A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie


bitterSynopsis: Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, have been invited for a relaxing weekend in the tranquil Cotswolds, one of Britain’s most beautiful and historic regions, famous for its rolling hills, sheep-strewn green meadows, golden cottages, and timeless villages that retain the spirit of old England.

Duncan, Gemma, and their children are guests at Beck House, the country estate belonging to the family of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s trusted detective sergeant. No ordinary farmers, the Talbots are wealthy and prominent with ties to Britain’s most powerful and influential. A centerpiece of this glorious fall getaway is a posh charity luncheon catered by up-and-coming chef Viv Holland. After more than a decade in London, Viv has returned to her native Glouscestershire, making a name for herself with her innovative, mouthwatering use of the local bounty. Attended by several dozen of the area’s well-to-do, as well as national food bloggers and restaurant critics, the event could make Viv a star. A tragic car accident followed by a series of mysterious deaths could ruin her ascent. Each piece of information that surfaces makes it clear that the killer had a connection with Viv’s pub—and perhaps with Beck House itself.

I began this novel with some trepidation because I was disappointed by Crombie’s last entry in this series. After the first couple of pages, I knew this one was of the caliber I had come to expect from the author, and, truthfully, I could not put this down. The story is engaging, and the relationship between Duncan & Gemma is back on track. I enjoyed the foodie aspect to this mystery, as well as the idyllic Cotswalds setting. Learning more about Melody Talbot’s family was also a bonus.

Upon reflection, the “couldn’t put it down-ness” of this book *could* have stemmed from my fear that Crombie was going to kill off Duncan in the end. I am still smarting from James Compton’s death in the Maisie Dobbs series; I would have been crushed if Duncan died from complications from the car crash. THANK YOU, Deborah Crombie, for keeping him going!

Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Published By: William Morrow
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

Bewitched & Betrothed by Juliet Blackwell

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betwitchedSynopsis: A supernatural force on the loose in San Francisco and a family reunion keeps witch and vintage storeowner Lily Ivory on her toes as she prepares to walk down the aisle…

When Lily stumbles on the uniform of a former prisoner from Alcatraz and SFPD inspector Carlos Romero’s cousin is kidnapped, Lily suspects something dangerous has been unleashed on the ghost-ridden island of Alcatraz. She’ll have to sleuth out the culprit—when she’s not busy entertaining her visiting relatives and resolving romantic conflicts as her wedding date approaches. Could recent omens be pointing to the magical threat in her adopted city? If so, she’ll have to line up her allies to change the fate of the Bay Area. Because no matter what, Lily’s determined to celebrate her marriage with her friends by her side—even if it means battling a demonic foe before she can make it to the altar.

When a series hits double digit numbers, I often lose interest. That is not the case with Blackwell’s Lily Ivory series, and this latest is one of her best. This is really a series about the characters rather than the story, and the characters Blackwell has developed are people you want to know in real life. From Lily’s mischievous grandmother and her saucy coven, to Lily’s mentor Aidan and his mysterious past, to Patience Blix and her belled ankles, to San Francisco cop Carlos, to Lily’s closest friends Bronwyn, Maya, and Conrad, to her fiance Sailor, and finally to her familiar Oscar – every character has an important role to play.

One of the things I have enjoyed most about this series is how Blackwell grows and develops the characters. Each book has brought the characters farther along their path; for example, Conrad has gone from the stoned “gutter punk” to a guy trying to get sober and reconnect with his family. Lily herself has grown from a suspicious, solitary witch to someone who values friendship and love, which is a theme that appears again and again in this book and which she ultimately embraces in the thrilling climax where she does, indeed, save San Francisco.

While Blackwell often writes with tongue firmly in cheek, she consistently produces enjoyable, light mysteries that will give you a couple enjoyable hours of reading time. Well done, Juliet Blackwell! Looking forward to more Lily Ivory!

Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

The Book Supremacy by Kate Carlisle


Book supremacySynopsis: Newlyweds Brooklyn and Derek are enjoying the final days of their honeymoon in Paris. As they’re browsing the book stalls along the Seine, Brooklyn finds the perfect gift for Derek, a first edition James Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me. When they bump into Ned, an old friend from Derek’s spy days, Brooklyn shows him her latest treasure.

