Book Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner @sl_penner @parkrowbooks

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Title: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Historical

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Apple Books // Amazon
Google Play // Indiebound // Bookshop.org
Books-A-Million // Audible // Target // Libro.fm

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The Lost Apothecary
Sarah Penner
Park Row Books, March 2021
ISBN 978-0-7783-1101-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course. Pitched as Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist, The Lost Apothecary is a bold work of historical fiction with a rebellious twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

Just imagine if a woman could go to her local pharmacist and ask for a “special” medication to give to a particular man in her life, a man who has done her wrong in some way. Then take it a step further and imagine that this woman lives in a time when there were very few protections for women who were controlled in every meaningful way by a husband, a father, a suitor, a banker, a lawyer, essentially any male figure. Such is the the premise of this wonderfully creative story and it’s made even better by having the perspective of a modern-day woman as well as those from the 18th century.

This is a tale of three women—Nella, the apothecary in 1791, the young maid, Eliza, and Caroline, a modern woman who is at an important crossroads in her life—and all three come to vivid life in the author’s talented hands. Most intriguing to me was delving into how Nella turned to the dark side of what had been a respected profession and the visibly damaging effect her actions had on her physically as well as psychologically with each succeeding client.

Mystery fans will find much to chew on here and one suspenseful thread after another certainly kept me engaged till deep in the night. Well done, Ms. Penner!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2021.

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An Excerpt from The Lost Apothecary

Nella

February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak—the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.

I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.

But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted dead.

I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying flame of a single rush wick candle. I ran my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.

Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress’s husband, with his breakfast. Daybreak, 4 Feb. At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica.

The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears. Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me. An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.

But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the result of my fatigue—the hour was late—and the persistent discomfort in my joints.

I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest of apothecary shops.

In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women’s maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.

On occasion I read her entries—23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x—and the words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower’s head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She’d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no suspicion.

On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register hid betrayal, anguish…and dark secrets.

Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding, or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare: these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.

Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick. The sharp, black lines of his name defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.

I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable’s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.

I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean. An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother’s, now held little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.

Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open and expose what lay underneath.

Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and something inside meant to tear me open.

At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed inside of me.

Excerpted from The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Penner. Published by Park Row Books.

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About the Author

Credit Laura Foote

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. To learn more, visit slpenner.com

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.sarahpenner.com/

Facebook: @SarahPennerAuthor

Instagram: @sarah_penner_author

Twitter: @sl_penner

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**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Book Review: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff @PamJenoff @parkrowbooks

The Lost Girls of Paris
Pam Jenoff
Park Row Books, January 2019
ISBN:978-0-7783-3027-1
Trade Paperback

A history of the world will be written one day with particular emphasis on the dangerous decade of the 1940s. A monstrous world war, the development of Atomic weapons and missile warfare, and a realignment of national priorities across the world. And there we began to see shifts in social structure.

In America, the public beginnings of greater gender equality became noticeable as women assumed a variety of jobs in manufacturing and other business traditionally held by men. Women pilots became a crucial link in getting replacement fighters and bombers to forward bases to continue the war effort. Rosie the Riveter became a recruitment poster. In England, women filled many roles heretofore reserved for men and that gradually included the world of spying and espionage, which brings us to this enthralling historical novel.

In 1940, British authorities established the Special Operations Executive, a clandestine agency designed to pass disinformation, arms, munitions and agents into occupied Europe. The novel focuses on the difficulties of incorporating a significant cadre of women agents, even though it was acknowledged that women moved around France more freely than could men. Eventually, due to persistence and grim determination, the head of F section was allowed to recruit and train a group of young talented women to operate in German-occupied Europe. This story tells the emotional and often tragic tales of the director of the unit, Eleanor Trigg, and several of the women agents.

The novel is a well-researched and very well written book. It is important, however, to recognize that this is a historical novel, based and well-rooted in reality, but is, in fact, fiction. Two agents who were flown to France in 1944 are the main characters and the story follows them from training through their adventures in tension-filled France and the post-war time.

The novel is saturated with the voices and unique perspectives of the women, including that of Grace Healey, a young woman living and working in Manhattan when the novel opens in 1946. Passing through Grand Central Station, she almost inadvertently acquires some pictures of former agents of the SOE. Notes intrigue her and she begins an odyssey to find and return the pictures to their rightful owners.

