Deadly Deception ($12.95, 200 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-893-3), is Marie Romero Cash’s second murder mystery featuring intrepid but fragile forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge.
** Click the Cover Image to Order Online **
** Buy it on Kindle or in other eBook formats on Smashwords **
Forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge, who has just returned to Santa Fe after a few months in special training, is handed a cold case from almost ten years earlier. The matter is especially sensitive because it concerns the death of a police officer’s wife in a car accident, and Santa Fe’s finest have not been cooperative.
Detective Rick Romero has waited patiently for Jemimah’s return. She would like to respond to his interest in her, but is held back by emotional scars left over from her conservative Mormon upbringing. Despite their tense personal relationship, they must find a way to work together.
Romero and Jemimah survive separate shooting incidents they suspect are related to the case. Each faces obstacles and distractions. Jemimah is missing key evidence, and Romero is coping with a wounded shoulder, his ex-con brother’s screw-ups, and the arrival of a sexy FBI agent. Will they be able to identify the would-be killer in time to save themselves?
Says Cash, “Deadly Deception was inspired by an old case from the Albuquerque Police Department files. The victim’s husband was a police officer who claimed his wife had died of cancer, but the police told the media she had died in a car accident. The husband was later indicted for first degree murder and evidence tampering, but never stood trial. The family petitioned the District Attorney and the grand jury to reopen the case, but it eventually disappeared from the news.”
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. Coming soon: Treasure among the Shadows, the third book in the Jemimah Hodge Mystery Series. Click here to find Marie on the Web.
Read on for an excerpt:
Romero struggled to regain consciousness. It took a few minutes to realize he wasn’t home in bed. The moistness of the ground beneath him saturated his shirt. A bright moon shone overhead, peeking through the tall pines. He moaned. The pain in his head pulsated as he tried unsuccessfully to pull himself into a sitting position.
He tried to remember where he was and how he got there. A wave of nausea hit as he braced himself on the ground, smelling the pungent aroma of juniper and piñon around him. As he channeled his inner Rambo and pulled himself to his feet, a gush of blood streamed down his shirt. Jesus, he’d been shot.
The moonlight lit the way toward the outline of a vehicle in the distance. As he drew nearer, he realized it was his cruiser. He fumbled through his pockets for the keys and finally found them on the seat. Gripping the steering wheel to pull himself up into the vehicle, he pushed the key into the ignition, grateful that the engine kicked over. Pain shot through him as he backed into the brush and jerked as the tires drove over felled branches on the road. He remembered walking on the forest service road to Los Cabreros Mesa about ten miles from the Cerrillos substation, about to approach a dark sedan with an obscured license plate, when a bullet tore through his shoulder, knocking him to the ground. Whoever had shot him must have figured he was dead. They hadn’t even bothered to take his revolver or his wallet. They’d probably been hiding drugs or contraband, but he never had a chance to find out.
Detective Romero drove the vehicle onto the interstate in the direction of the hospital in Santa Fe. He felt around for his cell phone and speed-dialed Detective Artie Chacon to meet him there. The drive felt considerably longer than the twenty minutes it should have taken. If he pulled over to the side of the road he would pass out. Finally, he spotted the lights of St. Vincent’s on the hill up ahead. Blood continued to ooze down the front of his shirt. Detective Chacon’s cruiser lights flashed at the front entrance to the hospital.
The emergency room at the hospital was jammed. The lobby was filled to capacity, the ailments ranging from swine flu to some kid who swallowed the head of a plastic action figure. A man wearing a camouflage jacket held a bag of ice on his swollen arm, while another stared ahead and conversed with nobody in particular about the bats hanging from the ceiling. The woman next to him looked at herself in a hand mirror. Romero figured she was inspecting the most recent batch of cuts and bruises inflicted by her live-in boyfriend. Detective Chacon ambled up to the ER nurse.
“Excuse me, Nurse,” he said.
“Sir, please take a seat,” she said stiffly. “The emergency room is on a first come-first served basis, and unless your emergency is more urgent than everyone else’s, you’ll just have to wait. We’re seeing as many patients as we can at the moment.”
Undaunted, Chacon flashed his badge, reached over and pulled Romero’s bloody shirt open to expose a gaping wound. “Sorry, Ma’am. This won’t wait.”
The nurse hollered for the orderly to bring a wheelchair, plunked Romero down and directed them to a curtained-off cubicle in the far corner. She took Romero’s vital signs and proceeded to cut away his shirt. Over the intercom, they heard the ER doctor being summoned.
Romero felt the room spin. He closed his eyes.
A femme fatale plus a little black magic and a lot of white powder make for one deadly combo …. Cocaine Zombies ($13.95, 206 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-903-9) is a paranormal suspense thriller by first-time novelist Scott A. Lerner.
** Click the cover image to order online, or request it at your local bookstore! **
** Buy it in Kindle or other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“Just before Halloween, I thought it only fitting to tell you about a wonderfully written and fun— albeit somewhat scary—new novel by local author Scott A. Lerner…. The three best things about this novel are its fast pace with short chapters, Sam as the likable hero and the humor. ‘I wanted to write a book I would also like to read,’ Lerner said. ‘The characters would talk and act like real people. It would be realistic, but at the same time, larger than life. I didn’t want it to follow the same old tired formula.’ He succeeded.” Read more ….
—Margo L. Dill, The News-Gazette
“A riveting thriller with plenty of twists and turns, very much recommended.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Downstate Illinois has produced such literary giants as David Foster Wallace, George Will, Dave Eggers, Roger Ebert and now Scott A. Lerner. If there is a Pulitzer Prize category for Paranormal Suspense Thrillers a nomination for Cocaine Zombies is certainly in order. Lerner’s first-person, hard-boiled narrative—peppered with dark humor and historical and geographical facts pertaining to the Champaign-Urbana setting in which his story unfolds—slyly echoes the work of Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Fellow Champaign Central High School alum Lerner has crafted a gripping tale, rife with colorful characters, to create a minor masterpiece of modern fiction.”
—Don Gerard, Mayor of Champaign, Illinois
“Scott Lerner has created an everyman hero out of small-town lawyer Sam Roberts. Giving Sam a dry wit and gracing him with snappy dialog, Lerner sends him full tilt at the forces of evil that have invaded his humdrum life in Urbana, Illinois. Sam might see himself as a middle-aged schmo, but in Lerner’s deft hands, that schmo and his sidekick Bob stumble toward saving the world as we know it. Cocaine Zombies is a blast!”
—Molly MacRae, author of Last Wool and Testament, Lawn Order, and Wilder Rumors
“Sam is a character who is easy to root for. He’s smart (there are some great-accurate-legal scenes), funny without being sarcastic, brave without being reckless, and at the end of the day just wants to go back to his one-man law firm and resume his boring life. He’s gonna have to go through a lot to get there, however, and it’s a very entertaining journey.”
—Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
“Ladies and Gents, allow me to introduce you to my new best friend: Scott A. Lerner. At a time when I, an avid reader and bookworm extraordinaire, found myself quickly approaching the point of being burnt out after reading book after book until the pages seemed to blend together – I stumbled upon this gem and have found myself putting my game face back on…. Sam is a down to earth lawyer with a sarcastic wit that had me laughing out loud several times while reading. His friend Bob was a man after my own heart – a modern day hippie of sorts. I couldn’t help but picture actor Zach Galifianakis as Bob. Both of these men appealed to me because of how down-to-earth they were but also because they were so flippin smart!”
–Not Now … Mommy’s Reading
“I couldn’t put it down …. it’s full of suspense and murder …. This book is by far one of my favorites …. It will send chills up your spine and make you wonder about that little world of voodoo.”
–This and That Reviews
“In Cocaine Zombies, Lerner takes the standard legal thriller and throws the rules out the window. With a deft hand and a cutting sense of humor, he crafts a paranormal tale that is both entertaining and disturbing. The triumph of this book is that Lerner takes what could have been a cheap, low grade style thriller and turned it into a subtly nuanced, entertaining read. A job well done.”
—Mark Everett Stone, author of the BSI Series and The Judas Line
Samuel Roberts, a small-town lawyer in Urbana, Illinois, is contacted by a prospective client accused of selling cocaine. Nothing Sam hasn’t handled before. Or is it? Thomas is accompanied by a mysterious and exotic beauty named Chloe. Who is she, why is she paying for Thomas’s defense, and why is the accused so antsy around her?
Soon after Sam takes on the case he is plagued by terrible nightmares. Only, in these nightmares, when he dreams of death, people die. Realizing that he is out of his depth, Sam enlists the help of his friend, Bob Sizemore. Bob is oddly insightful about the supernatural and deeply suspicious of big business and the government. Sam and Bob soon discover that a major German pharmaceutical company has been using human guinea pigs to test a highly addictive and dangerous derivative of cocaine first developed in Nazi Germany. Combined with ancient herbs provided by a Voodoo priest, the substance has become increasingly addictive and dangerous.
After Thomas’s head shows up in Sam’s refrigerator, suspicion naturally falls on him. Now he has no choice but to face the forces of evil head on. But how do a small-town lawyer and a computer geek defeat an enemy with the power to enslave mankind?
Says Lerner: “I wanted to write a novel with enough truth in it to make the largest stretches of the imagination seem plausible. I also wanted it to be fast-paced and fun, with a story and a premise that would remain in the reader’s mind long after turning the final page.”
Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of Criminal law and Family Law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction and going to the movies. Cocaine Zombies is his first published novel. Coming soon, the sequel: Ruler of Demons. Click here to find Scott online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
The house reeked with the metallic odor of blood mixed with urine, sweat and rotten meat. I fought back the urge to vomit. From the rafters I could see the hanging carcass of a headless goat. Below it was a large copper cauldron to catch the blood. The contents of the cauldron were moving, and I involuntarily shuddered when I realized the small ripples were caused by maggots. The head of the goat was gone and a large butcher’s saw lay on the floor. Mercifully the entrails of the goat had also been removed. Everywhere I heard the soft hum of flies.
Hanging on the back wall was an African mask. It looked ancient. It was carved from a single piece of dark black wood. The face was half animal, half human. On either side of the mask two large wooden snakes were crawling. A slit had been cut in the wood for each eye and another for the mouth. The wood was dull and covered with a thin layer of dirt. The teeth in the visage were sharp and pointed. It lacked the friendly decorative look one finds at the local Pier One Imports. This mask was intended solely for ceremonial use.
In the far corner nearest the kitchen door stood a statue of The Virgin Mary. It was white plaster, the type one would expect to find as a lawn ornament in Mexico City. Next to the statue was a porcelain dinner plate containing a bloody piece of meat. I guessed it was the heart of a small animal, but I wasn’t going to get close enough to check. The entire room was bordered by candles, which provided the only light other than from the windows.
Blood was everywhere. Footprints painted the floor with various shades of red. Some were small enough to have been made by a child; others might have belonged to Thomas. It looked as though twenty people had been dancing in a large circle.
The only furniture was three plain wooden chairs, one of which was broken, and a small table with a dirty towel for a tablecloth. On the table was a crucifix, a few old square-cut nails and a wooden bowl half-filled with shotgun shells.
“You don’t have a bathroom by any chance?” I asked, breaking the awkward silence.
“No,” he said, putting the shotgun down. He must have noted the relief on my face.
“You know, it’s illegal to own a gun with a felony conviction,” I said.
“That is the least of my problems,” he said. “My dumb ass lawyer already killed me, so what do I care about anything else?”
“Anyone I know?”
“Why don’t you get the fuck out of here so I can talk to my ancestors before I get to see them firsthand?”
“What did I do?”
“You talked to me without Chloe. I’m nothing alone, I live only to serve her. I took a blood oath that covers my family, my daughter, my girlfriend. They are all dead now.”
I tried to change the subject, “I got the lab tests back.”
“You were selling cocaine, but it was cooked with something else.”
He went through a door and returned with two bottles of cold beer. He must have had a cooler; I was sure this house didn’t have electricity. I took a beer, even though the thought of ingesting anything from this house made my skin crawl. I tried not to laugh when I noticed it was a Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager.
“The chemist in Springfield can’t identify the substance,” I said.
“Then talk to the chefs,” he said, “but they are people you don’t want to fuck with.”
“It’s Chloe, isn’t it? Why don’t you tell the police and make a deal?”
“You don’t have a clue as to how far out of your depth you are. Chloe is not human and not a chemist.”
“Well, maybe she can identify who the maker is?” I offered.
“There are worse things than jail. Some worse than death. I will find out soon and firsthand. I suspect, so will you,” he said, ignoring the question.
“The crack you were selling contained almost no cocaine, so maybe the State will go easy on you.”
“Do you think I care? Unlike you I know who and what we are dealing with. That knowledge provides no comfort, only terror.” Thomas’s voice was trembling.
“Then tell me. Let me help.”
He handed me a leather pouch tied with a leather thong. It smelled of herbs and death. “This may keep you alive until you get to your car. Put it around your neck.”
I did as I was told. I had more questions, but when he picked up the shotgun again I could tell I was being dismissed. I put down my beer and got up. As I headed for my car, I knew I wouldn’t see Thomas again.
An intrepid priest and his plucky flock resist the corporate wolves. But a lone wolf still lurks in the shadows….
Death in the Memorial Garden ($11.95, 152 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-899-5), is a cozy mystery by Kathie Deviny centering around a stray box of cremains.
** Click the cover image to order online **
…. or shop for it in your local Episcopalian bookstore. Click here for a store in Seattle.
** Also available in Kindle and in other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“Lovable characters, atmospheric charm, and sins from the past make this a must for brick & murder readers.”
—Mary Daheim, author of the Bed-and-Breakfast Mysteries and the Alpine/Emma Lord Mysteries
“A heart-warming story filled with likeable characters as they deal with murder, mishaps, and mayhem. An insightful view into the challenges faced by today’s urban churches. I look forward to the next murder at Grace Church.”
—Liz Osborne, author of Dirty Laundry, A Robyn Kelly Mystery
“Deviny had a challenge on her hands and she met it and exceeded it. With her character development, her take on a subject that is divisive with the Church, and solid pacing I’m looking forward to more installments with the other characters taking their turn in the spotlight. RECOMMENDED.”
–Vikki Walton, I Love a Mystery
5 Stars: “This book is so good it practically reads itself. Let me tell you a secret. I was very tired as I read this, but this book was so exciting that I could not sleep! I did not nod off once. If you like mysteries, this book is for you. It is practically squeaky clean, and it is enjoyable reading for a winter’s night.”
–My Devotional Thoughts
“A fast-paced tale that has intrigue, mystery and humor all rolled up into a neat little story that takes place over a span of one week …. the storyline has surprising twist and turns coupled with satirical humor that will keep you engaged, and a quirky cast of characters who are a lot of fun.”
–Jersey Girl Book Reviews
“I just loved following the day-to-day activities of this crazy group that is keeping Grace Church running on a wing and a prayer! Author Kathy Deviny does a great job creating three-dimensional characters, not only the aspects of them that play into the solving of the mystery but random miscellaneous traits that simply make them REAL.”
–Words by Webb
“I did enjoy the casual nature of this story and it was short enough that I read it in one sitting. If you are looking for something to read while relaxing – this is the book. I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.”
–The Stuff of Success
“If you are a member of a small, older church, you will definitely relate to the characters of the altar guild, vestry and organist…. The book is humorous, satirical in the right places and a lively little read. I highly recommend it for a light afternoon read!” Click here to read more, as well as the blogger’s interview with Kathie Deviny.”
–Bless Their Hearts Mom
“A great cozy…. with a big mystery to solve and colorful characters. I look forward to reading her next book!”
–Book Lovers Stop
5 Stars: “I love a nice, cozy mystery! This novel had some wonderfully eccentric characters; Daniel the organist was my personal favorite. Set in an Episcopalian church, the mystery is reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s ‘Miss Marple’ series, except this time, instead of villagers, we have church members. Very nicely done; I hope this is the first in a series.”
–The Self-Taught Cook
“There were many revelations, twists and turns that I was not expecting. Deviny weaves a charming mystery that can be read in one sitting.”
–Wanted Readers Blogspot
“A very light-hearted mystery, not too much depth involved with the characters or the location. I would definitely recommend this to all readers of cozy mysteries.”
–A Date with a Book
“A fun and quick read. It makes me smile to reflect on it!”
–Beth Art from the Heart
“A fun, cozy mystery that combines two threads: a whodunit and a drive to save a valuable community resource …. A very quick read with characters who will capture your heart. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon relaxing.”‘
Just as the sexton is about to inter the ashes of one of Grace Church’s last wealthy patronesses in the Memorial Garden, he unearths a wine crate containing the ashes of an unknown. Next to the ashes is a distinctive pair of shoes. Not only are the woman’s relatives furious at the interruption, but they soon have grounds for a lawsuit: yet another piece of the church’s tower comes crashing to the ground.
With their congregation dwindling and their world literally falling in around them, Father Robert Vickers and his colorful staff members and volunteers put their heads together to solve the mystery of the anonymous ashes and find the means to save Grace Church from the developers … all in time for the Bishop’s visit.
Says Deviny, “I wrote an essay called, ‘Ashes, Ashes,’ in which I described the grassy courtyard between our church and its parish hall. To reserve a spot, you must agree that there will be no urn, and no marker other than your name on a plaque inside the church. After finishing the essay, I wondered, what would stop someone from performing a do-it-yourself burial when no one was watching? And what would happen if this was the same location pre-reserved by someone else, someone whose internment was today? And what if the pigeon lady and her flock decided to attend the service? And so this mystery was born.”
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. Death in the Memorial Garden is her first novel. Click here to find Kathie online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
The obstacle, once unearthed, proved to be the size and shape of a wine crate. It was a wine crate, Robert Vickers realized. As a matter of fact, he told Raymond, the security officer, it was the same type of crate that held the sweet wine used by Grace Church for communion services. The top looked to have been removed and then crudely re-nailed.
“Good job, Henry! Now go to the tool closet and bring back a crowbar,” he ordered.
While they were waiting, the priest noticed that the number of food bank clients and other spectators had swelled and were spilling into the street. A man in a turban jostled against another sporting a suit and fedora. A woman wearing a long navy blue dress and veil was offering her potatoes to a Hawaiian-shirted fellow in exchange for his rice.
The babble of many languages rose on the rainy breeze, lending the scene the air of a modern-day Pentecost. All that was missing was the dove, although there were plenty of pigeons underfoot, hoping for a handout. Robert was not surprised to see the tall figure of Clare, known to all as the Pigeon Lady, among the crowd, swathed head to foot in a hooded brown robe.
Wherever she went, the pigeons followed, even though the Health Officer had persuaded her to stop feeding them. Robert also spotted Marjory, Clare’s caretaker, standing nearby and shaking her head as if to say, “What can I do?” Clare’s arms were outstretched, as if to bless them all, bird and human alike.