Once they’re back home in San Francisco, they visit a spy shop Ned mentioned. The owner begs them to let him display the book Brooklyn found in Paris as part of the shop’s first anniversary celebration. Before they agree, Derek makes sure the security is up to snuff—turns out, the unassuming book is worth a great deal more than sentimental value. Soon after, Derek is dismayed when he receives a mysterious letter from Paris announcing Ned’s death. Then late one night, someone is killed inside the spy shop. Are the murders connected to Brooklyn’s rare, pricey book? Is there something even more sinister afoot? Brooklyn and the spy who loves her will have to delve into the darkest parts of Derek’s past to unmask an enemy who’s been waiting for the chance to destroy everything they hold dear.

I have a soft spot for this bookish series from Kate Carlisle, mostly because I so enjoy the occupation of main character Brooklyn Wainwright, who is a book restorer. Set in San Francisco, the series follows Brooklyn and her ex-spy husband as they solve murder mysteries. While it’s helpful to have some knowledge of the series’ characters, each entry features a stand-alone mystery that is always well-executed. All are light, cozy mysteries that will entertain you for a couple of hours.  Be warned, though. If you read this one, you’ll want to go back and read the rest of the Bibliophile books.

Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

Swann’s Down by Charles Salzberg

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Swann's Down by Charles Salzberg Banner

on Tour May 1 – June 30, 2019

Synopsis:

Swann's Down by Charles Salzberg

When Henry Swann is asked by his quirky partner, Goldblatt, to find a missing psychic who’s swindled his ex-wife out of a small fortune, he just can’t say no. Although he doesn’t actually expect to get paid, he figures it might give him a chance to finally learn more about his partner’s mysterious past. His search takes him into the controversial, arcane world of psychics, fortune tellers, and charlatans, while raising questions in his own mind about whether or not there is an after-life.

While working his partner’s case, he’s approached by a former employer, attorney Paul Rudder, and asked to track down a missing witness who might be able to provide an alibi for his client. The client, Nicky Diamond, is a notorious mob hitman who’s scheduled to go on trial in a week for a murder he claims he didn’t commit. Swann’s search for the missing witness, who happens to be the defendant’s girlfriend, takes him from Brooklyn to a small beach town across the Bay from Mobile, Alabama. But what does she really know and will she even come back with him to testify for her boyfriend?

Partners In Crime constantly introduces me to new writers and new series, and Henry Swann is a damn fine new acquaintance. Wisecracking, tough, a little salty but nursing a softer side, he’s the 21st century answer to Sam Spade (it’s been a long time since I read a detective story where someone was referred to as a “welsher”), or at the very least, Elvis Cole.

The story will keep you engaged, although I did have a pretty good idea of how it would end. The characters are colorful enough that they keep you reading, although I will admit I liked Madame Sofia the best. Harry Swann is a detective whose adventures I will share again. Recommended for fans of detective fiction.

Praise for Swann’s Down:

“Psychics, double-crosses, missing persons–Charles Salzberg’s latest Henry Swann book has it all. Swann’s Down is a gritty, no-frills PI novel that brings to mind greats like Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager and Michael Harvey’s Michael Kelly. Whether this is your first Swann adventure or the latest, you won’t want to miss the brass-knuckle punch that is Swann’s Down. Trust me.”
~ Alex Segura, author of Blackout and Dangerous Ends

“From Manhattan to Coney Island to the steamy shores of Alabama, Charles Salzberg delivers a top-flight mystery with his latest Henry Swann outing. Highly recommended.”
~ Tom Straw, New York Times bestselling author as Richard Castle

Swann’s Down gives readers two intriguing mysteries for the price of one, as skip tracer Henry Swann pursues a woman who might alibi a murderer and a psychic who swindled the ex-wife of Swann’s partner. Shamus Award-nominated Salzberg does a superb job cutting between the two investigations. I kept turning pages to stay with both chases as the suspense increased to the very end. Whatever is going on, Swann is at the center of this story. His wry wit, quotes from authors and philosophers, genius for questioning suspects, and dark past make him a character readers will follow anywhere as he seeks his quarry. This is another thrilling addition to this excellent series.
~ Rich Zahradnik, Lights Out Summer, winner of the 2018 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Private Eye Novel

Henry Swann dives in where others fear to tread in Swann’s Down: Fast. Funny. And Smart. This time out, Swann crosses paths with a psycho hitman, a phony psychic and Swann’s mysterious partner, a disbarred lawyer. Who could ask for more? I hope we’ll see a lot more of Swann in the future and that this isn’t Swann’s swan song.
~ Paul D. Marks, Shamus Award-winning Author of White Heat and Broken Windows.

