Keep the Midnight Out by Alex Gray

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On Tour May 7 – June 8, 2018

 

Synopsis:

Keep the Midnight by Alex Gray

When the body of a red-haired young man is washed up on the shore of the beautiful Isle of Mull, Detective Superintendent Lorimer’s tranquil holiday away from the gritty streets of Glasgow is rudely interrupted. The body has been bound with twine in a ghoulishly unnatural position and strongly reminds Lorimer of another murder: a twenty year old Glasgow case that he failed to solve as a newly fledged detective constable and which has haunted him ever since.

As local cop DI Stevie Crozier takes charge of the island murder investigation, Lorimer tries to avoid stepping on her toes. But as the similarities between the young man’s death and his cold case grow more obvious, Lorimer realises that there could be a serial killer on the loose after all these years. As the action switches dramatically between the Mull murder and the Glasgow cold case twenty years earlier, Lorimer tries desperately to catch a cold-hearted killer. Has someone got away with murder for decades?

This is the second DS Lorimer novel I’ve read recently and found it just as compelling and clever as the first. In this, we learn more about Lorimer’s early days as Glasgow police and the early, tragic days of his marriage. Gray does a fine job of filling out the reader’s view of Lorimer and his wife, and handles the heartbreak of lost babies and infertility with sensitivity. The mystery is well-plotted and paced, and thoroughly engaging. Recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Witness Impulse

Publication Date: May 8th 2018

Number of Pages: 368

ISBN: 9780062659286

Series: A DCI Lorimer Novel, #12 (Stand Alone)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble; | HarperCollins | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

They called it ‘the splash’; though the boat that crept silently, oars dipping lightly in and out of the water creating myriad bubbles of phosphorescence, made little sound at all. It was vital to keep quiet; the time for frightening the fish would not come until the net was properly laid across the mouth of the burn. After that the oars would be raised high and brought down with force, driving the sea trout from their shadowy lairs straight into the trap. It was illegal, of course, had been for decades, but that did not stop more intrepid poachers sneaking in at dead of night and lying in wait for the fish.

Unfair, unsporting, the fishery bodies claimed, though most folk here, on the island of Mull, recognised the thrill of rowing under the stars and risking some wrath from the law enforcers.

Ewan Angus Munro glanced back over his shoulder to see his son playing out the last of the splash net; the ancient cork floats now in a perfect arc across this narrow neck of water.

Young Ewan looked towards his father and nodded; the first part of the deed was done and now all that remained was to ensure that the fish would be scared out from their hiding places by the sudden noise of oars thrashing on the surface so that they would rush towards the net.

The old man turned the boat with an expertise that came from many years of practice, then headed back towards the shallow channel. He raised the oars, resting them in the rowlocks, water dripping like molten rain from their blades. The small craft was allowed to drift a little before Ewan Angus turned to his son again, the eye contact and nod a definite signal to begin the second stage of their night’s work.

Young Ewan Angus stood, legs apart, perfectly balanced in the centre of the boat, one oar raised high above his shoulder as the older man watched him, eyes full of approval. The boy had been given more than just his father’s names: his flair for the splash, too, had been passed down from father to son.

Across the marshy strand full of bog cotton and sweet-smelling myrtle sat a small white cottage. A swift glance showed him that there was no light on anywhere; the holiday folk were doubtless sound asleep, oblivious to the small drama being played out yards from their front door.

The sound of the splash seemed magnified as it disrupted the stillness, echoing over the bay. The young man heaved the oar again and again, each whack making his body stiffen with fear and a sort of bravado. If they were caught they’d lose both the net and the boat, a heavy price to pay for a night of fun and a good catch of sea trout, fish that fetched a decent price at the back doors of the best hotel kitchens.

Several times the boat was rowed up and down, followed by a series of splashes until the old man raised his callused hand to call a halt. Now it was time to wait and see if the fish had indeed been scared witless enough to swim towards their doom.

Once more the old man rowed along the line of corks, his son lifting the net to see if anything lingered below.

‘A beauty,’ the boy whispered, raising the net to reveal a good-sized sea trout struggling in the brown mesh.

‘Ten pounder at least!’ he went on, freeing the huge fish where its gills had caught and hurling it into a wooden box below his feet.

‘Be-wheesht and get the net up,’ his father hissed, though the grin on his face showed how pleased he was with their first catch of the night. The old man bent towards the struggling fish, his fist around the priest, a wooden club that had been in the family for generations. One swift blow and the fish lay lifeless in the box, its silvery scales gleaming in the night.

One by one, others joined the fated sea trout as the two men made their laborious way along the edge of the net.

‘My, a grand haul, the night, Faither,’ Young Ewan Angus exclaimed, his voice still hushed for fear of any sound carrying over the water.

‘Aye, no’ bad,’ his father agreed, a contented smile on his face. One of the middling fish would be wrapped in layers of bracken and left in the porch of Calum Mhor, the police sergeant. A wee thank you for turning his continual blind eye to the nocturnal activities taking place down the road from Craignure. Mrs Calum had guests staying and she’d be fair pleased to serve them a fresh sea trout for their dinner. It was universally acknowledged here on the island that the pink fish was far superior in flavour to the coarser salmon, particularly those that had been farmed.

‘My, here’s a big one!’

The young man staggered as he tried to haul in the final part of the splash net. ‘I can hardly lift it!’ he exclaimed.

‘Must be caught on a rock,’ the old man grumbled, his mouth twisting in a moue of disgust. If they had to tear the net to release it then it would take hours of work to mend, but the operation depended on being in and out of these waters as quickly as they could manage. Hanging about was not an option in case the Men from the Revenue had decided on a little night-time excursion of their own.

Suddenly the young man bent down in the boat, hands gripping the gunwales as he peered into the depths below.

His brow furrowed at the rounded mass swaying beneath the surface, rags of bladderwrack shifting back and forwards with the motion of the waves. Then, as his eyes focused on the ascending shape, Ewan Angus Munro saw pale tendrils that had once been fingers of flesh and one thin arm floating upwards.

He screamed, and covered his mouth as the sickness rose in his throat, then stumbled backwards. The boy flung out his arms, desperate to grasp hold of something solid to break his fall but all he felt under his hands were the wet bodies of slithering fish.

‘What the . ⁠. ⁠. ⁠?’ Ewan Angus turned, an oath dying on his lips as the boat rocked violently, small waves dashing over the bow.

Wordlessly, his son pointed to the waters below. Then, as the old man peered over the side of the boat, he saw the body rising to the surface, its passage out to sea impeded by their net.

***

Excerpt from Keep the Midnight Out by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2018 by Alex Gray. Reprinted by permission of Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Alex Gray

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Health, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English.

Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles, and commissions for BBC radio programs. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.

A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, she is the author of thirteen DCI Lorimer novels. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.

Catch Up With Alex Gray On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, & Twitter 🔗!

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alex Gray and Witness Impulse. There will be 3 winners of one (1) print copy of Alex Gray’s THE SILENT GAMES. The giveaway begins on May 7, 2018 and runs through June 10, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

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White Witch by Larry Thompson

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White Witch by Larry D Thompson Tour Banner

White Witch

by Larry D Thompson

on Tour March 5 – May 5, 2018

Synopsis:

White Witch by Larry D Thompson

When a ruthless American aluminum company plans to strip mine the Jamaican rainforest, they send former Navy SEAL Will Taylor to Montego Bay to deal with local resistance. But he’s unaware that the British had signed a treaty deeding it to the Jamaican Maroons, descendants of escaped slaves, over 300 years ago. The Maroons fought and died for their land then, and are willing to do so now. Upon Will’s arrival, a series of inexplicable murders begin, some carried out with deadly snake daggers that were owned and used by Annie Palmer, a voodoo priestess better known as the White Witch. She was killed 200 years prior, but is said to still haunt the island.

Forced into the middle of it, Will is finally convinced to join the Maroons, headed by Vertise Broderick, a Maroon who resigned from the New York Times to return to Jamaica to save the rainforest. To stop the mining, they hire a Jamaican attorney to prove that the Maroon/British treaty is still valid, and they take it upon themselves to solve the White Witch murders, because the legend of the White Witch can’t possibly be true…

 

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller

Published by: Story Merchant Press

Publication Date: March 5, 2018

Number of Pages: 307

ISBN: 978-0-991621-5-6

Don’t forget to get your copy of White Witch from Amazon, Barnes & Noble & add it to your Goodreads List!!

 

Read an excerpt:

from Chapter 19…

When Will got to Rose Hall, he turned onto the road they had just come down the evening before. At the top of the hill he could see the mansion, now well lighted. He dodged tree limbs and utility wires and parked among several other vehicles. Police cars were positioned so that their headlights focused on the steps of the mansion where Will could see the yellow police crime scene tape. He
walked up a path from the parking lot between the police cars that faced the mansion to the yellow tape where an officer stood watch. The officer came to attention as Will approached.

“Sorry, mon. I can’t let you past here. We’re investigating a murder.”

Will kept his voice even but controlling. “I know, officer. That’s why I’m here. Name’s William Taylor. I’m head of security for Global American Metals.

Here’s my identification.” Will tried to hand him an ID. The officer just shook his head. “Officer, the dead man is one of Global’s employees. Can you get someone in authority to let me up there?”

Before the officer could reply, Miles Harper, the St. James Parish Chief of Detectives, approached. Harper was a lean, fit man with a shaved head and a nononsense manner. He was dressed in a brown suit, yellow shirt, and matching tie. He looked like he just stepped out of GQ Magazine, even at three in the morning.

“Mr. Taylor, I’m Miles Harper, Chief of Detectives in this parish. I was told by your company to expect you.”

Will extended his right hand. Harper ignored it. Instead, he nodded at the officer and motioned for Will to follow him. Harper went up a dozen steps and turned to Will as he stood beside Kaven’s body, sprawled on his back with a dagger in his chest. Will bent over for a closer look and found that the handle of the dagger was in the shape of a snake. At the top of the handle was the snake’s head. The snake’s eyes were two bright rubies.

“Shit,” Will muttered, “He was almost killed because of one snake on the road today and now someone finished the job with a, what would you call this, a snake dagger?”

“That’s as good a name as any, Mr. Taylor. My officers reported what went on up in Accompong and the incident with the boa.”

Will continued to study the body. “Looks like he’s been dead a couple of hours. I last saw him about ten last night. Who found him?”

“The hotel has a security guard that roams the mansion grounds and up to the club house in a golf cart. He spotted the body.”

“Where’s your coroner?”

“He’s a local Justice of the Peace, not a medical doctor. He won’t set foot on these steps until morning. My men here won’t go past the tape either. They believe the White Witch did it.”

Will shook his head in disbelief. “Come on, Chief, this is the twenty-first century.”

“Old beliefs die hard, Mr. Taylor. Come on. Let me show you something.”

Harper stepped around the body and climbed the steps with Will behind him. Entering the ballroom, Will said, “I was just in this room yesterday evening during the storm.”

Harper turned to study Will. “Would you care to explain?”

Will covered the details of the previous day and their time in the mansion while they waited out the storm. “You know a woman named Vertise?”

Harper nodded his head. “She’s a local. Works for the paper and tends bar for the hotel. Since you were in this room a few hours ago, come over here.”

Harper led Will to a glass display against one wall with pictures of two snake daggers above it along with the history of the daggers. The glass had been broken and the daggers were gone.

“You see this case when you were up here?”

Will studied it and thought back to the day before. “Can’t say I did, Chief.

It was pretty dark in here, lit only by candles since the storm knocked out power. I wandered around the room but never glanced toward this case. And I don’t believe anyone else mentioned it. Now that I think about it, Vertise told us the legend of Annie Palmer and her using a snake dagger to kill an overseer.

Surprising that she didn’t show us these daggers when she was telling the story.”

“Interesting,” mused Harper. “You have any idea why your man would come up here in the middle of the night?”

“Not a clue. Have you checked his cell phone? He always carried it.”

“Yeah. The last calls were with you yesterday afternoon and one with Ms. Pritchard later in the evening.”

Will nodded. “He called me from Accompong, warning me of trouble up there. I should have gone with him.”

Harper shook his head. “Whether you were there or not wouldn’t have made any difference. Just would have been one more person that was in my police car that rolled, assuming, of course, you didn’t take a bullet up on the mountain.”

“Understood.”

“How did you get in the mansion?”

“Vertise said she knew where a key was hidden and let us in.”

“Strange that she could get into the locked mansion. It was my understanding that only the manager of Rose Hall had a key. He locked it and left when the storm was hitting. The hotel spent a fortune on period pieces to recreate how it looked two hundred years ago. One of his jobs is to make sure they are not stolen.”

“Any signs of a break-in?” Will asked.

“This is not for publication, you understand, but when I got here the mansion was locked and the lights were off.”

“So, you’re saying that someone got into the mansion, stole two daggers, let themselves back out, killed Kaven, and left no trace.” Will paused to absorb all that he had just said. “Wait a minute. If someone wanted to kill Kaven, why not just use a gun? Why go to all the trouble of getting that dagger to do it?”

“I’ve been wrestling with that very question,” Harper said. “It’s illegal for a private citizen to own a gun in Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean they are not available if you know the right people. My working hypothesis is that the killer or killers wanted the public to think voodoo was involved, or maybe even the White Witch. The only other possibility that comes to mind is that the Maroons are trying to send a message to Global. They tried to kill Tillman in Accompong and failed. Maybe the message is that they finish what they start. Either way, someone is trying to make trouble for your company. I have another problem that may not be apparent.”

Will looked quizzically at the detective.

“As you can see, there were two snake daggers in this case. One’s accounted for out on the steps. The other is gone. Nearly everyone around here thinks that they are voodoo daggers with magical powers. They were found in an overseer’s grave during the restoration of the mansion thirty years ago.”

