Bygones, by Lisa K. Nielsen: A Unexpected Homecoming

bygonesLexi planned to settle her father’s estate and rush back to the city. She didn’t bargain on the pull of the past, including a blazing-hot guy named Joe.

Bygones ($15.95, 290 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-329-7), is a contemporary romance with elements of suspense by Lisa K. Nielsen. When her father dies, a young doctor returns home, where she finds both romance and danger.

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“Full of sexy banter and menacing intrigue…. Nielsen uses the braided narrative to keep the romance moving and the mystery compelling. Her characters are likable and believable, whether they are swapping classic novels or bonding over take-out. The novel is well paced, moving quickly into the dual conflict of romance and suspense.… Nielsen creates a small-town vibe where the ghosts of high school still haunt, gossip, and interfere. Fans of contemporary romance mixed with a mystery subplot will be happily sated with Bygones.”

—Camille-Yvette Welsch for ForeWord Reviews

“If you’re looking for a sweet escape with the perfect touch of sizzle, look no further. Part romance, part mystery, part psychological exploration of the voyage into adulthood, Bygones reminds readers that tragic events can have a silver lining and love is the greatest gift around.”

—Elena Hartwell, author of the Eddie Shoes Mystery series

Dr. Alexandra Hadley would prefer to leave small town life behind forever, but her father’s death forces her hand. In his will, he has left her his medical practice and Georgian-style mansion, and it is up to her to hire a new doctor and settle his estate. Fresh out of medical school, Lexi is happily settled in Chicago, doing research in tandem with her boyfriend. Brian, fifteen years older with impressive credentials and sophisticated tastes, has no interest in visiting her birthplace of Glenmore, Illinois.

Lexi soon discovers that home has its attractions, the first being the handsome contractor Joe Manning, her secret crush in high school. Seeing patients is also surprisingly satisfying. When Joe offers to remodel her father’s den, Lexi jumps at the chance to erase sad memories and become better acquainted with her gorgeous handyman. Even as the charms of Glenmore draw her in, a series of break-ins at her father’s house make her fear for her safety. Is the intruder searching for something other than valuables? And how determined is the culprit? Lexi finds her fragile happiness at risk, including her newfound love for Joe Manning.

Says the author, “I think everyone who has grown up and left their hometown wonders what it would be like to return as an adult, to function as a member of the community—especially if our imaginations are allowed to run wild. This is my ‘what if’ story.”

Lisa K. Nielsen was born and raised in West Dundee, Illinois, a small town forty-five miles northwest of Chicago. She graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in zoology, then studied to be a physician’s assistant in Iowa City. For many years now, she has worked in the field of urology, which allows her time to write and read. She e-published her first novel, At Second Sight, in August 2013. Lisa loves to travel is a long-suffering fan of all the Chicago sports teams. She also enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time with her dog. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“Wait a minute. I thought you were dating that dumb jock quarterback.”

“Kevin Whatley? Yeah, I was, but we broke up right before New Year’s. He was pissed because I wouldn’t sleep with him.”

Joe nodded solemnly. “He must have loved you very much.”

Lexi laughed and lightly punched him on the shoulder. “So, do you remember Amy Rodgers’ New Year’s Eve party?”

Joe stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Amy Rodgers … New Year’s Eve ….” He snapped his fingers. “Yes, Amy Rodgers’ New Year’s Eve party!”

Lexi rolled her eyes. “Okay, shut up. Well, Kevin was there and being an asshole, so I decided to piss him off by making out with you.”

Joe’s brow furrowed. “Was I at this party? Because I’m pretty sure I would have remembered making out with you.”

“You were there, but every time I saw you, you headed off in the other direction. You totally blew me off.”

“Well, that’s not how I remember it. I would have taken you up on your offer, but steroid boy Kevin would have beaten the shit out of me.”

Lexi laughed again. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun. “Oh, God. Please. You don’t even remember.”

“No, I do. I do remember.”

“Joe, it’s fine. You don’t have to humor me.”

Joe inched closer to her. “I’m not humoring you. And I can prove it.”

“Yeah? How?”

Joe closed his eyes for a moment. “You were wearing these tight black jeans with high-heeled boots.” He opened his eyes. “And this slinky sleeveless top that was all shiny and sparkly.”

Lexi gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.

“And your blonde hair was all long and sexy and sleek, and you had some glittery stuff in it.”

Lexi flattened her palm on his chest. “Oh my God. You do remember.”

“Of course I do. I sorta had a crush on you too.”

Her breath caught as Joe’s eyes flashed. His chest was warm and firm beneath her palm. “No way.”

Joe leaned in and whispered, “Way.”

Lexi was mesmerized by his lips as they moved in on hers, feeling helpless to stop him. Not really wanting to stop him. He kissed her softly, his lips burning hot. She melted under them as he cupped the back of her head and stroked his tongue inside her mouth. Lexi moaned with need, her body tingling, surprised at her reaction. The last time she’d been instantly aroused by a kiss was … never.

Stroking her fingers up his chest, she wrapped her arm around his neck and kissed him back. Their tongues tangled as they moved closer together. Her skin was hot and tight where Joe clutched her hip. What is going on with me? This never happened when she was with Brian. Oh, God! Brian!

Lexi tore her lips away from Joe’s. She moved her hand back to his chest, this time to gently push him away. “Joe, I can’t—”

“It’s okay. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”

Lexi met his gaze, her heart pounding. “No, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have kissed you back. It’s just that … I’m seeing someone.”

Breach of Ethics, by Sharon St. George: A Hospital’s Code of Ethics Muddies a Murder Case

breach-of-ethicsBreach of Ethics ($16.95, 342 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-227-6) is the third book in a mystery series featuring forensic librarian Aimee Machado and set in Northern California. When Aimee’s boss is implicated in the murder of a doctor, Aimee tries to find out whether he was killed because of his womanizing or his official recommendation involving custody of a child prodigy patient.

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4 Stars: “Once again this author brings to life an enthralling mystery with a fine attention to detail and delightful background on the main character’s family members. The mystery itself is a fascinating series of twists and turns. The bit of insight into the training of llamas is enjoyable.”

—RT Magazine

“The characters are all unique and each claim your attention. Breach Of Ethics is a clever murder mystery, loaded with twists and turns and red herrings that will leave you guessing all the while you are flipping pages to find out what happens next. Ms. St. George has provided us with an action-filled thriller.” Read more….

—Vic’s Media Room

Forensic librarian Aimee Machado has a new title: Director of Ethical Affairs. At other hospitals this position might be dull: not at Timbergate Medical Center in Northern California. Armed with impressive jujitsu skills, Aimee breaks up a fist fight during a meeting and soon finds herself embroiled in yet another murder investigation. Dr. Gavin Lowe, one of the combatants in the dust-up, is found shot dead in the office of his adversary, Aimee’s boss Jared Quinn. The security cameras did not detect the killer coming or going. Were they tampered with? The police believe Quinn did the deed, but Aimee is unconvinced. She was present when the two men made their peace; unfortunately, there were no other witnesses. Is Aimee a suspect?

At the time of his death, Dr. Lowe was treating ten-year-old piano prodigy Natasha Korba for appendicitis and malnutrition, a byproduct of her stepfather Abel Gailworth’s cult of veganism. Natasha’s grandfather Hector Korba, president of the hospital’s governing board, is fighting for custody. Was the killing prompted by the custody battle? Or did Dr. Lowe’s wandering eye seal his fate?

Aimee’s on-and-off-again boyfriend Nick, her friend Cleo, and her charming brother Harry are on hand to help uncover the truth. What they discover only poses more questions. Meanwhile the killer is fully aware of their investigations, once again putting Aimee in mortal danger.

Says St. George, “Several years ago, when I worked as the coordinator of Medical Staff Services for an acute care hospital, I was particularly interested in the Ethics Committee. The burden placed on its members seemed more onerous than in the other peer review committees. They weren’t just weighing statistics, complications, and outcomes. When two ‘right’ choices were considered, the Ethics Committee members were sometimes forced to approve only one. It was as if they were being asked to ‘play God.’ I searched my mind for a story revolving around this dilemma, and Breach of Ethics was the result.”

Sharon St. George’s writing credits include three plays, several years writing advertising copy, a book on NASA’s space food project, and feature stories too numerous to count. She holds dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts, and occasionally acts in, or directs, one of her local community theater productions. Sharon is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and she serves as program director for Writers Forum, a nonprofit organization for writers in Northern California. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“You are Miss Machado, aren’t you?” Hector Korba said. The distance of twenty feet from the library entrance to my desk seemed to shrink under his long strides.

“Yes, Mr. Korba. What can I do for you?” I stood up, which only put me at eye level with his chest and brought to mind David and Goliath. Some powerful men don’t look the part, but that was not the case with Korba.

“You know about my granddaughter?” His voice, a deep bass, rumbled from low in his chest.

“Yes, I’m so sorry Natasha is ill.” I gestured toward the visitor’s chair next to my desk. “Would you like to sit?”

He gave the chair an appraising look, probably wondering if it would support his weight, and said, “I prefer to stand, thank you. But please be seated if you wish.”

I didn’t wish. I was already looking up at the man. Any higher and I’d develop a kink in my neck. Curiosity about his visit burned deep. He didn’t take long to get to the point.

“You are the keeper of Ethics Committee files. Is that right?”