A baby-blue police cruiser poked its way up the street through the crowd. The vehicle stopped midstream, and then its door pushed open against the surrounding bodies. A curly blonde head and blue-clad torso emerged and loomed over the crowd. The patrol officer waded toward Raymond and Father Vickers, using her broad shoulders to part the waters. Once on the other side, she eyed the pile of dirt, the hole in the ground and the split box, and asked Raymond, “Well, well, Officer Chen. Got funeral duty today?”
“Very funny, Officer Hitchcock,” he replied, brown eyes meeting her baby blues. “What I’ve got is a big mess. Father Vickers here was trying to bury some remains when the gravedigger ran into this box.”
Joyce Hitchcock glanced around the garden area. “This doesn’t look like a graveyard to me.”
Robert intervened. “It’s a memorial garden, officer, consecrated for the purpose of interring the ashes of the deceased of this church. It’s—oh, it doesn’t matter—I want to find out what’s inside this box. We were just getting ready to open it.”
“But what if there’s a body inside?” croaked Henry the sexton, crowbar at the ready. Realizing from the quizzical looks he was receiving that a wine box wasn’t quite large enough for this purpose, he amended his question in a more forceful tone, “Well, what if there’s a body part inside?”
Curveball ($15.95, 316 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-895-7), by Jen Estes, is the second book in a mystery series featuring female sportswriter Cat McDaniel. Curveball follows Cat to a Latin American training facility where she investigates the exploitation of young ball players.
** Click the cover image to order online **
Also available in Kindle and in other eBook editions on Smashwords.
“A saucy, mysterious and pleasurable read …. Estes creates a lot of mystery and intrigue within the pages of this novel. This is more than a novel about sports; Curveball is so much more than that.” Read more ….
–Hazel Westly, Portland Book Review
“Three words to describe Cat McDaniel: Sassy, smart, and sleuth …. Curveball is saucy, mysterious, and a pleasurable read. Ms. Estes creates a lot of mystery and intrigue within the pages of this novel …. Even if you aren’t a fan of sports, Curveball is so much more than that. Cat McDaniel is not a woman to be messed with, and she manages to make things happen in light of murder, scams, and much more. If you’re a fan of cozy type mysteries with a female sleuth, Curveball is a story you can curl up with and get lost in the pages for awhile. Why not grab a copy?”
–Long and Short Reviews
“The puns alone make this a fun Major League sports mystery.”
–Carolyn Lanier, I Love a Mystery
4 Stars: “If you enjoy cozy mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy Curveball. And if you don’t happen to be a big fan of mysteries but do like baseball, you might be interested in reading this book for the other topics that are addressed.”
“I enjoyed the writing style. It was fast and comical …. There was a bit of a twist with the resolution and I was satisfied with the ending …. This is the second book in the Foul Ball series with Cat McDaniel … I’m going to look for the first one and read it. This one is stands alone, though, so you don’t need to have read the first one to know what’s going on. I hope there’s more to come in this series and from this author.”
–Teena in Toronto
“A great new mystery series …. I really enjoyed the adventure and mystery with this story. Wondering if Cat will survive Thunderstorm Paige and get her dream job!”
–Book Lover Stop
“I enjoyed this immensely …. I recommend this to anyone who likes a good cozy, who likes their cozy with a bit of a bump in the oh-la-la factor and likes a good belly laugh in top of it all. Even if you do not like baseball you will get a dig-out with this book!”
“Take a wild ride in the sport of baseball–even if you’re not a fan–you won’t be disappointed. Cat is a very strong heroine …. All of these characters, including secondary characters, are written very well. The author does an excellent job keeping you on your toes during the twists and turns that snake between the pages.”
–Sapphyria’s Book Reviews
“Now I HAVE to read the first book!! Curveball was a great read!! Quite a page-turner!! If you like mysteries and romances this is a great book for you to pick up!”
–Sweeping the USA
“The mystery was well crafted and took me a while to guess who did it. All in all, this book is a great read. Whether you like cozies, mysteries, or books about sports, this book is definitely worth the read.”
–A Date with a Book
“Excellent mystery. The author does a fabulous job of creating characters that are believable, realistic, and heartfelt. The reader immediately either loves or has doubts about the motives of each of the characters in this mystery. The twists and turns are well constructed and some are very unexpected making it a page turner for the reader who may have thought they knew what was about to happen.”
“Fall in love with Cat and cheer when everything goes right …. Thanks for a great read, Jen.”
“I read this book quickly and it kept my interest throughout…. The characters are realistic and the interactions were so spot on that I could picture them in my mind.I hope I see more of both Paige and Cat in the future.”
–Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
“This was a really great story – with lots of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. You will want to cheer for Cat and love to hate Paige …. A fun, quick read filled with great ups and downs. I loved the characters and can’t wait to get my hands on the first book to see what other adventures and missteps that Cat gets into.”
–Stitch Read Cook
“Full of humor, hunky men, mystery and murder. Did I mention hunky men?? Yea that too…I loved it…you need to definitely get a copy if you love baseball and mysteries.”
–Celtic Lady’s Reviews
“Full of twists and turns and the ending was a bit of surprise. A solid mystery … A story baseball fans will love!”
“This cozy has it all…..humor, mystery, murder, crime, a fun loving sports reporter on the hunt for finding the clues and nailing the bad guy, and a touch of romance. A wonderful combination to keep the reader fully engrossed. The pages kept turning, and I felt as though I was right there beside Cat, hunting down the clues, working with her crush, Junior and racing to miss the curveball, and find the murderer.”
–Reviews by Molly
“Jen Estes did a great job creating the baseball scene and I felt as if I were really in Santo Domingo. It’s a quick read with great characters. The storyline is fast-paced and keeps readers trying to figure things out with Cat.”
–Socrates’ Book Reviews
A blog tour for Curveball, sponsored by Partners in Crime, begins October 10th. Click here to keep track.
Baseball reporter Cat McDaniel specializes in exposés. Now that very talent has left her unemployed. Desperate to get off the bench and back into the lineup, she is thrilled to land an interview with the Buffalo Soldiers’ General Manager Roger “Rakin’” Aiken—Baseball legend, eight-time All Star … and oblivious father to a Major League bratty co-ed named Paige. Aiken offers Cat the team writer position for the following spring, but the opportunity is tempered by a curveball of a caveat: she must first spend the winter as a blogger reporting on the Latin American training facility. She is also supposed to look out for Paige, nominally the team’s newest scouting assistant. Being a glorified babysitter and chaperone still beats being an out-of-work sportswriter. Cat reluctantly leaves behind her gorgeous boyfriend Benji and accompanies the party girl to sunny Santo Domingo to balance baselines and conga lines. Paige falls for Chance Hayward, an agent who plays hardball—the figurative kind. Joining them on the field is Paige’s ex, Junior DeLeon, one of the coaches who’d really like to score with Cat. When an aspiring player turns up dead, it is up to Cat and Junior to devise a game-changing strategy. Will Cat’s snooping work in her favor this time, or will she strike out … losing her job, her boyfriend and her life? Curveball follows Big Leagues as Book 2 of the Cat McDaniel Mysteries, also known as the Foul Ball series.
Says Estes, “I didn’t just choose Santo Domingo for my setting; it chose me! The city’s passion for baseball burns hotter than the Caribbean sun. I also wanted to bring awareness to exploitation within the baseball industry and the effect that corruption has on aspiring ballplayers.”
Born and raised in Illinois, Jen Estes started her writing career as a baseball blogger in 2007 and expanded to freelance sports writing in 2009. She is an active member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), Springfield Poets & Writers and the National Writers Union (NWU). When Jen isn’t writing, she enjoys running, yoga, traveling and watching baseball with her husband and cat. You can find her on the net at www.jenestes.com or www.cubblogging.com and on Twitter @jenestesdotcom.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
As they walked out of the restaurant, Cat caught the eye of a busy Cristian and waved goodbye. She tapped Chance on the shoulder. “That reminds me, we want to talk to you about your client.”
“Oh, that’ll cost you and Paige.”
Cat gave him a wary look. “Cost us what?”
“A walk on the beach.” He extended both arms. “One for each of you.”
Paige eagerly locked her right arm with his, but Cat pressed his left arm down to his side. She kicked off her sandals and let them dangle from her fingers before begrudgingly following the duo onto the damp sand.
A few fisherman could be seen on the jetty a hundred yards away, but otherwise they had the beach to themselves. Her steps broke the moist clumps and the powdery sand spilled out over her toes. The sand massaged her soles as they moved closer to the breaking waves. Living in downstate Illinois most of her life, Cat didn’t take the relaxing sound of the oceanic thunder for granted. The soft wind whipped her skirt around her thighs. As they approached the shoreline, the restaurant odors of garlic and grease were replaced with a salty tinge of sea air. The half moon smiled down upon them. It was a perfect moment, until Chance spoke.
“Not bad, huh?”
He said it as though he was taking credit for the beautiful evening. Cat sneered in his direction but it was too dark for the message to be received.
Paige looked around the vacant beach. “There’s nobody here. Is it always like this at night?”
“Almost. We’re just about at the end of our rainy season so the beaches will be busier. But on weeknights, most of the action is in town.”
Their stroll was nearing the rocks that bordered the end of the beach and led out to the jetty. Cat pointed up at the fisherman. “What are they trying to catch?”
Chance shrugged. “Hell if I know. I only eat it; I don’t hunt it.”
Paige watched them thoughtfully. “My dad loves fishing. Says it’s the only true way to get away from the field.”
“Let’s sit for a minute.” He placed his jacket on the sand.