“Does ‘everyone’ include you? Looks to me like the killer or killers are just trying to mess with the minds of my co-workers, maybe keep some locals from hiring on with us.”

Harper stuck his hands in his pockets. “Not up to me to decide if they’re magic or not. I’ve got a murder with one of those daggers. My job is to solve the murder and along the way, find that other dagger before someone uses it.”

Will’s eyes searched the room in a futile effort to see any clues to the crime.

Then he focused on the chief. “Look, I’m going to need a gun. My company is obviously under attack. I’m licensed to carry back home.”

“No way, Mr. Taylor,” Harper exploded. “Foreigners are not permitted to have guns in Jamaica. For that matter, as I just told you, neither are Jamaicans.

And I want you to stay the hell out of my investigation. We don’t need your help. Understand?”

“Yeah, I understand. You know that each of our mines on this island is permitted a certain number of guns for our guards. I’ll just get one of those.”

“The hell you will. Don’t you dare go behind my back. Those guns never leave mine property. I have an officer that inventories them. If one turns up missing, I’ll confiscate every damn weapon that Global has and put you under house arrest. Clear, Mr. Taylor?”

Will clinched his fists and tried to hold back the anger that was apparent in his face. Without another word, he turned and stormed out of the mansion, pausing only to gaze at Kaven and say a prayer for him and his family. At the bottom of the steps, he got in his car and glanced toward the mansion. The lights from his car somehow caught the ruby eyes of the snake, making them appear briefly to be alive. Will shook his head, put the car in reverse, and returned to the hotel.

***

Excerpt from White Witch by Larry D Thompson. Copyright © 2018 by Larry D Thompson. Reproduced with permission from Larry D Thompson. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Larry D Thompson

After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Larry spent the first half of his professional life as a trial lawyer. He tried well over 300 cases and won more than 95% of them. Although he had not taken a writing class since freshman English (back when they wrote on stone tablets), he figured that he had read enough novels and knew enough about trials, lawyers, judges, and courtrooms that he could do it. Besides, his late, older brother, Thomas Thompson, was one of the best true crime writers to ever set a pen to paper; so, just maybe, there was something in the Thompson gene pool that would be guide him into this new career. He started writing his first novel about a dozen years ago and published it a couple of years thereafter. He has now written five highly acclaimed legal thrillers. White Witch is number six with many more to come.

Larry is married to his wife, Vicki. He has three children scattered from Colorado to Austin to Boca Raton, and four grandchildren. He has been trying to retire from the law practice to devote full time to writing. Hopefully, that will occur by the end of 2018. He still lives in Houston, but spends his summers in Vail CO, high on a mountain where he is inspired by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Catch Up With Larry on larrydthompson.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook
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Alice & the Assassin by R.J. Koreto

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Alice and the Assassin by R.J. Koreto On tour April 1-30, 2018

In 1902 New York, Alice Roosevelt, the bright, passionate, and wildly unconventional daughter of newly sworn-in President Theodore Roosevelt, is placed under the supervision of Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, ex-cowboy and veteran of the Rough Riders. St. Clair quickly learns that half his job is helping Alice roll cigarettes and escorting her to bookies, but matters grow even more difficult when Alice takes it upon herself to investigate a recent political killing–the assassination of former president William McKinley.

Concerned for her father’s safety, Alice seeks explanations for the many unanswered questions about the avowed anarchist responsible for McKinley’s death. In her quest, Alice drags St. Clair from grim Bowery bars to the elegant parlors of New York’s ruling class, from the haunts of the Chinese secret societies to the magnificent new University Club. Meanwhile, St. Clair has to come to terms with his hard and violent past, as Alice struggles with her growing feelings for him.

Like the author, I have a fondness for stories set in old New York and I fully appreciate attention to detail and an ability to evoke the opulence and the squalor of the city in the early days of the 20th century and beyond. R.J. Koreto delivers on both levels, moving his characters seamlessly from the splendor of the University Club and the Roosevelt mansion to smoke-filled bars, betting parlors, and dockyards. His two primary characters here – Alice and St. Clair – show tremendous promise for development in future adventures.

Koreto has captured the spirit and independence of Alice, who was known for her eccentricities and willful behavior in real life, in a portrait that seems fairly accurate and is certainly appealing in a heroine. She is on the brink of adulthood – still just 17 and with many of the mannerisms of a child, but also a highly intelligent, creative, fearless, and determined woman. She is a creature of the Gilded Age – raised in tremendous wealth and privilege – but also a child of tragedy, having lost her mother at an early age. Koreto handles Alice’s contradictory nature beautifully, giving us a heroine who is fierce yet vulnerable at the same time. I am excited to see where Koreto takes her next!

Juxtaposing the wealth and privilege of the Roosevelt family is Joseph St. Clair. A true cowboy who served as one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and now a Secret Service man, he has been tapped by the President himself to guard Alice. Much older than his charge and with much more worldly experience, St. Clair is also a pussycat. He is supremely respectful of the “gentler sex” but finds himself in the awkward position of being the object of Alice’s affection. What unfolds is truly a schoolgirl crush, which Koreto handles with great reserve and care. Joseph is gentle and respectful to Alice but definitely keeps her at arms’ length. He is fully aware of his position and comports himself as a truly good man, until it’s time to not be a good man, meaning he can handle himself in a fight.

St. Clair and Alice make an odd couple for sure, but they fit together nicely. Simply put, Alice is the “brains” and St. Clair the “brawn” but they both give and take across those boundaries. St Clair is the friend who always has Alice’s back, but is also the protector who will tell her “no” when the situation calls for it, and has the intelligence to understand when that occurs. Alice is never short on ideas, but sometimes gets ahead of herself. Her life experience is terribly limited, so she acknowledges St. Clair’s broader experience when necessary. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a new series that has two better matched protagonists.

This is the beginning of a new and exciting historical mystery series that will appeal to many readers. The writing is simple enough that this hovers just between YA and Adult literature. I would have devoured this when I was 13, but I still enjoyed it immensely at 55! Highly recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery

Published by: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: April 11th 2017

Number of Pages: 280

ISBN: 1683311124 (ISBN13: 9781683311126)

Series: Alice Roosevelt Mystery #1

Get Your Own Copy of Alice and the Assassin on Amazon & Barnes & Noble & add it to your Goodreads list!!

Read an excerpt:

I had a nice little runabout parked around the corner, and Alice certainly enjoyed it. It belonged to the Roosevelt family, but I was the only one who drove it. Still, the thing about driving a car is that you can’t easily get to your gun, and I didn’t like the look of the downtown crowds, so I removed it from its holster and placed it on the seat between us.

“Don’t touch it,” I said.

“I wasn’t going to,” said Alice.

“Yes, you were.”

I had learned something the first time I had met her. I was sent to meet Mr. Wilkie, the Secret Service director, in the White House, and we met on the top floor. He was there, shaking his head and cleaning his glasses with his handkerchief. “Mr. St. Clair, welcome to Washington. Your charge is on the roof smoking a cigarette. The staircase is right behind me. Best of luck.” He put his glasses back on, shook my hand, and left.

It had taken me about five minutes to pluck the badly rolled cigarette out of Alice’s mouth, flick it over the edge of the building, and then talk her down.

“Any chance we could come to some sort of a working relationship?” I had asked. She had looked me up and down.

“A small one,” she had said. “You were one of the Rough Riders, with my father on San Juan Hill, weren’t you?” I nodded. “Let’s see if you can show me how to properly roll a cigarette. Cowboys know these things, I’ve heard.”

“Maybe I can help—if you can learn when and where to smoke them,” I had responded.

So things had rolled along like that for a while, and then one day in New York, some man who looked a little odd wanted—rather forcefully—to make Alice’s acquaintance on Fifth Avenue, and it took me all of three seconds to tie him into a knot on the sidewalk while we waited for the police.

“That was very impressive, Mr. St. Clair,” she had said, and I don’t think her eyes could’ve gotten any bigger. “I believe that was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.” She looked at me differently from then on, and things went a little more smoothly after that. Not perfect, but better.

Anyway, that afternoon I pulled into traffic. It was one of those damp winter days, not too cold. Workingmen were heading home, and women were still making a few last purchases from peddlers before everyone packed up for the day.

“Can we stop at a little barbershop off of Houston?” she asked. I ran my hand over my chin. “Is that a hint I need a shave?” I’m used to doing it myself.

“Don’t be an idiot,” she said, with a grin. “That’s where my bookie has set up shop. I’ve had a very good week.”

***

Excerpt from Alice and the Assassin by R.J. Koreto. Copyright © 2018 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

R.J. Koreto

R.J. Koreto has been fascinated by turn-of-the-century New York ever since listening to his grandfather’s stories as a boy.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He’s a graduate of Vassar College, and like Alice Roosevelt, he was born and raised in New York.

He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Catch Up With R.J. Koreto On his Website, Goodreads Page, Twitter @RJKoreto, & on Facebook @ ladyfrancesffolkes!

Tour Participants:

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Click here to view the Alice and the Assassin by R.J. Koreto Participants

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for R.J. Koreto. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift card. The giveaway begins on April 1, 2018 and runs through May 1, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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Jinxed by Thommy Hutson

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Jinxed by Thommy Hutson

“Thommy Hutson is the ultimate authority in nostalgia-driven storytelling.”

~ Clive Barker, Bestselling Author of Books of Blood and The Thief of Always

High school can be a real killer. Break a mirror, walk under a ladder, step on a crack – innocent childhood superstitions, right? Not at the exclusive and secluded Trask Academy of Performing Arts. Someone is taking those childish superstitions one deadly step too far when the campus is rocked with the deaths of several star students.

Layna Curtis, a talented and popular senior, soon realizes that the seemingly random, accidental deaths of her friends aren’t random—or accidents—at all. Someone has taken the childhood games too far, using the idea of superstitions to dispose of their classmates. As Layna tries to convince people of her theory, she uncovers the terrifying notion that each escalating, gruesome murder leads closer to its final victim: her. Will Layna’s opening night also be her final bow?

Thommy Hutson has extensive experience with the teenage slasher films of the 80s and 90s, which shows in this suspenseful tale. You have your group of gorgeous teens, one of whom has a deep, dark secret that catches up with all of them in the form of a mysterious and deadly maniac. In this case, the maniac is also creative, using superstitions to frame the murders that eventually follow. Heavily reminiscent of Lois Duncan novels, with a little R.L. Stine and John Carpenter thrown in, Jinxed offers gnarly entertainment in a super-readable form that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a little creativity with their thrillers. Like many Partners In Crime books, this one would be fabulous on the screen (big or small – but I’d actually like to see it as a TV series, in the vein of Riverdale.) Teens will eat this up, as will many adults. Recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: YA HORROR/THRILLER

Published by: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: March 13th 2018

Number of Pages: 244

ISBN: 978-1944109127

Series: This is the first in a new trilogy, each is a stand alone but with a teaser for the upcoming book you won’t want to miss!!

Get Your Copy from: Amazon & Barnes & Noble! Plus add it on Goodreads!

Read an excerpt from Jinxed by Thommy Hutson:

Prologue

The small private island was a mystery.

This, even when so many knew, or thought they knew, what was going on twenty-two miles off the coast of Seattle, on the strip of land named after the very rich and very dead Cadogan Trask. Protected like so much of the Pacific Northwest by Douglas firs, red alders, and bigleaf maples, Trask Island, a blister in the water, seemed mythical. Very little was known about the reclusive man who bought the uninhabited plot in the 19th century, later developing it to suit his tastes. His personal life and his purpose, just like his eponymous island, were ensconced in a thick, white mist. One day there, the next not.

Over the years, worry about Trask the place and Trask the man ebbed and flowed. No one dared argue that business on the island brought money and a small amount of prestige to the area, but there was something about it.

The same people who sang its praises also gawked and wondered and preached about whether its gifts matched its detractions. All of those armchair whatchamacallits peeked out the windows of their glass houses into their neighbors’ glass houses and threw not stones, but boulders.

Always, always, they asked the same question: Why must a high school be so private?

The institution was nestled behind a wall of nature so beautiful that an equal number wondered how anything about it could be bad. A school for the gifted and talented. A place where children with an affinity for dance, voice, drama, art, and communications would be nurtured. A place where stars were born to shine.

But bad is a relative word.

And stars fall from the sky.

Still, the answer to the question on so many minds of what was really going on with those who were lucky enough, and rich enough, to find themselves hidden within its sacred I hope I get in please God let me get in walls?

Well, the answer was simple.

Secrets.

And not so simple.

Lies.

***

Spring, 1998

Trask Academy of Performing Arts was, indeed, very private.

The campus lay upon acre after acre of rolling green hills. Tall, age-old trees swarmed the landscape. Sturdy, dark red-bricked buildings were scattered about. Cobblestone sidewalks—concrete wouldn’t do, and asphalt was far too unsightly—snaked their way through and around the campus. Surrounding all of this flora, not to mention brick-and-mortar money, was a thick-ledged stone fence complete with wrought iron. The ornamental finials topping each spire had three-edged spear points. The borders weren’t sharp enough to cut, but the tips were fine enough to puncture. And at only one point along the entire perimeter was there a gate.

One way in. One way out.

Down one of those lamp-lit walkways, in its own enclave, was Williams Hall, a beautiful sandstone and cerulean tiled theater fashioned in a Romanesque style. A bell tower, now long out of use, still kept watch over the surroundings. The only modern accoutrement, though some would say eyesore, was the building’s large, white marquee, added during the 1980s when, presumably, a faculty member, or perhaps a wealthy donor, convinced the school’s administration flashing lights were all the rage. Its large black letters read:

52nd Annual Trask Academy of Performing Arts Showcase

Inside, rehearsal ran late.

