Spotlight on Silent Meridian by Elizabeth Crowens @ECrowens @partnersincr1me

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Title: Silent Meridian
Series: The Time Traveler Professor #1
Author: Elizabeth Crowens
Publisher: Atomic Alchemist Productions LLC
Publication Date: June 12, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Alternate History, Dark Fantasy

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Synopsis

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is obsessed with a legendary red
book. Its peculiar stories have come to life, and rumors claim
that it has rewritten its own endings. Convinced that possessing
this book will help him write his ever-popular Sherlock Holmes
stories, he takes on an unlikely partner, John Patrick Scott,
known to most as a concert pianist, but a paranormal
investigator and a time traveler professor to a select few.

Like Holmes and Watson trying to solve a mystery, together they
explore lost worlds and their friendship is tested to the limits
when they go back in time to find it. Both discover that karmic
ties and unconscionable crimes have followed them like ghosts from
the past, wreaking havoc on the present and possibly the future.

The Time Traveler Professor, Book One: SILENT MERIDIAN reveals
the alternate histories of Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Houdini, Jung
and other luminaries in the secret diaries of John Patrick Scott,
in an X Files for the 19th century. First Prize winner of Chanticleer Review’s
Goethe Award for Turn-of-the-Century Historical Fiction and First
Prize for Steampunk in the Independent Press Awards. Stay tuned for
A POCKETFUL OF LODESTONES; Book Two in the
Time Traveler Professor series by Elizabeth Crowens.

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from Silent Meridian

Edinburgh, 1898

Scotland was just barely crawling its way out of the nineteenth century. I was a naïve, but ambitious student studying music at the University of Edinburgh hurrying over to meet Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who would change my life forever.

“John Patrick Scott, sir,” I said and approached Mr. Doyle, who was already seated at a back corner table of the Deacon Brodie, the pub that inspired the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I extended my hand to greet him and removed my rain-soaked hat, while my overcoat slipped out of my hands and fell on the floor by accident. It was still hard to believe that good fortune finally brought us together, but we were both nervous. “Mr. Conan Doyle, or should I call you Doctor Doyle?” I was unsure how to address him.

Doyle scrutinized me from top to bottom as he signaled the waiter. “John, call me Arthur.”

“Sir, I’m so honored that you agreed to discuss this matter. Perhaps you can enlighten me in a way that I’ve failed to comprehend.”

I wanted to ask him about my unusual turn of events straight away but he caught me off guard and was dead set on pulling me into the swift current of an unexpected conversation.

“Can I assume you believe in the transmigration of souls?” he asked.

“Until now, I haven’t given it a lot of thought,” I said, unsure as to which direction he was leading.

“Did you ever read those books about that Swiss doctor who felt his body and soul had been taken over by a Benedictine monk? That presented a curious case. He claims that he was approached by the spirit of an elderly monk before he died, and that the monk needed to rent his body to continue his spiritual mission.”

“Rent?” I choked in disbelief.

“We truly don’t take anything with us when we pass on, do we? This monk knew he was dying and therefore needed to replace his physical body with something more youthful and vital.”

“That’s incredible. It debunks the theory that you need to die and be reborn as an infant to carry on your spirit.”

Mr. Doyle had the tinge of excitement in his voice.

“John, here’s another instance. I’ve had my suspicions about a famous musician who had an obsession about a notorious and controversial mystic. You’d surmise by his overwhelming attraction to that person he might’ve been him in a previous lifetime, but facts were clear he was born three years before the mystic died. My understanding is the mystic was aware he didn’t have long in his present incarnation. Therefore he made plans for some sort of partial soul transference while he was still alive to imprint his essence upon the child. That would’ve allowed him to carry on and accomplish unfinished business, which couldn’t have been executed otherwise. Essentially he had the ability of being two places at once.”

“Sounds more like Spiritualism,” I replied.

“Honestly, John, I don’t think there are any steadfast rules when it comes to this matter. That’s what makes it so intriguing.”

I sensed he had a secret agenda.

Doyle reloaded his churchwarden pipe with fresh tobacco and continued, “This is not at all like anything you’ve ever read from H.G. Wells or Jules Verne. We’re poking holes in every treatise written on the subject — the idea of being able to reincarnate a part of yourself while you are still alive into another soul.”

Our conversation was quickly becoming like a speeding train ready to jump the tracks. Realizing this, Doyle slowed down the pace and took a deep breath. He carefully composed his next statement.

“Fiction it may seem to be but it’s not hocus pocus. Don’t you also find it strange that you somehow found yourself initiated into a mystical order on a commuter train bound from London to Edinburgh when the instigators kept on mistaking you for me? There are no accidents.”

I became silent for a moment, stalling for time as I slowly raised my glass of ale to my lips. As soon as I fished a small red book out of my coat pocket and placed it on the table in front of us Arthur eyed it intently. It had been the source of intrigue, which led me to Doyle in the first place and piqued his curiosity as much as it did mine.

“Could I have done something terrible in my youth that caused this to happen?”

“You have no recollections, John?”

“I remember so little of my childhood. I wish I could.”

“You’re a smart young man. I’m sure you’ll come up with a clever deduction.”

Mr. Doyle paused to relight his pipe. He had an unnerving look in his eye, which I vainly tried to read into, but he took me for a spin when he brought up the next topic.

“On another note, John, have you ever considered that people are capable of communicating without speech, and I’m not talking about writing letters?”

“Pardon me?”

“Imagine communicating by mere thoughts. I’ve always wanted to experiment with someone open to these concepts. God knows — my brothers at the Society for Psychical Research certainly talk enough about it. My wife, Touie, has been an unwilling subject and is not the most objective choice.”

