Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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Release date: May 29, 2018

Publisher: Scout Press

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Review:

Ware’s debut, In A Dark, Dark Wood was one of my favorite reads of 2015 and then The Woman in Cabin 10 was another solid read for me, although I wasn’t as obsessed with it as IADDW. When The Lying Game was released last summer I grabbed a copy but I still haven’t read it. I saw SO many mixed reviews that I just skipped it for now, but all of that to say, as soon as I read the blurb of this one I was excited! It sounded like it would have some of the same elements that I enjoyed in IADDW and it definitely did, and while Ware’s debut remains my favorite of her books, this is definitely a close second.

Ware has an amazing talent for writing in an atmospheric way that really pulls the reader into the worlds she creates. When Hal enters the world of the Westaway family there was such a dark intensity, such a strong feeling of menace and danger lurking in the family home, it was creepy and strangely intoxicating. Hal is a tarot card reader and this added a mystical tone as well that when combined with the setting created that perfect storm of scary and fascinating.

Ware is really such a talented writer, her skill is even more apparent when I realized that some parts of this dragged a little for me but I was still entirely hooked. That doesn’t happen often, if things begin to drag I’m usually forcing myself to read, and the wait was most certainly worth it this time, when all was revealed I was shocked and totally satisfied! I also really enjoyed Hal as a character which makes it even better, I’ve had issues with Ware’s previous protagonists and this time I was behind Hal one hundred percent.

The Death of Mrs Westaway in three words: Ominous, Unsettling and Creepy.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Good Twin by Marti Green

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Release date: May 15, 2018

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Mallory Holcolm is an unfulfilled waitress and aspiring artist living in a Queens boardinghouse when she learns something astonishing about her past: she has an identical twin sister named Charly she never knew existed.

Charly is a Princeton graduate, a respected gallery owner, and an heiress married to her handsome college sweetheart, Ben. Charly got everything she ever wanted. Everything Mallory wanted, too. And now it might be easier than Mallory ever imagined. Because Ben has reasons of his own for wanting to help her.

It begins with his startling proposal. All Mallory has to do is say yes.

But as their devious plan falls into place, piece by piece, Mallory learns more about her sister and herself than she ever meant to—a discovery that comes with an unexpected twist. A chilling deception is about to become a dangerous double cross. And it’s going to change the rules of Ben and Mallory’s game to the very end.

Review:

What a wild ride this one was, pure fun and definitely not the type of read to take too seriously. You see, it’s outrageous and a little out there but this was entertainment at it’s finest and because it was such a crazy ride you truly never really knew what would happen next and those types of reads are always the best for me.

This is told from two viewpoints, twin sisters Mallory and Charly and is very fast paced and engaging. Mallory is the twin who grew up with a single mother who struggled to make ends meet and Charly was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum and led a privileged life. Trying to figure out who the Good Twin actually was wound up being more challenging than I had anticipated, gotta love playing the guessing game. The whole long lost sibling premise is nothing new, but what made it different and interesting was that Green has a style that is extremely compulsive. This was reminiscent of watching a juicy soap opera, plenty of backstabbing and betrayals and storylines that are like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t look away!

I’ll admit, I did have a few things figured out ahead of time but in the end, Green delivered, I totally did not see the ending coming and was really surprised and pleased by the direction it took. Perfect for fans of lighter style suspense who want a quick read that is sure to entertain.

The Good Twin in three words: Dramatic, Fun and Mischievous.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Replacement Wife by Britney King

Title: The Replacement Wife
Author: Britney King
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Release Date: May 3, 2018 

From the bestselling author of The Social Affair comes a new riveting, powerful psychological thriller which offers a savage look into a utopian cultish society where beauty and perfection are valued at all costs. 

For readers of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, The Replacement Wife offers a peek into the lives of a married couple up against impossible odds and the notion that history has a way of repeating itself.

Statistically speaking, fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce. What are the odds for murder? 

Widower Tom Anderson is a savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Problem is, one is a lonely number. Thankfully, he solved for X by finding the perfect woman. It wasn’t easy. Tom is very specific. He has to be.

Having checked ‘find trophy wife’ off his list, life was moving along swimmingly. Until that perfect woman let it slip–she has a past. One she kept hidden, almost perfectly.

Sure, she lied–she fudged the numbers. Most women do.

Now, Tom has buyers’ remorse and according to cult rules only two options: get rid of her–or single-handedly erase her past.

She’s a liar. But she does keep house well. And she makes a mean lasagna.

Decisions, decisions.

Razor-sharp and utterly gripping, this electrifying story explores the lengths one will go in the pursuit of perfection, little white lies that can turn lethal, and the danger lurking behind the smiles of those we trust most.

Review:
You may remember that at the beginning of the year I read my first Britney King book, The Social Affair so when I heard her latest book was set in the same world AND explored the cult like church, New Hope I was beyond excited! I’ve had a long fascination with anything cult related and let me tell you, the one depicted here was crazy interesting. How people buy into this sort of thing blows my mind, the guidelines and regulations are beyond bizarre, how can anyone think New Hope is a great place to be?!
This is told via alternating points of view, that of newlyweds Mel and Tom. He is a higher up in the church and she is unknowingly his “replacement wife”. Both are devious and manipulative, a sure fire way to keep the reader on their toes, who can you trust?! Are they both insane? What are their separate objectives?! SO MANY QUESTIONS, I love it and never was sure what to think from one minute to the next.
This had the same hip vibe that TSA had, there is something current about King’s writing style and plotting that just works so well for me. There is some serious depth here as well, plenty to contemplate and think about later and of course there are some surprises along the way. Make sure you read TSA first, and go ahead and grab this one at the same time because you’ll wanna read both. Bonus points because both books are quick reads, perfect to binge on over a weekend.
The Replacement Wife in three words: Fast, Absorbing and Bold.
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the author for my review copy.
Britney King lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, children, two dogs, one ridiculous cat, and a partridge in a pear tree.
When she’s not wrangling the things mentioned above, she writes psychological, domestic and romantic thrillers set in suburbia.

