We’re celebrating the release of author Arthur Herbert’s latest whodunnit, The Bones of Amoret! Read on for more details and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!
The Bones of Amoret
Publication Date: February 13th, 2022
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense
Amoret, Texas, 1982. Life along the border is harsh, but in a world where cultures work together to carve a living from the desert landscape, Blaine Beckett lives a life of isolation. A transplanted Boston intellectual, for twenty years locals have viewed him as a snob, a misanthrope, an outsider. He seems content to stand apart until one night when he vanishes into thin air amid signs of foul play.
Noah Grady, the town doctor, is a charming and popular good ol’ boy. He’s also a keeper of secrets, both the town’s and his own. He watches from afar as the mystery of Blaine’s disappearance unravels and rumors fly. Were the incipient cartels responsible? Was it a local with a grudge? Or did Blaine himself orchestrate his own disappearance? Then the unthinkable happens, and Noah begins to realize he’s considered a suspect.
Paced like a lit fuse and full of dizzying plot twists, The Bones of Amoret is a riveting whodunit that will keep you guessing all the way to its shocking conclusion.”
Arthur Herbert was born and raised in small town Texas. He worked on offshore oil rigs, as a bartender, a landscaper at a trailer park, and as a social worker before going to medical school. He chose to do a residency in general surgery, followed by a fellowship in critical care and trauma surgery. For the last seventeen years, he’s worked as a trauma and burn surgeon, operating on all ages of injured patients. He continues to run a thriving practice.
In this enigmatic follow up to his critically acclaimed debut novel The Cuts that Cure, Arthur Herbert returns to the Texas-Mexico border with this saga of a small town’s bloody loss of innocence.
Arthur currently lives in New Orleans, with his wife Amy and their dogs. He loves hearing from his readers, so don’t hesitate to email him at email@example.com
This week we are celebrating the release of Betrayed in the Bluegrass by Virginia Slachman. Read on for details and a chance to win a $25 Amazon e-gift card!
Betrayed in the Bluegrass
Publication Date: January 15th, 2022
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller
Lexington Thoroughbred racing’s “power couple” Harper Hill and her husband, Detective JD Cole unite in this, the second in Slachman’s “Bluegrass” horse racing series. When a mysterious man, beaten and tortured, stumbles into the police precinct asking for JD, then dies before he can divulge his secret, a series of events are set in motion that will put the couples’ detecting power to the test and Harper’s life in grave danger. Soon after, Aubrey Lowen, Harper’s second cousin, is found severely beaten by the side of the road. Hospitalized, he hovers between life and death as Harper heads to Keeneland’s backstretch to keep an eye Lowen’s head trainer, Henley Smythe, who seems up to no good. As Harper tries desperately to uncover the culprit and help Aubrey’s wife Millie save their once-successful Thoroughbred farm, a dangerous character from Harper’s past shows up on the backstretch. Amid the dark pool of danger swirling around Harper, JD announces that the Feds have stepped in, preventing the couple from continuing their investigation. Undeterred, the two work under the radar to stop a killer bent on destroying the Lowen legacy and anyone who gets in the way. As murder and greed haunt every step they take, the couple knows that buried deep in Keeneland’s chaos the killer lies in wait—but uncovering the murderer just may cost Harper her life.
Harper had put the past behind her. Or so she thought. Fleeing the flashy, high dollar world of Kentucky horse racing for NYC, she’d been content living the life of a successful painter. But escape isn’t an option after the accidental death of her sister sends her back to the Bluegrass, a horse racing world filled with hope and heartbreak. As the body count rises as Eden Hill, Harper becomes convinced her sister’s death was no accident. Probing more deeply, Harper realizes Paris’ death is tied to a dark and deadly secret, one she discovers is why her racehorses are dying. Solving her sister’s murder and saving her family’s stud farm will take every ounce of Harper’s wit and courage. When seven skeletons are discovered on the grounds, and the barn with her best Kentucky Derby prospects is set on fire, Harper bears down to find the killer. The problem is, the culprit could be anyone: Is it JD, her childhood sweetheart, Marshall, their long-time trainer, or is it their nasty neighbor Red Cole, in partnership with her family for generations?
Someone is on a killing spree, and though Harper doesn’t know why, she is sure of one thing–the murderer is someone she’s known and trusted her whole life.
Virginia Slachman was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has taught creative writing and literature at the college level for over twenty years. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships for writing, she’s published several volumes of poetry; Many Brave Hearts, a memoir about her family’s experience with PTSD; and most recently Blood in the Bluegrass and Betrayed in the Bluegrass, the first two books in her mystery series set on a thoroughbred breeding farm in Kentucky.
An American tourist is murdered in a gay sauna in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Amanda Pennyworth, the American consul to that vacation resort, risks her career and her life to find the culprit. Amanda works with a junior officer of the Tourist Police in the search for suspects in the secretive underworld of this popular vacation spot. When a young Mexican boy is arrested by the impatient and brutal police chief on flimsy evidence, Amanda is convinced that it is a terrible mistake. But no one is willing to listen to her: certainly not the arrogant chief of police; not the boy’s parents who seem to blame her for the murder; and not the cynical American Ambassador who only wants to avoid an international incident. It’s up to her.
This is the second in a series of novels featuring the amateur sleuth, Amanda Pennyworth who finds, much to her surprise, that among her duties as consul for the United States is the dangerous pursuit of murderers.
Other books in the Amanda Pennyworth mystery series:
When Amanda Pennyworth began her assignment as American Consul in the beautiful resort city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, she had no inkling she would be called upon to solve the mysterious disappearance of a famous expat writer. However, when he vanishes—the victim of a kidnapping—Amanda is drawn into the desperate search to save his life. Negotiating the competing layers of Mexican police: the Federales, the local constabulary, and the tourist police, she is pulled deeper into what she realizes too late is a cunning and deadly plot.
Rodrigo slowly backed out from the utility closet, banging the mop hoisted over his shoulder against the door. Turning around, he tried twice to prop it against one of the stools next to the bar, but each time it fell onto the tile floor with a clatter. In his right hand, he carried a bucket of water, so full that it slopped over the edge when he set it down next to the counter.
“Watch what you’re doing, damn it!” Antonio cried, without looking over the ledge to measure the spill. “Did you inspect all the rooms?”
“Number 201 has still got has stuff in it. At least there are clothes on the hook and the towel is gone.”
“And the key hasn’t been turned back in either,” Antonio said as he glanced at the rack behind him. “So the guy must still be around. Have you checked everywhere?”
“Not yet. Just going to.”
“Well, get to it. He’s probably sleeping it off somewhere. Wake him up and get him out of here. We’re not running a fucking hotel!”
Antonio was tired and hot and anxious to close up. The temperature outside, even though it was after 2:00 in the morning had to be at least 90 degrees, and inside, give it even three or four more despite the fans that just blew the heat around like the hot breath of desire. He turned around again and reached up to the console behind him and switched off the music. The sudden quiet, as the steady disco beat died out, felt like relief from a throbbing headache he didn’t know he had. Then, touching a switch on the wall, he turned on the fluorescent lights. The red glow from the recessed overhead lamps that had disguised every fault and feature with a romantic blur dissolved into a flood of stark white exposing the dark, uneven floor, the blemished and cracked grey walls. The unforgiving glare was bright enough to wipe any illusions, and ended the allure of this palace of dingy dreams. Further on, there was the dark well of a staircase that led down to the level below. The steps behind him that led up to private rooms.
“Make sure you check in the sauna and steam area,” he shouted after Rodrigo, who was just disappearing around the curve in his descent.
Once on the basement level, Rodrigo walked across the dim corridor and stopped in front of the wooden enclosure of the sauna. He peered into the small glass window on the door, but the light was off and he could barely make out the shapes of the benches. Opening it up, the heat spilled out, sweeping over him. He could smell the combination of wood resin and sweat. But the room was empty.