“That’s right.” Where was he going with this? No place I wanted to go. I had already gone rounds with Quinn and Dr. Snyder about the minutes; now I had to refuse to discuss them with the president of TMC’s governing board.

“I want to read your minutes. I want to see what they say about my Natasha.” His Natasha. No beating around the bush. Natasha belonged to him. In his mind, she was not her mother’s child, and certainly not her stepfather’s.

Korba’s demand forced me into a gray area. Like Quinn, Korba was an ex-officio member of the Ethics Committee, and I wasn’t sure his status allowed him access to the minutes. This situation was even more problematic. Protocol had dictated that he be excluded from the meeting because of his relationship to the patient whose case was being discussed. Until I could get an opinion from Cleo—or failing that, from our legal counsel—I was not going to let him see the minutes.

I hesitated, praying silently for a convenient interruption—a phone call, another patron walking in, a slight stroke. His, not mine. But he loomed over me as if his wish were my command.

“There’s a problem,” I said. “I’m still learning the protocols involved in meetings and their minutes, particularly as they apply to a situation like yours.”

“Situation? What situation?” He folded his arms across his broad chest.

“You were absent from that meeting due to a conflict of interest. I’m afraid I can’t give you access to the minutes just yet.” He glowered at me. I tried not to flinch. “Mr. Korba, I’ll have to contact the committee chair. If she gives me an okay, I’ll let you know right away.”

“Miss Machado, you do realize I will hear them read at the next Ethics Committee meeting, so what is the problem?”

“But Ethics Committee meets only as needed. It could be a few months before we have another meeting. In the meantime, this situation is still ongoing and very sensitive because of Dr. Lowe’s death, and I don’t want to—”

“All right, enough. I understand.” Korba surprised me by smiling. The smile was a little creepy on a face as large as his, with bold features that seemed carved from granite, but apparently he intended to back off, at least temporarily.

“You know Natasha’s father is dead. My Darius gave his life to protect others.”

“Yes, I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“My wife is gone, too. Her heart was weak. A year ago, it stopped. Natasha is all I have now. Her mother, my former daughter-in-law, is under the spell of that huckster, Gailworth.” He worked his mouth as if the name left a foul taste.

“I’ll call Dr. Snyder about the minutes, Mr. Korba. If she tells me you may see them, I will let you know.” I maintained eye contact, hoping to convince him that was my best offer.

“Do as you must,” he said, “but take a word of advice. If you wish to succeed in life, you must learn your job well enough to make your own decisions.” With that, he strode out of the library. I felt the floor shake with each of his Goliath steps. I called Dr. Snyder’s office immediately, leaving a request for a callback with her office manager.

One Dead, Two to Go, by Elena Hartwell: A Private Eye Gets in Over Her Head

one_deadOne Dead, Two to Go ($14.95, 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-311-2), by debut novelist and established playwright Elena Hartwell, launches a new series: the Eddie Shoes Mysteries, set in Bellingham, Washington. Private Investigator Eddie Shoes takes on mobsters, hucksters, her ex, and her mother as she searches Bellingham for her missing client.

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4 Stars: “Hartwell has created quite a winner in the unique and clever Eddie Shoes, and this first case features not only a twisting, turning, fast-paced plot, but also a number of nuanced, quirky relationships, making for a story that is fun and increasingly absorbing, especially as readers learn more about this headstrong heroine’s past…. This is a clever and well-paced mystery that will have plenty of readers eager for the next installment.”  Read more….

—Bridget Keown for RT Magazine

“Mystery, murder and mayhem collide in this intriguing new series! An original, well written gum-shoe, readers will find an easy ebb and flow of sequences with just enough mystery to keep them guessing. From their strained past to their bumbling investigation skills, this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.… Avid Alphabet series connoisseurs should flock to this kick-off series.”  Read more….

—Roberta Gordon for InD’Tale Magazine

“Oh, Eddie/Elena—please don’t stop. You’ve got me hooked, snooked, and ready for another long and lovely rain-drenched mystery-reading night from the pitch-perfect pavement-pounding Eddie Shoes.”

—Carew Papritz, author of the award-winning bestseller, The Legacy Letters

“One Dead, Two To Go is smart, page-turning fun, with the most feisty and likable P.I. since Kinsey Millhone. Looking for your next favorite detective series? Look no further.”

—Deb Caletti, National Book Award finalist and author of He’s Gone

“Private eye Eddie Shoes and her cardsharp mother plunge the reader into a tale of fractured relationships, mayhem, and thrills. I look forward to the next Eddie Shoes adventure!”

—Deborah Turrell Atkinson, author of the Storm Kayama Mysteries

“Elena Hartwell doesn’t just burst onto the scene with this clever mystery novel—she kicks the door in and holds the reader at gunpoint.”

—Peter Clines, Award-winning author of The Fold and the Ex-Heroes series.

“Attention mystery fans hungering for the good stuff: One Dead, Two to Go is a full course buffet. Infidelity, murder, and kidnapping are all on the menu, but the main course is Eddie Shoes (great name!), who is an engaging, resourceful, and tough female P.I. Throw in her poker-playing, Mafia-connected, breaking-and-entering mother Chava and a pot-boiler of a plot, and I finished this book with a full belly, yet starving for more Eddie Shoes adventures. The writing is cinematic and vivid, the characters well-drawn, but the dynamic between Eddie and Chava, which reminded me fondly of Cagney and Lacey, is what makes the story. Fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich should definitely check out One Dead, Two to Go. Recommended.”

—Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series

“Playwright Elena Hartwell mines her glorious dramatic talent in a debut novel called ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO, where Eddie (Edwina) Shoes, a Bellingham P.I., solves the double crimes of money-laundering and murder with dedicated detective work, done with subtle sleuth’s irony—and the expert help of Chava, her humorous, clever, light-fingered, poker-playing Mom.”

—Robert J Ray, author of eight Murdock mysteries and the Weekend Novelist’s guides to writing

“Eddie Shoes is not just any PI. She operates out of Bellingham, tucked up in a cool, misty corner of Washington, not a place known to be a hotbed of trouble. Trouble finds her nonetheless. Hired to do surveillance on a cheating husband, she soon encounters a dead body and missing persons and steps into a maze of danger that includes the suspicious client who may or may not be a double-dealing grifter. Unlike the standard-issue PI, Eddie seems allergic to guns and violence and worries about a bad haircut as much as the stalking danger. Funny, clever, and full of grabbing plot twists, Elena Hartwell’s One Dead, Two To Go, the debut novel in her Eddie Shoes series, takes the mystery lover into unexpected territory, including the introduction of Chava, the intrepid mother who is kicked out of Vegas by the Mob and shows up uninvited on Eddie’s doorstep. This is a fast, memorable and entertaining read. Warning: you’ll want more.”

—Scott Driscoll, author of Better You Go Home

“Where One Dead, Two to Go triumphs is in its endearing heroine. In Eddie Shoes, we have a character who is smart and sassy and doesn’t make a big deal about herself, but who lights up the pages.”

—Bharti Kirchner, author of ten books, including her latest, Goddess of Fire: A Novel

“ ‘So I shot Karl.’ With those words, Elena Hartwell’s sleuth, Eddie Shoes, gets her ritual initiation into the bloody world of the PI. Eddie is a fascinating character and One Dead, Two to Go, is a polished first novel. Eddie is a study in 21st Century feminism wrapped in Northwest Gortex and Ms Hartwell is a terrific writer with fine control of the genre, an ear for sharp dialogue, and a smart mouth that makes her work a pleasure to read: ‘I finished the slideshow by adding the pictures of her husband pulling up in front and then him leaving a few hours later along with the shots of the mistress kissing him goodbye. The guy really did have great hair.’ I look forward to the next Eddie Shoes mystery. You will too.”

—Jack Remick, author of the California Quartet series and co-author, The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery

“With a good supporting cast, good conversations (especially Eddie’s internal dialogue) and a comfortable tone, this was an enjoyable read and I can’t wait to read the next book with Eddie, Chava and the gang.”

—Dru’s Book Musings

Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman … alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.

Says Hartwell, “I always start from character. Eddie Shoes came to me by way of my husband. He made up the name one day when we were on a road trip. I got intrigued. Who was this Eddie Shoes? Was that the name her parents gave her? She had to be a private eye, but what was she like? Those questions got me started writing One Dead, Two to Go. I found myself really enjoying Eddie’s company. She’s quirky and flawed and I love her sense of humor. It didn’t take long for me to realize her sidekick was going to be her mother Chava. Chava takes risks her daughter doesn’t, which I thought was interesting. What kind of woman would produce a daughter like Eddie Shoes? I found myself as embroiled in their dynamic as the mystery itself. Those are the kinds of stories I like best, equal attention to plot and character, so that’s what I’ve striven to write. Currently working on the second book in the series, I continue to enjoy spending time with Eddie, and I hope readers do too.”

Elena Hartwell’s writing career began in the theater, where she also worked as a director, designer, producer, and educator. Productions of her scripts have been performed around the U.S. and abroad, with some of her plays are available through Indie Theater Now and New York Theatre Experience, Inc. She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

The loud pounding shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all, the police weren’t used to people slamming doors in their faces, and that’s who I’d just locked out of my office.

“Eddie? What the—? Open the door.” Chance Parker’s voice hadn’t changed. It was still low, but carried a weight to it like every word he spoke mattered. I leaned against the glass with the hope my heart wouldn’t leap out of my chest and splatter on the ground at my, or worse yet his, feet.