Now the scene shifts to London in 1943. Readers will discover that the structure of the novel shifts by chapter from place to place and from year to year. The structure is very well handled, the events are carefully and logically written to weave an emotional, tension-filled story fabric that will grasp and hold all but the most jaded readers through to the surprising and very well-conceived resolution. Just a fine, fine novel in all aspects.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Now I See You by Shannon Work @TheWorkFamily @SDSXXTours

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Title: Now I See You
Series: Mountain Resort Mystery Series, Book 1
Author: Shannon Work
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Suspense

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

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Now I See You
Mountain Resort Mystery Series, Book 1
Shannon Work
Shannon Work, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-7354353-0-5
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Two murders. A terrified mountain resort. Can a daring reporter help stop an avalanche of dead bodies?

Celebrity TV anchor Georgia Glass wants out of Denver and far away from her obsessed fan. Set to host her own investigative crime show in LA, she’s surprised to inherit a Victorian house in Aspen from a mysterious uncle she never knew. But while exploring the gothic property, she discovers the frozen corpse of a missing heiress.

Georgia’s journalist instincts kick in and she is determined to help police track down the killer. But by investigating the murder, has she made herself the killer’s next target?

Can Georgia help solve the case before she becomes the next victim? Or will the stalker that followed her to Aspen get her first?

Now I See You is a fast-paced whodunit set amidst the spectacular scenery of Aspen, Colorado, and the first book in the suspenseful Mountain Resort Mystery series.

Georgia Glass is an interesting woman and I was particularly struck by a random thought she has, that she has “vague memories” of her visits to Aspen after just ten years. That makes her seem rather shallow but I actually think it might be a kind of commentary on so many people today whose lives are so filled with information flooding their brains from all directions. TV journalists especially may find their attention and focus driven from one story to the next, causing memories to be more fleeting than in less frenetic times. Hmm…something I’ll want to think more about.

Besides finding a body in her newly inherited property, Georgia is also recovering from the stress of having a devoted fan who turned into a stalker. That situation seems to be under control but no journalist worthy of the name could resist looking into the presence of a dead body practically at her feet. She’s new in town but makes connections quickly, including with a local police detective and it isn’t long before she comes to the attention of a serial killer who already has committed several murders.

I figured out most of the salient facts faster than I expect to in a true whodunnit, as this has been billed, but the author has crafted a nicely suspenseful story. Detective Jack Martin will be back in the next book, set in Vail, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

About the Author

Shannon Work grew up in Del Rio, a border town in the dusty wilds of West Texas. When she graduated from high school, she moved east to College Station and graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in Land Economics and Real Estate.

Most of her working life has been spent developing real estate, earning a national Best in America Living Award for one of her developments. After two failed starts at writing a novel while raising three kids and working, she retired to pursue her dream of writing mystery novels full time.

Shannon and her husband are recent empty nesters and split their time between Houston, Texas and Telluride, Colorado. Always with their laptops and dogs in tow.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

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Book Review: Endangered by Lamar Giles @LRGiles @harperteen

Endangered
Lamar Giles
HarperTeen, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-229757-0
Trade Paperback

Once again, I’ve found a book that ‘my’ students will want to read. I know this because I borrowed Endangered by Lamar Giles from their classroom library. This copy is clearly well-read.

Panda (it makes me so happy when a name and title go together better than peanut-butter and chocolate) has mastered the art of blending-in-until-invisible. A skill she’s particularly proud of. Imperative for tailing someone and snapping a series of not-so-secret photos. Handy for hiding in the hallways between classes.

What began as one, well-deserved, public humiliation has taken on a life of its own. Panda anonymously prowls to expose the not-so-great traits of seemingly superb human beings. Her photo-blog, Gray Scales, is incredibly popular. Her best friend, Mei, is a true fan. But even Mei has no idea that Panda is the person purportedly balancing the scales.

Things change the night that Panda sees so much more than she ever expected. Which happens to be the very night she, the original school-spy, was spotted. And photographed. Sadly, Panda remains unaware of her shadow until her latest sordid shots are available for all eyes on Gray Scales.

While disconcerting, Panda did not find it to be particularly worrisome. At first. She was absolutely not prepared for the murderous rage that soon follows. She’ll need to do her very best detective working to identify the culprit. Her life, and Mei’s, depend on it.

