Maddie’s Choice ($14.95, 274 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-959-6) is a contemporary romance by Joyce Zeller about an author with writer’s block who finds inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose after she inherits part of a cattle ranch in Arkansas.
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“The tension and anger simmer below the surface but the attraction sizzles off the pages in this unforgettable story of love and courage. If you are a fan of Westerns, packed full of action you will enjoy this work. The Romance aficionado will find the heartbeat of the story holding them hostage even as mayhem breaks loose, cementing a set of feelings long denied. Zeller has given us a romance with teeth and put it in a setting full of possibilities and excitement. The characters are not without flaw and the interaction of people and events take you there, among them.” Read more
–Leslie, Tic-Toc: Book Reviews and General Observations
“This is one of those books that you stay up late reading because you just can’t let go of the characters and the story …. I loved to read how they each came out of their comfort zone to see if love is possible. You never know what you will find if you just open yourself up. I highly recommend this book and give it a 5 out of 5.” Read more ….
—Gina’s Library of Reviews
“I enjoyed every minute of reading this novel. Zeller’s characters, both main and secondary, are interesting and lively, the plot is fast moving and features a mystery as well as romance, and who could resist a chocolate-loving bull as a hero! I would love to see more stories featuring some of the secondary characters from this story—like with the hunky Australian former mercenary solider—just food for thought Joyce! I highly recommend this charming novel!” Read more ….
–Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
“A delightful romance with likeable, fallible characters that quickly engage the reader. One of the biggest positives of this novel is the author’s development of both the leading male and female characters. Often in romance novels there is a tendency to have a very well developed female character reacting to a dark, mysterious stranger. That’s not the case here. Although Gideon is certainly sexy enough, his character is well rounded and contains enough human elements to make him truly vulnerable and likeable. Another pitfall in many romances is plot twists and turns that can become distracting from the primary romantic plot. Maddie’s Choice
does enlist the use of a mystery of stolen cattle and drug running, but the additional plot lines serve well to develop the romantic plot line and further engage the reader and do not undermine the romance. As an avid romance reader, I don’t mind telling you that I finished this entire book in one setting and would be delighted to read additional books by this author.” Read more ….
–Erika, Prey Species Blog
“This book is great! I enjoyed the idea of it being a writer who learns to deal with life and finds herself so fixed on her books, she forgets to have an outside life. It will get you hooked on the idea of the story, and the storyline keeps you interested.” Read more ….
—Sara Martin, Lost Island of Book Reviews
“An enjoyable read. I thought the characters were interesting and kept me engaged. Maddie and Gideon are both looking for the same thing, they just don’t know it yet. At the ranch, they both find a family and a home. Gideon is a war hero who has major PTSD. While I was surprised that the character wasn’t seeking help for it, given his intense episodes, I thought the subject was handled pretty realistically. I liked Maddie’s little excerpts of the romance novel she was writing. It was cool to get a glimpse inside the mind of a writer. I do recommend the book. With romance, cattle thieves, and a big chocolate loving bull nicknamed baby, how can you go wrong?”
–From the TBR Pile
“Another incredible romance novel …. I enjoyed the story very much! It was sweet, passionate, a true ‘southern’ life story, and chock full of amazing characters.” Read more ….
“Wow!!! This was a great book…. Thinking it would be a good idea to get away from the city for a while Maddie sets off to places unknown, at least to her. There she meets the sexy, yet damaged vet Gideon …. The chemistry between them is so strong that it could burn a hole in the moon. This book was well written …. The story flowed and was easy to picture in your mind, the details were so vivid that they jumped right off of the page. This was the tale of two broken people who met and realized they had the power to save not only themselves but each other if only they did it together. You fell in love with these characters easily, they sucked you in and held on tight. Ms. Zeller is truly a master at her craft. This is a book I would recommend to any and everyone.” Read more ….
—La ‘Tia Mullins, The BoOki3 Blog
“Maddie’s Choice is a love story, a story of forgiveness, and a look at what really matters and the choices that we make. The more I read, the more I was drawn in and I ended up staying up late to finish …. an enjoyable read and a sweet romance.” Read more ….
–Bea’s Book Nook
“I was quickly caught up in the story and I highly recommend Maddie’s Choice!” Read more ….
–The Bibliophilic Book Blog
“A bull hooked on chocolate plays the hero in this love story of two people struggling to restore their destroyed lives. Maddie’s Choice is a touching family story that will have readers laughing and crying simultaneously. Zeller has created flawed but sympathetic characters and a bucolic setting that will appeal to readers of all ages. A must read for anyone who has ever dreamed of living on a ranch. As Maddie is fond of reminding herself, ‘How hard can it be?’ ”
—Velda Brotherton, author of western historical romances
“Joyce has walked the walk with her Western romance set on a cattle ranch. Good read!”
—Dusty Richards, Spur winning author of more than 120 western novels, many under the name, Josh Logan
“This is a book about life and it’s content is very explicit at times. It’s also about cattle rustling, drugs, and the way adults and kids go about getting what they want and need. I thought it was very well written. I give it a thumbs up.”
–Maryann Wakefield, author of A Gentle Sun Coming
Romance writer Maddie Taylor’s career is in trouble. Convinced that true love does not exist outside of her imagination, she can’t complete her current manuscript. When a friend, Jonah Spartman, dies and wills her half of his cattle ranch, she seizes the chance to leave New York City. There is one catch: in order to inherit she must stay in Arkansas for three months.
The other half of the ranch belongs to Gideon Spartman, Jonah’s grandson, a black-ops veteran whose humanity was torn from him in Afghanistan. Rugged and sexy, Gideon embodies the hero in Maddie’s current manuscript. He is far from happy to be sharing an inheritance that is rightfully his with a “gold-digging bimbo” and resents having to care for his two orphaned nephews. But Maddie senses the need behind Gideon’s rough and unwelcoming exterior. She must also contend with the two love-starved boys and an Angus bull who craves chocolate.
The ranch is hardly the safe haven Maddie expected. It is operating in the red, and the area is plagued with drug dealers and cattle rustlers. Maddie can return to her barren New York existence or stay and fight to save the ranch and win Gideon’s love. The choice is hers.
Says Zeller, “Maddie’s Choice features my favorite theme—that being human is a lonely business, but for everyone there is somebody to love. It’s a matter of finding them. There will always be kids and animals in my books, and always humor, because life without humor is unthinkable.”
Joyce Zeller has written articles for a magazine and a cooking column for a chain of suburban newspapers north of Chicago. She has written five books and published two, The Hidden History of Eureka Springs, and Accidental Alien, a work of science fiction, both available on Amazon. Her short story, “Love is a Seed,” is featured in Embrace: A Romance Collection, (2012 Goldmine Press). Click here to find Joyce’s website. You can find her blog here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Glancing up, he saw Maddie and Abe approaching at a near run. The urgency in her step, and that look on her face—a mix of worry and fear, like she expected trouble—alerted him.
He got the picture. Blabbermouth Mark was telling him something he wasn’t supposed to know until she got here to explain, because she didn’t think he’d approve. She was playing him. She was going to try to talk him into doing something she was sure he didn’t want to do. Damn. He was going to enjoy this, but it nettled him a little. Her opinion of him was pretty low if she thought he’d object to a birthday party for Abe. And why the hell should he care what she thought?
Because you want her, stupid. But to get her, she has to return the want. For sure, giving her a hard time isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Eyebrow raised, head cocked to one side, he watched through narrowed eyes as she slowed her pace to a saunter and replaced her worried look with a casual smile.
“Why, Gideon. What a nice surprise to find you here,” she said.
He stared without commenting, liking the little flicker of doubt in her expression.
“But Maddie,” Mark said, “you knew he was here. Remember we saw Uncle Gid’s truck outside?”
She glanced at Mark, clearly exasperated, not saying what Gideon knew was on the tip of her tongue.
Abe said it for her. “Shut up, Mark.”
Sighing, she gave Gideon a falsely sweet smile and fluttered her eyelashes. “I see that Mark told you about Abe’s birthday party.”
“What about it?” He wanted to laugh. He barely managed a glare.
She gazed at him, trying to hide her unease at his response. “Well, it was the funniest thing,” she said, brimming with false enthusiasm, waiting for him to smile in return.
Eyes narrowed, he studied her. His silence was making her fidget.
Damn, she had a beautiful mouth—that lower lip distended softly in a coaxing pout. He imagined taking it between his own lips and pulling on it gently. She’d taste as sweet as strawberries warmed by the sun. Her voice faded. He was lost in a sensual haze that would have him agreeing to anything as long as he could taste that mouth.
“Doris Potter and Genevra Wilson are going to do most of the planning, but I worry about where we’re going to put all those people. Is there some way we can set up tables?”
All those people? Tables? He tried to remember what she’d said, but he hadn’t heard a word. Alarmed, he demanded, “How many people have you invited?”
“Uh, well, I guess most of the town. Genevra said the Spartman barbecue was an annual tradition, perfect for Abe’s birthday party. It’s two weeks from today, but all we have to do is supply beer and sodas and the barbecued beef,” she said.
He stared at her, aghast. “Hell, Maddie, we can’t do this. There could be two hundred people here. Do you know what that would cost? We can’t afford a party like that right now. We’re low on cash this time of the year.”
Her hand was on his arm, patting it soothingly. Sparks of electricity shot along his flesh, clear to his brain, took an awesome bounce and shot toward his groin.
“I’ll pay for it, Gideon. The party is my idea, and I can easily afford it. It’s the least I can do. After all, we’re partners, aren’t we?”
Easily afford it? Irritated because he suspected, vaguely, that his manhood might have been insulted, he geared up to retaliate, but then he caught the cruelly disappointed expression on Abe’s face and changed course. If she wanted to pay for it, why not? How much money did she make, anyhow?
