Book Review: Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan—and a Giveaway!

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery
Little Beach Street Bakery Trilogy #3
Jenny Colgan
William Morrow, October 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-266299-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold.

Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve.

But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.

A wintry setting on a Cornish beach where a young-ish couple live in a lighthouse seemed like the perfect reading getaway from the usual gritty stuff I read and, while it wasn’t exactly perfect, Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery suited me at the time. A little romance, a bit of dysfunction and a village I’d love to visit, not to mention an absolutely adorable puffin named Neil gave me a few hours of pleasure undisturbed by thoughts of murder, paranormal beings or alien invasions. Neil, by the way, does not solve murders nor does he speak to his people.

For the most part, the four main characters—Polly, Huckle, Kerensa and Reuben—are people I’d love to have in my universe but there was a time about halfway through when I could have chucked them all out the window with great cheer. Fortunately, they eventually redeemed themselves and I certainly never lost my adoration for Neil, the puffin who loves to play ping pong football and is quite dashing when he wears a bowtie.

If you’re looking for a charming, whimsical story to give someone for a holiday gift, Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery might be just the thing 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Indiebound // HarperCollins

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About the Author

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Find out more about Jenny at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Fans of Colgan’s (The Café by the Sea, 2017, etc.) Mount Polbearne stories will delight—and new fans will find an easy, charming entry into the saga—as Polly, Huckle, and Neil (the puffin) return for the Christmas season. — Kirkus Reviews

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Follow the tour:

Friday, October 27th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 10th: BookExpression

Wednesday, October 11th: BookNAround

Thursday, October 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 13th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 16th: Buried Under Books

Tuesday, October 17th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, October 18th: bookchickdi

Thursday, October 19th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, October 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, October 20th: Reading Reality

Saturday, October 21st: Girl Who Reads

Monday, October 23rd: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, October 24th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, October 25th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, October 27th: Jathan & Heather

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I’d love to send somebody my very
gently used print advance reading copy
of Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery.
Leave a comment below and I’ll draw
the winning name on Thursday evening,
October 19th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

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Book Review: Desert Remains by Steven Cooper—and a Giveaway!

Desert Remains
A Gus Parker and Alex Mills Novel #1
Steven Cooper
Seventh Street Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-63388-353-6
Trade Paperback

There’s a serial killer on the loose around Phoenix. All the victims are young women. All are tortured before death. All, inexplicably, have paintings on the rocks around where the bodies are dumped (usually in caves) depicting the manner of death. The murder sites provide no clues, otherwise. The killer is evidently up to snuff regarding crime scene detection. Detective Alex Mills is under the gun to solve these crimes quickly, but he’s also under pressure by another detective, former FBI agent Timothy Chase, who’d just love to have Mills’ job.

This is when Mills asks “intuitive medium,” that’s a psychic to most of us, Gus Parker to lend a hand. Parker’s messages from beyond the pale have helped Mills solve crimes before, but this time, even the psychic is hard-pressed to read the messages left behind.

I don’t usually read serial killer books. I guess I prefer my murders to be one-on-one for a reason other than pure evil. And I don’t usually like books written in present tense. Those things said, now forget about them. The book is tense and exciting, a real page turner. The characterization is excellent for all the main characters and most of the more minor ones. Gus, with his dog Ivy, hit a real chord with me. Situations that could’ve made this character run-of-the-mill are absent, a wonderful surprise. The dialogue is clean and carries the story forward. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Desert Remains to any mystery reader, and most especially if you like a little woo-woo in your stories. And I do.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Desert Remains by Steven Cooper,
leave
a comment below. One winning
name will
be drawn Tuesday evening,
October 17th. This drawing is o
pen
to residents of the US and Canada.

Spotlight on Hounded by Kevin Hearne—and a Giveaway!