Book Details:

Genre: Detective/Noir/Mystery
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1-64396011-1
Series:Henry Swann
Purchase Links: Amazon | BN.com | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

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The Age of Aquarius

“We’re partners, right?”

Nothing good can come from that question when it comes from the mouth of Goldblatt.

“I mean, all for one and one for all, am I right?” he quickly added in an attempt, I was sure, to seal the deal.

“I think you’re confusing us with the three musketeers. May I point out there are only two of us, and I’m afraid that’s not the only fallacy in your declaration. But you might as well finish what you’ve started.”

We were having our weekly Friday lunchtime sit-down to discuss what Goldblatt likes to refer to as “business.” I have another name for it: waste of time.

Our venue changes from week to week but the concept is always pretty much the same: a cheap diner-slash-coffee shop somewhere on the island of Manhattan. Today’s eatery of choice (Goldblatt’s choice, my destiny) is the Utopia Diner, on Amsterdam, near 72nd Street. And as for the business we’d just finished discussing, well, to be honest, there never is very much actual business to discuss and today was no exception.

At this particular moment in time, we were going through a bit of a dry spell, which always makes me a little nervous because no matter how much I banish it from my mind, the rent is due the first of every month and at least three times a day I seem to develop a hunger that must be quenched. Still, a good fifteen, twenty years away from Social Security, and with precious little dough in the bank–okay, let’s be honest, no dough in the bank–and no 401-K to fall back on, I need to keep working. And, as much as I don’t like to admit it, lately it’s been my “partner,” as he likes to refer to himself, as opposed to my preferred albatross, who’s brought in the bulk of our clients.

We’d already finished eating–though technically, Goldblatt never actually finishes eating which means a meal can easily turn into an all-day affair, if I don’t apply the brakes–and we were just waiting for the check to arrive. This is a crucial point of any meal with Goldblatt because it is the opening gambit in what has become our weekly routine of watching the check sit there in no-man’s land somewhere between us until I inevitably give in, pick it up, and pay. Otherwise, I risk one of two things: either we’d be there all afternoon or, worst case scenario, Goldblatt will decide he’s still hungry and threaten to order something else. Neither one of these options is the least bit appealing.

“I’ll get right to the point,” he said.

Just then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the waiter, like a white knight, approaching with our check in hand. If I acted quick enough I might be able to get out of there before I can be sucked into something I don’t want to have anything to do with.

“That would be nice,” I said, reaching for my wallet. “What is your point?”

“I need to hire you.”

I was stopped in my tracks before I got my wallet halfway out of my back pocket.

“Really? To do what?”

“I want you to find someone for me. Well, to be more precise it’s not really for me. It’s for my ex-wife.”

Wait a minute! Goldblatt married? Goldblatt with a wife? Goldblatt a husband? This was a new one on me, something I’d never even considered.

“You…you’ve been married?” I stammered.

Truth is, I never pictured Goldblatt being in any relationship other than with, yes, as irritating as it might be, me. I mean the guy isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of Don Juan, although I suppose in theory there are women who might find him if not attractive in the conventional way at least interesting in a specimen-under-glass way. Or maybe as a project. Women love a project. They love a challenge. They love the idea that they have the opportunity to remake a man in their image. Maybe that was it. But whatever it was, my world was shaken to the core. And what would shake it even more would be to find that he was actually a father, too. But one shock per meal is more than enough, so there was no chance I was going to pursue that line of questioning.

“Unfortunately, the answer is yes. More than once, in fact.”

“Holy Cow,” I blurted out, channeling the Scooter. “You’re kidding me?”

At this point the same bald, squat waiter who seems to serve us in every diner we patronize, reached our table and dropped the check right in front of me.

“This is not something a man usually kids about.”

“How many times?”

He held up three fingers.

“Three times! You’ve been married three times?”

“Yeah.”

I gulped.

“Are you married now?”