The long fluorescent-lit hallway was filled with leg-warmered young dancers packing their bags. Actors filed away their scripts. Singers stopped their warbling. All seniors. Almost all rich. Wrapping up a rehearsal in the school’s premier venue for the school’s premier event.

Begun in 1946, the Trask Academy of Performing Arts Annual Showcase saw the best and brightest of the graduating class perform for a lucky invited audience. The theater’s fifteen hundred seats filled with relatives, talent scouts, agents, bookers, managers. Hollywood and Broadway knew that those fortunate enough to study at Trask were groomed to be unsurpassed in their field, and what better way to find the stars of tomorrow than to watch the hopefuls of today. Rich daddies and mommies prayed the exorbitant tuition fees had paid off. Rumors swirled the cost to attend the school was as high as one hundred thousand dollars a year, which would make it one of the most expensive private schools in the world. For those prices, check writers expected nothing but the best.

And Hell hath no fury if they didn’t get it.

Amanda Kincaid was working to be the best. She sat on the stage alone, dressed casually in dark jeans and a top that showed just this side of too much. She was a pretty girl and, at nineteen, a year older than most of the other seniors. Her age made her more serious, and more guarded. Her dark hair, normally wavy, was pulled back tight. She wasn’t a dancer, not really, but she felt the hairstyle made her look the part of a performer. Whatever part that was.

When she heard the last door of the night slam, she knew she was finally alone. She could now work without the worry of being judged by everyone around her. She was a good actress, she knew that. But that wasn’t enough, and she also knew that.

Standing up, she grabbed her script. She promised herself that tonight was the night she would not peek at her lines. She knew them. She had to. It wasn’t going to be like Showcase 1995—

Karen Reasmith stopped in the middle of her piece, mouth agape, spotlight burning down on her as if she were caught trying to escape prison.

She had forgotten her lines.

The adults in the audience, who could cut deeper than any razor, sat in irritated silence, while the other students lovingly absorbed the crash and burn before their eyes. A train wreck of epic schadenfreude. Karen looked around, helpless, hoping she could be saved from herself. But all that came were tears as she tore off the stage.

Amanda thought of the joke around campus for those new kids who didn’t understand how serious Trask pupils took their performing arts studies. They’d ask, “Did you ever hear of Karen Reasmith?” When incoming students answered in the negative, the upperclassman would respond, “Exactly.” Testosterone high-fives and estrogen giggles followed as they walked away from newbies who rolled their eyes.

But Amanda understood what the newcomers didn’t. Couldn’t, at least not so quickly. Karen had blown it. She would never even get a chorus audition in a touring show. Casting agents loved to talk. And what they loved to do more than talk was gossip. By the time Karen had packed her bags and left the compound, her talent was already colder than the iceberg that had sunk the Titanic.

Except that the Titanic had survivors.

Amanda shook off the memory of Karen Reasmith and focused. Her tongue darted around her red-lipped mouth, preparing to utter chilling words as she channeled Euripides’ Medea.

“In vain, my children, have I brought you up, Borne all the cares and pangs of motherhood, And the sharp pains of childbirth undergone. In you, alas, was treasured—”

Suddenly every light went out, leaving Amanda alone in blackness.

Even the ghost light’s exposed incandescent bulb had gone out, which made her anxious. Amanda knew the ghost light was a big deal, if only a superstition. She was aware of the firmly held belief that every theater had a ghost. And not Phantom of the Opera ghosts who taught beautiful, young women to become chanteuses. No, these were simply the spirits, perhaps of performers long dead, who remained in the place they once loved. Perhaps the ghost light allowed them to perform their own works when no one was around. Or maybe they just liked to watch performances.

Nonsense, Amanda thought. The light is there so we don’t fall into the orchestra pit. Or something.

Still, she didn’t like it being out. Just in case. Of whatever frightening case might be out there.

And then the noise came. Softly at first, but building in volume. It seemed to emanate from the back right of the auditorium. It sounded like the moan of a dead person who most decidedly did not want to be dead. Like a zombie upon its victim, ready to sink yellow and black teeth into the soft flesh of a neck, tearing out tendons, arteries, a larynx.

Amanda’s breathing grew faster, shallower. She felt as if she were standing in the cold, black reaches of space. Tiny hairs on the back of her neck tingled. Her mouth opened, ready to scream.

Amanda knew she should have been alone. And she knew she was not. But she stopped herself short of screaming. Instead, she cocked her head as the ghastly voice grew louder, transforming into something else, like something off one of those cheap Halloween sound effects tapes. Her split-second shudder of fear gave way to the crack of an embarrassed smile, then annoyance.

“Seriously? Not funny!” Amanda yelled out, her voice coming back at her with the faintest echo. Her words stopped the not-so-sound-effect sound effect. “I’m trying to work here,” she added matter-of-factly. She smirked. She waited. I’m ready when you are, idiots. When nothing happened, she took a step to her left.

“Dare you try to cross without the guidance of the ghost light?” a voice boomed. Amanda let out a small yelp. “Who can know what evils from the past lurk within these hallowed walls?”

Wait a minute, she realized. I know that voice. Despite the darkness, she moved in circles, calling out.

“If anything evil does linger, it’s probably from your pathetic performance, Marcus.”

She carefully shifted closer to the stage’s left wing. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw she was inches away from one of the thick, black curtains that prevented audiences from seeing backstage. The material was moving, ever so slightly. Who is that? What dashed away behind the barrier? She had to know, needed to. She slowly reached for the fabric and started to tug on it—

A reverberating audio feedback filled the auditorium. Amanda reeled, falling on her tailbone. Then, silence.

The bulb inside the cage of the ghost light came to life.

Someone had been right there. Not anymore.

“Oh, come on. Did I bruise your fragile ego?” she asked cynically. She got no response and decided she was over this game. She really did need to practice.

“Fine, whatever. Can you please turn the stage lights—”

They came back on before she could finish.

Jerks, she thought.

She looked back down at her script. Mumbling the words to get back to her place, she heard a rustling deep backstage. Hushed voices talking fast. Getting more strident. Urgent.

Inconsiderate jerks. Looking up, she projected to the back of the auditorium.

“In you, alas, was treasured many a hope of loving sustentation in my age, of tender laying out when I was dead—”

“Do something!” a voice said harshly backstage.

A female voice that Amanda couldn’t make out responded, “Just go, just go!” It sounded like she might have been crying.

Amanda stopped worrying about her performance. She stopped wondering who was scuttling around. She was concerned that something was wrong. These people had laughed at first, but now they sounded worried. And very frightened.

So was Amanda. She stepped toward the left wing once again, this time with purpose. Something slammed backstage. Amanda screamed, threw her hands to her mouth, and let script pages flutter to the ground in a jumbled mess she would normally have cared about, but not now. Something was happening. Her expression turned to sour terror when she saw it.

Smoke.

Thick dark billows wafting up from backstage.

“Oh my God.” She instinctively reached forward for the curtain, calling out. “Are you guys all—”

As she drew the curtain back, Amanda watched ravenous flames grow with a fresh gust of delicious, necessary oxygen. She was thrown as the heat slapped her body.

Crawling backward, she stumbled to her feet, turned to run, and screamed again, this time louder. She barely missed falling into the orchestra pit ten feet below.

“Help me!” she cried, looking around frantically, noticing the pages of her script dancing in a small vortex of flame, smoke, and heat. Flames licked the ceiling and rained dripping bits of burning material down. An ember from a set piece dropped to her arm, searing her flesh. She whimpered, hot tears flowing down her face. Another ember, another burn.

Desperate, Amanda tried to use her hands to wave away the smoke, but it was too thick. Coughing, she pushed toward a set of exit doors off the left wing of the stage. She imagined the fresh evening air outside, but her arms almost snapped when she slammed into the door that would not open.

For a moment Amanda wasn’t sure what was going on, but another ember landed on her hair and began smoldering, bringing her back. She swatted at it, screaming. She got up and tried the door again. It wouldn’t budge. She pounded on it.

“Help me! Somebo—”

Amanda violently coughed. She looked around, water in her eyes from fear and fire. The conflagration had engulfed the auditorium and Amanda, rushing to the stage again, realized she was at the center of it all.

A twisted, groaning came from above and, realizing just in time what it was, she scurried as a lighting rig swung right past her.

She didn’t have much time. More and more fly ropes snapped in the heat. Scene flats crashed to the floor. The glass lamp of the ghost light exploded. Disoriented, Amanda stumbled across the stage as smoke stung her eyes and heat filled her lungs.

Colored lights above burst and shattered, sending glass shards raining upon her. She covered her head, not seeing the snapped cable heading toward her.

It belted her in the leg, drawing a deep, thick gash and sending her sailing over the front of the stage.

Into the orchestra pit.

Her head hit the wooden floor with a crack. Her leg twisted at an odd angle. She was not going anywhere.

It’s so much cooler down here, she thought sadly. The fire drew closer as debris rained down around her. She looked high above and saw fire crawl up the curtains, licking at the Trask Academy of Performing Arts crest. Its enamel sheen bubbled in the heat.

The fire upon her, Amanda felt her skin burn. She used her left hand to rub the fire from her right arm, but everything sloughed off the bone in large, bloody, sinewy chunks. The pain was excruciating. She had been sure, when talking with friends about terrible ways to die, that after a few seconds fire would have extinguished any sense of pain, or that her body would dull it enough to make it more manageable.

She thought how wrong she had been.

She felt every lick of flame as if a galaxy of the hottest stars were slowly stabbing through her. Her head lolled to one side. Her screams withered. She wanted to cry out, but instinct had its hold on her, and the heat she felt every time her lungs sucked in was too great.

The air itself had become a scorching hell.

She saw little blobs of dancing light as she held, held, held her breath. The world was just about black when another jolt of pain brought her back, as if a gleaming, hot needle had been shoved into her iris. While the blinding orange and yellow of one thousand degree flames ravaged her body, she saw nothing.

Her lack of vision was not due to the agonizing pain. Or the shock that racked her body. The heat was so great that her eyes exploded, like eggs bursting in a microwave.

The young girl with so much life ahead of her was as good as dead. A burning husk of a person. The unconscious fear of suffocating grew to be too much, and she sucked in a giant rush of heat that melted the delicate, paper-thin tissue of her lungs. It was a pain so much worse than breathing in water from the lake where she and her friends would go swimming. Long before she had come to this school.

As the little oxygen left in her bloodstream wended its way through her dying shell, strange fleeting thoughts crossed her mind. It wasn’t, as everyone said, a movie-like assemblage of her life playing at breakneck speed. It was, simply, random moments. The first time she sawThe Wizard of Oz and wanted to be Dorothy. Riding her pink bicycle in the grassy front yard of her house, yelling for anyone to watch her ring the tiny bell on the handlebars. Hitting her babysitter’s older brother in the face with a snowball, upset and confused that she could make a big boy cry. Screaming on a roller-coaster with her former best friend, Shelly, sure she was going to pee her pants from laughing.

Then it was over. Her human light faded, faded, faded with one last thought.

The baby.

CHAPTER 1

Present day

Silver moonlight cast a pall over the remains of the burnt, condemned theater that kept watch over the school campus. Even with a new, more open brick façade already complete as part of the school’s very expensive renovation, the scaffolding snaking around and up its walls read like the twisted bones of a skeleton deep inside a closet. But that fabled darkness, coupled with its offer of shadowed cover from faculty, made the theater a prime location for itchy students to scratch their desires, test their mettle, and relish in stories that brought back the dead.

“Some say you can still hear her screams in the still of the night.”

The voice of the storyteller belonged to Max Reynolds. He was standing in front of the building, staring up at it as he spoke. A senior with well-toned arms that stretched his tight, white T-shirt, he looked pleased with himself as he waited for a response. His structured, boyish face wasn’t always smiling, but when it did, it charmed everyone. This was one of those times.

“Lame, lame, lame,” said Layna Curtis. A sarcastic smile grew from her full, naturally red lips. “Let’s be real, not only has that story been told before about a jillion times, it’s been told way, way better.” She sighed and pushed long dark hair away from her pale, pretty face and over her shoulders, feigning boredom. Inside—though she would never admit it—she wasn’t sure she liked being there. That building, she thought, is staring at us. At me.

“Oh, really?” Max asked, goading her, snapping her from distracted thoughts.

“Totally,” Layna replied. Clever and confident, she would play the game. She nonchalantly picked at the pills of her cream-colored sweater. Max stared at her, his eyebrows raised. Without looking up, Layna said, “Guys, am I right?”

Layna looked first to Nancy Groves, a fantastic dancer who was stretching her legs as if a loop of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” played in her head. Holding her legs at seemingly impossible angles was par for the course for Nancy. She had a lithe body that shimmered when she performed. Layna knew it. Everybody knew it. And Nancy loved that. But Layna knew her friend’s Achilles’ heel was her short, bobbed hair, so naturally straight that even the strongest Ogilvy home perm would be hard-pressed to win the battle. Not that she hadn’t tried, often with a lot of help from Layna and shared fits of laughter. Layna appreciated Nancy knew what she had and how to use it.

When Nancy didn’t respond, Layna’s eyes went to Alice Reitman. Alice smacked her chewing gum. She was cute, but nowhere near Nancy-thin. Layna had always thought that Alice wasn’t fat. At least not fat, fat. And Layna knew that Alice despised in a gag me with a spoon way when people referred to her as “the bubbly one.” That usually meant fat.