I looked at him, somewhat perplexed. “Are you asking me to accurately guess what you’re thinking?”

“Come now. We’ll play a game. I’ll form an image in my mind, and for the next minute I will try to project it into yours. Clear your thoughts of any distractions and be as receptive as possible,” he explained.

As much as I tried, I couldn’t have been more preoccupied. Images of that fateful event flashed through my brain. My recollections revealed my rain-soaked train ticket. I kept arguing with the steward about putting me in the wrong cabin. An erroneous judgment had been made when three strangers insisted I was Arthur. We were so different in physical appearance. He was a large, athletic man with a distinguished moustache. On the other hand, I had baby smooth skin and couldn’t grow facial hair to save my life. I was nearly twenty years younger and much shorter with wild auburn hair that resembled Maestro Beethoven’s with the exception of premature strands of gray.

So why was I singled out? Was there laudanum in my brandy? Details spun like a whirlwind. I must’ve been in a drug-induced stupor but I was initiated into some secret Masonic-like society, and when it was all over those mysterious men were gone. What remained were an engraved silver ring on my finger and an ominous red book on the seat beside me.

“Looks like you’ve seen a ghost.” Arthur broke my trance and realized my thoughts had been elsewhere.

“I felt like I had.” Barely able to articulate, I tried to tame my wild mane in place. Visions faded in and out.

Timelines jumped. So I gulped down another swig of ale to focus on the present.

Arthur leaned in closer. “I can see you’re still worried about that event on the train. Those men have been after me for some time. Why? It’s hard to fathom. I’ll dilly dally with notions here and there about Sherlock Holmes and his partner, Watson, who fancy themselves as detectives. Me? I’m just a simple doctor and writer with interests in Spiritualism trying to find scientific explanations for the unknown.”

“Arthur, what would anyone want with an unassuming music student like me?”

“Personally, I don’t think this was A Case of Identity,” Arthur replied with a smile.

Obviously he meant to say my dilemma was not a case of mistaken identity, not the name of one of his famous Sherlock stories. He was pleased I caught the humor of his play on words.

“Perhaps it has something to do with that book,” he said pointing to the one I brought.

“I’m concerned it’s dangerous, that it’s a curse. I wish I had never found it.” I shoved it back into my pocket and drained my glass.

*    *    *

One week later as I was returning home from school, my landlady, Lydia Campbell, yelled from the kitchen as I trudged my muddied shoes through the front door of her boarding house. “John, a letter from Undershaw arrived for you today! I wonder whom it could be from? You don’t know anyone from Undershaw, do you?”

Oh, yes I did. I grabbed the letter and ran upstairs so fast I nearly tripped on my muffler and fell on my face. I poured myself a glass of port to calm my nerves, doffed my wet garments and sank into my most comfortable brass-studded leather chair I affectionately named my thinking chair, where I created many a melody in my head, could think deep thoughts, and drift off to dreamland.

*    *    *

Dear John,

I wholeheartedly enjoyed our conversation at the Deacon Brodie and kept my promise of a prompt reply. By now, you are well aware of my passion to explore the realms of Spiritualism and related paranormal phenomena far surpasses any personal interests involved with Sherlock Holmes. Public demand for my writing, however, exerts a strain on how much I can overtly reveal to even my most trusted colleagues.

Whenever I indulge in any activity, be it a simple séance, investigating a revered medium or attending a meeting of the British Society for Psychical Research, it never fails to raise the eyebrows of my wary publishers and critics. It’s God’s honest truth that I believe in many of these inexplicable accounts. Even my father painted beautiful renditions of fairies, which I trust he witnessed with his own eyes. The betterment of mankind rests on embracing such theories once they are proven to exist by the scientific community. Thus, I’ll have to continue more controversial and debatable endeavors in utmost secrecy, or at least for the time being until more evidence can be brought to light.

Since you seem to be an open-minded young man who has already experienced some effects of the preternatural, this is my proposal: At midnight every night, we should conduct a variety of remote operations with the primary purpose of communicating through means of telepathy. Since I have a tendency to travel, we’ll have to make some sort of adjustment to take into account the different time zones. Of course, you must share this secret with nobody. Besides us, only my wife will know, although she will not participate.

When you shared the account of the strange commuter train incident that was enough to convince me that you would be the perfect partner for this private undertaking. Most assuredly, there was something you did in the past in the realm of the arcane to warrant such a chain of events. That was not mere happenstance, and now since you possess that enigmatic red book, I’m sure it will affect your life in ways you’ve never imagined.

My intentions have been to perform similar trial and error enterprises with Harry Houdini, a rising star whose stage performances have been astounding audiences, but his busy schedule has made it nearly impossible to coordinate such engagements with any sort of regularity. One of these days we’ll catch up. Meanwhile, I collect whatever news comes from across the herring-pond. At one point, he and I will develop a special relationship based on mutual interests.

Regarding the two of us, however, we’ll back up our observations with letters or telegrams as often as possible as proof of results, but those must be destroyed as soon as they are read. Once again, I cannot over emphasize the importance of confidentiality. Regardless, we must keep a faithful agreement, as skill will come with practice.

If you are willing to put aside any apprehensions regarding trains, I’ll pay for you to travel down to Undershaw and visit me on weekends whenever possible. My driver can meet you in London at a pre-arranged time. You’ll stay in one of our guest bedrooms, and as long as you don’t mind the children and can tolerate what our kitchen staff provides, you’ll be well taken care of. That’ll give us the opportunity to expand our repertoire and commence further psychical experimentation with ectoplasm, spirit photography and astral projection. And bring the red book. I’d like a chance to look at it.