Endangered by Lamar Giles is a YA Suspense novel, in that the main characters are in high-school; but the plot pulled me in entirely. I stayed up stupid-late one night just because I had to know how it ended.

Oh-and when I later read a nature article that referenced a “camera trap”, I knew what that was because I’d read this book.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2020.

Book Review: The Split by Sharon Bolton @AuthorSJBolton @TrapezeBooks @MinotaurBooks

The Split
Sharon Bolton
Trapeze/Orion Publishing, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-4091-7419-6
Hardback
Minotaur Books, May 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-30005-8
Hardcover

I’ve been a fan of Sharon Bolton’s for a number of years. She started out writing as S.J. Bolton no doubt because initials didn’t give away the fact that she was a woman. At any rate The Split is her newest standalone and in truth I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s opening quickly draws you in as we meet Felicity Lloyd who is a glaciologist working on the remote Island of South Georgia in the Antarctic Circle.

Felicity is worried, very worried. A cruise ship, the last of the season, is arriving and she soon learns that one of the passengers, Freddie, is the man she’s been running from for close to a year. She believes he wants to kill her, but she has no idea why.

To find out the reason behind her fears we jump back in time, to nine months previously. Felicity is in Cambridge, England. She has been found, her clothes torn, her face and body bruised and bleeding, with no memory of what happened to her. She is now undergoing a psychiatric assessment, that’s why she’s in Dr. Joe Grant’s office. She needs to pass this assessment in order to return to work.

Joe has his own problems but he likes Felicity and wants to help. For the next third of the book we get to know Felicity a little more. Strange things keep happening to her. She is attacked and she’s also sure someone is getting into her house while she sleeps. Her car goes missing and her fear and tension steadily escalates, leaving her petrified that she’s going insane.

Several street people, people Felicity knows, have gone missing and a body is found. Is Felicity involved? She doesn’t know for sure and neither does Joe, who is growing more anxious about his patient. Joe’s mother, Delilah, is a detective who is certain Felicity knows more than she is saying, and might well be a suspect.

I read a review of this book (after I’d finished it), and had to agree with the reviewer, who praised Sharon Bolton’s meticulous research, but wondered, as I did, that it seemed obvious what was happening to Felicity. That Joe and his detective mother should have reached a similar conclusion within the story.

This didn’t stop me from reading its thrilling conclusion.

But I’m still thinking and wondering about it. But while I came away feeling a little disappointed, I’ll certainly check out her next book.

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, July 2020.

Book Review: Candidate for Murder by Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie @BooksbyAcorn @iReadBookTours

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Title: Candidate for Murder
Series: A Mac Faraday Mystery #12
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: C.J. McAllister
Publication Date: June 23, 2017

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Candidate for Murder
A Mac Faraday Mystery #12
Lauren Carr
Narrated by C.J. McAllister
Acorn Book Services, June 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

It’s election time in Spencer, Maryland, and the race for mayor is not a pretty one. In recent years, the small resort town has become divided between the year-round residents who enjoy their rural way of life and the city dwellers who are moving into mansions, taking over the town council, and proceeding to turn Deep Creek Lake into a closed-gate community – complete with a host of regulations for everything from speed limits to clotheslines.

When the political parties force-feed two unsavory mayoral nominees to the town’s residents, David O’Callaghan, the chief of police, decides to make a statement – by nominating Gnarly, Mac Faraday’s German shepherd, to run for mayor of Spencer!

What starts out as a joke turns into a disaster when overnight, Gnarly becomes the frontrunner, and his political opponents proceed to dig into the canine’s past. When one of the mayoral candidates ends up dead, it becomes apparent that slinging mud is not enough for someone with a stake in this election.

With murder on the ballot, Mac Faraday and the gang – including old friends from past cases – dive in to clear Gnarly’s name, catch a killer, and save Spencer!

A number of years ago, a perfectly normal fellow named Mac Faraday learned that his biological mother was a very famous person and, on the day his acrimonius divorce became final, Mac inherited a vast fortune. Now, the retired homicide detective lives in a magnificent estate on a lake in Spencer, Maryland, with his beloved dog, Gnarly. Gnarly has a questionable past but his biggest issue these days is his kleptomania. Nothing is safe from being pilfered by this German Shepherd.