The next rap was a knuckle on the glass, instead of the wood frame of the door. The sharp sound of it pulled me out of my panic, and I wrenched the door back open. Just like ripping off a bandage, best to get it over with quick.

“Sorry about that. I thought I heard the phone ring,” I said, my response inexplicable even to myself.

The woman with Chance looked at me like I might be certifiable; he just looked amused. I’m not sure which expression annoyed me more.

“Mind if we come in? We have a few questions for you,” Chance said, though it was clear he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. The “we” included Detective Kate Jarek, who introduced herself and said, “I understand you two know each other.”

“We do,” I said, looking to Chance to see if he planned to fill me in on what he’d told her about our history.

Chance rubbed the side of his cheek as if checking for stubble. It was an action I remembered well—an unconscious gesture he made when he didn’t know exactly how he wanted to respond. Chance was careful with his words, as if they were valuable and he might accidentally drop one he couldn’t afford to lose.

“Down in Seattle,” he said. His eyes held mine, and for an instant I thought he might say more. Something was there in the softness of his gaze, but that brief moment of connection passed and he glossed over a complicated relationship with that single sentence.

I told myself he couldn’t do anything else. Even if it might have felt good to hear he forgave me, now wasn’t the time.

Maybe we could see each other again soon. Alone. And I could find a way to make amends.

“Come on in,” I said, standing aside to let the two of them through the door. I shut it behind them, taking a deep breath before I turned around to face them.

Chance began to pace, his nervous energy filling the room. From the way he averted his gaze from the two of us, I could tell his mind was now focused solely on whatever brought him to my door. I respected that about him. His attention would be directed at you for a moment—intense, all consuming—then he’d turn outward again, as his work took precedence.

Chance was taller than Kate by at least six inches. I could look him in the eye if I were wearing tall shoes, so he stood just over six feet. His hair was brown, but if we were outside, sunlight would glint off red highlights. His eyes were the color of dark chocolate—that satiny look it took on when you melted it on the stove to make some delicious, fattening dessert you knew you shouldn’t eat but couldn’t help yourself from making.

“What can I do for you?” I asked, curious about why a Seattle detective—and my old flame—had appeared on my doorstep up here in Bellingham.

“We’ve got some questions about Deirdre Fox,” Kate said.

That certainly threw me for a loop. I don’t know what I thought they might question me about, but Deirdre Fox wasn’t even in the top ten.

“Okay,” I said, wanting to see where their questions would lead.

“Were you following her or working for her?” Chance asked, confusing me even further.

“Neither,” I said, which was technically true.

“Care to explain this?” Kate handed me a photo that looked like a still picture taken from a video surveillance camera. It wasn’t very high quality, but it was good enough to identify me in my Subaru taking pictures with my telephoto lens. I could tell from the background it was from my stakeout at Hallings’ dealership.

“Why would you think I was tailing Deirdre?” Maybe the woman had filed a report she was being stalked and my name had come up as the stalker.

Maybe I wasn’t as stealthy as I thought.

“Because she turned up dead this morning,” Chance said, carefully gauging my reaction. Shock kept me quiet and he continued, “In recreating her final day, we scanned the videotapes from her place of business, looking for anything unusual. Then you showed up.” Chance tilted his head in that way he had, eyes narrowed, reading your every move, like a cat getting ready to pounce.

Dead?” I repeated, trying to absorb the fact that someone I saw yesterday in her lingerie was no longer breathing.

Ed, Not Eddie, by Max Everhart: A Promising Female Pitcher is Marked for Murder

Ed_not_eddieEd, Not Eddie ($14.95, 252 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-943-5) is the third book in Max Everhart’s mystery/suspense series featuring Eli Sharpe, a former baseball player turned detective. When a young pitcher receives an anonymous death threat, Eli is hired by her father to investigate and receives unexpected help from a long-lost love.

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“With well-developed characters that are colorful and unique, this enjoyable story has a solid plot that flows smoothly and seamlessly from scene to scene, pulling one in as it entertains…. Rich with a well-written story line, vivid descriptions, wit, and smart, snappy dialogue, this intriguing mystery will appeal to readers of many genres and is a welcome addition to any collection.”  Read more….

—Janna Shay for InD’Tale Magazine

Ed, Not Eddie is the best written of the Eli Sharpe mysteries. There are strong characters with an intriguing plot. Best of all the narrative flows smoothly. Pages glide by. It has the potential to be a break through book for Everhart…. Eli has become of my favourite 21st century sleuths. Everhart’s series is the best mystery baseball series I have read since the Kate Henry mysteries of the late Alison Gordon.”  Read more….

—Bill Selnes for Mysteries and More

“This is an excellent read and the author’s characters are very real; in particular, Eli Sharpe and his friend Ernest Carpenter. Readers will enjoy the plot, and root for Eli to discover the criminal before a more serious crime occurs.”

—Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion for Suspense Magazine

5 Stars: “Fast-paced, exciting and filled with twists and turns…. Everhart’s characters are complex and authentic, especially Sharpe and his mentor and friend, Ernest Carpenter, but the author makes each and every character seen in this compelling and gritty story stand out in full relief. The plot is first-rate, and I particularly enjoyed the ongoing references to the fictional private eye Jim Rockford and the classic noir mystery writers. Then there’s Ed, the main star of the entire tale, whose story reads like a psychological thriller; one that I’ll be puzzling over for some time. I had a marvelous time reading this book and intend to catch up with the previous books in the series. Ed, Not Eddie is most highly recommended.”  Read more….

—Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

“Max Everhart writes a great story with the twists and turns required for a solid mystery, but the home run in Ed, Not Eddie is his ability to craft dynamite characters. From the wisecracking protagonist Eli Sharpe to the walk-on characters with only a single line, Everhart invents a unique voice for everyone. The small town of Cook, South Carolina, and its division III College, are abuzz with the potentially history-making Ed Leviner. But becoming the first woman to pitch for the majors isn’t the only obstacle dogging Ed (never call her Eddie!). First, she has to live through the big game at the school. Hired to find out if the death threats to Ed are real, Eli soon finds himself embroiled in all the complications of a small town. Sex, drugs, corruption, and baseball make their way into a plot that keeps you guessing. If this is your first foray into the Eli Sharpe mystery series, Ed, Not Eddie will have you scrambling to catch up with books one and two.”

—Elena Hartwell, author of the Eddie Shoes Mystery series

“Former shortstop Eli Sharpe may have struck out in his brief stint as a major leaguer with the Devil Rays, but reinvented as private investigator Eli Sharpe, he touches all the bases in this thriller which will have you sitting on the edge of the bleachers. Sharpe goes extra innings to stop an assassin from permanently retiring a top female prospect before she ever has a chance to take the mound. Another winner from author Max Everhart. Highly recommended!”

—E. Michael Helms, author of the Mac McClellan Mystery series

Ed Leviner is a hot prospect for the Major Leagues, a young pitcher who’s broken every record. She’s also a tough young woman who hates to be called Eddie. And someone in the idyllic Southern town of Cook, South Carolina, has threatened to kill her if she pitches in Wednesday’s game.

It’s Sunday morning, which doesn’t give private eye and ex-ballplayer Eli Sharpe much time to identify the source of these threats. Ed has lots of admirers but few friends and several enemies and detractors in this conservative community. Then there’s her feuding divorced parents, her spurned tutor, a disgraced coach turned evangelical minister, and the local sheriff, a bully whose son is one of Ed’s discarded boyfriends.

Though local law enforcement is oddly unhelpful, Eli is not alone in his search for answers. The TV news team covering the protests is headed up a beautiful anchorwoman from Eli’s past. Is she on his side or not? As usual, Eli is busy raising hackles in a town where there’s more than one mad dog in disguise.

Says Everhart, “A couple of years ago I read an article about Chelsea Baker, a female knuckleball pitcher from Florida who was pitching no-hitter after no-hitter against the boys in her little league. Turned out, she was taught how to throw the pitch by Joe Niekro, a former MLB great. I thought that was kind of cool, so I decided to write a story about a woman knuckleball pitcher who was poised to be drafted into the big leagues.”

Max Everhart has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. His short stories have been published in CutBank, Elysian Fields Quarterly, Slow Trains Journal, and juked. His short story, “The Man Who Wore No Pants,” was selected by Michael Knight for Best of the Net 2010 and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web Anthology. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Eli checked his Seiko. Twelve thirty-three. Practice had been over for half an hour, and the field was empty. The coaches and MLB scouts and media were nowhere to be seen, and her teammates, Eli was sure, were back at the dorms already, playing videogames, or cramming for a chemistry exam, or sneaking in a post-practice beer.

But not Ed Leviner.

Here she was doing bleacher stairs with no shoes on. In full sweats. In eighty-five degree heat. While some nut case was out there threatening to kill her. Eli knew from being around great baseball players for years that it wasn’t money or fame that motivated them. At least those weren’t the primary factors. In fact, motivation, as best Eli could tell, didn’t really factor into the equation. No, it was about biology. There was something inside the great players Eli had met, something at a cellular level, a mutation in their DNA, a genetic quirk that caused them to train endlessly. It was instinct, pure and profound and intangible, and like all true sports fans, Eli recognized that instinct in Ed, that capacity for greatness, and he envied her for it. He’d had the talent at one time, no doubt, but it never occurred to him to train on his days off. And he sure as hell wouldn’t have sprinted up and down, up and down bleachers unless contractually obligated to do so.

