Book Tour: Pretty Broken Dolls by Jennifer Chase #suspense #crimethriller @pumpupyourbook @JChaseNovelist

 

As the killer circles closer and closer to Katie, what if the only answer is to give him what he wants? 

By Jennifer Chase

Title: PRETTY BROKEN DOLLS
Author: Jennifer Chase
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 302
Genre: Crime Thriller

 

In the thin light of the moon, the woman’s limp body hangs from the iron fence amongst the redwoods. Looped over the railings is the little gold locket her mother gave her when she turned sixteen. The picture of the girl inside smiles out at a future she’ll never see…

As day breaks over the fairground, Detective Katie Scott forces herself to take in another disturbing scene in front of her. A woman, the same age as her, found slumped in the carriage of the Ferris wheel, red lipstick dragged across her lips, her throat cut.

Katie doesn’t want to believe that the serial killer picking off women across the state has found their way to the small town of Pine Valley, California, but when her team finds a gold engagement ring hanging nearby, it’s a terrifying, but undeniable fact.

With a twisted killer on her doorstep, Katie knows if she doesn’t act fast, she’ll find more women left out in the cold like broken dolls. Her team hit dead end after dead end, but only she can see the vital link between the victims: a connection with Katie herself.

Katie has spent years pushing traumatic memories of her years in the military far out of reach, but she must confront them now or more innocent women will die. But as the killer circles closer and closer to Katie, what if the only answer is to give him what he wants? There must be another way…

Warning – This absolutely unputdownable thriller will keep you up all night! Fans of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine and Melinda Leigh better hold on tight for a nail-biting rollercoaster ride!

PRAISE

5 Stars! “This is the first book in the series I have read – and I want more! Suspense up to the end, characters I enjoyed, and K9 units. Loved it!” – NetGalley

5 Stars! “As always this Jennifer Chase thriller just cries out to be read in one sitting. Here we see Katie get tangled up with a serial killer although it takes time before anyone takes her seriously. Great characters and a great story, I loved this book.” – NetGalley

 

PROLOGUE

The front door stood ajar. It bumped gently against the jamb in rhythm with the evening breeze. The screen remained wide open and was bent precariously around the aluminum frame. Pieces of broken glass from a shattered light bulb above had scattered across the porch, leaving behind a shadowy darkness draped across the front of the small house.

The neighborhood remained quiet; the light blue one-story cottage eerily so. No outside illumination or motion lights flooded the front area. The blooming
climbing vines and perfectly manicured bushes were eclipsed by the darkness.

Headlights approached.

A small, dark vehicle pulled into the driveway. Waiting a moment before turning
off the engine, a woman pushed open the car door and stepped out. The young
redhead was dressed for the evening, in a sparkly blouse and tight black pants.
Wavering a moment in her spiked sandals, she looked at the house in
curiosity—and then in disappointment. Quickly grabbing a warm jacket from
inside the car and slipping it on, she walked up the driveway.

“Jeanine, where are you?” she whispered and headed to the front door, ignoring the
shattered light bulb on the step crunching under her feet. She knocked on the
door. “Jeanine,” she said, more loudly, leaning closer to the opening. “We
waited for you… you missed a great party.”

No response.

The front door pushed open, revealing a darkened interior.

“Jeanine?”

The woman hesitated but seemed to be pulled by an unknown force. She stepped over
the threshold, not bothering to close the door, and moved through the living room. Confused by the darkness, she turned on a lamp sitting on a small table. The room lit up instantly. Everything seemed in place. The oversized beige couches with brightly colored throw pillows, the dark mahogany coffee table with neatly stacked magazines and books precisely centered appeared usual for Jeanine’s house. It was always neat and organized.

“Jeanine?” the woman said again. “Are you here?”

The woman walked around and checked the kitchen and small bedroom, but there wasn’t
any sign of her friend. She eyed a piece of paper on the counter and decided to leave a quick note, scratching out that she had stopped by and asking Jeanine to call her when she got the message.

She suddenly noticed a strange high-pitched whistling noise coming from the other
side of the living room. Curious, the woman moved closer to the sound. The back
sliding door was slightly open. The crack was enough for the wind to invade and
make a strange noise.

Her foot touched something. A tall turquoise vase that had been sitting on a shelf
nearby was now lying on the carpet. It seemed strange to her that it had been
knocked over. She bent down and picked up the vase, replacing it on the shelf.

She retrieved her cell phone from her pocket and tried calling Jeanine again. It
rang numerous times and then went to voicemail where Jeanine’s upbeat voice
said, “Hi, sorry I missed your call but please don’t hang up. Leave a message and I’ll get right back to you.”

The greeting was followed by a quick beep.