He shook his head. “Nah. I’m kinda between wives. Giving it a rest, if you know what I mean.
But chances are I’ll be back in the saddle again soon enough.”

“Okay, so let me get this straight. You’ve been married three times and now you’re single but you would consider getting married again?”

“Man is not meant to be alone, Swannie. You might consider the possibility that your life would be enriched if you found your soulmate.”

You’re fortunate if you find one soul mate in life and I’d already had mine. She was yanked from my life as a result of a freak accident, a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t know if Goldblatt knew the circumstances of her bizarre accidental death, but I wouldn’t have been surprised because he seems to know a lot of things he has no business knowing.

“Some men are meant to be alone, Goldblatt. I’m one of them and after three failed marriages maybe you should consider the possibility you are, too.”

He smiled and puffed out his chest. “What can I say, Swann? I’m a friggin’ babe magnet.”

I would have laughed, should have laughed, but I was still processing the scary fact that he’d been married three times. That meant there were three women in the world who not only were willing to marry him but did marry him. I wanted to know more. Much more. Everything, in fact. But this was not the time and certainly not the place to delve into Goldblatt’s mysterious, sordid past. Nevertheless, I promised myself I would revisit this topic in the not too distant future.

Still in shock, I avoided our weekly “who’s paying for this meal” tango, grabbed the check and reached for my wallet…again.

“So, wanna know the story?” he asked.

“Which story would that be?”

“The story of why I want to hire you?”

“Desperately.”

***

Excerpt from Swann’s Down by Charles Salzberg. Copyright 2019 by Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Charles Salzberg

Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in New York magazine, Esquire, GQ, Redbook, The New York Times Book Review and other periodicals. He has written over 20 non-fiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times. He is author of the Shamus Award nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, nominated for two Silver Falchions, Swann’s Way Out, Devil in the Hole, named one of the best crime novels of the year by Suspense Magazine. He was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and he teaches writing the New York Writers Workshop where he is a Founding Member. He is a member of the MWA-NY Board.

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Dead in a Week by Andrea Kane

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Dead In A Week by Andrea Kane Banner

What would you do if your daughter was kidnapped and given only a week to live?

Lauren Pennington is celebrating her junior year abroad when life comes to a screeching halt. At Munich’s Hofbräuhaus, she engages in an innocent flirtation with a charming stranger for the length of a drink. Drink finished, Lauren leaves—only to be snatched from the streets and thrown into an unmarked van.

Officially, Aidan Deveraux is a communications expert for one of the largest financial firms in the world. In his secret life, the former Marine heads the Zermatt Group, a covert team of military and spy agency operatives that search the data stream for troubling events in an increasingly troubled world. When his artificial intelligence system detects Lauren’s kidnapping, Aidan immediately sees the bigger picture.

Silicon Valley: Lauren’s father, Vance Pennington, is about to launch a ground-breaking technology with his company NanoUSA. No sooner does Aidan arrive on Vance’s doorstep to explain the situation than the father receives a chilling text message: hand over the technology or Lauren will be dead in a week.

In a globe-spanning chase, from the beer halls of Germany, to the tech gardens of California, to the skyscrapers of China, and finally the farmlands of Croatia, Aidan’s team cracks levels of high-tech security and complex human mystery with a dogged determination. Drawing in teammates from the Forensic Instincts team (introduced in The Girl Who Disappeared Twice), the Zermatt Group will uncover the businessmen responsible, find the traitors within NanoUSA who are helping them, and save Lauren from a brutal death.

Andrea Kane returns with another pulse-pounding story peopled with intriguing characters and plenty of action. This is the kind of book you can dive into on a stormy weekend afternoon and emerge a couple hours later with no regrets. For fans of James Rollins and Clive Cussler.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Bonnie Meadow Publishing
Publication Date: March 19th 2019
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 1682320294 (ISBN13: 9781682320297)
Series: Forensic Instincts, Zermatt Group
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Munich, Germany
20 February
Tuesday, 4:00 p.m. local time

Normally, Lauren Pennington loved the sound of her combat boots clomping across the cobblestone apron. But right now, all she could think about was the growling of her empty stomach, urging her to move faster. She was oblivious to everything else—the couple on the corner sharing a passionate, open-mouthed kiss, the guy puking up his over-consumption of beer into the storm sewer grating, and the man watching her every move as he talked into his cell phone in a language that Lauren wouldn’t have recognized had she been paying attention.