Eli glanced around again. No sign of the deputy Sheriff Hege had assigned to watch out for Ed. Curious.

“Seven!” She punched the sign harder this time.

Eli walked through the first base side dugout, crunching sunflower seed shells under foot. He walked onto the field, hoping she’d see him and stop running.

But she didn’t stop.

“Winners never do,” Eli said to himself, his envy morphing slowly into admiration. He waited another ten minutes during which time she didn’t look up once. She just kept pumping her legs up and down, kept punching the advertisement at the top of the stairs and calling out numbers. Eight … ten … twelve ….

Finally she yelled “Twenty!” She punched the advertisement a final time and interlaced her hands behind her head, sucking in large quantities of oxygen.

Eli was waiting for her when she got to the bottom of the bleachers. He straightened the lapels of his jacket and greeted her.

“I’ve read about you,” she said, still catching her breath. “You’re Eli Sharpe, the ballplayer.”

“Ex-ballplayer, actually. I’m a private detective now. Your detective, in fact.”

“I don’t need one.”

“Your father disagrees.”

“Leland is an idiot.” No anger. Just a statement. Eli filed that away as she tossed the sweaty cap onto the bottom bleacher, bent at the waist, and touched her bare toes. An impressive feat, especially for a six-foot-tall woman in sweats.

Deadly Dunes, by E. Michael Helms: Two Fatal “Accidents” Put a Florida PI on Alert

deadly_dunesDeadly Dunes ($14.95, 228 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-347-1) is the third book in a mystery/suspense series by E. Michael Helms set in the Florida Panhandle. Private eye Mac McClellan investigates the death of a young archaeologist whose recent discovery threatens to shut down a planned multi-million dollar Florida bayside community development.

“Helms has a good character in Mac…. A solid hardboiled series.” —Booklist

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Recent Interviews with E. Michael Helms:

Maggie Thom’s Blog

“This story is addictive and an easy one to get lost in as the reader continues to turn pages. The characters are well drawn, the even pace builds tension, and the ending satisfies. The author is adept at creating settings and has an eye for detail giving one the feeling they are a part of the landscape.” Read more….

—Edie Dykeman, BellaOnline mystery reviewer

Deadly Dunes is a fabulous whodunit, written in first person narrative—think Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe—a la classic hardboiled, detective movie style. The writing is nearly flawless, with a nice arc and plausible storylines …. A story that comes highly recommended!” Read more….

—Lori Leger for InD’Tale Magazine

“Another deftly crafted mystery/suspense masterpiece from author E. Michael Helms, Deadly Dunes is the third title in his outstanding Mac McClellan Mystery series. Very highly recommended reading action/adventure mystery buffs, Deadly Dunes is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.” Read more….

—Carson’s Bookshelf, The Midwest Book Review Reviewer’s Bookwatch

“Helms returns to the world of Mac McClellan with the same solid writing and captivating mystery that I’ve come to expect from him, but with an added twist this time that made the tale even more captivating for me. I enjoyed the mix of history with the mystery. The aura that permeated the tale was both inviting and suspenseful. Helms has created a work of art, backed up by the beautiful scenery of the area in which he set this novel…. This was a good, clean mystery that had me on my toes from page 1 to the very end. The enjoyable writing style backed up the solid plot to create a novel that mystery lovers will have a ball with.”  Read more….

—Pure Jonel: Confessions of a bibliophile

“Michael Helms has done it again! In this engrossing, nonstop action adventure, Mac McClellan investigates treasure hunters, greedy developers, and even greedier heirs.”

—Connie di Marco, author of the Zodiac Mysteries and (as Connie Archer) author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries

Deadly Dunes, the new Mac McClellan mystery by ex-Marine E. Michael Helms, chews up the landscape in the Florida Panhandle—a phone call, a meeting, the sleuth’s first case, the first corpse, the heat build-up of the killer-quest—where suspects and victims play musical beds in the sticky heat of a Florida summer. The Florida panhandle is a terrific locale for a crime tale. The action is well-paced and the military interlude—where the sleuth shoots photos of a cheating ex-Army husband—is wrought with precision. With this addition to the series, a talented story-teller sings his song.”

—Robert J. Ray, author of the Matt Murdock Murder Mysteries

“E. Michael Helms has the perfect blend of action, suspense and mystery that is sure to grab anyone who like a semi-hard-boiled PI tale. Great dialogue, along with detailed scenes set the mood for every page.”

—Dianne Bylo, Tome Tender Reviews

“Third in the Mac McClellan Mystery series, Deadly Dunes pours across the page with all the heat of a Southern summer night. Determined to make it as a private investigator, E Michael Helms’s retired Marine uses sharp wits and a military background to solve a deadly crime. Balancing life and death on the edge of his KA-BAR combat blade, Mac confronts a colorful host of characters, all of whom lie, cheat, and steal their way onto his list of suspects. But who is setting up whom? And which version of the deceased is the one Mac should believe? Intent on untangling the complex web of relationships to uncover the truth about a mysterious death, Mac still finds time to track down a cheating husband and discover a little ancient treasure in the sand. Add in a sexy locale, exotic dancers, and more twists and turns than salt water taffy on a pulling machine, this clever whodunit is the perfect getaway, a great beach read that includes the actual beach.”

—Elena Hartwell, author of One Dead, Two to Go

“This is a great mystery. I didn’t know who did it until the end because there are a lot of potential killers for many different reasons. There is a lot of action and you can’t help but liking Mac. Mac is a true down home hero. I couldn’t put this book down until the wee hours of the morning. I f you are looking for a great mystery full of thrills and chills I recommend you check out Deadly Dunes.”  Read more….

—J. Bronder Book Review

5 Stars: “Deadly Dunes is a sleuth mystery with good action and suspense. The story is an interesting one that sees its main character and narrator, Mac, constantly forgetting his P.I. training and resorting to doing things in his own amateurish way. I think the dialogue is witty and I like Mac’s dry sense of humor that seemed to irk some characters…. E. Michael Helms writes well and I want to read other books from his Mac McClellan Mystery series, whose protagonist is compelling.”  Read more….

—Michelle Stanley for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

5 Stars: “Author E. Michael Helms knocks it out of the park with his latest addition to the Mac McClellan Mystery Series. Deadly Dunes is a fast-paced mystery with a colorful cast of characters and a well-developed plot that will keep you guessing. Full of witty dialogue and nail-biting suspense, readers will be captivated as they follow along with Mac, from sandy beaches to gritty nightclubs, as he investigates an intriguing trail of clues that will have you reading well into the night. Highly recommended for fans of crime, mystery, and suspense, Deadly Dunes is an entertaining read that is hard to put down.”  Read more….

—Epic Book Quest

“Like a complex stew, there are many layers to Deadly Dunes, the third installment in the highly-entertaining Mac McClellan series…[A] solid mystery with plenty of red herrings and double-crossings to keep the reader guessing until the end. Highly Recommended.”

—Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mysteries

The first Mac McClellan mystery, Deadly Catch, was named Library Journal’s Mystery of the Month and received a starred review: “This debut will resonate with retired military, boomers, and crime fiction fans. Helms’s love of setting and engaging first-person narrative suggest a winning new series is underway.” The second book in the series, Deadly Ruse, won the 2015 RONE Award, sponsored by InD’tale Magazine, for Best Mystery.

Hours after hiring Mac McClellan to investigate the supposed suicide of her archaeologist brother, single-mom Jessie dies in a car accident. Jessie had just showed Mac artifacts and a copy of a map Jake found, items that indicate Hernando de Soto and his explorers might have camped on Five Mile Island during the winter of 1539-1540. Studying the map, Mac determines the site lies in the middle of a planned resort, The Dunes. Declaring the area an historic site could shut the project down. Suspicions aroused, he forges ahead, even though he no longer has a paying client.

Everywhere Mac turns, greed abounds, and no one he interviews seems innocent, even Jessie’s closest friends the Deckers, who have adopted her teenage daughter. Ron Decker’s construction company is building the Dunes, and he is heavily invested in its success. Then there is the oily son and ex-stripper wife of an old curmudgeon who won’t sell the one lot the project still needs to acquire. Jake’s estranged wife Laurel had plenty to gain from his death, and as Mac continues to dig, he begins to wonder if Jessie herself had more at stake than he was led to believe.

No one is happy about Mac’s persistence, and someone is unhappy enough to crash his truck and frame him for yet another murder. But Mac isn’t giving up, no matter what the cost.

Says Helms, “Several years ago my wife and I were enjoying a day at Seaside, Florida, on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. Seaside was a new and quaint iconic village featuring homes and cottages built around a bustling ‘downtown’ square offering fine and casual dining, food markets, and specialty shops. While enjoying the ambiance of the planned community, I asked myself a question common to all writers: ‘What if?’ What if something of historic significance had been discovered during the early phases of Seaside’s construction? Could it have brought the multi-million dollar project to a halt, potentially bringing ruin to investors who had staked their future on the success of the venture? What lengths might someone be willing to go to make sure the discovery never came to light? Murder, perhaps? I deposited that ‘What if?’ in my memory bank, where it simmered until Mac McClellan reminded me it would make an intriguing story line for his next case, Deadly Dunes.