He walked further on to the glass door of the steam room. Pulling it open, he entered the damp gloomy space, edged past the tile-covered bench on the right side, and then turned around a corner into the darkened back area. Condensation from the ceiling dribbled on his forehead and he wiped his eyes to get a better look. There was just enough light to see a shape stretched out on one of the side benches.
“Vamos, Amigo, estamos cerrados,” he said. And then repeated his words in English—louder this time. There was no response, so he moved closer. He could see now that the person was entirely naked, resting on a towel. He reached down and shook the man’s shoulder.
“Wake up!” he said. “Get up!”
There was still no response.
Then, with both hands, he seized the man’s dangling left arm and tried to pull him up. But the unexpected dead weight was so much that the man slipped onto the floor instead.
“Damn!” he shouted. “Damn! He’s dead drunk!”
Retracing his steps, he hurried halfway up the staircase where he paused and called out to Antonio:
“Found someone, but he’s drunk and I couldn’t wake him up. What should I do?”
“Fuck!” cried Antonio as he walked around the edge of the bar. “I’ll come down with you and together maybe we can carry him out. How big is he?”
“Couldn’t really tell. Just lying there on the floor. It’s dark you know.”
The two of them descended the stairs and Rodrigo switched on the overhead lights at that level.
“And when we’re done,” he added. “Make sure you mop the floor in there. God only knows what….”
Rodrigo held the door of the steam room and then propped it open with a rubber shim that had rested inconspicuously against the wall. Antonio waited for him and together they edged around to the dark alcove. The man was still lying on the floor.
“Is this how you found him?”
“Well, yes; not exactly. I mean, I tried to get him up, but couldn’t. He’s too heavy and out cold. That’s why I called you.”
“OK, then you grab his legs and I’ll take his shoulders and we can steer him out of here and onto one of the benches outside.”
“Damn, that’s a lot; dead weight,” Rodrigo groaned, hoisting his ankles.
“Stop complaining! I’ve got him, so just back up and don’t drop him….Come on, Amigo. Wake up and help us out a bit!”
They struggled, half dragging the naked body out of the steam room, but instead of putting him on one of the benches or the worn couch at the side of the sauna enclosure, they just left him lying on his back on the floor.
“OK, Amigo, wake up. Last call! We’re closed!” Antonio said, bending over and looking at the man’s face.
“Definitely an American or at least a foreigner. Get a towel, Rodrigo, and cover him up while I try to wake him.”
Antonio crouched down on his haunches and felt the man’s face. It was warm, but there was no reaction. He grasped an arm, raised it up and then let it drop.
Rodrigo returned with two towels and placed them over the man’s body.
“Do you think he’s dead?” he asked suddenly.
“How should I know? Don’t know how to tell,” Antonio answered. “He’s not cold. And not stiff.”
“Feel for his pulse. I seen them do it on television. Feel his neck. That’s what the detectives always do.”
Antonio put his fingers around the man’s neck and waited. “I don’t feel anything. How am I supposed to know?”
“Those TV detectives can always tell, right away.”
“Yeah, but I’m not a detective! I think I’m going to have to call the police.”
“That won’t be good for business if he’s dead. Do you think he stayed in the steam room too long?”
“Don’t be crazy; it’s not warm enough in there to wilt a flower. Probably just had a heart attack or something. But he’s awfully young for that.”
“Do you see those red marks on his throat? Looks like maybe he was strangled.”
“He seems dead, so I guess he was. But you’re an expert now?”
“Just what I seen on American shows. Bruises where you press down hard. I don’t know nothing.”
Antonio stood up and walked toward the staircase: “Stay there, Rodrigo, I’m going to call the Tourist Police. In case he moves, let me know.”
“He ain’t gonna’ move. For sure.”
Reaching the main floor, Antonio walked quickly around the bar and through the door in back leading into the small office that also fronted the entrance, where customers standing behind a wire grill, passed their money through and picked up keys to lockers or retiring rooms and a towel and plastic flip flops. It was also where he kept his cellphone. He dialed the number and a sleepy voice answered:
“Is Captain Morelos there?”
“No. Sorry. He’s been transferred to Oaxaca.”
“Then can I speak to whoever is there?”
“You can tell me what’s the problem. If I decide it’s important I’ll pass you on to anybody.”
“Listen. This is serious! I’m Antonio Lopez at the Olympiad sauna. We got a customer that we can’t seem to wake up. I think he might be dead.”
“Did you try his pulse? Maybe he’s just drunk.”
“More than that, I’m afraid. You need to send someone around. Right away. I got to close this place up.”
“OK, OK. I’ll see if anyone is here and I’ll send them over.”
“How about sending a doctor or maybe an ambulance too? So you can get him out of here.”
“We’ll see about that when we get there.”
The police car pulled up in front about a half hour later. A tired looking officer dressed in crumpled fatigues and a middle-aged woman wearing slacks and a sweatshirt and carrying a black bag—someone who might have been a doctor or the Medical Examiner but without a uniform—came through the open doorway, up the stairs, and rang the bell in the entrance alcove. Antonio buzzed them inside.
“I’m Captain Gonzalez,” said the officer, pushing into the entranceway. “Just happened to be on duty and about to go home when you called. This is Senora Sanchez.” He seemed peeved by the interruption to his day. “Where’s the body?”
“I don’t want no trouble; we never had no trouble here,” Antonio said, as he guided them to the staircase and then down into the basement level. He turned to look at them as they followed: “He hasn’t moved since we took him out of the steam room.”
“So you moved him?” the examiner shook her head as she was pulling on a pair of plastic gloves. “That’s not very smart. Shouldn’t have.” She walked over to the body and crouched down, placing her fingers along the artery of his neck. She picked up and flexed his limp arm and then noticed the blotches on his neck.
“Do you think you could shine a flashlight on these marks,” she asked the officer. I can’t be sure, and won’t know until I have him back at the station, but it looks like he was strangled. You can see some bruising. And not too long ago. No signs of rigor yet.”
Then standing and addressing Antonio: “Do you have any identification for him? He looks like a foreigner. Could be about 25 years old or so.”
“Use your pass key and go look in his room again, Rodrigo, bring his clothes and anything else you find in his room,” Antonio ordered.
“Just a minute,” interrupted the woman. “I’m coming with you. And you’re not going to touch anything, understand?”
“But I already have…awhile ago. And I don’t need the key; I left the door open.”
“Come along and be quiet,” she said.. “Just show me the room and then stay out of my way! Anything else you did to corrupt the crime scene?”
Rodrigo was about to answer but thought she would just accuse him again.
So the two climbed up the staircase to the upper landing in silence while Antonio and the officer remained below staring down at the body.
“I don’t want no trouble,” said Antonio, in a tone that sounded more like a question than an assertion. “We never have no trouble here.”
“Yes, you said that before. But looks like you’ve got a lot of trouble now. Not much else I can say right off. But certainly it looks like a murder, and a foreigner too. Can’t think of anything worse for you. We’ll have to close your place down for a few days… maybe a week or two. Tomorrow, I’ll send a team to look for fingerprints. And don’t be surprised if you find a few things out of order.”
“But Officer; how long? We have to clean the rooms!”
“You’re not listening very carefully. You need to think about how you can help us instead of mopping the floors. And when we’re done here tonight, I want you and your helper to lock up. And plan to stay shut until I tell you to. Don’t have to tell you not to touch anything. And you’ll have to come to the station of course… a lot of questions to answer…but later.”
Approaching the row of cubicles on the second floor above the bar, Rodrigo led the Medical Examiner to the open door of 201. He switched on the single bulb light inside, which cast a weak glow around the tiny space, and let her step in first because there was scarcely any room to turn around. She entered and sidled along the raised wooden platform bed that was covered in some sort of plastic material and a crumpled sheet. The wall abutting it was mirrored up to the ceiling. Toward the far end there was a small built-in table. On top of it was a plastic water bottle, and above, to the right was a wall hook with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt still hanging.