She walked into Hofbräuhaus’ main hall, took a seat at one of the wooden tables, and placed her order. Minutes later, the waitress came over and brought Lauren’s food and drink. Barely uttering a perfunctory “Danke,” Lauren bit into a pretzel the size of her head and took a healthy gulp of Hofbräu.

The semester had ended, and she was entitled to some carbs and a dose of people-watching at the historic Munich brewery. Pretzels and beer were addicting, but people-watching had always fascinated her. Despite a whole winter semester of her junior year abroad studying art history at the Ludwig Maximilian University at Munich, she still enjoyed playing the tourist. Not at school, but every time she strolled the streets, studied the architecture, chatted with the locals.

Hofbräuhaus was less than a mile from campus, but the brewery’s main hall had a reputation all its own. With its old-world atmosphere of wooden tables, terra cotta floors, painted arches, and hanging lanterns, how could anyone not feel a sense of history just being within these walls?

Maybe that’s why Europe called out to her, not just here, but from a million different places. Museums. Theaters. Cathedrals. She wanted to experience them all, and then some. She’d be going home to San Francisco in July, and she hadn’t been to Paris or London or Brussels. She’d gotten a mere taste of Munich and had yet to visit Berlin.

When would she get another chance to do all that?

Not for ages. And certainly not with the sense of freedom she had as a college student, with little or no responsibilities outside her schoolwork to claim her attention. On the flip side, she felt terribly guilty. Every February, her entire family traveled to Lake Tahoe together. It was a ritual and a very big deal, since her father rarely got a day, much less a week, off as a high-powered executive. Her mother usually began making arrangements for the trip right after the holidays. In her mind, it was like a second Christmas, with the whole family reuniting and sharing time and laughter together.

This year was no different. Lauren’s brother, Andrew, and her sister, Jessica, were both taking time off from their busy careers to join their parents at Tahoe—no easy feat considering Andrew was an intellectual property attorney in Atlanta, and Jess was a corporate buyer for Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Lauren was the only holdout. Lauren. The college kid. The baby. The free spirit who always came home from Pomona College to nest, especially for family gatherings and rituals.

Her parents had been very quiet when she’d told them about her plans. Lauren knew what that silence meant. After the phone call ended, her mother would have cried that she was losing her baby, and her father would have scowled and written off her decision as college rebellion. Neither was true. But no matter how she explained it, her parents didn’t understand. They’d traveled extensively in Europe, and to them, it was no big deal. But it was Lauren’s first time here, and to her, it was like discovering a whole new world—a world she felt an instant rapport with. It was like discovering a part of her soul she’d never known existed. And she had to immerse herself in it.

She’d entertained the idea of flying to Lake Tahoe for the week and then returning to fulfill her dream. Her parents would definitely pay for that. But given the long international travel, the flight changes, the time differences, and the jet lag, Tahoe would put too much of a crimp in the many plans she had for her break between semesters. She’d had invitations from school friends who said she could stay with them during her travels—friends from Germany and so many other countries.

The world was at her feet.

No, despite how much she loved her family, she had to do things her way this time. There’d be other Februarys, other trips to Tahoe. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

She was still drinking her beer and lamenting her situation when a masculine voice from behind her said, “Hallo. Kann ich mitmachen?”

Turning, Lauren saw a handsome, rugged-featured guy, gazing at her with raised brows. He was asking if he could join her.

“Sind Sie allein?” he asked, glancing to her right and to her left.

“Yes, I’m alone,” she answered in German. “And, yes, please join me.”

The man came around and slid onto the bench seat. He propped his elbow on the table, signalling to the waitress that he’d have the same as the lady. The waitress nodded, hurrying off to get his refreshment.

He turned his gaze back to Lauren. “You’re American,” he noted, speaking English that was heavily accented.

“Guilty as charged,” she responded in English. “Is it that obvious?” She gave him a rueful look.

He smiled, idly playing with the gold chain around his neck. “Your German is quite good. But I picked up the American…what’s the word you use? Twang.”

Lauren had to laugh. “It’s my turn to take a stab at it, then. You’re French? Slavic? A combination of both?”

