The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy

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The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy Banner

The Magdalene Deception

by Gary McAvoy

on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020

Synopsis:

The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy

For two thousand years, believers have relied on Christ’s Resurrection as the bedrock of Christian faith. But what if the Vatican had been blackmailed into suppressing a first-century manuscript revealing a very different story about what happened after Christ’s death—and that long-hidden document suddenly reappears?

Michael Dominic, a young Jesuit priest expert in the study of ancient writings, is assigned to the Vatican as an archivist in the Church’s legendary Secret Archives. Hana Sinclair, a reporter for a Paris newspaper whose privileged family owns a prominent Swiss bank, is chasing a story about Jewish gold stolen by the Nazis during World War II—millions of dollars in bullion that ended up in the vaults of the Vatican Bank.

When Dominic discovers a long-hidden papyrus written by Mary Magdalene—one that threatens the very foundations of Christianity—he and Hana, aided by brave Swiss Guards, try to prevent sinister forces from obtaining the manuscript, among them the feared Ustasha underground fascist movement, Interpol, and shadowy figures at the highest levels of the Vatican itself.

Based on illuminating historical facts—including the intriguing true story of Bérenger Saunière, the mysterious abbé in the French village of Rennes-le-Château; and the Cathars, fabled keepers of the Holy Grail—“The Magdalene Deception” will take readers on a gripping journey through one of the world’s most secretive institutions and the sensitive, often explosive manuscripts found in its vaults.

Over the years, I’ve read dozens of action-adventure stories modeled after The DaVinci Code. Some are examples of fabulous storytelling, others are just okay – all are the result of passionate hard work from the author. In The Magdalene Deception, author Gary McAvoy falls into the first category. 

McAvoy delivers a crisp plot led by an attractive protagonist and complicated by evil, underhanded adversaries. The basis of the plot isn’t anything new – speculative stories about Mary Magdalene and the early church abound – but McAvoy’s storytelling skills keep this one fresh and interesting. Fans of Steve Berry and James Rollins will eat this one up. 

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Literati Editions
Publication Date: July 1st 2020
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0990837653 (ISBN-13: 978-0990837657)
Series: The Magdalene Chronicles (Book 1)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

The Magdalene Deception Trailer:

Read an excerpt:

1
Southern France – March 1244

The relentless siege of the last surviving Cathar fortress, perched strategically on the majestic peak of Montségur in the French Pyrenees, entered its tenth month.

The massive army of crusaders dispatched from Rome, thirty thousand strong, were garbed in distinctive white tunics, their mantles emblazoned with the scarlet Latin cross. Knight commanders led hordes of common foot soldiers, some seeking personal salvation, others simply out for adventure and the promise of plunder. They had already devastated most of the Languedoc region of southern France in the years preceding. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children had been slain, regardless of age, sex, or religious belief. Entire villages were burned, rich crops destroyed, and the fertile land which yielded them was poisoned, in a cruel, single-minded quest to root out and extinguish a small and peaceful, yet influential mystic order known as the Cathars.

The defeat of the impregnable Montségur remained the ultimate prize for the Church’s troops. Rumors of a vast treasure had reached the ears of every soldier, stirring up the passion with which these feared European mercenaries carried out their holy mission. As was the customary practice during a crusade, whatever pillage remained after the plundering—spolia opima, the richest spoils for supreme achievement—could be claimed by the victor. That temptation, bonded by the personal assurance of the pope that all sins would be forgiven and their paths to heaven assured, was enough to seduce anyone, nobleman or peasant, to take up cudgel, pike, or arrow in the name of God.

In 1209 Pope Innocent III had ordered a Holy Crusade to crush the spirit, and if necessary, the life of each and every dissident in the Languedoc region bordering France and Spain.

This independent principality had distinguished itself by fostering an artistic and intellectual populace well beyond that of most northern European societies at the time. The people of the Languedoc practiced a religious tolerance that encouraged spiritual and secular diversity. Schools teaching Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic languages and the customs which accompanied them flourished, as did those espousing the Cabala, an occult form of Judaism that dated from the second century.

Most settlers in the Languedoc viewed Christianity with the utmost repugnance; at the very least its practices were perceived as being more materialistic than godly in nature. The irreligious of the region passed over Christianity in large part due to the scandalous corruption exhibited by its local priests and bishops who, unable to influence the heathens within their provinces, came to prefer the rewards of commerce and land ownership over the tending of a meager flock.

Consequently, the authorities in Rome felt compelled to deal with this unforgivable heresy once and for all, in towns such as Toulouse and Albi within the Languedoc area.

Consigning his troops to their commanders, Pope Innocent III invoked a special benediction to all, lauding the divinity of their mission. Asked how they might distinguish their Christian brethren from the heretics, however, the crusaders were simply told, “Kill them all. God will spare His own.”

And so the Albigensian Crusade began.

The new moon cast no light over Montségur as night fell on the first day of March 1244, obscuring not only the hastened activities of its occupants, but the lingering threat conspiring outside its walls. A dense alpine fog had settled over the mountain, and the castle that straddled its inaccessible peak had withstood nearly a year of unceasing battle.

Weakened by the tenacity of their predators and yielding to the hopelessness of their situation, Raymond de Péreille, Lord of Château du Montségur and leader of the remaining four hundred defenders, commanded his troops to lay down their arms, and descended the mountain to negotiate terms of their capitulation.

Though offered lenient conditions in return for their surrender, de Péreille requested a fourteen-day truce, ostensibly to consider the terms, and handed over hostages as an assurance of good faith. Knowing there was no alternative for their captives—nearly half of whom were priest-knights, or parfaits, sworn to do God’s work—the commanders of the pope’s regiment agreed to the truce.

Over the next two weeks, reprieved from the constant threat of attack they had been enduring for months, the inhabitants of Montségur resolved to fulfill their own destiny before relinquishing their fortress—and their lives—to the Inquisition.

On the last day of the truce, as if guided collectively by a single will on a predestined course, the surviving members of the last Cathar settlement made special preparations for their departure.

Four of the strongest and most loyal of the parfaits were led by Bishop Bertrand Marty, the senior abbé of the fortress, as they descended deep within the mountain down a long, stepped passageway carved into alternating layers of earth and limestone. The end of the passage appeared to be just that, as if the original tunnelers had simply stopped work and retreated without finishing the job. But, while the others held torches, Abbé Marty withdrew a large rusted key-like wedge from beneath his cassock, thrusting it into a hidden cavity near the low ceiling.

The abbé manipulated the key for a few moments. A muffled sound of grating metal from beyond the stone wall echoed through the tunnel, and the seemingly impenetrable granite slid inward slightly, revealing a door.

Aided by the parfaits, the door swung open into a small dank chamber filled with an enormous cache of riches—gold and silver in varied forms, gilded chalices and bejeweled crosses, an abundance of gems and precious stones, sagging bags of coins from many lands.

And, in a far corner removed from the bulk of the treasure itself, stood a wide granite pedestal on which rested an ornately carved wooden reliquary, crafted to hold the most holy of relics, next to which sat a large book wrapped in brown sackcloth.

Standing before the legendary treasure of the Cathars—glittering and hypnotic in the dim torchlight—would prove seductive for most men. But the Albigensians held little regard for earthly goods, other than as a useful political means to achieve their spiritual destiny. Ignoring the abundant wealth spread before them, the abbé fetched the sackcloth while the other four parfaits hoisted the ancient reliquary to their shoulders, then they left the room and solemnly proceeded back up the granite stairway. In the thousand-year history of the Cathars, these would be the last of the order ever to see the treasure.

But the most sacred relic of the Christian world would never, they vowed, fall into the unholy hands of the Inquisition.

Emerging from the stone passage, Abbé Marty led the parfaits and their venerable cargo through the hundreds of waiting Cathars who had assembled outside, forming a candlelit gauntlet leading to the sanctuary. All were dressed in traditional black tunics, all wearing shoulder length hair covered by round taqiyah caps as was the custom of the sect.

Once inside, the parfaits lowered the reliquary onto the stone altar. The abbé removed the ancient book from the sackcloth and began the sacred Consolamentum, a ritual of consecration, while the four appointed guardians prepared themselves for their special mission.

Armed with short blades and truncheons, the parfaits carefully secured the reliquary in the safety of a rope sling, then fastened taut harnesses around themselves.

“Go with God, my sons,” Abbé Marty intoned as he gave them his blessing, “and in His name ensure this sacred reliquary be protected for generations to come.”

The four men climbed over the precipice and, assisted by their brothers gripping the ropes tied to their harnesses, gently and silently rappelled hundreds of meters down the escarpment. Sympathizers waiting at the base of the mountain assisted the parfaits in liberating their holy treasure, guiding them away from the danger of other troops and hiding them and the reliquary deep in one of many nearby caves.

Throughout the night, those remaining at Montségur celebrated their brotherhood, their holy calling, and their last hours alive. Descending the mountain the next morning, in a state of pure spiritual release from the material world, Abbé Marty led the last of the Cathars as they willingly marched into the blazing pyres awaiting them, martyrs to their cause.

The holy reliquary of the Cathars has never since been found.

2
Present Day

Rounding the northern wall of the Colosseum with a measured stride, a tall young man with longish black hair glanced at the Tag Heuer chronometer strapped to his left wrist. Noting the elapsed time of his eighth mile, he wiped away the sweat that was now stinging his eyes.

Damn this Roman heat. Not even sunrise, and it’s already a scorcher.

Approaching the wide crosswalks flanking the west side of the immense Colosseum, he wondered if this was the morning he would meet God. Dodging the murderous, unrestrained traffic circling the stadium became a daily act of supreme faith, as the blur of steel sub-compacts, one after another, careened around the massive structure on their way, no doubt, to some less hostile place. Since his arrival here he had discovered that this was the way with Italian motorists in general, though Roman drivers excelled at the sport. Veteran observers could always tell the difference between natives and visitors: a local would cross the road seemingly ambivalent to the rush of oncoming traffic. Non-Romans, who could as likely be from Milan as from Boston or Paris, approached the threat of each curb-to-curb confrontation with a trepidation bordering on mortal terror.

Crossing the broad Via dei Fori Imperiali, his route took him through the Suburra, the most ancient inhabited area of Rome and off the beaten path of most tourists. As a newcomer to a city whose normal pulse was barely evident beneath the confusing ambiguities of new and old, the runner felt most comfortable here in the Suburra, a semi-industrial working-class neighborhood, much like the one he only recently left in New York. In the summer, people got up early to tend their gardens before the real heat forced them indoors. The early morning air was thick with alternating scents of Chilean jasmine, honeysuckle, and petrol fumes.

He ran another five miles, long blooms of sweat accentuating a lean, muscular frame beneath a gauzy white t-shirt as he burst into a sprint up the final few blocks, past the empty trattorias and shuttered shops whose merchants were just beginning their morning rituals.

Slowing to a cool down pace as he crossed the Sant’Angelo bridge spanning the Tiber River, he turned left up Via della Conciliazione as the massive dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica loomed suddenly ahead. Though it could be seen from almost anywhere in Rome, this approach always gave him the impression that the dome seemed to tip backwards, being swallowed up by the grand facade of the church the closer he got to it.

“Buongiorno, padre.” Several female voices, almost in unison, broke the cobblestone pattern of his reverie.

Father Michael Dominic looked up and smiled politely, lifting his hand in a slight wave as he swiftly passed a small cluster of nuns, some of whom he recognized as Vatican employees. The younger girls blushed, leaning their hooded heads toward each other in hushed gossip as their eyes followed the handsome priest; the older women simply bobbed a chilly nod to the young cleric, dutifully herding their novitiates into obedient silence on their way to morning Mass.

Though he had only been in Rome a couple of weeks, Michael Dominic’s youthful exuberance and keen intellect had become known quickly throughout the cloistered population of Vatican City, setting him apart from the more monastic attitudes prevalent since the Middle Ages.

But despite the fusty parochialism and an atmosphere of suspended time he found within its walls, Dominic still felt the intoxication of privilege at having been assigned to Rome so early in his religious career. It had not been even two years since he lay prostrate at the altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, ordained by his family friend and mentor Cardinal Enrico Petrini.

It was no secret to Vatican insiders that the eminent cardinal’s influence was chiefly responsible for Dominic’s swift rise to the marbled corridors of ecclesiastic power now surrounding him. The young priest’s scholarly achievements as a classical medievalist were essential to the work being done in the Vatican Library. But the progressive cardinal was also grateful for the vitality Dominic brought to his vocation, not to mention the charismatic ways in which he could get things accomplished in an otherwise plodding bureaucracy. Though Dominic could not account for his mentor’s vigorous inducement that he come to Rome—and knowing this particular prince of the Church so well, it was surely more than a familial gesture—he had trusted Enrico Petrini completely, and simply accepted the fact that this powerful man had believed in him strongly enough to give him an opportunity which he most certainly would not have had otherwise.