“Jeanine, it’s Mandy again and now I’m standing in your living room. Where are you, girl? Everyone was asking about you tonight. Hey, and you left your front door open.
Call me.” She ended the call.

Mandy was about to head back to the front door to leave, but something stopped her—it
didn’t feel right—and instead, she stood at the sliding door staring out into the large backyard where dense rows of pine trees and acacia bushes huddled around the house’s boundary. During the day, the property appeared green and lush, but now it looked gloomy and foreboding.

Mandy flipped on the outside light, but it only lit up the patio areas directly
outside the house, and the extended wooded region still looked dark.

She pulled open the sliding door and the wind whipped through the house. It chilled
her. Goosebumps scuttled up her arms. Worry now set in and she didn’t know what
to do. Redialing Jeanine’s number, Mandy listened to it sound again and in unison heard the faint, far-off ringing of a phone somewhere in the distance.

She stepped outside, trying to decipher where the ringing was coming from. “Jeanine?” she said, noticing that one of the outside chairs had been toppled over and lay precariously on its side.

Moving off the stone patio and pulling her jacket more tightly around her, Mandy
slowly trudged toward the trees, a bit wobbly in her shoes. She turned on the flashlight mode on her cell phone and moved forward.

She dialed Jeanine again. This time, she heard the distinct ringing of the cell
phone coming from the trees—low at first and then it rang louder.

Jeanine,” she said, with barely a whisper. Her voice sounded oddly distant.

Looking down, she saw where there were crushed weeds and small broken branches as if
someone had walked back and forth recently. Still, she kept moving forward, into the trees, swinging her cell phone back and forth which only illuminated a tiny patch of ground in front of her, creating dense shadows outside its beam.

Her pulse quickened.

Anxiety escalated.

Something fluttering on a bush caught her eye. She leaned closer, focusing. As she moved the cell light beam nearer, it revealed a piece of white fabric with a mother-of-pearl button still attached.

Mandy gasped.

It wasn’t the fact that she had seen Jeanine wear that pretty white blouse on so
many occasions, it was the droplets of crimson spattered across the fabric that shoved a spear of fear into her gut.

Thoughts of dread and horror-filled scenarios ran through Mandy’s mind. Urgently, she
pushed the redial button on her phone again.

The sound of Jeanine’s ringtone rang in the darkness. This time it kept ringing and
there was no cheerful message.

Mandy walked further into the dark realm of the trees, still hoping that there was a
logical explanation. Stepping over old branches with loud crunching noises and sidestepping bushes just before reaching the back fence of the property, she managed to make her way to the sound of the ringing phone.

Everything went quiet.

Mandy stood a foot from the phone lying on the ground. It mesmerized her. She slowly
bent down to pick it up. With a startled gasp, she stepped back, dropping the phone as she stared at her hand. It was covered in blood.

In a frenzied panic, Mandy ran past the phone and continued along the low wrought-iron fence. The flashlight feature dimmed and she couldn’t see where she was going. Slowing her pace, she glimpsed something white and moving slightly.

“Jeanine? What’s going on?” She spoke in a strained whisper.

Trying to catch her breath and calm her hammering pulse, Mandy approached. Her cell
phone flashlight surged and shone brightly on the blood-soaked white silk blouse, now shredded from Jeanine’s right shoulder. She reeled back at the sight of her friend.

Mandy couldn’t tear her eyes away from the horror. Her throat constricted as her
breath trapped in her chest. She staggered backwards, taking in the entire scene—unable to turn her focus away.

Her friend’s upper body was impaled on the iron fence penetrating from her back
through her ribs, and her throat was slit open. Her head flopped down, lifeless eyes trained on the ground. Her long brown hair fell forward, some strands sticking to the blood seeping from her chest. Her arms hung at her sides, legs crooked, like a marionette waiting for someone to pull the strings. Blood still dripped from her body, sliding down her arms to her fingertips before collecting on the ground—the wet crimson almost matching her fingernail polish.
The body was shoeless and Jeanine’s feet were dirty and bloody—as if she had been running through the woods barefoot.

It was the sight of Jeanine’s face that made her sob in terror. Caked in grotesque makeup, making her look like a caricature of herself—a hideous broken doll. Red lipstick drawn heavy around her lips, dark purples for blush on her cheeks, and dark blues for eye shadow made her look like a circus clown instead of her friend.

Beside Jeanine’s body, a necklace hung on the fence. It was a small locket that she
always wore, which her mother had given her when she turned sixteen.

Mandy mouthed the word “Jeanine” but no sound escaped her lips. Realizing she still had her cell phone in her hand, she tried to dial 911 but fumbled a few times with the buttons before she heard the words, Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and USA Today BestSelling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor’s degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers. You can visit her website at www.authorjenniferchase.com or connect with her on TwitterGoodreads and Facebook.