E. Michael Helms grew up in Panama City, Florida. His memoir about serving in the Marines as a rifleman during some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War, The Proud Bastards, remains in print after twenty-five years, and he recently published a fictional sequel, The Private War of Corporal Henson. A longtime Civil War buff, Helms is also the author of the historical saga, Of Blood and Brothers. Helms lives in South Carolina with his wife Karen. Click here to go to visit Michael online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“I’m gonna back her up about halfway out and tie off to a stump,” he said. “How long you reckon to be?”

“No longer than it takes,” I said, grabbing the Bounty Hunter in my right hand and using the left to grip the starboard gunnel as I stepped over the side into knee-deep water. I sloshed ashore as Jerry backed the boat into deeper water. After turning to give him a quick wave, I scrambled up the steep bank using handholds of coarse grass to pull against and trying my damndest to avoid a fistful of sandspurs.

By the time I crested the dunes, Jerry had already tied the boat off and was casting a stingray grub into the Stumps for flounder. I took a quick glance around. Nobody seemed to be stirring, so keeping a wary eye out for diamondback rattlers, I worked my way inland for about twenty yards.

During our meeting at Panama Joe’s, Jessie had mentioned that her brother found the artifacts near the bay overlooking what appeared to be a dead forest sticking out of the water. That had to be the Stumps, and most likely the location of the Spaniards’ winter fort, if it had existed. But there was no telling how far out into the bay the small forested peninsula had extended during de Soto’s time. My guess was the main part of the fort was now under several feet of water. From my front pocket, I pulled the map Jessie had given me of what during the 16th century was a seven-mile-long peninsula. I took it out of the protective Ziploc bag. After studying it a minute or so, I slipped it back in the bag and back in my shorts pocket.

My plan was to start inland and work my way in a crisscross pattern toward the bay. Not being familiar with the metal detector, and knowing I was looking for iron objects as well as coins, I turned the discrimination knob low and the sensitivity setting to about midrange and pressed the “All Metal” display. With those settings I’d probably come across a lot of trash, but it was my best shot at finding something worthwhile.

Sweeping the coil back and forth, I almost immediately picked up several beeps of different tones. I pinpointed the object as best I could, then dropped to one knee, pulled the garden trowel I’d borrowed from Kate from my back pocket, and dug into the sand. A few seconds later I flipped up the rim of an old drink can that predated all-aluminum cans.

The next ten or fifteen minutes produced nothing but pull tabs, rusted cans, and other junk. Finally the detector let out a beep different from the ones I’d been hearing. Digging down about four or five inches, I heard the trowel strike something solid and metallic. My adrenaline rushed as I lifted a coin with a trowel-full of sand. Brushing the coin clean, I saw it was an Indian Head penny in rough condition, dated either 1903 or 1908. It was no 16th-century Spanish coin, but what the hell, I figured it had to be worth at least a few cents. The trip wouldn’t be a total loss.

The wind was picking up, and the thunder was getting louder by the minute. Deciding my chances would probably be better closer to the bay, I hurried in that direction. Jerry and I had to motor back to St. George, and I damn sure didn’t want to do it while fighting a gale. About ten feet from the edge where the dunes began to slope downward to the bay the detector cut loose again. I dropped to both knees and began digging. I dug about a foot deep and came up empty, so I passed the coil over the pile of sand I’d excavated to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Nothing.

I kept digging for another six or eight inches and then an object hit the pile and slid down a couple of inches. At first I thought it was an old bracelet someone had lost years ago. Closer inspection proved it to be several small rusted oblong or circular loops linked tightly together, forming a patch-like object a couple of inches long and maybe an inch and a half wide. I had no idea what it was, but I slipped it into my pocket. You never know.

A few feet away the Bounty Hunter beeped again. Down and digging, I soon turned up a similar object, although this one was a little smaller in length. I dropped it in my pocket with the other one as a voice called out, “Hey, you!”

Oops. I turned and saw a tall lanky man with bushy hair approaching from about fifty yards away. He wore a tan shirt and trousers and a brown ball cap. It wasn’t a county sheriff’s uniform, but I had no intentions of hanging around long enough to find out who the guy worked for.

I scrambled to my feet and trotted toward the ledge as a shot rang out. The SOB was shooting at me, at least in my general direction. I hit the deck, cradling the detector in both arms. Low crawling to the dune wall, I went over head first. I spit out a mouthful of sand and tried to let loose a warning whistle to Jerry, but I doubt you could’ve heard it five feet away.

Turning feet-first, I slid on down the slope and hit the beach running. Jerry had the boat waiting a few feet off the shoreline. I high-stepped through the swallows. Tossing the detector into the boat, I grabbed the bow and pushed for all I was worth. Jerry gunned the motor in reverse. I hung on until I managed to pull myself aboard and flop onto the deck.

“Turn this thing around and get the hell out of here!” I shouted, but Jerry was way ahead of the game. We were thirty or forty yards past the end of the Stumps when another shot rang out, barely discernable above the roar of the Merc 50. By then I was more pissed than scared, and if the Bounty Hunter was an M16 I would’ve had that chicken-shit wannabe cop hugging Mother Earth for all he was worth.

King’s Ransom, by Bestselling Author Mary Daheim: A Royalist Thief Woos a Rebellious Puritan

King's_RansomKing’s Ransom ($14.95, 234 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-367-9) is a reprint of an early historical romance by bestselling author Mary Daheim. Originally published in 1990, King’s Ransom opens in the year 1658, when Oliver Cromwell presided over England’s Commonwealth. A high-born Puritan girl falls for a dashing highwayman whose booty is helping to fund the restoration of the Stuarts to the throne of England.

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“Mary Daheim’s novels are a rare treat for the lovers of deeply detailed, highly historical love stories that bring history to vibrant life.”

Romantic Times

Camel Press has reprinted several of Mary’s other early historical romances: Reunion (formerly Pride’s Captive), The Royal Mile (Love’s Pirate), Gosford’s Daughter (Passion’s Triumph), and Destiny’s Dawn. The remaining titles, Improbable Eden and Gypsy Baron, will be released before the end of 2016.

As a ten-year-old girl, Honor Dale watched in horror as her Puritan parents were slaughtered by Royalists. Now nineteen, she is the ward of her uncle, Oliver Cromwell, who rules England as Protector of the Commonwealth. En route to visit her powerful uncle, Honor loses her family’s jewels to the notorious Captain Hood, who steals to fund Charles Stuart’s restoration to the throne. She despises the highwayman’s cause but can’t help responding to his ardent kiss.

Despite the loss of her inheritance, all goes well for Honor under her uncle’s Protectorate, including her betrothal to handsome Sir Tyler Vail. But after Cromwell’s death, the Protectorate founders in the inept hands of his son. Worse yet for Honor, she’s jilted by her fiancé and has become a ward of the sanctimonious Gouges at their towering ivy-covered manor house, Creepers. Honor bridles at their oppressive lifestyle, especially after again crossing paths with Captain Hood. It dawns on her that his vendetta against the Puritans is every bit as justified as hers against the Royalists. What’s more, her spirited nature is far better suited to the dashing highwayman than the bovine Uriah Gouge, who is being foisted upon her as a husband.

But what is Captain Hood’s true nature? Is he a charming, adventurous rake or a desperate nobleman fired by idealism? The Protectorate is toppling and the Royalists are prepared to do battle to put Charles Stuart on the throne. Honor can trust her heart to an outlaw lover, but she can’t prevent him from risking his life for the Royalist cause.

Says the author, “By my fifth historical romance, I felt I was in a 1500s rut. I needed to expand my writing horizons and my knowledge of history. I took the logical step and set what would become King’s Ransom in the middle of the seventeenth century. Of course that meant doing research. Lots of research, because I can’t write a book about a time or a place without feeling as if I’d be at home in that setting and that era. Does that sound fanciful? Maybe. But it works for me. I hope it works for you, too, when you meet Puritan Honor Dale and Royalist Captain Hood. They find themselves at odds when it comes to politics, but like-minded when it comes to love. That’s another thing I learned about the seventeenth century: The heart knows no time or place. And though I don’t know about you, I find that very reassuring.”

Mary Richardson Daheim, a Seattle native, began her publishing career with the first of seven historical romances before switching to mysteries in 1991. Since then she has published at least 55 books. Click here to find her on the Web.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“I intend to ask many things of you,” he said, the rugged face hovering over hers. “For now I beg but two. Were you Yorkshire born and bred?”

The question was so unexpected that Honor was caught off guard. “Yes,” she answered simply. “Near Ingleton. But,” she went on bitterly, “the house no longer stands.”

Hood’s grip tightened in her hair, causing her to wince. His features tensed and his skin darkened. “Irony,” he whispered bitterly, “all is not vanity but irony.”

She wanted to ask what he meant, but she held back. For some strange, elusive reason, she feared his answer. Or maybe it was that she knew he had some terrible tale to tell that would arouse her sympathy and blunt her determination to best him in the matter of her dowry. To her relief, he seemed to have regained his aplomb, though he still had his hand entwined in her hair. “The second favor should cause us both less pain,” he said, his mouth twisted into the hint of a smile.

She had forgotten about the other request and started to inquire as to what it might be when his kiss stole words—and breath—away. This was not like Tyler Vail’s bloodless, pristine kisses but a slow, measured assault on her senses that made Honor dizzy. She felt his other arm go round her, pressing her against his chest, while the hand that had stroked her hair now caressed the nape of her neck.

