean breeze in the air, she said, “What do you want to know?”
“If we’re on the hook round the clock,” Blu said, “we need to see where you live, what your studio and tour schedules are, and where you spend your leisure time, if you have any.”
“Is that all?” she asked. “No,” Crome said, recovering from the brush off, “we need to know all of your friends and business associates. We like to do background checks on everyone.”
“You’re kidding,” she said. “I’m afraid not,” Blu said. “You mean Jack didn’t go through all of this with you?”
She said. “With him, I felt like luggage.” Blu inhaled a lungful of vapor, thought for a moment, exhaled, and then said, “How do you feel about handguns?”
“I don’t mind them,” she said. “But I’ve never shot one.”
“Reason I ask,” Blu said, “is because those guys meant business back at the club. We need to talk about them. And if you’re agreeable, I’d like Crome to take you to the range and teach you handgun safety and how to shoot.”
She looked at Crome as if to ask, “Him?” Blu said, “Crome’s rough around the edges—”
“Thanks a lot.”
“But,” Blu continued, “he’s the last person to pull a handgun in a fight which makes him the best instructor for you.”
As if finally getting what Blu was saying, Crome offered, “I’m more of a leg-breaker type.”
“I see.” It was clear she didn’t see or understand, but was going along with it. As Blu understood the situation, she was already here and asking for help. It would seem disingenuous for her to back out now, no matter how unsophisticated Blu Carraway Investigations appeared.
“Good,” Blu said. “Now, about those four men with guns.”
She sunk back in her chair. “I have no idea what they were after.” Blu got the feeling, and it wasn’t the first time with a client, that she was not telling the whole truth. Or at least as much as she knew. He said, “I’m told they were contract killers. Not exactly high end, but killers none-the-less.”
Kincaid had gotten the information from the local authorities back in Kuala Lumpur.
“Well I have no idea why they’d be after me.” Almost the same thing she’d said before. Blu wouldn’t get more out of her at the moment, but he would eventually. “Okay, then.” He turned to Crome. “Mick, why don’t you take her to Pop’s place and get her started on her training?”
“What are you going to do?” she asked. “There is a lot of work even before we review your schedule and lifestyle.”
“What about a contract or something?” she asked. “How about this,” Blu said. “We sign on for one week while we figure the situation out. If a lot more killers come knocking, Crome and I won’t be enough and I’ll have to refer you to a bigger shop.”

Chapter Three

Carraway Island south of Charleston, South Carolina
Crome sucked down vapor, wondering how this was all going to work. What started out as maybe something amusing and superficial had turned into a real job and not much of a fun one if you asked him. He thought someone with orange hair and a bunch of tats would be a little less formal when it came to rules and such. But apparently C was more than she appeared.
“Okay, Mr. Crome,” Ariel said, “I hadn’t planned on shooting guns today and probably am not dressed appropriately.”
“Nobody except the military, cops, crazies or hunters plans on shooting guns,” Crome said, “but I find their wardrobes lacking.”
She laughed. “A joker. Now I’m beginning to figure you out.”
“As far as your wardrobe,” he motioned to her t-shirt, vintage jeans, and Doc Martens, “it looks like you take lessons from Blu.”
“I was trying to travel incognito.” Her signature orange hair prevented her being incognito in any situation unless it was under a wig. Something to think about for later.
He said, “How about you hand me your car keys and I drive us to the range?”
“You’re not on my rental plan.” Again traces of formality and rules. “I think someone with your credit score wouldn’t need to worry about things like that,” he said. “But if it’ll make you feel better, Blu tells me we have a pretty hefty umbrella policy in case I blow off the wrong person’s head.”
“Still,” she said, giving him a smile that almost melted his guts, “I’d rather not risk it.”
Crome couldn’t believe it when she instead donned a ball cap, walked over, mounted his bike, raised the kick stand, and started it up.
Blu, who’d been silent through the whole exchange, laughed, patted Crome on the shoulder, and walked inside his house.
Blu listened as the rumble of the Harley’s engine dissipated in the distance.