Layna felt bad knowing most people openly said Alice was talkative and upbeat, but also worried Alice was thinking, Thanks, now hand over the ho-ho’s and you won’t get hurt. But what did it matter to Layna? Alice wasn’t an actor, singer, or dancer. She studied communications and was going to be “the next, not-quite-as-thin, but incredibly relatable television journalist.” Layna had told Alice that was a fine choice, but she preferred Savannah Guthrie, even though she looked much taller than her guests, and it often appeared she might just lurch over and devour them. They all have their flaws, Layna reminded herself.

At the end of the line was Trask’s “it” girl, Sydney Miller. Pretty, with blonde hair in perfectly placed waves, Sydney was popular and athletic. Layna admired her. At Trask, and in real life, Layna had to assume, guys wanted Sydney and girls wanted to be her. When she walked down the halls, the underclassmen all turned their heads to catch a glimpse of the Sydney Miller. If the singers were belting out a tune, they stopped as she strode by. Layna knew her friend Sydney was going to be famous. She had the talent to be a star, sure. But she also had a sheer force of will. Nothing was going to stop her from achieving her dreams. Nothing. And nobody. Layna admired that especially, even as she pushed down slight feelings of jealousy.

But like the others, Sydney just sat quiet.

Layna looked again at all of her girlfriends, incredulous. “Oh my God, backsies please. This is when my friends say they’re with me?”

But none did. They stood stoic, staring forward, or around, or down. Looking worried. It didn’t sit well with Layna.

“Layn, I mean, it is kind of a creepy story,” Alice offered.

Layna’s shoulders slumped. No backsies, apparently.

“Seriously, a girl died. Right in there,” added Nancy.

Sydney leaned her body in closer. Layna could practically feel the girl’s breath when she spoke. “It’s just not something we should, you know, make light of.”

Layna couldn’t believe it. Her unease was giving way to annoyance. “Because some chick supposedly died in this awful, mysterious, tragic way a million years ago—”

“It’s more like, only twenty years, but go on,” Max said.

Layna glared at him long enough to make a point, and then continued. “I’m just saying, we see this eyesore all the time, but tonight we’re supposed to all of a sudden be frightened because Max used his big boy voice to tell a campfire story we all knew? Sorry, it just isn’t work—”

Layna abruptly stopped. She had heard something. They had all heard something.

It was not the wind, Layna knew. Not the creaking of scaffolding. It was a low, hurting moan. A harsh, frightening whisper.

“Whooo—?” hissed the voice, from inside the building.

Layna’s brown eyes went wide. Max sidled next to her. “Okay, fine, it’s working now,” Layna said. Nancy, Alice, and Sydney huddled close, too.

Sydney, worried, looked directly at Layna. “Dude, what did you do?”

“Me?” Layna whispered, too loudly.

“Shhh!” Nancy harped.

The punitive voice came back. Angrier, more strident. “Who wantsss—?”

They waited, breaths held, to hear what came next, but the only sound was the flapping of a plastic tarp over a pile of bricks. Then someone jumped out from the shadowed entrance of the theater. Layna let out a high-pitched scream. Then the others screamed, too. Layna grabbed Max tightly, trying to shield herself from whatever was coming toward them.

The screams of the others went on and on. And on. Layna gathered that something wasn’t right when she peeked from Max’s chest and saw her friends staring at her, their formerly petrified faces now swathed in knowing smiles.

“Whooooo wantsssss … a drink?” the stranger in the entryway asked.

Layna opened her eyes fully and unscrunched her face. She knew that voice. She’d been had.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Nancy joked, poking Layna.

Layna pursed her lips and nodded her head. “All right, fine, go ahead. Let’s hear it,” she said.

After a moment of silence, they burst out laughing. Layna put her hands over her face, embarrassed that she had fallen for such a cheap trick. Max pulled her close and kissed the top of her head.

“We totally had you,” he said, then grabbed her chin so he could look her in the eyes. “And I’ll always have you,” he added, leaning in for a kiss. Layna greedily accepted.

“Get a room already!” Nancy playfully snapped. “And, Crosby, get your ass out here.”

Crosby Williams’ broad, white smile, and a glint from his hazel eyes, emerged from the darkness. Layna stared at the writer and part-time less-than-stellar illusionist, also a member of the senior class. She should have known—he could never pass up the element of surprise. He may have been lacking in the prestidigitation department, but he made up for it with a bohemian style and perfectly unkempt hair.

“I’d love to, but the spirits are insistent,” Crosby offered. “You must come inside and face your fears, if you are to partake of the beers.” He pushed his arm forward so it was struck by moonlight, waving a bottle that glistened with condensation. Then just as fast, he pulled it back and his smile, his eyes, and the beer disappeared all within the ruins of the old theater.

“You heard the man,” Max said. “Duty calls.”

Nancy, Alice, and Sydney moved first, with Nancy leading the pack. The girls laughed as they, too, vanished into the shadows, one by one. Max lurched forward, but Layna caught his hand and stopped him.

“Babe, come on,” he said.

Layna looked up at the building, gazing at its two, large Venetian windows that watched over everything. Watching me, I bet.

“What’s wrong? Let’s go,” Max said. “Or are you scared? Ooooh!” He waved his fingers in front of her face in a silly manner.

It broke Layna free from her worry. The small lie, one he’d never figure out, came forth. “Of course not,” she said. “Let’s go.”

After one last look deep into the shadows before her, she gave Max a kiss on the lips. Ready or not, she let him lead her into the darkness of the auditorium.

The building was a far cry from the grandeur of its glory days. Gone were most of the plush, red velvet-covered seats that once filled the theater, leaving only an empty, sad expanse of dirty concrete. Those seats that remained, mostly near the stage and scattered up makeshift aisles, were blackened and charred, having melted under the heat of the fire. Layna felt a chill, even though the seating wreckage could barely be seen under the cover of dusty translucent plastic. Construction materials, tools, wood boards, and sandbags were strewn about, giving credence to the rumor the schools’ deep-pocketed donors weren’t jonesing to bring this part of the campus back to life.

It was an open secret on campus that the coffers of Trask Academy of Performing Arts might be drier than anyone in the administration wanted to admit. There was money, of course, because Dean McKenna knew that keeping up appearances was paramount, but there was an equally strong, although silent, opinion that the building was nothing more than a part of the school’s dark past and, just maybe, it should stay there. Layna certainly felt that way right now. Neither she, nor her friends and fellow students, had any idea that in at least one of the more heated board meetings—old-boys club affairs always held privately with little fanfare—more than one donor had agreed: why rebuild a nightmare when you can construct a brand-new dream?

Layna and her friends meandered through the maze of equipment toward the stage.

“All right, Crosby, come out, come out, wherever you are,” Alice said, loud enough to cause an echo, but there was no answer from Crosby.

Layna and Max made their way to the front of the group. As they walked, they stared up through scaffolding and more plastic tarps, the former creaking and the latter flapping in the stiff breeze whisking through the empty structure.

Moonlight shone down on Max, who climbed up onto the stage from a set of rotting steps. “Watch the third one, it’s a doozy,” he said as Layna grabbed his hand for help up. Then Max, always the gentlemen, reached for the other girls, grabbing Nancy’s arm a bit harder when she failed to heed his warning and her foot almost broke through the soft, pulpy wood of the stair.

Layna gasped, but Nancy just uttered an embarrassed “Whoopsie.”

From the stage, the friends paused to take in their surroundings, illuminated not only by the natural evening light, but also by the lone ghost light in the center of the stage.

“Spooky. Maybe this was, you know, the light,” Alice wondered aloud. The thought caused a hint of unease in Layna.

“Yes, most definitely,” Sydney said with a smile. “Now let’s steal the bulb and call GE so we can make a billion dollars on the light that lasts an eternity.” The response put Layna at ease, but Alice rolled her eyes, blew a large, pink bubble, and sucked it back into her mouth with a loud pop!

Layna found that the light did not offer her any warmth, or security, so she just stood quietly with her hands in her pockets. Max sidled next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulder.

“Hey, look,” Layna said, moving a few feet past the light to where a picnic blanket was spread out on the stage.

Nancy went to it and stood with her back toward the darkness of the stage’s left wing. “Fancy,” she said. “Maybe next time we can have a picnic, I don’t know, at the scene of a car accid—”

A hand suddenly reached from the shadows and whisked its way over Nancy’s mouth. Unable to say anything, her eyes filled with fear and worry.

“Nan, how much longer do we wait?” Sydney asked. She turned and let out a scream when she saw Nancy.

Layna and Alice yelped as well. “Max!” Layna screamed, with the unspoken order of Do something! Max practically leapt across the stage. Then he stopped, and he and the others watched as the stranger’s hand wended its way from Nancy’s mouth, down over her shoulder, and to her jacket’s zipper.

It started to pull down.

Nancy’s wide eyes shrank to a disbelieving squint. She yanked hard on the offending arm and pulled a stumbling Crosby from the shadows onto the stage.

“Wow, way to be romantic, Cros,” Nancy said. “I’ve always dreamed of doing it here. Literally, right here.”

“Me too, babe. Me, too,” Crosby joked, raising his eyebrows in quick succession before planting a kiss on her lips.

The others made their way over.

“Crosby, such a lovable jerk,” Sydney offered, giving him a peck on the cheek.

“That’s funny, I thought he was just being a jerk,” Layna added with a little more annoyance than she had meant to.

Max crossed in front of her. “Me-ow.” Now it was Layna who rolled her eyes. It hadn’t been her idea to hang out in a burnt-out building, tell ghost stories, and do God only knows what. She would have been fine if they had never come here.

“Come on,” Crosby said. “I couldn’t let the ambiance go to waste. We’re all entitled to a good scare, right? So, welcome children. And now, watch.”

They all did as Crosby stood in front of them, arms outstretched. He tugged on each sleeve. Nothing there. Suddenly, with a few slick gestures and a turn, he produced beer bottle after beer bottle.

“Well kiss my ass and call me abracadabra,” Max laughed, happily grabbing two bottles and offering one to Layna. She shook her head. Max ambled off, saying something under his breath like, “More for me.”

Alice brushed past Layna, smacked her gum, and grabbed a beer. “The party has so officially started.”

Crosby saved the last drink for Nancy, sheepishly gesturing like it was a peace offering. “Forgive me, but in all honesty, I just had to set the mood.”

“Oh, it’s gonna take more than janky beer,” Nancy retorted with a smile.

Crosby shrugged his shoulders, opened his jacket, and showed her the flask he had been hiding. Nancy’s smile grew. Layna watched, enjoying their playful back-and-forth.

“You know me so well,” Nancy admitted. She put her arms inside Crosby’s jacket, moving her face close to his.

“And you me, my dear,” responded Crosby. Somehow, they seemed to smile even as they kissed deeply.

Layna cleared her throat and sat down on the blanket. “Tongue-wrestlers, your much-needed, very private room is now ready. Please check in, stat.”

Nancy pulled back from Crosby, laughing. “Duly noted.” She and the others joined Layna on the blanket.

Crosby remained standing by himself, still pretending to kiss Nancy. The others laughed, which he took as his cue to stop and take a seat. The teens kicked back, looking up at the star-studded sky through a gaping hole in the roof of the condemned theater.

“See, it’s not so scary in here,” Max said.

Layna thought, but would never dare say, that it was still just as creepy as she had imagined. Maybe more.

***

“Let’s discuss break. Please tell me you’re staying,” Sydney pleaded, breaking the silence. Secretly she had also hoped to head off talk about the building, the legend, or how frightening it was. And is.

“Oh, we’re staying the week,” Layna said, adding emphatically, “All of us, right?”

Nods all around. Sydney let out a Thank God sigh.

“Rumor has it only D’Arcangelo and McKenna are gonna be here,” Alice said. “And there’s gonna be a party tomorrow night to kick things off.”

“A freshman party, ugh.” Nancy groaned and took a swig from the flask.

“I’ll pass, thank you very much,” Sydney said.

Layna looked like she was holding in a secret she couldn’t keep in. “Max wants to go!” she revealed.

The group stared at him as if he were mad.

“What?” Max asked. “It could be fun.”

Layna threw a You’ve gotta be kidding me stare at him. “Oh, totes,” she said, “if the fifteen-year-olds can plot out how to sneak anything stronger than hard lemonade into the dorms.”

Sydney shook her head. “Barfing kids and tragic pop music outside my door, all night long. Sign. Me. Up!”

“Oh, let me call the wahmbulance,” Nancy laughed. “It’s your fault. You could have lived with us big kids in Campbell Hall.”

“Oh, no, no, no,” Sydney replied. “I am not giving up my primo view for snot-nosers.”

And it was true, she thought. Her view was fantastic, overlooking the conservatory filled with exotic plants, from rare orchids to ingeniously sculpted bonsai trees. Aside from the supposed eco-friendly gratification, the school’s motivation for the garden was a mystery to Sydney, her friends, and most other students, too. Most of the kids at school, Sydney among them if she stopped lying to herself, had the mindset that if you’ve seen one flower, you’ve seen them all.

The beauty of the building, Sydney had to admit, could not be overstated: a dome of striking brass-capped cames that held together shimmering glass plates of blue and gold, the colors of the school. Sydney often found herself staring at the top of the structure, mesmerized as it reflected the setting sun. Beyond the dome, the rolling green hills that the school had so meticulously taken care of led to the thick forest just beyond the gates of the campus.

It was that view that kept Sydney in the underclassmen’s dorm. She had lucked out with her room. The school used the stunning views and state-of-the-art facilities to lure new students, but after the main academic coursework was finished in year one, students started their majors and moved to one of two dorms on campus closer to the buildings where they would train. Still, Sydney accepted that the spectacular view, and the slightly longer daily walk to her classes, was worth putting up with the kids who were just finding their way. When she had asked to stay in her room, the housing committee decided she could. Sure, there were moments when she thought it might be more fun to be in a building with all of her friends, seniors who had paid their dues and were ready to graduate and make their mark with the talents that Trask had nurtured within them. But when the committee said yes if she agreed to stay at the school for her entire academic career, she had made her choice.