Pacing slower now, Dominic drew in rhythmic gulps of searing air as he neared the Vatican. A block or so before reaching the gate, he stepped inside the Pergamino Caffè on the Piazza del Risorgimento. Later in the day the cramped room would be filled with tourists seeking postcards and gelato, but mornings found it crowded with locals, most nibbling on small, sticky cakes washed down with a demitasse of thick, sweet coffee.

Across the room Dominic spotted Signora Palazzolo, the ample wife of the proprietor, whose wisps of white hair were already damp with perspiration. Seeing the priest approach, the older woman’s face broke into a broad, gap-toothed smile as she reached beneath the counter and withdrew a neatly folded black cassock Dominic had dropped off earlier, which she handed to him with deliberate satisfaction.

“Buongiorno, padre,” she said. “And will you take caffè this morning?”

“Molto grazie, signora,” Dominic said, accepting the cassock graciously. “Not today. I’m already late as it is.”

“Okay this time,” she said with a gently scolding tone, “but it is not healthy for a strong young man to skip his breakfast, especially after making his heart work so hard in this unforgiving heat.” Her hand reached up to wipe away the dampness as she spoke, coifing what little hair she had left in a vain attempt to make herself more attractive.

Heading toward the back of the shop, Dominic slipped into the restroom, quickly washed his face and raked his hair into some semblance of order, then drew the cassock over his head and buttoned it to the starched white collar now encircling his neck. Emerging from the restroom minutes later and making for the door, he glanced back to see the signora waving to him, now with a different look on her face—one beaming with respect for the clergyman he had suddenly become, as if she herself had had a role in the transformation.

Of the three official entrances to the Vatican, Porta Sant’Anna, or Saint Anne’s Gate, is the one generally used by employees, visitors, and tradesmen, situated on the east side of the frontier just north of Saint Peter’s Square. Although duties of security come first, guards at all gates are also responsible for monitoring the encroachment of dishabille into the city. Dominic learned from an earlier orientation that casual attire of any sort worn by employees or official visitors was not permitted past the border. Jeans and t-shirts were barely tolerated on tourists, but the careless informality of shorts, sweatpants, or other lounging attire on anyone was strictly forbidden. An atmosphere of respect and reverence was to be observed at all times.

Vatican City maintains an actual live-in population of less than a thousand souls, but each workday nearly five thousand people report for duty within the diminutive confines of its imposing walls—walls originally built to defend against the invading Saracens a thousand years before—and the Swiss Guards at each gate either recognize or authenticate every person coming or going by face and by name.

One of the Guards whom Dominic had recognized from previous occasions, dressed in the less formal blue and black doublet and beret of the corps, waved him through with a courteous smile as he reached for his ID card.

“It is no longer necessary to present your credentials now that you are recognized at this gate, Father Dominic,” the solidly built young guard said in English. “But it is a good idea to keep it with you just in case.”

“Grazie,” Dominic responded, continuing in Italian, “but it would be helpful to me if we could speak the local language. I haven’t used it fluently since I was younger, and I am outnumbered here by those who have an obvious preference. You know, ‘When in Rome….’”

The guard’s smile faded instantly, replaced by a slight but obvious discomfort as he attempted to translate, then respond to Dominic’s rapid Italian.

“Yes, it would be pleasure for me, padre,” the young soldier said in halting Italian, “but only if we speak slowly. German is native tongue of my own home, Zurich, and though I speak good English, my Italian learning have only just started; but I understand much more than I speak.”

Dominic smiled at the younger man’s well-intended phrasing. “It’s a deal then. I’m Michael Dominic,” he said formally, offering a sweaty palm.

“It is an honor meeting you, Father Michael. I am Corporal Dengler. Karl Dengler.” Dengler’s face brightened at the unusual respect he was accorded, extending his own white-gloved hand in a firm grip. Recently recruited into the prestigious Pontificia Cohors Helvetica, the elite corps of papal security forces more commonly known as the Swiss Guard, Dengler had found that most people in the Vatican—indeed, most Romans—were inclined to keep to themselves. It was never this difficult to make friends in Switzerland, and he welcomed the opportunity to meet new people. He also knew, as did everyone by now, that this particular priest had a powerful ally close to the Holy Father.

“An honor for me as well, Corporal,” Dominic said a bit more slowly, yet not enough to cause the young man further embarrassment. “And my apologies for soiling your glove.”

“No problem,” Dengler said as he smiled. “With this heat it will be dry in no time. And if you ever want a running partner, let me know.”

“I’ll take you up on that!” Michael said with a wave as he passed through the gate.

Already the Vatican grounds were bustling with activity. Throngs of workers, shopkeepers, and official visitors with global diversities of purpose made their way along the Via di Belvedere to the myriad offices, shops, and museums—any indoor or shaded haven, in fact, that might offer escape from the heat of the rising sun.

Another Swiss Guard stood commandingly in the center of the street—looking remarkably dry and cool, Dominic thought, despite the obvious burden of his red-plumed steel helmet and the traditional billowy gala uniform of orange, red, and blue stripes—directing foot and vehicular traffic while smartly saluting the occasional dignitaries passing by.

To any observer, Vatican City appears to be in a state of perpetual reconstruction. Comprising little more than a hundred acres, the ancient city state is in constant need of repair and maintenance. Architectural face-lifts, general structural reinforcement, and contained expansion take place at most any time and in various stages, manifested in the skeletal maze of scaffolding surrounding portions of the basilica and adjoining buildings. Sampietrini, the uniquely skilled maintenance workers responsible for the upkeep of Saint Peter’s, are ever-present throughout the grottoes, corridors, and courtyards as they practice time-honored skills of the artisans who have gone before them, traditionally their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. It was quite probable, in fact, that a given sampietrino working on, say, a crumbling cornerstone of the basilica itself, could very well be shoring up work that was originally performed by his great-great-grandfather more than a century before him.

Dominic walked to the end of the Belvedere, then turned right up the Stradone dei Giardini and alongside the buildings housing the Vatican Museums, until he reached the northern wall of the city.

A priest learns early that his life will suffer many rituals, and in at least one secular aspect, Michael Dominic’s was no different. Every day he ended his morning run with a meditative walk along the inner walls surrounding the immaculately maintained papal gardens. The fact that many of the same trees which lined the paths have been rooted here for centuries—serving the contemplative needs of whichever pope might be ruling at the time—gave Dominic a more natural feeling of historical connectedness, in subtle contrast to other abundant yet more imposing reminders of where he now happened to be living and working.

“Ah! Good morning, Miguel.” It was a gentle breeze of a voice, yet Dominic recognized it clearly in the early warm quiescence of the Vatican gardens.

“Buongiorno, Cal!” Dominic said brightly. Brother Calvino Mendoza, prefect of the Vatican Archives and Dominic’s superior, was approaching the entrance to the building. Clad in the characteristic brown robe and leather sandals of his Franciscan order, Mendoza was a round, timorous man in his seventies—quite pleasant to work with, Dominic thought, if a little indiscreet in his obvious affection for men.

“You are up early today,” Mendoza said in heavily accented English, furtively appraising Dominic’s form beneath the cassock. “But then, defying the wicked heat and traffic of Rome is best done before sunrise, no?”

“It is, yes,” Dominic laughed easily, his damp hair glistening in the sun as he shook his head in amusement, “but in another hour or so I expect the pavement to start buckling.”

Dominic had come to enjoy Mendoza’s fey demeanor and playful flirting. Nearly everyone he had met here seemed overly stern and impassive to be really likable, and Dominic was naturally drawn to people he found more hospitable anyway. This gentle man had a quick mind for humor and was never, Dominic found, lacking for a proverb appropriate to the moment. It was also common for Mendoza to call many on his staff by the Portuguese equivalent of their name, maintaining an affectionate cultural touchstone to his native home of Brazil. As for the subtle intimations, Mendoza grasped early on that Dominic’s vow of chastity was not likely to be compromised, and particularly not by another man.

“You’ll get used to it,” Mendoza nodded, smiling. “It is worse in the mornings, to be sure, but come late afternoon we are blessed by the ponentino, a cool wind off the Tyrrhenian Sea.

“And besides,” he quipped, “’To slip upon a pavement is better than to slip with the tongue—so the fall of the wicked shall come speedily.’” He finished by glancing around the garden with mock suspicion, as if every word were prey to overcurious but unseen ears.

“‘Ecclesiastes,’” Dominic responded. “And thanks for the admonition.”

Pleased that the young priest indulged his occasional whimsy, Mendoza shuffled up the few steps of the entrance to the Archives.

“Now come, Miguel, your days of orientation are over. Let’s get on with the real work,” he said dramatically, his arms nearly flapping as his large body moved up the steps into the Archives. “Today is a very special day.”

“I’ll catch up with you shortly, Cal. I’ve got to take a quick shower first. But why is today so special?”

From the top of the steps, Mendoza turned around to face Dominic and, like a child with a tantalizing secret, whispered with barely contained excitement, “The treasures we are about to exhume have not been seen by any living soul for several hundred years.”

Clearly a man who enjoyed his work, Calvino Mendoza’s eyes gleamed with anticipation as he lifted one heavy eyebrow in an arch, then spun as quickly as his heavy frame would allow and disappeared through the heavy wooden door.

As Dominic walked back to his apartment at the Domus Santa Marta, the resident guesthouse just south of Saint Peter’s Basilica, two men in a golf cart were heading in his direction, both dressed in the familiar black and red garb of cardinals. The cart stopped directly in his path, and one of the men stepped out, approaching him.

“Father Dominic, I presume?” The heavyset man had a thick Balkan accent, with an intelligent face bearing an inscrutable mask of expression.

“Yes, how can I help you?” Dominic said.

“I am Cardinal Sokolov, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I simply wanted to extend a hand of welcome on behalf of those of us who have been expecting you.”

Dominic recognized the cardinal’s department, better known as the infamous Office of the Holy Inquisition before someone came up with a less intrusive name.

“Good to meet you, Your Eminence,” he said, surprised by the comment. “I didn’t realize anyone was actually expecting me, though.”

“Oh, yes,” Sokolov said, holding Dominic’s hand in an uncomfortably firm grip as they shook. “Having Cardinal Petrini’s endorsement carries a great deal of influence here. But it also comes with certain expectations. First and foremost, keep to yourself. Do not expect to make many friends here. One is surrounded by vipers masquerading as pious souls.

“Secondly, know that you are being watched at all times. Conduct yourself appropriately and you may survive your time here. There are many who were vying for your job as scrittore in the Secret Archives, and they will seek any opportunity to displace you.

“Lastly,” the cardinal said scowling, his eyebrows a black bar across his fleshy face, “come to me directly if you witness or suspect anyone of illicit or unbecoming activities. Such careful scrutiny will be viewed with admiration by His Holiness, for whom I speak in this regard.”

Dominic was dumbfounded by the man’s audacity, hardly the kind of welcome he would have imagined, one that shed a darker light on his exhilaration at now working and living in the Vatican.

“I will keep all that in mind, Eminence,” he said, forcibly pulling back his hand from the cardinal’s cloying grasp.

Sokolov stood a moment longer appraising Dominic’s face, then turned and shuffled himself back into the golf cart, which pulled away with a mounting whine as it headed into the papal gardens.

Troubled by the encounter, Dominic returned to his apartment, the fresh burdens expected of him weighing on his mind. What have I gotten myself into, he thought, stepping into the shower.

***

Excerpt from The Magdalene Deception by Gary McAvoy. Copyright 2020 by Gary McAvoy. Reproduced with permission from Gary McAvoy. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Gary McAvoy

Gary McAvoy is a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur, and author of “And Every Word Is True,” a sequel to Truman Capote’s landmark book “In Cold blood.” “The Magdalene Deception” is his fiction debut, and is the first in a series called The Magdalene Chronicles.

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No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane

1

No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane Banner

 

Synopsis:

No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea Kane has delivered yet another creative and suspenseful story in the Forensic Instincts series. Appealing characters and a fascinating plot involving some of my favorite things – Celtic legends and jewelry – make this a page-turner. And, to make this even better, the author has launched a website featuring jewelry designs from main character Fiona McKay! Check it out here:

Fiona McKay Jewelry   fionamckayjewelry.com
 
If you’re looking for a suspenseful story to break up the monotony of staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, try and find this one. Also, if you haven’t read any books by Andrea Kane, now is a great time to start. She writes great suspense, police procedural,and legal  mysteries with flair and imagination. If, like me, you are a fan of suspense novels, you will certainly enjoy Kane’s books.  
 