He’d almost accepted the idea when reality hit him. He couldn’t host a party for the whole town. He didn’t know shit about parties or where to begin. He’d make a damn fool of himself. Ask him to kill a man with his bare hands, lead a strike force, or take out a target with a rifle at a thousand yards—yeah, he could do that—but throw a party with the whole town looking on? God, no.
The Double Cross ($13.95, 240 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-945-9), an historical romance by Carla Kelly, takes place at the end of the 18th Century, during the decline of the Spanish Empire in the New World. The story features a brand inspector who saves a lovely orphan from her cruel relatives and sets out to solve the mystery of her lost inheritance. The Double Cross is the first book of the all-new Spanish Brand Series.
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“[The Double Cross] packs a full story with plenty of frontier action and believable, sympathetic characters. I’m already looking forward to the next entry in the Spanish Brand series, but until then I will content myself with rereading The Double Cross.” Read more …
–Heather Stanton, All About Romance
“Each of these characters’ personalities are portrayed so endearingly that at the end of this unforgettable story of honor, love and redemption, we are sad to let them go, making us eager to see what is in store for the next installment of the series.” Read more ….
—The Historical Novel Society
“Kelly skillfully invites readers to share in this romantic adventure that is played out amidst scenes depicting the harsh landscapes and living conditions on the frontier–all punctuated with an assortment of unsavory characters pitted against the heroic.”
5 Star Top Pick: “If I were to choose a time and place to read about, it would not be New Mexico in 1780. I prefer my locations and society to be settled and civilized. Why then, would I choose this book? Two words – Carla Kelly. I have yet to be disappointed by anything she has written, and this is no exception. She weaves historical facts so tightly and so interestingly into her stories, you don’t even realize how much information you’re absorbing…. Life at this time was hard and unpredictable, and this beautiful love story interwoven with history makes for an outstanding read.” Read more ….
–Lady Blue, Romantic Historical Reviews
“The Double Cross contains clever chapter headings and endearing repartee. The characters, even the secondary ones, are real and lovable. Even through some darker themes, Kelly’s smart writing breaks through and the adventurous heart triumphs. The characters evolve and Kelly hints that the world of the Spanish Brand may be evolving as well.” Read more …
–Tara Creel, The Deseret News
“One of the things Ms. Kelly does best is show ordinary people living lives of extraordinary grace, and that’s a treat. I also enjoy how she shows widows and widowers finding love again, much as real people do. I look forward to more Spanish Brand stories in the future.” Read more ….
–Darlene Marshall’s Blog
“Engaging and highly entertaining, The Double Cross is Carla Kelly at her best. I can’t wait for the next book in what promises to be an amazing series.”
—Carla Neggers, New York Times bestselling author of Saint’s Gate
“Carla Kelly’s vivid storytelling plunges the reader into a tense, hypnotic tale of love and courage in The Double Cross. A dangerous land filled with memorable characters springs to life and stays with you long after the final paragraphs.”
—Diane Farr, bestselling author, Regency Romance and Young Adult fiction
Kelly’s twenty-nine novels have given her an impressive reputation with readers and reviewers. “Kelly has the rare ability to create realistic yet sympathetic characters that linger in the mind,” wrote Library Journal. “One of the most respected Regency writers.”
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.
Romantic Times, now RT Reviews, wrote, in one of its many reviews of Kelly’s romances, “It is always a joy to read a Carla Kelly love story. Always original, always superb, Ms. Kelly’s body of work is a timeless delight.”
“You remember exactly where you were for all of the important moments in your life. Your first kiss. Your first Dove Bar. And your first Carla Kelly book,” wrote The Romance Reader.
The year is 1780, and Marco Mondragón is a brand inspector in the royal Spanish colony of New Mexico. A widower and rancher, Marco lives on the edge of Comanchería, the domain of the fierce Comanche. Each autumn, he takes cattle and wool, and his district’s records of livestock transactions to the governor in Santa Fe. He is dedicated, conscientious and lonely. This year, he is looking for a little dog to keep his feet warm through cold winter nights. He finds a yellow dog but also meets a young, blue-eyed beauty named Paloma Vega. Paloma is under the thumb of relatives who might have stolen a brand belonging to Paloma’s parents, dead in a Comanche raid.
As a brand inspector, Marco has every right to be suspicious of brand thieves. If Marco has anything to do with it, Paloma’s fortunes are about to change. Meanwhile, Marco has other challenges to contend with. An elderly ranchero named Joaquin Muñoz has set in motion events that involve the ever-dangerous Comanches and threaten the uneasy peace of Marco’s jurisdiction.
Set against the mountains and high plains of northeastern New Mexico during the decline of Spanish power in the New World, The Double Cross is a story of loss and love regained, at a time when honor went hand in glove with bravery, and danger was never far away.
As for what inspired The Double Cross, Kelly says, “I’ve long been a whodunnit reader, but never quite found the perfect setting for a crime fiction series of my own. That is, until I came across a footnote description of a juez de campo (brand inspector) in an American Southwest textbook. In the Spanish empire, brand inspectors also solved petty crimes. I’m well-known for my romance fiction. Why not combine the two? And naturally, set the story on the edge of Comancheria, the most dangerous place in Spain’s vast Southwest empire.”
A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of twenty-nine novels and four 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. Click here to find Carla online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Marco knew he had said the wrong thing when the light went out of Paloma Vega’s lovely blue eyes. The yellow dog must be her favorite. He had made a mistake. Even worse was the knowledge that he could not make it better. He glanced at her expressive eyes and saw the damage was done, so he avoided looking in them again, concentrating instead on the dog. It was eager as most pups, ever hopeful but unaware that a change was coming.
You will like me, too, he silently promised the dog, even if I disappoint your mistress.
“W-why did you name him Trece?” he stammered, wanting to erase that look of disappointment.
It disturbed him that Paloma Vega couldn’t look him in the eye, either. He knew his eyes were nothing spectacular, just brown like those of nearly everyone else he knew. He watched her, as she bowed her head over Trece, as if to smooth his puppy fur. When she raised her face to his again, her eyes glittered with unshed tears. When Felicia had done that, he’d been mush in her hands. But this was different. Paloma Vega was not Felicia and he wanted the dog.
“I named him Trece because he was the runt of the litter and his mama has only twelve teats, Señor,” she said. “When you are number thirteen, life can be hard.”
He could hardly bear to listen to her words. They were spoken so calmly, yet her eyes shone with her anguish. He realized this was a woman used to schooling her feelings. To show them must invite ridicule. His own brief glimpse of life in the Moreno household had already convinced him how necessary that skill must be to a powerless woman.
“You raised him by hand?”
“Sí, Señor, a little milk on a rag every few hours, then my finger, and then a small bowl.”
Despite her efforts, her struggle revealed itself in the way her teeth pulled in her lower lip—such lovely lips—and in her ragged breathing. He laid his hand on Trece, smoothing his fur, too. “And he follows you everywhere?”
Marco should never have asked that. Paloma Vega bowed her head over her dog and just nodded. He wasn’t sure how to redeem himself, but he wanted to try. O, Dios, how he wanted to try, but the words failed him, he who was accustomed to commanding.
A Colonial-era “ghost” is felled by a poisoned dessert drink. Who wanted him dead? Who didn’t? Murder by Syllabub ($15.95, 298 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-957-2) is Kathleen Delaney’s fifth Ellen McKenzie mystery. The setting of this cozy is a Civil War era plantation in Virginia.
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4 1/2 stars: “I was hooked from the opening of this wonderful cozy mystery. The characters are very real and I wanted to help them…. The story takes place on an old plantation in Virginia, and the past history becomes yet another character. Kathleen Delaney has done her research and her readers are the richer for it. Among other things, I learned all about syllabub, a desert drink, and also sippets, spoons made from stale bread. One of the characters teaches Colonial cooking and it was fascinating to learn about baking and how it was done in the eighteenth century. Everything is described with a richness of language that draws the reader back into the early history of the South. And if that weren’t enough, the action is fast-paced, full of drama and mystery. The plot twists and turns in myriad ways. An old murder is uncovered, along with family feuds, contested wills, and the aftermath of slavery. Delaney keeps her readers guessing right up to the end, and I found that I couldn’t put this book down. If you are looking for a cozy mystery which is filled with history and intrigue, look no further than Murder by Syllabub.” Read more ….
–Cyclamen, Long and Short Reviews
5 Stars: “For history buffs or cozy mystery fans, this is a well-written novel with plenty of historical and regional interest.” Read more ….
–The Self-Taught Cook Blog
“Any story that has a Civil War era plantation in Virginia and a poisoned dessert drink sounds like a winner. And Kathleen Delaney has batted in a home run. Jessica Fletcher from the Murder, She Wrote Television series, as good as she was, was never as good as Ellen McKenzie is. Ellen is up against 100 years of Southern history as she weeds through the motives the various individuals have for the murder and there are plenty of suspects and there is also the cooking …. 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…. I am going to go and get the previous four books to hold me over until the next book in this series comes out.” Read more ….
—Vic’s Media Room
5/5 Stars: “With Murder By Syllabub I have discovered an amazing name in the field of Crime writing and SHE’S FEMALE! I have already downloaded her other books!… I was able to feel, see and the story. The characters were very well described. I particularly liked Ellen and Noah. I very much look forward to reading more of Ellen’s mysteries. I give Murder By Syllabub an amazing 5/5.” Read more ….
–Kate, Read 2 Review
“Each new revelation in the case leads to ever-expanding questions and suspicions. It’s a real ‘whodunit’ novel, with multiple twists and turns, along with a bevy of suspects, each with a strong motive for wanting the disagreeable victim dead. Chapter after chapter is peppered with action and an ever-deepening mystery leading up to an explosive, nail-biting conclusion. Author Kathleen Delaney has produced a cast of endearing characters in this her fifth book centering on heroine Ellen McKenzie. The novel is rife with the often humorous escapades of a group of elderly women.” Read more ….