The proper thing to do, of course, was to struggle, to rain blows upon this importunate fraud, to kick and fight and surely to scream. But Captain Hood seemed to render her will useless. Instead of fending him off, she discovered that her arms had slipped around him, that her mouth was yielding to his probing tongue, that she was utterly helpless in his embrace. The revelation should have been humiliating, but was instead delicious.

He drew away, just far enough to see her face, the shimmering dark eyes under gold-tipped lashes, the flush across her cheekbones, the inviting mouth still slightly open.

“I want you,” he said simply in that low voice, which wasn’t quite as calm as usual. “But not now, not until you’re well.” His hand strayed to the opening of her collar, but at last Honor jerked back. Her brain was in chaos. She needed time to order her thoughts. The man was ten times as bold as he had any right to be.

Yet, she thought, as away from his touch the excitement in her blood cooled, his very conceit should play nicely into her hands. “You take advantage of my helplessness,” she accused him, but there was no bite in the words. “You also play upon my generous nature. Any other maid would have raised an alarm.”

“No, not really.” He spoke seriously but then broke into an engaging smile. “Most maids are very kindhearted. I always marvel at their bountiful natures.”

Honor’s eyes sparked and she had to look away; Captain Hood was on the brink of going too far. “You mock me, sir. You would toy with my affections yet make light of my feelings.” Having gotten her temper under control, she risked gazing at him head-on. “For shame, Captain! To think I dared defend you!”

Death in the Old Rectory, by Kathie Deviny: A Professional Killer Targets a Church Volunteer

death_rectoryGrace Church’s new thrift store is a hit… until a hit man comes calling.

Death in the Old Rectory ($13.95, 168 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-343-3) is the second book in Kathie Deviny’s clerical/cozy mystery series set in Grace Church, an Episcopalian parish. A charming young man is killed while volunteering at the church’s new thrift store, which leads his friends and colleagues to conduct their own investigation.

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“I found myself enjoying Death in the Old Rectory so much that at times I found myself laughing out loud because each character brought personality to the story. I visualized the scenes as if watching a live performance where each character played their part extremely well. As Detective Joyce and Officer Chen, along with Lester (an unofficial security and criminal expert), begin to uncover the clues of the murder, the fun and adventure begin.”  Read more….

—Vernita Naylor for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

“I specifically fell in love with Nick, you will see why when you read the book, but he seemed like the glue between the thrift store, the food pantry and the church plus all the people. I was devastated when he was murdered and even though I had to step away for a bit to collect myself, I went right back to the story. I was on a mission!! I was right alongside Father Robert, Terry, Mae, Mrs. Evans and the rest of them trying to figure out who the murderer was. I highly recommend this book to everyone, religious or otherwise. I also suggest picking up the first book, Death in the Memorial Garden, and put the third one on your ‘to read’ list. I know it’s on mine!!!”  Read more….

—Missy S., Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

5 Stars: “Kathie Deviny has written an interesting mystery with red herrings galore…. The book is pretty engaging and a fun puzzle.”  Read more….

—Rosi Hollinbeck, The Manhattan Book Review

“I love this series as you meet various parishioners and watch various relationships while learning history of the characters and their connection to Nick…. Such a great story, and I was stumped on who the murderer was until the last page. Can’t wait to see what is next for Ms. Deviny.”  Read more….

—Paul Mitchell for the Community Bookstop

For many years Father Robert has called the old rectory at Seattle’s Grace Church home. No longer. An enterprising volunteer has come up with a scheme to convert it into a thrift store. With great reluctance, the priest moves to a condo, realizing that the struggling Episcopal parish needs the revenue. As predicted, money is soon rolling in. That is, until disaster strikes: one of the employees, a charismatic young man named Nick, is killed execution-style. Though well loved, Nick had a criminal past. Did his past catch up with him, or was he simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Detective Joyce Hitchcock and Officer Raymond Chen are on the case, and once again their efforts are bolstered by the colorful staff and members of Grace Church—Father Robert himself, his fiancée Molly, Deacon Mary, manager of the food bank Terry, Lester the formerly homeless sexton, Daniel the organist, Arlis the church secretary, and senior volunteers Lucy and Mae.

Other incidents follow—an explosion, vandalism. The already dwindling congregation is being scared away, and Grace Church may soon be history. Meanwhile Nick’s friends and colleagues can’t help but wonder: will the killer strike again?

Says Deviny, “The urban setting of these mysteries allows me to bring together churchgoers, city dwellers who depend on the food bank and thrift shop for basic necessities, the volunteers who serve them, the residents of the high rise condos and retirement communities and the ex-cons living in the halfway house. I especially enjoyed creating meet-up opportunities for the pampered pets of the condo dwellers and the ‘strays’ who accompany the homeless.”

After retiring from a career as a “government bureaucrat” serving primarily in the criminal justice system, Kathie Deviny studied creative writing. Her essays have been published in the Seattle Times, Episcopal Life, Cure magazine, and Faith, Hope and Healing by Bernie Siegel. Kathie and her husband Paul divide their time between California and Western Washington. Click here to find Kathie online.

Keep Reading for an excerpt:

At 2:55, Adele Evans came down the stairs from her office, dressed in a denim pants suit and white sneakers. Her gray hair was in its usual French twist, and her stern aspect was somehow made more so by the scarlet frames of her glasses.

She scanned the shop. Everything was tidy, as she liked it. Mae was rehanging women’s clothes on their racks. Nick was bent over the counter tallying the day’s proceeds.

“What was the take?” she asked.

Nick jumped. “Ahhhhh! Don’t do that, Adele!”

“Nick, you know I don’t like being referred to by my first name.”

“If you don’t want to be called Adele, then don’t call me Nick. What was the take? What would you say if I told you a jewelry buyer spotted a diamond ring in the locked case. And that he offered two grand and I bargained him up to five?”

Mae called from the next room, “And that we had to call Officer Chen working food bank security to take the check to the bank.”

Mrs. Evans turned on a silent heel and marched out the front door, slamming it behind her.

“Oooh EEE!” said Mae. “You’re in big trouble now.”

“What’s she going to do, fire me? Actually, we did pretty well—about two hundred in vouchers and one hundred cash.” He looked at the front door. “I should treat her better, given the good she’s doing. I just don’t get why she has to be so smug about it.”

Mae patted down the last of the plastic bags she was folding. The shop received ten donated bags for one salable donation. “Well, this church is about all she’s got since her husband died. And her children don’t come around much; they probably don’t like her personality either.”

At 3 p.m. sharp, Nick and Mae shooed the last customers out of the shop—the ones who’d snuck back in after Lester and his shovel left. Mae brought in the sandwich board from out front and locked the door, while Nick tidied up the counter. Then she went into the kitchen to empty the coffee pot and use the adjacent facilities.

Nick was putting loose change into an envelope when a voice said, “Long time no see, Dom.”

Nick didn’t jump this time, just looked up and said, “That’s been fine with me.”

“So long, Dom.”

The last thing Nick saw was the gun pointed at his head and the familiar face behind it.

Destiny’s Pawn, by Bestselling Author Mary Daheim: Desire and Deception in the Court of Henry VIII

destinys_pawnDestiny’s Pawn ($16.95, 360 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-365-5), is a reprint of an early historical romance by bestselling author Mary Daheim. Originally published in 1984, Destiny’s Pawn follows the story of the niece of Thomas Cromwell as she fights for survival and yearns for true love during the reign of King Henry VIII of England.

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“Mary Daheim’s novels are a rare treat for the lovers of deeply detailed, highly historical love stories that bring history to vibrant life.”

Romantic Times

Topaz-eyed, tawny-haired Morgan Todd of Faux Hall is on the verge of glorious womanhood. Though sent to England’s King Henry VIII’s court as a lady-in-waiting on Queen Anne Boleyn, Morgan has one unwavering desire: to be reunited with the man she loves, Sean O’Connor. But Sean, a Catholic, is not in the good graces of the King, and by no fault of hers, Morgan is no longer the young virgin who first kissed him. Mistaken for a willing servant in a field near her family’s estate, she has been ravished by a passing nobleman.

Morgan’s powerful uncle, Sir Thomas Cromwell, arranges a marriage for his niece to further his own ambitions. The alliance with Sir James Sinclair sends a heartsick Morgan to a loveless union and a desolate castle on the North Sea. But the cruelest blow of all is when she discovers that James’s younger brother, Francis Sinclair, is the nobleman who deflowered her. Although pallid James proves to be an indifferent groom, Francis stirs Morgan in ways Sean never did.

Who will bow to King Henry’s defiance of the Pope and who will cling to their Catholic faith? The wrong choice can lead to torture, the Tower, and the executioner’s axe. Though strong-willed and courageous, Morgan is a helpless pawn in the games of the King, Cromwell, and their toadies. Motherhood, war, and intrigue will come between them, but through it all, Morgan never stops yearning for Francis. Despite his rough North Country ways, he is an honorable man in a land of schemers. And only Francis shares the passion for life and the instincts for survival that match her own.

Says the author, “Destiny’s Pawn was the first book I ever wrote. My Aunt Helen was into genealogy and had discovered we were descended from Thomas Cromwell. I decided to add a personal touch to the story by making the heroine, Morgan Todd, his niece. It’s the only one of my seven historical romances that bears its original title. I think you’ll like Morgan’s story. She, too, is an original.”