Sydney was shaken from her thoughts of pretty stained glass and obnoxious newbies when Crosby said, “They’ll be in dreamland before you know it. The last ferry leaves Saturday morning and they’ll wanna be bright-eyed for mommy and daddy at the docks.”

“Speaking of morning, like, what’s with the ratchet, military-style early rehearsal, Syd?” Alice asked. “It’s just us, and you’re the only one in the showcase.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” Layna said, smiling. “The star here needs someone to shine the spotlight on her the minute day breaks, didn’t you know?” Sydney wondered, for just a second, whether something more wicked lurked behind the comment and smile.

“Oh, the shade!” Nancy said.

“Guys, I was joking. Seriously,” Layna offered. She took Sydney’s hand. “Hey, when have I not been the overachieving understudy to the world’s soon-to-be most famous talent?”

The words didn’t make Sydney feel much better. Sydney knew how badly Layna wanted to perform. “Layn, you’ll get your chance. Trust me, it’ll happen.”

“You’re right,” agreed Layna, “the minute you pull a Peg Entwistle and take a leap off the Hollywood sign.”

“Layna!” Nancy laughed, half-heartedly.

Sydney chuckled slightly, then looked away. She didn’t want to keep up the contest with Layna, didn’t want to see something in her friend’s eyes that might betray their friendship.

Max took a long swig from his beer and gestured at their surroundings with the bottle. “There’s always hope for a mysterious fire during one of Syd’s rehearsals.”

“Okay, seriously, starting to feel uncomfortable here,” Sydney admitted. She looked at Layna, waiting for the break. It finally came. They locked eyes, and Layna’s big grin forced one from Sydney.

“Babe, friends to the end,” Layna said, moving to wrap her arms around Sydney. “The very end,” she added, her tone both playful and menacing.

Everyone relaxed as Sydney lightheartedly pushed Layna away. “Girl, bye!”

The wind picked up, whistling through the theater. The scaffolding creaked and groaned. A light flurry of plaster dust sprinkled down, looking, Sydney thought, perhaps too much like ash from a fire.

“The universe likes the idea, Syd,” Crosby said. “Maybe your number is up.”

“And I like the idea of you shutting up,” Sydney replied sharply. She had reached her limit on the subject of past deaths as well as jokes about her own.

Layna grabbed Sydney’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

Alice yelped as floorboards creaked in the darkness of the stage wings. “That was so not the wind,” she muttered.

Max stood tall, taut, alert. “Who’s there?” he asked.

No response. Layna grabbed his arm. He motioned for her and everyone else to be quiet as he stepped toward the edge of the light thrown out from the ghost lamp.

“Ooh, tough guy,” Crosby mumbled, snickering. Nancy slapped his arm. Max glared at him and then disappeared into the shadows.

Sydney was worried. And that meant they all must be worried, she thought. Was that an animal? Was it a teacher? Or had something they mentioned too many times that night come back?

As soon as she heard the crash, Sydney stopped wondering and let out a scream.

“Max!” Layna screamed, darting to her feet out of instinct. The others rose up behind her. Nancy pushed Crosby forward. He cocked his head and opened his eyes wide. Sydney imagined him thinking exactly what she was thinking, Just what am I supposed to do?

“Do something, idiot,” Nancy ordered.

Crosby inched toward the darkness, stopping at another noise, a scuffling, this time closer.

“Not necessary,” Max’s voice came from the shadows. Sydney was relieved as she watched somebody being forced from the wing and onto the ground. The other girls screamed, as did Crosby. Sydney took note that his scream was more high-pitched and went on a hair longer than the girls’, which she knew he’d regret.

Max appeared again.

“What the hell are you doing here, you stalker douchebag?” Max asked whoever was skulking backstage.

Sydney focused on Layna. She knew what was going to happen next. Her eyes met Max’s judging gaze. She took a sharp breath in and forgot the drama and worry from before. Max was obviously not happy with the person lying on the floor in front of them all.

***

Layna knew she could not hide what Sydney, what Max, what everyone saw as she looked at the heap on the ground.

Dillon Reeves. A loner and, some have said, a rebel.

He was also a senior, though the rumor on campus was that the musical prodigy might have been older than everyone else after being held back in grade school. It wasn’t for lack of intelligence, apparently, on which everyone agreed. Depending on whom you asked, though, the true reason changed. Imaginations ran wild. And the stories got bigger.

I heard Dillon would just sit in the corner of his kindergarten classroom and hum after he got yelled at for eating cookies another kid brought, so they held him back.

I heard Dillon took a broken paintbrush and stabbed another student in eighth grade for making fun of his still-life art project, so they held him back.

I heard Dillon got blamed for pushing his high school shop teacher into a table saw blade and then ran through the halls screaming the teacher was jumping around like fleas on a hot brick, so they held him back.

There was also one about embezzlement, and some even whispered about a true murder. Layna hated that one and knew it was not, could not be, true. Still, on and on it went. The lightning speed of Trask’s gossip train left some wondering if, after putting the pieces together, Dillon wasn’t in fact responsible for the Lindbergh kidnapping. Stranger things have totally happened!

Layna believed none of it. Dillon was just special. Quiet, smart, very cute. Dillon’s looks and charm and bad boyishness did not go unnoticed. Almost every girl on campus noticed, and some boys, of course. But it was all of him—the things she knew, the things she learned, and yes, even the things she did not know but hoped to one day—that had attracted Layna during junior year when Dillon had transferred in. This was before Max, of course, a time her friends ridiculously referred to as Proto-Max.

“Are you all right?” Layna asked, looking Dillon over and brushing off his dark leather jacket.

“I’m fine,” he answered, standing up. He was tall. Taller than the others. Layna tried to hide the fact that she did not mind him looking into her dark eyes with his blues.

“I hope I didn’t hurt his man bun,” Max scoffed. Layna eyed him with a not now look. Max rolled his eyes. She knew he was sick of this. Sick of Dillon.

The others looked on with fascination at the love triangle. Layna was keenly aware that her friends knew she used to love Dillon, who was always slightly aloof in his love for her, who eventually fell out of love with him and into love with Max. Thankfully, Max loved her back more fully than Dillon ever did.

Max backed away, saying, “Fine, then the party’s over. At least for me.”

Layna stepped toward Max. “Max, stop.”

He did. But he didn’t turn around. She hated when he talked to her with his back. “If you want El Creepo to make it through senior year, you’re gonna have to make a choice.”

Layna just stared at him. The others stared at her. Alice whispered, “She must be answering him with her mind!”

Crosby laughed. Layna frowned, but she took some comfort when Nancy rolled her eyes and elbowed her boyfriend in the rib. No laughing. Check.

Everyone watched intently, not sure what was going to happen next.

No one expected it when Dillon grabbed Layna’s hand.

“Dude! Not. Cool,” Crosby offered.

Max turned around with enough time to see Dillon’s hand slink away from Layna’s. “What are you doing?” she snapped at Dillon. She ran to Max and put a hand on his shoulder. Slinking around to his front, she faced him.

“Him or me, Layna. I can’t play this game forever,” Max said.

“He’s just trying to get a rise out of you. And it’s working.” Layna knew it was a lie the moment it rolled off her tongue, so she wasn’t surprised when Max called her on it.

“No, Layn, you were helping him get a rise,” Max said.

Layna grimaced, wanting to scold Max for being so gauche in front of her—their—friends, especially Dillon. But she wasn’t fast enough.

Max sighed. “Him or me.” He kissed Layna on the forehead then stepped past her into the shadows, down the stairs, and toward the entrance doors. All she could do was watch him. She turned to the rest of the group. No one said a word.

“I didn’t ask him to do any of this,” Layna said. She looked at Dillon. “And you didn’t have to do that.”

“You didn’t have to let me,” Dillon answered quietly.

“It’s getting late,” Sydney offered, moving past Dillon without a glance. She grabbed Layna’s hand, and the two started toward the doors.

Crosby and Nancy followed. “Oops,” he said sarcastically, bumping into Dillon’s shoulder.

Alice rushed up behind Nancy. “Wait up!”

Alone on the stage, Dillon watched the group make its way toward the entrance. “See you tomorrow,” he yelled out. “And I’m sorry.”

Crosby, Nancy, and Alice exited as Sydney tried to coax Layna to leave. Layna didn’t budge. She wasn’t sure if Sydney understood, even as her friend walked away.

Layna knew Dillon could now see her only as a silhouette awash in moonlight. She watched him watch her. Her hair blew in a gust of wind that came through the open door. Fine dust particles rained down on Dillon. Were they anywhere else, Layna might have thought he looked angelic. Dillon shook his head, put it down, and then rubbed his eyes. Layna knew her time had come, that when he looked back to her, she would be gone.

She needed to be gone.

So she left. As the door closed behind her, she did not turn back. She wandered slowly toward Max, who waited for her. He always waited for her. That’s what he did. She grabbed his hand, and they followed the others back to the dorms.

But Layna knew Dillon was still on stage. She imagined him standing there, all alone, licking his wounds and staring with red, watery eyes at the ghost light.

***

Excerpt from Jinxed by Thommy Hutson. Copyright © 2018 by Thommy Hutson. Reproduced with permission from Vesuvian Books. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Thommy Hutson

Born and raised in Upstate New York, Thommy graduated from UCLA and launched his career co-writing the story for the Warner Bros. animated hit SCOOBY-DOO IN WHERE’S MY MUMMY? He followed that with co-writing the concept and additional material for CHILL OUT, SCOOBY-DOO!

His career then took a thrilling turn when he wrote and produced several definitive genre film retrospectives for television and home entertainment: SCREAM: THE INSIDE STORY, NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY, MORE BRAINS! A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD and HIS NAME WAS JASON: 30 YEARS OF FRIDAY THE 13th.

He was also a staff writer on Hulu’s daily web series “The Morning After,” a smart, witty, pop culture program aimed at getting viewers up-to-date on the latest entertainment news and celebrity interviews.

Thommy also produced the critically acclaimed feature THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH, an insightful relationship drama starring Lea Thompson and John Shea. He also produced DREAMWORLD, a quirky, romantic dramedy.

He co-wrote and produced ANIMAL for Chiller Films and Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films. The project debuted in iTunes’ top ten horror films (reaching #1) and became the network’s highest-rated original movie.

Continuing his passion for uncovering the stories behind the story, he went on to produce CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13th, which is the most comprehensive look at the popular film franchise.

As an author Thommy crafted a limited-edition coffee table book detailing the making and legacy of Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. A trade version distributed by Simon & Schuster reached number one in Amazon.com’s Movie History & Criticism category. He also has a deal with Vesuvian Media to write a YA thriller trilogy with the first book due out spring 2017.

He produced and made his feature directorial debut with THE ID, an independent psychological drama/thriller. Filmmaker Magazine stated it was “a deeply unsettling thriller that’s as moving as it is frightening…with skillful, provocative direction that has echoes of early Polanski.”

Most recently, Thommy wrote the screenplay for CineTel Films’ supernatural horror film TRUTH OR DARE. He is also directing, writing and producing a documentary with Clive Barker’s Seraphim Films in addition to developing other film and television properties with the company.

As an author, he is currently writing another book that definitively details the history, making and legacy of another fan-favorite genre film from the 1980s.

A member of the Producers Guild of America, Thommy continues to develop unique, compelling and provocative projects across multiple genres for film, television, publishing, and home entertainment through his company Hutson Ranch Media.

Catch Up With Thommy Hutson On thommyhutson.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

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A Well-Timed Murder by Tracee de Hahn

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Synopsis:

A Well-Timed Murder by Tracee de Hahn

“A true page turner…I found the plot fascinating, and de Hahn builds the tension and suspense perfectly to a satisfying conclusion. I was left wanting to read more about Agnes, and I am looking forward to her next adventure “– Charles Todd on Swiss Vendetta

Swiss-American police officer Agnes Lüthi is on leave in Lausanne, Switzerland, recovering from injuries she sustained in her last case, when an old colleague invites her to the world’s premier watch and jewelry trade show at the grand Messe Basel Exhibition Hall. Little does Agnes know, another friend of hers, Julien Vallotton, is at the same trade show—and he’s looking for Agnes. Julien Vallotton was friends with Guy Chavanon, a master of one of Switzerland’s oldest arts: watchmaking. Chavanon died a week ago, and his daughter doesn’t believe his death was accidental. Shortly before he died, Chavanon boasted that he’d discovered a new technique that would revolutionize the watchmaking industry, and she believes he may have been killed for it. Reluctantly, Agnes agrees to investigate his death. But the world of Swiss watchmaking is guarded and secretive, and before she realizes it, Agnes may be walking straight into the path of a killer.

I stumbled upon de Hahn’s first Agnes Luthi book, Swiss Vendetta, quite by accident while browsing in a book store one day. I took it over to a comfortable chair to read a few pages and was hooked after the first chapter. I’ve waited for this, her second in the series, with much anticipation and I was not disappointed. Agnes returns with the same quiet, sturdy, wry spirit, despite the injuries she sustained at the end of Swiss Vendetta. We learn more about Agnes and her family here, as well as about Julian Vallotton, as the two investigate the death of a master watchmaker. I have a fondness for mysteries that include well-researched information about unusual topics; in this case, de Hahn delivers some fascinating information about the Swiss and international watch industry.

The author skillfully develops key characters, and crafts a tricky and surprising plot which fully engages the reader. Tracee de Hahn is quickly becoming a new favorite author and Agnes Luthi a favorite character.