At the moment, the whole town is focused on the upcoming mayoral election. It was already contentious due to strained feelings between the locals and the summer crowd; now, it’s a no holds barred fight because David, Mac’s police chief brother, nominated Gnarly as the one to beat the other two unpalatable candidates, Nancy Braxton and Bill Clark. The door is wide open for probes into the pasts of all three and it doesn’t take long for someone to dredge up old accusations of cowardice against the war dog when his handler was murdered during deployment. That’s not all, though—soon enough, one of the nominees is found dead in mysterious circumstances and, as it turns out, there’s more than one murder afoot.

Gnarly’s past is a fascinating story and it takes David along with a number of friends and other family members to get to the truth about his cowardice charge and the murders. I loved spending time again with Gnarly’s pals, Shetland sheepdog Spencer, Basset Hound Newman and Belgian Shepherd Storm as well as assorted humans. Gnarly’s campaign managers, Bernie and Hap, are a hilarious addition to a story that is a full-throated investigation into murder, political shenanigans and national security issues while still being shot through with humor. Narrator C.J. McAllister offers a lively performance and distinct voices along with a good sense of timing and brings Ms. Carr’s terrific story to life. Highly recommended 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

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Go Back to the Beginning to
When Mac Met Gnarly.

It’s Murder, My Son by Lauren Carr
A Mac Faraday Mystery #1
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Service, June 2010
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

What started out as the worst day of Mac Faraday’s life would end up being a new beginning. After a messy divorce hearing, the last person that Mac wanted to see was another lawyer. Yet, this lawyer wore the expression of a child bursting to tell his secret. This confidence would reveal Mac as heir to undreamed of fortunes, and lead him to the birthplace of America’s Queen of Mystery and an investigation that will unfold like one of her famous mystery novels.

Soon after she moves to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, Katrina Singleton learns that life in an exclusive community is not all good. For some unknown reason, a strange man calling himself “Pay Back” begins stalking her. When Katrina is found strangled all evidence points to her terrorist, who is nowhere to be found.

Three months later, the file on her murder is still open when Mac Faraday, sole heir to his unknown birth mother’s home and fortune, moves into the estate next door. Little does he know as he drives up to Spencer Manor that he is driving into a closed gate community that is hiding more suspicious deaths than his DC workload as a homicide detective. With the help of his late mother’s journal, this retired cop puts all his detective skills to work to pick up where the local investigators have left off to follow the clues to Katrina’s executor.

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About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, the Thorny Rose, and now the Nikki Bryant Cozy Mysteries—almost thirty titles across five fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ Goodreads ~ Books on Audible

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Follow the tour

Sep 1 –Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Sep 2 – Books for Books – book review of It’s Murder, My Son
Sep 2 – Blooming with Books – book spotlight of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Sep 3 – Bound 4 Escape – book review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway
Sep 4 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Sep 7 –Book Corner News and Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Sep 8 – Christa Reads and Writes – book review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway
Sep 8 – My Reading Journeys – audiobook review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway
Sep 9 –My Fictional Oasis – book review of Candidate for Murder
Sep 11 –Nighttime Reading Center – series spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Sep 11 –fundinmental – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 14 –Literary Flits – book review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway
Sep 15 –Jazzy Book Reviews – book review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Sep 16 –Books for Books – book spotlight
Sep 17 –Rockin’ Book Reviews – audiobook review of It’s Murder, My Son / guest post / giveaway
Sep 18 –My Journey Back – audiobook review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway
Sep 21 –My Journey Back – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Sep 22 –Mystery Suspense Reviews – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder
Sep 22 – Mystery Suspense Reviews – book spotlight / author interview
Sep 23 – Books and Zebras @jypsylynn – book review of Candidate for Murder
Sep 24 –Bound 4 Escape – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Sep 25 –Buried Under Books – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Sep 28 – StoreyBook Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Sep 29 – Sefina Hawke’s Books – book spotlight
Sep 30 – Locks, Hooks and Books – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Sep 30 – Blooming with Books – audiobook review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway
Oct 1 – Christa Reads and Writes – book review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Oct 1 – So Fine Print – book review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Oct 2 – Adventurous Jessy – book review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway
Oct 5 – Splashes of Joy – book review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway
Oct 6 – Literary Flits – book review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Oct 6 – Amy’s Booket List – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder
Oct 7 – Sylv.net – book spotlight
Oct 7 – My Reading Journeys – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder / guest post / giveaway
Oct 8 – Splashes of Joy – book review of Candidate for Murder / guest post / author interview / giveaway
Oct 9 – Nighttime Reading Center – audiobook review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
Oct 9 – Adventurous Jessy – book review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
TBD – Confessions of the Perfect Mom – book review of Candidate for Murder / giveaway
TBD – Confessions of the Perfect Mom – book review of It’s Murder, My Son / giveaway

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Lauren Carr, author of 

Candidate for Murder.