Taking both items of clothing down, she spread them out onto the platform and turned the pockets of the jeans inside out. Both in front were empty except for a few coins on the right side. Reaching underneath, she took a wallet out of the back right pocket. It was empty except for a vehicle insurance card. In the dim glare, she could make out the name “Jeremy Blackman” with an address in Los Angeles.
“Was the door to this cubicle unlocked when you came to check on him?”
“I don’t remember, Senora; what I mean is, I always use my key so I wouldn’t know if it was or wasn’t, would I?”
“Do you have some system of lock-boxes? Somewhere he might have put money, credit cards, a passport?”
“And did you did find the room key anywhere on the body?”
“No. I didn’t see that neither. It would have been on an elastic band. Guys put them on their wrist or ankle sometimes.”
“You’re sure it didn’t fall off when you carried him out of the steam room?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure, but I’ll go back and look again.”
The Medical Examiner gave him an exasperated look, but said nothing further. She backed out of the room and walked swiftly along the corridor and down the two flights of stairs back to where the body was stretched out on the floor. Rodrigo followed, staying carefully well behind her.
“I’ve got an I.D. for him, some sort of insurance card from Los Angeles, but it looks very likely that he was robbed,” she told Captain Gonzalez. “No cash, no credit cards, no passport. Whether that has anything to do with his death is, of course, for someone else to prove. And I looked, but there was no key inside the cubicle, as you can see, none on his wrist and there was nothing in his pockets. Maybe when you do a more thorough search, you’ll find it.” Addressing Antonio, she continued: “Did anyone turn in the key?”
“No Senora. Whoever did this I think has taken the key with him.”
“Perhaps. We don’t know that yet. Maybe it will turn up when we’ve done a more thorough search.”
“As for the cause of death,” she said, turning to the Captain Gonzalez, “I’ll have a report for you tomorrow sometime once you get the body back to my lab. And I’ll tell you definitively if it was murder or not. But it looks like it.”
“Thanks Senora,” the officer mumbled. “I’ll deliver the body as soon as I can get an ambulance here. In the meantime, can you give me the insurance card? If that’s him and he’s an American, I’ll have to notify the Consulate.
“Good luck with that!”
“You know as well as I do, what; she makes trouble.”
The officer turned to Antonio who had moved away from the body, recoiling as if it was contaminated: “I want a list of names: everyone who entered today and, if you can, the time that this person arrived.”
“I’m sorry Officer, but we don’t keep a list of names. This ain’t a hotel.”
“OK, then, passport numbers or ID numbers for any locals will do.”
“Might not be complete.”
“Aren’t you supposed to check everyone who enters? What kind of a place is this?”
Antonio took a step backwards and almost sat down abruptly onto one of the benches along the wall.
“I’m sorry, Sir, yes, we usually check ID’s for the age of the person. And we generally write down the ID number. But maybe if Rodrigo was at the window, he might have forgotten to. He’s not very careful sometimes. So you’ll have to ask him. But listen: we never had trouble, here. And we have to be discrete, you know.”
“Well, in this case, I think you’ve got considerable trouble….Hardly the time to be worried about anyone’s reputation. Do you remember him—the victim—when he arrived and if he was alone?”
“I think maybe I was the one who checked him in. I seem to remember there were two them: Americans, I think, about the same age… young anyway. So if they actually came together, then one of them has obviously left alone. I can’t tell you exactly when; probably Rodrigo checked him out. You know it’s very simple process. They just shove their towels and sheets into a hamper by the exit and return their shoes and keys. I’m not sure I’d remember anyone leaving specifically. Sometimes I just buzz them out without looking if I’m busy at the bar. But ask Rodrigo; maybe he….” Antonio was intentionally vague; not because he knew something and didn’t want to say, but he figured if he sounded unreliable, the policeman would stop asking him questions.
“Then I’ll want that list of those entries you have before I leave.”
“I’m not sure I should give it to you,” Antonio said, after a pause. A look of dread spread over his face. “People who come here don’t want to have their names known. It could cause terrible trouble for me if you investigate them. I’m sure you understand.”
Gonzalez scowled and took a step toward him: “That’s not my problem. If this is a murder, and I think it is, any one of your clients could be the killer. I need those ID numbers. You’re to give me list before I leave. I don’t give a damn about anonymous or about your business.”
He then turned his gaze to the assistant who was sitting on a bench down at the end of the corridor. Rodrigo looked up anxiously when the policeman approached.
“Do you remember two Americans? The person lying here and maybe a friend of his? Did you see them together or check the other one out?”
Rodrigo stood up and stared blankly for a minute:
“I never pay any attention to the guys here whether they’re American or not,” he said, backing up against the bench he had been sitting on.
“Never make eye contact, because if you do…. I just work here; I’m not one of them!”
“I don’t care what you are or aren’t. Just tell me, did you see them together?”
“Not that I remember. But I do know that one American left earlier because I had to ask him for his towel. He’d left it in the locker area and I certainly wasn’t going to get it for him. But he may not be the one you mean. We get lots of foreigners here.”
“So that man you remember didn’t have a room?”
“I guess not. I didn’t check his key. But that wouldn’t be unusual. If two guys came together why would each need a separate room? But then this isn’t a place where anyone wants to explain what they’re doing or why. So who knows?”
“Do you remember what time it was? Approximately?”
“I don’t know. Maybe around 11:00 or so. I usually go outside for a few minutes around that time. Get some fresh air. Could have been then or when I came back in.”
“So you really don’t know.”
“That’s right. I don’t pay no attention. I just do my job without looking. I don’t get paid to see things.”
Gonzalez stared at Rodrigo for a moment and then decided that he kept repeating himself because of nerves. And probably knew nothing more. But he would keep an ear open for anything suspicious about him just the same. He wasn’t sure he could trust anyone here. And the whole place…maybe the late hour…and a foreigner murdered! He could expect nothing but trouble.
About the Author
James Gilbert is the author of four published novels, two of them in the Amanda Pennyworth Mystery Series. Two of his short stories have been awarded prizes by the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story contest (2017 and 2021). In his previous academic career, he was Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland specializing in modern American cultural history. As a historian, he published eleven American History books in modern American culture on subjects ranging from Twentieth Century World’s Fairs to the conflict between science and religion. One of his publications was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Amid the shifting sands of Egypt, is an ancient evil stronger than even the most timeless bonds?
In the heat of 1920’s Cairo, Raf and Cecily are looking forward to making their honeymoon one to remember. Instead, they find themselves caught between a British nobleman on a mission to loot Egypt’s ancient tombs and a mysterious local woman who will do whatever it takes to protect the land she loves.
When a foreboding pyramid rises from the sands and the scent of decay fills the air, Raf and Cecily find themselves caught in a terrifying race against time to vanquish a murderous mummy and put right the wrongs of the past. But is evil stronger than even the most timeless bonds?
Cecily leaned over the ship’s railing, shielding her eyes from the hot Mediterranean sun with her hand. They’d travelled across Europe to get here, and now they were almost at their destination, a place Cecily had only ever dreamed of before.
“And tomorrow we’ll see Egypt, just there on the horizon!” she excitedly said to Raf, her husband.
If only I could wish and wish and it’d appear there right away.
“And tomorrow night, we’ll be snuggled in bed in the Rosetta of the Nile, counting the stars above Cairo.” Raf beamed. He put his arm around Cecily’s waist and said, “It’s the perfect honeymoon, Sissy.”
“It feels like a dream, Raf, like it’s not quite real!” Cecily pictured pyramids and deserts, a world away from their home in Yorkshire or the places in Europe they had journeyed through. “We’ll go everywhere by camel, of course, and eat nothing but dates.”
“Just like we do in Yorkshire,” he told her with a grin. Then he pecked a kiss to Cecily’s cheek and asked, “Happy, Mrs de Chastelaine?”