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Title: Hounded
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book 1
Author: Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Action Adventure

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Purchase Links:

              

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Synopsis

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona,
running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt
with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this
handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when
in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He
draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an
even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded
Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down,
and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess
of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed
by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to
kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Don’t miss any of Kevin Hearne’s phenomenal Iron Druid Chronicles novels:
HOUNDED | HEXED | HAMMERED | TRICKED 
TRAPPED | HUNTED | SHATTERED | STAKED
and coming in April 2018
SCOURGED

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About the Author

Kevin Hearne is a native of Arizona and really appreciates whoever invented air-conditioning. He graduated from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and now teaches high school English. When he’s not grading essays or writing novels, he tends to his basil plants and paints landscapes with his daughter. He has been known to obsess over fonts, frolic unreservedly with dogs, and stop whatever he’s doing in the rare event of rain to commune with the precipitation. He enjoys hiking, the guilty pleasure of comic books, and living with his wife and daughter in a wee, snug cottage.

Author Links:

              

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Hearne, a self-professed comic-book nerd, has turned his love of
awesome dudes whacking mightily at evil villains into a superb urban
fantasy debut. Staying alive for 2,000 years takes a great deal of cunning,
and sexy super-druid Atticus O’Sullivan, currently holed up in the
Arizona desert, has vexed a few VIPs along the way. High up on that list is
Aenghus Óg, the Celtic god of love. It’s not just that Aenghus wants
his sword back—though it is a very nice magical sword—but that Atticus
didn’t exactly ask permission to take it. Atticus and his trusty sidekick,
Irish wolfhound Oberon, make an eminently readable daring duo as
they dodge Aenghus’s minions and thwart his schemes with plenty of
quips and zap-pow-bang fighting. –Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

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GIVEAWAY

The Iron Druid Chronicles have been a favorite
series of mine since this first book came out. With
thanks to Kevin Hearne’s publisher, Del Rey, I have
two copies of the mass market edition to give away.
Just leave a comment below—even if you don’t
usually read dark/urban fantasy because this series
appeals across genres—to enter the drawing. The
winning names will be drawn Sunday evening,
October 15th. Open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane

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Title: A Face to Die For
Series: A Forensics Instincts Novel #6
Author: Andrea Kane
Publisher: Bonnie Meadow Publishing
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Psychological Thriller

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Purchase Links:

         

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A Face to Die For
A Forensics Instincts Novel #6
Andrea Kane
Bonnie Meadow Publishing, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-68232-010-5
Hardcover

From the author—

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

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

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

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

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

Based on the prologue (shown below as the excerpt), it’s easy to conclude that this is a case involving separated twins who have discovered each other and so it is but, in a coincidence to top them all, these twins are about to learn some things that will really rock their world. First and foremost, Gia and Dani need to know who seems to want to keep them separated and why. For that, they enlist the aid of the Forensics Instincts crew.

The FI company is an interesting hodgepodge of people who have individual strengths they bring to bear in solving crimes, sort of private investigators on steroids. I like these people (although they’re not all people and I like the non-people even more) and the way they interact with each other. At the time we first encounter them, they’re working a stalking case in which a college student is being relentlessly pursued by a professor and, once they resolve this situation, the team is ready to take on the investigation into what’s happening to Gia and Dani and, just as importantly, what happened in the past. Surprises at nearly every turn and questions leading to more questions take the team and the young women down a twisty road and what develops is alarming and malevolent past comprehension.

This is my first encounter with the Forensics Instincts group and I found them credible with just a touch of wow-ness to their individual strengths. Clearly, they’re closeknit, a kind of family, and they rely on each other unreservedly. In some ways, they remind me of the geniuses in the TV show, “Scorpion”, and, with all their strong points, they’re also touchingly vulnerable. I’m eager to spend more time with Casey, Hutch and all the rest; fortunately, I have five previous books to keep me going till the next one comes out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

An Excerpt from A Face to Die For

Prologue

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York

March 1990

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

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

Still, dinner had been strained.

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

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

Each time she asked, he’d assure her that he was fine, just exhausted from work and midnight feedings.

As if to contradict his words, some new waiter had dropped a tray of dishes on the floor, and Anthony had nearly jumped out of his skin at the crash.

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

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

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

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

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

And now this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello, Anthony.”

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

The man’s finger tightened around the trigger.

“No!” Carla screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

Upstairs, the babies started to cry.

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

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

He took the steps two at a time.

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

Not even the nightlight could eradicate the darkness.