I’ve also desired a partner to accompany me for ghost sightings and occult investigations. For all we know with the knowledge gained, we might even break through the barriers of time. That would certainly give Bertie (H.G. Wells) a shock to the senses, proving his imagination does not merely dwell in the realm of fiction. We’ve been at odds on this topic for years.

Regarding telepathic technique, I can only suggest you conduct yourself in a way as you see fit.

Personally, I don’t give credence to things like magical amulets, but if it helps to have an etheric link, use this letter you hold in your hand, as it contains my heart, soul and signature with a drop of blood, which I added to the ink. You might wish to reciprocate.

Let’s raise our glasses to honor the quest of conquering the unknown.

Arthur Conan Doyle

*    *    *

So, Arthur was serious when he first brought up the subject. When he and I left the pub, I really didn’t know what to think. After all, he was a famous author, and I was merely a student. What possessed him to choose me for such an engagement?

I shuffled through my schoolwork to find my pen and ink and a fresh sheet of paper. Blood, I needed blood. Ah, my razor! That would work. I fetched my shaving kit and winced as I drew a few drops. I scribbled a swift, affirmative reply with the blood-tainted ink, mailed the letter the following day and looked forward to our first otherworldly encounter.

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About the Author

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

Catch Up With Our Author On:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // BookBub

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in
Crime Virtual Book Tours for Elizabeth Crowens. There
will be eight(8) winners. One (1) winner will receive an
Amazon.com Gift Card and seven (7) winners will each
receive Silent Meridian by Elizabeth Crowens (eBook). The
giveaway begins on August 18, 2019 and runs through
September 23, 2019. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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Spotlight on The Experiment by Robin Lamont @Animal_Suspense

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Title: The Experiment
Series: The Kinship Series Book 3
Author: Robin Lamont
Publisher: Grayling Press
Publication Date: May 15, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

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Synopsis

Jude Brannock is a brash and single-minded female
protagonist for today’s readers who believe that nature and
animals deserve our respect and must be protected. In
The Experiment, author Robin Lamont brings these
forward-looking themes to her newest suspense novel.

Jude is an investigator for an animal protection organization.
When the young man she has trained for an undercover job
suddenly vanishes after a tantalizing text that he’s “on to
something,” Jude rushes to the quiet, farming community of
Half Moon, only to discover that her trainee might have
perpetrated an elaborate con job on her. Determined to get to
the truth, she unearths a biopharmaceutical company’s deadly
secret, and in doing so, comes up against dark secrets of her own.

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

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An Excerpt from The Experiment

John Harbolt wasn’t easily shaken. With over forty years of medicine under his belt, there was hardly an injury, disease, or fatality he hadn’t seen, and he’d treated just about everyone in the small town of Half Moon at some time or other. But on that late summer day, young Tori Lacey showed him something that baffled him. Her symptoms were inexplicable and downright scary.

She was his first patient of the day, a young woman who had battled her weight for years. In between the earaches and the sore throats, Harbolt had gently counseled her about diet and exercise. He hoped she wasn’t here to ask him about diet pills again, because as far as he was concerned, they were off the table.

After removing her file from the plastic holder bolted to the outside of the examination room, he adjusted his wire rim glasses and straightened his lab coat. The younger doctors often wore khakis and a short-sleeved shirt at work, and maybe it put the kids more at ease. But Dr. Harbolt stuck with a freshly starched white coat, believing that it made his patients feel more confident in his abilities. And confidence in one’s doctor was important to the healing process.

“Tori Ann Lacey,” he announced jovially as he shambled into the room.

“Hi, Dr. Harbolt.” The morose girl before him sat on the table. She had taken off her running shoes but left her sweatshirt and shorts on.

“I haven’t seen you for a while,” he said, noting with some surprise that she had slimmed considerably, her round face now leaner and more mature. “How is college life treating you?”

“Ok, I guess.” Her voice and posture belied this.

“What brings you here today, my dear.”

“I don’t really know. But we thought you should look at these.” She pushed back the sleeve of her sweatshirt and held out her arm for inspection.

There were several bruises that vandalized the translucent skin of her inner arm. Dr. Harbolt held her wrist and peering over his glasses, looked closely at the red and purple marks.

He pressed lightly on one of them. “Does that hurt?”

She shook her head no.

“What happened?”

“That’s the thing. Nothing happened. They just appeared.” She showed him another set of bruises on her other arm.

“Did you fall?”

“No.”

“Knocked into something?”

“No,” she exclaimed, as though he didn’t believe her. “My mom thinks it’s my diet. That I should be eating meat.”

“And you’re not?”

“No. I needed to lose five more pounds for the track team, which I was having a hard time doing, so I switched over to a raw food diet. And it really helped because I made my goal.”

“And you were selected for the team?”

She nodded, anxiously chewing on a nail.

“Congratulations. You getting enough protein?” he asked, studying the bruising and letting her answer drift past him. This wasn’t because of her diet.

She rambled for a moment about nuts and spinach, then peeled off her socks and lifted her bare feet to the end of the examination table. “And then yesterday after a run, I found this,” she said. “I didn’t even show my mom ’cause she’d freak out.”

Dr. Harbolt caught his breath. It looked as though someone had taken a baseball bat to the soles of the girl’s feet. Fiery maroon blotches screamed out some kind of violence. Three of her toes had turned a dark purple.

“Good Lord!” he blurted out. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing! I’m telling you nothing happened,” wailed Tori. “They just … showed up.”

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About the Author

Before becoming a novelist, Robin was a popular Broadway actress and singer, turned private investigator, and then New York prosecutor. She draws on these diverse careers for her work, infusing suspenseful plots with character-driven drama.