Mary Richardson Daheim, a Seattle native, began her publishing career with the first of seven historical romances before switching to mysteries in 1991. Since then she has published at least 55 books. Click here to find online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

The fox feels more lush,” Morgan declared, wrapping the cape around her and turning full circle in front of Francis.

“You look like a small bear,” Francis said.

“Nonsense. The tan and brown suits my hair and eyes.”

“It makes you look all of the same color. You need contrast, not camouflage.”

“I know what I need. I’ve always worn tan and brown!”

“And looked like a tabby cat most of the time, no doubt.”

Though Morgan’s shoes had begun to dry out, her feet hurt and she was very tired. Francis’s obstinacy was making her furious. “I want this one,” she asserted, clutching the tan cape close to her body.

“You shan’t have it. I’m paying for it!” Francis’s gray eyes were cold with anger. “You’re a spoiled chit, Morgan Todd, and you’ll take the blue or none at all!”

Morgan pulled the tan cape from her shoulders and flung it at Francis. “Then it’s none! I’ll freeze in your northern wasteland first!”

Francis loomed over her, both capes clutched in his hands. The furrier had kept his distance throughout this exchange and now had disappeared altogether. His only other customers, a Flemish burgher and his portly wife, had left as soon as Morgan and Francis had begun to quarrel.

Morgan was fumbling at her own gray cloak, unsteady hands trying to fasten the small silver clasp which held it together. Francis carefully laid the hotly disputed capes down on a table and then abruptly grabbed Morgan by the shoulders. She thought he was going to shake her but instead he kissed her, hard, almost violently, and she reeled against him, stunned and off-balance. Morgan tried to push him away but her efforts were as vain as they had been in the orchard. His mouth continued to plunder hers and her feet were actually off the floor. She felt dizzy in his embrace and knew if he let go of her without warning she would fall; her arms went around him—to prevent a nasty tumble, she told herself hazily—and she was further shocked to feel that odd sensation begin to burn in the pit of her stomach. She was even more stunned to discover that she was kissing Francis back, letting his tongue explore her mouth, allowing his hands to roam at will down the curve of her back and to her buttocks. At last he released her lips and set her on her feet, though his arms were still around her.

“Christ,” he growled, his sandy hair disheveled, the thick brows drawn together, “you make a man want to either strangle you or make love to you. Why couldn’t you have been—bland?”

His choice of words made Morgan laugh, a choked, shaken little sound that was almost a hiccough. “All I wanted was the fox-trimmed cape,” she said in a voice that shook.

“Mmmmmm.” He started to release her, then pulled her back against his chest. “You will cause me more problems than fox and sable, Morgan Todd,” he said in his gruffest voice over the top of her head. “Why don’t you run away with that Irishman?”

She wondered if he were serious. If only he were, he could help her and Sean …. Morgan looked up at him, attempting an innocent gaze through her tawny lashes. “It might be all for the best, you know. I don’t think your brother likes me.”

Francis broke away and stomped about the furrier’s shop, his riding cloak billowing behind him like a huge banner of war. “It’s not my brother I’m thinking of.”

The Mariachi Murder, by Marie Romero Cash: A Musician’s Death Leads the Santa Fe Police on a Not-So-Merry Chase

mariachi_murderThe Mariachi Murder ($15.95, 324 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-300-6) is Marie Romero Cash’s fourth murder mystery featuring forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge. When Jemimah and her boyfriend Sheriff Rick Romero investigate the death of a popular mariachi, the clues lead them uncomfortably close to home.

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The Mariachi Murder, Marie Romero Cash’s new mystery, offers readers the pleasures we have come to expect from her Jemimah Hodge series: a vivid physical and cultural landscape populated with true-to-life characters in a fast-paced story. Set in New Mexico, in and around Santa Fe, the familiar—Cash’s family has lived here for generations—meets the mysterious when a mariachi musician turns up dead in the high desert. Forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge and her sheriff’s detective amor Rick Romero need to solve a murder, and that requires their ability to sort through the Hispanic, Anglo, and Pueblo eccentricities of New Mexico. All the details—from the deceased macho mariachi in silver-tipped cowboy boots to the gaudy sunset horizons of the Southwest to the sometimes uneasy relations within or between cultures—are absolutely dead-on. Marie Romero Cash knows her material intimately and crafts an entertaining ride through the mystery of death and life in a fascinating world. Don’t miss it!”

—Michael Pettit, winner of the New Mexico Book Award for Riding for the Brand

“Marie Romero Cash has created a set of well-drawn characters for her Jemimah Hodge mystery series in this, her fourth installment. Her descriptions of the breathtaking scenery, familiar to all New Mexicans, paint vivid pictures for her readers to enjoy. I, for one, am anxious to try one of the several restaurants she uses to nourish her characters while they struggle to solve the murder of a popular mariachi from Santa Fe. Heart-stopping action threads its way through the story right up to the minute they catch their killer, just in time to save the next victim.”

—Patricia Smith Wood, author of The Easter Egg Murder and Murder on Sagebrush Lane

“Full disclosure—I’m a junkie when it comes to stories set in New Mexico. Give me a book by Rudolfo Anaya, Anne Hillerman, Michael McGarrity, Patricia Wood Smith…. Add to that list Marie Romero Cash. Her two key characters, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Detective Rick Romero and his girlfriend, Dr. Jemimah Hodge, are protagonists I would love to have created. Marie’s series, which just gets better with each book, captures the food, the landscape and—particularly in this latest episode—the music of the land of enchantment. I’m already looking forward to the next one.”

—Mike Orenduff, Author of the Pot Thief series.

The Mariachi Murder offers readers the pleasures we have come to expect from her Jemimah Hodge series: a vivid physical and cultural landscape populated with true-to-life characters in a fast-paced story.”  Read more….

—Vic’s Media Room

“A great read, packed with vignettes of the food and landscape of the area.”  Read more….

—Cover Reads, A service of the New Mexico book community, Feb. 2016

A popular mariachi singer is found shot and buried south of Santa Fe near Cerrillos, putting him in the jurisdiction of Detective Rick Romero and Forensic Psychologist Jemimah Hodge. Eduardo Sanchez had a massive ego that could well have gotten him killed, considering his penchant for reckless womanizing. However, as the weeks pass, the trail grows cold, increasing the pressure on law enforcement. Was the mariachi killed by a spurned girlfriend or an angry husband? Why was he traveling back and forth between Santa Fe and Mexico?

Although Rick and Jemimah have been dating for two years, they have yet to commit. So when Rick’s beautiful ex-wife breezes into town and makes a play for him, she stirs up trouble all around. Meanwhile Jemimah receives her own unwelcome visitor: a friend of her FLDS family who’s tracked her down and wants to dredge up the past. To add to the drama, Detective Romero’s wayward ex-con brother Carlos lands in deep trouble when he hooks up with a woman hiding her checkered past.

When the clues come together, they intersect in volatile ways no one could have foreseen.

Says Marie, “Santa Fe is enriched by traditional mariachi music. Many locals have listened to it since childhood, as it was generally a part of celebrations such as fiestas, lounge entertainment, and funerals. I find it fascinating to watch these musicians perform, each dressed in a traditional embroidered black suit along with a crisp white shirt, bolero jacket and Mexican hat, cowboy boots with silver wing tips. Having observed how women reacted to the members of the band, I thought it would be interesting to feature a mariachi in a mystery. One of my good friends dated one for a number of years, and we spent a lot of time laughing about how into himself he was, and how hard he worked at keeping his toupee a secret. Rick introduced Jemimah to the music, and it turned out an entire investigation would revolve around this particular musician.”

Marie Romero Cash was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and has lived there most of her life. In her mid-thirties she discovered the traditional arts of northern New Mexico. After twenty years of creating award-winning art, she began to write about it. At fifty she enrolled in college and, five years later, graduated with a degree in Southwest Studies. In 1998, she received the prestigious Javits Fellowship to pursue her education. Since then Marie has written several books about the art and culture of the southwest, including a memoir about growing up in Santa Fe. Click here to find Marie on the Web.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

He pushed against the glass door. A sugar rush flooded his nasal passages as he walked past a counter laden with freshly baked pastries. It was a small establishment but apparently popular, as almost every table was occupied. The walls were decorated with colorful paintings of multi-layered cakes and frosted cupcakes. He couldn’t miss Julie. She was waving her arm and then stood as he walked toward her table. She reached out to embrace him. He noticed the recently showered scent he used to love about her. It appeared she hadn’t gained an ounce of weight over the years.

“You look great, Rick. We have so much to catch up on,” she tittered. “Life must be treating you well.”

They walked to the counter, where he ordered black coffee and Julie ordered a large vanilla latte with extra whipped cream. He took a seat across from her at a corner table. They sat in silence as he sugared his coffee and gave it a stir. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. She smiled at him. Her lips were full and moist, her eyes an intense green darker than jade. Her hair was a deep piñon brown, laced with golden highlights. Her skin was smooth and flawless. She looked younger than her age. But why had she returned to Santa Fe? They had lived together the entire five years of their marriage. She hated that he was a cop. Her figure was perfect.

In a whirl, his mind shifted from one thought to another. He recalled he had been drunk most of the time following their breakup and still hadn’t forgotten the day she left.

There was a faraway look in her eyes … or was he just imagining things? She was smartly dressed in tailored pants and a loose silk jacket over a contrasting shell. Conservative, yet she managed to pull off a certain effortless sexiness.

She broke the silence. “When I came back to Santa Fe a week ago, I wasn’t surprised to hear you were still on the force and that you had moved up the ladder.”