OTHER BOOKS BY JENNIFER CHASE

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Book Tour: Mu – The Grimm Cases Collection (Part One) by Lyla Owens #youngadult #paranormal @pumpupyourbook

Title: MU: THE GRIMM CASES COLLECTION (PART ONE)
Author: Lyla Oweds
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 667
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

The things I see aren’t for the faint of heart.

And I am no longer willing to ignore them. Not even when my family, and my best friend, tell me to keep quiet about what’s happening. They say people will think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

But the spirit haunting my professor’s house is definitely trying to tell me something, and I’m the only one who can see it.

The one person who can help me is my best friend’s brother. But I don’t know if I can trust him or his friends. Or if I can step outside the protective bubble I’ve built around myself.

At this point it’s a toss up: the ghosts will kill me or my panic attacks will.

Either way, I figure I’m going to die.

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/3r4qCRt  

Book Excerpt:

“The place I’m house sitting is haunted.”

My statement was brave—considering—and I hoped I’d spoken loud enough to be heard by the intended recipient. I didn’t want to repeat myself. It had taken a lot of courage—or foolhardiness—to say it the first time.

The paranormal was one of those difficult-to-approach topics, especially with my best friend. History had proven our differences of opinion. Despite being inseparable for over ten years, I knew this was a topic where we were unlikely to reach a consensus.

But at this point, I was desperate. I might be going crazy, and only Finn could help me.

Yet, there was no response. No reaction.

Across the small cafe table, Finn furiously typed on his laptop—undisturbed by my nervous confession. He’d made no outward acknowledgment of my words, and it made me wonder if he’d even heard me.

The coffee shop was rather loud, after all.

“Finn.” I pressed my foot against his shin, trying to get his attention. “Finn, did you hear what I just told you?”

With perfect lips turned downward, he glanced up, meeting my gaze. His gray eyes were normally playful and light, but at the moment were sharp—disapproving. At once, I was thankful his black-rimmed glasses offered a filter for his judgment.

“I heard you.” His distinctive baritone dipped an octave lower than normal, signaling his annoyance. “Considering the absurdity of what you said, I chose to ignore it.”

Then without further ado, he refocused his attention on his laptop.

I gasped. How could he be so callous and uncaring?

Even if he didn’t believe me, he could at least hear me out. He was my best friend and the only person in the world I cared about besides my parents. But he could be such a jerk!

I was being haunted. I could die.

MY REVIEW – 3.5 stars

Mu: The Grimm Cases Collection got off to a bit of a rocky start for me. The first few chapters made me feel completely lost. Once I settled into the story a bit more, I found the characters enjoyable. If you like quirky heroines, you’ll love Bianca.

The writing was good. Aside from feeling a bit like I’d been dropped into the middle of something during those first few chapters, I enjoyed the collection. The writing flowed well, and the rest was easy to follow.

There’s more going on with Bianca than the supernatural, but I hate spoilers, so that’s all I’ll say on the matter. The story is rather complex, and full of enough twists and turns that at times I found myself re-reading a passage just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

Overall, it was good but it just didn’t wow me.

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The review above is only my opinion.

About the Author

Lyla Oweds is an Amazon bestselling paranormal romance and urban fantasy author who resides in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. She grew up near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and has a deep appreciation for the paranormal, hauntings, and Edgar Allan Poe. As such, she loves all things fantasy, mystery, crime, and horror.

When not reading, writing, or working as a web programmer, Lyla can be found doing adult-y things such as being a mom to small children, cleaning, and gardening. She also frequently enjoys makeup videos, massages, wine, and coffee.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: http://lylaoweds.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lylaoweds

Book Tour: Brushed Off by M. Lee Musgrave #murdermystery @pumpupyourbook

As emerging socialite Camille strives to be accepted into LA’s elite, its hottest artists are being murdered and she doesn’t realize she is the key to the mystery…

By M. Lee Musgrave

Title: BRUSHED OFF
Author: M. Lee Musgrave
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Pages: 186
Genre: Murder Mystery

Artist James Terra and his married lover Nicole find themselves in a tangled web while searching for the killer of LAs hottest artists. Homicide detective Cisco Rivas ask James for help with LAs zany art community. The case quickly turns into a quagmire of intrigue and vicious jealousy amongst the dazzling talent and wealth of schizophrenic Los Angeles. James wants Nicole to leave her husband. When another artist is murdered, she joins the hunt for the killer. A leading art collector is attacked. Cisco is pressured by influential city movers and shakers. Young emerging socialite Camille is up to her neck in strife so James and Nicole make a deal to protect her. Cisco discovers a smuggled exotic drug used by all the suspects including a stealthy porn star. James keeps everyone from knowing his health is precarious. The killer and a secret accomplice targets James, Nicole and Camille.