Book Details:

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

Read an excerpt:

Slowly, Rose Flaherty made her way over to the front window of her Greenwich Village antique shop, leaning heavily on her cane as she did. Preoccupied with the ramifications of her research findings, she barely took note of the passersby on Bedford Street, most of them headed home for the evening. A few of them glanced in her window, their unpracticed eyes seeing none of the beauty attached to the treasure trove of antiques and antiquities, instead seeing only the dusty surfaces, the random pieces, and odd assortment of furnishings that bespoke unwanted junk from the past.

At seventy-nine years old, Rose had long ago stopped caring what people thought. She knew who and what she was. And she knew it was no accident that her established clientele, many of whom were wealthy and educated in the realm of ancient civilizations—including Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman, Byzantine, Greek, and her beloved Celtic—came to her for her expertise as well as her one-of-a-kind offerings. Her knowledge was vast, her list of contacts vaster still.

The levels of research she performed were always a labor of love. However, her current project was even more than that. It was a thrilling adventure, a fascination of possibilities that transcended anything she’d dealt with in the past.

She couldn’t wait to delve deeper.

Impatiently, she squinted at her watch, barely able to make out the hands without the aid of her glasses, which she’d left somewhere. Ah. Five fifteen. Forty-five minutes to go.

Given the magnitude of her findings, there was just one way to pass the time.

She limped her way over to her Chippendale desk, sliding open the bottom drawer and pulling out the bottle of rare, old Irish whiskey she kept on hand for special clients. It was sinfully expensive. How fortunate that one of her prominent clients, Niall Dempsey, was a wealthy real estate developer who also appreciated fine Irish whiskey and who had been kind enough to gift this to her.

She poured the whiskey into a glass, making sure to put out a second for her client. They certainly had something to toast to. She would just get a wee bit of a head start.

“Rose?” Glenna Robinson, Rose’s assistant, poked her head out of the back room. Glenna was studying archeology at NYU and thoroughly enjoyed her part-time job at the shop. The fragile, white-haired owner was an intellectual wonder. Learning from her was an honor—even if she was becoming a bit more absentminded as she neared eighty. Absentminded about everything except her work. In that precious realm, her mind was like a steel trap.

“Hmmm?” Rose lifted her lips from her glass and turned, initially surprised to see Glenna was still here. Ah, but it wasn’t yet five thirty, and Glenna never left before checking in, so she should have expected to see her shiny young face. Such was the level of Rose’s absorption with the task at hand. “Yes, dear?”

Glenna’s gaze flickered from the glass in Rose’s hand to its mate, sitting neatly beside the whiskey bottle on the desk. “Do you need me to stay late? You mentioned an evening appointment, obviously an important one… even if it’s not in the calendar.”

“It was last minute.” Rose smiled, giving a gentle wave of her hand. “There’s no need for you to stay. This is a meeting, not a transaction. If you’d just collect the mail and drop it off, you can go and enjoy your evening.”

Glenna smiled back, trying not to look as relieved as she felt. Her friends had invited her to join them for pizza and beer. After a long week, that was exactly what she needed. But she wouldn’t leave Rose in the lurch.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Positive. Now run along.”

“Thank you. See you tomorrow afternoon.” Glenna blew Rose a kiss, then retraced her steps into the small back room—the business office, as she and Rose laughingly called it. It was barely larger than a closet, but it served its purpose. Glenna used it to answer phone calls, schedule appointments, email invoices, do reams of paperwork, and keep track of the countless Post-its Rose stuck on every inch of available surface space. She called it Glenna’s to-do list, but Glenna was well aware that the reminders were really for Rose, not for her. All part of Rose’s charm. The Post-it-spotted room contained a jam-packed file cabinet, a rusty metal desk, an on-its- last-legs photocopier, and a computer that Glenna had nicknamed Methuselah because it was older than time. Still, it was enough for their needs and Rose didn’t know how to use it anyway. That was part of Glenna’s job. She’d been doing it since she was sixteen, and she had no desire to go elsewhere.

She scooped up the stack of mail and was about to leave when she spotted a manila envelope propped up against the outbox with the name of the addressee penned on it in Rose’s neat hand. No street address. No postage.

Typical forgetful Rose.

Recognizing the client’s name, Glenna quickly scanned their contacts list, found the requisite address, printed it on a label that she adhered to the envelope, and carefully marked the parcel: hand cancel. She’d take care of the postage at the post office. Jimmy would move the process along. He was an efficient postal worker with a wild crush on her. She’d be in and out in a flash.

After tucking the envelope beneath the rest of the mail, she shut down Methuselah for the night, then grabbed her lightweight jacket and left the shop.

The tinkling sound of the bells over the door echoed behind her.

Twenty minutes later, they tinkled again.

Rose had been sitting in a chair midway in the shop, her back turned to the entrance as she sipped her whiskey and stared idly at the marble fireplace that stayed lit year-round to ward off dampness and mildew. Hearing the bells, she reached for her cane and came to her feet, surprised but delighted. Her client was early.

She turned, a greeting freezing on her lips.

It wasn’t a client who had come for her.

***

Excerpt from No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane. Copyright 2019 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Andrea Kane. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Andrea Kane

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

Kane’s first contemporary suspense thriller, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, became an instant New York Times bestseller. She followed with a string of bestselling psychological thrillers including NO WAY OUT, TWISTED and DRAWN IN BLOOD.

Her latest in the highly successful Forensic Instincts series, NO STONE UNTURNED, showcases the dynamic, eclectic team of maverick investigators as they solve a seemingly impossible case while narrowly avoiding an enraged law enforcement frustrated over Forensic Instincts’ secretive and successful interference in a murder case. The first showcase of Forensic Instincts’ talents came with the New York Times bestseller, THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE, followed by THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE, THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, THE SILENCE THAT SPEAKS, THE MURDER THAT NEVER WAS, A FACE TO DIE FOR, and DEAD IN A WEEK.

Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include MY HEART’S DESIRE, SAMANTHA, ECHOES IN THE MIST, and WISHES IN THE WIND.

With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages. Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She’s an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan.

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

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Andrea Kane. There will be 6 winners for this tour. One winner will receive (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and 5 winners will receive No Stone Unturned by Andrea Kane (eBook). The giveaway begins on March 16, 2020 and runs through April 19, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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The Great Witches Baking Show by Nancy Warren

1

The Great Witches Baking Show

by Nancy Warren

on Tour February 1-29, 2019

Synopsis:

The Great Witches Baking Contest by Nancy Warren

A baker with secrets
Witches in trouble
The cameras are rolling
Ready, set, die.

Poppy Wilkinson is thrilled to be chosen as a contestant on The Great British Baking Contest. As an American with English roots, winning the crown as Britain’s Best Baker would open doors she’s dreamed of. In more ways than one. Appearing on the reality show is her chance to get into Broomewode Hall and uncover the secrets of her past.

But strange things are happening on the show’s set: accusations of sabotage, a black cat that shadows Poppy, suspiciously unsociable residents at Broomewode Hall—and the judges can be real witches.

There are murmurs that Broomewode is an energy vortex. It certainly makes Poppy see and do things that aren’t exactly normal, and seems to draw interesting characters to the neighborhood.

When a fellow contestant dies in mysterious circumstances, Poppy has more to worry about than burned pies and cakes that won’t rise. There’s a murderer on the loose and it’s up to Poppy and her new friends to solve the crime before it becomes a real show-stopper.

From USA Today Bestselling Author Nancy Warren, this delicious series of cozy paranormal mysteries will have you guessing until the end. Includes recipes.

The premise here is so wacky that it works. 

Suspend your disbelief long enough to imagine that the celebrated hosts of one of the most popular cooking shows in the world are witches, then layer on a decently plotted murder mystery AND a personal mystery for our heroine, add a splash of sassy dialog, a sprinkle of good characterization, and finish with a romantic, bucolic English country house setting and you’ve got a winning cozy mystery.

Reading this put me in mind of this wonderful essay: Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village. I am looking forward to the next in this series. I want to know Poppy’s secret!

Book Details:

Genre: Culinary Cozy
Published by: Ambleside Publishing
Publication Date: January 15th 2020
Number of Pages: 250
ASIN: B07ZL472PK
Series: Culinary Cozy #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

As life-changing moments go, getting the call that I’d been chosen to compete in The Great British Baking Contest was right up there. I’d practiced, auditioned and practiced some more. I was a decent home baker, but was I really the best in Britain? Probably not. But I didn’t have to be.

The contest was my way of getting into Broomewode Hall, where the show was filmed. I had my own reasons for going there that had nothing to do with baking.

Still, it hadn’t been easy to be chosen. There were thousands of applicants every year and then an excruciating selection process, where the show’s producers chose twelve from the short list and made us bake on camera. Some people went to pieces; some were just really boring. They randomly selected bakers off the short list and tried out different combinations of personalities, a bit like baking, really, seeing which ingredients created the most interesting results. I quickly learned that the trick was to be a good character, try to be funny, be a good sport, pretend you didn’t notice that cameras were on you and a clock was ticking down the minutes, and still turn out a decent jam tart.

Easy peasy! Not.

One of the reasons they chose me for the show, I think, was that while I was British, I’d grown up in the States, which was kind of fun, as the show had become a huge hit in America. I’d also started life in a bakery. Or, more accurately, in a cardboard box outside a bakery in Norton St. Philip, a charming village near Bath in Somerset.

I like to think my mother, whoever she was, chose the bakery so she knew I’d be warm and, since bakers start work so early, I’d be found. And I was. When Gareth Philpott came to work that morning, he said he looked into the box and found me wide-awake, staring up at him. Not crying, not fussing, just staring as though I’d expected him. They named me Poppy. The Philpotts would have kept me if they could have. They’re a nice family, but they already had three children, and the authorities don’t just give a family a baby because they happened to stumble across one. First they tried to find my mother or any information at all about my origins. When that proved impossible, I was adopted by Agatha and Leland Wilson, and they became my parents.

They were both teachers. They’d tried for years to have their own children, and their delight in getting me was reflected in the way they pretty much turned their lives around to give me the best upbringing they could. They were loving parents, kind and patient. Strict when they had to be. We lived in Bath for the first eight years of my life, and then my dad was offered a teaching job in Seattle.

I grew up there, mostly, lost the British accent, became a typical American teenager, and then when I finished high school, my folks retired and moved back to the UK. I could have stayed in Seattle. I had friends, and I could’ve gone to college there, but I chose to come back to England. I think, deep down, it’s always felt like home. Besides, like a lot of adopted kids, the mystery of my beginnings haunts me.

Soon after returning to England, my folks moved to the south of France to bask in warmer weather, grow lavender and cook gourmet meals. My dad, who taught history, was writing a book. My mom was learning French.

They’d saved up a nice chunk of change for me to go to college but, in spite of having teachers as parents, I never felt the urge. I was always more artistic than intellectual, so I went to an art and design college for two years, and they let me use the rest of the money toward buying a tiny cottage in Norton St. Philip. It’s probably crazy, and nobody even thinks my mother was from there, but I started my life in that village and so it pulled me back. The Philpotts still ran the bakery and were my second family. I guess you’ll always have a bond with the person who picked you up off the street as a newborn. Besides, growing up as an only child, I was fascinated by their sprawling, noisy family.

I became a freelance graphic designer, which allowed me to work from home.
Gina Philpott was my age and my best friend. She was also the only one who knew why I really wanted to get on that show.
It went all the way back to when I was just a baby in that cardboard box. I’d been wrapped in a curious blanket.

I saw my baby blanket one day when I was watching The Great British Baking Contest. They always filmed at Broomewode Hall, a Georgian manor house that wasn’t open to the public. Broomewode Hall was the seat of the Earl of Frome, Robert Champney and his family. During one of the behind-the-scenes segments on the show, Lady Frome, showed them around her home.

As the camera panned around the great dining hall I was instantly transfixed by a woman in an oil painting who seemed to be wearing my baby blanket! I saw now that, in fact, it was a shawl. But the pattern was the same. I was certain of it.

And from that very moment, I began my quest to find out more about Broomewode Hall. Lord and Lady Frome guarded their privacy tenaciously, and it was impossible to get access to them and their family home. Besides, what would I say? “I think one of your ancestors once wore my baby blanket? The best way I could think of to spend time there was to qualify as a baker on The Great British Baking Contest.

I’d done it. Against incredible odds, I’d been chosen as one of twelve bakers. It was one step toward finding how who I really was. All I had to do now was figure out how to get the rest of the way.