—Christine O’Connor, I Love a Mystery
“Ellen McKenzie is back to solve another mystery in Murder By Syllabub. This time she helps her Aunt Mary tackle a problem with a ghost in Colonial dress at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house belongs to Aunt Mary’s friend, Mildred. They find the ghost may have been very much alive at one point, but it is now dead, thanks to a poisoned batch of syllabub Mildred made. Ellen doesn’t like the sound of that and sets out to find the truth. Ellen is a sheer delight to read! I’ve enjoyed all five of author Kathleen Delaney’s McKenzie mysteries, and look forward to many more!”
—Joyce Lavene, author, along with her husband Jim, of over 50 books
A ghost in Colonial dress has been wreaking havoc at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house is owned by Elizabeth Smithwood, the best friend of Ellen McKenzie’s Aunt Mary. Mary is determined to fly to the rescue, and Ellen has no choice but to leave her real estate business and new husband to accompany her. Who else will keep the old girl out of trouble?
When Ellen and Aunt Mary arrive, they find that Elizabeth’s “house” comprises three sprawling buildings containing all manner of secret entrances and passages, not to mention slave cabins. But who owns what and who owned whom? After Monty—the so-called ghost and stepson of Elizabeth’s dead husband—turns up dead in Elizabeth’s house, suspicion falls on her. Especially when the cause of death is a poisoned glass of syllabub taken from a batch of the sweet, creamy after-dinner drink sitting in Elizabeth’s refrigerator.
Monty had enemies to spare. Why was he roaming the old house? What was he searching for? To find the truth, Ellen and her Aunt Mary will have to do much more than rummage through stacks of old crates; they will have to expose two hundred years of grudges and vendettas. The spirits they disturb are far deadlier than the one who brought them to Virginia.
Says Delaney, “I have always been fascinated by the early history of our country and how people lived in the eighteenth century. My first visit to Colonial Williamsburg intensified my interest and I knew I had to write a story set there. Researching what I needed for this book was as much fun as writing it.”
Kathleen Delaney has written four previous Ellen McKenzie Real Estate mysteries, but has never before transported her characters out of California. Kathleen lived most of her life in California but now resides in Georgia. Click here to find Kathleen on the Web.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Mildred leaned back against the drain board, as if she needed it to prop her up. “Do you think he’ll be back?”
I set the dish on the drain board along with the other rinsed dishes. “You mean the murderer?”
I’d wondered the same thing. “I think it was Monty prowling around upstairs, looking for something. Why he was dressed like that, I can’t imagine, but I don’t think he found whatever it was he was looking for. The only reason I can think of for both Monty and whoever slipped him the poison to be here is they were looking for the same thing. I don’t think they found it. So, yes, I think whoever it is will be back.”
Mildred nodded. “I think so, too. That crate was no accident.” She paused before going on, her voice filled with apprehension. “You know, McMann isn’t going to buy the mysterious prowler story. He’s going to take the easy way out. Elizabeth fed Monty the poison before she left for the airport and we’re protecting her.” She sighed deeply and turned to the dishwasher. “Might as well load this. Can you hand me that bowl?”
She opened the door, pulled out the top rack and froze. “How did that get in here?”
“What’s the matter? Oh no.”
We stood, frozen, staring at the immaculately clean crystal glass, sitting on the top rack in solitary splendor.
“That’s one of the old syllabub glasses.” Mildred turned around to look at the glasses on the hutch and returned her gaze to the dishwasher. She pulled the rack out all the way but the dishwasher was empty, except for the one glass.
I’d had a close enough look at the glass next to Monty to know this was from the same set. “It’s the missing syllabub glass.”
“Missing?” Mildred’s hand went out to touch it, but she quickly withdrew. “Where are the others? Cora Lee and I packed these away years ago. There were eight of them. How did this one get in here?”
“Noah didn’t tell you?”
“That boy only tells me what he wants me to know. What was it he should have told me?”
“The set of these glasses were on the sideboard in the dining room where Monty was killed. Six of them. One was beside Monty with the remains of a sticky drink in it. That made seven. One was missing. The one the murderer used.”
We stared at each other then back into the dishwasher. “That’s got to be the missing one, right there.” Mildred took a better look. “It’s clean. Someone’s trying to frame Elizabeth.”
Murdock Tackles Taos presents a new episode in the Matt Murdock Mystery series by Robert J. Ray ($16.95, 350 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-925-1). The adventures of this tough guy detective with a soft heart began with Bloody Murdock and continued through four other novels, all available through Camel Press.
In most of the earlier books, Murdock operates from Newport Beach, CA, although in Murdock Cracks Ice, he goes to Seattle, WA. This novel brings the PI to New Mexico, where he teams up with a sexy writer whose sleuthing instincts are equal to his own.
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** Also available in Kindle, Nook, and other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“Robert Ray is a gifted writer and the Matt Murdock series displays all his many talents. The prose is crisp, the characters vivid and the plot captivating. Read him now! Matt Murdock is part Jack Reacher, part Dave Robicheux. Fans of Lee Child and James Lee Burke will love Murdock Tackles Taos. A brilliant murder mystery with a splash of romance. The Matt Murdock series is one of my guilty pleasures!”
—Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author
“I absolutely loved this book. To me it had a different feel to it than some others of the same genre. It was faster paced than most, and told three different perspectives on the story. Helene’s, Murdock’s, and a third whose identity you will have to find out for yourself. I give this a GIGANTIC 5 out of 5. Recommended for people who love the thrill of the chase, and the feeling of catching the bad guy in the act.” Read more …
—I Read a Book Once Blog
“I must admit to thoroughly enjoying this mystery thriller featuring Matt Murdock who was hired to find and return the daughter of a friend who went missing from an art colony in Taos, New Mexico. What a mesmerizing read this turned out to be! Strong characters, thrilling adventure, psychological deviancy, (is that a word?), strong, well thought out plot and storyline … an absolutely intriguing read!” Read more …
–Beth Art from the Heart Blog
“Action and tension are high in a cleverly weaved ‘whodunit’ mystery. You actually know who did it very early on, but you read on for two reasons; one, the how do they get caught, and two, the why. I guarantee the why will knock your socks off.” Read more …
–Joe Hempel, Top of the Heap Reviews
5 Stars: “A plot that is filled with action, mystery and suspense. This is the first book I have read in the ‘A Matt Murdock Mystery Series’ andwas totally engrossed throughout the whole book. Between the author’s strong, believable, and well developed characters, and the many twists and turns within the story line, I was kept at the edge of my seat wondering what will happen next. Highly recommended for all crime, murder mystery fans.” Read more ….
–Susan Peck, My Cozie Corner
“LOVE this book! It is a roller coaster of a ride from the beginning chapter, with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. Ladies, you may find yourself charmed by Murdock, just like Helene in the book.” Read more …
—Bless Their Hearts Mom Blog
“Murdock makes me smile. He’s not a suave, sophisticated James Bond. He’s not a disheveled, bumbling Colombo either. He’s real. He’s kind. He’s somebody to share a good adventure with. Helene Steinbeck, retired town marshal turned successful author, is Murdock’s new sidekick and lover. She makes me just a tiny bit jealous. Robert Ray’s novel tossed me back and forth between the feel of a summer read and a study in human nature—either way Murdock Tackles Taos is a read you won’t want to miss.”
—Arleen Williams, author of The Thirty-Ninth Victim
“In Murdock Tackles Taos, Robert Ray takes risks that every good novelist has to take in order to push the limits of the genre without leaving his readers behind. As with all of Ray’s books, this one is so well written it’s a pleasure just to say the words. When Ray brings Helene Steinbeck, his second sleuth, on stage he drags Murdock into the 21st Century with a bang …. In this book, the rich eat the poor. Steinbeck and Murdock set things right.”
—Jack Remick, author of Blood, Gabriela and the Widow and The California Quartet series
“Robert J. Ray has succeeded in doing what Michael McGarrity excels at: developing characters that you want to take home. Murdock Tackles Taos is a can’t-put-it-down kind of book. Ray seduces the reader from the first paragraph, pulls them in with enticing promises, and doesn’t break up with them until the last page. Murdock is the perfect character. He keeps you at the edge of your seat waiting to surprise you with his next move.”
—Marie Romero Cash, artist and author of the Jemimah Hodge Mystery series
“Fast paced, with many twists and turns, told in three alternating points of view, mostly Helen’s and Murdock’s, and a few from the villain’s making it extra interesting. All characters are developed and well-rounded. The society of Taos the author created is beautifully described—picture perfect—including an eccentric group of people taking an obscure place in it all…. An action-packed, fast-paced read with a surprise ending that will stay with you for a while. Definitely worthwhile to take on holiday!” Read more ….
—Fenny, Hotchpotch Blog
“I was immediately engrossed in the storyline and the pace of the book I was constantly trying to guess what would happen next and the who done it. I highly recommend reading and look forward to reading more on Matt Murdock.” Read more ….
—Heather, Saving for 6 Blog
“Game, set, match. Murdock Tackles Taos puts readers through their paces, serving up breakneck action, intrigue and murder in this winner-takes-all mystery thriller set in serene Taos, N.M. Can’t wait for Murdock’s next case!”
—L.M. Archer, freelance author and wine blogger
“In Murdock Tackles Taos, Murdock makes us yearn for hexagonal sights to sharpen our aim. He is aging well, but feeling some ‘techodistance’ between himself and his younger rival for the heroine’s love. Yet Murdock prevails. His love, Helene Steinbeck, silently paces in their bedroom, and suddenly dust from gunshot riddled sheet rock drifts down into the room. Then the pair are on the move again to solve the mystery of more than one missing person. Murdock feels the tentacles of a monster in Taos, ‘reaching out, grabbing up innocent people and squeezing them to the maw of the octopus.’ Bob Ray’s character descriptions and scene settings are vivid. This book seems like a case study for The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery. There is lively writing throughout. Highly recommended to all Murdock Mystery fans!”