Robin’s prior work has garnered awards and recognition, including Suspense Magazine’s Best of the Indies and a Gold Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards for her novel If Thy Right Hand. Her book The Chain, which introduced Jude Brannock to readers, was a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalist. Her screen adaptation of the book, Six Seconds, is currently under option.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
thekinshipseries.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card
The giveaway begins on August 1, 2019 and runs
through September 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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Spotlight on The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Title: The Escape Room
Author: Megan Goldin
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Psychological Thriller

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Synopsis

In Megan Goldin’s unforgettable debut, The Escape Room, four young Wall Street rising stars discover the price of ambition when an escape room challenge turns into a lethal game of revenge.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes
Amazon // Indiebound // Macmillan

“Riveting…[a] tale of greed and revenge set on Wall Street…
hriller fans will eagerly turn the pages to see what happens next.”
―Publishers Weekly

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An Excerpt from The Escape Room

PROLOGUE

It was Miguel who called 911 at 4:07 a.m. on an icy Sunday morning. The young security guard spoke in an unsteady voice, fear disguised by cocky nonchalance.

Miguel had been an aspiring bodybuilder until he injured his back lifting boxes in a warehouse job and had to take night- shift work guarding a luxury office tower in the final stages of construction. He had a muscular physique, dark hair, and a cleft in his chin.

He was conducting a cursory inspection when a scream rang out. At first, he didn’t hear a thing. Hip- hop music blasted through the oversize headphones he wore as he swept his flashlight across the dark recesses of the lobby.

The beam flicked across the classical faces of reproduction Greek busts cast in metal and inset into niches in the walls. They evoked an eerie otherworldliness, which gave the place the aura of a mausoleum.

Miguel paused his music to search for a fresh play list of songs. It was then that he heard the tail end of a muffled scream.

The sound was so unexpected that he instinctively froze. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard strange noises at night, whether it was the screech of tomcats brawling or the whine of construction cranes buffeted by wind. Silence followed. Miguel chided himself for his childish reaction.

He pressed PLAY to listen to a new song and was immediately assaulted by the explosive beat of a tune doing the rounds at the dance clubs where he hung out with friends.

Still, something in the screech he’d heard a moment before rattled him enough for him to be extra diligent.

He bent down to check the lock of the revolving lobby door. It was bolted shut. He swept the flashlight across a pair of still escalators and then, above his head, across the glass- walled mezzanine floor that overlooked the lobby.

He checked behind the long reception desk of blond oak slats and noticed that a black chair was at an odd angle, as if someone had left in a hurry.

A stepladder was propped against a wall where the lobby café was being set up alongside a water fountain that was not yet functional. Plastic- wrapped café tables and chairs were piled up alongside it.

In the far corner, he shone his flashlight in the direction of an elaborate model of the building complex shown to prospective tenants by Realtors rushing to achieve occupancy targets in time for the building’s opening the following month.

The model detailed an ambitious master plan to turn an abandoned ware house district that had been a magnet for homeless people and addicts into a high- end financial and shopping precinct. The first tower was almost finished. A second was halfway through construction.

When Miguel turned around to face the elevator lobby, he was struck by something so incongruent that he pushed his headphones off his head and onto his shoulders.

The backlit green fluorescent light of an elevator switch flickered in the dark. It suggested that an elevator was in use. That was impossible, because he was the only person there.

In the sobriety of the silent echo that followed, he convinced himself once again that his vague sense of unease was the hallucination of a fatigued mind. There was nobody in the elevator for the simple reason that the only people on- site on weekends were the security
guards. Two per shift. Except to night, Miguel was the only one on duty.

When Stu had been a no- show for his shift, Miguel figured he’d manage alone. The construction site was fenced off with towering barbed- wire fences and a heavy- duty electric gate. Nobody came in or out until the shift ended.

In the four months he’d worked there, the only intruders he’d encountered were feral cats and rats scampering across construction equipment in the middle of the night. Nothing ever happened during the night shift.

That was what he liked about the job. He was able to study and sleep and still get paid. Sometimes he’d sleep for a couple of hours on the soft leather lobby sofa, which he found preferable to the lumpy stretcher in the portable office where the guards took turns resting
between patrols. The CCTV cameras hadn’t been hooked up yet, so he could still get away with it.

From the main access road, the complex looked completed. It had a driveway entry lined with young maples in planter boxes. The lobby had been fitted out and furnished to impress prospective tenants who came to view office space.

The second tower, facing the East River, looked unmistakably like a construction site. It was wrapped with scaffolding. Shipping containers storing building materials were arranged like colorful Lego blocks in a muddy field alongside idle bulldozers and a crane.

Miguel removed keys from his belt to open the side entrance to let himself out, when he heard a loud crack. It whipped through the lobby with an intensity that made his ears ring.

Two more cracks followed. They were unmistakably the sound of gunshots. He hit the ground and called 911. He was terrified the shooter was making his way to the lobby but cocky enough to cover his fear with bravado when he spoke.

“Something bad’s going down here.” He gave the 911 dispatcher the address. “You should get cops over here.”

Miguel figured from the skepticism in the dispatcher’s cool voice that his call was being given priority right below the doughnut run.

His heart thumped like a drum as he waited for the cops to arrive. You chicken shit, he berated himself as he took cover behind a sofa. He exhaled into his shirt to muffle the sound of his rapid breathing. He was afraid he would give away his position to the shooter.

A wave of relief washed over him when the lobby finally lit up with a hazy blue strobe as a police car pulled in at the taxi stand. Miguel went outside to meet the cops.

“What’s going on?” An older cop with a thick gut hanging over his belted pants emerged from the front passenger seat.