Currently, she’s writing three series and several standalone novels.

The Bedrock Series features an unlikely heroine who should have known better. Turns out, she didn’t. Thus she finds herself tangled in a messy, dangerous, forbidden love story and face-to-face with a madman hell-bent on revenge. The series has been compared to Fatal Attraction, Single White Female, and Basic Instinct.

The Water Series follows the shady love story of an unconventional married couple—he’s an assassin—she kills for fun. It has been compared to a crazier book version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Also, Dexter.

Around The Bend is a heart-pounding standalone, which traces the journey of a well-to-do suburban housewife, and her life as it unravels, thanks to the secrets she keeps. If she were the only one with things she wanted to keep hidden, then maybe it wouldn’t have turned out so bad. But she wasn’t.

The With You Series at its core is a deep love story about unlikely friends who travel the world; trying to find themselves, together and apart. Packed with drama and adventure along with a heavy dose of suspense, it has been compared to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Love, Rosie.

The Social Affair is an intense standalone about a timeless couple who find themselves with a secret admirer they hadn’t bargained for. For fans of the anti-heroine and stories told in unorthodox ways, the novel explores what can happen when privacy is traded for convenience. It is reminiscent of films such as One Hour Photo and Play Misty For Me. 

Without a doubt, connecting with readers is the best part of this gig. You can find Britney online here: 

To get more– grab two books for free, by subscribing to her mailing list at britneyking.com or just copy and paste bit.ly/britneykingweb into your browser. 
Happy reading.

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Review: Dying Truth by Angela Marsons @WriteAngie @Bookouture

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Release date: May 18, 2018

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

How far would you go to protect your darkest secrets?

When teenager Sadie Winter jumps from the roof of her school, her death is ruled as suicide – a final devastating act from a troubled girl. But then the broken body of a young boy is discovered at the same school and it’s clear to Detective Kim Stone that these deaths are not tragic accidents.

As Kim and her team begin to unravel a dark web of secrets, one of the teachers could hold the key to the truth. Yet just as she is about to break her silence, she is found dead.

With more children’s lives at risk, Kim has to consider the unthinkable – whether a fellow pupil could be responsible for the murders. Investigating the psychology of children that kill brings the detective into contact with her former adversary, Dr Alex Thorne – the sociopath who has made it her life’s work to destroy Kim.

Desperate to catch the killer, Kim finds a link between the recent murders and an initiation prank that happened at the school decades earlier. But saving these innocent lives comes at a cost – and one of Kim’s own might pay the ultimate price.

Review:

Oh boy, I don’t even know if I can discuss the details of this one because I’m still an emotional wreck (yes, a crime novel has me shattered, I’ll get to that later) so I’m going to try something I’ve only ever done once before, and that is with my review of The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. I’m going to tell you why Angie Marsons is at the very top of her game and all the reasons why this series should be on your immediate TBR.

She always comes up with fresh, unique premises that pull you in instantly and don’t let you go.

This time around Kim and team are working a case in an elite private school and they’re dealing with the type of people that are not used to having their perfect little lives disrupted, even for a murder. The possibility of a child killer simultaneously sends chills up my spine and makes me want to learn more, the psychology behind this type of thing is endlessly fascinating. She also always rips stories straight from the headlines, here she dives into hazing and brutal initiations, a dark and dangerous side to an otherwise glitzy, privileged world.

Her characterization is phenomenal.

Is there a more badass fictional detective around than Kim Stone?! I can’t think of one, and I also can’t think of another character that I feel like I know quite as well as I do her. Marsons has more than peeled back the layers of Kim by this point, this is book eight after all, but as much as I feel like I know her, there are always new revelations that only serve to make me like her even more than I already did. The epilogue of this had some disclosures that gave even more insight into the woman she is and she is incredible. It’s not just Kim who is so well drawn, the rest of her team is just as fully formed, if I take a break from reading one of these books I always think that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bryant come walking past me in my hallway. These people are larger than life and wonderfully authentic.

Her plotting is fastidious and seriously impressive.

I think any avid reader of crime fiction is tired of gimmicky twists that feel like they’re thrown in just for the sake of saying there’s a heart stopping twist. While Marsons is no stranger to said heart stopping twist, they are purposeful and extremely well thought out, nothing is added for shock value, they add real value to an already fantastic plot. Don’t get me wrong, she has the ability to make me gasp in surprise (and I was definitely biting my nails in the end) but her books are not dependent on a crazy turn, they stand strongly on their own merit.

Her writing and pacing is top notch.

Crime thrillers for the most part should be fast paced, right? Yeah slow burns can be fun, but excitement is key and no one does short, snappy chapters better than Marsons. She’s the queen of the one more chapter read because most are just a few pages and it is SO easy to get sucked in and talk yourself into just a few more pages. She also cleverly ends many chapters on mini cliffhangers so HOW can you just stop reading?! You just can’t.

She evokes emotions in the reader that are not commonly associated with crime fiction.

Karin Slaughter is one of the only other authors who has made me cry while reading a thriller, until now. I am not a weepy sort of person, books don’t effect me that way in general but this one? This one absolutely broke me. I honestly am fearful of saying anymore, but this prompted a strong emotional reaction that I won’t forget.

I’ll stop here because I’m verging on spoiler territory, but I hope I’ve encouraged you to give this series a try. If you’re one of the millions of people who are already a fan of it, then just let me assure you that you are SO in for a treat, this is Marsons best book yet and when you finish I would love to discuss THAT ENDING!!!