 

“Who is killing the contemporary artists of L.A.? Why are they shoving paint brushes down their victims’ throats? Who’s next on the killer’s list? In Brushed Off artist and public-TV art show host James “Sketchy” Terra finds himself smack in the middle of things, racing to help his homicide detective buddy unravel a puzzle as urgent as a splatter painting and as complex as an M.C. Escher drawing. Lee Musgrave’s swift and energetic novel pulls its readers through the studio doors into a brash and entertaining world of big ambitions, bigger egos, love and sex and secrets and shady wheeler-dealing. Calling on his long experience as an artist and curator as he cruises from the beaches and bars and galleries of L.A. to the hidden havens of the Santa Monica Mountains, Musgrave creates a compelling collage of mystery-novel action and art-world exposé as he paints a portrait of the Art of Murder.”

—Bob Hicks, two-time Pulitzer nominee and Senior Editor, Artswatch  (orartswatch.org)

“Brushed-Off is a unique, atmospheric work of Los Angeles mystery fiction. Not only does author M. Lee Musgrave provide an engaging case, which ends in an explosive climax, but he also paints a vivid portrait of the city’s beautiful but dangerous art scene from an insider’s perspective. A welcome addition for those who enjoy contemporary L.A. noir.”
— Rick Treon, award-winning author of Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay

Brushed-off by Lee Musgrave paints an interesting and revealing series of passages about the Los Angeles art scene. The opening picture of LA’s beach community, its oddball characters, mixed with homeless wanderers draws the reader into this story as Sketchy and Duie (his dog) discover a friend dead under a pile of destroyed paintings and a totally wrecked studio. Sketchy, an artist-videographer, and his homicide detective friend set off to find answers. More suspicious deaths in the art community pressure the duo to find the killer. Looking for a link to the murders, Sketchy takes the reader deep into the lives of the artists, collectors, and beautiful people who inhabit this world of creativity. With his video documentary work as cover, the threads he discovers unravel a tapestry of crime that only an artist could perceive in the glare of so many colors.

Musgrave uses a number of conventions to depict details of color, texture, and location to convince the reader that this is a plausible tale told by an observant artist. The twist of a detective using a well-connected artist to investigate leads plays well in this adventure. Musgrave takes the reader on trips through LA and its several neighborhoods with Sketchy chasing leads, dead ends, and discoveries. He hides the motive for murder until the final segments and this lets the reader enjoy the scenes he composes in this montage of Los Angeles from its world renowned beaches to the mansions overlooking them. Brushed-off is an enjoyable mystery, especially for fans of the art world.

Review Rating: 5 Stars – Cecil Brewer, critic Readers Favorite

The gathered early morning beach crowd seemed excited yet strangely aghast. The thought occurred to me that perhaps a street artist had left another fourletter graffiti epistle on the exterior of Brice’s studio. The last one had been extremely insulting to him and you could still see a ghost image of it under the gray paint which had been hastily slapped over it. As I got closer, no new graffiti was in sight so I scanned the swarm of joggers, strollers, and assorted exercise enthusiasts and spotted old Mac sitting on the curb near the front. He’s the unofficial street gleaner around the hood and lives in the alley beneath some stairs. Gesturing for Duie to stay by my side, I approached the old man.
“Kind of early for you, isn’t it Mac?”
His right hand rose slowly to mop his leathery face. He lifted his head, strained to focus his watery blood-shot eyes and spoke in a low, sadly earnest manner.
“He was always good to me. You know, one of the few who would share like you do.”

Even with the more than usual layers of dirt on his face, it was obvious he was distraught. He had spoken more words in one sentence than I had ever heard him utter before.
“Do you mean Brice? Did something happen?” I said.

Apprehensively I sat down beside him on the awkward concrete. Mac dropped his hand and looked directly at me. Perhaps for the first time I noticed how aged he really was.

“I was passing by, you know, working the street, looking for little favors people leave for me. You know. Like you do.”
His voice was more somber as he fondled the buttons of his multi-stained khaki shirt.

Embarrassment rushed across my face. The most I had ever given him was the tattered Macintosh he had worn for the past two years. He is never seen without it. In fact, that’s why everyone calls him Mac. None of us ever bothered to ask him his real name. It was a way to be friendly without causing discomfort or getting too involved.
Shamed, I stood up. A strange brew of anxiety and curiosity led me through the small group near the door and straight into Brice’s studio. Duie rushed in behind me as my olfactory receptors signaled something peculiar wafting from inside. It was a bizarre mixture of paint fumes and a grotesque unrecognizable spice. Duie even sneezed.
Brice was never a tidy artist, but a quick glance revealed the normal casualness of his studio was now in complete chaos. A strong feeling that I was intruding crawled up my back.