“Oh, so happy I might go pop!” Cecily said excitedly. Then with affection, she added, “But then, I have been ever since I first met you, Raf.”
Not so long ago Cecily would never have dreamed that she’d be married to a man—or dhampir, really—like Raf de Chastelaine, let alone be honeymooning in Egypt, but here she was. Her life had taken an unexpected turn and as she stood here beneath the sun, the botanical scent of Raf’s homemade sun lotion mingling with the heat and sea salt, she’d never been happier.
A breeze rippled the brim of her sunhat, and Cecily turned to see another passenger lean against the railings a few feet away. Miss Mansour was a very glamorous Egyptian lady, who they’d sat with at the captain’s table the night before, along with Miss Mansour’s party of archaeologists. Cecily had been over the moon to sit at such an important table on her first long sea journey, and with a party who were travelling to Egypt to uncover its wonders, too.
But Miss Mansour seemed preoccupied and hadn’t noticed them. Instead, she stared off towards the horizon.
Cecily’s sixth sense, her ability to pick up on others’ emotions, began to twitch.
She’s homesick, Cecily thought, although she realised that was obvious.
“Raf,” Cecily whispered, “let’s say good afternoon.”
Raf glanced towards the woman, then gave a nod. “Yeah, let’s say how do,” he decided.
Cecily moved along the salt-covered railing. “Good afternoon, Miss Mansour!” She smiled. “You must be very glad to be so close to home again.”
Miss Mansour removed her sunglasses and smiled back, but there was something sad in her expression. “Oh, of course, if one has a happy home, then one is glad to return. I am thinking of all the work I must do when we arrive. Lord Bath has such great plans for his dig. I think we might uncover many wonderful things.”
“It must be terribly exciting!” Cecily said. “All those treasures that haven’t seen the light of day for years and years and years, and you brush away the sand, and there in your hand there’s a little golden Anubis!”
“Lord Carnarvon hasn’t put him off?” Raf asked. “If you believe the papers, pyramid-diving is a bad business. I don’t know… I feel like perhaps English lords should leave Egyptian treasures in Egypt.”
A flicker of amusement crossed Miss Mansour’s face. She maybe didn’t hear that sentiment often enough. But Raf’s Romanian accent no doubt told her that he had no patience with the meddling of the English. “It is strange to me to think of my ancestors lying in museums across the world. I cannot think it was what they expected when they died—that one day their remains would travel the world, to be stared at.”
“I heard that Lord Bath reckons he’s found a tomb that nobody believed existed at all,” Raf replied. “But legends sometimes turn out to be true, don’t they?”
And Raf would know all about that, wouldn’t he? Not many advertisements for family businesses that spanned the generations read, ‘Ghosts need laying? Rates negotiable on application.’ Raf didn’t work alone anymore though—Cecily was part of the family business, too.
But what fates had Raf’s ancestors faced? His father might be human, but his late mother certainly hadn’t been. After all, it wasn’t many newlyweds who spent Christmas at a castle perched atop a precipice on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains. Cecily would never have guessed that vampires could be such generous and attentive hosts.
“The tomb of Menkare II,” Miss Mansour replied, with a note of distaste. “He is sure that he has discovered it, even though the sands covered it from human sight longer ago than you can imagine. A pharaoh who has almost been entirely forgotten, but the legend of his missing tomb has persisted down the centuries. And now Lord Bath thinks he’s found it.”
Cecily shivered with delight at the thought. “Do you think we might come along to the dig and have a look? We won’t touch anything. We’ll be on our best behaviour. Won’t we, Raf?”
“I don’t want to touch anything that’s been inside a forgotten tomb.” Raf chuckled. “I’ve got an allergy to curses. I’d love to have a nose at the site, though…history’s a bit of a hobby of mine. Along with gardening. And tinkering. I love tinkering.”
Miss Mansour chuckled. Then she looked Raf and Cecily slowly up and down, as if she was assessing them. Cecily did her best to smile under her scrutiny. It felt as if Miss Mansour wasn’t just looking at them, but into them. Although Cecily told herself she couldn’t be. Then Miss Mansour nodded.
“Yes, why don’t you come along? I believe I can trust you.” Miss Mansour pointed to the jumble of necklaces and amulets around Raf’s neck. “You’re wearing a scarab, I see. And the Eye of Horus.”
Raf nodded. “It’s not my first time in Egypt,” he admitted, almost bashfully. “And I like to pack on the protection. Whether it’s from the sun, or…whatever else is floating about.”
“You are very sensible to do so,” Miss Mansour said. “Lord Bath scoffs at such ideas, of course. And I am told sometimes that I am too superstitious, but you never can be too careful. Especially not when you’re robbing graves, even ancient ones.” She paused for a moment, before adding, almost to herself, “Especially ancient ones.”
“We’re very careful about such things,” Cecily said, knowing she couldn’t go into detail with someone they’d not long met. “We always treat the dead with respect.”
“They’re people too,” Raf pointed out, straight-faced. “Just like us.”
“Oh, they are…” Miss Mansour glanced away for a moment, towards the southern horizon. Cecily sensed her homesickness again, a feeling of loss and loneliness. Then Miss Mansour turned back to face them. “You see, I knew I could trust you. There are not many people on this earth who share that sentiment, Mr de Chastelaine.”
Raf smiled gently and admitted, “It’s just something life’s taught us.” And he glanced towards Cecily, his eyes filled with love.
“Miss Mansour!” It was Lord Bath’s braying voice, and it was coming closer from inside the ship. “I say, Miss Mansour, where are you hiding?”
Miss Mansour sighed. “I apologise. I must speak to Lord Bath.” She raised her voice and replied, “I am out here on the deck, Lord Bath, taking the sea air.”
“Dreaming of the old homeland, eh!” Lord Bath stepped out onto the deck. He put his hands on his hips and drew in a deep breath of sea air. “Good Lord, it’s hotter than ever today!”
He was dressed in a linen suit, as most of the European men on the ship were. But Lord Bath’s looked particularly expensive, cut to fit just right. His square jaw jutted out as he took the air, as though he was the master of all he surveyed. And the truth was, men like him were.
Not women like Cecily or Miss Mansour, not men like Raf. But wealthy English aristocrats in Jermyn Street linen suits ruled the world.
“This is not hot!” Miss Mansour chuckled. “You have the sea breeze here. But out in the desert, it doesn’t matter how hot it gets, you hope the wind won’t start up or a sandstorm might follow. But I will be glad to see my home again, yes. Are you not pleased to see yours when you return to England?”
“One has several, and one is always happy to see them. But the tomb of Menkare II is my life’s work. I’ll happily take a long-lost legendary treasure horde over even the nicest family pile in Bath.” Bath guffawed. He lifted his Panama hat to Raf and Cecily. “Good afternoon, Mr and Mrs de Chastelaine. Egypt awaits, what!”
“Oh, it does!” Cecily replied. “You must be so excited about the dig. I know I am, and I’m not even digging anything. But then I’ve never been to Egypt before, and you’re all experts on it. Miss Mansour especially.”
Miss Mansour smiled wistfully. “Egypt and her myths and legends have been my life’s work.”
But it wouldn’t be Miss Mansour’s name connected with the find. Rather, the name of a man born in a country far away, in a land without a single desert to its name.
“I must confess this was a last throw of the dice,” Bath admitted. “Seven failed digs over the years. But our Miss Mansour isn’t only a dashed pretty face. She’s got a very clever little brain in that head of hers!”
Little brain? Cecily had once been married to a man who spoke like that about women. She bristled on Miss Mansour’s behalf.
“How kind of you to say so,” Miss Mansour replied, acknowledging his backhanded compliment with a nod. “I have worked very hard—studied very hard—to acquire the knowledge I now have of my country’s ancient past.”
“And we’re all terribly grateful,” Bath assured her. “Miss Mansour was able to interpret the last clues to the location of the tomb. When the treasures of Menkare II are exhibited in London, I’m sure this young lady’s beauty will dazzle almost as much as the pharaoh’s gold.”