“Beats me,” said Miguel. “I heard a scream. Inside the building. Then I heard what I’m pretty sure were gunshots.”

“How many shots?” A younger cop came around the car to meet him, snapping a wad of gum in his mouth.

“Two, maybe three shots. Then nothing.”

“Is anyone else around?” The older cop’s expression was hidden under a thick gray mustache.

“They clear out the site on Friday night. No construction workers. No nobody. Except me. I’m the night guard.”

“Then what makes you think there’s a shooter?”

“I heard a loud crack. Sure sounded like a gunshot. Then two more. Came from somewhere up in the tower.”

“Maybe construction equipment fell? That possible?”

A faint thread of red suffused Miguel’s face as he contemplated the possibility that he’d panicked over nothing. They moved into the lobby to check things out, but he was feeling less confident than when he’d called 911. “I’m pretty sure they—” He stopped speaking as they
all heard the unmistakable sound of a descending elevator.

“I thought you said there was nobody here,” said the older cop.

“There isn’t.”

“Could have fooled me,” said the second cop. They moved through to the elevator lobby. A light above the elevator doors was flashing to indicate an elevator’s imminent arrival. “Someone’s here.”

“The building opens for business in a few weeks,” said Miguel. “Nobody’s supposed to be here.”

The cops drew their guns from their holsters and stood in front of the elevator doors in a shooting stance— slightly crouched, legs apart. One of the cops gestured furiously for Miguel to move out of the way. Miguel stepped back. He hovered near an abstract metal sculpture
set into the wall at the dead end of the elevator lobby.

A bell chimed. The elevator heaved as it arrived.

The doors parted with a slow hiss. Miguel swallowed hard as the gap widened. He strained to see what was going on. The cops were blocking his line of sight and he was at too sharp an angle to see much.

“Police,” shouted both cops in unison. “Put your weapon down.”

Miguel instinctively pressed himself against the wall. He flinched as the first round of bullets was fired. There were too many shots to count. His ears rang so badly, it took him a moment to realize the police had stopped firing. They’d lowered their weapons and were shouting something. He didn’t know what. He couldn’t hear a thing over the ringing in his ears.

Miguel saw the younger cop talk into his radio. The cop’s mouth opened and closed. Miguel couldn’t make out the words. Gradually, his hearing returned and he heard the tail end of a stream of NYPD jargon.

He couldn’t understand most of what was said. Something about “nonresponsive” and needing “a bus,” which he assumed meant an ambulance. Miguel watched a trickle of blood run along the marble floor until it formed a puddle. He edged closer. He glimpsed blood splatter on the wall of the elevator. He took one more step. Finally, he could see inside the elevator. He immediately regretted it. He’d never seen so much blood in all his life.

ONE

THE ELEVATOR

Thirty-four Hours Earlier

Vincent was the last to arrive. His dark overcoat flared behind him as he strode through the lobby. The other three were standing in an informal huddle by a leather sofa. They didn’t notice Vincent come in. They were on their phones, with their backs to the entrance, preoccupied with emails and silent contemplation as to why they had been called to a last-minute meeting on a Friday night at an out-of-the-way office building in the South Bronx.

Vincent observed them from a distance as he walked across the lobby toward them. Over the years, the four of them had spent more time together than apart. Vincent knew them almost better than he knew himself. He knew their secrets, and their lies. There were times when he could honestly say that he’d never despised anyone more than these three people. He suspected they all shared the sentiment. Yet they needed one another. Their fates had been joined together long before.

Sylvie’s face bore its usual expression, a few degrees short of a resting-bitch face. With her cover-girl looks and dark blond hair pinned in a topknot that drew attention to her green eyes, Sylvie looked like the catwalk model that she’d been when she was a teenager. She was irritated by being called to an unscheduled meeting when she had to pack for Paris, but she didn’t let it show on her face. She studiously kept a faint upward tilt to her lips. It was a practice drummed into her over many years working in a male-dominated profession. Men could snarl or look angry with impunity; women had to smile serenely regardless of the provocation.

To her right stood Sam, wearing a charcoal suit with a white shirt and a black tie. His stubble matched the dark blond of his closely cropped hair. His jaw twitched from the knot of anxiety in his guts. He’d felt stabbing pains ever since his wife, Kim, telephoned during the drive over. She was furious that he wouldn’t make the flight to Antigua because he was attending an unscheduled meeting. She hated the fact that his work always took precedence over her and the girls.

Jules stood slightly away from the other two, sucking on a peppermint candy to disguise the alcohol on his breath. He wore a suave burgundy-and-navy silk tie that made his Gypsy eyes burn with intensity. His dark hair was brushed back in the style of a fifties movie star. He usually drank vodka because it was odorless and didn’t make his face flush, but now his cheeks were ruddy in a tell-tale sign he’d been drinking. The minibar in his chauffeured car was out of vodka, so he’d had to make do with whiskey on the ride over. The empty bottles were still rattling around in his briefcase.

As they waited for their meeting, they all had the same paranoid notion that they’d been brought to a satellite office to be retrenched. Their careers would be assassinated silently, away from the watercooler gossips at the head office.

It was how they would have done it if the positions were reversed. A Friday-evening meeting at an out-of-the-way office, concluding with a retrenchment package and a nondisclosure agreement signed and sealed.

The firm was considering unprecedented layoffs, and they were acutely aware they had red targets on their backs. They said none of this to one another. They kept their eyes downcast as they worked on their phones, unaware they were the only ones in the lobby. Just as they hadn’t paid much mind to the cranes and construction fencing on their way in.