Dying Truth in three words: Exciting, Brilliant and Riveting.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart

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Release date: May 15, 2018

Publisher: Gallery Books

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Allie, Des, and Cara, each having her own reasons for wanting a share of their father’s estate, meet in the grand Victorian home in which he grew up, only to be greeted by another secret he purposely hid from them: his sister Bonnie. The women reluctantly band together to take on Fritz’s challenge, working with a local contractor to begin the renovations financed by an account Fritz had set up for the task. While the restoration appears to go smoothly at first, it soon becomes apparent that the work will be more extensive than originally thought, and Des, elected to handle the money, needs to find ways to stretch out the remaining savings while searching for new sources of funding.

As strangers linked only by their DNA try to become a family, the Hudson sisters also try to come to terms with the father they only thought they knew. In the process, each woman discovers her own capacity for understanding, forgiveness, love, and the true meaning of family.

Review:

Last year I read The Last Chance Matinee and was totally captivated by the Hudson sisters and the authors inspiration for the books. The first time around you meet all three of the sisters but it was really Cara’s story and this time around it’s Des turn. It’s not completely necessary to read the first book, but you would be more familiar with the characters and their histories if you started at the beginning.

Des is a character that I warmed to quickly the first book so I was excited to learn more about her this time around. She’s a huge animal lover, she runs a shelter back home in Montana so if you’re a dog lover there are some sweet moments with some pups here. The girls Aunt Barney is my absolute favorite, she’s a sassy gal, full of wisdom and charm, just the sort of matriarch you imagine when you think of a mature woman with a heart of gold.

The family is still trying to restore the old theater and it’s not an easy process, especially as they’re running out of funds. I love that this has such a realistic plot, there are no heroic rescues or unbelievable saviors, they face the same issues anyone of us would come up against. The romantic aspect is also true to real life, relationships evolve at a reasonable pace, no one falls in love at first sight, no Prince Charming, but it is sweet and fun still.

There are still some family secrets and mysteries to be solved although Stewart does answer a few questions she leaves a few things hanging, a surefire way to keep me continuing with this series. This is a well written, smooth novel, ideal for a summer read, more depth than a beach read but with all of the fun!

Sugarhouse Blues in three words: Charming, Authentic and Captivating.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

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Release date: June 19, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside. No one ever sees her again.

Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?

Review:

Why can’t we rate books in sections yet you guys?! I am struggling so hardcore with my rating/feelings about this book, I loved the first half and the last half was annoying and totally unbelievable. Sigh. I guess I will do my best to explain what did or did not work for me and hope I give you guys enough information to decide for yourselves whether this is a book for you.

One thing that I want to make very clear is that Paris is one heck of an author with a style that I absolutely adore. I’ve been drawn into all three of her books, she crafts compelling premises that have that awesome sense of doubt, mistrust and dread emanating from the pages. She never really creates the most likable characters but I don’t care about that, I love their unreliability and paranoia and overall lack of scruples. The pacing is relentlessly fast and furious, you really can’t say anything but that it’s unputdownable, so why am I so torn???

My main problem was the big twist was so unbelievable. Listen, I have no problem suspending disbelief whatsoever, I do it all of the time with no issues but I just could not get past the improbability of this reveal. You guys know that I won’t spoil anything for you, but I just kept thinking, no way in hell could this really happen. Never.

Here’s the bottom line, if you’re a fan of Paris you should probably read this book for yourself and draw your own conclusions. If you’ve never read her work her two previous novels are insanely awesome and come highly recommended by me. If you don’t mind out there twists and unbelievable resolutions then you might love this one, but for me I just can’t say that I did. I liked it though, and no matter what I’ll definitely be reading whatever Paris comes up with next because no one does compelling page turners as well as she does.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Girl I Used to Be by Mary Torjussen

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Release date: April 24, 2018

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

The morning after real estate agent Gemma Brogan has dinner with a prospective client, she’s furious at herself for drinking so much. But there will be more to regret than a nasty hangover.

She starts receiving mementos from that night: A photo of a hallway kiss. A video of her complaining about her husband. And worse…much worse. The problem is she doesn’t remember any of it.

As the blackmailing and menace ramp up, Gemma fears for her already shaky marriage. The paranoia, the feeling that her life is spiraling out of control, will take her back to another night–years ago–that changed everything. And Gemma will realize just how far the shadows from her past can reach…

Review:

In a culture where we snap pictures and videos of even the smallest and mundane parts of our lives, Mary Torjussen took that idea, that societal truth and gave it a creepy, sinister twist. Imagine yourself at a bad, maybe even indelicate moment, you want nothing more than to just forget it ever happened, and just when you start to relax someone taunts you with photographic evidence of your misdeeds. It makes me uneasy just to think about something like this happening to me and that’s basically the feeling I had while reading this.

Torjussen’s writing style has a subtle tension to it but that’s combined with quick pacing and short chapters, a combination that’s always appealing to me. This is the type of book that raises several questions and doesn’t give any solid answers until the end, the best kind in my opinion, I love to be kept on the edge of my seat.

Similar to her last book things gain traction in the last twenty five percent and I was well and truly hooked. There are some clever little plot twists throughout, nothing implausible, which is always an appreciated touch, I’m sick of twists just for the sake of having one and I felt these turns added to the story in a good way.

The Girl I Used to Be in three words: Clever, Chilling and Creepy.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea @CharlieDonlea

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Release date: May 29, 2018

Publisher: Kensington

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

The Girl of Sugar Beach is the most watched documentary in television history—a riveting, true-life mystery that unfolds over twelve weeks and centers on a fascinating question: Did Grace Sebold murder her boyfriend, Julian, while on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of circumstance and poor police work? Grace has spent the last ten years in a St. Lucian prison, and reaches out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a last, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.

As Sidney begins researching, she uncovers startling evidence, additional suspects, and timeline issues that were all overlooked during the original investigation. Before the series even finishes filming, public outcry leads officials to reopen the case. But as the show surges towards its final episodes, Sidney receives a letter saying that she got it badly, terribly wrong.

Sidney has just convinced the world that Grace is innocent. Now she wonders if she has helped to free a ruthless killer. Delving into Grace’s past, she peels away layer after layer of deception. But as Sidney edges closer to the real heart of the story, she must decide if finding the truth is worth risking her newfound fame, her career . . . even her life.