Young lady’s beauty?
Cecily bristled anew. She could sense that Miss Mansour didn’t appreciate the way Lord Bath spoke about her either, but she didn’t say anything.
“And everyone will want to talk to her to find out how she worked out the last clues,” Cecily said.
Miss Mansour gave Cecily a smile, as if telling her that she appreciated her support. “I would be more than happy to.”
Lord Bath met that with a bark of uproarious laughter. He clapped his hands together and exclaimed, “Quite so, Mrs de Chastelaine, quite so!” He wiped his eyes on a pristine white handkerchief. “And when one dines at the Ritz, one lauds the waitress for the chef’s splendid work, eh?”
“But without Miss Mansour, you wouldn’t have found the tomb,” Raf pointed out, frowning. “Isn’t that right?”
“And without my money to hire her, Miss Mansour wouldn’t have been part of the party at all.” Lord Bath’s smile had become rather tight. Cecily could tell that he didn’t take kindly to such ideas. “And she certainly wouldn’t have had access to the tablets and very rare papyri that held the secrets of Menkare II’s tomb. Believe me when I say that such treasures are highly prized and priced accordingly. Far beyond the reach of the Miss Mansours of the world.”
Miss Mansour raised an eyebrow before putting her sunglasses back on. A chill breeze rose from the sea. “That is because the tablets and papyri I needed to study are held in a private collection in England.”
“Guilty as charged.” Bath chuckled. “And I may yet have one surprise left up my sleeve, madam. A little showmanship, if you will.”
“Is that so?” Miss Mansour sounded like someone who was not easily surprised. She tapped her fingers against the ship’s railing, her rings clanging on the metal. “I shall look forward to it.”
“Well, you’ll excuse me. I must dress for dinner.” Bath gave a polite nod of farewell. “Miss Mansour, might I escort you to your state—cabin?”
No stateroom for the hired help then, no matter how valuable their knowledge.
“No, thank you, Lord Bath. I believe I can just about remember the way there. Good evening.” And with that, Miss Mansour inclined her head, then turned and glided away along the deck.
Cecily glanced at Lord Bath, wondering if he had taken offence. But how else could Miss Mansour have reacted without any further dents to her dignity?
“She’s homesick,” Cecily told Lord Bath by way of explanation.
“Ah, England’s green and pleasant land. We all miss her, of course,” Bath replied, apparently untroubled by her departure. And somehow unaware that perhaps Miss Mansour, his Egyptian associate, might not consider England home, no matter how green or pleasant.
“Egypt,” Raf said bluntly.
“Yes, she misses Egypt,” Cecily prompted Lord Bath. “I think maybe she’s glad not to be in England.”
“Well, I certainly won’t be asking her to come back to England if she prefers to remain in Egypt,” the Earl of Bath replied with a magnanimous smile. “I shan’t be requiring her expertise once the tomb is open. Miss Mansour can go wherever she might wish.”
Raf frowned and asked, “You won’t give her the credit for her work, then?” He added innocently, “I thought you said you couldn’t have done it without her.”
“She’s terribly clever,” Cecily added. “Just think of the number of languages she understands, modern and ancient ones. And she knows a terribly vast amount of things about the ancient world as well!”
“And dashed pretty too,” the Earl of Bath replied. “Well, I shall take my leave. Good afternoon to you both!”
“We must go and dress for dinner. Good afternoon,” Cecily responded, the words sticking in her throat. The earl gave another nod and retreated back towards the ship.
“Cheerio,” Raf called, but Cecily knew that his bonhomie was an effort. He didn’t like Lord Bath any more than she did. If the nobleman realised, of course, he didn’t care. Instead he disappeared into the ship, whistling a cheery tune as he went.
Cecily waited until he had gone, then she whispered to Raf, “What a dreadful man, robbing Miss Mansour of her discovery. I really don’t like him at all, Raf. But then, maybe I’ve known one too many men like him in my life.”
Raf nodded. He put his arm around Cecily’s shoulders and whispered, “Not my sort of bloke either. Do you want to head in and get ready to eat?” Raf kissed her cheek. “Do I have to wear shoes to dinner?”
“Oh, yes, let’s go back to the cabin.” Cecily chuckled. “Shoes? Well, if you don’t wear shoes, we might not be invited to the captain’s table tonight. But if the delightful Lord Bath’s sitting there again, maybe that’s a good thing.”
“I’ll put shoes on,” Raf assured her. Then he added with a wink, “But I’ll slip them off when I’m sitting down,”
Raf really didn’t like shoes. He was happiest barefoot, wandering through the garden at home. Cecily smiled at him. “I’d expect nothing less, darling! Right, let’s get ready for dinner.”
Arm in arm, they strolled along the deck towards their cabin.
Eleanor Harkstead likes to dash about in nineteenth-century costume, in bonnet or cravat as the mood takes her. She can occasionally be found wandering old graveyards. Eleanor is very fond of chocolate, wine, tweed waistcoats and nice pens. Her large collection of vintage hats would rival Hedda Hopper’s.
Originally from the south-east of England, Eleanor now lives somewhere in the Midlands with a large ginger cat who resembles a Viking.
Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters of 18th century. Her work has been featured on many platforms and Catherine has also spoken at various venues including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Dr Johnson’s House.
Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.
She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.
Forensic accountant Kat Munro puts her traumatic past behind her and begins dating journalist Connor O’Malley, whose investigations into online crime attract the wrong kind of attention. When a colleague’s teenage son goes missing, and his friend’s body is discovered, Kat finds herself working with DS Adam Jackson again.
The murder enquiry leads Adam to an exclusive London school where allegations of drugs, gaming fraud and child pornography abound. As he gets deeper into the investigation, Adam is forced to face issues in his private life while suppressing his feelings for Kat.
The faceless hackers become desperate, and Connor is found drugged with his research missing. Can Kat and Adam put the past behind them to solve a series of seemingly unrelated incidents before someone else becomes the victim of an elusive cyber-crime network?
Other Books in the Kat Munro Thriller series:
A Kat Munro Thriller, Book 1
Financial Crime Thriller
Published: December 2020
Publisher: Paperback Writer’s Publishing
Can a conspiracy be uncovered before the Death Count rises?
Forensic accountant Kat Munro fights corporate fraud during the day and kickboxes her demons at night while trying to ignore the nightmares that have plagued her since a car accident changed her life forever.
DS Adam Jackson is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of a friend two years ago.
When the partner of a successful London Investment fund dies in suspicious circumstances, Kat joins forces with Adam to investigate the firm. As they gather evidence of a crime with implications beyond the City, they find that events in their pasts are on a collision course; one which will ultimately put them both in serious danger.
Fast-paced and entertaining, Death Count takes a deadly dip into the world of financial crime.
Marshall Tyler stamped his feet to keep warm and tossed his blond curls out of his eyes. It was supposed to be spring in London, but there wasn’t much evidence of that yet. He couldn’t wait for summer when school would finally be done. He would decamp to his parents’ holiday home on the French Riviera for the holidays, where he’d spend each day working out at the gym, working on his tan, and chasing any number of beautiful girls who flocked to the region.
He took another look at his watch, a gift from his mother, an expensive Girard-Perregaux timepiece similar to the one footballer Cristiano Ronaldo favoured. They were late. He’d give them another five minutes, and then he’d return to school and apologise to his mate Harry. Maybe he shouldn’t have gone behind his back to arrange this meeting, but Marshall loved the thrill of what they’d done. Harry wanted to take it slow, but Marshall had seen the opportunity when it presented itself. Despite Harry’s objections, he’d gone ahead and submitted the proposal anyway. Perhaps he was going to be a shrewd businessman like his father after all.