“The last.“ His smile widened. “You have a good ear, as well.”

“Your German and your English are excellent. I guess I just got lucky.”

“Speaking of getting lucky, what’s your name?” he asked.

His boldness took her aback, but she answered anyway. “Lauren. What’s yours?”

“Marko.” He held out his hand, which Lauren shook. “I’m in Munich on business. And you?”

“I’m an exchange student. I’m on break, and I’m looking forward to enjoying some time exploring Europe.”

Marko looked intrigued. “I can give you a few tips.” A mischievous glint lit his eyes. “Or I could travel with you for a few days and give you the best taste of Munich you’ll ever have.”

Lauren felt flushed. She was twenty years old. She knew very well what Marko meant by “the best taste.” She should be offended. But she couldn’t help being flattered. He was older, good-looking, and charming.
Nonetheless, she wasn’t stupid. And she wasn’t in the market for a hookup.

“Thanks, but I’m tackling this trip on my own,” she replied. “I’m meeting up with friends later, but I’m good as planned.”

“Pity.” The glint in his eyes faded with regret. “Then at least let me give you some pointers about the best sights to see and the best restaurants and places to visit.”

“That would be fantastic.” Lauren rummaged in her purse for a pen and paper. Having found them, she set her bag on the floor between them.

She spent the next twenty mesmerizing minutes listening to Marko detail the highlights of Munich and other parts of Bavaria, as she simultaneously scribbled down what he was saying.

“Thank you so much,” she said when he was finished. “This is like a guided tour.”

“Once again, I could do it in person.”

“And once again, I’m flattered, but no thank you.” Lauren signaled for her check, reaching into her bag and retrieving a twenty euro bill when the waitress approached the table. “The rest is for you,” she told her.

“I’ll take care of that,” Marko offered, stopping Lauren by catching her wrist and simultaneously fishing for his wallet. Evidently, he was still holding out hope that she would change her mind.

“That’s okay. I’ve got it.” Lauren wriggled out of his grasp, leaned forward, and completed the transaction.

“You’ve been a tremendous help,” she said to Marko as she rose. “I’m glad we met.”

This time it was she who extended her hand.

Reluctantly, he shook it. “I hope we meet again, Lauren. I’ll look for you the next time I’m in Munich.”

Still smiling, Lauren left the café and walked through the wide cobblestone apron outside. There were little tables with umbrellas scattered about, with patrons chatting and eating. Sated by the beer and pretzel, she inhaled happily, and then, walking over to the sidewalk, began what she expected to be a thoughtful stroll. Maybe she’d text her parents this time, try explaining her position without all the drama of a phone call.

She was halfway down the street when she heard a male voice call after her, “Lauren!”

She turned to see Marko hurrying in her direction. “Here.” He extended his arm, a familiar iPhone in his hand. “You left this on the table.”

“Oh, thank you.” How could she have been so careless? She protected her cell phone like a small child. “I’d be lost without that—“

As she spoke, a Mercedes van tore around the corner and came screeching up to them.

The near doors were flung open, and a stocky man jumped out, his face concealed by a black hood. Before Lauren could so much as blink, he grabbed her, yanking a burlap sack over her head and tossing her over his shoulder.

“Merr në makinë,” he said in a language Lauren didn’t understand.

By this time, Lauren had recovered enough to struggle for her freedom. Her legs flailed in the air, kicking furiously, and she pounded on the man’s back as he carried her and flung her into the back of the van.
Marko jumped in behind her, slamming the doors shut and barking out something in the same dialect as the other man—neither French nor Slavic—as the stocky barbarian held her down.

Finally finding her voice, Lauren let out a scream, which was quickly muffled by the pressure of Marko’s hand over her mouth. She could taste the wool of the sack, and she inclined her head so she could breathe through her nose.

A short-lived reprieve.

Marko fumbled around, then shoved a handkerchief under the sack, covering her nose and mouth. Lauren thrashed her head from side to side, struggling to avoid it. The odor was sickeningly sweet and citrusy.

Chloroform.

Tears burned behind her eyes. Shock waves pulsed through her body.

Oh God, she didn’t want to die.

Marko clamped his other hand on the back of her head, holding it in place while he forced the handkerchief flush against her nose and mouth, making it impossible for her to escape.