Review:

If you’re one of the millions of people who loved Serial or Making a Murderer then you have got to read this book! It will also appeal to fans of true crime as well as fans of engaging, sharply written thrillers that leave you breathless in the end. I’m basically telling you that this book is for everyone.

Much as like Donlea’s last book, The Girl Who Was Taken, this is told via a unique perspective that breathes fresh life into the genre. Sidney is a producer and seeing the ins and outs of how a television show is made was really cool and something new for me. She doesn’t have the easy connections a police officer has at their fingertips, girlfriend has to seriously hustle to investigate and I loved her determination and grit. She is only in search of the truth, she doesn’t know if Grace is guilty or innocent, but there’s enough questionable material to pique her curiosity. Besides Sidney you visit several other points of view but I feel like revealing who is kind of spoilery, so I’ll just say that they were the type of viewpoints that make you go, YASSS, I’ve been dying to see things from this angle. If you read TGWWT then you get the added bonus of seeing a character from there as well, always so fun!

This book has such a detailed, well thought out and researched plot, from the laws and regulations of St. Lucia, to courtroom processes and all the way to pathology labs and then back again to the production offices where Sidney works, every single aspect was meticulously written and compelling to boot. Twisty doesn’t even come close to accurately describe the roller coaster ride that reading this book took me on, then Donlea delivers a few final killer twists and an explosive finale that knocked my socks off. This book is just as binge worthy as Serial but ten times more satisfying, my hat is off to Mr. Donlea, this is one of the best mysteries I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Don’t Believe It in three words: Mutilayered, Skillful and Gripping.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

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Release date: May 15, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.

How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best: an utterly charming, hopeful, and romantic novel that will capture reader’s hearts with every page.

Review:

Ready for another must read book to add to your summer reading list? I’m assuming you said yes, so good, now let me me tell you all the ways I loved this one. There are many, I will try not to bore you.

Life is hard, we can agree to that and I’m assuming (yes, again) that every single one of us has been through some extremely tough times. We all have struggles, some are short lived and sometimes they’re life changing, but we all have them. This book makes you think about those difficult times and I think offers up a beautiful, alternate perspective as to how to keep going when things are bleak. Margaret experiences one of those tragedies that is life changing and she doesn’t want her life to change. She doesn’t want to start over again in a totally different way than what she envisioned, but she’s given no choice. I fell in head over heels in love with Margaret. Not because she’s perfect, because she’s not. Not because she’s an inspiring character, although she is, but she certainly isn’t always positive. I fell in love with her because Center forced me to. You cannot read this book and not fall under her spell, she is raw, vulnerable and shattered. She is also brave, strong and awe inspiring in equal measures and I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a character harder than I did for Margaret. She is unforgettable.

Center’s writing style is both extremely evocative and sharply funny. There is a whole lotta ironic humor here and there is also some truly heartbreaking scenes that made me cry. There’s romance as well and I got serious Jojo Moyes vibes, it was that good. I already loved every single page and then Center gave me the most beautiful, hopeful, heart achingly sorrowful and uplifting epilogue, I swear I melted into a puddle of mush. Just read this book, it is a true gem.

How to Walk Away in three words: Beautiful, Sincere and Powerful.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Blog Tour: Hard Prejudice by Dave Stanton @DanRenoNovels @Bloodhoundbook

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Release date: May 3, 2018

Publisher: Bloodhound Books

Genre: Thriller

Blurb:

After evidence disappears from a police locker, a man who is accused of brutally raping a popular actor’s daughter, walks free.

Hired by the actor, private detective Dan Reno’s job seemed simple enough: discover who took the DNA, and why. Problem is, from the beginning of the investigation, neither Reno, the South Lake Tahoe police, nor anyone else have any idea what the motivation could be that see the thug, Duante Tucker, get away with the crime. Not even Reno’s best friend, fellow investigator Cody Gibbons, has a clue.

When Reno and Gibbons tail Tucker, they learn the rapist is linked to various criminals and a deserter from the U.S. Marine Corps. But they still can’t tell who would want him set free, and for what reason.

Things get murkier when Tucker visits an Arabic restaurant whose owners are suspected terrorists. Then Cody’s ex-boss, a San Jose police captain, is found to with Tucker’s sister.

The clues continue to build until Reno and Cody find themselves targeted, which tells Reno he’s getting close.

The forces of evil are running out of time, and the action reaches a boiling point before an explosive conclusion that reveals a sinister plot and motivations that Reno could never have imagined.

Hey guys, I’m so pleased to be a stop on the blog tour for Hard Prejudice today! I have an extract from the book to share.

Extract:

1

By all accounts, Alex Newman’s life began in unfortunate circumstances and went downhill from there. Raised in lower-middle class white suburbia, he had dropped out of high school after his alcoholic parents divorced and embarked on a career as a small-time crook. His record was littered with shoplifting and petty theft collars, and along the way, he’d developed a particular fondness for rock cocaine. Now, at age thirty-four, he was a full-time addict. I’d learned of Alex Newman when his bail bondsman contacted me. Newman had skipped on a breaking and entering charge after his mother scraped together a five-thousand-dollar bond. Good son that he was, Newman flew the coop the minute he was released from lockup.

It didn’t take long to find him. He lived in an oversized camper shell bolted to the bed of a rust-bucket Toyota pickup. A dealer he’d burned for fifty bucks put me onto him, said he’d probably be parked in one of a few out-of-the-way places.

I spotted his rickety contraption sitting on the dirt shoulder of a dead-end road under a cluster of oak trees that partially hid the camper. Beyond the trees, the terrain dropped into a rock-strewn gully that led into the forest. Five thousand feet up, the pine-studded peaks of the Sierra Nevadas were resplendent in the midday sun.