There was a rustle in the weeds near the abandoned building where he’d been instructed to wait. He spun around and caught a glimpse of the mangy red tail of an urban fox disappearing into the undergrowth. The single-level brick structure and surrounding security fence were marked with ‘Keep Out’ signs, overlaid with meaningless graffiti. Plastic bags, food containers and all manner of rubbish had blown into a pile against the wire fence at one end of the site. The lights on the estate lining the streets leading to the old substation had flickered on during the time he’d been waiting, and dusk now blanketed the city.
He looked around at the growing shadows, and a shiver ran down his spine. He couldn’t wait to leave this dodgy part of London behind him. He couldn’t believe, out of all the places where he could have completed his schooling, that his parents had sent him to a boarding school in the East End. It had been his father’s way of providing some counterbalance to the opulent lifestyle Marshall had been born into.
They weren’t coming. Marshall felt the emptiness of disappointment twist his stomach. He took one more look about him, turned his collar up and ducked back through a hole in the broken fence. When he straightened, two men were standing in front of him.
He jumped and took a step back, crashing into the fence. One of the men laughed, a harsh chesty sound. Marshall couldn’t make out much of their features in the gloom, except that they were both broad-shouldered, with knitted beanies pulled down over their ears.
“Tyler?” the first one asked.
“You’re just a kid.” The second man sounded surprised.
Marshall nodded and swallowed, feeling a sudden dryness in his throat.
“Let’s talk around the back, where we won’t be overheard,” the first man said.
Marshall hesitated, unsure whether he wanted to be out of sight of the flats. Still, it didn’t seem to be a suggestion, so he ducked back through the hole in the fence and waited while the two men followed. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that he was the one in charge; he had the thing they wanted. Squaring his shoulders, he led them around the edge of the substation into an overgrown yard that led down to the railway siding.
“Do you have it?”
The two men stood blocking his exit.
“Has the money been transferred?” Marshall asked. He heard the slight tremor in his voice and hoped that the men didn’t.
Marshall took out his phone and tapped on the app for the bank account. The balance was unchanged from when he’d looked earlier. “It’s not there,” he said. “I can’t give it to you until I’ve been paid.”
The second man stepped forward and knocked the phone from Marshall’s hand. The screen shattered as it landed at his feet.
“You didn’t really think we’d pay your blackmail, did you?” the first man sneered. “Now give it here.”
Marshall felt a frisson of fear. He opened his mouth to call for help, but the men laughed.
“No one will hear you, and if they do, no one will come to your aid, not around these parts.”
Marshall took a step backwards, but the first man grabbed him while the second man landed a solid punch to his abdomen, followed by one to his jaw. Marshall’s head dropped to one side, and he struggled to draw in a breath.
“Stop, I don’t have it on me,” he rasped. “But I can get it for you.”
The man hit him once more, and Marshall felt pain radiate from the centre of his face. Blood gushed from his nose, spilling down the front of his jacket.
“We’ll wait here, and you go and get it,” the first man said, releasing him and pushing him towards the building. “You have thirty minutes.”
“And we’ll keep that fancy watch as collateral to make sure you come back.” The second man reached for his arm, releasing the clasp on the strap and slipping the watch from Marshall’s wrist. He held it up to his face for a closer look. “Very nice.”
“No,” Marshall said, making a grab for the watch. The man pulled away as Marshall’s fingers grazed the back of his hand. “That was a present from my mother.”
“You know what you need to do if you want it and your phone back.”
About the Author
SL Beaumont is the author of the award-winning novel Shadow of Doubt, the Kat Munro Thriller series and the Amazon best-selling series, The Carlswick Mysteries.
She lives in beautiful New Zealand, which is only problematic when the travel-bug bites (which it does fairly often)! Her passion for travel has seen her take many long haul flights to various parts of the world. Her love of history helps determine the destination and the places she visits are a constant source of inspiration for her.
Prior to becoming an author, SL Beaumont worked in banking in London and New York.
Shadow of Doubt won the 2020 Indie Reader Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Award and was long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel. Death Count was a semi-finalist for both the 2021 Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Fiction Prize.
Antiquities expert Annalisse Drury and tycoon Alec Zavos revel in a love
affair peppered with treasure hunting, grand adventure, and the occasional
It’s autumn when Alec arranges a getaway from them to visit is
mother’s birthplace in Bari, Italy—a no-drama vacation to
transfer his car company to a rival. But before they can depart New York,
murder makes its familiar reappearance.
Accompanied by detective friend Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find
themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the
reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father—linking him to the
Mafia. An ancient rosary propels Annalisse down crooked paths to expose the
truth as they uncover answers none of them are prepared for.
Covers are a Window into Your Book
The key to choosing a cover is knowing your genre. Deciding on a cover doesn’t necessarily mean you can pick anything you like. It’s more what the reader who reads in your genre is expecting to see as your cover. If trying some new, groundbreaking cover art to intrigue, you may find yourself lacking in book sales. Readers want to be visually pulled into the story, but only if they can understand your story—in your genre—from your cover art.
If you’re able to swing a professional book cover designer, I highly recommend that source versus a basic ready-made cover. Stock photos are so common and easy to slap together, but what does that say about you as an author? Is a stock cover going to pull in your readers, or tell them your book is ho-hum boring? Many simplistic photos can work well as long as there are interesting elements added to shock or amaze your audience. There are several creative designers who can pull this off well.
I’ve personally used a husband and wife team from Australia who design all elements on their covers from start to finish. I found them after I fell in love with one of their winning covers in a contest. I was thrilled with my cover for Stolen Obsession! The extra money spent on a fully designed cover was well worth the effort. The cover for Stolen Obsession won the 2018 Independent Book Award for Best Cover in the Fiction Category and the IndieReader cover award.
In my second book, Spent Identity, I went into a different direction to find my cover designer because my first designers were overloaded with new clients. 99 Designs is an online website for graphic designers all over the world. I found Isabel from Portugal, there. The cover for Spent Identity is simple yet portrays a feeling of foreboding that goes along in the mystery/suspense genres. The book won the 2020 Independent Press Award for Best Mystery and has been named as a finalist in other contests. It’s well worth your time to research a slew of cover designers before you make your final choice. Expect to pay from $200 to $600 for top designers who create more than stock premade covers.
I’m especially proud of the work we did on the third book cover for Scattered Legacy. We began with a simple backdrop and added other elements to tell the story of what the reader would find inside the pages. Sometimes this method can work if done correctly, but use caution. Less is more, and busy covers can be confusing. If you are lucky enough to snag a pro cover designer, they will give you solid advice. The best recommendation I can give you is to search books in your genre and see what other writers are doing with their covers. Publishing houses seem to be using simple artwork with more emphasis on the title and author’s name. If you like this style, try it out for yourself, but always use a professional designer when possible.
About the Author
Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as
a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The
Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living, and Sheep Industry News, to name a
Marlene and her husband, Gregg, reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded
ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma
guard dog named Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats that
believe they rule the household—and do.
Welcome to the book tour for Rain City Lights by Marissa Harrison! Read on for more details!
Rain City Lights
Publication Date: October 1st, 2021 (Hardcover Edition)
Genre: NA/ NA Mystery
Coming of age and mystery blend in this stark, yet atmospheric tale of love and loss. A young woman is pushed onto the streets where she learns the harsh realities of what it means to survive, to serve justice, and to fight for the man she loves. As they navigate their way through Seattle’s Underground, Monti & Sasha will break and warm your heart!
In the summer of 1981, a serial killer preys on black, teenage prostitutes working Seattle’s arterial highways. But the eyes of youth are blind to danger, and Montgomery “Monti” Jackson is distracted by her own problems. She’ll be starting high school soon, and the return of her mother’s boyfriend heightens the tension in her fractured household.
To add to her worries, Monti fears she may be in love with her best friend Sasha. But as close as they’d once been, now they couldn’t feel further apart. Sasha is a burnout punk rocker, and has befriended the neighborhood drug dealer. And when an eviction notice is posted on Monti’s door, a strange dynamic forms between them.