***

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

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About the Author

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

Kane’s first contemporary suspense thriller, Run for Your Life, became an instant New York Times bestseller. She followed with a string of bestselling psychological thrillers including No Way Out, Twisted, and Drawn in Blood.

Her latest storytelling triumph, A Face To Die For, extends the Forensic Instincts legacy where a dynamic, eclectic team of maverick investigators continue to solve seemingly impossible cases while walking a fine line between assisting and enraging law enforcement. The first showcase of their talents came with the New York Times bestseller, The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, followed by The Line Between Here and Gone, The Stranger You Know, The Silence that Speaks and The Murder That Never Was.

Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include My Heart’s Desire, Samantha, The Last Duke, and Wishes in the Wind.

With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages.

Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She’s an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, she’s either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.

              

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Follow the tour here.

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To enter the drawing for an ebook copy of
A Face to Die For, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
Saturday evening, September 30th, and
the book will be sent out after the tour ends.

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Tribute to a Literary Critic, Cheering Coach, Mystery Lover & MOM—and a Giveaway

Lauren Carr is the best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Killer in the Band is the third installment in the Lovers in Crime Mystery series.

In addition to her series set in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, Lauren Carr has also written the Mac Faraday Mysteries, set on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland, and the Thorny Rose Mysteries, set in Washington DC. The second installment in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, which features Joshua Thornton’s son Murphy and Jessica Faraday, Mac’s daughter, A Fine Year for Murder, was released in January 2017. The next book, Twofer Murder, will be released at the end of the year.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV. Visit Lauren Carr’s website at http://www.mysterylady.net to learn more about Lauren and her upcoming mysteries.

I am very sorry to say that last Friday I lost my life mentor, inspiration, harshest literary critic and biggest cheering coach. My mother passed away at eighty-two years of age.

Seven days before, she called with the news that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. No, she was not a smoker. She never smoked even one cigarette. But she had spent twenty-one years with my father, who was a chain smoker. He died of lung cancer in 1974. The dangers of second hand smoke are real.

As my mother, she was the one who taught me the love of books and literature—especially murder mysteries. My fondest memories are lying next to her in bed while she read Perry Mason to me. Mom was not into Dick and Jane. She was into Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie. As soon as I learned to read, I was consuming the Bobbsey Twins—quickly moving onto the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I was never into love stories like other girls. I wanted a dead body and a mystery to solve in my books. This was a love I got from my mother.

Every one at all the libraries in and around Chester, WV, knew my mother. My fondest memories of being with her was going to the Carnegie Library in East Liverpool, Ohio, every Friday morning. As the youngest child in the family, I would make these trips with my mother while my brothers and sister were in school. The love of books and reading was something that the two of us shared together that the rest of my family didn’t take part in. This made it something special.

In recent years, my mother took me back to the mystery section of that same Carnegie Library and pointed at each of the books saying, “I read that. Read this one. This one, too.” She devoured every mystery that would come out. So much so, that the libraries had to borrow books from other libraries just for her because she had read everything they already had.

It was only a few weeks ago that she told me that while at the library, she was waiting in line to check out that week’s books when the lady ahead of her asked the librarian where to find the latest Lauren Carr book. As the librarian directed her, my mom swelled up with pride. When it came her turn in line, she told the librarian that Lauren Carr was her daughter. She says the librarian, who did not know her, almost scoffed until she saw the name “Carr” on her library card. Then she believed her, and called over to the woman that Lauren Carr’s mother was right there. Upon hearing this news, the lady told my mother about how she had read all of my books and enjoyed them.

Once, my mother told me that she was uncertain if she should take the credit or blame for my writing success. Whichever one it is, she certainly played a pivotal role in my becoming an author. She had never attended college. In fact, she went to school in a one room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. But she was wonderfully smart. She knew books and what made a good book—especially mysteries. She didn’t know the literary terms tossed around by writing coaches and editors, but she did know what worked and didn’t.

That’s why I chose her to critique my books before I would send them off to the editor. One hundred percent of the time I would have to do a rewrite after she’d read them. If she had been born at another time or place, she could have become a great literary critic.