The camper’s windows were taped over with cardboard. I got out of my rig and walked around the vehicle. No one was in the cab, but I could hear a faint tinkling of music from the camper. I went to the back door and jerked the handle. It was locked.

“Alex Newman, open up,” I said. When nothing happened, I pounded the door with the meat of my fist. “Open up, or I’ll bust it in.” I waited for a minute in the pleasant shade, until it became clear he hoped I’d just go away. It was a bad strategy but probably the best option he had.

As I returned to my truck for a crowbar, I heard scuffling and turned to see a man climbing from the gulley. Dirt coated the fronts of his blue jeans, his hollow cheeks were two weeks unshaven, and his long black hair looked stiff with grease. About six feet and a bony 160.

I ignored him and started back to the Toyota with the crowbar.

“What you think you’re doing?” he asked, his eyes wide and dilated. No doubt whacked on meth or coke.

“You friends with Alex Newman?”

“Damn right I am.”

“Stand back, please.” I swung the weighted end of the bar and punched a big crease in the aluminum door.

“Hey, you can’t–” he started, then the words became strangled in his throat. He froze for a moment, and I could almost hear his brain synapses misfiring. In his condition, any decision would likely be the wrong one. He confirmed it by coming up behind me and launching a roundhouse punch that was both ill-timed and weak.

I blocked it and cracked him in the nose with my elbow. His eyes went dull, and he sat down hard and held his dirt-caked fingers to his face. I pulled a plastic tie from my pocket, shoved him facedown into the ground, and cinched his hands behind him.

“You prick, you lousy bastard,” he moaned.

I left him lying in the dirt and swung the crowbar into the door again.

“Last chance, Alex. Open the goddamned door.” I waited a few seconds, then jammed the bar into the slot along the frame and jerked hard. The lock mechanism snapped, and the door flew open.

“Fuck you!” a shirtless man rasped, his head big over his scrawny white torso. Crouching, he thrust a lit blowtorch at my face.

I dodged the blue flame and swung the crowbar. It banged into the canister with a loud ping, and the torch fell from Newman’s hands. He scrambled back, but I reached forward, snatched him by his greasy hair, and yanked him out of the camper. His knees hit the ground hard, and he tried to get up and run, but before he could, I kicked him in the ribs, the blow just enough to take his wind. He fell on his side and stared up at me with pleading eyes.

“Party’s over,” I said, and slapped a pair of cuffs on his wrists. I looked into the camper, where his crack pipe lay smoldering amid a slew of beer bottles, porno magazines, and dirty ashtrays. Propped against one of the bottles was a syringe.

“Let’s go,” I said. I pulled Alex Newman to his feet and pushed him toward my truck. When we got there, I sat him in the front seat and chained his wrists to a D-link installed in the passenger seat floor.

Hunched over, he looked up at me. “I was gonna clean up. I was gonna get a job.”

“Tell it to the judge,” I said, watching the skinny, long-haired dude stagger to his feet and jog off, his hands cinched behind him. I shut my truck door, called 911, and asked South Lake Tahoe PD to send a tow truck. Then, I called the bail bondsman and told him I’d recovered his fugitive. Alex Newman didn’t have much to say after that. I supposed he knew the routine.

***

The parking lot was packed when we arrived at the police complex. I parked in a red zone and led Newman to the side door for booking. While I waited for the jailer, my eyes wandered out the window to the courthouse across the street, where there was some sort of commotion. At least a hundred people were assembled on the lawn, holding signs, their voices a low rumble.

Once I’d signed the prerequisite paperwork and they took Newman away, I walked out toward the courthouse. A van from the local television station had pulled up, and a woman with a shoulder-mounted camera was filming the gathering. I stopped on the sidewalk at the edge of the throng. The crowd included men and women of mixed ages. In front of me, a group of younger guys wore deck shoes and polo shirts tucked in their jeans, and two who were probably related had tan faces framed by tousled blond hair. One turned, and his profile made me think of country clubs and sports cars.

How bizarre, I thought.

South Lake Tahoe is not a large town – and not a place where I’d ever seen an organized protest. People visited here for the casinos and to ski or hike or go boating on the lake. The permanent residents made a living catering to tourism, for the most part. The most controversial local issues usually involved nature preservation, which rarely resulted in serious debate.

The front doors to the courthouse building swung open, and two lawyer types in dark suits stepped out, followed by a young black man flanked by a pair of uniformed officers. The volume rose to a shouting level as the crowd pressed forward, their signs thrust in the air.

“You’re a rapist!” a woman’s voice near the front of the pack yelled, and everyone began screaming and waving their fists and signs.

And then, a loud male voice shouted, “We’re gonna take you down!”

I felt the remark reverberate through the crowd, and the hostile energy shifted to high gear. The mob began closing in on the five men, who were trying to follow a path to two squad cars waiting at the curb.

The young black man was tall, his hair razor cut close to the scalp, his dark face shiny in the sunlight. He wore a red necktie, and a blue tattoo crawled up from beneath the collar of his dress shirt. His eyes were half-lidded, and his gait was jaunty, and though his face was an island of black in a sea of white, he surveyed the threatening horde with seeming indifference. No doubt he was from an inner-city ghetto, I surmised. Probably split his time between dealing drugs and performing gymnastics on a basketball court. Sure, it was a racial stereotype. But being politically correct isn’t a big priority in my job.

A balding man in slacks rushed at the suspect but was intercepted by a cop. The black man smirked and widened his eyes in mock fear. In a second, three more guys from the crowd leaped forward, and the cops pulled their billy clubs. In a panic, the lawyers tried to run, but one was shoved to the ground. A young man from the crowd took a billy club to the head, and blood streamed into his eyes. He swung wildly and hit one of the cops flush in the mouth.

From the courthouse entrance, Sheriff Marcus Grier and two deputies burst from the doors and sprinted into the melee. They started pulling and pushing their way through the mass of humanity, but, as if by plan, a cluster of about forty people surrounded the cops and closed in until the officers could no longer move. I saw Grier’s face one moment, his mouth wide in a silent shout, and then, he was gone.