Dizziness. Nausea. Black specks. Nothing.

“Shko,” Marko ordered his accomplice, shoving him toward the driver’s seat.

The van screeched off, headed to hell.

***

Excerpt from Dead In A Week by Andrea Kane. Copyright © 2019 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Andrea Kane. All rights reserved.

 

Andrea Kane

Andrea KaneAndrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-nine novels, including fifteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles. With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully-researched stories, pushing them to the edge—and keeping her readers up all night.

Kane’s first contemporary suspense thriller, Run for Your Life, became an instant New York Times bestseller. She followed with a string of bestselling psychological thrillers including No Way Out, Twisted, and Drawn in Blood.

Her latest in the highly successful Forensic Instincts series, Dead in a Week, adds the Zermatt Group into the mix—a covert team of former military and spy agency operatives. With a week to save a young woman from ruthless kidnappers, this globe-spanning chase, from the beerhalls of Germany, to the tech gardens of California, to the skyscrapers of China, and finally the farmlands of Croatia will keep readers guessing until the very end. The first showcase of Forensic Instincts’ talents came with the New York Times bestseller, The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, followed by The Line Between Here and Gone, The Stranger You Know, The Silence that Speaks, The Murder That Never Was, and A Face to Die For.

Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include My Heart’s Desire, Samantha, Echoes in the Mist, and Wishes in the Wind.

With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages.

Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She’s an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, she’s either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.

Author Hometown – Warren, New Jersey

Catch Up With Our Author On: AndreaKane.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

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The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

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393C3BD1-8718-43E5-AA7C-12979BFBC4DCWinspear’s Maisie Dobbs is one of my favorite fictional characters and the series is one I recommend constantly. The American Agent signals the beginning of a new chapter in Maisie’s life, and is every bit as good as previous entries in the series.

Back to driving ambulances and deeply involved in saving lives during Hitler’s Blitz of London, Maisie is also waiting for a hearing to determine whether she can finally adopt Anna, the child refugee who entered her life in In This Grave Hour. Maisie and best chum Priscilla drive into the heart of the bombing every night, and meet intrepid “girl reporter” Catherine Saxon. Maisie senses a kindred spirit in the young woman, and is suitably distressed to discover that Catherine has been killed. Maisie is asked to look into Catherine’s death, given that she was the daughter of a prominent American senator. During her investigation, Maisie renews and intensifies her relationship with the American agent Mark Scott, first encountered in Journey to Munich.

Winspear has done a spectacular job in helping Maisie grow into a confident, brave, intelligent woman who has known tremendous heartbreak but has survived through grit and resilience. If it sounds like Winspear is tying up a number of loose ends here, she is and it is supremely gratifying. The mystery here is secondary to the bigger story of Maisie moving on with her life, although it is handled with the same cleverness and wit we have come to expect from Winspear.

The book itself is shorter than previous entries in the series, which made for a wonderful few hours immersed in 1940s London and Kent. Highly recommended.

The Griffins of Castle Cary


GriffinsThe Griffins of Castle Cary by Heather Shumaker

Middle grade readers will delight in the spooky adventures of the Griffin family as they navigate their way around Castle Cary in Somerset England. Siblings Meg, Wil, and Ariel are delighted to discover there are ghosts (!) around when they stay with their Aunt in her authentically thatched and ancient cottage while their parents are off doing their geology thing.

What starts off as a pleasant, low-key paranormal mystery quickly gains an edge when the resident ghosts take a very strong interest in Ariel. While Meg worries she’s too old to see ghosts and Wil discovers that he hiccups whenever a ghost is near, Ariel finds herself in real danger of possession. Find out how the siblings work together to save Ariel and put the ghosts to rest.

While there is a certain breeziness to the writing, fans of hardcore ghost stories will not be disappointed and will definitely feel the shivers as they read through this story. Recommended!

Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Published By: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King


The Chef's SecretA captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.

Book Details:

  • Book Title: The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King
  • Category: Adult fiction, 352 pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Atria/Simon & Schuster
  • Release date: Feb 12, 2019
  • Tour dates: Feb 11 to 28, 2019
  • Content Rating: R (for a couple of explicit, but loving, sex scenes (no abuse or rape) and minor curse words)

To follow the tour, please visit Crystal King’s page on Italy Book Tours.