Sam checked his bank account while he waited. The negative balance made him queasy. He’d wiped out all the cash in his account that morning paying Kim’s credit-card bill. If he lost his job, then the floodgates would open. He could survive two to three months without work; after that, he’d have to sell assets. That alone would destroy him financially. He was leveraged to the hilt. Some of his assets were worth less now than when he’d bought them.

The last time Sam had received a credit-card bill that huge, he’d immediately lowered Kim’s credit limit. Kim found out when her payment for an eleven-thousand-dollar Hermès handbag was rejected at the Madison Avenue store in front of her friends. She was mortified. They had a huge blowup that night, and he reluctantly restored her credit limit. Now he paid all her bills without a word of complaint. Even if it meant taking out bridging loans. Even if it meant constantly feeling on the verge of a heart attack.

Sam knew that Kim spent money as much for attention as out of boredom. She complained that Sam was never around to help with the twins. He’d had to point out that they’d hired a maid to give her all the help she needed. Three maids, to be truthful. Three within the space of two years. The third had walked out in tears a week ago due to Kim’s erratic temper.

Kim was never satisfied with anything. If Sam gave Kim a platinum necklace, she wanted it in gold. If he took her to London, she wanted Paris. If he bought her a BMW, she wanted a Porsche.

Satisfying her unceasing demands was doable when his job prospects were good, but the firm had lost a major account, and since Christmas word had spread of an impending restructure. Everyone knew that was a euphemism for layoffs.

Sam never doubted that Kim would leave him if he couldn’t support her lifestyle anymore. She’d demand full custody of the girls and she’d raise them to hate him. Kim forgave most of his transgressions, she could even live with his infidelities, but she never forgave failure.

It was Sam who first heard the footsteps sounding through the vast lobby. The long, hurried strides of a man running late to a meeting. Sam swung around as their boss arrived. Vincent’s square jaw was tight and his broad shoulders were tense as he joined them without saying a word.

“You almost didn’t make it,” observed Sylvie.

“The traffic was terrible.” Vincent ran his hand over his overcoat pocket in the habit of a man who had recently stopped smoking. Instead of cigarettes, he took out a pair of glasses, which he put on to examine the message on his phone. “Are you all aware of the purpose of this meeting?”

“The email invite from HR wasn’t exactly brimming with information,” said Sam. “You said in your text message it was compulsory for us to attend. That it took precedence over everything else. Well, we’re all here. So maybe now you can enlighten us, Vincent. What’s so important that I had to delay my trip to Antigua?”

“Who here has done an escape-room challenge before?” Vincent asked.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Sam said. “I abandoned my wife on her dream vacation to participate in a team-building activity! This is bullshit, Vincent. It’s goddamn bullshit and you know it.”

“It will take an hour,” said Vincent calmly. “Next Friday is bonus day. I’m sure that we all agree that it’s smart to be on our best behavior before bonus day, especially in the current climate.”

“Let’s do it,” said Sylvie, sighing. Her flight to Paris was at midnight. She still had plenty of time to get home and pack. Vincent led them to a brightly lit elevator with its doors wide open. Inside were mirrored walls and an alabaster marble floor.

They stepped inside. The steel doors shut behind them before they could turn around.

WELCOME TO THE ESCAPE
ROOM. YOUR GOAL IS SIMPLE.
GET OUT ALIVE.

From The Escape Room. Copyright © 2019 by Megan Goldin and
reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.

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About the Author

MEGAN GOLDIN worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. THE ESCAPE ROOM is her debut novel.

Author Links:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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“The pages turn themselves…THE ESCAPE ROOM delivers all that
it promises. It is a sleek, well-crafted ride to a surprisingly twisty
conclusion.” ―New York Times Book Review

Book Review: Icehaven/Sum of All Tears by Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester

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Title: Icehaven
Series: Sum of All Tears #1
Authors: Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian, Paranormal

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Icehaven
Sum of All Tears #1
Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
KC Publishing, April 2019
ISBN 978-1999558819
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

They said it wouldn’t happen.

Everything would be better.

They were wrong.

After a climate change experiment goes terribly wrong, August Madison finds herself resurrected in a frozen wasteland.

With most of the world’s population and food sources annihilated, depraved nomadic gangs patrol the lawless landscape as outlasters claw for survival.

Amid the chaos, Graysen Marx, iron-fisted leader of the domed settlement Liberty, emerges from the catastrophic event with his own agenda.

When August crosses his path, he sees an opportunity he must exploit.

She sees an evil she must destroy.

Isn’t it wonderful when you come across that book that is SO good that you’re kind of stunned by it? Icehaven is the one for me for a lot of reasons starting with being thrown into the midst of disaster right away, literally on page 2. No lollygagging here, no building up to the horrible event you know is coming. Then the questions begin, the obvious ones such as how the few people left will survive, but also the ones that are so unexpected, particularly regarding why and how some survivors have developed special abilities.

Our protagonist, August, is a miracle herself, having apparently died and then come back to life but, at first, she  remembers very little about what happened other than she does know that she’s the daughter of the man who set off this devastating experiment. Besides taking on her duties among the group that found her, August also feels a strong need to figure out what went wrong; meanwhile, an old friend, Brandon, is miles away and wonders if August is still alive. Then there is Graysen Marx, the man behind Liberty, a biodome facility that seems to be the only hope for longtime survival but is he the honorable man he seems to be or is he ruthlessly intent on his own agenda?

The action in Icehaven is nearly nonstop with something new and alarming happening constantly and the plot is full of suspense, so much so that mystery readers will be as enthralled as post-apocalyptic fans but plot does not overshadow character development. The players, primary and secondary, are vividly drawn and they all come alive on the page while the authors’ worldbuilding is remarkable, making me feel the intense cold and hunger and the emotional havoc wrought by the attempt to control climate change.