“Shit,” I said. Grier was my friend and a decent guy. Of course, he sometimes was an asshole, but what cop isn’t? I fought my way to where the crowd had pinned the policemen down and started throwing people aside. A woman clawed at my face, and someone punched me in the kidneys. I saw Grier again and made eye contact, and I’d almost reached him when five helmeted officers stormed into the mob. Within a minute, the protesters disbursed, and I saw the tall suspect duck into a squad car along with the suits. The car took off with a screech, and the cops scanned the remaining people, uncertain whom, if anyone, to arrest.

Grier put his smashed cap back on his head and blew out his breath. “I know people are pissed, but I didn’t expect this,” he huffed. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Not much, besides coming to your rescue.”

“Don’t overrate yourself.”

“I’m good at that, I’m told.”

“Go help her,” Grier said to one of his deputies, pointing to an overweight woman with mussed makeup sitting on the grass and holding her ankle. As soon as the deputy left, a pretty, fortyish lady in tight jeans and jogging shoes walked to where we stood and pointed a red fingernail in Grier’s face.

“Where’s the justice?” she said. “That’s what I want to know.” She stomped her foot like a petulant child, her large breasts bouncing under her top. “Where’s the goddamned justice?”

Grier straightened his collar and crossed his arms below where a button had been torn from his shirt. Behind his back, fellow cops sometimes referred to him as a black Pillsbury Doughboy. Grier battled his weight on a daily basis, but his natural physique would not be denied its puffiness. His arms were too thick for his shirt and looked ready to blow out the seams, and his gun belt rested on a thick paunch that rose from his crotch. His ass was like a medicine ball, and his cap sat high on his jumbo-sized head. We weighed about the same, and I was five inches taller than him.

“Yeah, I know, you’re just like all the other dipshits running our fucked-up court system,” the lady went on, her eyes ablaze. She waved her arm, and the large diamonds on her fingers flashed like glittery weapons.

“I’m sorry you feel that way, ma’am,” Grier said.

She pulled her blonde hair away from her face. “I’ll convey that to Lindsey Addison. I’ll let her know the whole South Lake Tahoe Police Department is really sorry.”

“Blame the courts, not the police,” I said, and instantly wished I hadn’t.

“Who are you?” she snapped.

“Dan Reno, private investigations.” I tried for a smile and handed her a business card.

She looked at my card for a brief moment, then folded it lengthwise and thrust it at me. “Tell you what, Dan. Stick it up your ass.”

***

The next morning, I woke late to an empty house. I had driven Candi, my live-in girlfriend, to the airport in Reno the night before. She was off to visit her folks in Texas for two weeks. I walked to my kitchen in sweats and a T-shirt and started a pot of coffee. Candi had moved in almost a year ago, and people were starting to ask if we planned to get married.

When the coffee was ready, I poured a cup and went out to my deck to read the paper. Candi had given my modest home a makeover – new furniture, paintings, and such – but I preferred the scenery outdoors, especially on a warm, sunny morning. I pulled my picnic table out of the shade cast by the huge pine tree in my yard. The grass surrounding the tree glistened silver in the early sun, which was already high over the mountains that rose from the alpine meadow behind my back fence.

Before I could take a sip, I heard my cell ring in the house. I set my cup down with a sigh and went back inside. “Investigations.”

“Yes, Dan Reno, please,” a woman’s voice said.

“You got him.”

“My name’s Cassie Longfellow. I work for Ryan Addison.” She paused for a long moment, long enough for me to sense she anticipated a certain type of response. Like, Oh my God, you mean the Ryan Addison?

Instead, I said, “Who?”

“Ryan Addison. The actor.”

“Oh, right,” I said. Grier had mentioned him the day before. “Wasn’t he in some movies?”

“Mr. Addison’s been in many movies, as well as a leading TV series.”

“He was in one of those reality shows, right?”

She gave a little gasp. “Absolutely not,” she said, frost edging her voice.

“Sorry, I don’t watch a lot of TV.”

“Apparently not,” she sneered, as if it was an insult. “Mr. Addison would like to meet with you this morning. Can you be here in an hour?”

“What for?”

“He’d like to discuss hiring you.”

I walked back outside into the warmth of the sun and brushed my foot at a scattering of pine needles on the deck. “Where?”

She gave me a local address. “Don’t be late,” she said.

***

The internet hasn’t revolutionized detective work by any stretch, but it’s a convenient way to find information on people, especially those with a public persona. Sitting at the metal army surplus desk in my spare bedroom office, I Googled Ryan Addison, and the first hit provided a complete summary of his career, and then some.

He had spent his early acting years in supporting roles and B-class movies. Ten years ago, he had played his first leading part in a film about a man struggling through a divorce, when his daughter is kidnapped for ransom. The movie was a minor success and led to a role as an FBI agent breaking up a Wall Street Ponzi scheme. That role resulted in an Oscar nomination for best actor. After that, he was in a sitcom I’d never heard of and also starred in a string of films, none of which I recognized, except for a pretty decent cowboy flick. I’d seen the movie and thought Addison played a convincing tough guy.

The summary also contained a long paragraph about Addison’s personal life. He’d had three wives, and his divorces were scandalous messes, complete with public accusations of infidelity and sexual peccadilloes. Addison had apparently also developed a booze problem, which culminated in two drunk driving busts, the second photographed by paparazzi who had followed him from a bar. The pictures of Addison grabbing his crotch and waving his middle finger during the arrest were published in leading gossip magazines. Rather than hurting his career, the incident gained him a cult-like notoriety. In his last two movies, he had played quirky, counterculture characters, and the critics had reacted favorably.

As for his family, Addison had a son and a daughter from his past marriages. His daughter, Lindsey, was the alleged victim in the rape trial that had resulted in the protest at the courthouse. Also notable was Ryan Addison’s father, Troy Addison. He was an old-school actor who had made the transition to politics in the 1990s. Now seventy-five, the senior Addison was a senator in Arizona.