Tracee de Hahn’s mystery, A Well-Timed Murder, is another magnetic mystery that will engross readers from the opening page to the stunning conclusion.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: St. Martin’s / Minotaur

Publication Date: February 6th 2018

Number of Pages: 340

ISBN: 1250110017 (ISBN13: 9781250110015)

Series: Agnes Luthi Mysteries #2

Click these links to see A Well-Timed Murder on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

There was a crowd but none of them mattered. Agnes Lüthi had eyes for only one man, the one she’d nicknamed the Roach. The one she’d only dreamt of finding in Switzerland.

She moved quickly despite her injured leg, focused on her destination, closing her umbrella when she reached the high canopy. A chain of busses discharged passengers in front of the Messe Basel Exhibition Halles, and they flowed past her toward the doors as if the world’s premier watch and jewelry show might sell out of goods if they dallied. She had never before been to Baselworld, but from the look of the well-dressed crowd judged it was a fitting place to find this particular man.

She was within grasping distance of a door handle when Marcel Aubry appeared from behind a kiosk. He was cloaked in a long, belted raincoat and had a finger pressed to his ear, listening. Before she could speak, he grasped her wrist with his free hand, and pulled her behind the advertising stand, out of sight of the glass front of the lobby.

“Slight change of plan,” Aubry said, his voice low and hurried. “The Roach is headed this way.” He frowned, listening to the voices in his earpiece.

Agnes moved closer to Aubry; it felt like stepping into a shadow. He was a big man, not exactly fat, but big enough to make her feel slim. She could hear the scratch of a voice broadcast from his earpiece, but not the words. Her pulse quickened. They’d worked together for years in financial crimes. Despite that, she’d never seen him run a field operation. This was an important arrest for him, one he’d not leave to others. She was thrilled to be included.

“Did you ever think you’d see us catch him?” Aubry said to her, still focused on the chatter in his ear.
“No, and I don’t believe it yet today.” She’d had the Roach in her grasp three times, only to have him scurry back into a crack at the last moment. All of Europe and half of Asia was looking for him. In addition to Swiss francs, he’d stolen millions of euros, yen, dollars, and pounds—all electronically. Despite his methods, she’d always believed that he occasionally appeared in person at a place he’d targeted. Now it looked as if her suspicions were proving true.

“This time he’s definitely here,” said Aubry. “Problem is, the place is littered with exits and there’s a record crowd. Feels like half the world’s come to Baselworld. Good for the economy, bad for us, since on-site security doesn’t want a fuss disturbing their clientele.” He nodded. “Anyway, I’m glad you’re here to see it.”

“I was nearby when you called. I left my mother-in-law at the Beyeler Museum like a bride at the altar. She may not forgive me.” Agnes watched the crowd stream into the building, oblivious of the police operation. Aubry had orchestrated a smooth intervention despite having to move quickly.

“Your call was the best news I’ve had in weeks,” she added. “A few days ago one of my kids accused me of missing the criminals.”

Vincent – her oldest – had phrased it more bluntly: that she liked spending time with the bad guys more than with them. Before she could protest, her youngest son had added that at least she wasn’t a criminal herself. They’d all laughed. It was true, she did miss work. Surely that wasn’t a bad message for the boys? Their father had had a strong work ethic.

Aubry pulled his wrist up and spoke into a microphone, asking a question. He looked at her. “When are you officially back on the job?”

“Three days. Monday.” She gave her wool jacket a downward tug and straightened the matching skirt. Her stint in hospital had melted a few kilos away. Nearly being killed wasn’t the easiest diet, but it was no doubt effective. A few more kilos and she would consider thanking the man who had knifed her.

Aubry held up his hand, listening to chatter in his earpiece. “Any minute now,” he whispered, as if they could be overheard. “He’s heading to the lobby. It’s perfect. Fewer civilians and more space gives us an advantage.”

“He’ll run.” Agnes shifted weight off her bad leg. Critically, she eyed the long bank of doors. The building’s sleek overhang soared across the street, sheltering trams, taxis, a restaurant, and a flower stall. She hoped Aubry really did have all exits covered. She had a vague notion that the five or six halls of the Messe Basel facility were connected by upper corridors and enclosed walkways. It was a large complex.

Aubry tapped his thigh impatiently. His gaze strayed to her leg. “How’s life in violent crimes?”

A voice sputtered in his ear and Aubry listened, sparing her the need to answer. “He’s on the move,” Aubry said quietly.

Agnes tensed.

“Now,” Aubry shouted, running to the doors and yanking one open.

Two men in suits moved from another angle and Agnes spotted their earpieces. The men broke into a half run, and a few bystanders gasped while others pulled out mobile phones set to record video. The officers pushed ahead toward the turnstiles leading to the show, and Agnes followed. Aubry put a hand to his earpiece and stopped her. He angled his head down and she could hear voices talking on top of one another. Someone yelled and Aubry flinched.

Suddenly, in the distance, car tires screeched. There was a loud thump and a scream, followed seconds later by other shouts. Agnes turned toward the noise and Aubry followed. They ran to the right side of the building, ignoring the drizzle. The side street was closed to all but exhibitors’ vehicles and Agnes pushed her way through the gathered crowd. What she saw stopped her in her tracks. Aubry, close behind, collided with her.

The street was dedicated to instruments of luxury and speed, and in the middle of the road a gleaming red Ferrari had struck a man. He lay in a shallow pool of rainwater a meter from the front bumper. Both car and man were broken. The hood of the car was dented and smeared with blood. The man’s leg was angled midcalf, and the fabric of his pants was split by a bone. Blood spilled from the back of his head, pooling around his hair, missing with rain and running in rivulets to the curb. Agnes recognized the man immediately. She put a hand to her mouth. A second glance at the unique shape of his ears confirmed it: the Roach.

***

Excerpt from A Well-Timed Murder by Tracee de Hahn. Copyright © 2018 by Tracee de Hahn. Reproduced with permission from Tracee de Hahn. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Tracee de Hahn

Tracee de Hahn is author of the Agnes Lüthi mysteries, which were inspired by her years living in Switzerland. Prior to writing full time she practiced architecture and was head of university alumni relations at a major west coast university. Born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Tracee lived most of her life in Kentucky. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. Currently she and her husband live in southwest Virginia with their Jack Russell Terriers.

Catch Up With Our Author On traceedehahn.com, Goodreads: Tracee de Hahn, Twitter: @LuthiMysteries, & Facebook: TraceedeHahnWriter!

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tracee de Hahn. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com gift Card. The giveaway begins on March 1 and runs through April 1, 2018.

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Look for Her by Emily Winslow

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Look for Her by Emily Winslow

Lilling might seem like an idyllic English village, but it’s home to a dark history. In 1976, a teenage girl named Annalise Wood disappeared, and though her body was later discovered, the culprit was never found. Decades later, Annalise maintains a perverse kind of celebrity, and is still the focus of grief, speculation, and for one young woman, a disturbing, escalating jealousy.

When DNA linked to the Annalise murder unexpectedly surfaces, cold case detective Morris Keene and his former partner, Chloe Frohmann, hope to finally bring closure to this traumatized community. But the new evidence instead undoes the case’s only certainty: the buried body that had long ago been confidently identified as Annalise may be someone else entirely, and instead of answers, the investigators face only new puzzles.

Whose body was unearthed all those years ago, and what happened to the real Annalise? Is someone interfering with the investigation? And is there a link to a present-day drowning with eerie connections? With piercing insight and shocking twists, Emily Winslow explores the dark side of sensationalized crime in this haunting psychological thriller.

Partners in Crime continues to introduce me to exciting authors who are producing some of the most compelling stories out there. Emily Winslow’s Look for Her is no exception. The plot is gripping and intricate, the characters appealing and multi-layered, and the ending is twisty and unexpected. Winslow captures the immediate raw horror and grief experienced by family and friends when someone you love suddenly disappears, as well as the long-reaching effects that disappearance has on everyone touched by it. An experience like that changes lives, and Winslow’s characters all show evidence of the trauma.

Fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins will enjoy Winslow’s writing, as will any fan of psychological suspense. Highly recommended.

Trade Reviews:

“An intriguing, suspenseful, and briskly paced story with complex characters, evocative descriptions of England’s Cambridgeshire, plenty of clever misdirection, and a satisfying ending.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Using multiple narrators, as she did in The Start of Everything (2013), Winslow spins the plot to a satisfying and humane conclusion, with Keene and Frohmann again proving to be a winning pair.”
—Booklist

“Winslow’s kaleidoscopic narrative technique, employing first-person accounts from multiple characters, makes for engaging reading.”
—Publishers Weekly

Look For Her is a nuanced, thought-provoking portrait of a crime and its aftermath. Beautifully written with an expertly twisty, surprising story, this is a must-read!”
—Chevy Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of Never Let You Go

“Surprising and satisfying, you won’t be able to stop turning the pages of Look For Her.”
—Karen Dionne, author of The Marsh King’s Daughter

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Published by: William Morrow

Publication Date: February 13th 2018

Number of Pages: 304

ISBN: 006257258X (ISBN13: 9780062572585)

Series: Keene and Frohmann #4 | Each is a stand alone novel

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

From Chapter One

Annalise Williams (Wolfson College),

University Counselling Service,

recorded and transcribed by Dr. Laurie Ambrose

My mother picked the name Annalise for me because of a girl who was killed. Her name was Annalise Wood, and she went missing when she was sixteen. My mother was the same age when it happened. Annalise was lovely, much prettier than my sister and I ever became. She was the kind of girl you look at and think, “Of course someone would want to take her.”

Don’t look at me like that. I know that what happened to her was awful. It just seems a very fine line between being the kind of person that others want to be with and be like and treat well, and being the kind of person that some others, just a few, sick others, want to take for themselves. That’s the same kind of person, isn’t it? The loved and lovely. Isn’t that from a poem somewhere? That’s what she was like. That’s the risk when you’re the kind of person who’s wanted. Good people want to be close to you, but the bad people want you too.

There were two photos of her that the media used most: her most recent school portrait, and a snapshot of her laughing, with the friends on either side cropped out. Taken together, they presented the two sides of a beautiful and perfect person: poised and thoughtful, and spontaneous and bubbly. The kind of person who deserves help and attention.

Realistically, if they wanted these pictures to help strangers identify her if they saw her out and about with the bad man, they should have used photos of her frowning or looking frightened. Either there weren’t any (which may well be the case; who would take a photo of that?), or they couldn’t bring themselves to advertise a version of her that was less than appealing. The narrative is important. If you want the “general public” to get worked up, you have to persuade. Attractiveness and innocence must be communicated, even if emphasising those traits makes the real person harder to recognise.

In the end, she was already dead, so it’s a good thing, I suppose, that they used the nice photos. They’re the images that everyone remembers. My mum was a teenager when those pictures were in the paper every day for weeks, then weekly for months. Annalise Wood was the most beautiful girl in the world. Everyone cared about her. It’s what any mother would wish for her child, to be the kind of person that everyone would care about and miss if she disappeared.

It wasn’t until Mum was over thirty that what really happened to Annalise Wood was discovered.

***

Excerpt from Look for Her by Emily Winslow. Copyright © 2018 by Emily Winslow. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Emily Winslow

Emily Winslow is an American living in Cambridge, England. She trained as an actor at Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious drama conservatory and earned a master’s degree in museum studies from Seton Hall University. For six years she wrote for Games magazine, creating increasingly elaborate and lavishly illustrated logic puzzles. She lives with her husband and two sons. She is the author of four novels and a memoir.

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Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Emily Winslow and William Morrow. There will be 1 winner of one (1) physical copy of each of the 1st three books in the Keene and Frohmann Series: The Whole World, The Start of Everything, and The Red House AND there will be 5 Winners of one (1) physical copy of their choice of ONE of the 1st three books in the Keene and Frohmann Series: The Whole World, The Start of Everything, and The Red House. The giveaway begins on February 12 and runs through March 18, 2018. This giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.

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Shadow Crimes by EJ Moran

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Shadow Crimes by E. J. Moran

The year is 1978, and the New York fashion industry is an orgy of glitz, glamour, and decadence. New models—especially those as beautiful as eighteen-year- old Anna McKenna—are prime targets for all kinds of predators.

Anna is already aware of the men who enjoy preying on models. She knows a woman represented by her modeling agent was found raped and murdered—but she tells herself that, tragic though it was, this is New York. Such things happen. Mickey Gallo is less sanguine about the killing, but he’s both a police detective and Anna’s protective uncle. In Anna’s mind, she doesn’t need his protection. Or so she thinks.

When one murder becomes two, Anna’s confidence is shaken, but she’s determined to accept an offer to model in Italy. There, surrounded by beauty, Anna will confront the darkest side of the fashion industry. It’s an encounter she may not survive.

This reminded me a bit of early Lois Duncan, but much edgier. The plot is suspenseful and the characters are engaging – either you love them or you hate them. However, this story has been told countless times – the beautiful young girl “discovered” by a big modeling agency, then stalked by the creeps who people that industry. Fortunately, Moran adds some warmth and intrigue to the plot through the characters of Anna and Mickey. The relationship between the cop and his niece lends a nice flair to the story and pushes things along. The end was not a surprise, but I liked how the woman ended up “in charge” of the villain.

The author’s experience as a fashion model lends an appealing authenticity to the story. The writing, at times, is a bit awkward and unpolished. There are some parts where I felt like I was reading a screenplay, where the description was plain and technical, like the staging directions you’d find in a script. In fact, I could see this as a Lifetime Movie, and it would be a good one! Overall, this is an enjoyable, quick read for mystery & suspense fans.