“Who does he think he is?” someone behind me said. I wanted to answer, but somehow I knew my voice was not the one I wanted to hear.
Paintings were thrown everywhere. Many had broken stretcher bars and holes clobbered through them. The scene looked as though a small tornado had come through the open skylight, had a kick-boxer fit, and left without disturbing anything else in the neighborhood. Every quartsized canister of paint Brice owned had been opened and its contents generously distributed into a Pollock-like camouflage that covered everything.
“Surely Mac didn’t do this?” I whispered to Duie as he instinctively leaned against my leg. “No, Brice maybe, but not Mac.”

Every artist goes a little wacko once in a while. Maybe Brice was dueling with a yellow scalene and things got out of hand. My notion was answered before I could exhale.
Beyond the turned over easel, sticking out from behind more broken paintings were two aged Teva sandals dappled with a rainbow of paint splatters. The heels were together, the toes akimbo. I froze in place as Duie tiptoed toward them with his neck stretched and nostrils flared.
As I stepped carefully around the disquieting pile, trying not to disturb even the smallest fallen brush or blob of paint I saw a mass of oozing gunk. It was Brice, on his back. His arms were at his side and his face was covered in thick, gooey globs of Hooker’s Green.
He looked exhausted, as though he’d copulated with every painting he ever sired. Even though the pile of canvases, paint canisters, and brushes covering him was a mess, for one sharp yet fleeting moment it impacted my visual cortex as if the scene was an intentional edifice.
My eyes focused on his contorted mouth. It was open and overflowing with an ugly mixture of green paint and dark red blood. In the middle, where his tongue should be, was a smidgen of gold. It’s very familiar blunted form was instantly recognizable. I bent down for a closer look. I was right. It was the handle end of a number 15 size brush. You could still read the manufacturer’s code number peeking through a smear of green paint.
Hoping Brice might take a big gasp of air if I removed it, I reached my hand forward and instantly felt a stout vise grip my shoulder.
“Don’t,” a voice of authority said.
It was Cisco. I stood straight up, perhaps a little too quickly for I felt a brief twinge of vertigo. I call him Cisco. His real name is Francisco Rivas, police Detective Rivas.
“You know better than that,” he said.
I suddenly felt weary as the colors surrounding us swirled like the merry-go-round at the pier and the vise moved to grip my arm. I could even hear the faint tinny sound of mechanical music as if it were far off in the distance or at least buried deep within my memory.

Cisco’s focused stare at my anesthetized face caused the illusory music to quickly fade and the circling kaleidoscope to resume its previous resting place. I began to feel lucid again, but my frame of vision felt shaken and quirky.

“Go outside, Sketchy,” he said in an almost inaudible voice. “And take Duie with you.”
With faded breath, I uttered, “He may still have a chance.”       Cisco glowered at me again, gestured toward the door and put his hands on his hips, revealing his badge and gun. The move was an obvious signal for me to leave. I did.

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2ZzWiCj

Check out my book at Goodreads!

Author/Artist, M. Lee Musgrave holds a Master of Art degree from CSU, Los Angeles. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for Arts Fellowship. His artwork has been in solo and group exhibitions world-wide. As a Professor of Art and curator he organized hundreds of exhibitions involving artists, collectors and a variety of related enthusiast. Those many experiences and his ongoing personal art activities inform his writing about LA’s exciting art community.

Website: www.leemusgrave.com

Facebook: Lee Musgrave | Facebook

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Book Tour: Unnatural by Deven Greene #thriller @pumpupyourbook

  

 

A gripping and unique fast-paced medical thriller… 

 

 

 

By Deven Greene

 

Title: UNNATURAL (Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Deven Greene
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Pages: 292
Genre: Medical Thriller

 

BOOK BLURB:

Dr. Erica Rosen is perplexed when she sees a young Chinese girl with blue eyes in her San Francisco pediatrics clinic. The girl’s mother, Ting, is secretive, and Erica suspects she has entered the country illegally. Later, Erica encounters Ting’s son and discovers he has an unusual mutation. Erica learns that Ting’s children underwent embryonic stem cell gene editing as part of a secret Chinese government-run program.

The Chinese government wants to murder Ting’s son to prevent others from learning about his unusual mutation and the secret gene-editing program. At Ting’s urging, Erica heads to China to expose the program and rescue the infant Ting was forced to leave behind, all while attempting to evade the watchful eye of the Chinese government.

 

 

A compelling and richly woven story, perfect for those looking for their new favorite thriller! 