It was her intense knowledge of what made a good murder mystery that kept me motivated to continue pursuing my dream of being a mystery writer—even in the face of continued rejections by agents and publishers. Yes, there was some maternal bias there when she would tell me how good I was, but I knew that she knew what she was talking about when it came to mystery novels.

Don’t get me wrong. Mom was not totally biased about my books. Once, when I told her that a reviewer had said I was as good as Agatha Christie, my mother replied, “You’re not that good.” She did know how to keep me grounded.

At her age, Mom had chosen to have no treatment for her cancer. She cut the doctor off when he gave her the news and didn’t even want any specific details about the type, etc. She swore the doctor to secrecy under the threat of death. (That’s my mom!) For the next year, instead of chemo and other medical treatments, she bowled with her team, had lunch every week with her friends, traveled with my sister to visit my home five hours away, and took trips with her friends—all without saying a word to anyone about the short time she had left.

Two days after breaking the news to our family, my brother took her to the ER. They admitted her into ICU. Five days later, she passed away. Just the way she wanted. (Actually, she had told me that she wanted to go out in a blaze of glory in a big fiery car crash, but to peacefully slip away in her sleep was a close second.)

My mom made me the woman I am today—a lover of books—which I have proudly passed on to my son, who is pursuing a minor in journalism. Because of her, the love of writing will continue.

For this, I thank and love my mom.

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To enter the drawing for an ebook
advance reading copy of

  Twofer Murder by Lauren Carr,
just leave a comment below with
your thoughts about who in your life
inspired you with the love for reading.

The winning name will be drawn
on Monday evening, September 25th
and the ebook will be sent in late October.

 

Book Review: The Trust by Ronald H. Balson—and a Giveaway!

The Trust
Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart #4

Ronald H. Balson
St. Martin’s Press, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-12744-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral―a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.

Every now and then, a novel (or a movie) comes out in which an inheritance is withheld until a certain monumental task is completed. In the case of The Trust, that task involves solving a crime, a murder, and our hero, private investigator Liam Taggart, is perforce right in the middle of everything and it’s a most uncomfortable place to be.

Years ago, Liam had been an agent for the CIA and spent some time in Northern Ireland watching some of his own family, eventually leading to a deep estrangement, including with his uncle, but his cousin, Janie, called to ask him to come to the funeral. As it turns out, Uncle Fergus apparently knew he was going to be murdered and who better to solve the case than Liam? As he soon discovers, fighting over potential inheritances is greatly exacerbated by longlasting resentments going back to his activities during the Troubles so his task is much more difficult.

The story is rife with red herrings and with a plethora of suspects among family and others, enough to set my head spinning as well as there’s this obligation Liam feels, a burning need to make things as right as he can with the late Uncle Fergus and the rest of his family. The core of the story lies in the events during the Troubles and how they still affect the family years later but there’s also a good deal of character development with all of these people, to the point where I could envision myself among them. Even the Belfast police, Sergeant Megan Dooley and Inspector McLaughlin, are well-rounded and important players in the tale and, in the end, Liam learns something that’s life-changing for himself.

Interestingly, Liam’s P.I. instincts don’t work well this time, perhaps because he’s too caught up in family dynamics, and readers may be a bit put off by his…and his wife, Catherine’s…seeming inability to develop and follow the clues but I found it made this couple and the case more intriguing. I wouldn’t want it to happen often or even occasionally but it worked in The Trust because of the family and national history. All in all, this was a very engaging read.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of The Trust by Ronald H. Balson,
leave
a comment below. One winning
name will
be drawn Sunday evening,
September 24th. This drawing is o
pen
to residents of the US and Canada.

Spotlight on A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence McCauley—and a Giveaway!

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Title: A Conspiracy of Ravens
Series: James Hicks #3
Authors: Terrence McCauley
Publisher: Polis Books
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

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Synopsis

THE BATTLE LINES HAVE BEEN DRAWN. THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

James Hicks has spent his entire life and career fighting on the front
lines of terrorism for the clandestine intelligence organization known
as The University. Hicks has learned that enemies can appear and
disappear in the blink of an eye, and allegiances shift like the wind.
But now, Hicks has finally discovered his true enemy: the
criminal organization known as The Vanguard.