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Book Review: Airborne by DiAnn Mills @diannmills @TyndaleHouse @partnersincr1me

Airborne
DiAnn Mills
Tyndale House Publishers, September 2020
ISBN 978-1496427144
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Heather Lawrence’s long-awaited vacation to Salzburg wasn’t supposed to go like this. Mere hours into the transatlantic flight, the Houston FBI agent is awakened when passengers begin exhibiting horrific symptoms of an unknown infection. As the virus quickly spreads and dozens of passengers fall ill, Heather fears she’s witnessing an epidemic similar to ones her estranged husband studies for a living—but this airborne contagion may have been deliberately released.

While Heather remains quarantined with other survivors, she works with her FBI colleagues to identify the person behind this attack. The prime suspect? Dr. Chad Lawrence, an expert in his field . . . and Heather’s husband. The Lawrences’ marriage has been on the rocks since Chad announced his career took precedence over his wife and future family and moved out.

As more victims fall prey days after the initial outbreak, time’s running out to hunt down the killer, one who may be closer to the victims than anyone ever expected.

A year ago, I believed a pandemic could happen but I don’t think I really believed that it would…and, now, here we are, smack in the middle of one with no real knowledge of what life will look like a year from now or two or ten. Ms. Mills wrote this book before COVID-19 became public knowledge but that doesn’t really matter. Airborne is an intense, frightening look into how the onset of a rapidly fatal virus can wreak havoc naturally but even more so if it’s inflicted upon humanity by a madman.

The story here is very different from our current circumstances in that it mostly revolves around the search for the possible perpetrator, the tunnel vision regarding Chad and the relationship between Heather and Chad. Themes of Christianity and atheism come into play regarding the gulf that can be created in a marriage by such a dichotomy but that aspect of the story is not obtrusive and blends well with the chase to find the truth.

Fairly early on, it becomes apparent that this is, indeed, the evil act of a sociopath but there are a number of potential suspects that keep the exploration of the possibilities moving and, while I figured it out almost right away, I still enjoyed the investigation as well as the interactions of the characters (although I didn’t care much for Chad at times). I do think there are a few plot holes and the quarantine restrictions seem a bit lax knowing what that means today but, all in all,  this was a good way to while away a few hours.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

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

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An Excerpt from Airborne

Chapter One

Houston

Early July

Monday, 6 p.m.

Vacations offered a distraction for those who longed to relax and rejuvenate, but FBI Special Agent Heather Lawrence wrestled with the decision to take an overseas trip alone. Normally she arrived for a flight at IAH eager to embark upon a new adventure. Not this time. Her vacation expectations had bottomed out over four weeks ago after Chad had slammed the door on reconciliation. Was she working through her grief or avoiding the reality of a husband who no longer wanted her?

She waited to board the flight in a designated line at the gate. The hum of voices blended with airport beeps, and announcements swirled around her as though enticing her to join the enthusiasm. In the line beside her, passengers shifted their carry-ons and positioned their mobile devices or paper boarding passes. Ready. Alert. People eager to be on their way.

Heather offered a smile to those nearest her. An adorable little blond boy with an older woman found it hard to stand still. A middle-aged couple held hands. The bald head and pasty skin of the man indicated a medical condition. He stumbled, and the woman reached for him. A robust man held a violin case next to his heart. A twentysomething woman with pink hair and a man behind her with a scruffy beard exchanged a kiss.

Chad used to steal kisses.

If she pinpointed the exact moment when he chose to separate himself from her, she’d say when he returned from a third trip for Doctors Without Borders late last fall. He’d witnessed suffering and cruel deaths that had scarred him. She’d encouraged his desire to help others, not realizing their future would take a backseat. While he drove toward success, their marriage drifted across the lanes and stalled in a rut.

The boarding line moved toward the Jetway. Each step shook her to the core as though she should turn and try to reverse the past seven months. She’d ignored her and Chad’s deteriorating relationship in an effort to make him happy. A huge mistake. But she didn’t intend to add the labels beaten or weak to her dossier.