---
The first call he made was to Brack Pelton, a local Charlestonian and the wheel man he’d used in Malaysia. Starting right now, Ariel would no longer drive herself anywhere. She was as safe as could be expected riding on the back of Crome’s bike, especially with no one the wiser that she was in town. While she was strikingly beautiful, she and Crome together looked the part of bikers, or something like that.
Pelton answered the call with, “Darcy doesn’t believe me that we had C in the car with us while on the job with Jennifer.”
“Listen, Brack,” Blu said. “The last thing I should be doing is giving marital advice. But I’d recommend you let her win this one.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because you can prove your point when you bring your lovely wife over to my house for dinner tonight.”
“Prove my point?” he asked. “What’s that supposed—wait a minute. She’s there isn’t she?”
“No.” It was a true statement. “Then how am I going to prove my point?”
“Crome took her to Pops’ range to teach her about handguns. They’ll be back for dinner.”
“Hot damn.”
“Helping you impress your wife wasn’t the goal of my call,” Blu said.
“Sorry. What can I do for you?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I think Crome and I are going to take over her personal security.”
“No kidding? You need a driver?”
“Yes, and may need a second home base if things go south here.”
“No problem,” he said. “How’s Murder?”
“Not well.”
“Man, I hate to hear that. Let me know if there is anything we can do for you there. Even if it’s to come and sit with him or whatever. We’re here, okay?”
“Thanks, Brack. Right now, plan on coming for dinner. In fact, can you have your restaurant cater it? I don’t normally keep much on hand and don’t have time to go shopping. I’m going to call my daughter. When Tess and Harmony get wind of it, the count’s eight.”
“We’ll take care of everything,” Brack said. “Darcy’s gonna love this. Thanks for thinking of us.”
“See you at six.” The call ended. With dinner now planned, Blu contacted Adam Kincaid. Unbeknownst to Crome, Blu had signed an extended contract with the Kincaids. The sole purpose was to watch Jennifer Kincaid when she traveled outside of the country, which happened every couple of months. More often now that she was dating Mandel. Blu thought she could do better, maybe someone who wasn’t afraid of actual work. Any kind of legitimate effort would suffice.
---
Crome congratulated himself on having the foresight to call ahead and ask for the private room. Ariel, or C, whichever name she went under, sold a bunch of albums with her picture on the cover. She’d also done a Super Bowl half-time show and a New Year’s Eve party with a wardrobe malfunction that was broadcast on a major network. There was no way she was going anywhere without being recognized, which brought up another thought—if she flew commercial, people already knew she was in town. That might cause some problems.
Plug It and Stuff It, the taxidermy and gun range Blu and Crome liked to use, had been around a long time. So had its owner, Pops. Crome dropped the kickstand next to a twenty-five-year-old F-150 with new Trump decals and faded “W” stickers on the tailgate.
Ariel read the faded wooden sign on the front door: “We can help you load it and shoot it. If your pistol still don’t fire right, see a doctor.”
“Whaddaya think?” he asked. She looked at the weathered and run-down building, the cracked asphalt parking lot that was mostly empty, and the surrounding buildings and lots that weren’t any better. “I love America.”
“Pops is good people,” Crome said. “You’ll see.”
“You don’t understand,” she said. “These are my people, too. My family runs a hunting lodge in Michigan. Their regulars work in the car factories.”
He felt like saying, “You ain’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy,” but thought better of it. She had enough money to buy the rust belt, no matter how much she thought she was just like everyone else.
---
As Blu ended the conversation with Adam Kincaid, another call buzzed in. It was Tess. He and Tess were, well, he wasn’t sure what they were. Since leaving the now defunct Palmetto Pulse news organization, she had worked as an independent news correspondent along with her cohort, Harmony Childs. Tess spent most nights on his island home in his bed but was gone by dawn. There was none of the usual new romance rituals of “couldn’t wait to talk to you” or “just thinking of you” phone calls, jittery lunches, candlelight dinners, or bouquets of flowers. Okay, that last one was on him, but she didn’t have an office he could send them to and wasn’t home long enough to receive or enjoy them.
All that passed through the black hole that was his brain as the phone rattled and hummed with her number displayed on the screen. It was the middle of the afternoon and they weren’t working on a similar story—the only other reason they talked during the day.