—Becky Warden, co-author, along with Kerri Hakoda, of The Currency Mysteries
“Whenever Matt Murdock is in town, trouble can’t be far off. This time it’s Taos, New Mexico, with an international cast of bad guys and more than a few beauties. The prose is tough, the characters quirky, and a depiction of the Taos landscape so vivid you can taste the red clay and the enchiladas. Funny, imaginative, and with a code of honor reminiscent of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, Matt Murdock gets his man.”
—Max Detrano, author of “Jasper Rincon’s Loft” and “A Hunk of Meat” published by 10,000 Tons of Black Ink–both nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
“This novel dishes up a whole lot of fun—and just in time for summer. With shades of Raymond Chandler’s tough-minded Marlowe, Murdock is a detective you can root for—slightly above the law, but only in the way we like to think that we are, too. Ray’s plot zips along, sweeping us past murder, seduction, human trafficking, and class issues. And that’s just in the opening pages. But even with the swift plot, the characters were what I flipped pages for: the quick-witted Murdock, his gutsy female sidekick, and a villain worthy of Ian Fleming. And the final line will stick with you for a long time.”
“This eagerly-anticipated installment in Bob Ray’s Murdock P.I. series sizzles with fast-paced action and heats up the high desert nights with steamy chemistry between Murdock and his partner in crime-solving, the multi-talented novelist/ex-cop Helene Steinbeck. The suspicious disappearance of an Army buddy’s daughter from an artist’s colony brings Murdock to the Southwest, where he learns that here, bow hunting is not confined to wild game. In fact, the game gets wilder as Murdock uncovers more about the golden gods and goddesses that rule the country club tennis courts. The beautiful people are far from unblemished, and they have Murdock and Steinbeck in their sights. Those who loved the earlier Murdock books (Bloody Murdock, Dial M for Murdock, Murdock for Hire, Murdock Cracks Ice) will not be disappointed. Murdock may have aged a bit, but he’s still on his game. Action-packed and brimming with memorable characters, Murdock Tackles Taos is perfect summer fare, and required reading for noir fans.”
—Kerri Hakoda, co-author with Becky Warden, The Currency Mysteries
Weary but wise private-eye Matt Murdock is back, and he has met his match—a vital and attractive writer and cop’s daughter, Helene Steinbeck. Helene is hiking in the hills of Taos when she happens upon the corpse of a young woman downed by an arrow. Murdock appears on the horizon just in time to prevent a team of archers from using Helene as target practice. Murdock has been scouring Angel Mountain and vicinity for evidence that will help him discover the whereabouts of Barbi Bellini, the missing daughter of a friend.
Now that Helene has stumbled onto the scene, she has no choice but to join Murdock in his search for answers. Drawn to the detective’s integrity and quiet strength, she becomes both his apprentice and his lover. Their quest leads them to a cult of locals whose charismatic leader believes the “weak” are fair game. But this unholy brotherhood is just the poisonous tip of the arrow. The hunters have forged deadly alliances with the rich and powerful of Taos. Who can Helene and Murdock trust? Will they be able to outthink—and outrun—their many adversaries?
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, and now Murdock Tackles Taos. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist, and he shares writing 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:
Helene felt the edge of fear. Maybe not fear, maybe curiosity. The kids were not in the room by chance. They had been sent by someone with a game plan and the sides were uneven. Eight sassy high school kids against one Helene Steinbeck. She was out-numbered, but why was she worried? Over forty people in the workshop. Plenty of adults. She was safe here.
Skye’s reading was a skimpy story about killing his number one rival on the high school soccer team. The killing was preceded by a manhunt, where Skye and his jock-friends chased the victim—identified as Manny Jones the Retard, a fat kid wearing a white polo shirt that glowed in the dark—up a steep hill, sharp rocks underfoot, and then through a wasteland wilderness of trees with witches arms for branches. As Skye finished reading and sat down, Helene looked at her group of teenagers. They had read her book and now they were playing with her. Toying with her, according to some kind of plan. There was an hour left. An hour to kill, or an hour to do her job. An hour before she could escape. Helene changed her workshop strategy—more writing, less reading.
For a solid fifty-five minutes, she had them write using prompts called Firsts and Lasts. “My first day at school,” for three minutes. “My last day at school,” for four minutes. “At my first birthday party,” write for five minutes. No reading, no chance to rattle Helene, just writing, switching back and forth—the beginning, the end, the beginning, and when the timer buzzed, Helene thanked them for coming.
Then the bookstore person brought in books for signing and a line of buyers formed. The senior citizens came first. They paid with credit cards from co-ops and local banks.
“To my sister in Des Moines.”
“To my grandchild in Topeka.”
The last senior walked away. Helene texted Murdock. “HLP.”
The teenagers clustered around the table. Grinning, smug with their sex appeal, confident in their youth, their collective force. The first teen customer was Tommy—handsome and cocky, flashing a black card from Amex that made the bookseller gawk. Tommy signed the ticket with flair.
When Tommy presented his book for Helene’s signature, he said, “What a great workshop, Miss Steinbeck. Oh, yeah, right, make it to my big brother, Gerry Junior—use his initials, ‘To G.J., from Helene, with love’—just kidding, but listen, Miss Steinbeck, I really want to be a writer, I mean, it’s like a lust, a craving, but my folks say no way to the artist’s life, so I was wondering, could we buy you a coke or something, like now? Pick your brain? Get your advice?”
Helene said thank you for the invitation but she was tired and maybe some other time. And the next teenage book buyer said the same thing. A yen for writing, parents doing the old roadblock thing, could we buy you a coke or something, pick your brain, maybe?
It was a rehearsed operation with ritual overtones. Automaton teens, mocking her, setting her up, for what she did not know. Helene said “No thank you.” She was tired. She was meeting someone. The invitations did not stop. She signed the last book and looked around for the bookstore person. Gone. She turned to pick up her rucksack. Skye was holding it out of easy reach. She reached for her cellphone. Moving fast, Tommy snatched the phone. His eyes looked nasty. The circle of teenagers tightened around her. Her Glock was back in the motel room. Where was Murdock?
Treasure among the Shadows ($15.95, 310 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-907-7) is Marie Romero Cash’s third murder mystery featuring forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge. This time around Jemimah and Sheriff Rick Romero are looking for answers in the death of a much-reviled female archeologist.
** Click the cover image to order the 5×8 trade paperback online **
** Or buy it in Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“Jemimah Hodge has guts, heart and a brilliant sense of direction when she’s on the trail of something buried. Cash delivers a thrilling ride from start to finish. Riveting.”
—Chris Rogers, author, the Dixie Flannigan series
“Treasure among the Shadows is a fictional take on the controversial, real-life hunt for a treasure buried by Forrest Fenn that has attracted the attention of treasure seekers worldwide as well as the FBI. The author knows Fenn in real life; in the book he is renamed Tim McCabe and has strong ties to law enforcement, specifically Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Romero, a straight-arrow local boy who is dating his esteemed colleague, forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge. Hodge, who gets involved in the murder mystery beyond the scope of her job, has a curious back story: as a teenager, she ran away from a polygamist Mormon community to save herself from being married off to a stranger three times her age. She then put herself through school, earned a doctorate, and eventually landed in Santa Fe. Joining this crew as McCabe’s foil — and then the story’s next murder victim — is Gilda Humphreys, the frumpy, tyrannical state archaeologist who’s been leading a double life as a sex kitten. She’s fixated on the treasures to be found on McCabe’s ranch — property he bought from a pueblo and to which he insists the state has no claim. When real treasure is indeed found, the fun begins.”
—Pasatiempo, the New Mexican’s Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture
“The essence of northern New Mexico permeates the pages of this nonstop murder mystery…. Congratulations to Marie Romero Cash for painting new shades into the rich New Mexico canvas.”
—Robert J. Ray, author of the Matt Murdock Murder Mystery series
“Jemimah Hodge and Sheriff Rick Romero are a great team. The two of them remind me a lot of ‘McCloud’ from the old TV show, maybe because he was from Taos, New Mexico also. There are two murders that our team needs to solve, one without suspects and one with plenty. Treasure Among The Shadows is a wonderful thriller; the tension mounts as Jemimah and Rick are trying to identify the killer. It is 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. Cash has provided us with a great character in Jemimah Hodge and I am going to correct my earlier mistake and go and get the first two books to hold me over until the next book in this series comes out.” Read more ….
—Vic’s Media Room
“A relaxed, interesting and light Summer read that any detective lover will enjoy.”
—Fenny, Hopscotching Blog
“The book brings the area of Taos and New Mexico to life! You will find yourself wanting to go back and read the previous two books, and looking forward to the next book in the series too. You’ll love the team of Jemimah and Rick.” Read more ….
—Bless Their Hearts Mom Blog
4 Stars: “Jemimah is an interesting character with an unusual background, having run from a polygamous cult as a teenager. I assume her history is covered more fully in the first two books, so I will be looking for those next. The Southwest locale is as important to the story as the characters themselves. This series should be enjoyed by fans of Tony Hillerman.” Read more ….
—The Self-Taught Cook Blog
A woman is strangled and shot. She was last seen alive at a casino near Santa Fe. Forensic Psychologist Jemimah Hodge is on the case, as is her new boyfriend, Sheriff Rick Romero. The trail has already grown cold when another woman is murdered under similar circumstances. The first dead woman left behind a disgruntled ex-spouse but no other obvious suspects. Gilda Humphreys, the second victim, is another story. First there is her househusband, then there are all her co-workers … It seems no one is shedding a tear for Gilda.