This shadowy group has operated as a deadly organization comprised
weapons dealers, drug runners, and money launderers for decades,
but has now decided to add regime change to their catastrophic agenda.
But knowing the enemy is one thing. Being able to defeat it is another
matter entirely. When Hicks uncovers a solid lead on his new adversaries,
his world explodes. His home base is attacked, his operatives in the
field are wiped out, and, for the first time, The University finds itself in
open combat against an unknown enemy. In a battle that rages from the
streets of Manhattan to the halls of power in Washington, D.C., to
the dark alleys of Berlin, Hicks will have to use every resource
at his disposal to defeat A Conspiracy of Ravens.

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“In our new reality, Terrence McCauley’s A Conspiracy of Ravens
is not far from the realm of possibility. He hits all the right notes
while creating an simultaneously entertaining and frightening scenario. Read it.”
—Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of What You Break

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An Excerpt from A Conspiracy of Ravens

CHAPTER 1

2:00 A.M.

James Hicks was two hours south of Manhattan, driving to a meeting he didn’t want to attend in Washington, when his dashboard screen flashed red. It was a Proximity Alert from OMNI.

POSSIBLE SURVEILLANCE IN PROGRESS

“Goddamn it.” Hicks pounded the steering wheel. “Not this shit again.”

Surveillance was the whole reason he was driving to Washington, D.C. in the first place.

The Optimized Mechanical and Network Integration System (OMNI) was one of the most advanced computer networks in the world, giving the University one of the few advantages it enjoyed over the larger, federally-funded agencies. OMNI’s access to satellites, data systems, and communications networks collected more data in a millisecond than any human mind could ever comprehend, and saw more than any human eye could see.

Since being selected as Dean of the University weeks ago, the network now dedicated part of its impressive bandwidth to constantly scan his immediate area for patterns and signals that may constitute a threat to Hicks.

He had refused the security measures at first, finding it intrusive for a man who had spent most of his life in the shadows. He had managed to stay alive this long without babysitting. He had seen no reason to allow it now.

But the protection came with the job and could not be refused, not even by the Dean. Given the number of people who had tried to kill him in the past few months, Hicks decided an extra set of eyes watching his back might not be a bad idea.

The automatic alert he was reading now proved he had made the right choice.

He tapped the dashboard screen for more information.
TARGET CAR: BMW 750i
TAIL TIME: 30 minutes and counting
SPEED: Matching 70 miles per hour
ERROR: New Jersey license plates do not match VIN on black box

The fact that a car had been behind him for thirty minutes didn’t bother him. People often popped on the cruise control and let the car do the driving in light traffic like this.

It was the problem with the plates that bothered him. They didn’t match the Vehicle Identification Number OMNI detected from the signal on the BMW’s black box. That was unusual. Too unusual for it to be written off as a mistake.

Hicks had been checking his mirrors constantly during the  drive south. He hadn’t detected anyone following him, but it was difficult to track a car in the middle of the night.

Hicks tapped a button on the Buick’s steering wheel, accessing the OMNI network. “Get me an Operator.”

“Contacting an Operator,” the female electronic voice answered as it connected him to one of the dozens of technicians located throughout the world who constantly monitored OMNI’s field operations.

A man’s voice, betraying a slight British inflection, came over the Buick’s speakers. OMNI may have been a secure closed network operating entirely on its own bandwidth, but University Operators still answered using a standard protocol script. “You’ve reached the switchboard. How may I help you?”

“This is Professor Warren.” It was the signal that he was not in any immediate danger and free to talk. If he had given them any other name, the Operator would have assumed he was in trouble and activated necessary security measures. Even with twenty-first-century technology, old tricks like code words still had a place. “Looks like I’ve become pretty popular. I need more information.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.” Hicks heard the Operator’s fingers work a keyboard as he accessed OMNI to find his location and the alert that had flashed on the dashboard screen. “I see the nature of the problem now. The plates match the exact make, model, and year of the BMW following you, but the VIN is completely different.”

Hicks knew that ruled out any government agencies following him. They would not need to steal plates for a vehicle.