***

Excerpt from The Great Witches Baking Show by Nancy Warren. Copyright 2019 by Nancy Warren. Reproduced with permission from Nancy Warren. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Nancy Warren

Nancy Warren is the USA Today bestselling author of more than seventy novels, including the best selling Vampire Knitting Club series and the Toni Diamond mysteries. She’s from Vancouver, though she tends to wander. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa university, appeared on the front page of the New York Times when her book Speed Dating launched the Harlequin/Nascar series. She was also the answer to a clue in a crossword puzzle in Canada’s National Post newspaper.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
NancyWarren.net, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

 

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Click here to view the The Great Witches Baking Show by Nancy Warren Participants

 

 

GIVEAWAY!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Nancy Warren. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on February 1, 2020 and runs through March 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Pocketful of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens

1

A Pocketful Of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens

 

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two:

A Pocketful of Lodestones

by Elizabeth Crowens

on Tour October 1-31, 2019

Synopsis:

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A Pocketful of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens

In 1914, the war to end all wars turns the worlds of John Patrick Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Rebecca West and Harry Houdini upside down. Doyle goes back to ancient China in his hunt for that “red book” to help him write his Sherlock Holmes stories. Scott is hell-bent on finding out why his platoon sergeant has it out for him, and they both discover that during the time of Shakespeare every day is a witch-hunt in London. Is the ability to travel through time the ultimate escape from the horrific present, or do ghosts from the past come back to haunt those who dare to spin the Wheel of Karma?

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A POCKETFUL OF LODESTONES, sequel to SILENT MERIDIAN, combines the surrealism of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five with the supernatural allure of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell set during WWI on the Western Front.

Sometimes a story is so complex that the reader truly has to commit to it, blocking out all distractions and really thinking about the words being read. A Pocketful of Lodestones is that kind of book. 

For this reader, the psychological torment experienced by John Patrick Scott was harder to read but more engaging than the mysterious “red book.” The author successfully captured the sheer horror of the Front during World War I, both during the war and afterwards in the asylum. 

The Time Traveler series is hard to plug into a category because it crosses genres and does so very successfully. There’s mystery, horror, science fiction, and even a little romance. Fans of stories focusing on time travel and, for Pocketful of Lodestones, on war will enjoy this.

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A POCKETFUL OF LODESTONES was the First Prize winner of the Chanticleer Review’s Paranormal Fiction Awards.

Book Details:

Genre: Alternate History, Mystery, Fantasy Noir
Published by: Atomic Alchemist Productions LLC
Publication Date: August 1st 2019
Number of Pages: 334
ISBN: 9781950384051
Series: The Time Traveler Professor #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One: Kitchener’s Call to Arms

August 1914

“Have you ever killed a man before?”

I had, but close to three hundred years ago. So, I lied and just shook my head.

“Your name, son?” the recruitment officer asked.

“John Patrick Scott,” I said, with pride.

The officer handed me a card to fill out. “Write your date of birth, where you live and don’t skip any questions. When finished, bring this over to Line B.”

Born during the reign of Queen Victoria, somehow or other I managed to travel to the 23rd century, feudal Japan, and ancient China long before the Great War started. The army wanted to know all the places I had traveled, but it was doubtful that much information was required.

Since the war to end all wars commenced, recruiting centers sprang up like wildflowers. This one took over an Edinburgh public library. If unaware as to why the enthusiastic furor, one would’ve guessed the government gave away free land tracts with titles.

“Let’s see how clever you blokes are. Tell me the four duties of a soldier,” another enlistment administrator called out.

An overeager Glaswegian shouted, “Obedience, cleanliness, honesty and sobriety, sir!”

The chap next to him elbowed his side. “Takes no brains to read a bloody sign.”

Propaganda posters wallpapered the room with solicitous attempts at boosting morale. Kitchener wanted us and looked straight into our eyes. Proof of our manhood or perhaps stupidity. Queues of enthusiasm wound around the block. Impatient ones jumped the lines. We swore our allegiance to the King over a bible. As long as the war lasted, our lives were no longer our own.

Voices from men I’d never see again called out from the crowd.

“It’ll be over in six weeks.”

“Are you so sure?”

“Check out those men. All from the same cricket team. Play and die together. Medals of Valor in a blink. Local heroes with celebrations.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

A crusty old career soldier yelled out to the volunteers, “Does anyone speak Flemish?”

Suddenly the place got quiet. Then he looked at me. “Soldier, do you know anything besides the King’s English? French?”

“Fluent German,” I said. “That should be helpful.”

“Since when were you with the Bosches?”

“Fourteen years, sir. Before the war.”

“And what were you doing in enemy territory?”

“Worked as a teacher. A music professor and a concert pianist when I could get the engagements and sometimes as an amateur photographer. They weren’t our enemies then, sir.”

“Have you ever shot a rifle, son?”

“Actually, I have…”

“Find a pair of boots that fits you, lad. Hustle now. Time’s a wasting.”

The Allied and German armies were in a Race to the Sea. If the Germans got there first, then England was in danger of invasion. Basic training opened its arms to the common man, and it felt strange to be bedding alongside Leith dockworkers and farmers, many underage, versus the university colleagues from my recent past. Because of the overwhelming need for new recruits, training facilities ran out of room. The army took over church halls, local schools and warehouses in haste. Select recruits were billeted in private homes, but we weren’t so fortunate.

Except for acquired muscles, I slimmed down and resembled the young man that I was in my university days except with a tad more gray hair, cut very short and shaved even closer on the sides. No more rich German pastries from former students as part of my diet. At least keeping a clean-shaven face wasn’t a challenge since I never could grow a beard. Wearing my new uniform took getting used to. Other recruits laughed, as I’d reach to straighten my tie or waistcoat out of habit despite the obvious fact that I was no longer wearing them.

While still in Scotland during basic training, I started to have a series of the most peculiar dreams. My boots had not yet been muddied with the soil of real battlefields. New recruits such as I, had difficult adjustments transitioning from civilian life. Because of my past history of lucid dreaming, trips in time travel and years of psychical experimentation I conducted both on my own and with my enthusiastic and well-studied mentor, Arthur Conan Doyle, my nightmares appeared more real than others. My concerns were that these dreams were either actual excursions into the Secret Library where the circumstances had already occurred or premonitions of developments to come.

The most notable of these episodes occurred toward the end of August in 1914. In this dream, I had joined another British platoon other than my own in Belgium on the Western Front. We were outnumbered at least three to one, and the aggressive Huns surrounded us on three sides.

Whistles blew. “Retreat!” yelled our commanding officer, a privileged Cambridge boy, barely a man and younger than I, who looked like he had never seen the likes of hardship.

We retreated to our trenches to assess what to plan next, but instead of moving toward our destination everyone froze in their tracks. Time was like a strip of film that slowed down, spooled off track, and jammed inside a projector. Then the oddest thing happened to our enemy. For no apparent reason, their bodies jerked and convulsed as if fired upon by invisible bullets over the course of an hour.

When the morning fog lifted, the other Tommies and I broke free from our preternatural standstill and charged over the top of the trenches with new combat instructions. Half of our platoon dropped their rifles in shock. Dead Huns, by the thousands, littered No man’s land long before we had even fired our first retaliatory shot!

I woke up agitated, disoriented and in a cold sweat. Even more disturbing was finding several brass shell casings under my pillow — souvenirs or proof that I had traveled off somewhere and not imagined it. I roused the sleeping guy in the next bed and couldn’t wait to share this incredible story.

“Shush!” he warned me. “You’ll wake the others.”

Meanwhile, he rummaged inside his belongings and pulled out a rumpled and grease-stained newspaper clipping that looked and smelled like it had originally been used to wrap up fish and chips.

He handed it to me with excitement. “My folks sent this me from back home.”

The headlines: “Angels sited at the Battle of Mons”

Almost as notable was the article’s byline written by my best friend from the University of Edinburgh, Wendell Mackenzie, whom I had lost track of since the war started.

He begged me to read on.

“Hundreds of witnesses claimed similarities in their experiences. There were rumors aplenty about ghostly bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt where the Brits fought against the French back in 1415. Inexplicable apparitions appeared out of nowhere and vanquished German enemy troops at the recent Battle of Mons.”

“This looks like a scene from out of a storybook.” I pointed to an artist’s rendition and continued.

“Word spread that arrow wounds were discovered on corpses of the enemy nearby, and it wasn’t a hoax. Others reported seeing a Madonna in the trenches or visions of St. Michael, another saint symbolizing victory.”

“Now, I don’t feel so singled out,” I said and handed the newspaper articles back to my comrade.

For weeks, I feared talking to anyone else about it and insisted my mate keep silent. Even in wartime, I swore that I’d stay in touch with my closest acquaintances, Wendell Mackenzie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was easier to keep abreast of Arthur’s exploits, because of his public celebrity. On the other hand, Wendell, being a journalist, could be anywhere in the world on assignment.

* * *

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie,

I regret having missed Wendell when he never made it over to visit Scotland, and you wonder if someone up above watches over us when we make decisions where to go and when. In my case it was when I decided to take a summer vacation and travel to Edinburgh before the war. Those without passports or proper documentation endured countless detours and delays getting back to their respective homelands. One of Mrs. Campbell’s lodgers had been detained in France.

With nothing to return to back in Germany, I joined the Royal Scots. Military training commenced in Edinburgh, and at least they had us wearing uniforms of pants tucked into gaiters as opposed to the Highland troops who wore kilts. Although I was born and bred in Scotland, as a Lowlander that’s one outfit you’d have to force me into with much duress.

Our tasks would be in the Scots Territorial units deployed on our coastline in case of an enemy invasion. Potential threats could come from spies or submarines, but most say that the worst enemy has been the frigid wind blowing off the North Sea.

As there is always talk about combining forces and transfers, my aunt can always forward letters. It would mean more than the world to hear from Wendell saying that not only is he all right, but also in good spirits.

Yours most devoted,

Private John Patrick Scott

* * *

Dear Arthur,

In our last correspondence, I conveyed that I was unable to return to my teaching post in Stuttgart. With your tour in the Boer War as my inspiration, I joined the military. We learned the basics: how to follow commands, first aid, march discipline and training in all matters of physical fitness. My feet have been in a constant state of rebellion, since my previous profession as a pianist was a sedentary occupation.

Deployment was supposed to be along the coast of Scotland, but the army reassigned me despite first promises because of too many staggering losses on the Western Front. I requested to be part of the air corps and a pioneer in new battle technology, but my recruiting officers had other plans. Our regiment left for Ypres in Belgium. None of the Tommies could pronounce the name of this place, so everyone called it Wipers. You’re no stranger to war, but everyone has been surprised that it lasted longer than anticipated.

Yours Most Devoted,

Private John Patrick Scott

* * *

Troops from all over under the wing of the British Expeditionary Forces piled on to ships to sail out to the continent. The locals from Edinburgh didn’t expect to leave bonnie ole Scotland. They told us we’d defend our shores from foreign invasions. I’d crossed the North Sea before, but then it was a sea of hope and a new life full of opportunity when I got my scholarship to continue my musical studies in Germany, now the enemy.

I turned to the nearest stranger, hoping that a random conversation would break the monotonous and never-ending wait until we set anchor in Belgium. “How was your basic training?”

“Three months at an abandoned amusement park,” the soldier replied. “We trained for the longest time in our street clothes and were told they ran out of uniforms. Probably sent recycled ones after the first troops died. Used wooden dummy rifles until the real ones arrived. What about you?”
“We used an abandoned dance hall. Never could get used to waking at 5:30 a.m.”

“Word got around that in Aldershot soldiers had luxury facilities with a billiards room, a library, private baths and a buffet. I suspect that was for the regulars, the old-timers, not new recruits like us.”

“I should’ve enlisted elsewhere,” I grumbled, not that it would’ve made much of a difference if we’d all die in the end.

He pointed to my face and examined my flawless hands. “You don’t look like much of an outdoorsman. Pale, hairless complexion. No scars.”

“I’m a concert pianist.”

“Not much use on the Front.”

“Probably not. Excuse me, I need some air.” I bundled up in my great coat, wrapping my muffler a wee bit tighter.

Wasn’t sure which were worse — the soldiers with their asphyxiating cigarettes or numbing sleet turning into ice pellets. Hadn’t gotten my sea legs, yet. Stormy swells churned my stomach. Sweet Scotland. Lush green grass and the sky the color of blue moonstone. Never thought I’d be so sentimental. Continued staring until brilliant hues of the shoreline merged into dismal grays of a foggy horizon. In the transition from civilian to soldier, I stepped through a door of no return unless I desired to come back home in a coffin.