While going through Gilda’s field notes, Jemimah discovers that the woman was experiencing a sexual renaissance. Could one of her lovers have killed her? Then there is Tim McCabe’s treasure hunt. A wealthy gallery owner and collector, McCabe has buried a chest filled with valuable coins and jewelry and challenged the public to find it. When Gilda wasn’t dressing down her co-workers or dallying with lovers, she was searching for McCabe’s treasure.
Was it greed that killed Gilda? A scorned lover or vengeful co-worker? With so many suspects and so few clues, Rick and Jemimah face one of the most challenging cases of their careers.
Says Cash, “I got the idea for this book after reading the fabulous memoir of a long-time Santa Fe collector and owner of private Indian ruins near Cerrillos on the ranch that has been the site for my other books. As if his adventures weren’t exciting enough, Forrest Fenn tossed in an honest to goodness treasure hunt. Besides a fictional treasure hunt, my book has a murder attached and a few bad guys thrown in for good measure.”
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:
The tangerine glow brushed the mountain tops in the final moments of the sunset. Gilda had been tapping markers into the trees for over an hour to document her progress in the canyon. She leaned over to pick up her backpack. The crackling of leaves startled her. She could make out the silhouette of a man moving toward her. A look of anguish spread over her face as he came within a foot of her. She frantically reached for her cellphone.
He pulled a guitar wire from his inside pocket.
She gasped. “What …”
Inches from her she stared into the blank look in the deep wells of darkness that were his eyes. His breath was rank and heavy.
Her voice trembled. “Please. Don’t hurt me.”
He pushed his face into hers. “Nobody’s going to hear you.”
Gilda lurched forward. He grabbed her arm and pulled her back, knocking her to her knees. He squeezed the cord around her neck as she struggled to get free. He reached under his coat. The bullet shattered her head. A cloud of smoke filled the air around her as her lifeless body dropped to the ground.
He dragged her to the edge of the river and rolled her over the embankment, waiting for the splash. Looking over the ledge, he discovered she had fallen into a boat tangled in the bushes and roared with laughter.
“Would you look at that? Perfect three point landing.”
The stranger retrieved his gear, clicked on his flashlight and made his way down the hill where his car was parked behind a clump of chamisa. He was in no hurry. The job was done.
Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour ($13.95, 250 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-913-8) is Camel Press’s latest reprint of popular regency romances by Carla Kelly. First published in 1989, the novel features a gentlewoman of reduced circumstances whose luck changes when she helps an abused runaway.
**CLICK THE COVER IMAGE TO ORDER THE TRADE PAPERBACK ONLINE**
**Also Available in Kindle, Nook, and other eBook formats on Smashwords**
Carla 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. Kelly’s Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand reprint was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 5 romances in 2012.
In coming months, Camel Press will also reprint Miss Billings Treads the Boards, With This Ring, Miss Milton Speaks her Mind, and McVinnie’s London Season. Camel will also be publishing Carla’s all-new Spanish Brand series. Book 1, The Double Cross, will be released on August 1, 2013.
Carla Kelly is particularly celebrated for her regency romances. The Romance Reader has called her “the Grandmistress of the [Regency] genre.” According to Romantic Times, “Carla Kelly’s Regency Romances are always superb and a timeless delight.” Wrote Library Journal has called her “one of the most respected Regency writers.”
“A milestone of originality,” wrote Romantic Times when Miss Chartley was first published. “Carla Kelly moves on to yet another triumph in this immensely appealing tale. Superlative.”
“All of Kelly’s characters shine, from her hero and heroine down to the smallest child,” wrote All About Romance.
“Well-written, well-plotted and retains its original charm. Omega is independent and strong for a Regency heroine. Once Matthew sheds his demons, he becomes a hero worthy of her.” Read more ….
–Audrey Braver, Historical Novel Society
To all appearances, Miss Omega Chartley is a schoolteacher on holiday. In fact she is a gentlewoman fallen on hard times, left at the altar eight years earlier and forced to make her own way in the world after the loss of her family fortune.
Omega’s modest tour of England is cut short when she comes to the aid of a runaway. Jamie Clevenden has fled the clutches of a brutal uncle, and Omega is determined to help him escape the law, as represented by Bow Street Runner, Mr. Timothy Platter.
Aided by a kindly war veteran and his adopted daughter, the two fugitives arrive at the home of Jamie’s other uncle, the Viscount of Byford—none other than Miss Chartley’s disgraced fiancé, Matthew Bering. There Miss Chartley will finally learn the secret that Lord Byford has hidden from her all these years, the story of a dark chapter in his past that stands in the way of not only their happiness but that of his nephew. Now they must face the truth together, no matter how dire the consequences.
“I wrote this book early in my Regency Romance career,” says Kelly, “and I’m delighted to see it in print again and ebook form. Since it came out so early, I suspect many of my readers haven’t had the pleasure of Omega Chartley’s company, as her simple trip to change jobs ends up involving a runaway, a Peninsular Wars veteran and a former fiancé. Nothing is simple in life, and that is even more true in a novel.”
A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of twenty-nine novels and four 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.
Click here to find Carla online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
She tried to think what to do. The only other recourse was to apply to Matthew Bering, Viscount Byford, for a loan. “Oh, God, I cannot,” she said.
“Cannot what, my dear?”
Omega jerked her hands away from her face and opened her eyes. Matthew was standing quietly in the doorway. He was dressed carefully in the elegance of a country gentleman again, stock neatly tied, coat smoothed across his shoulders without a wrinkle. He walked slowly to the other end of the table and sat down. “Cannot what?” he asked again when she did not seem disposed to reply.
There are moments when only the truth will do. “I cannot ask you for a loan to quit this place, Matthew,” she answered. “And I dare not tell Alpha my whereabouts, for he would surely challenge you to a duel. I hardly need scruple to describe the outcome of that to you, sir.”
Matthew considered her predicament. “If you cannot apply to me to bring you up to scratch, and you don’t want to risk Alpha’s health, whatever will you do?”
He was teasing her. There was a twinkle in his eye as he leaned back in the chair and regarded her. He was playing with her emotions like a musician with an instrument. How dare he? She rose to her feet slowly, horrified by the intensity of her rage. Had there been a pistol within easy reach, she would have shot him.
He saw the anger in her face. The twinkle left his eye and he sat up straight again. “That was unthinkable of me,” he said. “I have no business being unkind to you.” He waited a moment. “Oh, say something, Omega!”
She could think of nothing that would do justice to her feelings. There weren’t enough words in the language. She could only shake her head and hurry to the door, desperate to get belowstairs again.
There was another look in Matthew Bering’s eye that she couldn’t identify. A chill settled around her heart. She got to the door first and stepped into the hall in time to narrowly avoid Twinings, who was hurrying to the front door.
Hugh had returned. Thank God. That would be sufficient diversion to allow an escape. Besides, there was much to do belowstairs. Omega Chartley chose discretion over valor, and fled to the safety of the servants’ hall.
The Fallen Angels Book Club ($14.95, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-917-6) is a mystery/suspense novel by new author R. Franklin James about a woman whose book club—supposedly composed entirely of white-collar criminals—may harbor a bona fide murderer.
The Fallen Angels Book Club is the first book in an exciting new mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Hollis Morgan.
** Click the cover image to order online **
** Also available in Kindle, Nook, and other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“Twists and turns keep this debut novel exciting to the surprising end.”
—Michele Drier, author of Edited for Death and The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles.
“R. Franklin James’ new book has everything a reader could ask for in a good mystery: intriguing plot, fascinating characters, and a few shockers thrown in along the way.”
—Shirley Kennedy, romance novelist
“The Fallen Angels Book Club by author R. Franklin James is an enjoyable first book in the new series featuring Hollis Morgan. Hollis is a good heroine as she is smart, determined and resourceful.”
—Barbara Cothern, Portland Book Review
5 Stars: “This mystery kept my attention from beginning to end. Although I had my suspicions of one character, the solution to the mystery surprised me. And that, my friends, is the mark of a good mystery.” Read more ….
–Self-Taught Cook Blog
“Reading is murder in this must-read suspense novel filled with surprising twists and turns.”
—Cathi Stoler, author of mystery thriller, Telling Lies
“A fast paced plot with many twists coupled with a smart and determined protagonist make this a most enjoyable read.”
—Kathleen Delaney, author of the Ellen McKenzie real estate mysteries
“A smooth running story where slowly pieces of the puzzle are revealed. Being a book lover I liked the setting she created with the book club …. The author manages to reel the reader in with her delightful storytelling and likable characters. It’s a great first book that lovers of the old-fashioned detective genre surely will appreciate!” Read more ….
—Fenny, Hotchpotch Blog
“A satisfying, clean mystery with several twists that kept me guessing, and also left me anxious for the next book in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series.” Read more ….
“This first book written by Ms. James is a winner for anyone who enjoys a clean mystery which will keep you guessing until the end about ‘whodunit.’” Read more ….
—My Home of Books Blog
“A fast paced mystery that keeps the reader wanting more. I loved a good mystery and this is one of the better ones I have read in awhile. A fun story for sure!!!” Read more ….
—Kathleen Kelly, Celtic Lady’s Reviews
“The story line was interesting, as were the characters. The book flows steady without any dull gaps. I really liked the authors way of writing…. If you love a good murder mystery, you should get a copy of this book.” Read more ….
—Vicki, I’d Rather Be at the Beach Blog
“Kept me guessing from the beginning. A must-read for all mystery fans.” Read more ….
—Susan Peck, My Cozie Corner
“Hollis is a character you sorta warm up to, you have to get past her cool exterior and suddenly you realize you REALLY like her and care what happens to her. I ended up finishing the book in one sitting! Although the book is set in the Bay Area outside San Francisco, the author serves up the area as a backdrop, but then concentrates on the characters. The place never intrudes on the story line, like it can in some books. The author does an excellent job of building up the different characters, so that you feel like you know them all. I was happy with the ending (and no I’m not giving it away!) and I’m thrilled there is already another Hollis book in the making!” Read more ….