I would have read more, but I still had to shower and shave. I did so in a hurry and put on a fresh pair of jeans and a blue, wrinkle-free shirt I favored because I hated ironing. Before leaving, I opened a can of food for Smokey, the fuzzball cat Candi had brought home last winter. Then, I backed out of my driveway and drove through the neighborhood out to Highway 50, the main drag of South Lake Tahoe. I turned right, toward the California-Nevada state line, two miles east.

Ten minutes later, I accelerated up a steep, curvy road, past a number of expensive vacation homes. At the end of a cul-de-sac was the most impressive of the bunch – a modern Tudor in dark wood, probably five thousand square feet, with a massive river-rock chimney presiding over its peaked roofs. I drove down a long driveway columned by fifty-foot Italian cypress and parked near a stone walkway leading to the front door.

As I walked toward the tiered porch, I paused to take in the expansive view from the top of the hill. The entirety of Lake Tahoe dominated the valley – twenty-two miles north to south and twelve miles wide – the water a deep, sparkling blue. There were only a few wispy clouds in the sky, and I could see clear across the lake to Tahoe City, where streaks of snow still clung to the granite peaks above the town.

“Ahem,” a voice said.

I turned to see a young woman standing in the doorway. “I’m here to see Ryan Addison,” I said.

The woman wrinkled her nose. She was slender and wore her dark hair up. “Yes, I know. I called you.”

I climbed the porch steps.

“You don’t look the part,” she said.

“What part is that?” I asked.

“I thought detectives wore suits.”

“You ever try chasing a guy in a suit?”

“Is that what you do? Chase guys?”

“Sometimes.”

She glanced away with a bored roll of the eyes and a curled lip, as if I’d said something stupid or mundane. Her expression looked practiced and was probably something she’d developed to let the non-celebrity class know their place. I guessed she thought that was an important part of her job.

“Follow me, please,” she said.

I did so without comment. She wore a dress and heels and had no ass to speak of. We walked down a marble floor hallway to a tall, paneled door. She knocked twice and pushed the door open just enough to stick her head in.

“The private investigator,” she said.

“Well, let him in, goddammit.”

She gave me a final, dubious glance, then opened the door wider.

“Dan Reno?” the man said. He sat on the edge of an elaborate hardwood desk, his hands crossed in his lap, as if posing for a photographer. One leg was straight and the other was bent at the knee to reveal an ankle-high suede boot. His beige pants were of a thin material, bunched tight around his crotch.

“It’s Reno, as in no problemo.”

“No problemo, huh? All right, Dan! I like you already.” He hopped off the desk, grabbed a chair on wheels, and pushed it in my direction. The room was lined with bookshelves, and a large window offered a view of a forested canyon. He walked behind me to where Cassie was still standing and watching us. “Thanks, dear,” he said, and closed the door on her. Then, he turned and offered his hand.

“I’m Ryan Addison.” He was a shade under six feet and wore an untucked denim shirt that didn’t hide the barrel-like thickness of his torso. His blond hair was without a hint of gray and fell over his ears onto his tanned neck. Around his blue eyes, the skin was taut and smooth, but elsewhere, it was grainy, as if his square features had been blasted with sand. I had not checked his date of birth, but I’m pretty good at guessing age. I pegged Addison at fifty-five.

We shook, and his hand was rough and dry and almost as big as mine. He gave a good squeeze and held his eyes on mine for a long moment, then he squeezed harder. I didn’t quite know what to make of that, other than to guess he wanted to impress me with his physical strength, even if he was nearly twenty years my senior.

I sat, and he went behind his desk and scooted forward in a leather executive’s chair.

“My daughter’s name is Lindsey. I take it you’ve heard about the results of her trial,” he said.

“I was at the courthouse yesterday. I heard the man accused of raping her was found not guilty.”

His eyes flashed and locked onto mine. “It was a travesty of justice,” he said, his upper lip raised to show his teeth. “The evidence was overwhelming. I’d like to hire you to look into it.”

“What’s there to look into? The jury declared the man innocent.”

“I don’t give a shit what the jury said. My daughter was brutally raped.” He stood and peered down at me. “Listen to this,” he said. “There were three things that happened during the trial. First, an eyewitness changed her mind on stand and said she didn’t see a thing. Then, a second witness disappeared and is still missing. And third, the DNA test results, which proved the son of a bitch was guilty, vanished. The DNA was in police custody, then it was gone. What do you think of that?”

“It sounds like the witnesses were coerced, and someone was paid off to lose the DNA,” I said.

Addison threw up his arms as if pleading to the heavens. “Thank you. Thank you!” He came out from behind the desk, his face dark with a crazed intensity. “I want you to find out who is protecting this rapist – and why. I want you to bust it wide open, and I want to see justice done.”

I looked past him at the rows of books covering the wall behind the desk. They looked like collector’s sets, probably unread. “Mr. Addison, no matter what I uncover, it’s unlikely the defendant would be made to stand trial again. I’m not sure–”

I stopped in midsentence when the door flew open, and a young woman burst into the room. She had a freckled nose, round eyes, and a mouth smudged with lipstick. Black stretch pants clung tightly to the curve of her hips, and under her pink T-shirt, a sports bra flattened her breasts into a band of flesh around her chest.

“I was raped!” she shrieked. “That fucking gorilla did it and laughed at me!”

“Lindsey, honey,” Addison said, rushing to the woman. “Please, you mustn’t–”

“It was like getting fucked by an ape! I can’t wash the stink off of me. His thing was black as wet rubber and like something on a horse!”

His face pooled with color, Addison tried pushing his daughter out the door, but she grabbed the frame. “Rudy!” Addison yelled.

“He fucked my ass and tore up my insides, and I can’t even go to the goddamn bathroom anymore!” Her face was flushed red, and her voice had hit a hysterical pitch.