Cat shook her head. “I’m good with standing. I was hoping we could talk about Cristian.”
Chance sat on the sand with his knees in front of him. “We will.” He patted the jacket. “Paige?”
Paige tucked her dress beneath her thighs as she sat on it, facing the ocean.
He scooted closer to her. “What do you think?”
Paige’s eyes didn’t leave the water. “Of the ocean, dinner, or you?”
He chuckled. “All of the above.”
Cat held in a groan as she waited for his predictable moves, expecting the yawn and reach any minute now.
He didn’t yawn, but sure enough, his tan arm slivered around Paige’s bare shoulders.
“Hmm …” Paige tapped her chin thoughtfully. “The ocean is beautiful. Dinner was delicious. And you, well you kind of pale in comparison. Perhaps you should’ve grouped yourself with the fisherman and that weird pile of seaweed over there.”
With his phony chuckles, Chance was beginning to sound like the laugh track from an eighties sitcom. Cat tapped her foot on the sand, but neither of them seemed to notice.
Paige tossed him a playful smile, but then was distracted by the aforementioned pile of seaweed near the jetty. She cocked her head. “What is that?”
In tandem, Cat and Chance turned around. “What?”
Paige stood up, dusted her dress off and pointed. “Over there, in the rocks.”
Chance squinted. “Probably just some litter.”
Cat shook her head. “That doesn’t look like litter.” She took off toward it.
Chance bounced to his feet and caught up to her. The waves smacked the rocks with loud slaps. Cat took slow, deliberate steps, as though trying to sneak up on the mound of seaweed. Another foamy wave crashed onto the shore, this time taking the pile of seaweed back into the ocean with it. Before she could take another step, Chance reached his arm out to stop her. “Cat, don’t go any closer.”
Cat gasped, choking on the breath wedged in her throat. It was too late.
She’d seen the body.
The Judas Line ($15.95, 324 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-901-5), by Mark Everett Stone, is a paranormal suspense thriller about a magician and former assassin who, with the help of a tough-guy priest, sets out to thwart his family’s evil plans.
** Click the Cover Image to Order Online **
** Also available in Kindle and other e-book editions on Smashwords **
“This delightful Catholicism-infused quest fantasy stars a likable and original duo. Fr. Michael Engle, a pragmatic Catholic priest, and Jude, who has a considerably more uncertain relationship with God, are unlikely friends, but when a blood-covered Jude runs into Mike’s church asking for help, Mike listens to him, believes him, and joins him on a quest to find the Holy Grail, which Jude hopes will help him destroy a legendary and dangerous family heirloom. Along the way they encounter Cain, the Norse gods (drinking and watching Bridge over the River Kwai), and a Valkyrie with the requisite ‘chainmail-covered pillowy breasts.’ When Mephistopheles shows up, Jude manages to label him an Arch-Fiend of Hell without irony and without irritating the reader. Stone’s depiction of magic is realistic and intelligent and his treatment of Catholicism refreshingly informed and three-dimensional. Even the obligatory near-apocalyptic ending is coherent, surprising, and exciting.”
—Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“This evil mystery is a heavenly read! THE JUDAS LINE creates a believable mystery which links the ancient past to the present. By building on the ancient story of the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas, Market Everett Stone crafts a dark versus light drama which will keep readers hooked. I loved how Stone makes Jude an unwilling member of the darkest family threatening mankind. Simply brilliant!” Read more ….
—Elizabeth Crowley, Fresh Fiction
“A fast-paced book which does not lack for history or adventure. The inclusion of death and destruction are a given and it is good that there is a lot of humour instilled throughout. I would say that if you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, you will enjoy Mark Everett Stone’s work. Recommended.”
—Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review
“Evil does not die so easily. The Judas Line is a novel following Jude Oliver and the long family line that lies behind him, specializing in assassination, using the artifact known as the silver. Jude Oliver must find the origins and stories of his family to be able to end the Silver’s legacy for good, with only a single Catholic priest by his side. Blending paranormal and biblical ideas, The Judas Line is a riveting thriller that should prove hard to put down.”
—Midwest Book Review
“I have come to expect a lot from this remarkably talented writer, but Mark manages to please yet again by bringing new elements to his latest work. The Judas Line is, as anticipated, a lightning-paced thriller that is equal parts non-stop action and intelligent musing. This is, in fact, a surprisingly introspective book that delves into many interesting questions about the nature of good, evil, and faith. It’s an enthralling read certain to delight and entertain, a well-crafted gem worthy of a place on any bookshelf.”
—Michelle Izmaylov, author of The Galacteran Legacy: Galaxy Watch
“Mark Everett Stone takes the classic good versus evil plot line and puts his own unique spin on it. He effortlessly merges bible canon with the world and people he’s created, adding off-the-wall humor to help break the tension. This book makes you laugh while making you think about the nature of evil and the power of faith.”
—Jamie White, author of The Life and Times of No One in Particular
(5 Stars) “I found myself chuckling at some of the insane twists and turns of the plot and other times I was worried by the sudden turn of events …. A fast-paced read, with nail-biting moments and some humor thrown in. The characters were compelling, I often find myself picturing them in my head …. I can’t recommend this book enough.”
—Lisa McCourt Hollar, Jezri’s Nightmares
“Once in a great while, a book comes along that challenges you to think outside the box. The Judas Line is one of those books. I was absolutely amazed at the way Mark Everett Stone has taken religious stories and beliefs and intertwined his own tale of power, evil, friendship, sacrifice and redemption. The action is nonstop and the characters will stay with you long after you finish the last page.”
—M.E. Franco, author Where Will You Run?
“The pacing is flawless in every respect …. Never before have I found a work of fiction to be so captivating. It picks you up, sits you down, and it does not let you even think about getting back up. A word of warning: Hide your pocketbooks, because once you read this, you will spend your next paycheck on every Mark Everett Stone book available. And clear your schedule once you start, because, all of a sudden, that doctor’s appointment doesn’t seem so important.”
—Grace Knight, author of Sun And Moon (2013)
Mark’s first novel, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Un-dead, won the second place Forward Literature Award for Humor and was one of seven titles nominated for ForeWord Magazine’s debut fiction award, ForeWord Firsts.
Jude Oliver hails from a long line of assassins. Tired of his family’s treachery and wanting more from life than power, he escapes with their secret weapon, the Silver—an ancient artifact so potent, so evil, that it could plunge mankind into a permanent state of ruin and despair. After fifteen years on the run, Jude receives a surprise visit from a cousin who planned to murder him to obtain the family treasure. So begins Jude’s desperate quest to find another artifact powerful enough to destroy the Silver. His traveling companion is an unlikely friend, Mike Engle—a Catholic priest who found his calling on the brutal sands of Iraq. In the course of their journey, the two men clash with evil in many forms. Mike learns the details of Jude’s incredible history and the family secret that reaches back 2,000 years. Before their final, earth-shattering battle, the duo will find surprising allies and the strength to carry on against seemingly insurmountable odds. Will the lessons Jude has learned about love, friendship and sacrifice be enough to save him from his family and his destiny?
Says Stone, “I have always been interested in the battle between good and evil and the issue of free will. Add those to my desire to explore the nature of friendship, of camaraderie, and you have The Judas Line. It is my examination of friendship, personal choices and the sacrifices we make for those we love wrapped up in a thriller, tied with a fantasy ribbon.”
Born in Helsinki, Finland, Mark Everett Stone arrived in the U.S. at a young age and promptly dove into the world of the fantastic. Starting at age seven with the Iliad and the Odyssey, he went on to consume every scrap of Norse Mythology he could get his grubby little paws on. At age thirteen he graduated to Tolkien and Heinlein, building up a book collection that soon rivaled the local public library’s. In college Mark majored in Journalism and minored in English. Mark has published two other books with Camel Press, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Un-Dead and What Happens in Vegas Dies in Vegas. Coming soon: the third book in the From the Files of the BSI series, I Left my Haunt in San Francisco. Mark lives in Denver with his amazingly patient wife, Brandie, and their two sons, Aeden and Gabriel. You can find Mark on the Web at: markeverettstone.camelpress.com and markeverettstone.com.
The Judas Line is available in both 5×8 trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon Japan, and at select Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores. Bookstores and libraries can order through Ingram or Baker & Taylor or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Other electronic versions are for sale on Smashwords, BN.com, and any of the major online eBook stores.
Read on for an excerpt:
Mike was shaken down to the roots. Oh, he hid it well, but I could see; we’d been friends long enough that I had his tells down pat. If he’d been a poker player, I’d have cleaned him out ages ago.
The Corolla chugged its way through Oklahoma and at Oklahoma City I switched off the 35 to the 44, taking us to Wichita Falls, Texas. As drives went, it rated up there with watching the grass grow. Mike was no help. He kept his eyes closed as though asleep or attempting to absorb what he’d read and seen.
Did I feel sorry for him? Almost. He may be a Catholic priest, but he’s also one tough son-of-a-gun. The only thing that had kept him from becoming an outlaw biker was his calling, his faith.
He thought I didn’t know about his wild side, but thanks to the Internet, I had found out a lot about Mr. Mike Engel, the Catholic priest. No father, mother dead of a heroin overdose when he was nineteen, one older sister—whereabouts unknown—and a stint in the army at eighteen to avoid jail time for boosting a motorcycle. Hoofed it over the sands in Desert Storm, ended his time in service with a couple of years in Germany. Finally, the call to God.
By all rights he should have exited the army a raving lunatic, hell-bent on wreaking havoc and drinking himself to death, but I guess he took to discipline in the service because he emerged straight as an arrow and left his past behind. Although he did keep a 1985 Harley FXWG 1340 Wide Glide in his garage that he’d been restoring for the past couple of years, a lingering reminder of his younger self.