I could say much more but it would be hard to avoid spoilers so let me just say Icehaven is going on my list of best books read in 2019 and I heartily encourage one and all to jump right on this one 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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Purchase Links:
Books2Read

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About the Authors

Kim Cresswell resides in Ontario, Canada and is the bestselling and award-winning author of the action-packed WHITNEY STEEL series.

Her romantic thriller, Reflection (A Whitney Steel Novel – Book One), has won numerous awards including RomCon®’s 2014 Readers’ Crown Finalist (Romantic Suspense), InD’tale Magazine 2014 Rone Award Finalist (Suspense/Thriller), UP Authors Fiction Challenge Winner, Silicon Valley’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gotcha” contest. Kim also signed a 3-book German translation deal with LUZIFER Verlag for the first three books in the series: Reflection, Retribution and ResurrectLethal Journey won RomCon®’s 2014 Readers’ Crown (Thriller).

The Assassin Chronicles TV series was in development with Council Tree Productions. The TV series is based on Kim’s upcoming 4-book paranormal/supernatural thriller series: Deadly Shadow, Invisible TruthAssassin’s Prophecy, and Vision of Fire.

Website // Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter
Goodreads // Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon 

M.K. Chester is an RWA award-winning author of historical and contemporary romance. Her first novel, Surrender to the Roman, is currently published with Carina Press. Her three-book historical series, Bryeton Books, focuses on love, loss and redemption in small town America at the turn of the 20th century, while her latest release, Crashed, is the first book in the contemporary New South Series.

M.K. is a native Buckeye who lives in Tennessee. She’s married to a veteran, recently became a MoM (Mother of Marine), and will soon become a grandmother. She adores her Scottish Terriers and is fighting MS.

Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Series Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

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Coming in March 2020

Liberty
Sum of All Tears #2
Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
KC Publishing, March 2020
ISBN 978-1999558819
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

A new enemy rises.

Surviving the cold is only the beginning.

In the second installment of the exciting Sum of all Tears series, a core group of survivors from Liberty travel to Boston, endangering themselves and those they left behind in a winner-takes-all showdown that will leave readers breathless.

Pre-order Links:
Books2Read

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card

Enter here.

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Spotlight on Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard—and a Giveaway!

For that youngster in your life, here’s
a delightful little book that will be a
great addition to the summer reading list.

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Title: Three Twigs for the Campfire
Author: Joseph Cognard
Genre: Kids, Fantasy


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See jv poore’s earlier review here.

Synopsis

Billy is more than a little nervous. Even with all the excitement of
his first “kids only” camp out, there is something truly bothering him.
Listen to the fire crackle as the Miller children, in their campfire
tradition, each tell a story. Will the fire last till Billy can fall asleep?
Worse yet, what will happen when it is his turn to tell a story? Lastly,
why won’t the fly and mosquito buzzing around the campfire
leave him alone? As in traditional Twilight Zone episodes, that the
author grew up with, Mr. Cognard creates three unique and
unpredictable stories, that both children and adults will all enjoy.
The book is packed with illustrations by Gabriella Cognard,
a tween with artistic flair well beyond her years.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a paperback copy of
Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard,
just leave a comment below. Two winning names will
drawn on the evening of Tuesday, July 9th. This drawing
is open to residents of the US and Canada.

Excerpt from No Right Way by Michael Niemann—and a Giveaway!

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Title: No Right Way
Series: A Valentin Vermeulen Thriller Book 4
Author: Michael Niemann
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genre: Mystery, International Thriller

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Synopsis

The fall of 2015. It’s been four years since the civil war in Syria
started and over a year since ISIS took over major parts of the country.
The refugee stream into Turkey has swelled to unprecedented numbers.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is
scrambling to offer services and shelter to the multitudes. The Turkish
government is doing what it can. Money from the rest of the world and
European governments is flowing in to help alleviate the crisis. Numerous
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are using UN funds to do
the on-the-ground work to house and feed refugees.

Valentin Vermeulen’s job is to make sure that all those funds are spent for
their intended purposes. As he digs into his task, he learns that some
refugees have not received any aid at all. Figuring out why that
is quickly lands him in trouble with organize crime.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from No Right Way

Ahmadi was ready to crawl into her tent and sleep forever. Her back ached from bending over all day. The grapes hung too low to cut them standing up and kneeling on the stony dirt was out of the question.
 
Zada still wasn’t back from wherever she’d gone. The two women shared a tent. It had started as a cohabitation of convenience. Being a single woman in a refugee camp was difficult. The married women were suspicious and their husbands leered. In a matter of days, they became friends. Despite their age difference—Zada was forty, fifteen years older than Ahmadi—they found that their journey from middle class life to refugee was similar. Zada’s husband died fighting with a rebel militia against the Assad regime. Shortly after burying him, her house was destroyed by a missile that killed her two children. Ahmadi hadn’t lost a husband or children, but her parents’ and siblings’ fate had been the same. They didn’t talk much about their loss. What was there to say? It was the trials of being a refugee that forged their bond. They had each other’s back through the daily misery of picking grapes.
 
Ahmadi needed to eat to keep up her strength. Resting first meant she’d miss the evening meal. Rahel had invited her after learning that Zada had disappeared. Which was kind, especially since Rahel’s family was Christian and she was a Muslim. But Rahel understood the precarious position of single women and the importance of protecting one’s honor.
 