A cell phone sounded, and a man boarding in front of her stopped to answer it. His shoulders stiffened under a tan sports coat, and he talked in hushed tones. Heather dug her fingers into her palms and forced one foot in front of the other while the man pocketed his cell phone and proceeded into business class.

A flight attendant greeted her, a dark-haired young man wearing a wide smile, relaxed and genuine, an obvious sign he enjoyed his job. She returned the gesture. His black jacket with two rows of silver braid on the sleeves and black trousers were magazine perfect.

Heather walked to a rear aisle seat in business class and hoisted her tote bag into the overhead compartment. Although it held essentials for every emergency in case her luggage was delayed, the bulging piece weighed less than the burden on her heart.

Easing onto her seat, Heather pulled the brochure from her shoulder bag describing Salzburg’s music festival, a celebration of musicians past and present. First a layover in Frankfurt and then on to her destination. She’d rented an apartment for ten days within walking distance of the historical center. The flexibility allowed her to choose her itinerary and cook or dine out. From the online photos, the centuries-old building had just enough updates to be comfortable without damaging its historic charm. She’d have hours to explore Mozart’s roots, museums, the many churches, immerse herself in the culture, and think.

A female passenger, sporting red spiked hair and chin-length hooped earrings, stopped beside her. The woman carried a Venti Starbucks. “Excuse me.” Her German accent a reminder of the destination. “Would you mind holding my coffee while I store my carry-on?”

“Of course.” Heather held the cup while the woman shoved her small suitcase into the overhead bin.

“Sorry for the inconvenience. I wasn’t thinking when I bought the coffee.”

“It smells heavenly.” Heather stood to let the woman pass and then handed her the cup.

“Thank you.” The woman blew on the lid and took a sip. “I’m Mia.”

“I’m Heather.”

“Long flight ahead but soon I’ll be home.” She pointed to Heather’s brochure. “Salzburg?”

“Yes. For a much-needed vacation.”

“I’m from Frankfurt. Really missing my daughter and husband.”

“You’ll see them soon.”

Mia broke into a wide smile. “We’ve done FaceTime and texted, but I want to touch their faces and hug them.”

Heather continued to read the Salzburg brochure to avoid any personal comments from Mia, like whether she was taking a vacation solo. An elderly man wearing a straw fedora and a white mustache sat in the aisle seat across from Heather. He pulled his phone from his pant pocket and used his thumbs on the keyboard like a kid.

Mia placed her coffee on the tray and made a phone call. “Wie geht es meinem kleinen Mädchen?”

Heather translated the German. How is my little girl? The woman’s excitement resonated through every word. Love. Laughter. Priceless commodities that Heather didn’t possess. Yet this trip offered an opportunity to rekindle her faith in God and chart a course for the future.

While the attendants made their way through business class with drink orders, Heather longed to have confirmation she’d made the right decision to take this trip. No one knew of her vacation plans except her parents and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Wade Mitchell in Houston. No one needed to know the why of her trip until she made a few decisions.

Stuffing the Salzburg brochure into her bag, she snatched the aircraft’s information and confirmed the layout for 267 passengers, restrooms, exit doors, in-seat power, on-demand entertainment, and three galleys. She always noted the details of her surroundings, another habit of working so many FBI cases. Always be prepared for the unexpected.

If the trip had been FBI sanctioned, her present circumstances might not hurt so much. How ironic she worked the critical incident response group as a behavior analyst, and she wrestled to understand her own life.

Right on time, the flight attendants took their assigned posts while miniature screens throughout the plane shared the aircraft’s amenities and explained the passenger safety instructions. The captain welcomed them moments before the plane lifted into the clouds.

On her way. No turning back. She prayed for a safe journey and much-needed answers.

Food smells from business class caught her attention, a mix of roasted chicken and beef. Too often of late, she forgot to eat or nothing appealed to her. To shake off the growing negativity, she paid for Wi-Fi and grabbed her phone from her bag. Time to concentrate on something other than herself.

She glanced at the incoming notifications. No texts. Her emails were an anticipated list of senders when she longed for a change of heart from Chad. Sighing, she closed her eyes. Between her job, Chad, and stress, too often she fought for enough pillow time.

Two hours later, she woke from a deep sleep to the sound of a woman’s scream.