The rest is, as they say, is history.
It ate at me, though, that I had let him come. Maybe the desire for company had overwhelmed common sense or maybe, better yet, he was the one man who might understand my whole sordid history. Hell, he helped me parse through the more difficult passages of the Bible (the Song of Solomon bored me to tears) and explained the Americanisms and obscure references in East of Eden.
“Where are we going, Jude?”
Mike’s question derailed my train of thought. “West Texas.” He was still leaning back, envelope in his lap and eyes closed.
“What’s in west Texas?”
“A whole lot of nothing.”
I grinned. “It’s what’s under that nothing that I want to get at.”
“What’s under that nothing?” he asked patiently as Wichita Falls receded in my review mirror.
There was no harm in spilling the beans. “After I established myself in Omaha, I traveled all over America to secure some spookers.”
“Spookers?” Mikes eyes cracked open and he stared at the surrounding countryside without interest.
“Stores of cash and false papers, just in case.”
“In case you had to go on the lam?”
I laughed. “Lam? Who talks like that? Really, Mike, you should stop watching television. Rots your brain, man.”
His icy blues rolled up. “You still haven’t answered my question, smart aleck.”
“Yes, in case I had to leg it. Passports, driver’s licenses, cash, the whole lot. Enough to disappear again and land comfortably on my feet.”
Mike snorted. “How very CIA-like of you.”
“You’ve read a bit of what my Family is like, Mike,” I said, voice cooling to just above absolute zero. “They would do, and spend, anything to find me, to get what I have.”
“That silver thing of yours?”
“Yes, the Silver. One of the most powerful magical artifacts in the world, second only to the Grail and the Arc of the Covenant.”
The explosion of incredulity I half expected didn’t come. When I spared a glance from the road, it was to see Mike staring at me with eyes colder and more pitiless than the spaces between the stars.
“The Arc of the Covenant? The Grail? Like the real ones, the ones Indiana Jones found?” The arctic tundra was warmer than his voice.
“When I left the Family, I liquidated my assets and I’ve used a lot of that to find something that would help me destroy the Silver.”
“What about throwing it in the Laurentian Abyss?”
The vanishing point met my eyes as I answered. “You could stuff the Silver in a lead-lined box with a nuclear warhead set to detonate when it hit the ocean floor and you wouldn’t even scratch it. It would reappear where someone in the Family would find it. No, the only way to destroy the Silver is to use a more powerful artifact.”
Mike stayed quiet for quite some time, so long, in fact, that I began to worry. Finally he said, “So you’re trying to destroy this silver thing by using an artifact that people have been trying to locate for centuries? Perhaps millennia?”
“Yes, Mike, I have to because the Silver is the biggest threat to mankind next to global thermonuclear war. It needs to go away and I should have investigated more thoroughly and taken action sooner.” Regret tasted bitter in my throat. “Because I twigged onto the Grail six months ago.”
A long pause. “Why didn’t you?”
I exploded in a rush of verbal self-recrimination. “Damn me, Mike … I was too comfortable, man.” When he didn’t reply, I continued. “And maybe a little scared, too. Nebraska isn’t the center of the universe, but it’s a good place to be.” Better, I felt much better. Maybe confession was good for the soul.
Mike stroked his moustache “So that’s where we’re going? To get the Grail?” I nodded and he blew a sigh through his lips. “The Archbishop will never believe this.”
“I really wouldn’t tell him if I were you.”
Once again that cold stare. “Why?”
“The Family has … people in the Vatican.”
In Murdock for Hire ($13.95, 232 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-883-4), the second book in Robert J. Ray’s Matt Murdock Mysteries Series, the hardboiled but softhearted detective investigates a complicated scheme involving gorgeous call girls, high-grade cocaine, and some kinks à la 50 Shades of Grey. Murdock for Hire was originally published in 1987.
** CLICK THE COVER IMAGE TO ORDER **
** Available in Kindle and other e-book editions on Smashwords **
“The writing is clear and direct, there is plenty of action, and even a romance.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“The Robert Ray talent unfolds with every book and Matt Murdock becomes more and more likable and his friends more lovable.”
—Amarillo Sunday News-Globe
When software mogul Eddie Hennessy dies of a heart attack, there’s no reason to suspect foul play … except that the family man was in bed with a masked call-girl and snorting cocaine at the time. And that the death scene closely resembles that of two other recently deceased executives.
Eddie co-owned a boat with ex-cop and private-eye Matt Murdock. If Murdock can help out the widow by finding Eddie’s missing coin collection, maybe he won’t have to sell the boat.
Murdock’s investigation leads him to Lido Enterprises, operated out of the magnificent white stone Hotel Bougaineville. For a hefty chunk of change, upscale ladies of the night dally with stressed out businessmen, initiate them into the pleasures of bondage and high-grade cocaine and then hold their reputations for ransom.
Can Murdock infiltrate their inner sanctum and break their hold on Newport Beach’s corporate class? Sure, but not without stirring up a hornets’ nest that threatens to take out both Murdock and his shady lady love.
Click here to read more about the Matt Murdock Murder Mysteries.
ROBERT J. RAY is the author of seven other novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Bloody Murdock, The Hitman Cometh, Dial “M” for Murdock, Murdock Cracks Ice, and Merry Christmas, Murdock. A sixth Matt Murdock mystery—Murdock Tackles Taos—in in process. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist, and he shares writing techniques on writing on his blog. 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.
Murdock for Hire is available on BN.com and in Kindle and 5×8 paperback on Amazon.com, the European Amazons and Amazon Japan. Bookstores can order wholesale from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and by contacting email@example.com. E-books in every format can be purchased from most major e-book retailers.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Going up the narrow stairs, I thought again of that look that had passed between him and Sally Anne. We were back on deck, hauling canvas, when I asked him. “What do you think of Midge’s friend?”
“Never trust a woman in dark glasses.” Tommy handled the wheel with an expert touch. “Too much like a mask.”
As we passed Bay Isle, Midge left the bow and came back to join us. Midge’s smile was bright, perky, and full of push as she jabbed me in the ribs. “My chair’s empty, Heathcliff. Why don’t you fill it?”
“Tough act to follow, Midge.”
“Oh, you men! Go on!” Midge pushed me a couple of steps toward Sally Anne. “Earn your Heineken.”
I walked forward. Sally Anne had left the chair and was now sitting, feet together, on a boat cushion on the deck, peering westward through the dark glasses. The sun hovered carefully against the sky. I said hello. She said hello. I said, “Nice evening.” She agreed. I asked her how long she had known Midge. “A couple of weeks,” she said. I asked her what exercises she did. “Abdomen,” she said. And legs and hips and arms.
She was in good shape. “Are you a TV actress?”
Flicker of a smile. “No, I’m not. But thank you.”
Cooling to my task, I asked a couple more questions. Where did she work? At a decorating firm in Newport Beach. Did she like it? It paid the bills. Her mechanical answers got shorter and shorter. She didn’t ask me any questions. I got the feeling she was on vacation from being whoever she was when she was on shore.
When we passed by the breakwater of West Jetty and hit the Pacific, where the waves were bigger, Laredo II started to buck and roll. It was almost six and we had about an hour before the breeze died. Captain Tommy instructed me about setting the sails. For five or six minutes, Midge and I were busy shuffling canvas. When we were running smooth again, heading toward Hawaii, Midge asked me how it had gone with her friend.
“I have this feeling she’d rather be someplace else.”
“She has seemed a little blue today. Maybe something happened at work.”
“Maybe she wants to buy Hennessy’s half of the boat.”
Midge nodded absently, then moved past me to take over the steering while Tommy went below to use the head.
It was cooler now, racing west. I pulled on a shirt, went forward as the Laredo II heeled over. “Hang on,” I warned Sally Anne.
Midge stood at the wheel, legs spread for balance. She’d put on yellow driving glasses.
Tommy hadn’t been gone a minute when a big boat appeared, driving at top speed, coming up on us fast. I called a warning to Midge.
“I see it!”
“We’re in the way!” I yelled.
“It’s our right of way, Heathcliff!”
“What is it?” Sally Anne was on her feet, close to the rail.
Midge cranked the wheel. The Laredo altered course and tilted suddenly. Waves slapped the hull. I had to grab a line to keep from falling as I yelled down the stairs for Tommy.
“Tommy! On deck! On the double!”
“Lower some canvas!”
The big boat had seen us and was turning, but Midge was still overreacting, spinning the wheel. A klaxon sounded as the Laredo II swept past the big boat. Someone called us through the bullhorn as Tommy took the wheel to rectify Midge’s maneuver. The boom swung across the stern as we started to come about. Midge’s voice was sharp and high-pitched as she justified her moves with Tommy. I was on my way to the mainsail, my ear cocked for Tommy’s order, when I saw Sally Anne slide overboard.
I dashed for her, but she was already gone, and I remember seeing her leaning out, clinging to the railing with one hand, holding her position on the edge of the deck as if she were thinking about jumping, weighing the odds. The dark glasses were off. Her face had a crazy look.
“Sally Anne’s overboard!” I said.
“Christ!” Tommy snapped some orders at Midge.
The Laredo tilted again. We were still moving, and you can’t stop a sailboat in the water. It’s not a car. You can’t slam on the brakes. I thought about that as I unhooked a life preserver from a stanchion. The life preserver was tied to a ring. The rope was 150 feet long, Philippine hemp, from Ace Hardware. “Tommy!” I yelled. “Handle the rope!”