Chapter Two: The Other Lost World

Ypres, Belgium Late fall, 1914

A sea of strange men, but all comrades-in-arms, all recent transplants marched to their assignments and followed orders without question to who-knows-where on the way to the battlefield sites. We sallied forth, anonymous troops with a distorted sense of time and distance through the streets of has-been cities, once thriving communities. Poetry in ruination.

As we marched through the Grote Markt (Grand Market) heading out toward the Menenpoort (or Menen Gate) I didn’t expect to get an education. The soldier to my left kept talking out loud and compared notes of local tourist attractions. He was probably unaware that anyone else had overheard his comments.

“That long, distinctive building with the church hiding behind it must be the Hallen… or their Cloth Hall. There were impressive paintings on the interior walls of the Pauwels Room depicting the history of this town and its prosperous textile trade.”

“How do you know this?” I asked, trying not to attract too much attention.

“I’m a historian. Used to teach at a priory school in Morpeth.”

Perhaps I was naïve, but I asked, “Why would the armed forces recruit someone with a background in history?”

“That didn’t influence my enlistment although I’m sure it’ll come in handy somewhere. Before the war, I traveled all over Europe when time permitted. I brought original postcards with me as to what this town used to look like. It’s frightening to see the difference.”

“Your name?” I asked.

“Private Watson. What about you?”

“Not John Watson, by any chance?”

“No, Roger Watson, why?”

I shook my head thinking about Arthur and bit my lip to hide a slight smile. “Oh nothing… My name is Private Scott, John Patrick Scott.”

“What brings you to this dismal corner of the earth?”

“Ich war ein Musiklehrer. Pardon me, sometimes I break into German. I’m from Edinburgh but was living in Germany as a music teacher. Can’t be doing that sort of thing now.”

“I suppose not.”

“Roger, sorry to have eavesdropped, but it sounded so interesting. Then you are familiar with the area we just marched through?”

“That was the central merchant and trading hub of Ypres and has been since the mid-fifteenth century. On the north side over there is St. Martin’s Cathedral. You can already see the damage from German attacks.”

There was no escaping the needless destruction by aggressive enemy bombing. We continued marching forward in formation. A little way beyond the city gate, we passed by the remains of a park and children’s playground. The soldiers took a rest break and snacked on portable rations.

Many of them took off their boots and massaged their feet. Not too far away, I found a shattered brick in the rubble of what had been a schoolhouse and brought it back to where everyone was having his makeshift picnic.

Watson noticed that I kept twirling the small fragment in my hand while intermittently closing my eyes. “Scott, what are you doing?”

“Pictures form in my mind similar to movies. It’s the art of psychometry,” I replied.

“Psycho — what?” Another soldier overheard us talking.

“Sounds like something from Sigmund Freud,” one called out.

“Not at all, it’s like a psychical gift or talent. It has nothing to do with psychoanalysis.”

“What’s the point?” the first one asked.

I felt under pressure to put my thoughts into words. “I can understand what building this brick was part of when it was intact and what was here before it was destroyed.”

“That’s incredible!” Watson exclaimed. “If you are able to uncover bygone times by psychical means, I am all ears.”

When everyone else discounted my talent, Watson gave it full praise. Others became impatient and weren’t interested in our sidebar history lesson.

“Can you use those skills beyond inanimate objects?” one soldier asked.

“Find me an object, someone’s former possession,” I said.

Another soldier found a broken pocket watch not far from a trampled garden. He tossed it over, and I caught it with both hands. When I closed my eyes, the images materialized in my mind’s eye.

“A loving grandfather was reading to his grandchildren from an illustrated story book. He was balding. Wore spectacles. Had a trimmed white beard.

“‘Time for bed,’ he said, looking at his watch. Tick tock, tick tock. It was a gift from his father.

“He kissed each grandchild on the forehead as they scampered off. Two girls, one boy, all in their nightgowns. The tallest girl was a redhead with… pink ribbons in her long, curly hair. Then the bombs dropped. Fire. The roof collapsed. All was lost. Then… then… Oh my God!”

“Scotty, what’s wrong?” Watson asked.

I looked at the blank faces around me. “You don’t see him?”

Watson was baffled. “See who?”

“That grandfather,” I said, horrified and clutching onto that timepiece. His ghost was standing right in front of me!

Then I realized that no one else was capable of seeing him. Inside, I panicked until my frozen fingers let go of the watch, and it tumbled into the dirt. That’s when his phantasmal form vanished, but there were still indelible memories impressed upon the ether that refused to fade with the passage of time.

Warning bells tolled from a nearby church. “Quick, run for cover!” our commanding officer shouted.

Double-time over to shelter. Incoming bombs whistled and boomed in the distance. Civilians followed, carrying their most precious possessions, also fleeing for their lives.

The sanctuary already suffered from shell damage that left large gaping holes in its roof. Birds nested above the pulpit. Cherished religious statuary had been knocked over and broken. Several nuns rushed up and motioned the way for us to take refuge in the basement. We joined the crowd of scared families, members of the local community.

“Isn’t Britain giving them haven?” I asked Watson. “I thought most of the civilians evacuated by now.”

“There are still the ones who want to hold out,” he explained. “Wouldn’t you if your entire life and livelihood were here for multiple generations? That’s why they’re counting on us, but the Germans are relentless. Ypres is right on the path of strategic routes to take over France.”

When several farmers brought over their pigs and chickens, our retreat began to resemble a biblical nativity scene. From inside the cellar, we could hear the rumble of the outside walls collapsing.

“We’ll be trapped!” People yelled out in panic.

A group of sisters prayed in the corner. Our trench diggers readied themselves to shovel us out if it came to that. One terror-stricken woman handed me a screaming baby.

“I found him abandoned.” At least that’s what I thought she said in Flemish, but none of us could understand her. Confused and without thinking, I almost spoke in Japanese, but that would’ve been for the wrong place and an entirely different century during a different lifetime.

“What will I do with him?” I said to her in German, but she didn’t comprehend me either. I couldn’t just place him down in a corner. We’d be marching out in a matter of minutes.

I approached a man with his wife and three other children. First I tried English, then German, random words of French, and then I tried Greek and Latin from my school days. Finally I resorted to awkward gestures to see if he’d take the child. But he shook his head, gathered his brood and backed off.

Troops cleared a path out of the cellar. We needed to report to our stations before nightfall.

“Sister, please?” I begged one nun, interrupting her rosary. To my relief, she took the infant.

“Oh Mon Dieu!” I cried out in the little French that I knew. “Danke, thank you, merci boucoup.” Then I ran off to join the others.

Watson slapped me on the back. “Looked like you were going to be a father, mate.”

“Not yet. Got a war to fight,” I replied.

***

Excerpt from The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A Pocketful of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens. Copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Crowens. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Crowens. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Crowens

Crowens has worked in the film and television for over twenty years and as a journalist and a photographer. She’s a regular contributor of author interviews to an award-winning online speculative fiction magazine, Black Gate. Short stories of hers have been published in the Bram Stoker Awards nominated anthology, A New York State of Fright and Hell’s Heart. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, The Horror Writers Association, the Authors Guild, Broad Universe, Sisters in Crime and a member of several Sherlockian societies. She is also writing a Hollywood suspense series.

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American Red by David Marlett

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American Red by David MarlettIn American Red, as the Great American Century begins, and the modern world roars to life, Capitalists flaunt greed and seize power, Socialists and labor unions flex their violent will, and an extraordinary true story of love and sacrifice unfolds.

In his critically acclaimed debut novel, Fortunate Son, David Marlett introduced readers to a fresh take on historical fiction, the historical legal thrille, bringing alive the people and events leading to and surrounding some of the most momentous, dramatic legal trials in history. Now he returns with American Red, the story of one of the greatest domestic terrorists in American history, and the detectives, lawyers, spies, and lovers who brought him down.

The men and women of American Red are among the most fascinating in American history. When, at the dawn of the 20th century, the Idaho governor is assassinated, blame falls on “Big Bill” Haywood, the all-powerful, one-eyed boss of the Western Federation of Miners in Denver. Close by, his polio-crippled wife, Neva, struggles with her wavering faith, her love for another man, and her sister’s affair with her husband. New technologies accelerate American life, but justice lags behind. Private detectives, battling socialists and unions on behalf of wealthy capitalists, will do whatever it takes to see Haywood hanged. The scene is set for bloodshed, from Denver to Boise to San Francisco. America’s most famous attorney, Clarence Darrow, leads the defense and a philandering U.S. senator leads the prosecution while the press, gunhands, and spies pour in. Among them are two idealists, Jack Garrett and Carla Capone, he a spy for the prosecution, she for the defense. Risking all, they discover truths about their employers, about themselves and each other, and what they’ll sacrifice for justice and honor-and for love.

Marlett blends history and fiction with skillful, descriptive writing and colorful details from an era that truly was still the “Wild West,” at least for the workers and their bosses. This boils down to a conflict between the haves and the have-nots – set during a time when the rich became obscenely rich and the poor were obscenely poor. Sound familiar?

There are A LOT of characters here, almost too many to track, but the main characters are ones you won’t forget, notably sly, persuasive Clarence Darrow (“America’s Lawyer”). If you enjoy courtroom dramas and fast-paced legal thrillers, you will most certainly enjoy American Red. Be aware, though, this is a long story. It requires commitment, but it will definitely keep you entertained.

On Tour July 1 – August 31, 2019

Book Details

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: July 2nd 2019
Number of Pages: 535
ISBN: 1611881781 (ISBN13: 9781611881783)
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The lawyer lobbed a verbal spear across the courtroom, piercing the young man, pinning him to the creaky witness chair and tilting the twelve jurymen forward. Their brows rose in anticipation of a gore-laden response from the witness as he clutched his bowler, his face vacant toward the wood floor beyond his shoddy boots. When the judge cleared his throat, the plaintiff’s attorney, Clarence Darrow, repeated the question. “Mr. Bullock, I know this is a strain upon you to recount that tragic day when fifteen of your brothers perished at the hands of the Stratton-”

“Your Honor! Point in question,” barked the flint-faced defense attorney representing the Stratton Independence Mine, a non-union gold operation near Cripple Creek, Colorado. On this warm summer afternoon in Denver, he and Darrow were the best dressed there, each wearing a three-button, vested suit over a white shirt and dull tie.

The robed judge gave a long blink, then peered at Darrow. With a chin waggle, his ruling on the objection was clear.

“Yes, certainly. My apologies, Your Honor,” feigned Darrow, glancing toward the plaintiff’s table where two widows sat in somber regard. Though his wheat-blonde hair and sharp, pale eyes defied his age of forty-nine, his reputation for cunning brilliance and oratory sorcery mitigated the power of his youthful appearance: it was no longer the disarming weapon it had once been. No attorney in the United States would ever presume nascence upon Clarence Darrow. Certainly not in this, his twenty-sixth trial. He continued at the witness. “Though as just a mere man, one among all …” He turned to the jury. “The emotion of this event strains even the most resolute of procedural decorum. I am, as are we all, hard-pressed to-”

“Whole strides, shall we, Mr. Darrow?” grumbled the judge.

“Yes,” Darrow said, turning once again to James Bullock who seemed locked in the block ice of tragedy, having not moved a fraction since first taking the witness seat. “Mr. Bullock, we must rally ourselves, muster our strength, and for the memory of your brothers, share with these jurymen the events of that dark day. You said the ride up from the stope, the mine floor, was a swift one, and there were the sixteen of you in the cage made to hold no more than nine-is that correct?”

“Yes, Sir,” Bullock replied, his voice a faint warble.

“Please continue,” Darrow urged.

Bullock looked up. “We kept going, right along, but it kept slipping. We’d go a ways and slip again.”

“Slipping? It was dropping?”

“Yes, Sir. Dropping down sudden like, then stopping. Cappy was yelling at us to get to the center, but there was no room. We was in tight.”

“By Cappy you mean Mr. Capone, the foreman?”

“Yes, Sir. Our shift boss that day.” The witness sucked his bottom lip. “He was in the cage ‘long with us.” He sniffed in a breath then added, “And his boy, Tony. Friend of mine. No better fella.”

“My condolences,” said Darrow. “What do you think was the aid in getting the men to the middle of the cage?”

“Keep it centered in the shaft, I reckon. We was all yelling.” Bullock took a slow breath before continuing, “Cappy was trying to keep the men quiet, but it wasn’t making much a difference. Had his arms around Tony.”

A muscle in Darrow’s cheek shuddered. “Please continue.”

“So we was slipping, going up. Then the operator, he took us up about six feet above the collar of the shaft, then back down again.”

“Which is not the usual-”

“Not rightly. No, Sir. We should’ve stopped at the collar and no more. But later they said the brakes failed on the control wheel.”