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Meet the Author:

Crystal King Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US.

A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.

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Murder at the Palace by Margaret Dumas


9781635114638_06b62Murder at the Palace is the first in what promises to be a successful and addicting new mystery series set in San Francisco and featuring Nora Paige, former screenwriter/Hollywood wife/about-to-be-ex-wife/classic movie expert and cast of memorable characters, both alive and dead.

The series set-up has Nora taking over the management of The Palace, a vintage theater owned by her best friend, while she begins recovering from a messy end to her marriage to a high profile Hollywood actor. In the best mystery tradition, Nora finds a body in the basement of the theater on her first day, setting in motion a rollicking good mystery that includes the ghost of an epaulet-wearing usherette who died in the theater 100 years ago, a mysterious and gorgeous Columbian “entrepreneur,” and a whole cast of colorful characters.

Nora shows her deductive chops as she untangles a very complicated mess and ultimately solves two murders while making some friends in her new town. Interspersed throughout are “blog posts” about old movies, which made me want to go watch all of them. The focus on “old Hollywood” and classic movies put me in mind of the old George Baxt books, which I adored, but also stands with the best modern “cozy” mysteries like the Lily Ivory series by Juliet Blackwell. Nora is an appealing, strong, and resourceful protagonist who functions quite well independently of her Hollywood husband. The plot was a little thin at times (I guessed the MacGuffin early on) but the story is well-written and engaging. I’m adding this to my list of must-read series. Recommended.

Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Publisher: Henery Press
Thanks to Edelweiss.plus for the review copy

The Mind’s Eye by Perry Prete

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Nicole Baker is a quiet girl – the type of person who is seldom noticed by anyone. That is until one day she discovers she has the unique ability to see images move on photographs. At first, she uses her ability to entertain friends at parties and work. Then senior detective Paul Hammond learns of her ability and enlists her help in a case of unsolved murders that he has not been able to make any headway on.

​Carl Kadner, a rookie reporter with the local paper is investigating the murders as well. And he learns what it takes to be the kind of reporter he wants to be when he puts himself in danger for the sake of the story. It is only when Carl, Nicole and Detective Hammond pool their resources that things start making sense.

Perry Prete draws on 30 years of experience as a paramedic to deliver a story that reads like a crossover episode of Criminal Minds and Charmed. The story opens with a punch-to-the-gut abduction, which sets the tone for the rest of the fast-paced action. The characters are introduced, the plot set, and the action set in motion at a rapid pace. At first, I was a little put off by the super-masculine direction of the story (the description of Hammond waking up was a little over the top), but Prete has done a very good job of blending the testosterone-laden world of the homicide cop with the touchy-feely-fuzzy world of the girl who sees photos move. Once Nicole is introduced, the story takes on a really interesting, yin-yang direction as detection meets telepathy.

Prete skillfully writes both description and dialog, which is often unusual in these types of books where the author is usually skilled in one but not both. He’s got an unusual storyline here which, while pretty gruesome in parts, holds your interest. He develops Nicole’s gift powerfully, and by the end I was flashing back to Stephen King’s Firestarter. It would be interesting to see these characters become part of a series, book or television.    Recommended for fans who don’t mind in-your-face description of gruesome crime and appreciate good writing.

Book Details:
Book Title: The Mind’s Eye by Perry Prete
Category: Adult Fiction; 243 pages
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Sands Press
Release date: March 7, 2018
Tour dates: Sept 3 to 21, 2018
Content Rating: R (Violence towards women based on real life events, language, graphic violence)

To read reviews please visit Perry Prete’s page on iRead Book Tours.

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Meet the Author:

Perry Prete is a Canadian crime writer and paramedic. His first novel, All Good Things, introduced us to Ethan Tennant, a City of Ottawa paramedic who looks at crimes from the medical perspective.

Perry continues to work full-time as a paramedic and uses his thirty plus years of life changing and sometimes dramatic experiences to bring realism to his gripping medical novels. His other works include, The Things That Matter Most and All Good Things.

He is also a business owner, specializing in the pre-hospital care field. His company sells medical equipment across North America, primarily to EMS agencies.

A native of Sudbury, Ontario, Perry, graduated from Fanshawe College in London but now lives and works in Brockville, Ontario.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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