But someone did.

“Who owns the car, according to the VIN?” He heard the Operator typing. “Records show it was delivered to a BMW dealership in New Jersey late last week.” More clicks. “No record of sale. No stolen car reports with the police, either. It’s possible they stole the car tonight from the dealership after it closed.”

Convenient timing. “Who owns the plates?”

More clicks of the keyboard. “Michael Spatola of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. Zooming in to get eyes on his address now.” More clicks on the keyboard. “Satellites show his BMW is still parked in his driveway, but the license plates have been removed from the vehicle.”

Hicks kept his eyes on the road. Someone had been smart enough to steal plates matching the same make, model, and year of the vehicle they had just stolen. Even if a cop decided to run the plates, they would be close enough to match and the cop would probably let them go. Both the car and the plates would be reported stolen eventually, but not for several hours.

That kind of pairing took planning and access. It took effort that common car thieves wouldn’t have gone through. And the odds that common car thieves just happened to be following him this long by accident were astronomical.

Everything about the car and the plates showed intent. It showed planning.

Hicks didn’t like it. He needed answers and, under the circumstances, there was only one way to get them.

“Check traffic and toll cams based on my route. I’m looking for a visual of the driver. Send anything you get to my screen.”

Thirty seconds later, the Operator said, “Sending an image to you now.”

Hicks glanced at the screen while keeping his eyes on the road. A blurry image of two white males at a toll booth in the BMW appeared on his dashboard screen. Judging by the way they filled their seats, he guessed they were each over six feet tall and powerfully built.

The Operator explained, “That picture was taken as they blew through an EZ Pass station without an EZ Pass. I’ll keep looking for a clearer image, but that’s all I have for now.”

Hicks didn’t care about clearer pictures. He needed to find out who was driving that car.

“I’m in a generous mood tonight,” Hicks told the Operator, “so let’s do Mr. Spatola a favor. Enter the theft of the plates and the vehicle into the police network. Say the suspects should be considered armed and dangerous and are believed to be heading for the D.C. area.”

More keyboard clicks. “Doing it now, sir.”

Another idea came to him. “Show me the closest patrol unit on my map.”

A few more clicks. “I’ve just posted the location of the closest unit to your position on your map, sir. The blue icon is the closest police car—a county sheriff ’s deputy manning a speed trap approximately three miles and closing from your current position. The tail car is the red icon on your map, while your car is black.”

Hicks would have preferred a state trooper, but at least a county cop wasn’t some local Barney Fife looking to be a hero.

Hicks pulled the gloves tighter on his fingers. “Plot the nearest off-ramp between here and the speed trap. Something that gives me easy access back onto the highway.”

A blue line appeared on the map of his dashboard screen.

“There’s an off-ramp approximately two miles ahead of you, sir, but be advised: you may not be able to outrun the BMW. It’s got a twin 445 horsepower V8 engine. With all due respect, sir, that’s a tough engine for an old Buick to beat.”

Hicks smiled. That’s why I’ve got an Aston Martin V12 engine under the hood. “Consider me advised. Since the alert is already on the system, send a message directly to the deputy’s onboard computer. Tell him the vehicle is heading his way. Let’s see what he does.”

“Doing it now,” the Operator replied. “And good luck, sir.”

Hicks killed the connection. He never believed in luck. Only in himself.

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Excerpted from A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS © Copyright 2017 by Terrence McCauley. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Terrence McCauley is the award-winning author of two previous James Hicks thrillers: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and A MURDER OF CROWS, as well as the historical crime thrillers PROHIBITION and SLOW BURN (all available from Polis Books). He is also the author of the World War I novella THE DEVIL DOGS OF BELLEAU WOOD, the proceeds of which go directly to benefit the Semper Fi Fund. His story “El Cambalache” was nominated for the Thriller Award by International Thriller Writers.

Terrence has had short stories featured in Thuglit, Spintetingler Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Big Pulp and other publications. He is a member of the New York City chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and the International Crime Writers Association.

A proud native of The Bronx, NY, he is currently writing his next work of fiction. Please visit his website at terrencemccauley.com or follow him at @tmccauley_nyc.

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