Chapter 2

Heather whirled toward the ear-piercing cry behind her. She released her seat belt and rushed back to the economy section. The overhead lights snapped on to reveal the middle-aged couple whom she’d seen at the gate. The panic-stricken woman beside him held a tissue to his nose. Blood dripped beneath her fingers and down her wrist.

Not a muscle moved on the man’s face, and his eyes rolled back into their sockets. Heather approached him in the aisle seat. Before she could speak, the woman gasped, a mix of sobs and a struggle for composure. “Help me. I can’t stop the bleeding.”

Heather used tissues from the woman’s lap to help block the blood flow. “Try to stay calm.”

The woman nodded. “I shouldn’t have let him talk me into this trip. He’s been so weak.”

From the front of the plane, the male flight attendant who’d greeted passengers earlier rushed their way. He carried two kits, one labeled first aid and the other biohazard. A female attendant trailed after him.

“Help is here,” Heather said to the woman. She moved aside for the attendant to administer aid. She prayed the ill man was undergoing a minor problem—an easily resolved issue—and for the woman’s comfort. But his lifeless face showed a grim reality.

“Sir, how do you feel?” Not a sound or movement came from the man. Blood flowed from Heather’s mass of tissues.

The male attendant twisted off the seal of the biohazard kit and searched inside. He drew out a pair of nitrile gloves and wiggled them on. The female attendant opened the first aid kit, ripped into a gauze package, and handed it to the male attendant, who applied it to the man’s nose. She opened the biohazard waste bag to dispose of the soiled materials.

The male attendant captured the woman’s attention. “Ma’am, I’m Nathan. Is this your husband?”

“Yes. He’s very hot.”

Nathan touched the man’s forehead. “How long has he been feverish?”

“He was fine when we boarded. Perhaps over an hour into the flight?” Her sobs subsided to soft cries. “Do something. Blood’s coming from his mouth.”

Heather touched her shoulder with a clean hand. “Take a deep breath.”

“How can I? Roy’s not breathing.”

“That’s his name?” His gentle voice ushered in compassion.

“Yes. I’m Catherine.”

He bent to speak to Roy. “I’m Nathan. Give me a few minutes to administer first aid.” He replaced the gauze on Roy’s nose for the second time and turned to the female flight attendant, who’d paled but didn’t tremble. “Leave the kits. Call the flight deck and tell them what’s happening.”

She rushed to the front of the cabin.

“This is my fault.” Catherine held Roy’s hand. “He finished chemo and radiation for lung cancer, but his doctor hadn’t cleared him for the trip.”

“Catherine,” Nathan said, “I know you’re worried, but try to stay calm. Has he experienced these symptoms before?”

“No.”

A voice spoke over the interphone. “If a licensed medical professional is on board, we have a medical issue. All other passengers, please remain in your seats.”

Within moments, a lean man arrived from the right side of business class carrying a leather case. “I’m a doctor.” Heather stepped back while he examined Roy and spoke to Nathan.

While the doctor stood over Roy with his back to Heather, Nathan turned to her. “We’ve got this handled. Please return—”

“No, please. Let her stay,” Catherine said. “If she doesn’t mind.”

Nathan frowned. “Okay, for the moment. Our manual states we have to keep the aisle clear around the patient.”

“I understand,” Heather said. “I’d be happy to sit with her, and I’m Heather.”

“Miss, if the pilots call our med service on the ground, I’ll need you out of way so we can relay instructions.”

The doctor and Nathan lowered Roy to the aisle and treated him. They blocked Heather’s view of the procedure, but the doctor rummaged for something inside the leather case. For the next ten minutes, she waited for the doctor to reassure passengers of the man’s recovery.

Catherine’s hysteria spun in a cloud of uncertainty that left unchecked often spread panic. She unfastened her seat belt and rose on unstable legs. “Please, tell me my husband is all right.” The female attendant gently urged her back onto the seat.

The doctor eased up from Roy and spoke reassuring words to Catherine. He peeled off his blood-covered gloves and tossed them into the bag. Had Roy succumbed to the lung cancer or a complication?

Nathan walked to a galley area. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am Nathan Howard, your lead flight attendant on board your flight today. We appreciate your concern for the man receiving medical attention. We will transport him to the rear of the cabin, where he’ll be comfortable. A doctor is tending to him, and the medical concern is under control. Thank you.”