One night, an altercation leaves her family penniless. So Monti turns to the very streets where a killer stalks and ensnares young women, beginning her journey towards understanding one, simple truth – sometimes your only choices in life are to love and survive.
Rain City Lights is a gritty, urban love story that explores how poverty, addiction and abuse is passed from one generation to the next.
The rain pelt so hard it sprang up from the porch like bullets. The detective removed his hat, water dripping down his face, hiding tears but for his red-rimmed eyes. He couldn’t help crying, after what he had seen and for the scene before him. The Christmas tree lit with multi-colored lights and draped with silver tinsel. The cookies on the mantle. Frank Sinatra crooning “Jingle Bells” from the record player. And a small boy wearing red pajamas. These were the reasons the detective wiped his nose like a baby, and steeled himself to bear the bad news.
* * *
Mikael Sasha Coen already knew why the detective had come. Someone once said he could smile with only his big, blue eyes. He tried this by focusing his eyes hard into the sadness that seemed to hunch the detective’s shoulders. He curved the corners of his mouth upward just a little. It was enough to make the detective smile back.
“He should leave the room,” the detective said.
Daan shook his head. “The sooner he gets used to hearing bad news, the better.” The detective scratched his sideburn.
“Mr. Coen, I’m so sorry to say this, tonight of all nights. But there’s been an accident. Your wife’s car went over the Ballard Bridge. She didn’t make it.”
Daan Coen keeled over and keened, a sound more piercing than nails dragged against a chalkboard. The detective described what happened. The grates were slick. His wife had been speeding to beat the drawbridge, raised to let a party yacht into the Fremont canal. She skidded and lost control. Daan sobbed and asked the Lord why. But Mikael thought he knew that, too.
After a moment, Daan asked,
“But wouldn’t she have seen the warning lights? Wouldn’t the gate have dropped? I don’t understand how this could happen.”
The detective pursed his lips. He spoke in the way adults sometimes did that made Mikael feel as if he’d been naughty.
“Not here,” the detective said.
Mikael watched from the porch as Daan left to identify the body. He’d promised to stay with one of the neighbors that lived in the apartment units of The Bridgewater. As Mikael turned, he heard a chattering sound, and it drew his attention to the stoop next door. A young girl sat with her head
pushed between her knees, her body rocking back and forth and her arms enclosing her shivering shins.
“What’re you doing? It’s raining,” he said.
“No shit,” she muttered. “I’m locked out.”
“Why?” He bit his lip. “Also, you shouldn’t talk like that. My dad says bad words send people to hell.”
The girl didn’t answer. When she looked up, he saw the gray eyes of a feral cat ready to scram into the city gutters.
Mikael walked inside and turned up the music. He took the cookies from the mantle and went back to the porch, holding them in the rain, in view of the girl.
“Want a cookie?”
“I’m fine. My mom is coming soon.”
“You want to help me open my presents?”
The girl shrugged and stared at her knees.
Mikael sighed and stomped back to the Christmas tree. He moved the gifts from beneath the tree, one by one, into his bedroom. He knew the girl would come out of the rain soon. No kid could resist Christmas presents. On each trip to the tree he passed a photo of his mother. It was the kind with two faces, one of the smiling front and the other a profile. The two-faced photo was ghoulish, and each time he passed it became harder to look at because of the goosebumps that tickled his arm. He didn’t want to open presents in front of the ghost that had once been his mother.
Mikael waited on his bedroom floor. The music blared from the living room, but over the smooth, velvet voice of Sinatra came the soft pattering of uncertain footsteps.
“I’m in here,” Mikael called.
The girl appeared in the open doorway of his bedroom.
“Hi,” Mikael said.
Her eyes were glued to the presents.
“Where are your parents?” she asked.
“My mom is dead. My dad went to see her.”
“A car accident.”
He sniffled and pushed the presents towards her.
“Here. You can have them all.”
He handed her a football wrapped in gold paper, something he never wanted. Mikael’s father wanted it for him, in the same way Daan wanted other things. Be a good, Christian man. Don’t cry. Stand up straight. Don’t tell lies.
The girl tore the paper from the gift, filling the silence with the sound of shredding paper. Her eyes sparkled. She tossed the football in her hands as if it was something she was made to do.
“My name is Montgomery. But you should call me Monti. I’m seven.”
“My name is Mikael.” He paused, thinking of his Norwegian grandfather for whom he was named, a strict Lutheran who built the walls that enclosed them now. It was a name his father wanted for him.
“But you should call me Sasha. I’m seven and a half.”
Monti shoved an entire cookie into her mouth. She smiled, showing the crumbs stuck between the gap in her front teeth.
“Why aren’t you sad?”
“I was sad yesterday,” he said. “My mom said goodbye yesterday.”
She took another cookie and ogled the rest of the gifts.
“I can’t take your presents.”
“Yes you can. I don’t want them.”
She sputtered cookie crumbs from her mouth.
“Why the hell not! I’d kill for this many toys.”
“They’re from my dad. And he’s the reason my mom’s gone.” He picked another gift and laid it in her lap. “Also, you shouldn’t swear.”
She nodded, as though everything he’d said made perfect sense. He felt very brave next to her, so he whispered through clenched teeth,
Marissa Harrison is the author of her debut novel, Rain City Lights. She began her career by reading as many books as she could get her hands on, and would fondly wander the aisles of her neighborhood Target to pick the hottest reads for her enjoyment and education. She caught the bus from her job in Downtown Seattle to take classes and workshops offered around the city, and eventually completed her first novel during the early morning hours while watching the trains roll by from her apartment window. She is an avid reader of mysteries, true crime, and heart wrenching love stories, and explores these themes in her own writing.
In her spare time Marissa enjoys running, hiking, dramatic miniseries’ and a great glass of wine. She lives in Seattle with her husband and four guinea pigs.
Is Tom Wyrick Dead? The computer genius is missing. So are his priceless tech secrets. Time for Lyle to go undercover again.
Tom Wryick’s mind-bending technology will rocket Nostalgia City theme park decades ahead of the competition. But the computer genius is missing. So are his secrets. Is he dead? On the run? His billion-dollar, breathtaking discovery is the Perception Deception Effect.
An FBI agent theorizes the People’s Republic of China is responsible for the disappearance.The Nostalgia City CEO, however, is convinced a rival theme park is behind the theft. He drafts ex-cop turned theme park cab driver Lyle Deming to fly to Florida to find the missing computer scientist and recover his secrets.
Does this have anything to do with the severed human finger Lyle finds in his cab?
Back in Nostalgia City, park executive, 6’ 2” Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star, is persuaded to investigate the death of an actor starring in a Vietnam-era crime movie being filmed at the Arizona park. Nostalgia City is a meticulous re-creation of a 1970s small town.
Shrugging off jet lag, anxiety, and oppressive Florida humidity, Lyle goes undercover using a parade of false identities to snoop behind the scenes at another theme park’s engineering and computer offices. He’s forced to jump from one covert scheme to another as his identity is exposed, his safety jeopardized.
In the meantime, Kate confronts a mentally unstable actor—fresh out of rehab. But she may be forced to give up the murder case—Lyle needs help.
Kate and Lyle have little time to explore their nascent romantic relationship as both their investigations turn deadly, threatening them and the future of Nostalgia City.
* * *
“Mark S. Bacon’s well-told mystery is clever, smooth, and intriguing, with a reluctant detective who has just the right touch of self-deprecating humor. The author’s wry wit and engaging voice will keep you turning the pages of Dark Ride Deception until the very last satisfying twist.”
–Mary Adler, author of the Oliver Wright WWII mystery series
***Recommended: Death in Nostalgia City, the first book in this series, was recommended for book clubs by the American Library Association.
Lyle felt like he was back in an interrogation room at the Phoenix PD only he was on the wrong side of the table. He sat in front of Galvan’s desk and eyed the beefy guy with a crew cut who was not introduced. Yoo sat next to Lyle.