Book Details:

Genre: International Mystery & Crime, Mystery & Detective

Published by: TreeLane Press

Publication Date: December 2017

Number of Pages: 250

ISBN: 0999523503 (ISBN 13: 9780999523506)

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Part 1

New York City, 1978

April Night

The buzz of the intercom surprised Rhonda. It was 11:00 p.m. and she was about to go to sleep.

“Hello?” she said.

“Hello, Rhonda?”

The man identified himself and she recognized his name immediately. “What are you doing here?”

“Sorry. I know it’s late. I wanted to speak to you earlier but couldn’t because there were too many other models around. I may have a potential opportunity just for you.”

“Oh?” She was dead tired and the last thing she wanted was unexpected company. Nevertheless, she didn’t feel she could say no to any possible break that presented itself. She was desperate to make it in the modeling world.

“OK. Let me buzz you up.” She opened the front door and waited for the rickety vintage elevator at the far end of the hall to set in motion. It was completely black, so she turned on the hall lights. She thought about how crazy she had been to rent an apartment in a building that was mostly for commercial use. The building was totally empty at night, as was the surrounding area. It was the meatpacking district after all. No one ever showed up until around 6:00 a.m. Yes, the rent was dirt cheap, but in hindsight it was a huge mistake. How could she know any better though? She was only eighteen—a complete babe in the woods. Not only that, no one taught her anything. Growing up, her mom worked every day, and most nights, to support her and her younger sisters. Her father was nowhere in sight, never had been, so with no money and no father she knew very little about how to make decisions; she just had pure ambition. That’s what lead her to NYC, hardly a penny in her pocket, to become a model.

The clattering elevator came to a halt. Its passenger opened the scissor gate, then the double door, and exited. “Thank you for letting me up,” he said as he walked toward Rhonda.

“Hi,” she said sweetly. “Come on in.” Rhonda motioned him through the door. “I’m really sorry but I’m already in my nightgown. I was about to go to sleep.”

“Of course, it’s late.” He glanced around the miniscule studio. It was neat and barren, apart from a tiny, decrepit kitchenette, a single bed, and a small side table lined with a few of Rhonda’s modeling photos. “So, this is the apartment you were talking about?” he said, shaking his head in dismay. “You can do better than this. It’s horrible here.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Rhonda said, putting her head down with embarrassment. “Unfortunately though, I couldn’t afford more.” Regaining her composure, she smiled softly. “Anyway, the good news is I pay month-to-month, and as soon as I make some decent money modeling I’m going to move out.”

“That’s what I wanted to speak to you about.”

“Well, have a seat,” she said, laughing as she motioned to a corner at the far end of the bed. “Can I get you something to drink first?” she asked as he sat down.

“No, nothing, thank you.” He looked at her intently, following her every gesture as she perched herself down near the head of the bed.

“So you want to be a famous model?”

She nodded in agreement.

“Let’s talk about what I can do for you.”

“Terrific” she said, overjoyed by his interest in helping her.

“I think you have a lot of potential. I really do.”

Rhonda smiled eagerly and took in a big breath of air, emphasizing her svelte, perfect figure.

“It’s not easy though to make it as a model. Beautiful girls are a dime a dozen,” he said.

“I know. It’s true. I see so many beautiful models every day.”

“Exactly. That’s why you need someone with connections, someone with power, to help you.”

“You’re right,” Rhonda said. She could hardly believe she may be about to get her lucky break, one that could launch her to stardom in the modeling world.

Suddenly, he reached for her arm and pulled her toward him.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Rhonda’s eager smile faded. Confused, she tried to pull away.

“You know what I’m doing, Rhonda.”

“No I don’t. You said you wanted to speak with me.”

“You want help? You want to make it big?”

“Yes, but not this way.” She struggled to get away, but her resistance made him angry.

“You know you want this. I could see it in your eyes earlier.”

“No I don’t,” she said, still trying to pull away as his fingers dug into her arms.

He didn’t loosen his grip. “You are so sexy, don’t you know that?”

“Stop. I don’t want to do this. I’m still a virgin.”

“A virgin?” He pushed her back and held onto her tightly with outstretched arms, his piercing stare locking onto her terrified eyes. “I don’t believe you.”

“I am, I swear!” She tried to loosen his grip and get up from the bed. “You got the wrong impression.”

“Then why are you such a cockteaser?” His large almond-shaped eyes began to shrink as he held her firm and squinted at her with the most evil look she had ever seen.

“I’m not. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Pulling her closer, he kissed her hard as she desperately made futile attempts to get away.

“You slut!”

Rhonda squirmed and dodged his attempts to kiss her, shrieking in terror. He wrestled her down on the bed, straddling her hips and pushing her down against the pillow. He smothered her face with one of his large hands, both to shut her up and hold her still. Terrified she froze.

“Cockteaser! You’re like all the others,” he hissed.

Using his free hand, he undid his trousers and forced himself inside her. Rhonda could only whimper, too paralyzed with fear to do anything else. He grew more and more excited with each thrust, mumbling incoherent words of disgust and hatred until he reached his climax.

Rhonda bled to death in her own bed, her throat sliced with a seven-inch combat knife.

***

“Looks like she’s been dead a few days,” Detective Tansey said as he stared at Rhonda’s decomposing body. The ruggedly handsome man held his cool demeanor while the two officers from the crime lab covered their noses—the room was beginning to have a foul smell.

“Do you think she was a model?” Officer Kasinski asked.

“Maybe.” Tansey glanced over at the professional-looking photos of Rhonda on the nightstand. “Definitely not a famous one though if she was living in a place like this.”

“Unless she was a druggie. Could have spent all her money on cocaine or something,” Officer Smith added.

“True, seen that before.”

Kasinski checked out the bathroom and returned. “No signs of drug paraphernalia.”

Tansey searched Rhonda’s outstretched arms. “No signs of track marks either. She must have been living in this shithole because it was cheap.”

The men shook their heads in disgust at the level of violence.

“Killer didn’t just cut her throat, he damn near took her head off,” Smith said.

“Looks like she’s been raped too, judging by the bruising,” Tansey added.

“My guess is that she let him up here,” Kasinski continued. “The intercom works, and there are no apparent signs of forced entry. That is, unless he was already in the building and snuck into her apartment while she slept. The lock is a joke.”

“Or maybe she brought him home with her,” Smith countered.

“Possibly. OK, let’s get to work. We don’t need to stare at her anymore.” Tansey glanced away from the dead girl and began assessing the room for more evidence.

A few hours later, he picked up Rhonda’s telephone and called the coroner’s office. The men had collected everything that could be useful; now it was time to have the poor girl removed from the putrid, blood-soaked bed and taken to the morgue.

***

Excerpt from Shadow Crimes by E. J. Moran. Copyright © 2017 by E. J. Moran. Reproduced with permission from E. J. Moran. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

E. J. Moran

Born and educated in the United States, E. J. Moran began a career as an international fashion model at the age of eighteen when she was scouted by a top modeling agency based in Milan, Italy.

Moran’s move to Italy set in motion the rest of her career. She signed with top agents and modeled for famous fashion designers and photographers. Her work took her to Milan, Tokyo, New York, and Paris.

After marrying and starting a family, she retired as a fashion model and continued life as an expatriate in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Singapore, and Italy, where she divided her free time between teaching English and volunteering for multiple international organizations.

Recently, she decided to put pen to paper and make fictional use of the plethora of experiences she gained during her globetrotting life. Moran and her husband currently divide their time between Europe and the United States.

 

Catch Up With E. J. Moran On ejmoranauthor.com & on Facebook!

Tour Participants:

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

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for E. J. Moran. There will be 1 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Giftcard. The giveaway begins on February 1, 2018 and runs through March 3, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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on Tour February 1 – March 3, 2018

Down to No Good by Earl Javorsky

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on Tour October 30, 2017 – January 6, 2018

Synopsis:

Down to No Good by Earl Javorsky

Private investigator Charlie Miner, freshly revived from his own murder, gets a call from Homicide Detective Dave Putnam. Self-styled “psychic to the stars” Tamara Gale has given crucial information about three murders, and the brass thinks it makes the Department look bad. Dave wants Charlie to help figure out the angle, since he has first-hand experience with the inexplicable. Trouble is, Charlie, just weeks after his full-death experience, once again has severe cognitive problems and may get them both killed.

If you like your mysteries quirky, this one is definitely for you. Charlie is a likable character, for a dead guy. He’s not a zombie, nor a vampire but he is also not dead or alive. That adds a little weirdness here, since it seems he can just pick up and carry on after “dying.” His cognitive problems add a fuzziness to the whole dead-not-dead thing. I really struggled with liking then not liking this book. The “detective” part is a decent mystery, but the “dead-not-dead” state of the main character added an unnecessary layer of confusion. Javorsky has shown he can write a really good and witty detective story; he just doesn’t need all the other stuff going on.

Earl Javorsky’s DOWN TO NO GOOD is wildly original, wildly energetic, wildly funny – it’s just straight up wild, and I mean that in the best possible way.

– Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE

It’s a shame you missed Down Solo:

“Earl Javorsky’s bold and unusual Down Solo blends the mysterious and the supernatural boldly and successfully. The novel is strong and haunting, a wonderful debut.”

– T. Jefferson Parker, New York Times bestselling author of Full Measure and The Famous and the Dead

“Awesome”

– James Frey, New York Times bestselling author

“Don’t miss Earl Javorsky’s Down Solo. It’s kick-ass, man. Excellent writing. This guy is the real deal.”

– Dan Fante, author of the memoir Fante and the novel Point Doom

“Javorksy’s writing reminded me of the Carl Hiaasen novels I’d read sprawled out on the deck on one sunny Florida vacation. Perfect entertainment, with the right amount of action to keep me alert (and to keep me from snoozing myself into a sunburned state). But there’s also a deeper layer in Down Solo, which left me thinking past the final page.”

– Bibliosmiles

“Javorsky’s dark and gritty prose is leavened with just enough humor to make Down Solo a compelling story that will take readers to the outer limits of noir.”

– San Diego City Beat

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: The Story Plant

Publication Date: October 31st 2017

Number of Pages: 224

ISBN: 1611882532 (ISBN13: 9781611882537)

Series: This is the sequel to DOWN SOLO.

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗| Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

I wake up looking down at my body, naked on a gurney at the morgue.

No.

That’s a memory.

This has happened to me before.

I was riding my bike, working a case, high as a meteorite that doesn’t yet know it’s about to crash and burn, still happily tooling along in space, at night, wrapped in a warm blanket of summer air, Jack Daniels, and a smidgen of heroin. Some creep shot me in the temple, and I woke up hovering above my own corpse.

This time is different.

Not a gurney. Not the morgue.

A bed. My body, eyes closed, on a bed. I’ve got a bird’s-eye view, hovering like a kite, still tethered, but barely, by an invisible string.

Let’s get clear on my condition. I don’t know what it is, but I know what it is not. I am not a vampire, or a zombie, or a ghost. I’m not a thousand years old, I have no superpowers, and I’ve never been a hero. What I do have is a broken life, a broken family, and, so far, an inexplicable inoculation against dying. And a daughter I would die for—or, in this case, return to life for.

The tether reels me in. I descend toward the body, a mirror image to it, my arms at my sides, my feet slightly apart. Three bullet holes in my face—and one in my gut—are going to need some repair. At contact, I am absorbed and no longer looking down at myself but looking up at the ceiling.

I stretch my fingers, curl them into fists, and stretch them again.

“Jesus holy fucking Christ!”

I know that voice.

I turn my head. It’s awkward, after the lightness of floating, to be in the body, to know its heaviness and vulnerability. There’s a man sitting in a chair next to the bed. He’s a cop, and the first thing I think is: He knows my secret. Now he really knows it. But it’s okay, because he’s also my friend and I trust him. I have to.

“Hey, Dave, how’s it going?” My voice sounds artificial—a forced process of pushing air, modulating vibrations with my vocal cords, shaping syllables with my mouth and tongue. I make my lips grin.

Dave sits there like a stuffed panda in his rumpled white shirt and cheap black sports coat. There’s blood on his clothes. It’s in his fingernails—my blood, dried and caked on his hands. His right hand is clasped around a Heineken, which he finally tilts to his mouth and drains.

I force the body up and into a sitting position, feet on the floor. I flex my fingers a few more times, roll my shoulders, and look at Dave. For a moment, I close my eyes and leave the body, just as an experiment, and roam around the room. From over Dave’s shoulder I watch it slump back into the pillows like a marionette whose strings have been cut. Dave stands and moves toward the bed, but I slip back into the body and work my mouth and tell him it’s okay.

I sit back up and ask Dave, “Why am I naked?”

“Because you were shot full of holes and clinically dead. I brought you back to my place and cleaned you up. I took off your clothes to see how many more bullets there might be in you. Your things are right over there.” He points to a chair in the corner.

“You’re taking this pretty well.”

He shrugs. “I feel like I’m in a bad movie, but hey . . .”

“I appreciate your bringing me here.”

“I knew if I called the paramedics you’d have been sliced and diced at the coroner’s.”

“How long have I been here?”

Dave looks at his watch. “It’s noon. Call it thirty-six hours.”

“What day is it? And date?”

“Wednesday. Last day in August.”

I stand and walk to the chair to get dressed. Roaming—moving freely out of the body—is easier than this, but I’ll adjust. I have before. The gorilla-suit quality of living in the body becomes commonplace, the intentional management of operating the system, beating the heart, making the blood run in the veins, the conscious act of breathing: all of it becomes second nature.

It’s almost like being alive.