Heather supported the airline’s protocol designed to keep everyone from alarm and terror while the crew addressed issues. Yet a few people craned their necks to watch the scene as though it was a morbid form of entertainment more interesting than the recycled movies on the screens in front of them.

Nathan returned to Catherine. “I know you’d like for the young woman to sit with you, but it would be easier for the flight crew and safer for her if we placed an attendant here. Can we do that?”

“I guess.” Catherine’s lips quivered.

Heather bent to speak. “I’m not far.” She understood how Catherine had latched on to her, a stranger, for moral support.

Nathan and the doctor picked Roy up and carried him to the rear. Roy was either unconscious or dead.

The female flight attendant sat in Roy’s seat and held Catherine’s hand. “I’ll stay with you for as long as you like.”

“Can I join my husband?”

“When the doctor is finished, I’ll escort you back.”

Heather returned to her seat—her mind weighed with concern.

“Gott hab Erbarmen,” Mia said.

“Yes, God have mercy.”

“You speak German?”

“A little. Spent a year in Frankfurt when I was in college.”

“The sound of it makes me long for home.” She hesitated. “What’s wrong with the man?”

“His wife said he’d recently completed chemo treatments for lung cancer. I’m sure the doctor is doing all he can. The airline has doctors on the ground, and they’ll consult with the doctor on board. Between them, they’ll figure out what’s best.”

“Do you work for the airlines?”

“No.” Heather smiled. “I’m with the Department of Justice.”

Mia rubbed her palms together. She’d already stated her desire to see her family. “Will the flight be diverted?”

“It depends on lots of factors. The man may just require rest.” Heather wasn’t going to state the excessive blood from Roy’s mouth and nose pointed to his death. By now the doctors at Medi-Pro-Aire, an advisory service for airlines, had been contacted and put in communication with the pilot.

“I read the airline’s cost to emergency divert range from $10,000 to upwards of $200,000,” Mia said.

“I don’t doubt the cost, but with this airline, the safety and welfare of the passengers always come first. They don’t blink at the cost of diversion. It’s on management’s mind post-action.”

“Can the pilots be called to the carpet for making a safety decision?”

“I’m sure their procedure is in place to protect the passengers.” Heather forced comfort into her voice. “We’ll be okay.”

Muffled voices around her prompted alarm.

A man shouted for help. “My wife has a terrible headache.”

A man in business class vomited.

“My son has a fever,” a woman said.

“Please, the man beside me has a nosebleed, and he can’t stop it.”

“What is going on?” Mia whispered. “All these people are suddenly sick. Frighteningly sick.”

Heather wished she had answers while horror played out around her.

“I’m afraid.” Mia’s face turned ashen.

“We have to stay calm.” Heather craved to heed her own advice.

Throughout the plane, people complained of flu-like symptoms. Another person vomited. Heather touched her stomach. A twinge of apprehension crept through her.

Nathan spoke over the interphone. “If you are experiencing physical distress, press your call button. Flight attendants will be in your area soon with damp paper towels. Use these to cover your mouth and the tops of beverages. As always, remain in your seats.”

Heather messaged ASAC Mitchell in Houston with the medical emergency report, including the symptoms.

He responded. The FBI, TSA, CDC, and Medi-Pro-Aire are on it. Are you okay?

Yes. People’s symptoms indicate a serious virus.

The doctor on board has given a similar conclusion.

She trembled as she typed. Looks similar to what Chad described in Africa.

The doctor said the same. Is the man dead?

I think so.

How many others are sick?

Heather surveyed the passengers within her sight and typed. From my seat, I see around ten in business class, and I hear the sick in economy. Will the plane divert?

No decision yet. Keep me posted. You are our eyes.

Beyond what the doctor on board relayed to those on the ground, ASAC Mitchell must believe she held the voice of reason and objectivity. The irony of their interpretation. The viruses were usually zoonotic or caused by insects, and the symptoms created intense suffering. She blinked to clear her head and not ponder the worst.

With panic gripping her in a stranglehold, she imagined what others were feeling. A man questioned why the plane hadn’t landed. A woman bolted to the galley and held her mouth. The man who held the violin marched to the business class restroom but fell face-first and vomited.

The elderly man across the aisle from her coughed. His nose trickled blood.

Heather grabbed tissues from her bag and handed them to him. “Will this help?”

“Tell me this is a nightmare.” He gripped her arm—fiery hot.

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About the Author

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction, and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn On:
DiAnnMills.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!
 

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