The UC San Francisco pediatric clinic is a lively and bustling facility where every sort of injury and infirmity has been seen, diagnosed and treated. That is, until the day a Chinese migrant named Ting brings her daughter in for an evaluation. The striking girl is truly an anomaly, bearing genetically impossible bright blue eyes. Dr. Erica Rosen presses Ting for information, but Ting is paranoid, evasive and overly protective of her family’s privacy. Things become more puzzling when Ting ends up in the ER with a wounded young son and insists that someone is trying to kill the boy. Shocking test results, a second attempt on the boy’s life and a missing phlebotomist are just the beginning of a riveting tale of government conspiracy, medical mystery and dangerous close-calls.

Unnatural is a flawlessly written medical thriller that focuses on a Chinese mother who will sacrifice everything to save her children. Erica is a bold protagonist who follows her instincts to some amazing discoveries. The narrative is driven by intelligent dialogue and a clever, yet heinous, plot. The cultural aspects between Ting and Erica feel authentic and the technical medical language is just complicated enough to feel genuine without becoming difficult to read. Deven Greene has created a truly gripping international thriller with just the right amount of humanity and compassion.  Unnatural, the first in the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy, is a compelling and richly woven story, perfect for those looking for a new favorite thriller!

–Indies Today 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 

Exiting the restroom where I’d been unsuccessful in removing the vomit stain from the front of my white coat, I’d barely taken two steps before my physician’s assistant spotted me.  

“There you are, Dr. Rosen, you’re in room nine next. Here’s a clean coat.” 

“Thank you, Martha, you read my mind.” I shed my soiled coat, grabbed my stethoscope and other items from the pockets, and tossed the garment to my assistant. She handed me a clean white coat which I slipped on, all without missing a step as I strode toward room nine. We’d done this drill many times, synchronizing our moves for maximum efficiency. I often imagined my coat-switching exercise must be similar to refueling a jet in the sky. After I’d filled my pockets with the items in my hands, Martha removed my nametag from the dirty coat and handed it to me. I attached it to the upper pocket on my clean coat with the alligator clip. “Who’s the patient?” 

Martha smiled and held out a clipboard for me. “Evan Fields and his mom. Forearm laceration.” 

Continuing to walk, I grabbed the clipboard. “Thanks.” Martha started to speak, but I interrupted her. “I know, I know. Room nine.” 

Martha, a stout woman in her late thirties with short brown hair and a pasty complexion, slowed down, letting me approach the waiting patient on my own. When I reached the door to room nine, I knocked twice to let Evan and his mom know I was about to enter, then stopped. Obvious waste of time, I reminded myself. I slowly opened the door to the small, cluttered exam room, the familiar Shrek poster the first thing that greeted me. Pushing the door farther, I saw Evan sitting on the firetruck exam table, his mother seated in one of the two adult-size chairs. The two children’s chairs were empty.  

As usual, my jaw tightened a bit upon seeing the computer terminal, like the others found in every exam room. It sat innocently enough on a small table with a faux wood top near the sink. The best thing one might say about the computer is that it united all physicians practicing in the clinic and in clinics and hospitals across the country. Male, female, black, white, brown, tall, short, progressive, conservative, they all hated the computer, the bearer of the despised Electronic Health Record, or EHR. After two years in the clinic, you’d think I would be used to it, but I wasn’t. I still resented its intrusion into the time I spent with my patients and their parents. Instead of having a comfortable discussion with that now almost passé element known as eye contact, I needed to spend most of my appointment time sitting before the terminal and typing. Resigned to postponing my long-planned ax attack of the computer, I logged in and quickly confirmed Martha had made sure all the necessary information such as patient’s name and age, parents’ names, address, insurance, and reason for visit was up to date. 

Evan and his mom looked at me and smiled while I signed “Hello.” They each responded with a reciprocal sign. Both Evan and his mother are profoundly deaf. I was the only clinic doctor or staff of any sort proficient in American Sign Language, so it was always up to me to see the severely hearing-impaired patients, something I enjoyed. 

Evan was holding a bloody washcloth over his left forearm. His mother was signing furiously, informing me that Evan had fallen while climbing a tree, and cut his arm on the sprinkler below. I signed to Evan, requesting to take a look. He peeled away the washcloth, revealing a ragged two-inch gash on the lateral aspect of his forearm. I conveyed that I needed to clean the area and put in a few stitches.  

I left the room to get a suture kit, returning a few minutes later to find Evan sitting on his mother’s lap. “He’s afraid,” she signed. 