“Mr. Bullock, let’s return to what you experienced. You were near the top of the shaft, the vertical shaft that we’ve established was 1,631 feet deep, containing, at that time, about twenty feet of water in its base, below the lowest stope, correct?”

“Yes, Sir. Before they pumped that water to get to em.”

“By ‘them’ you mean the bodies of your dead companions?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Ok, you were being hoisted at over 900 feet per minute by an operator working alone on the surface-near the top of the shaft, when the platform began to slip and jump. Is that your testimony?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“That must have been terrifying.”

“Yes, Sir, it was. We’d come off a tenner too.”

“A ten-hour shift?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Darrow rounded on the jury, throwing the next question over his shoulder. “Oh, but Sir, how could it have been a ten-hour work day when the eight-hour day is now the law of this state?”

The defense lawyer’s chair squeaked as he stood. “Objection, Your Honor.”

“I’ll allow it,” barked the judge, adding, “But gentlemen …”

The witness shook his head. “The Stratton is a non-union, gold ore mine. Supposed to be non-union anyway. Superintendent said owners weren’t obliged to that socialist law.”

“Hearsay, Your-”

“Keep your seat, Counsel. You’re going to wear this jury thin.” Darrow stepped closer to the witness.

“Mr. Bullock, as I said, let’s steer clear from what you heard others say. The facts speak for themselves: you and your friends were compelled to work an illegal ten-hour shift. Let’s continue. You were near the top, but unable to get off the contraption, and it began to-”

“Yes. We’d gone shooting up, then he stopped it for a second.”

“”By ‘he,’ you mean the lift operator?”

“Yes, Sir. He stopped it but then it must have gotten beyond his control, cause we dropped sixty, seventy feet all the sudden. We were going quick. We said to each other we’re all gone. Then he raised us about ten feet and stopped us. But then, it started again, and this time it was going fast up and we went into the sheave wheel as fast as we could go.”

“To be sure we all follow, Mr. Bullock, the lift is the sole apparatus that hoisted you from the Stratton Mine, where you work?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And the sheave wheel is the giant wheel above the surface, driven by a large, thirty-year-old steam engine, run by an operator. That sheave wheel coils in the cable”he pantomimed the motion-“pulling up the 1,500-pound-load platform, or lift, carrying its limit of nine men. And it coils out the cable when the lift is lowered. But that day the lift carried sixteen men-you and fifteen others. Probably over 3,000 pounds. Twice its load limit. Correct?”

“Yes, Sir. But, to be clear, I ain’t at the Stratton no more.”

“No?” asked Darrow, pleased the man had bit the lure.

“No. Seeing how I was one of Cappy’s men. Federation. And, now ’cause this.” His voice faded.

Darrow frowned, walked a few paces toward the jury, clapped once and rubbed his hands together. “The mine owners, a thousand miles away, won’t let you work because you’re here-a member of the Western Federation of Miners, a union man giving his honest testimony. Is that right?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Again, the defense counsel came to his feet. “Your Honor, Mr. Darrow knows Mr. Bullock’s discharge wasn’t-”

The judge raised a hand, took a deep breath and cocked his head toward the seasoned attorney before him. “Swift to your point, Mr. Darrow.”

“Yes, Your Honor.” Darrow’s blue eyes returned to the witness. “Mr. Bullock, you were telling us about the sheave wheel.”

“Yes. It’s a big thing up there, out over the top of the shaft. You see it on your way up. We all think on it-if we was to not stop and slam right up into it-which we did that day. We all knew it’d happen. I crouched to save myself from the hard blow I knew was coming. I seen a piece of timber about one foot wide there underside the sheave, and soon as we rammed, I grabbed hold and held myself up there, and pretty soon the cage dropped from below me, and I began to holler for a ladder to get down.”

“Must have been distressing, up there, holding fast to a timber, dangling 1,631 feet over an open shaft, watching your fifteen brothers fall.”

Bullock choked back tears. “Yes, Sir. That’s what I saw.” He paused. When he resumed, his tone was empty, as if the voice of his shadow. “I heard em. Heard em go. They was screaming. They knew their end had come. I heard em till I heard em no more.”

Excerpt from American Red by David Marlett. Copyright 2019 by David Marlett. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

David Marlett

David Marlett is an award-winning storyteller and writer of historical fiction, primarily historical legal thrillers bringing alive the fascinating people and events leading to major historical trials. His first such novel, Fortunate Son, became a national bestseller in 2014, rising to #2 in all historical fiction and #3 in all literature and fiction on Amazon. The late Vincent Bugliosi — #1 New York Times bestselling author of Helter Skelter — said David is “a masterful writer of historical fact and detail, of adventure, peril and courtroom drama.” Just released is American Red which follows the extraordinary true story of a set of radical lovers, lawyers, killers, and spies who launched the Great American Century. Visit www.AmericanRedBook.com. He is currently writing his next historical legal thriller, Angeles Los, which continues some of the lead characters from American Red. Angeles Los is based on the true story at the 1910 intersection of the first movies made in Los Angeles, the murderous bombing of the Los Angeles Times, and eccentric Abbot Kinney’s “Venice of America” kingdom. In addition, David is a professor at Pepperdine Law School, was the managing editor of OMNI Magazine, and guest-lectures on story design. He is a graduate of The University of Texas School of Law, the father of four, and lives in Manhattan Beach, California. For more, visit www.DavidMarlett.com.

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A Bolt From the Blue by Lise McClendon AND Fire & Rain by Katy Munger

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More international intrigue, murder, and romance for the Bennett Sisters overseas in the newest entry to the bestselling women’s fiction and suspense series. The next to youngest Bennett Sister, Francie Bennett (Blame it on Paris) is a hard-charging attorney whose boyfriend Dylan Hardy invites her to join him in Paris to help with a client. When Axelle Fourcier left Paris behind after the student riots of 1968, she vowed never to go back. She made a life for herself in America as a professor.

But now a beloved aunt, age 104, has died and left her an inheritance to be shared with a cousin she never met. A fabulous Belle Epoque apartment in Paris filled with pop art from the ’50s and ’60s is just the start of Axelle’s discoveries in Paris. Wrangling with her slick cousin for the proceeds is distasteful but oh so French. Then the apartment is broken into, a friend is murdered, and Axelle’s fears that the French state is once again conspiring against her seem very plausible.

Francie tries to deal with her cranky client, her own new relationship, and her boyfriend’s nine-year-old daughter, as the estate problems spin out of control. Intrigue, romance, Paris and the Dordogne, and a soupçon of murder, wrapped in the legal and art world of France bring more than a few ‘Bolts from the Blue’ to the Bennett Sisters.

Book Details:

  • Book Title:  A Bolt From the Blue by Lise McClendon
  • Category:  Adult Fiction, 243 pages
  • Genre:  Mystery, women’s fiction, suspense
  • Publisher:  Thalia Press
  • Release date:   August 1, 2019
  • Tour dates: Aug 1 to 23, 2019
  • Content Rating: PG-13 (No sex scenes but some language, mostly mild)

Buy the Book:
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Meet the Author:
Lise McClendon writes fiction from her home in Montana. She is the author of numerous novels, short stories, and articles. In 1997 she wrote and directed the short film, The Hoodoo Artist, featured at the Telluride Indiefest. She has served on the national boards of directors for Mystery Writers of America and International Association of Crime Writers/North America. She is on the faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference.

Her books, written under her own name and as Rory Tate and Grier Lake, are full of the fascinating lives of women. The choices that women sometimes make are a quagmire of directions and misdirections, sending women into careers, love affairs, children (or no children), travels, and hobbies. And, in the case of her novels, into suspense, crime, secrets, and love.

Connect with the author:    Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest  ~  Instagram

Casey Jones is back with a new adventure that takes her from four-foot strippers to forty-something bikers—and a head-on collision with too many ex-boyfriends to count. When a routine bodyguarding case turns deadly and Casey loses one of her oldest friends, tracking the killers and a missing stripper — who may or may not be in on the murder — turns out to be a wild ride that takes her from the flatlands of eastern North Carolina to its most exclusive mountain enclaves.Fans of Casey Jones will recognize their favorites in the cast of colorful supporting characters who answer Casey’s “all hands on deck!” call. If you’ve been missing your kick-ass Casey and craving Krispy Kremes, you’ll find all that you have missed in this seventh installment of a long and beloved female P.I. series.

Book Details:
  • Book Title:  Fire and Rain (A Casey Jones Mystery) by Katy Munger
  • Category:   Adult fiction, 260 pages
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Publisher:  Thalia Press
  • Release date:   August 2019
  • Tour dates: Aug 1 to 23, 2019
  • Content Rating: PG-13

Buy the Book:
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Meet the Author:

Katy Munger is a North Carolina-based mystery author who has written under several different pseudonyms. She is the author of the Dead Detective series, writing as Katy Munger (Angel Among Us and Angel of Darkness) and as Chaz McGee (Desolate Angel and Angel Interrupted); the Casey Jones crime fiction series writing as Katy Munger; and the Hubbert & Lil mystery series, writing as Gallagher Gray. She has also been a book reviewer for the Washington Post and served as North Carolina’s 2016 Piedmont Laureate.

Connect with the author:    Website 

 

A Cloud of Fraud by Linda Ferreri

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A Cloud Of Fraud by Linda Ferreri BannerOn Tour June 1-30, 2019

Synopsis:

A man is shot dead in front of City Hall in Philadelphia where his family is tangled in a bitter lawsuit. One brave woman, drawn there by a work of art, finds herself following a twisted trail to the hills of Le Marche in Italy to learn why. All the while, the cloud of fraud grows thicker and darker around her. 

This thrilling story grabs and holds the reader from the first chapter through unexpected twists all the way to the richly satisfying ending. Art expert Claire Bliss and police Comandante Baldo are joined and antagonized by unforgettable characters in both Philadelphia and Italy. The authenticity of Ferreri’s players and their territories give special vibrance to the novel.

Lovers of the Renaissance will be drawn in immediately by the book’s cover, a painting of Mary Magdalene by Carlo Crivelli (ca. 1480) in the Rijksmuseum. Inside the book, a great art crime story unfolds together with a gem of a murder mystery.

Readers here know that my preferred genre is mystery and suspense, which can range from hardcore, blood-and-guts police procedurals, to softer Jessica-Fletcher-esque cozies, to cleverly plotted and researched historical novels, and so on. I am particularly fond of mysteries that involve books or art, so I was happy to review this madcap mystery when offered from the publisher.

There are two parallel stories happening here: a legal drama involving a (possibly) forged will, and theft of artwork by Italian Renaissance painter Carlo Crivelli. The two stories are linked by Arthur Seri, a quiet, unassuming art expert who is suing his cousins over his uncle’s will, which he believes was forged. At the same time, Arthur is working with a larger-than-life Russian to authenticate parts of a Renaissance era altar piece painted by Crivelli.

And then Arthur Seri is killed. Shot in the back on the steps of the Philadelphia Court House. Enter art expert Claire Bliss, who also happens to own a home in the Le Marche region of Italy where Carlo Crivelli painted. Claire finds herself neck-deep in a confusing and dangerous game involving fake paintings, Arthur Seri’s very Italian landlady, the above-mentioned Russian, and an Italian police chief pining for his missing wife. The action moves between Philadelphia, New York, and Italy as Ferreri weaves all the various plots and subplots together into an unexpected ending.

There is SO much going on here that I was reminded of the 1930’s era madcap mystery movies where there are lots of characters, lots of motives, and lots of movement. Ferreri does an excellent job of managing all the different strands and bringing some resolution to the two separate stories of the Crivelli paintings and the forged will. Her depiction of Rose Cicarelli is spot on for the Italian grandmas and mamas in my life, especially Rose’s comment on the very last page, which made me howl with laughter. So accurate! The characters here – Claire and Baldo – have the makings of becoming a duo in a series. I would enjoy reading more about the New York sophisticate Claire and the provincial Italian police chief Baldo. Ferreri’s experience in the art world will surely make for more entertaining books in the future. Now I’m going back to find her earlier books on the Crown of the Andes.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Published by: Linda Ferreri Trustee
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Number of Pages: 315
ISBN: 978-0-578-47624-7
Purchase Links: Amazon | Kindle | Apple Books | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Early on in the Hard-heads case, at one of the bar association luncheons, Judge Pirandello had positioned himself next to one of his former clerks who was now a successful litigator in the Probate Court. Biggers, by name. There was the introductory chat about the wellbeing of their family members and the joke about the latest case here or there. The dialogue was familiar to both of them. The Hard-heads plaintiff was a problem person, the judge had learned, and he needed to be squashed to put an end to mostly frivolous claims, driven by greed. Everybody in the family knew it, the judge heard. He knew the type. The Probate Court was littered with greedy relatives, angry children with buxom young stepmothers wearing expensive jewelry their fathers had bought. He knew it all. The judge wanted rid of this case, and so he was pleased to learn that it was not worthy of His Honor’s dignified much less close attention. The Hard-heads case had to go.