“No!” he yelled. “Wait, partner—”
But I was already gone, into the dark green waters of the Pacific.
Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit ($16.95, 320 pages, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-811-7) is the first novel of Vaughn Sherman, whose plot was inspired by his real-life adventures as a CIA operative in Stockholm, Sweden.
** CLICK THE COVER IMAGE TO ORDER THE PAPERBACK ONLINE **
** Also available in Kindle and in other eBook editions on Smashwords **
Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media.
“An espionage novel with ever widening circles of deceit reminiscent of John le Carré.”
“Readers will be pleased with Sherman’s unpredictable plot and lively, credible spies. His liberal and detailed inclusion of Swedish history and culture, clandestine work, family dynamics, and the l portrait of Chris’s mother, Mor, are engaging.”
“Smart, gripping and captivating. Vaughn Sherman writes with a depth and authenticity that remind me of John le Carré. I was lured into the story from the first page. Fantastic!”
—Carla Neggers, New York Times bestselling author of Saint’s Gate
“Written from an insider’s perspective, this poignant look inside the world of spies kept me wondering until the very end.”
—Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author
5 Stars: “Any interest I would have in spy novels is definitely met with the writings by Vaughn Sherman. He is a masterful writer – clearly he is a master in his craft. The novel details so many aspects of the ‘spy world’ that I would never possibly have even considered – the twists and turns are bountiful; the suspense is incredible and I was constantly left on the edge of my seat. I found this book much like a chess game – hurry up and wait. This was a spy novel based on brains and patience versus (not to sound like other reviewers but I do agree) all the Hollywood spy hype. I was six years old during the time period of this book – although many of the references have real history in them, much of it was new to me. And I love learning history through the addition of fictional elements. That feature is what causes me to give this a 5 out of 5 star rating. Funny thing – in high school I hated history – but now I gravitate totally to historical fiction etc…and throughout this spy novel the family aspect is intertwined and really allows the novel to be great.”
–The Stuff of Success
5 Stars: “This isn’t a story of blazing guns and fearlessness. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of infidelity, deceit, lies, love and truth. Above all else, it’s a story of redemption and atonement. It’s a work of fiction but it’s deep and it feels real.”
–The Top Shelf
“I really liked the book, and felt the ending was wrapped up rather nicely. The author, himself a CIA agent, pulled from some of his own experiences in crafting the story. This added a great depth of realism to the story. If you are interested in the spy novels along the lines of James Bond, you won’t find that here. But if you are interested in spy novels set in reality, with the way a real spy would handle his job, I think this should suit you greatly.”
“An unpredictable spy novel with a big heart and a resounding ring of authenticity.”
—Robert J. Ray, Author of the Matt Murdock mystery series
“If you’re a fan of classic spy fiction then I suggest you get Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit without delay. As I turned the pages of this book I was reminded of some of the best of them. The Le Carré’s, and Deighton’s; of classic East Vs. West espionage, with a troubled hero and an enigmatic foreign operator.” Read more ….
—Tonto Williams, Electronic Scrapbook
“A must-read for fans of the spy genre.”
—Howard Ellis, retired CIA
“The world of espionage is filled with deception at every turn. Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is a novel of mid twentieth century espionage on the backdrop of the Cold War. CIA agent Chris Holbeck is on the trail of KGB officer Sasha Plotkin, surrounding a potential defection that goes awry. Holbeck is split between his duty of tracking Plotkin, and his familial obligations, deciding if his family is worth the decision. Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is a riveting pick for lovers of espionage fiction, highly recommended.”
—Midwest Book Review
“An amazing look into the world of espionage and the effects it has on a CIA agent’s family. This great spy novel takes place in the 1960s and it is not at all Hollywood-influenced…. Once readers dive into this novel, they will recognize that the storyline is a fast-paced espionage thriller. The plot is character-driven and takes it back to the Nixon Era where it was a much more dangerous time. Author Vaughn provides richly textured and realistic accounts of a CIA agent trying to make a KGB officer defect. Vaughn’s vast knowledge of the genre and the fact that occurrences include real operations of the CIA and true events of the Cold War, it made the story authentically real. The plot delivers a dramatically-inclined storyline through its emotionally-driven characters and builds a one-of-a-kind climax. Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is a triumphant story that is a must-read for not just fans of the spy genre, but for everyone.” Click here to read more, including Jean’s interview with Vaughn.
—Jean, The Book Nerd
“I liked this book and enjoyed reading it! The author worked for the CIA during the same time period as this story (late 1960′s early 1970′s). His experience and knowledge is evident in giving a realness to the story. I feel that I was given an education in how the real world of national security and counter terrorism and espionage works. It is not how it is portrayed on the big screen; but rather a waiting game requiring patience, counter-moving, wise choices, and knowing the enemy.”
–Annette, Impressions in Ink.
“Even if you’re not old enough to remember the cold war, [Sherman] recreates that world and deftly immerses the reader within it ….this was a story that kept me reading right to the end, and which had me sincerely intrigued as to how it would all work out. The espionage elements were fascinating, as were the political aspects, and I quite appreciated how the story came around to its resolution.”
—Beauty in Ruins Blog
It is 1972, and the Soviet Union has succeeded in planting a mole in the top echelons of the Central Intelligence Agency. Three years earlier, CIA officer Chris Holbeck took part in a failed mission to engineer the defection of a Soviet KGB officer who may know the mole’s identity. His name is Sasha Plotkin.
When they were both stationed in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1969, Chris and Sasha connected on a personal level. Chris was excited to find a KGB officer interested in changing sides. Then, on the day of the Soviet agent’s defection, Sasha was a no-show. Chris would soon discover the full extent of Sasha Plotkin’s deceit.
Now Sasha has resurfaced and wishes to make another attempt to defect. To Chris’ dismay, he is the only CIA officer the man will consent to deal with, even though their once close relationship is now riddled with mistrust. Chris’s wife, Lisa, has sworn to leave him if he abandons her and the family for one more perilous mission. His alluring young colleague Bisan seems determined to seduce him. Despite the risks to his life and his marriage, Chris answers the call of duty.
If Chris succeeds in transporting Sasha to the United States—come hell or high water—will the Soviet agent reveal the true identity of the mole? One thing is certain: the lives of the two men will be forever changed.
Says Vaughn, “After I retired from the CIA I discovered the spy novel genre, and I found that few authors understood that espionage in Cold War times involved mind-game jousting more than shoot-’em-outs and car chases. These novels neglected to depict accurately the challenges for intelligence officers working and living abroad with their families: the secrets to be kept, the absences unexplained, the danger to family members, and the jealousy arising from time spent with colleagues and agents of the opposite sex. The inspiration for Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit originated from an oddity of Swedish history in relation to Russia that I encountered while assigned to Stockholm.”
Vaughn Sherman’s career as a fisheries biologist was cut short when he was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. After taking early retirement Vaughn joined in numerous community activities, most involving the governance of non-profit agencies and community colleges. In addition to Sasha’s Plotkin’s Deceit, he has written the memoir of a northwest mariner titled Sea Travels: Memoirs of a Twentieth Century Master Mariner. He has also published three books dealing with the management of non-profits, including Walking the Boardwalk. Click here to find Vaughn online.
Read on for an Excerpt:
Friday dawned much like the day of his last meeting with Plotkin, cold and clear with new snow. Such a pretty day that this time he resolved not to return to the Embassy after signaling Plotkin at NK that the meeting was on. After the safety signal at ten o’clock, he’d go directly home, maybe have a chance to chat with Lisa before lunch.
Upon leaving the Embassy, he noted that the sun hadn’t warmed the air at all. The squeaking snow under his feet confirmed how cold it was as he walked toward his car. The shadows from the trees along Strandvägen weren’t quite as long as they had been last week at this time. Stockholm was on the downhill ride toward spring. In the scant hour he’d been at the Embassy the car had cooled off completely. He let it warm up before driving downtown to wait the few minutes at NK for Plotkin’s safety signal. No policeman this time, and no Plotkin visible in the park. But then he hadn’t seen Plotkin last time, either.
Next he headed west from the city, toward home. Chris enjoyed the drive and was feeling good as he slid to a stop in front of his house. Lisa didn’t reply to his cheery “Hello” when he let himself in through the front door. Now what? Her actions were so strange these days he was afraid she might have taken off without preparing the lunch for Plotkin. A walk through the dining room to the kitchen put his mind at ease. The table was set, and soup was simmering on the stove. She must have walked down to the shopping square for some last minute items. It wasn’t yet ten thirty, and she had no reason to expect him. He went back to the front windows to look down the street, on the chance that he might see her walking back. No Lisa, only a skier heading toward Drottningholm. This castle was located not much more than a mile from their home across Drottningholm Bridge. It was a favorite residence of the royal family and surrounded by a park open to the public. He and Lisa had skied there several times with the children during the Christmas holidays.
An idea struck. Chris went quickly to his bedroom to change into long johns and ski pants, then to the front hall for his ski parka, hat and mittens. Next he went to the garage for his skis. He’d ski down to the square to pick up Lisa and come back with her. Outside the garage door, he slapped his skis down on the new snow and fastened the cable bindings.
Out on the street Chris looked in the direction of the square. Still no Lisa. Nobody, in fact, on the street. In the other direction the skier had long since disappeared. An hour skiing at Drottningholm would probably do him more good than trying to talk with Lisa.
Few people were outdoors on this work and school day. It was terribly cold, but the atmosphere brought some needed peace to Chris. He felt good. The children in their neighborhood were on skis most every afternoon. As he used his poles to push himself along and keep his balance, he thought about how Missy and her friends skied merrily along with no poles. Ah, to be young again!