I explained it would only hurt when I injected the numbing medicine, and when we were done, I’d give him a dollar bill he could use at the dollar store a few blocks away. That’s all the encouragement Evan needed. I anesthetized the area, cleaned it, and put in five stitches. When I was done, Evan’s mom signed that she was proud he was so brave. I spread antibiotic over the wound and handed the boy a crisp dollar bill—one of six I had in my pocket. Most days I needed at least three to coax my patients into submission for various procedures. 

I broke away to sit on the stool facing the dreaded computer so I could enter information about the visit. I usually spoke to my patients as I typed, often just small talk. My inability to sign while I typed made me hate the EHR even more. After I finished typing, I instructed Evan and his mom how to care for his injury. Mother and son motioned their thanks, I handed Mom a printed set of wound care instructions, gestured goodbye, and backed out of the room.  

Martha wasted no time in finding me. “Five-year-old girl in room four for kindergarten physical. New patient. Good luck with that one. Mom has heavy accent. Chinese, I think.” 

The UC San Francisco pediatric clinic was always busy. In addition to the myriad clerks, physician’s assistants, nurses, and doctors rushing through the halls, there were the patients and their entourages. Each small visitor was accompanied by a parent, sometimes two, often with one or more siblings or a grandparent. Between the ages of two and eight, patients and siblings frequently ran through the narrow hallway, not mindful of anyone or anything in the way. 

Making my way to room four, I dodged three-foot-high twins running in front of their mother, the colorful LEDs on the soles of their shoes flashing erratically while they laughed and bumped into the legs of strangers. According to the clock above the clerk’s station, it was 11:30. Two patients behind already, I picked up my pace, brushed back the stray hairs that had escaped my low ponytail, noticed the name tag on my coat that read “Erica Rosen, MD, Pediatrics,” was crooked, and knocked on the door of room four. 

From within, I heard the muffled voice of a young woman. I barely made out, “Come in.” 

I straightened my name tag and before opening the door, glancing up in time to see the clinic director, Dr. Gabe Lewis turn the corner and walk in my direction. As usual, his white coat was clean and pressed, his hair looked ready for a photo shoot, and he looked more like a TV doctor than a real one. 

Avoiding eye contact, I pushed hard on the door and walked in. The door slammed behind me. 

“Hello, Ms. Chen,” I said, consulting the clipboard. “I’m Dr. Rosen.” 

I gazed around the familiar room with torn posters of SpongeBob SquarePants, The Little Mermaid, and Minions. The two adult-size chairs were empty. An attractive, thin young Asian woman with short hair sat in one of the little chairs, a small child on her lap with its face buried in her chest. The child had straight shoulder length shiny black hair. 

Damn, I thought. Martha didn’t get the kid stripped down to her underwear. Only took her shoes and socks off.

The woman seemed nervous, unable to speak for a few seconds. When she finally spoke, it was with a heavy Chinese accent. “This Wang Shu, Doctor. I Ting, his mother.” 

“Pleased to meet you,” I said, happy my roommate, Daisy, had exposed me to her parents and their heavy Mandarin accents countless times. Over the years, I had developed an ear for understanding their speech. 

“Hello, Wang Shu,” I said in my winning pediatrician’s voice, smiling. “How are you today?” 

The child didn’t move. “He shy,” Ting said. 

Knowing Asians pronounce “he” and “she” the same in their native tongue, the inappropriate gender reference didn’t surprise me. 

“I understand you’re here today to have Wang Shu’s kindergarten physical form filled out.” 

Shi. Yes.” Ting reached into her purse and handed me a two-page form, folded in thirds. 

I took a moment to examine the form. It looked familiar, resembling many I had filled out previously. I sat in front of the computer and checked the EHR. Other than the patient’s name, age, address and mother’s name, her chart was blank. It wasn’t unusual to have patients with no medical insurance. “Has Wang Shu had her vaccinations?” I asked. 

“Shi, yes. Everything. He have very good medical care. The best.” 

“I’m glad to hear that. Do you have some documentation?” 

Ting looked at me blankly. 

“Papers that list her vaccinations.” 

“We come from China. He get them there. I not have papers, but I know he get everything. Very excellent medical care.” 

“Wang Shu doesn’t start school for over a month. Can you have the information sent to you?” 

“No. Not possible.” 

“You must have shown documentation when you moved here. How long have you been in this country?” 

“Two month.” 

“You speak English very well for someone who’s been here such a short time.” 

“I study hard.” 

“Since it was only two months ago, you should still have the documentation of vaccination you showed to pass the health inspection when you came here.” 

“I not find it.” 

“If you don’t get the documentation, we’ll need to revaccinate her. Without proof of vaccines, she can’t go to school.” 

“Oh. He no like more vaccine. But no choice.” 

This woman seemed intelligent, clearly educated enough to speak English and know about vaccines. But something didn’t seem right. “I have to ask you this,” I said in my gentlest tone so as not to alarm her. “Did you enter the US illegally?”  