It would have gone long before now, the judge was thinking to himself as he growled into the cup of black tea, but these damned people had refused to take the hint, refused to be cowed or put in their places. Here and there at the few hearings he had conducted over this motion or that, he had seen a shrug of the shoulders by one or another lawyer.

“What could we do?” They might as well have said that out loud. The judge understood.

His knee was throbbing, but Judge Pirandello refused to have it replaced. The fact that cold weather was coming on made it worse. The goddamned orthopedic surgeon was another money-grubber. Were there no professionals left in his world who were not money-grubbers? He stretched his corpulence forward over the edge of his chair to reach for his footstool, then winced as he elevated the bad leg. He yelled out for Mary to bring him another cup of tea. Then, he opened the enormous file on the small table beside his chair.

In Re the Estate of Seri. He hated even the name. Italian people should not behave in this fashion, he thought. His own father would have come back from the dead to beat the daylights out of his heirs if they had behaved as these people were behaving. Suing one another. Claiming fraud. All of it. Disgraceful, he thought. They were each poised to receive a generous amount of money but no, that wasn’t good enough. As with errant children, the Judge was both angry with and ashamed of the parties.

***

Excerpt from A Cloud of Fraud by Linda Ferreri. Copyright 2019 by Linda Ferreri. Reproduced with permission from Linda Ferreri. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Linda Ferreri

Linda Ferreri is the author of several art crime novels as well as witty illustrated iBooks. She is a highly respected international art law expert who divides her time between the United States and Le Marche in Italy.

Sometimes she says her most amusing book was her first, The King of UNINI, a sophisticated little romance set in Paris.

Catch Up With Linda Ferreri On:
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Swann’s Down by Charles Salzberg

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Swann's Down by Charles Salzberg Banner

on Tour May 1 – June 30, 2019

Synopsis:

Swann's Down by Charles Salzberg

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

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

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

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

Praise for Swann’s Down:

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

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

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

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

Book Details:

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

Read an excerpt:

1
The Age of Aquarius

“We’re partners, right?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I need to hire you.”

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

“Really? To do what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How many times?”

He held up three fingers.

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

“Yeah.”

I gulped.

“Are you married now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, wanna know the story?” he asked.

“Which story would that be?”

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

“Desperately.”

***

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

 

 

Author Bio:

Charles Salzberg

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

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The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan


the-naming-game-by-gabriel-valjan-cover

On Tour April 22 – June 22, 2019

Whether it’s Hollywood or DC, life and death, success or failure hinge on saying a name.

The right name.

When Hollywood script-fixer Charlie Loew is found murdered in a seedy flophouse with a cryptic list inside his handkerchief, Jack Marshall sends Walker undercover as a screenwriter at a major studio and Leslie as a secretary to Dr. Phillip Ernest, shrink to the stars. J. Edgar Hoover has his own list. Blacklisted writers and studio politics. Ruthless gangsters and Chief Parker’s LAPD. Paranoia, suspicions, and divided loyalties begin to blur when the House Un-American Activities Committee insists that everyone play the naming game. 

Praise for The Naming Game:

“With crackling dialogue and a page turning plot shot-through with authentic period detail, Gabriel Valjan pulls the reader into the hidden world of the 1950’s Hollywood studio scene, involving murder, McCarthyism and mayhem.”
~ James L’Etoile, author of At What Cost and Bury the Past

“Terrific historical noir as Gabriel Valjan takes us on a trip through post-war Hollywood involving scandal, McCarthyism, blacklisting, J. Edgar Hoover and, of course, murder. Compelling story, compelling characters – and all the famous name dropping is great fun. Highly recommended!”
~ R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson Mystery Series

“Brilliantly written, Gabriel Valjan’s The Naming Game whisks the reader back in time to postwar Los Angeles. Spies, Communism, and Hollywood converge in a first-rate thriller.”
~ Bruce Robert Coffin, Agatha Award nominated author of Beyond the Truth

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction
Published by: Winter Goose Publishing
Publication Date: May 4, 2019
Number of Pages: 210
ISBN: 978-1-941058-86-2
Series: The Company Files: 2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

At seven minutes past the hour while reviewing the classified documents at his desk, one of the two colored phones, the beige one, rang. He placed the receiver next to his ear, closed the folder, and waited for the caller’s voice to speak first.

“Is this Jack Marshall?”

“It is.”

“This is William Parker. Is the line secure?”

“It is,” Jack replied, his hand opening a desk cabinet and flipping the ON switch to start recording the conversation.

“I don’t know you Mr. Marshall and I presume you don’t know me.”

A pause.

“I know of you, Chief Parker.”

“Were you expecting my call?”

“No and it doesn’t matter.” Jack lied.

“Fact of the matter, Mr. Marshall, is an individual, whom I need not name, has suggested I contact you about a sensitive matter. He said matter of security so I listened.”

“Of course. I’m listening.”

“I was instructed to give you an address and have my man at the scene allow you to do whatever it is that you need to do when you arrive there.”

“Pencil and paper are ready. The address, please.”

Jack wrote out the address; it was in town, low rent section with the usual rooming houses, cheap bars, about a fifteen-minute drive on Highway 1 without traffic.

“Ask for Detective Brown. You won’t miss him. Don’t like it that someone steps in and tells me how to mind my own city, but I have no choice in the matter.”

Jack ignored the man’s defensive tone. He knew Detective Brown was a dummy name, like Jones or Smith on a hotel ledger. Plain, unimaginative, but it would do. Most policemen, he conceded, were neither bright nor fully screwed into the socket. A chief was no different except he had more current in him. The chief of police who ruled Los Angeles by day with his cop-syndicate the way Mickey Cohen owned the night must’ve swallowed his pride when he dropped that nickel to make this call.

“Thank you, Chief Parker.”

Jack hung up and flipped the switch to OFF.

Whatever it was at the scene waiting for Jack was sufficient cause to pull back a man like Bill Parker and his boys for twelve hours. Whoever gave this order had enough juice to rein in the LAPD.

Jack took the folder he was reviewing and walked it across the room. He opened the folder once more and reread the phrases ‘malicious international spy’ and, in Ronald Reagan’s own choice of words, ‘Asia’s Mata Hari’, before closing the cover and placing it inside the safe. His review will have to wait. He put on his holster and grabbed a jacket.

Betty came out on the porch as he was putting the key into the car door.

“I won’t be long. Please kiss the children good night for me.”

“Can’t this wait, Jack? The children were expecting you to read to them tonight. Jack Junior set aside the book and you know Elizabeth will be crushed.”

“It can’t wait. I’m sorry. Tell them I’ll make it up to them.”

“You need to look them in the face when you tell them sorry.”

He opened the door as his decision. She understood she dealt him the low card. “Want something for the road?”

“No thanks. I’ll see you soon.”

He closed the door with finesse. He couldn’t help it if the children heard the car. He checked the mirror and saw her on the porch, still standing there, still disappointed and patient, as he drove off.

Detective Brown, sole man on the scene, walked him over to the body without introducing himself. Jack didn’t give his name.

At six-fifteen the vet renting a room down the hall discovered the body. Detective Brown said the veteran was probably a hired hound doing a bag job – break-ins, surveillance, and the like. Recent veterans made the best candidates for that kind of work for Hoover, Jack thought. Worked cheap and they went the extra mile without Hoover’s agents having to worry about technicalities like a citizen’s rights going to law.

“What makes you think he was hired out?” Jack asked.

Brown, a man of few words, handed Jack his notebook, flipped over to the open page he marked Witness Statement and said politely, “Please read it. Words and writing are from the witness himself.”

“The man was a no good ‘commonist’.”

“Nice spelling. A suspect?”

“No, sir. The coroner places the death around early afternoon, about 2ish. Our patriot was across the street drinking his lunch. I verified it.”

Jack viewed the body. The man was fully dressed wearing a light weave gabardine suit costing at least twenty-five. The hardly scuffed oxfords had to cost as much as the suit, and the shirt and tie, both silk, put the entire ensemble near a hundred. Hardly class consciousness for an alleged Communist, Jack thought.

The corpse lying on his side reminded Jack of the children sleeping, minus the red pool seeping into the rug under the right ear. The dead man wore a small sapphire ring on his small finger, left hand. No wedding band. Nice watch on the wrist, face turned in. An odd way to read time. Breast pocket contained a cigarette case with expensive cigarettes, Egyptian. Jack recognized the brand from his work in the Far East. Ten cents a cigarette is nice discretionary income. Wallet in other breast pocket held fifty dollars, various denominations. Ruled out robbery or staging it. Identification card said Charles Loew, Warner Brothers. Another card: Screen Writers Guild, signed by Mary McCall, Jr. President. Back of card presented a pencil scrawl.

“Find a lighter or book of matches?”

Detective Brown shook his head. Jack patted the breast pockets again and the man’s jacket’s side-pockets. Some loose change, but nothing else. The man was unarmed, except for a nice pen. Much as he disliked the idea Jack put his hands into the man’s front pockets. Nothing. He found a book of matches in the left rear pocket, black with gold telltale lettering, Trocadero on Sunset. Jack flipped the matchbook open and as he suspected, found a telephone number written in silver ink; different ink than the man’s own pen. Other back pocket contained a handkerchief square Jack found interesting, as did Detective Brown.

“What’s that?” he asked, head peering over for a better look.

“Not sure,” answered Jack, unfolding the several-times folded piece of paper hidden inside the hanky. The unfolded paper revealed a bunch of typewritten names that had bled out onto other parts of the paper. It must have been folded while the ink was still wet. It didn’t help someone spilt something on the paper. Smelled faintly of recent whiskey. Jack reviewed what he thought were names when he realized the letters were nonsense words.

“Might be a Commie membership list. Looks like code.” But Brown zipped it when Jack folded the paper back up and put it into his pocket.

“The paper and the matches stay with me. We clear?”

“Uh, yes sir. The Chief told me himself to do whatever you said and not ask questions.”

“Good. Other than the coroner – who else was here? Photographers, fingerprints?”

“Nobody else. Medical pronounced him dead, but nothing more. Chief had them called off to another scene – a multiple homicide, few blocks away. We’re short-staffed tonight. The Chief said he’d send Homicide after you leave. They’ll process the scene however you leave it. They won’t know about the matches or the paper. Chief’s orders.”

Jack checked his watch. Man down, found at six fifteen. Chief called a little after seven. He arrived not much later than seven forty. The busy bodies would get the stiff by eight or eight thirty, the latest. Perfectly reasonable Jack thought. He squatted down to see the man’s watch, noticing light bruising on the wrist and the throw rug bunched into a small hill near the man’s time hand. Intriguing.

“Thank you, Detective. I’ll be going now. If I speak to the chief I’ll let him know you’ve done your job to the letter.”

“You’re welcome. Night.”

Jack knew he and the chief would be speaking again.

Outside on the street, Jack pulled out his handkerchief and wiped both hands for any traces of dead man as he headed for the parked car. Compulsive habit. He pulled up the collar on his jacket. It was cold for late May.

The street sign said he was not far from Broadway. In this part of town thousands lived crowded in on themselves as lodgers in dilapidated Gothic mansions or residence hotels, working the downtown stores, factories, and offices, riding public transit and the other funicular railway in the area, Court Flight, a two-track railway climb towards Hill Street.

Los Angeles changed with the world. The war was over and there was a new war, possibly domestic, definitely foreign. Court Flight is gone, ceased operations. Its owner and his faithful cat had passed on. His good widow tried. In ’43 a careless brush fire destroyed the tracks and the Board of Public Utilities signed the death warrant; and now Jack was hearing whispers Mayor Bowron planned to revitalize the area International Style, which meant dotting the desert city with skyscrapers.

Jack opened the door and sat behind the wheel a moment. He took the family once to nearby Angels Flight. Junior wondered why there was no apostrophe on the sign. Betty tolerated the excursion, indifferent to Los Angeles because she preferred their home in DC. He released the clutch. Betty disliked LA because it changed too much without reason. She might have had a point. He shifted gear. Pueblo city would level whole blocks of thriving masses just to create a parking lot. He pulled the car from the curb.