There was a knoll off the beaten path in the park where somebody had built a small ski jump, maybe a couple of feet high. Probably some of the older boys who lived nearby. Chris thought about trying it.
He’d do it.
Climbing the knoll took more out of him than he’d expected. Wheezing at the top, he made his weekly resolve to start an exercise program. The knoll wasn’t high, but looking down the run to the jump, it appeared a lot more impressive than from the bottom. Well, he had been a pretty good skier during college days. There wasn’t anybody in sight to embarrass him if he botched the little jump. He poled hard and headed downhill.
Two things surprised Chris. First, his skis were much faster than expected. When he started out he almost lost his balance backwards. Then, when he dug in the poles and launched himself on the jump, he went much higher than he thought he would. In the few seconds he was in the air he realized that he had overcompensated for the first mistake. Now he was leaning too far forward. He tried to bring up the tips of his skis and failed, hitting the snow with the tip of one ski. He somersaulted, bounced on his shoulders, made a half-roll and came to a stop with his right ski buried in the snow. His leg must be badly twisted, he thought. He moved to untangle himself and came close to fainting. It was more than a twist, for sure. The pain was awful when he tried to move.
Chris lay back, chilled, and felt the panic start. Nobody was in sight.
Breakfast in Stilettos ($13.95, 220 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-878-0), by Liz Kingswood, is a humorous contemporary romance about a journalist who explores Seattle’s fetish scene hoping to reconcile with her ex-boyfriend.
Finalist in the ForeWord Firsts Contest for Debut Fiction Writers.
** CLICK COVER IMAGE TO ORDER ONLINE **
** Also available in Kindle and other eBook formats on Smashwords**
“An intelligent and fresh tale starring a quirky and fascinating cast of characters who find sex, love and empowerment albeit an alternative route. Emily Royce, a writer for the Seattle Sun Times, researches the slutterati community, the fetish obsessed and finds some surprises along the way. The author Liz Kingswood’s gift is her ability to make readers cheer for the spunky, brave Emily as she braves her way into the fetish community. The plot is spiced with steamy situations and the right touches of humor. I found the story to be a real eye opener because it is not your typical contemporary romance. BREAKFAST IN STILETTOS is crazy, sexy and funny. Definitely uniquely unusual, but fascinating.”
–Michele Rioli, Romance Junkies
As Lifestyles Editor for The Seattle Sun Times, thirty-three year old Emily Royce covers stories about the strange and unusual. When her boss assigns her to write about Seattle’s “slutterati”—a community that celebrates sensuality in literature and the arts—she finds herself researching websites with couples engaged in every Latin conjugation she knows. A challenge, considering that her own mother calls her a prude. Yet she perseveres—learning to read between the erogenous zones.
The slutterati congregate at the The Slutterati Salon, a fact Emily learns from her not-quite-ex-boyfriend, Frank Mullen. At Frank’s suggestion, Emily interviews a fetish-friendly therapist, lurks in late night chat rooms, and inadvertently gains a following among online submissives begging to be typographically spanked. She shops the world of fetish clothing—seemingly beamed right out of Star Trek—but her prudishness prevails. She falls prey only to a devilish pair of scarlet stilettos.
Emily finally braves her way to the Salon, with Frank on her arm and the stilettos safely locked in the trunk. Once inside, Frank disappears. Upon seeing her distress, hunky programmer Joe Stratton takes over as her guide. Determined to confront her own inhibitions, Emily decides to humor Joe’s request to don her new stilettos. Does Emily have a little Dominatrix in her after all?
Says Kingswood, “A lot of people ask me, why would a smart, well-educated woman like you write a book about fetish? The short answer is that I have somewhat of a fetish for people with fetishes. Kink can give us insight into the human condition as nothing else can, as well as inspire imaginary scenarios with many humorous possibilities. The folks I’ve met in the alternative sex culture have a provocative sense of self and a tremendous lightheartedness. And I like to laugh and learn.”
Liz Kingswood possesses an eclectic mix of talents. She has been a corporate vice president, a university professor, a tea sommelier, a design guru, and is currently working on her PhD in mythology and depth psychology. Her more than twenty years in the graphics industry culminated in speaking engagements across the country and led to writing credits for industry articles, video scripts, user guides, online training and the Adobe InDesign Classroom in a Book. Her fiction writing has won literary awards, including the Zola award for the short story on which this book is based. Liz is married to a Canadian punk rock musician and alternates her time between Vancouver, BC, Seattle and Santa Barbara. Click here to find Liz online.
Breakfast in Stilettos is available on BN.com and in Kindle and 5×8 trade paperback on Amazon.com, the European Amazons, and Amazon Japan. Bookstores and libraries can order through Ingram or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, Follett Library Resources or Midwest Library Service.
Read on for an excerpt:
I nibbled on one of the cookies as four men lumbered by. They were carrying, log-style, what looked like a human statue swathed in black. Near the edge of the room, they stopped next to a small pedestal and heaved the statue into position. With a shock, I realized it was a person—someone dressed in a black, skintight body suit that also covered his head. He (very evidently a he) was trying hard to remain rigid. He looked like an Oscar award painted black.
The men pulled over a small table that held a bowl of brilliant red poinsettias, which you could safety-pin to the statue guy. They applied a few to show how it was done and then gestured for others to follow suit.
There appeared to be no shortage of volunteers and within a short time the statue was properly trussed like a Rose Bowl parade float. The statue man hadn’t move a muscle and I had to admit he was brave for allowing a bunch of people with pins to have their way with him.
I scanned the room. Frank was nowhere to be seen. Setting aside my irritation, I decided to reprise my original line of questioning. “So Joe, back to where we left off … Why are you here?”
I thought for a moment he wouldn’t answer. He never took his eyes off the parade of people. When he finally spoke, he sounded distracted. “Curiosity, I guess.”
“Or maybe you just don’t know me well enough to say.” I flicked a bit of lint off my skirt.
I waited. He wore a glazed expression, as though lost in a fog. So I asked the standard filler question, “What are you thinking about?”
He let out a long sigh. “I was thinking about Whisky.”
Not what I expected. “Whisky?”
“I was thinking back on my last trip to Ireland, where I got the taste for Bushmills.” He lifted his coffee. “It was to be my final vacation with Maire, now my ex-wife. She is very Irish, down to her flame-red hair and green eyes. She’d wanted to trace her O’Neill lineage. We had a grand time huddled in our tiny car, white-knuckling the narrow country lanes and seeing the sights.”
“That sounds like fun. I’ve never been to Ireland. What happened?”
He brushed at the velvet nap on the couch arm. “For me, the trip was a fabulous three-week sexual marathon. But for her, and unbeknownst to me, it was a last ditch effort to get pregnant. When that didn’t happen, yet again, she decided to move on to more fecund ground.”
“Yeah, I guess I’m still a little preoccupied with it.”
He wasn’t over his ex-wife. Rumor had it that smart women ran away at this point, but for me it sparked curiosity. This was where a good story began, in midst of tragedy and heartbreak. “That must have been hard.”
He waved me off. “I promised myself to stop thinking about it.” He snorted. “As if there’s some kind of ‘off’ switch.” This last line he said under his breath.
He shook himself. “Why am I telling you all this?” He smiled as though forcing himself into a better mood. “So, enough of this gloominess. Let’s talk about something else.”
I was hesitant to let it go. I sensed there was a potential strange and unusual lurking in the depths of Joe’s past or present, but he clearly wasn’t interested in digging it up. Not yet anyway. I sighed and took a sip of coffee. “OK. Something simple, then. What’s your day job?”
That was an easy enough question and he responded promptly. “I’m a Web developer. Mostly back-end work; databases, e-commerce and the like.”
“A programmer?” Great. The classic unemotional, inconsiderate geek. Just what I needed.
“Well, yes, but more than that. I have my own company. Mostly I hire other programmers to implement what I come up with. Programming in and of itself can get pretty tedious.” He seemed to be perking up. “Actually, I can even do a little name-dropping. It helps to sweeten an otherwise dull-sounding occupation. My client base is heavily weighted toward celebrities. Not that I usually meet them, but I do their websites and fix their computers.”
“You’re kidding? Like who?” That was unusual.
He laughed. He shook his head. “Really it’s embarrassing to say. I always feel a little cheap, as though proud to be the one taking out Britney Spears’ garbage. Let’s just say that you’d definitely know who they are.”
“Well, it sounds like a far cry from waste disposal.” I was about to push for details, but something behind me had captured Joe’s attention. I turned my head.
“I would recommend this book on the basis of its unique use of history alone. The fact that is superbly written and researched makes it that much more of a treasure.” Read More …
–Maggie Boyd, All About Romance.com
Daughter of Fortune ($14.95, 284 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-891-9) is the first published work of fiction by acclaimed romance novelist Carla Kelly. This historical romance, set in the Spanish Royal Colony of New Mexico, is back in print for the first time since being published in hardcover only in 1985. Kelly is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America; a Whitney Award for Best Romance Fiction, 2011; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times.
** CLICK THE COVER IMAGE TO ORDER ONLINE **
** Also available in Kindle and other eBook editions on Smashwords **
Maria Espinosa should not have survived the 1679 cholera epidemic in Mexico City that killed her parents, already reeling from the loss of their fortune, nor should she have survived an Apache raid on the caravan transporting her to a sister in remote Santa Fe, in the royal colony of New Mexico. Rejected by her sister because she is penniless, Maria struggles to stay alive in a society unaware of impending disaster. A charismatic Tewa Indian named Popé is determined to drive the hated European overlords from the land.