He answered with, “Hey, Tess.” She said, “Didn’t you tell me you saved C’s life in Malaysia?”
“I did.”
“Well, there are several fan-selfie posts with her on a flight to Charleston. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was on her way to see you.” He wondered how many other people knew. “Um...”
“She’s already there, isn’t she?” Tess asked. “Not exactly.”
“Am I going to have to play twenty questions or are you going to give me the story.”
“She’s at the shooting range with Crome. He’s teaching her handgun safety. She came to town to contract me and Crome for her personal security.”
“No kidding?” Thinking fast, he said, “The Peltons are bringing dinner over tonight. Call Harmony and come over at six.”
“C is going to be at your house for dinner tonight.” She said it as if she were trying to convince herself it was the truth.
“That’s right.”
“Oh. My. God.” He thought he heard her give a slight squeal. It was times like this, and there weren’t that many of them, when he felt the other side of their twenty-year age difference. Most of the rest of the time he played catch-up, her being so much more mature.
“So you’ll be here?”
“Can I call Hope?” That one caught him off guard. He wasn’t used to—or better yet—didn’t expect Tess to want to have a relationship with Blu’s twenty-two-year-old daughter. “If you want.” It didn’t come out with a whole lot of confidence, but he hoped she didn’t notice. “Just don’t tell her who’s going to be here.”
“Great! See you tonight.” The call ended.
---
Crome watched Pops help Ariel reload the clip for the thirty-two he’d set her up to use. The old man was patient with her, almost grandfather-like, and she showed him respect that only came with good upbringing. At least, what Crome imagined good upbringing would do. He wouldn’t know for sure. His father walked out when he was nine and his mother worked two jobs just to keep the lights on. He pretty much grew up on his own.
Pops wore a ball cap with a confederate flag on the front, a red flannel shirt, and blue jeans and looked every bit of his seventy years. He was a Vietnam vet who chain-smoked cigarettes and Crome and Blu were like the sons he never had.
Ariel shoved the clip in, aimed at a fresh target twenty feet away, and put four holes center mass.
She clicked the safety on, turned to Pops, and said, “Yes!” Pops accepted the gun from her and put it on the table. She gave him a hug, almost knocking his hat off. When Crome and Ariel had entered through the front door, Pops’ ten-year-old granddaughter smiled from underneath a head of dark curly hair. She received her light-brown skin and African features from her father but she had Pops’ brown eyes. Crome wasn’t sure where the girl’s mother, Pops’ daughter, was.
Ariel had been a good sport and a better student than Crome would have thought. It helped that Pops became enamored with the young woman, taking a liking to her immediately, orange hair and all.
Crome thought he was going to have to do all the work, but all he had to do was carry a few boxes of thirty-two rounds to the private room where they were. After that, he was free to stand back and vape.
Pops lit a cigarette, inhaled, and blew out a puff of smoke. Ariel did not seem to mind. He said, “You sure are a good shot, young lady.” She curtsied. “Thank you, kind sir.” Pops ate it up. He had no clue how famous she was. His granddaughter, recognizing Ariel right away, squealed and tried to explain it to her grandfather but it all went over his confederate cap.
Crome said, “So what do we owe ya, Pops?” The old man scratched his five-o’clock shadow. “The thirty- two and three boxes of shells. How about Ms. Ariel signs a poster for my granddaughter? She seems to like your music.”
“I’ll be glad to,” Ariel said. “But we’re going to pay you for the pistol and bullets.”
“And the lane and instructions,” Crome said. “Hell,” Pops said, “it ain’t every day I got a celebrity in here. Donate some money to the V.F.W. and I’ll call it even.”
Ariel kissed his cheek. “You are too much.” Pops blushed for the tenth time. It seemed to Crome as if everyone but him was getting all the female attention. Blu walked into a room and women swooned. Pops gets a kiss from the artist of the year. And all Crome ever got was blown off.
What was the world coming to?
--
Enjoyed this sample?
Read more about it and David at www.henerypress.com
***
Excerpt from Caught Up In It by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2019 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

David Burnsworth
David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. He is the author of both the Brack Pelton and the Blu Carraway Mystery Series. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.

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