—Bless Their Hearts Mom Blog
“The book moves along at a fast pace and Hollis finds herself wrapped up in a couple of different mysteries. I started to have my suspicions about people, but hadn’t quite wrapped it all up when the author started to spill the beans about how everything fit together. I was quite surprised by some of the things I found out in the end, about someone who was close to Hollis. It was a nice surprise.” Read more ….
–Kristi Herbrand, Books and Needlepoint Blogspot
“This debut novel set in the San Francisco Bay area is a first-person account told by amateur sleuth, Hollis Morgan. This is a very intriguing murder mystery with a startling cast of characters. This book allows the reader to take part in the investigation; I felt my suspicions sift as each new clue was revealed. This is a remarkable well-rounded mystery and I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone who enjoys crime fiction.”
—Heather Coulter, Books, Books, and more Books
“A very fast and enjoyable read and a real page turner. I was constantly wanting to know what was going to happen next and it managed to keep me guessing a lot of the time as well … If you love a mystery novel that doesn’t bog you down with unnecessary details but still has enough of a background and storyline to keep everything flowing, then I highly recommend giving this one a try.” Read more …
–Beagle Book Space
“This book is full of murder, mystery and of course mayhem. Thoroughly entertaining and a fast read, I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Excellent debut novel Ms. James!” Read more …
–Tammy & Michelle, Nook Users’ Book Club
“This is R. Franklin James’ debut novel, a fact which I find hard to believe. She has created a character I love in Hollis Morgan, and a great plot …. I’m going to follow the series and R. Franklin James. I’ve found a winner.” Read more ….
–Views from the Countryside Blog
“Highly inventive … a wonderful thriller. The tension mounts as Hollis becomes the target of the killer putting her life in great peril. The Fallen Angels Book Club is 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. When you finish this book you will heave a hugely satisfying sigh because you have enjoyed yourself immensely. Ms. Franklin James has provided us with a great new character in Hollis Morgan. I am already looking forward to the next book in this series from this very talented author.” Read more …
–Vic’s Media Room
“The author … does a excellent job of creating a story line that’s both realistic and suspenseful. There was never a dull moment. I really look forward to reading more from this author.” Read more …
–Heather, Saving for 6 Blogspot
“A delightful read. It certainly contained mystery, murder and mayhem …. Like any good mystery, there was a mystery within a mystery and I found [Hollis'] exchanges with the older folks at the center refreshing and decidedly touching …. The reader could feel Hollis’s fear with each event and her determination to clear her name. Very well written and very well thought out! Well done Ms James, well done!” Read more …
–Beth Art From the Heart Blog
The Fallen Angels Book Club has only two requirements: the members must love books and have a white-collar criminal record. Hollis Morgan fits the bill. Left holding the bag in an insurance fraud scheme concocted by her now ex-husband, she served her time and is trying to rebuild her life. All she wants is for the court to pardon her conviction so she can return to law school.
After one of her fellow members is murdered in a scenario straight out of a club selection, Hollis is once again the subject of police scrutiny. Refusing to get stuck with another bad rap, she sets out to investigate her fellow club members. Is one of them really blackmailing the others? As a second member dies in yet another book-inspired murder, Hollis realizes that time is running out. Everything rides on her finding the killer—not just her career aspirations. She must identify the killer before she herself becomes the next victim. Everyone is convinced she knows more than she lets on. But what is it, exactly, that is she supposed to know?
Says James, “My inspiration for the Hollis Morgan character originated with an online writing class. My fellow class members came from all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds and they included one sociopath. Only we didn’t know that until members started receiving email threats. Our instructor dropped him (or her) from the list, but I couldn’t shake the idea of a group of people coming together to share their art, only to be stalked or hounded by a greedy opportunist. I gave my group a secret—their criminal past—and the Fallen Angels were born.
R. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco East Bay Area and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She and her husband currently live in northern California. The Fallen Angels Book Club is her first novel and the first book in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series. Click here to find R. Franklin on the Web.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
I looked through the peephole and froze.
“Who is it?” I said, hoping to buy myself a couple of seconds.
“Ms. Morgan? It’s Detective Faber. I’m with Detective Lincoln. Can we speak to you for a few minutes?” His voice sounded loud and clear, even through the door.
Taking a deep breath, I let them in. “Why have you come back?”
They looked around with curiosity as if they’d never been here before. I guided them once more into the living room. I didn’t sit because I didn’t want them to. We all stood around the coffee table.
Faber took out that thin black notebook of his and flipped open a page. “Ms. Morgan, do you know a Rebecca Lynley?”
They had me. I knew my voice would have a tremble. “I think you already know the answer to that. Yes, I legally changed my name. Hollis is my middle name and Morgan is my maiden name.”
Rebecca Hollis Morgan Lynley was my unlucky name. It was the name that brought shame to me, my family and my friends. It was the name I was known by when I served time in prison. It was the name I acquired when I married that jerk. Rebecca Hollis Morgan Lynley. It was a name I never wanted to hear again, but here it was, turning up like a bad penny. For one insane moment, I wondered what was behind that bad penny saying. I knew how that penny felt.
Lincoln said, “I see. Well, we talked to your former parole officer and he spoke highly of you. Does your employer know of your record?”
Ah, a man after my own way of thinking. Straight to the point of pain. My heart raced. “The ones who need to know do. Why? Is there a reason you’re asking?”
Lincoln seemed to come to life. “I wondered if you checked the felon box on your job application.” His expression told me that he expected I had lied.
So that was it; he liked pulling wings off butterflies. He wanted me to squirm.
“Detectives, is there a reason why you’re here? I admitted I changed my name. I don’t know any more about Rory’s death now than I did when you were last here.”
“Morgan,” I insisted.
Faber gave me a condescending smile. “Okay, Ms. Morgan, we followed up on that book tip you gave us, linking it to the mode of Norris’ death. It was right on. Then we took things a little further, did a little research on the other members of the book club. You know what we discovered? A club of ex-felons.”
At that I had to sit. They followed suit.
My thoughts raced. “I know there’s a temptation to conclude that we’re plotting the downfall of the Western world, but all that we have in common—well, not all, I guess—is that we love books.”
“That so?” Faber’s lips were pursed just shy of a smirk. “Yet I would imagine all of you must live in fear of having your prison backgrounds exposed. A blackmailer would think he hit the lotto.”
Lincoln leaned over and picked a foil-wrapped chocolate out of the glass candy dish on the table. I tried to remember how long the candy had been there. One of the prison staff had given me a small box as a good luck gift. Could people die from eating candy three years past the “best by” date? He popped it in without noticing the thin whitish coating and grabbed for another.
I stared at the chocolates. “We don’t pry into each others’ pasts. That’s one of our rules. We only get together to share our opinions about books.”
Lincoln gave me a hard look. “We visited Mr. Norris’ apartment. We found canceled checks and bank statements that raise the possibility he might have been a blackmailer.” Lincoln chewed. “Was he blackmailing you?”
“Rory, a blackmailer?” I couldn’t stop my voice from trembling. “No. No. I’m not being blackmailed.”
“You didn’t know Norris was a blackmailer?” Faber asked.
“No,” I answered weakly. “I only knew him through the book club.”
“Yeah, so you said.” Faber flipped back a couple of pages in his notebook. “Mrs. Lynley—excuse me, Ms. Morgan—would you be surprised to know your husband’s name was in an address book we found in Mr. Norris’ apartment?”
The air fled my lungs as if I’d been punched. On top of that I thought my hearing must be impaired. “I’m sorry. Did you say Bill’s name was in Rory’s address book?”
“That’s right. How did they know each other?” Faber asked.
“Bill and Rory knew each other?” The words left my lips but sounded far away.
Faber leaned over to my side of the table. “Do you know where your husband is?”
“Ex-husband. I haven’t seen him since my trial.”
Only a half-lie.
To my relief, Lincoln pushed the candy dish away. “You haven’t had any contact with William Lynley since your conviction?”
I chose my words carefully. “We haven’t spoken since I was sentenced.”
Let’s try to maintain some integrity here.
I couldn’t tell if they believed me. They asked a few more questions about the club and then left with the promise to get back to me if they thought of anything else. Based on my last law enforcement encounter, I had a feeling their next step would be to obtain a search warrant.
I tossed the salad down the disposal and went out on the deck with my wine. I’d lost my appetite. The opposite of love isn’t hatred, it’s indifference. I was working on it, not every day, but as often as my sanity allowed. I was glad to feel almost nothing.
Nighttime was always the worst for me. Insomnia had become my companion. At night, I’d close my eyes, and the noises and smells from prison would assail me. A few months ago there was a special on TV about women in prison. I couldn’t watch it. Even though my cell was behind a door and not bars, I heard my fellow inmates crying and praying. It went on for hours on end. I could neither cry nor pray now.
I had to get a pardon. I’d do whatever it took. Rory’s unsolved murder could threaten my future dreams. I had to have another chance.
I had to.
Game Drive ($13.95, 222 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-961-9), is a cozy mystery by Marie Moore about a New York-based travel agent on a research trip for her agency who suspects foul play after a colleague is killed in a tragic accident. Game Drive is the second book in a series featuring amateur sleuth Sidney Marsh. This time Sidney’s travels take her to Cape Town, South Africa, and a private game lodge near the Kruger National Park.
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Both Shore Excursion and Game Drive have been specially chosen for inclusion on Holland America and Seabourn Cruise Lines onboard libraries.
“Marie Moore has scored another triumph with GAME DRIVE. Excellent!! It will keep the reader glued from the first page to the surprising ending.”
–Shelley Glodowski, MBR (Midwest Book Review) Bookwatch
“Moore’s safari mystery proves that humans are more dangerous than wild animals! Compelling and well-written.”