“Rudy, get over here!” Addison dropped his shoulder and tried to push his daughter through the door, but she held fast.

“Give me a gun, and I’ll kill him! I swear I’ll shoot his dick off!”

A young fellow, one I thought I’d seen at the courthouse, came from behind Lindsey, peeled her fingers from the doorframe, and pulled her out of the room. Before Addison shut the door, I caught a glimpse of his lady assistant, her smug demeanor gone, replaced with an astonished and mortified expression.

Fumbling with the doorknob, Addison locked it, then walked with slumped shoulders back behind his desk. We listened to Lindsey’s screams and sobs become faint. Addison sat and placed his hands on his temples. After a long pause, he said, “I’m sorry you had to see that.”

“I can come back later, if you like.”

When he looked up, his face was slack beneath his fallen eyes. “No, that’s okay,” he mumbled. “We have her in therapy. The shrink said she’s suffering from an unusual form of posttraumatic disorder. She has a compulsion to shout out in public, as if publicizing her experience will help her deal with it. It’s like a temporary case of Tourette’s syndrome.”

“I see.”

“It’s quite awkward, you understand.” He paused and then sighed. “I didn’t raise my daughter to be a racist. I’ve never heard language out of her like that. But I can understand her anger at that black man. Can you?”

“Yes. But there’s plenty of assholes of every race, white included.”

His face jumped, and his lips tightened over his teeth. “You know that from experience, huh?”

“That’s right.”

“I believe you. But somehow, it’s not much of a comfort.” His expression shifted again, and his eyes looked brittle as puddles of thin ice.

“How long ago did the attack happen?” I asked.

“Two months, now.” He straightened in his chair and blew out his breath. “Let’s talk specifics. I want to hire you, effective today.”

“You’re asking me to look into something that could involve police corruption. I’m not sure what I can do for you. It’s a damn uncertain thing.”

“I know it is. Uncover what’s going on and bring me justice, and I’ll double your pay.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“Bend the law, break it, I don’t care. I’ll pay you to do whatever it takes.”

“Breaking the law is not part of what I do,” I said.

Addison smiled. “You’re a lousy liar.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ve seen your résumé, Dan, and you have a hell of a track record.”

“Says who?”

“I’m connected in Washington.”

“Your father the senator, huh?”

“He’s very unhappy about what happened to his granddaughter. I’ll leave it at that. Anyway, I read your FBI file last night. Impressive stuff.”

I shifted my weight in the chair and rubbed a spot on my jaw. I was aware the FBI had compiled a dossier on me. But I’d never seen it.

“You’ve killed nine men.”

I was silent for a moment before I said, “Self-defense is no crime.”

“It beats the alternative, right?”

“That’s true.”

“You’ll take the job?” he asked.

I stared at Addison, who seemed to have fully recovered from the embarrassment of his daughter’s outburst. I stood and walked over to the single window in the room. My relationship with the South Lake Tahoe PD was something I managed carefully. Marcus Grier was the top cop in town, and he cut me a fair amount of slack. This dated back to three years ago, when I’d been responsible for the demise of a corrupt elected official who’d fired him. After Grier was rehired, he knew he owed me. But I didn’t take his latitude for granted. Our relationship had a certain balance to it. An attempt by me to uncover corruption in his department could easily screw up a good thing. It would be much more difficult to make a living in Tahoe if I put myself on Grier’s shit list.

Still, though, it was hard to pass on the offer of a double rate. Especially given that my phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook with work offers. South Lake Tahoe is not a big city, and if I passed on this job, I might wait a month or two before my next shot at a payday.

“Let me sweeten the pot for you,” Addison said. He pushed his chair back from the desk and sat with his legs crossed. “Duante Tucker is the name of the scumbag who raped Lindsey.” He pulled open a drawer and set a four-inch thick folder on the desk. “These are the trial transcripts, complete with all the prosecution’s interviews and so on.”

I came back to Addison’s desk. “How’d you get this?”

“It was brought to me by courier this morning. Tim Cook, the DA, was plenty pissed about giving it up, but pressure was applied.”

“Your old man?”

Addison nodded, then uncrossed his legs and fixed me with a deliberate stare. “Take this case. And if Duante Tucker ends up dead, I’ll pay you a hundred grand.” He reached into the same drawer from which he’d produced the trial folder and placed four bundles of fresh bills on the desk. “Cash,” he said.

“You think I’m a hit man?”

“Not at all, Dan. You’re a licensed private investigator and bounty hunter. But criminals have a tendency to wind up dead when you’re involved. Your record speaks for itself. It’s simple as that.”

I shook my head. “We need to get something straight. I provide a legitimate service. I don’t operate outside the law. If you think I’m some kind of rogue agent, you’re wrong.”

Addison raised his hands in a placating gesture. “I understand completely. I’m simply offering to hire you for the purposes we discussed. Legit and aboveboard.”

“Then put your cash away.”

“As you like.” He returned the packets of crisp notes inside his desk.

“I accept your offer, then,” I said, watching him shut the drawer. “Excluding the part about killing anyone. I’ll bring a contract back this afternoon. I expect to be paid weekly for my time, including expenses.”

“Excellent.” He rose and shook my hand. “By the way, this home belongs to Sam Aldon, who produced my last film. He’s been gracious enough to offer it to my family and me for the summer. I’ll be either here or at my home in Beverly Hills for the next two months. In early October, I’m leaving for Europe to begin a new film.”

“And?”

“I hope to have this matter resolved well before then.”

“I understand.”

“Good.” We began walking toward the door, then he stopped. “Oh, there’s one more thing I forgot to mention. I’ve also hired another person to work on this. Because Duante Tucker lives in San Jose, I felt it would help to have an investigator based there involved. I understand he’s someone you know.”

“Who’s that?”

“Cody Gibbons.”

I tried to keep my face blank, but I felt my brow crease.