Maria’s refuge is no refuge at all. When Mary is taken in by a Spanish ranching family living uneasily among the Pueblo Indians, her beauty and spirit inspire a rivalry between two brothers—one a Spaniard, the other half-Indian. Will she find security and purpose in this harsh land only to lose her heart?
In the midst of personal turmoil, Maria discovers a rare talent in this colony of believers. She learns how to carve discarded branches and tree stumps into statues of saints. She also learns the larger lesson: that grace can transform an object of little value into a masterpiece. But trouble lies ahead. Maria can reveal the saint buried in a block of wood. What mysteries lie deep within her own heart?
“All my novels have a place in my heart,” says Kelly, “but the first one is special … Daughter of Fortune started on a trip to Santa Fe in 1982, scene of a Western Writers of America conference where I received a second Spur Award for short fiction … As I enjoyed that remarkable, historic place, I tried to recall the name of the Pueblo Indian who masterminded the uprising that drove the Spanish out of New Mexico in 1680, and kept them out for twelve years. I finally remembered his name, and there was my novel.”
A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of twenty-six novels and three non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. Carla’s interest in historical fiction is a byproduct of her lifelong interest in history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. She’s held a variety of jobs, including public relations work for major hospitals and hospices, feature writer and columnist for a North Dakota daily newspaper, and ranger in the National Park Service (her favorite job) at Fort Laramie National Historic Site and Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. She has worked for the North Dakota Historical Society as a contract researcher. Interest in the Napoleonic Wars at sea led to a recent series of novels about the British Channel Fleet during that conflict. Of late, Carla has written two novels set in southeast Wyoming in 1910 that focus on her Mormon background and her interest in ranching. Click here to find Carla online.
Carla has her own ties to the Seattle area, where Camel Press has its offices. Following her father’s retirement from the U.S. Navy, her parents lived on Whidbey Island for thirty years. She has always enjoyed visiting Seattle, with Pike Place Market a particular favorite stop.
Daughter of Fortune is available in 6×9 trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com, as well as the European, Canadian, and Japanese Amazons. EBook and paperback editions can also be purchased on BN.com. Bookstores and libraries can order through Ingram or by contacting email@example.com, Follett Library Resources or Midwest Library Service. Ebooks can be purchased in multiple formats on Smashwords and all major eBook retailers.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
After nearly a league of rapid, silent travel, the pace slowed to a walk. Maria dozed in the saddle, trying not to lean back. She struggled to stay awake. She had never been this close to a man before, not even her father. When she felt herself falling against him, she pulled herself awake. Once, when she relaxed against Diego Masferrer, she yanked her head up, cracking him under the chin. Without a word, he transferred the reins to his left hand and with the other, firmly pushed her against his chest. Her eyes closed and she slept.
In her dream, Carmen de Sosa ran alongside Diego’s horse, tugging at Maria’s dress with her bloody hands. Maria whimpered. “Por Dios, they follow me,” she whispered, pulling her legs up out of Carmen’s dripping grasp. She cried out and tried to scramble from the saddle, but Diego held her down, his arms clamped firmly around her body.
Diego was silent, as if trying to understand what she feared. “Maria,” he said finally, “go back to sleep. I shall keep them away.” She shut her eyes. “Sleep, sleep,” he said over and over, until sleep overtook her and closed out the soothing sound of his voice.
First published in 1986, Bloody Murdock ($13.95, 246 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-887-2), is Robert J. Ray’s first Matt Murdock mystery, a twisty tale about dirty deeds in Hollywood’s seamy underbelly. Ex-cop and Private Eye Matt Murdock is the kindred spirit of John D. Macdonald’s Travis McGee and other truth-seeking, BS-hating, women-loving hardboiled types who came before him.
** CLICK THE COVER IMAGE TO ORDER ONLINE **
** BUY IT IN KINDLE **
“The story never stops and the lushly decadent southern California life was never more so.”
“Murdock is a West Coast Travis McGee—tired and a little bored, but ready to mobilize. A good look at society’s X-rated side. Fun.”
—T. Jefferson Parker, author of Laguna Heat
“A splendid suspense novel. After a chilling beginning, real horror cuts in like a turbocharger.”
—Oakley Hall, author of The Coming of the Kid and Corpus of Joe Bailey
PI and ex-cop Matt Murdock is picky about the cases he takes on. Being a bodyguard isn’t his favorite gig, especially when the client is a high-handed number-cruncher like Ellis Dean. But Murdock is short on funds, and the case is a puzzler. It doesn’t hurt that it features the death, accidental or otherwise, of a beautiful woman. Murdock has a weakness for damsels in distress, even after it’s a little late for rescue. Gayla Jean Kirkwood, killed in a car wreck on the Pacific Coast Highway, was a good-time girl, high-class waitress and wannabe starlet.
Dean fires Murdock and ends up dead, clearing the way for Murdock to sign on with the victim’s sister, Meg Kirkwood, a gorgeous dead-ringer for her sister. The case will offer other female distractions, including a fresh-faced and overly eager girl reporter.
Who would want Gayla Jean dead? Was it a scorned lover? Someone at the chic club where she worked? The men who paid to photograph her naked? Or was she simply collateral—the real target being the Mexican actor driving the doomed car? As his investigation continues, Murdock and his client will discover just how dirty deals in Hollywood can get. If they live long enough.
ROBERT J. RAY is the author of seven previous novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Murdock for Hire, The Hitman Cometh, Dial “M” for Murdock, Murdock Cracks Ice, and Merry Christmas, Murdock. A sixth Matt Murdock mystery—Murdock Tackles Taos—in in process. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist, and he shares writing techniques on writing on his blog. 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 about the entire Matt Murdock Mystery Series, click here.
Read on for an Excerpt:
I read about the death of Gayla Jean Kirkwood on page one of the Tribune, Orange County’s largest newspaper, on a rainy Sunday in March. Her photo—a pretty, smiling girl framed in newspaper black and white—looked familiar, so I read the whole story.
She’d been to a Saturday night party in Bluebird Canyon, a snappy upscale section of Laguna Beach, where she’d apparently met a young dude from Hollywood named Jaime Modesto. The party had been at the home of a Laguna Beach art dealer named Philo Waddell.
Gayla Jean and Modesto had left the party together around 3:20 a.m. Sunday morning, and started driving north on Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. At approximately 3:31 a.m. Modesto’s Pontiac Trans Am had slammed up against a wall of rock just on the outskirts of Laguna. The car had caught fire, the gas tank had exploded, and both Modesto and Gayla Jean Kirkwood had been killed. The photo, which covered a third of the front page, showed some cops, a couple of emergency vehicles, a smoking wreck, and a fire crew fighting a fire that was spreading up the hill. Burning up was not a good way to die.
The reporter was careful about documenting how hopeless it had all been, and how quickly the emergency units had responded. The journalist’s name was Teresa Aiken, and she was an ace at laying out chronology.
The Laguna Beach PD had arrived seven minutes after the accident. The fire department had arrived two minutes after the police. Two cars from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department had arrived at 3:52 a.m. And the paramedics, who weren’t needed at all, arrived at 4:01.
The fire had spread from Modesto’s car up the hill to ignite some dry brush, and had done a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of damage to a house that was probably worth close to a million, because of the spectacular ocean view. The rain had started at 4:30, the paper said.
The story didn’t mention any witnesses.
Down below the picture of the scene of the accident, there were photos of Jaime Modesto and Gayla Jean Kirkwood, side by side, smiling into the camera. Modesto was what some women would call handsome—sad eyes, open face, Valentino grin, though with a better set of teeth than old Valentino. The paper said Modesto had made three movies in four years, the last one being Tijuana Rose, a story about Mexican illegals and their problems getting across the border.
Modesto himself had “emigrated” to the U.S. seven years ago. His hometown back in Mexico was Guanajuato. His present address was Marina Del Rey. When he’d got himself burned to death on PCH on a dark Sunday morning in March, Modesto had been twenty-six.
The picture of Gayla Jean Kirkwood showed a girl in her early twenties, strawberry blonde or light redhead, with intelligent eyes and a smile that turned out just lopsided enough to make her interesting. She’d died young, and died pretty.
Gayla Jean’s residence was Newport Beach, where she was also employed as a waitress. Her hometown was Fort Worth, Texas. She was twenty-three, the paper said. She was “survived” by a sister, Margaret Kirkwood, also of Fort Worth. I looked at the picture again and felt sad. Two kids were dead. They had probably smoked a joint at the Bluebird Canyon party, decided to share a bed for the night, and had wound up in a surprise funeral pyre on a dark road in the clammy beach fog of Southern California.
Maybe I’d seen her around. She’d lived in Newport Beach, where I lived. Newport Beach was a small town, snug, smug, cramped, on that edge of America about halfway between Kansas City and Honolulu. Maybe we’d passed one day on the pier. Maybe we’d locked eyeballs across a room, a bar, a restaurant. Maybe she’d served me a beer, or some fish and chips, or some spaghetti and meatballs. Maybe I’d made her day with a tip, on a sunny summer Sunday when I’d had money.
Now, looking at her lopsided smile, I wondered what Gayla Jean’s hopes had been, what she liked for breakfast, how she handled sorrow and frustration, whether she was neat or sloppy, what made her happy, what kind of men she chose, what made her sad.
Something—the look in her eye, the pretty, lopsided smile, the short, terse formality of the obituary—made you think of Gayla Jean as a butterfly, with only one summer to live.