Back home, Ahmadi considered the idea of honor old-fashioned. Being passed from your father to your husband didn’t appeal to her. She went to the university, she could take care of herself. Or so she thought. In the refugee camp that self-sufficiency had evaporated like morning mist in the September sun. What little pay she received for picking disappeared so fast. The agent who got her the picking job got his cut, the tent rental took another bite, leaving her with just enough for food. Zada did the cooking. Another one of those things Ahmadi wasn’t good at. She’d never had to cook for herself. She took two apples and went to Rahel’s tent.
 
Salam,” she said when she entered. Rahel’s husband sat in a rickety chair in one corner, her three children, including the teenage son, sat on the ground. They were all bent over plastic bowls eating their supper. The children returned the greeting. Rahel’s husband grunted something.
 
“I brought some apples,” Ahmadi said.
 
Rahel took them and passed her a bowl of couscous and thin stew. “Shokran,” Ahmadi said.
 
Al’afw,” Rahel said. “Sit. Enjoy the food.”
 
Ahmadi squatted near the entrance and ate. The stew was spicy, but all the peppers in the world couldn’t make up for the fact that it was mostly broth with some onions and bits of gristly mutton. Rahel cut the two apples Ahmadi brought into pieces, gave the biggest to her husband, and the rest to the kids. She kept a couple of pieces for Ahmadi and herself.
 
The tent flap opened and a woman looked inside and said that the police had found Zada.
 
“Where is she?” Ahmadi said, jumping up and almost spilling her food.
 
“She’s dead,” the woman said. “They found her body in an olive grove near the border.”
 
Ahmadi fell to her knees, barely able to put the bowl down. She covered her face with her hands.
 
“Who found her?” Rahel said.
 
“Workers checking on the olive trees. They called the police.”
 
“How’d she get there? How did she die?”
 
“I don’t know. The men said they didn’t see any injuries.”
 
The flap closed again and the woman went to the next tent to break the news. Ahmadi stood, unable to move. Zada had been her guide in this crazy world. How could she go on now?
 
Rahel put her arm on Rima’s shoulder. “Such sad news. You liked Zada very much.”
 
Ahmadi held back her tears and sighed deeply. But she didn’t break out in a wail. Zada’s death was her private grief, nothing to be mourned in public.
 
“Stay here tonight,” Rahel said. “It’s not good to be alone when one is full of sorrow.”
 
Ahmadi shook her head. No, she wasn’t going to stay there. “Thank you for your offer, but I’ll be okay. I’m going to find out what happened to Zada.”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“Yesterday, Zada told me she learned something important. Today she is dead. That can’t be a coincidence. I need to find out what she learned.”
 
“Oh Ahmadi, you are distraught. Stay here and calm yourself. This is for the police to sort out.”
 
“The Turkish police? Haven’t you seen how they disdain us? We are just Syrian refugees. One less to worry about.”
 
“So you’re going to investigate?” Rahel’s husband said. “How far d’you think you’ll get? You are right about the Turkish police, and they won’t like it if you stick your nose into their business.”
 
Ahmadi looked at him, frowning. Those were the most words she’d ever heard from that man.
 
“Thomen is right,” Rahel said. “This is not a matter for a single woman.”
 
“Listen, Zada knew that we weren’t treated right. She wanted to make our lives better. Now she is dead. I’m going to find out what happened. Her death wasn’t an accident.”
 
“How do you know?” Rahel said. “Maybe she lost her spirit and her heart gave out. She was all alone in a foreign land. Without family. She had no one.” 
 
“She had me,” Ahmadi said. “Thank you for the meal. You have been very kind.”
 
She went back to her tent. Inside, she zipped the flap shut and began to search Zada’s things. There was a suitcase and a large bag. She started with the suitcase. It was a wardrobe assembled not with logic but in panic. Several plain skirts, a dress wholly impractical for harvesting grapes, a few shirts, a silk blouse she’d never seen Zada wear. How do you pack when you have only a few moments and think you’ll be back soon?
 
Excerpted from NO RIGHT WAY. Copyright (c) 2019 by Michael Niemann. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he embarked on a different way to write about the world.

For more information, go to:
michael-niemann.com.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of No Right Way, just leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn on Wednesday evening,
June 26th. Open to residents of the US.

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“Niemann blends an unusual locale with an appealing, relatable hero
while drawing attention to the plight of refugees.”—Publishers Weekly

Spotlight on No Right Way by Michael Niemann

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Title: No Right Way
Series: A Valentin Vermeulen Thriller Book 4
Author: Michael Niemann
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genre: Mystery, International Thriller

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Synopsis

It is the fall of 2015. The refugee stream from Syria into Turkey has
swelled to unprecedented numbers. Valentin Vermeulen, investigator
for the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services, is sent to check
that the money sent to alleviate the crisis is spent for the intended purposes.

He visits a newly established UN sub-office in Gaziantep, southern
Turkey. After being stood up by the local administrator, Vermeulen
spends the weekend in Kilis to see if the refugees not living in official
camps receive proper aid. He makes his way to a rough
tent camp. None of the refugees there have received any aid.

At the camp, he meets Rima, who’s questioned by the police in
connection with the murder of her friend. His decision to help her
sets in motion a violent confrontation from which they barely
escape. Despite her plea for help, he has to go back to Gaziantep.

His investigation into why the refugees in the camp haven’t received
any aid leads to the discovery of an audacious fraud perpetrated by
the local mafia. Since Rima hasn’t stopped asking questions either, both
are chased by the mafia and the police. Desperate to recover the stolen
millions and keep Rima safe, Vermeulen faces his toughest challenge yet.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he embarked on a different way to write about the world.

For more information, go to:
michael-niemann.com.

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“Niemann blends an unusual locale with an appealing, relatable hero
while drawing attention to the plight of refugees.”—Publishers Weekly