Ting burst into tears. 

I grabbed a tissue and handed it to her. “It’s okay. You can tell me. I won’t report you. But if you came here illegally, I’m going to insist that Wang Shu also have a TB test.”  

“I know he not have TB,” Ting said, her tears now a slow trickle. “He very healthy, never around people with TB.” 

“Well, she needs the test. I can’t put other children at risk.” 

“No, no,” Ting said, still sniffling. “He have BCG vaccine.” 

The BCG vaccine is given to protect people from TB in countries like China, that have a high incidence of the disease. When a TB skin test is given to people who have had a BCG vaccine, the test is often falsely positive. I turned to the child. 

“Now, Wang Shu, I’m going to have to examine you,” I said, wondering if the child understood a word I was saying. “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt.” 

I got up from my seat at the computer, picked up Wang Shu and placed her on the exam table. For the first time, her tiny face was exposed as she looked straight at me. Black hair cut into short, straight bangs across her forehead. Light olive skin. Typical Asian features, with a small nose and epicanthal folds in upper eyelids. I almost gasped. Light blue eyes.  What I was seeing was not possible. 

 

About the Author

Fiction writer Deven Greene lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Ever since childhood, Deven has been interested in science.  After working as a biochemist, she went back to school and became a pathologist.  When writing fiction, the author usually incorporates elements of medicine or science. Deven has penned several short stories. Unnatural is the first novel the author has published.  

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://www.devengreene.com 

Facebook: https://facebook.com/devengreeneauthor 

Book Tour: His Kilt Dropped Here by Kathleen Shaputis #ScottishRomance @NWAuthor @pumpupyourbook

Rogue Bruce enjoys running a Scottish bed-and-breakfast with her Aunt Baillie from America. They specialize in hosting romantic Elizabethan-themed weddings, complete with resident ghost, Lord Kai. But love is something Rogue is not the least bit interested in…

By Kathleen Shaputis

Title: HIS KILT DROPPED HERE: A MAGICAL REALISM SCOTTISH ROMANCE
Author: Kathleen Shaputis
Publisher: Clutter Fairy Publishing
Pages: 170
Genre: Magic Realism Scottish Romance

Rogue Bruce enjoys running a Scottish castle turned bed-and-breakfast with her Aunt Baillie from America. They specialize in hosting romantic Elizabethan-themed weddings, complete with resident ghost, Lord Kai. But love is something Rogue is not the least bit interested in. Content with her work, she requires no male accompaniment for happiness.

A new delivery service brings Bruce MacKenzie, a Thor look-alike in plaid and denim, fetching more than the usual number of groceries from town, while Jonathan Olson, a snobbish, dark, Rhett Butler type, arrives at the castle to administer a writing seminar for aspiring authors. With two men after the heart she’d thought safely locked away, Rogue is flattered and confused. But when things start to take a sinister turn, danger befalls Rogue and those dear to her. The musical soundtrack of Rogue’s life flares from complacent, to dizzyingly romantic, to heart-thumping scary in this sizzling triangle.

Tucking her feet under her skirts, Rogue noticed a delicious waft of sugar and cinnamon in the air before a stuttered clink of china announced someone bringing a tea tray toward her. Good lord. It was Bruce. She straightened herself suddenly, undecided on where to put her hands. Of all the sneaky tricks Putney could pull, sending the hot delivery guy in with tea was a bit much. Hiding a smile behind her hand, she watched the young man strain to keep everything balanced. A twinge of pain in her side from masking the laughter sobered her. She took a deep breath.

“A wee different from carrying a box of groceries?” Rogue patted the carved wooden table in front of her. “I’m sure a lady would have no trouble handling a tea tray herself now, would she?”

Stray blond strands hung down over his emerald eyes as he focused on getting the tray to the table without spilling, but Rogue noticed a tension in his lips. Served him right, being all chauvinist before.

“I see Putney has been playing matchmaker again.” Her voice clipped sharply on the last word. “Thank you for coddling the old woman’s visions.”

His face flushed; he squinted his eyes and had difficulty swallowing. 

Kathleen Shaputis, author/ghostwriter, lives in the glorious Pacific Northwest with her husband, Bob, a clowder of cats, two pompously protective Pomeranians with little social aptitude, Brugh and Miss Jazzy, and an overgrown adolescent blue tick coon hound, Juno.

If not writing during her lifestyle in an acre of forest, she keeps busy reading from her never-ending, to-be-read pile and watching romantic comedies. Her hygge in the woods.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL MEDIA

Website:  http://www.kathleenshaputis.com

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/NWAuthor

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/KathleenShaputisAuthor

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