***

Excerpt from Down to No Good by Earl Javorsky. Copyright © 2017 by Earl Javorsky. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Earl Javorsky

Daniel Earl Javorsky was born in Berlin and immigrated to the US. He has been, among other things, a delivery boy, musician, product rep in the chemical entertainment industry, university music teacher, software salesman, copy editor, proofreader, and author of two previous novels, Down Solo and Trust Me.

He is the black sheep of a family of high artistic achievers.

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

Tour Participants:

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

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Earl Javorsky and The Story Plant. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and 2 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Down Solo by Earl Javorsky. The giveaway begins on October 30 and runs through January 8, 2018.

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A Pound of Flesh by Alex Gray

2

on Tour November 6 – December 6, 2017

Synopsis:

A Pound of Flesh by Alex Gray

In the depths of a freezing winter, Glasgow finds itself at the mercy of not one, but two serial killers

This is Detective Inspector Lorimer’s worst nightmare and beyond anything he’s faced in his many years on the force. Can he find a link between the brutal slaying of prostitutes in the back streets of the city and the methodical killing of several unconnected businessmen?

When the latest victim turns out to be a prominent Scottish politician, the media’s spotlight is shone on Lorimer’s investigation. Psychologist and criminal profiler Solly Brightman is called in to help solve the cases, but his help may be futile as they realize that someone on the inside is leaking confidential police information. Meanwhile two killers haunt the snowy streets and Lorimer must act fast, before they strike again…

Gray has a tightly plotted crime drama here, with a well-developed cast of characters. DCI Lorimer reminds me a bit of Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury, plucked out of the 80s and dropped into 21st century Glasgow. The story is clever and delivered in fairly short chapters, making the switching among points of view a help rather than a hindrance to the overall flow. I’ve not read Gray’s earlier novels, but if this is indicative of her work, I’ll seek them out. I would not be surprised to see this series turned into a television drama and it would make an excellent one. Recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery & Detective

Published by: Witness Impulse

Publication Date: November 7th 2017

Number of Pages: 368

ISBN: 0062659227 (ISBN13: 9780062659224)

Series: DCI Lorimer #9

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

It wasn’t always easy to see the moon or the stars. This city’s sodium glow rose like yellow fog from its streets, blotting out any chance of star gazing. But she knew it was there. That cold white face dominated her thoughts tonight and she shivered as though it already saw her flesh naked and exposed to its unblinking watchfulness. Perhaps it was because she was trying to be seen that she felt such awareness. The red jersey pencil skirt folded over to create a too-short mini, those agonisingly high-heeled sandals cutting into her bare toes; spread across the bed back in the hotel they had seemed the garb of an adventuress.

Now, revealed in the glare of the street lamp on this corner she felt a sense of…what? Shame? Perhaps. Self-consciousness, certainly. But such feelings must be overcome if her plan was to work.

She had already overcome the blank indifference of the girls down in Waterloo Street, their body language both defiant and compelling. Her hips shifted, one slender foot thrust forwards, as she remembered how they had stood, languidly chewing gum, waiting for their punters. Their desperation drove them to return night after night, the price of a wrap of drugs equating to an hour with some stranger.

Her own need was just as strong, fuelled by a passion that would not be spent until she had fulfilled her desire. It was warm in this Glasgow summer’s night and her black nylon blouse clung to her back, making her uncomfortably aware of her own flesh. The thin cotton coat she’d worn to conceal these trashy clothes as she’d tapped her way across the marble foyer of the hotel was now folded into the black bag at her feet, along with her more sober court shoes. When it was over she would slip them on and return the way she had come, hair clipped in a businesslike pleat. She smiled thinly. Being a woman had some advantages; the facility for disguise was just one of them. Her carefully made-up face was stripped of colour in the unforgiving lamplight, leaving only an impression of dark eyes, darker hair tossed back to reveal a long, determined mouth. She recalled what Tracey- Anne, one of the girls at the drop-in centre, had told her: I get through it by pretending to be someone else for a few hours, then I can be myself again.

Tracey-Anne was lucky, though. After tonight she could never again be the person that she used to be. Glancing at the elegant façades around the square, the dark-haired woman suddenly saw these city streets through different eyes: the shadows seemed blacker, the corners harbouring ill intent. Her chin tilted upwards, defying those inner demons tempting her to turn back.

After tonight things would change for ever. When the car slowed down at the kerb her heart quickened in a moment of anticipation that astonished her. She had expected the thrill of fear, not this rush of excitement sweeping through her blood.

The man behind the wheel had bent his head and she could see his eyes flicking over her hungrily, appraising his choice. He gave a brief nod as if to say he was pleased with his first instinct to stop. Her lip-glossed mouth drawn up in a smile, she stepped forward, willing him to reach across and open the window, ask her price. For a moment he seemed to hesitate and she could see tiny beads of sweat on his upper lip, glistening in the light. Then the door of the big car swung open noiselessly and she lowered herself inside, swinging her legs neatly together to show as much thigh as she could. But the gestures were still ladylike, almost reserved, as if she knew that would quicken his senses.

‘How much?’ he asked. And she told him, one shoulder moving insouciantly as if to declare that she wasn’t bothered whether he could afford her or not: someone else would pay that price if he wouldn’t. She glanced at him briefly, catching sight of the tip of his tongue flicking at his lips like a nervous lizard, then he made a gruff noise of assent, looking at her again, as though to be sure of his purchase, before accelerating into the night.

***

Excerpt from A Pound of Flesh by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2017 by Alex Gray. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Alex Gray

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Health, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English. Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles, and commissions for BBC radio programs. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing. A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, she is the author of fourteen DCI Lorimer novels. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.

Connect with Alex Gray on her Website 🔗 & Twitter 🔗.

 

Tour Participants:

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

Giveaway:

 

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alex Gray and Witness Impulse. There will be 3 winner of one (1) eBook copy of Alex Gray’s SLEEP LIKE THE DEAD. The giveaway begins on November 6 and runs through December 10, 2017.

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A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane

3

A Face to Die For

by Andrea Kane

on Tour September 18th – October 20th, 2017

Synopsis:

A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane

Urban legend says that everyone has a double, or exact look-alike. Would you search for yours? And if you found them, would you risk your life for theirs?

When a chance encounter outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan results in mistaken identity, wedding planner Gia Russo is curious to find the person whose cell phone picture has been shown her—veterinarian Dr. Danielle Murano, her exact look-alike. A Facebook private message blossoms into a budding, long-distance friendship, and the two women agree to meet in New York and see the truth for their own eyes.

Shocked at the sight of one another, they quickly bond over drinks, childhood pictures and an uncanny feeling that they share more than just a visual resemblance. Together they decide to end the speculation and undergo DNA testing for siblingship. But when the tests confirm they’re identical twins, more questions are raised than answered.

And with good reason. The same mysterious forces that separated the sisters years ago are still at large, frantic to keep the two women apart. Their attempts to do so become more violent once it becomes clear that the two sisters have found each other. But when the danger escalates and the sisters fear for their lives, Gia turns to a former client of her wedding planning company, Marc Devereraux of Forensic Instincts, for help.

Despite being embroiled in another case, Forensic Instincts agrees to help Gia and Danielle discover who has been threatening them. And when Forensic Instincts discovers that this case is linked to the [Mafia, Organized Crime], they must dig up skeletons better left buried, and get at the frightening truth without destroying the sisters and the families they have grown to love.

How have I not read Andrea Kane before??? A Face to Die For is the fifth in the Forensic Instincts series, plus she has written several other suspense novels. The story here gripped me by the throat right from the start and never let go. Twists and turns and very satisfying resolutions combined with skillful writing make this one a winner. I read a lot of advanced reading copies and indie books where the quality of the writing is often uneven, so I really appreciate good writing. Kane writes dialog and description equally well, and keeps the plot moving along at a good pace. Her storytelling reminds me of a mashup of Elizabeth Lowell and Kathy Reichs and is every bit as good as those authors. Highly recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Published by: Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Number of Pages: 336

ISBN: 1682320103 (ISBN13: 9781682320105)

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York

March 1990

Anthony slid behind the wheel of his Ford Taurus and started it up, cranking up the heat the instant the engine turned over. It was friggin’ freezing outside. Even in the five minutes it had taken him to walk the babysitter to her front door, the temperature outside felt like it had dropped ten degrees, and his car was an icebox.

Shivering, he zipped his parka up as far as it would go and gripped the steering wheel, maneuvering the car away from the curb. He’d finally shared an evening out with his wife. It should have eased the knot in his gut. After all, it had been the first time that he and Carla had left their infants with a sitter since the babies had been born a month ago. And Judy was the perfect babysitter—a good girl from a good family, one who studied rather than doing drugs and screwing horny guys.

Still, dinner had been strained.

Anthony had only picked at his manicotti, his favorite dish at Raimo’s. His mind was far away, and acid kept building up in his stomach.

Carla couldn’t stop worrying and talking about the babies. She’d checked her watch a dozen times, intermittently giving Anthony puzzled looks and asking if he was okay.

Each time she asked, he’d assure her that he was fine, just exhausted from work and midnight feedings.
As if to contradict his words, some new waiter had dropped a tray of dishes on the floor, and Anthony had nearly jumped out of his skin at the crash.

Carla rose, asking him to order her another drink and to get one for himself to calm his nerves. Giving in to her new-mother concerns, she went to the pay phone in the back to call Judy for an update. So far, so good, Judy had reported. But that didn’t totally erase Carla’s fretting. She tried her best to be bright and chatty, but the truth was that, as this point, she was ready to go. She’d fiddled with her napkin and sipped at her drink, making small talk and glancing at the door.

Getting the hell out of there had worked for Anthony. He was more than ready to be home with his family and not out in the open. He’d use his fatigue as an excuse. He had to continue keeping the inevitable from Carla, until he had no choice but to tell her. He’d soften the blow as best he could. But the important thing was that his family would be protected at all costs.

Now, the heat in his car roared to life, warming his body but doing nothing to extinguish his inner chill. He knew the rules. No transgression went unpunished.

Why the hell had he been so preoccupied with new fatherhood that he’d forgotten to make his collections from the designated list of construction foremen these past two weeks? That in itself was a huge black mark against him—one he’d be punished for. But the outcome of his stupidity opened the door to a far more lethal punishment. Someone else had been sent to handle his route, and his money. They would have collected and turned over twice the amount he’d been handing over. And that meant he’d better be able to explain the discrepancy—assuming he’d even be asked before he was killed.

Please God, let him have that chance. He was just on the verge of buying that gas station he’d been single-mindedly building his bank account for, just about to provide for his family’s future.

And now this.

With shaking hands, Anthony switched on the radio, gritting his teeth as Madonna’s voice blasted off the windows, followed by Michael Jackson’s. He turned the dial until finally the soothing tones of Frank Sinatra’s voice filled the car. Sinatra. Perfect. The Chairman of the Board’s crooning was just the right medicine to ease his clawing anxiety.

He reached his street and turned down the line of small brick row houses, all identical in their flat lines, gated fronts, and tiny gardens. There was a certain comfort and peace about the sameness of it all; it made it feel like a neighborhood.

Would he ever feel that sense of comfort and peace again?

He pulled into his narrow driveway and spotted Carla standing at the front door with a broad smile, giving him a thumbs-up. That meant the infants had come through their first babysitting experience with flying colors.

He forced himself to smile back, but even as he did, his gaze swept the area around the house to see if he was alone. It appeared so. Quickly, he turned off the car and then made the frigid dash to his house.

He couldn’t shut and lock the door behind him fast enough.

The soothing warmth from the heating system enveloped him when he stepped inside. Comfort in yet another form. He was home. Carla and the babies were safe. And for the moment, so was he.

With a wave of relief—however temporary—he let the tension in his body ease. He shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the coatrack.

“You look happy,” he teased Carla. “What’s the final report?”

Carla’s eyes twinkled. “They were perfect. Judy said they’d only woken up once for their bottles and a diaper change. Now they’re sleeping like little angels.”

“Good.” Anthony looped an arm around his wife’s shoulders and led her toward the living room. “How about a nightcap before bed—to celebrate the success of our first night out?”

“That sounds wonderful.” Carla walked beside him, making a left into their comfortable living room.

They’d barely taken half a dozen steps when a tall masked man dressed in black rose from behind the large armchair, his .22 caliber pistol raised.

“Hello, Anthony.”

Anthony knew that voice only too well, and it elicited the chilling knowledge that there was no way out. No threats. Just death. “Welcome home.”

The man’s finger tightened around the trigger.

“No!” Carla screamed.

She threw herself in front of her husband just as the pistol fired.

The bullet pierced her skull, and with a shattering cry, she crumpled to the floor.

“Carla… no… Carla!” Anthony shouted. He dropped to his knees beside his wife’s lifeless body, grabbing her into his arms and openly weeping. “God forgive me. Oh, God forgive me.”

He looked up in dazed anguish, just as a second shot was fired.

The bullet struck Anthony between the eyes. His head jerked backward, and he fell over his wife, dead.
Upstairs, the babies started to cry.

The gunman shoved his pistol back in his waistband. He knew the mob code like he knew his own name. No women. No children. Omertà.

A woman lay dead before him, the taunting evidence of a fuckup.

He took the steps two at a time.

Tucked in their cribs, the babies were still crying as their parents’ killer entered the nursery and hovered over them.

Not even the nightlight could eradicate the darkness.

***

Excerpt from A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane.  Copyright © 2017 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Andrea Kane

Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including fourteen 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 storytelling triumph, A Face To Die For, extends the Forensic Instincts legacy where a dynamic, eclectic team of maverick investigators continue to solve seemingly impossible cases while walking a fine line between assisting and enraging law enforcement. The first showcase of their 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 and The Murder That Never Was.

Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include My Heart’s Desire, Samantha, The Last Duke, 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.

Catch Up With Andrea Kane On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

 

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