—Sarah Wisseman, author of the Lisa Donahue Archaeological Mysteries
“In Game Drive, I was impressed with how well Marie Moore introduced so many characters and defined them well enough that I didn’t have to keep flipping back to their introduction to see who they were. This is something that always impresses me. I can truly say that visiting Africa through Marie’s eyes was a delight and joy.”
—Molly Weston, Editor of InSinc, The Journal of Sisters in Crime, and Meritorious Mysteries
“Talk about a real page turner. I couldn’t put it down, such a great adventure and mystery!” Read more …
–Paula Mitchell, Community Bookstop
“With a vividly picturesque landscape as the backdrop and surrounded by a great supporting cast, this safari mystery adventure is an amazing ride and I’m looking forward to their next expedition in this terrific series.”
—Dru’s Book Musings
“Lively, suspense-driven and adventure through-out, Game Drive is an exciting mystery that quickly had me trying to out-guess Sydney. Moore has a flair for scattering clues through-out, even though sometimes I’m just wrong with my conclusion. I thought the backdrop was beautifully detailed, bringing the safari to life. If you enjoy cozy or light mysteries, pick up Game Drive! It can be read as a standalone, but I’d urge you to not miss the first one in the series, Shore Excursion!” Read more ….
–Wendy Hines, Minding Spot Blog
Sidney Marsh is a Mississippi-born, New York-based travel agent. She and her best friend and business partner, Jay Wilson, are struggling to remain standing in a world where the ground is shifting. Their boss at Itchy Feet Travel has a new scheme to attract customers—safari tour packages. He sends Sidney and Jay on a familiarization trip to Cape Town and safari country to check out the accommodations and confirm that the experience lives up to the hype in the brochures.
Sidney looks forward to the deluxe trip and so does Jay, despite his deathly fear of animals, both wild and domesticated. Their experience will be far wilder than either could have imagined. First Sidney stumbles upon a suspicious rendezvous and possible murder scene in Cape Town. After Sidney’s pocket is picked on a cable-car ride up Table Mountain, she suspects that someone in their group is an imposter, a suspicion that is soon confirmed. At Leopard Dance—the luxury game lodge near Kruger National Park that serves as their base camp—one of the other agents on the “fam trip” turns up dead.
Sidney carries on a risky flirtation with a handsome Afrikaner, who may or may not be the latest manifestation of the “Marsh Curse,” which seems to jinx her every relationship. And Sidney and Jay discover that they have far more to fear from predatory humans than wild animals.
Says Moore, “As Sidney would tell you, the great advantage of working in the travel business is that you get to visit places you might not otherwise be able to afford. Africa is such a place. Africa has always held a fascination for travelers—the actual and armchair kind. After visiting Cape Town, I decided that it was where Sidney and Jay should go next. In my books I seek primarily to entertain, but at the same time to inform, in a small way, about the lot of God’s more vulnerable creatures. In Game Drive, Sidney is stirred by the systematic decimation of Africa’s rhino and elephant populations. Hundreds of these magnificent creatures are being slaughtered every year so that only a fraction of once great populations remain. And when those die out, we’ll be left with nothing but pictures of them, as with the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon.”
Marie Moore is a native Mississippian. She graduated from Ole Miss, married a lawyer in her hometown, taught junior high science, raised a family, and worked for a small weekly newspaper—first as a writer and later as Managing Editor. She wrote hard news, features and a weekly column, and won a couple of MS Press Association awards for her stories. In 1985, Marie left the newspaper to open a retail travel agency, which she managed for the next fifteen years. Both Shore Excursion and Game Drive were inspired by those experiences. Marie is a member of Sisters in Crime. She and her husband now live in Memphis, TN, and Holly Springs, MS. Click here to find Marie online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
“Well, what do you think of South Africa, Sidney, now that you have left proper civilization behind in Cape Town?”
He took my arm and guided me down the steps and along the moonlit path.
My surprise at seeing him again and learning his identity had left me speechless.
“Is it as you expected?” he asked. “Do you like Leopard Dance?”
“I do, I really do. Very much. It is interesting, and so beautiful. I can see why you have chosen to live your life here.”
“Can you now?” he said, smiling, “I wonder. And how do you know how I live my life? You know nothing about me. We’ve only just met. Careful there, love, don’t trip.”
He pointed his light on a protruding root in the dirt path, then slipped an arm around my waist as if to guide me around it.
“Well. I don’t know how you l-live, of course,” I stammered, “I don’t really. I mean, I couldn’t, could I? But I think it must be wonderful to own and run a camp like this, even with all the danger from the animals.”
“It is very satisfying, that’s what it is. And danger is always exhilarating. Always. Life here may seem somewhat monotonous, once you have settled into our routine, but I can assure you that it is not. Much more goes on here than is apparent. There is far more to Africa than lions and tourist camps.”
Just then there was a rustle in the brush ahead. He stopped abruptly and pushed me behind him. Turning his light in the direction of the sound, he pulled a pistol from his coat pocket.
An antelope crossed the path on front of us. It paused to look at us for a long moment, and then bolted.
I didn’t move, staying where he had placed me behind him until the sound of the fleeing animal died away.
“You can come out now. It’s safe,” he laughed, turning to face me, slipping the gun back in his pocket and switching off the light.
“You look beautiful in the moonlight, Sidney, and just as frightened as that gazelle. Relax, lady. There is nothing to fear when you are with me.”
Isn’t there? I thought. I wonder.
“Come,” he said, putting his arm around my bare shoulders and guiding me on down the path. “Let’s just stop in at your hut and leave a note for Mr. Wilson. Then I will take you to my house, offer you a nightcap, and show you how one really lives in Africa.”
Yes! I thought. Oh, yeah.
But it was not to be. Not that night, anyway, because we were met at my door by Felix, with his big rifle.
“Henrik, there is trouble! You must come, come quick. They need you at the guard house.” He burst into a torrent of Bantu.
“Thank you Felix,” van der Brugge said in English. “I will be right with you. You go along now. Tell the others I am coming.”
He unlocked my door for me as Felix ran back down the path. Then he smiled as he said goodbye, with a twinkle in those green eyes of his.
“Ah, well, dear Sidney, it seems that work must come before pleasure. As you heard, there seems to be a bit of a problem that I must handle. Duty calls. Go inside now, and lock the door. Get some rest. We will have to postpone your tour of my house until another time. Sleep well, love.”
And with that he was gone, striding away into the darkness.
Game’s on … all bets are off.
Double Play ($15.95, 318 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-941-1) is the third book in Jen Estes’ mystery series featuring female sportswriter Cat McDaniel. Cat has relocated to Buffalo, New York, where she gradually realizes that her wastrel half-brother has become entangled in a gambling operation involving the team she reports for.
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“The Soldiers are going into the playoffs. Brother Quinn quickly ingratiates himself with enough of the team to invite them to Cat’s place for poker (she and Benji are asleep), and one of their stars falls (or is pushed) off her balcony. He isn’t killed, but the rest of his season is shot. Fans blame Cat, and then she is forced to investigate. The deeper she goes, the worse it gets. Greedy ballplayers, owners, gamesters, all abound. Brother Quinn seems to be in the middle. What’s a girl to do? As usual, Cat’s pluck and intelligence switch into gear for a thoroughly entertaining whodunit.”
–Shelley Glodowski, MBR Bookwatch
“This is a cozy with lots of baseball and a reminder of Pete Rose’s problem. If murder can leave you smiling, this one is for you.”
–Carolyn Lanier, I Love a Mystery
Double Play follows Curveball as Book 3 of the Cat McDaniel Mysteries, also known as the Foul Ball series. The series began with Big Leagues.
Team reporter Cat finally has her perfect lineup in Double Play. She’s reporting for the playoff-bound Buffalo Soldiers, she’s living large in a two-bedroom loft overlooking the Niagara River, and she’s sporting a diamond on her ring finger—nowhere as big as a baseball diamond, but big enough for her.
Just when Cat seems to be on top of her game, life throws her an off-speed pitch. A screwball clad in a leather jacket and biker boots—also known as her half-brother and full-leech, Quinn—shows up on her doorstep, or more accurately, her balcony. Her fiancé, Benji, although shocked to find out he has a future brother-in-law, welcomes the flighty Quinn, little knowing what havoc the man’s boozing and betting ways will wreak on their lives.
Soon after Quinn moves in, Cat’s team’s innings become his fat winnings. As the long shots turn into locks and hundreds turn into thousands, Cat’s curiosity steps up to the plate. Between the betting lines, she finds greedy gamesters, desperate ballplayers and an enterprising bookie looking to raise the stakes. Sometimes baseball isn’t just a game, it’s a matter of life or death.
Says Estes, “Gambling is the dirtiest word in baseball. Fans have overlooked performance enhancers, corked bats, juiced balls, illegal drugs, dogfights, cockfights and even a bizarre wife-swap back in the ’70s, but a professional athlete who wages on the game is shunned forever. As such, I couldn’t resist ‘taking a gamble’ on this unforgivable sports sin for my third book.”
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. Click here to find Jen on the Web or go to her blog. Follow her on Twitter @jenestesdotcom.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
She didn’t know how long she’d been asleep when the scream tore through the dark bedroom and smacked her awake. Benji’s eyes snapped open, too. Simultaneously, they threw the comforter off and shot out to the hallway, hurrying into the living room. The remnants of the poker night were still visible, cards and beer bottles scattered over the table. The chairs were empty and her eyes darted to the balcony. The sliding glass door was wide open and a cold breeze blew through the room. The players all gathered near the edge.
Cat sprinted to the balcony. She breathed a momentary sigh of relief when she saw her brother in the corner, disguised by Benji’s spiraled boxwood topiary.
The telephone rang.
“That’s got to be Finley again,” Benji said, turning around to answer it.