***

Excerpt from The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2019 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

 

 

the-naming-game-by-gabriel-valjan-author

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan is the author of two series, The Roma Series and The Company Files, available from Winter Goose Publishing. His short stories have appeared in Level Best anthologies and other publications. Twice shortlisted for the Fish Prize in Ireland, once for the Bridport Prize in England, and an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest, he is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime National, a local member of Sisters in Crime New England, and an attendee of Bouchercon, Crime Bake, and Malice Domestic conferences.

Catch Up With Gabriel On:
gabrielvaljan.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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And Every Word is True by Gary McAvoy

1

And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy BannerOn Tour April 1 – May 31, 2019

Synopsis:

And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy

Truman Capote’s bestselling book “In Cold Blood” has captivated worldwide audiences for over fifty years. It is a gripping story about the consequences of a trivial robbery gone terribly wrong in a remote village of western Kansas.

But what if robbery was not the motive at all, but something more sinister? And why would the Kansas Bureau of Investigation press the Attorney General to launch a ruthless four-year legal battle to prevent fresh details of the State’s most famous crime from being made public, so many years after the case had been solved?

Based on stunning new details discovered in the personal journals and archives of former KBI Director Harold Nye—and corroborated by letters written by Richard Hickock, one of the killers on Death Row—And Every Word Is True meticulously lays out a vivid and startling new view of the investigation, one that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they pick up where Capote left off. Even readers new to the story will find themselves drawn into a spellbinding forensic investigation that reads like a thriller, adding new perspectives to the classic tale of an iconic American crime.

Sixty years after news of the 1959 Clutter murders took the world stage, And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to the true story of “In Cold Blood.”

True crime fans will be fascinated by this fresh look into one of America’s most notorious crimes. Author Gary McAvoy relates a story that was very nearly lost to a shredder and refuse service in Oklahoma when Harold Nye’s wife emptied their home after his death. Nye was one of the lead agents who investigated the Clutter murders and who was befriended and interviewed by Truman Capote. A meticulous investigator, he kept dozens of journals and notes about the case which his son, Ronald, literally rescued from a trash can. 

As interesting as the new information on the Clutter case is, what is most intriguing here are the efforts of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the State of Kansas, which worked very hard to suppress the release of Harold Nye’s papers and notes. While there is no declaration of innocence for the killers ( there remains no doubt of their guilt), McAvoy and Nye call their motives into question in a gripping (if somewhat dry) treatment based on the copious notes and files kept by Harold Nye.

Book Details:

Genre: True Crime, Memoir
Published by: Literati Editions
Publication Date: March 4, 2019
Number of Pages: 310
ISBN: 978-0-9908376-0-2 (HB); 978-0-9908376-1-9 (PB)
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble iBooks Kobo Goodreads

And Every Word Is True Book Trailer

 

Read an excerpt:

Over a half century ago, Special Agent Harold R. Nye of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI)—who would later become that agency’s third director—was thrust into an investigation to help solve what would eventually become an iconic tale of true crime in America: the brutal slayings of a Kansas wheat farmer, Herbert Clutter, and his wife and two children in November 1959.

A little more than 50 years later—being a dealer of rare collectible letters, photographs, manuscripts, and books—I was contacted by Harold Nye’s son, Ronald, in March 2012, revealing who his father was and what materials he had to offer for sale. As an ardent collector of historical autograph memorabilia since the 1980s, with a particular appetite for literary manuscripts and signed first editions, I felt privileged to be handling the sale of the rarest books and letters by Truman Capote—presentation copies personally given by the author to one of the principal investigators, during the time history was being made.

The books, first editions of both In Cold Blood and Capote’s earlier work Selected Writings, were each warmly inscribed by Truman to Harold Nye and his wife Joyce. That alone would generate solid interest in the sale, but this particular copy of In Cold Blood was also signed by 12 other people, including Logan Sanford, Director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation; the other three principal investigators in the case, among them Special Agent Alvin Dewey (who fared remarkably well in the story); and the director, actors, and crew of the eponymous 1967 movie, which used the Clutter house and other area locations to produce on film a chillingly authentic portrayal of what appeared on the page. As of this writing, only three such books signed by all principal figures are known to exist.

But the two personal letters Truman had written to Agent Nye were the most tantalizing of the lot. Both were sent in 1962 from his villa in Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean on the Costa Brava, where he spent three springs and summers writing much of his book. In one letter, neatly composed on thin pages the color of wheat, Capote laments having to suffer yet another delay in finishing his book, the Kansas Supreme Court having issued a stay of execution for the killers. For the frustrated author, this meant he didn’t yet have an ending—one way or the other—and he was to endure another three years before realizing that goal, with the hanging of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith in April 1965. For a collector, this is the most vivid form of autograph correspondence: handwritten documents richly infused with direct historical impact and solid provenance.

The second letter, also in Capote’s cramped, childlike scrawl but this one on 3-holed, blue-lined composition paper, teasingly informs Nye how often he appears in the book and that “…my editor said: ‘Aren’t you making this Mr. Nye just a little too clever?’

Along with the two signed books, then, these letters were to form the centerpiece of the auction. The rest of the material, though interesting on its own, held little tangible value to serious collectors. But it did contribute historical relevance and an in-person, chronicled authority to the auction as a whole, so we chose to offer all materials to the winning bidder—and only one bidder, since Ron Nye felt the material should stay together for historical continuity.

Sensing the gravity of the task ahead, like an eager historian I began educating myself more deeply in the Capote legacy. As I paged through Harold Nye’s investigative notebooks and copies of actual case reports he had written—not digging deep, just skimming the material—I was reminded of key passages in Capote’s masterwork—but they were hazy, since my first and last reading of it was the year it was published, in 1966. So I reread the book with new vigor—though now every word seemed to have fresh perspective, since I was privy to actual handwritten notes describing Nye’s interviews, his discovery of clues and gathering of evidence, his random thoughts, and a hastily penned transcript gleaned while extracting a confession from one of the killers—all of which made the experience as visceral as being on the scene in 1959.

I watched the indelible 1967 film “In Cold Blood,” as well as the 1996 TV production of the same name, followed by 2005’s film “Capote” and 2006’s “Infamous.” I absorbed Ralph Voss’s skillful examination of Capote’s book, Gerald Clarke’s rich biography, George Plimpton’s interviews with Capote’s “friends, enemies, acquaintances and detractors,” Charles Shields’ portrait of Harper Lee, and anything else I could find that brought objective viewpoints to the table—along with many not so objective.

As prepared as one could be, then, I began assembling the material for an online catalog exhibiting the auction—excluding, ultimately, the crime scene photos, most of which were simply too gruesome to release “into the wild,” realizing well before the auction went live that we would have no control over how they might be used in the future. Not wishing that burden on our shoulders, we removed the photos from the auction, and instead voluntarily sent them to the KBI for archival disposition.

To our surprise and dismay, a few days later we were served with a cease and desist letter from the Kansas Attorney General at the instigation of the KBI, claiming among other things that Harold Nye’s personal journals were state property and were possessed of “highly confidential information.” On the face of it this was a farcical claim at best, since they had never even seen the notebooks, not to mention that it had been well over 50 years since the case was closed and those charged with the crime had been executed, as the Court itself would ultimately point out. Our position, obviously, couldn’t have been more at odds with Kansas’s reckoning, and believing we were on the right side of the law, we took on their challenge. After a grueling legal battle lasting years, it’s clear now that Kansas thought Ron and I would just roll over and be done with it. That was their first mistake.

Over the time we prepared our defense—all the while baffled as to why Kansas was so vigorously mounting an expensive, and unusually high-level campaign of suppression and intimidation—a new thesis emerged that seemed at odds with the State’s declared rationale. And the deeper we looked, the clearer that proposition became. To our thinking—not to mention the views of independent lawyers, journalists, forensic criminologists, and others who in some way touched our case—it looked more and more as if Kansas had something to hide. At the very least there was something more to this story, and I intended to find out what it was.

And therein lies their second mistake and the irony of this cautionary tale: Had the State of Kansas simply avoided such heavy-handed tactics as pressing the lawsuit against us, and publicly tarnishing Harold Nye’s good name, we might never have discovered the sensational “new” details of the Clutter case that time and opportunity revealed as our own investigation deepened. Had they not interfered in our legitimate business—to provide for the Nye family’s medical needs by selling the books, letters, and notes that rightfully belonged to his father—the KBI would not now be suffering under the weight of the embarrassing disclosures being made here.

Throughout his life Truman Capote maintained that his book was “immaculately factual,” as he told George Plimpton in a January 1966 interview. Shortly after In Cold Blood first appeared in print—in September 1965, when the story was serialized in four consecutive issues of The New Yorker magazine—critics, pundits, and others assessing the work were already taking Capote to task for inaccuracies found in his account, or as one reviewer put it, “reaching for pathos rather than realism.” Not least among these was Harold Nye, who not only lived it, but whose prominent role in the book ultimately ensured a firsthand comparison of the known facts.

But for as much as Capote added to or reshaped the brilliant telling of his story, in analyzing Harold Nye’s notebooks I found that much had been omitted from In Cold Blood, and in many cases there were surprisingly crucial details that, at the time, would have appeared in the eyes of many to be of little value. It was only when other documents came into my possession that we were able to connect the dots, alluding to something very different than was passed on to readers of In Cold Blood.

In a striking coincidence, within a matter of weeks another new client—a grandson of Garden City Undersheriff Wendle Meier, one of the central characters in the story—consigned to me the Death Row diaries, family photos and correspondence, poetry, and a whole passel of riveting memorabilia given to Wendle Meier and his wife, Josephine, by one of the killers, Perry Edward Smith, on his way to the gallows. To be clear, I have no interest dealing in the so-called “murderabilia” market. But this was becoming more of a literary mystery the likes of which few people in my position could resist.

By this point any writer would feel grateful to have such an abundance of material to work with. But later, as a result of the media coverage our case had sparked, synchronicity struck again. I came into possession of copies of handwritten letters by the other killer, Richard Eugene Hickock, which had originally been sent to Wichita Eagle reporter Starling Mack Nations. Hickock had contracted with Nations to write his “life story” while he was on Death Row To the chagrin of both Hickock and Nations, though, no publisher showed interest in the book, High Road to Hell, at the time. But it’s clear from Hickock’s remarkable memory and his command of precise details, which both Capote and case investigators marveled over, that he did have compelling things to say.

As of this writing neither the Smith diaries nor the Hickock letters have been published, and only a handful of people have seen Hickock’s letters to Mack Nations. But at least one thing is clear from putting all this material together—it appears there was a good deal more to the foundations of Capote’s story than was originally told. And if there were any doubt as to whether Ron Nye and I would just give in to the bullying tactics of a well-funded state government—saving ourselves a lot of time and money fighting a senseless battle—the new evidence coming at us from all directions made it unambiguously clear that we were on to something. And we had to believe Kansas suspected it, too.

Presented here, then, are several new hypotheses—undoubtedly bound for controversy, while nonetheless supported by facts—including one in particular that would surely have given authorities in Kansas every reason to fight as hard as it did to keep this material from being published: that robbery may not have been the motive for the death of Herbert Clutter and his family.

Despite an abundance of leads pointing in this darker direction, it appears that the original KBI investigation overlooked this fundamental possibility, one that no responsible law enforcement agency would ever rule out, given the circumstances. Indeed, this was and remained for some time coordinating investigator Alvin Dewey’s strongest opinion, and he personally knew Herb Clutter very well.

Yet despite new information coming out years later, before the killers had even been executed, the Kansas attorney general at the time appears to have adopted a stance of letting sleeping dogs lie, without further investigation. But why? As is often the case with powerful institutions, could their keen drive for self-preservation have overshadowed a full accountability of justice?

Now, nearly six decades later, and with the passing away of nearly every involved character since 1959, it’s unlikely any final determination can be made, short of a “Deep Throat” insider emerging from the shadows of time. But much of what you find here will present compelling new arguments, and I leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions.

***

Excerpt from And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy. Copyright © 2018 by Gary McAvoy. Reproduced with permission from Gary McAvoy. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author.

 

 

Author Bio:

Gary McAvoy

Gary McAvoy is a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur, and lifelong writer. For several years he was also a literary media escort in Seattle, during which time he worked with hundreds of authors promoting their books—most notably Dr. Jane Goodall, with whom Gary later collaborated on “Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating” (Hachette, 2005).

Gary is also a professional collector of rare literary manuscripts and historical letters and books, a passion that sparked the intriguing discoveries leading up to his latest book, And Every Word Is True (Literati Editions, March 2019), a revealing look at startling new disclosures about the investigation surrounding the 1959 Clutter family murders, heinous crimes chillingly portrayed in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to Capote’s classic tale, adding new perspectives to an iconic American crime.

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