“So as you now know, I work at—or maybe I used to work—at Nostalgia City. In any event, I’m a cab driver.”
“I can show you my ID and commercial license.”
“This is not the time for your name, rank, and serial number,” Yoo said. “Tell us what you were doing here.”
Yoo still prodded, Galvan had large dark eyes, and the crew cut looked at him like he was a suspect in a one-man lineup. “Okay, I’m just looking for a Nostalgia City employee. What’s the harm?”
“And you thought he might be working here?” Galvan said.
“And what does he do at Nostalgia City?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I believe Tom Wyrick is a programmer for you,” Galvan said, her voice light and conversational as if she were asking if he enjoyed his flight to Florida.
Hell, how do they know he was a programmer? Amber, the receptionist. My mistake. She was the only one I told who Wyrick was. But how did they know I talked to her? I never mentioned her name to anyone. Surveillance cameras. They went back and looked at video of the time before I showed up in HR. Damn these guys are good. Least I know what they know about me, which is pretty much everything.
“Wyrick is a programmer and he disappeared. The park is worried about him so they asked me to look around.”
“And you were chosen, not because you drive a cab, but because of your previous occupation.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I was a sergeant. Phoenix police, homicide.” Did the crew cut’s gargoyle expression soften slightly?
“Actually, Mr. Deming,” Galvan said, “the only thing we don’t know for sure is what Wyrick was working on when he disappeared. But I can guess. There’ve been stories. And you were asking around in our attractions development building next door.”
This lady has a complete picture of my actions and motives. As complete as I would have liked for any perp I detained as a cop. He gave a shrug of surrender and leaned back in his chair.
Galvan turned to the thickset guy next to her. “Thanks for coming over Bill. It’s like we thought. I just have a few more questions for our cab driver. I’ll give you a call later.”
Bill got up slowly, pushed his chair out of the way, and came around the desk. He looked at Yoo and made a slight motion to the door. When they left, Galvan got up and took Yoo’s seat opposite Lyle.
“Are you working for Maxwell? Hiring an ex-police detective sounds like something he’d do.”
Lyle couldn’t read Galvan’s body language. She sat back in the chair, put a hand on the arm, and crossed her legs. Relaxed maybe, but her brown-eyed stare held his attention.
“Yes and no. I am working for Max, but he didn’t hire me. I went to work at the park because it was a break from police work. It takes it out of you. I like driving my taxi.”
“You’re not driving it now.”
“I sometimes do special assignments for Max.”
“So one of your programmers has gone rogue and you want to find him before he sells your secrets.”
Lyle could play the game, too. His noncommittal expression was as good as anyone’s.
“Does it have to do with your perception deception effect?”
Why don’t I just call Joseph Arena and have him explain the technical details to you?
“You don’t have to worry. That term was in one of the trade mags recently. No one knows what it means.” She shifted in her chair and leaned forward. “I sympathize with you. We all want the latest and the best, and we all try to protect our own proprietary ideas.”
“Which is why Yoo followed me.”
“That’s right,” she said. “I’m sorry if he got too rough. He’s young. It didn’t sound like you were looking to steal anything. I despise anyone who would steal secrets for profit. Your secrets, our secrets, anyone’s. Our engineering team is inspired, and like Edison said, it’s ninety-nine percent perspiration. Is this Wyrick going to sell your secrets to the highest bidder or what?”
Mark S. Bacon began his career as a Southern California newspaper police reporter, one of his crime stories becoming key evidence in a murder case that spanned decades.
After working for two newspapers, he moved to advertising and marketing and became a copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park down the freeway from Disneyland. Experience working at Knott’s formed part of the inspiration for his creation of Nostalgia City theme park.
Before turning to fiction, Bacon wrote business books including “Do-It-Yourself Direct Marketing,” printed in four languages and three editions, named best business book of the year by the Library Journal, and selected by the Book of the Month Club and two other book clubs. His freelance feature articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express News, Orange County (Calif.) Register, Denver Post and many other publications. Most recently he was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Dark Ride Deception” is the fourth book in the Nostalgia City mystery series that began with”Death in Nostalgia City”. The first book introduced ex-cop turned cab driver Lyle Deming and PR executive Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star. “Death in Nostalgia City” was recommended for book clubs by the American Library Association.
Bacon is the author of flash fiction mystery books including, “Cops, Crooks and Other Stories in 100 Words – Revised Edition”.
He taught journalism as a member of the adjunct faculty at Cal Poly University – Pomona, the University of Nevada – Reno, and the University of Redlands. He earned an MA in mass media from UNLV and a BA in journalism from Fresno State.
Politically blacklisted detective Luke Campbell’s last chance in law-enforcement is a job with the police department of rural Granton, Vermont. It’s a beautiful town, home to a beautiful, intriguing girl who’s caught his eye, and it’s a chance at redemption. Even if his new boss seems strange, secretive, and vaguely sinister, Campbell is willing to give this opportunity a shot. And no sooner does he make that decision than the first in a series of murders is discovered, starting a chain of events that will change the lives of everyone in this once-quiet town.
Brandon Barrows is the award-nominated authors of the novels Burn Me Out and This Rough Old World as well as over fifty published stories, selected of which have been collected into the books The Altar in the Hills and The Castle-Town Tragedy.
He is also the writer of nearly one-hundred individual comic book issues.
He is an active member of both the Private Eye Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.
Don’t Forget To Breathe Cathrina Constantine
Publication date: September 1st 2021
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
Leocadia arrives home from school to find her mom’s body. Unaware that the killer still lingers, she rushes to her mother’s side, only to be grabbed from behind. And everything fades to black.
Leo has been battling personal demons after a year of retrograde amnesia. She’s been having vivid dreams of that day. And her dreams are getting worse—she’s starting to remember. Two more bodies are discovered and they are oddly linked to her mom’s unsolved homicide.
Leo befriends her new neighbor. He’s eager to visit Star Hallow’s notorious haunted mansion. It’s located on a deserted cul-de-sac where she once lived and where her mom was murdered. But it’s the Lucien Estate, the mansion next door to her old home, where they happen upon misty ghosts, ghosts that just might help to unravel the homicides.
Will Leo’s memories send her reeling into a relapse, or will she be able to overcome her demons to find her mother’s killer – only to become the next victim?
The black corners of my room softened into a silvery gray. I turned my head to check the alarm clock, 4:45. I begged the heavens, “Please, let me sleep,” and smothered my head underneath my downy pillow.
A nanosecond after slamming my eyelids closed, I was immediately transported to a year ago…”
My walk down the hallway to my parents’ bedroom became sluggish. She’d been complaining of not feeling well and had stayed home from work today. Was she sick and needed to rest and forgot about the boiling water? The door was shut. I knuckled the frame softly. “Mom?”
My hand twisted the knob and inched it open. I gagged on the smell.
An awkward, half-naked body draped the mattress—porcelain skin sliced apart, and silky blonde hair fanned the floor. Dripping red blood—gobs of blood. Eyes filled with terror watched me. Dead eyes. My jaw moved. Mommm—but no sound. I shuffled a foot forward and doubled over, spewing lunch. That was when I noticed a bloody dagger next to her fingers. Forged in a peculiar camber design like something I’d see in a museum.
Arms swallowed me from behind, “I’m not going to kill you. Not yet.” Then everything faded to black.
I woke with a start and gasped. My heart ached. Struggling upright I crisscrossed my arms over my chest and gripped my shoulders. Tears sprinkled my face—sorry for my loss, sorry for myself.
Cathrina Constantine is an International Best Selling and Award Winning Author. Her books have won Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards. New Apple Medalist Award. Literary Classics Gold and Silver Award. Literary Classics Seal of Approval. And recently 1st Place Top Shelf Award for YA/Mystery.
Cathrina loves to immerse herself in great books of every kind of genre, which helps her to write purely for entertainment, and hopefully to inspire readers. When not stationed at her computer you can find her in the woods taking long walks with her dog.