He looked up at her. “Probably be a lifer.”

“You always did like being a cop.”

He methodically stirred his coffee. “And you always hated it.”

“Yes, I have to admit I did. I could never see much of a future in it. You were gone most nights.” She reached over and put her hand on his. “You’re going to stir a hole at the bottom of that cup.”

Romero felt his temperature rising. “I guess you wanted to meet to discuss which one of us was to blame for the breakup of our marriage?”

Her lips curled into a crooked smile. “Sorry. Old habits die hard. I guess I’m still pretty good at pushing buttons.”

“I’ll say,” he said dryly. “So why are you here, Julie? Granted, I have no say about your being in Santa Fe, but why the urgent need for us to meet?”

She tilted her head and looked straight at him. “I’m going to be honest, Rick. After all these years and a number of relationships that went nowhere, I slowly began to realize in the back of my head that I might have made a mistake in leaving you … that there might still be hope for us.”

Murdock Rocks Sedona, by Robert J. Ray: The Mighty Are Falling

Murdock-Rocks-SedonaMurdock Rocks Sedona is the seventh episode (first time in print) in Robert J. Ray’s Matt Murdock Mystery series ($16.95, 366 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-337-2). The adventures of tough-guy detective Murdock began with Bloody Murdock. Camel Press reprinted the first five novels in the series and released book six, Murdock Tackles Taos, in 2013.

Murdock Rocks Sedona brings the detective and his new romantic and sleuthing partner Helene to Arizona, where they investigate a series of deaths by falling.

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“Murdock carries all the qualities of refined sleuth who always has a ‘hunch’ and a stick-to-itiveness when others doubt that his clues will amount to anything. And perfectly complementing his gruff traits, Ray has created his equal—Helene Steinbeck. Although centering on these featured characters, Ray incorporates a host of colorful characters, especially his villains who are not always readily identifiable. That said, Ray does a stellar job of throwing in red herrings just at the right time, which keeps his audience on their toes in their own sleuthing pursuits…. Ray deftly orchestrates all of these elements into one amazing performance to keep his audience absolutely captivated from beginning to end. Quill says: Murdock Rocks Sedona is bound to be both a best seller and an all-time classic!”  Read more….

—Anita Lock for Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“This was a well-done mystery with a large cast of characters. At first it was hard to keep some of the names and relationships straight, but as the story evolved, the connections became clear and the intrigue increased…. Murdock and Helene make a good investigative pair, and they also have a tumultuous relationship that makes for a good subplot to the story. This was a good read that kept me guessing throughout.”  Read more….

—Mary Ann Writes

“In the backdrop of beautiful Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, Robert Ray weaves a complex and compelling story of lust, greed, ambition, and revenge. Billionaire investor Axel Ackerman’s business partners are dropping like rocks—literally—to their untimely deaths. Ackerman hires Matt Murdock and partner Helene Steinbeck for a twenty-four hour bodyguard gig which soon morphs into a full-fledged investigation to find who’s behind the freefalls. Murder and mayhem abound, pushing Matt and Helene to their limit, while fascinating and sordid characters keep the reader guessing. Tighten those belts for the surprising conclusion to this rollicking ride through the red rocks of Sedona. Matt Murdock at his finest!”

—E. Michael Helms, author of the Mac McClellan Mystery series

“This is my first book from author Robert J. Ray and I have to say that I’m very impressed. I got sucked into the story and couldn’t wait to see who the killer was and their motive. I also felt for Matt and Helene. There is something wrong in their relationship and it doesn’t look like either know how to go about fixing it so they just keep trudging along. There were lots of twists and turns to this story and I will admit that I didn’t know who the killer really was until the end. If you are looking for a great mystery story I recommend getting yourself a copy of this book. Now I’m off to start this series from the first book, Bloody Murdock.” Read more….

—J. Bronder Book Reviews

Murdock Rocks Sedona hits the ground running and actually begins to pick up speed, rocketing along against a vivid physical and cultural landscape populated with true-to-life characters.”  Read more….

—Vic’s Media Room

Wealthy investors in Sedona, Arizona, are dropping like flies—more accurately, lead weights. They are falling down staircases and off mountainsides, decks, and hiking trails. With so many similar “accidents,” the victims had to have been pushed. Other than their wealth and weakness for beautiful young women, what the falling men had in common was a financial interest in Sedona Landing, a historic hotel in Oak Creek Village. They also shared a long history with the chief investor, billionaire Axel Ackerman. Fearing that he too will plunge to his death, Ackerman hires Matt Murdock and Helene Steinbeck to investigate.

During his climb to the top of the heap, Ackerman crushed scores of rivals and broke many hearts. The culling of his “Crew” of investors is clearly personal. So who among this crowded field of enemies would orchestrate such a byzantine scheme of revenge? To keep their client safe, Matt and Helene will have to be on their best game. Too bad their last case in Taos took such a heavy toll, particularly on Helene, and caused a rift in their fragile bond.

Says Ray, “The idea for Murdock Rocks Sedona came when my wife and I visited Sedona, AZ. We stayed with friends in Oak Creek Village, a peaceful Desert Eden. From patio or kitchen or bedroom or curved red street, you look up and there’s a rock. Big, burly, beautiful, formidable, majestic, and red. The rocks have names—Bell Rock, Chimney Rock, Cathedral Rock. In the daytime, climbers swarm over the rocks. At night, they hit the bars and bistros. The writing took off when a character fell off a rock. The death by falling gave me the motif that would pull Murdock deep into back story—and here came the What-Ifs. What if the falling man got pushed? What if he’s not the first guy to die from falling? What if a tourist out for a moonlit jog shoots photos of the fall? What if the picture taker is Matt Murdock, private eye? What if Murdock and Helene are here in Sedona to heal after a harsh experience in Taos? But if Murdock is out here running in the moonlight and taking pictures of rocks in the dark, where is Helene? And who or what got that falling man onto Cathedral Rock in the moonlight?”

Robert J. Ray is the author of nine novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Bloody Murdock, Murdock for Hire, Dial “M” for Murdock, Merry Christmas, Murdock, Murdock Cracks Ice, Murdock Tackles Taos, and now, Murdock Rocks Sedona. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist. He shares techniques on writing at bobandjackswritingblog.com. A native of Texas, Ray holds a PhD from the University of Texas, Austin. Tuesdays and Fridays, he writes at Louisa’s Bakery and Café in Seattle. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Up close, Axel Ackerman did not look so old, or so bony. His eyes were alive, filled with fire. The bald head was tanned and smooth and powerful. A man born to be king.

He had a beak nose and a winning smile that said he could buy and sell you before you knew what was happening. His teeth were yellow, his lips sensual.

“Is this for you?”

“Yes. To Axel, from Helene. And the date.”

Helene signed his copy of her book. Her hand was jittery. This guy wanted her, this old person, bald and grinning, wanted to fuck her. She handed the book back. He read her words, nodded, held out his hand.

“Giselle was supposed to introduce us. I’m Axel Ackerman.”

“I’m Helene Steinbeck.”

His hand was big and warm, laced with power. He did not squeeze too hard. She was shaking hands with a billion dollars. She had met millionaires before, but Ackerman was her first billionaire. His hand let her go. She felt short of breath. He asked what she thought about the contract.

“Enough money to buy you for twenty-four hours?” he said.

“What about Murdock,” Helene said. “We’re a team. Where’s his name?”

A shadow crossed Ackerman’s eyes. He told Giselle to pencil Murdock in. She used a fancy fountain pen to add Murdock’s name to the contract. Ackerman scribbled, turned to Helene.

“I heard your man was moonlighting, helping out our beleaguered hotel security boys.”

“He likes to stay busy.”

“But you did the Taos killings, right—no help from him?”

“Murdock was right there, backing me up,” Helene said.

“Let’s talk about the contract.”

“Not much to discuss,” Ackerman said. “I’m buying your combined skills—detection and protection—for twenty-four hours. I expect you to go through the motions, digging up dirt on my dead friends, but there’s nothing there. Accidents happen.”

“They both fell, right?”

“Will Tyler fell at twilight—highball time. Milt Coolidge fell because he had a trick knee. You got one drunk and one cripple, case solved.”

Giselle Roux broke in, “Did you check with Walter?”

“I knocked on the goddamn door,” Ackerman said. “No answer. Probably got a floozie in there. Or maybe two.”

“Who’s Walter?” Helene said.

“One of our investors,” Giselle said. “In the money pool. He’s staying in 900, your floor, the suite at the other end.”

“His name is Walt Findlay,” Ackerman said. “Maybe you saw him around. He’s tanned, fit, looks like a Beach Boy. Always on the prowl. His motto is love ’em and leave ’em.”

“Walter thinks like a teenager,” Giselle said. “He has three ex-wives … that we know of.”

“Let’s have breakfast,” Ackerman said. “You, me, Walt Findlay if we can rouse him, your Mr. Detective man. Eight-ish. You can guard my ancient body while in the midst of detecting, to satisfy Giselle. I’m halfway through your true-crime tome. I started at midpoint … anything in the first half?”

“The author fell in love,” Helene said.

“I love writers, the way they conjure.”

Ackerman repeated his invitation to breakfast, eight o’clock, the Bell Rock Bistro, his personal table. The wait staff would know.

Helene watched him walk off, joined by Bruno, who carried a cellphone and a white sports bag with red markings.