Cat hopped out to the balcony, planting her feet on the coarse entry rug. It was still cold, but beat the bitter chill of the concrete. “What’s going on?”
Joel turned around and shoved past her, running into the kitchen. She heard him wretch and hoped he had made it to the sink.
Quinn, Damien Staats and Adam Alvarez were all peering over the balcony. Cat was filled with dread as she approached the ledge. “Guys?”
Where’s everybody else at?
Slowly, she began to recall the guests from earlier.
So’s Damien Staats.
So’s Adam Alvarez.
Joel Faulk’s in the kitchen.
Her stomach dropped.
“Oh my God, where’s Spencer?”
No one answered her. She cringed as she finally made it to the edge and followed their gazes to the ground.
Damien bounced on his heels and repeatedly shook his head. “Shit man, shit.”
A twisted body lay on the grass two stories down. It wasn’t Spencer. Her friend was short and this figure spanned two sidewalk lengths. She recognized his shaggy, dirty blond hair immediately.
Now she remembered him from earlier. The pitcher had sat on the loveseat, next to Adam. He’d made the “your mama” joke.
“Oh my God! Ryan? Ryan!”
He didn’t move.
Benji rushed to the balcony and looked over her shoulder. He gasped.
She pulled her hands away from her mouth. “We have to call nine-one-one.”
Benji nodded and ran to the phone.
She whirled around to the guys. “What the hell happened?”
Damien’s hands flew in the air defensively. “He … he ….”
Adam placed his hand on Damien’s shoulder. “He fell.”
Quinn nodded. “We were just having a smoke out here, shooting the shit and goofing around. Ryan leaned back and just … fell.”
Cat surveyed the railing. It was a concrete ledge but she pushed against it just to make sure it was sturdy. It was solid. “I don’t understand.”
Quinn shook his head. “Me, either. It happened so fast. He was leaning like this.” Quinn demonstrated by resting his hips on the edge. “He lost his footing and just tumbled back.”
Cat leaned over the side. “Ryan, can you hear me?”
His body still didn’t move. She pushed past Adam and ran out of the apartment. Her hand glided down the railing as she shot down the three flights of stairs. She sprinted across the grass. The blades felt like porcupine quills under her bare feet and the ground was cold and wet with frost. She reached his body and looked up at her lighted balcony. Quinn and the players were no longer there but she could see Benji pacing back and forth in the living room, the cordless phone pressed against his ear. She tore her eyes back to Ryan’s contorted body.
His arm was twisted behind his body like a cruller and his shoulder popped out like an extra glob of icing. “Ryan, it’s Cat McDaniel.”
Super-agent Kal Hakala and his team stand at the golden gates … of hell, with only a ghost of a chance to survive.
I Left My Haunt in San Francisco ($15.95, 298 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-868-1) is Book 3 of Mark Everett Stone’s popular urban fantasy series featuring a super-agent employed by the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation. Next up: Chicago, the Windigo City and Omaha Stakes.
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“Another high impact, fast moving story from Mark Everett Stone. I am really enjoying seeing his growth as a writer reflected in the strength of his characters and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Kal.” Read more …
—Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review
“The third in a series, I Left My Haunt in San Francisco is lively and smart. It is packed with action and just enough goop and gore to please fans of the genre without turning away newcomers to this subset of modern fantasy demon-busting …. Stone’s book moves fast and reads quickly. It is well-written and nicely paced, with a few short rest stops built in to allow the reader to catch his breath, all to better appreciate the at-times purple but always entertaining prose …. It is just great, grand fun.” Read more …
—Mark McLaughlin, Foreword Digital Reviews
“Kal Hakala is at his finest, throwing out one liners and sarcasm like candy at the local town parade. There’s even some nifty new gadgets that would make Q green with envy. Stone concocts his tale with a generous helping of spells and weaponry, a dash of some familiar faces, a smidgen of new folks on the team, and tops it off with plenty of awesome battles with the Things That Go Bump in the Night …. A dish best read in one sitting because you won’t be able to put this one down.”
—Shay Fabro, award-winning author of the Portal of Destiny series
“The third episode of the Files of the BSI series is told with Mark Stone’s trademark tongue in cheek humor. It keeps you wanting more with each turn of the page, to not only uncover the mysteries of the story, but also to enjoy Kal’s quick but cynical wit.”
—CP Bialois, author of Call of Poseidon, The Sword and the Flame series, and Skeleton Key
Mark’s last book, The Judas Line, earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which wrote, “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.” The Judas Line is currently a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award in the Fantasy Category.
Fresh Fiction called The Judas Line, “A heavenly read …. simply brilliant.”
Books in Motion is producing audiobooks of Mark’s first two BSI novels, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Un-Dead and What Happens in Vegas, Dies in Vegas. Click here to order the audio version of Mark’s first book.
Mark’s first novel in the From the Files of the BSI series, Things to Do in Denver, 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.
After avenging himself on the mythical monster that killed his sister, Kal Hakela is back at the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation. But, with only a few months left on his contract, he’s tempted to retire along with his new love, former MI-7 agent Jeanie.
When a friend and former BSI agent in San Francisco kills himself, he leaves Kal a clue, one he cannot ignore. The city is full of bad memories for Kal. In his last mission there, he killed a deranged serial rapist who used magic to murder his victims. Though successful, the mission resulted in unfortunate collateral damage, which earned Kal the enmity of San Francisco’s ghostly Supernatural protector.
With the fate of every human on Earth at stake, Kal and his team confront a slew of Supernatural perils, from giant insects to gargoyles. And they must complete their mission without the help of the BSI, its magical weaponry, and the superhuman power of Kal’s legendary rage.
Says Stone, “Whenever a book is part of a series, the author must worry about plot development. Too many series suffer from what I call ‘The Same Story Syndrome,’ where the books have basically the same plot, and only the names, places, and circumstances have changed. I try to bring a different feel to each book, introducing new elements and characters that will keep the reader guessing and the ongoing storyline fresh.”
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 lives in Denver with his wife, Brandie, and their two sons, Aeden and Gabriel. Click here to find Mark on the Web.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
“Boss,” Wilkes began. “What happened last time you were here? What was taken from Norton that he prized so much?”
Blood, black in the bright light of the full moon, splashed across the landscape of my memory. Last time in San Fran had been a dubious victory at best; we killed the bad guy and saved lives, but at the same time lost the heart of Joshua Norton.
“I’ll tell you later,” I muttered, the foul taste of the memory coating my tongue. Off to the right, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young kid—perhaps thirteen, with long, stringy blond hair and a gray hoodie—pointing a stick. I saw a flash of mirrored sunglasses before the world went all jiggery.
Heat burned up my arm and the roof of the Suburban hit me in the face and torqued my head at a nearly impossible angle while the steering wheel hit me in the Misters. The cramping, grinding pain that shot through my crotch was a blunt message that my sex life would be curtailed for a while. A tail of yellow briefly flickered across my vision, accompanied by a strange crackling sound. Burnt pork assailed my nose. For some reason, everything was topsy-turvy and it slowly came to me that I hung upside down by my seat belt, which was odd but I couldn’t quite figure out why.
I tasted blood and burning plastic. A square of glass had invaded my mouth and spitting it out hurt like hell, but not as much as my left arm. What …? A body blocked my sight to the right, a big one. More blood filled my mouth and the universe spun on its axis. I felt the sudden urge to throw up. I wiped my eyes and realized that my left sleeve was on fire and the burning pork was ME! I smelled almost delicious but I couldn’t hear much because everything seemed to be muffled in a pad of cotton and when that cotton was suddenly ripped away, I could hear everything, a cacophony of harsh sounds—the blare of horns, the crackle and whoosh of fire, the jagged raw sound of metal slowly scraping asphalt. It all overwhelmed me and I could feel my eyes crossing in consternation.
Crunch, crunch, crunch …
The noise was close enough to draw my attention because for some reason the fire eating my arm didn’t hurt any more, but what was crunching my way with such slow, deliberate steps?
White high tops, Air Jordans, were all I could see of the person who calmly walked around the black SUV, rubber soles crackling the tiny bits of safety glass that were sprayed around the vehicle like a silicate web.
It hurt like a mother to twist my head around as the shoes made it to the driver’s side window and halted, the toes pointing straight at me. A black, bulky object lay next to my temple and I fumbled for it, driven by panic. Cool metal greeted my palm just as a face fronted by a pair of mirrored lenses peered in.
It was the kid, the kid with the stick, wearing gray sweatpants to match his/her gray hoodie. I couldn’t tell if the kid was male or female; its features were perfectly androgynous. Long blond hair that I had thought was stringy was instead silk-fine, hanging to an inch above the asphalt before fading into invisibility. The sight of that hair, the ends dangling into nothingness, sent a worm of fear gnawing at my gut and it wasn’t just the heat of my burning flesh that popped sweat on my forehead.
“A ghlacadh mé aon áthas seo,” he/she said in a high, fluting voice, full of music and chiming notes that brought a tingle to my ears. For some reason I thought of forest meadows and the taste of honey nectar. In contrast to the music of the kid’s voice, the face behind the mirrored shades was dispassionate, hard as mountain gutrock. “Ní hé seo an pearsanta, tá sé gnó.” That said, the kid raised his/her stick.
Something about that foot-long piece of wood struck me as the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen, not that it actually radiated menace or evil or had “One Stick to Rule Them All” inscribed on it in fiery runes. Terror seemed to be part of the reality that surrounded it and I did the only thing I could under the circumstances, I aimed Alex’s new invention (the object that had landed next to my skull) and pulled the trigger.
Oh crap. Again, I pulled the trigger.
The kid smiled, revealing slightly oversized and very white teeth, and aimed that damn stick at my face. I knew I was dead, that whatever magic that piece of wood held would blow my head apart like a melon hitting the highway. I closed my eyes, hoping it wouldn’t hurt.