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

Goodreads|Amazon

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.

Review: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton #HeWillComeForYou

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK

Release date: May 3, 2018

Publisher: Trapeze

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Catching him will make her career – and change her forever.

August, 1999

On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.

June, 1969

13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.

August, 1999

As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?

I couldn’t be more thrilled to be one of the stops on the blog tour for The Craftsman today!

Review:

Last year Sharon Bolton had me raving about a book containing hot air balloons, nuns, human trafficking and peacocks, yes Dead Woman Walking took all of those elements and delivered a thriller the likes of which I’d never seen before. Until now. The Craftsman delves into witchcraft and clay effigies (think voodoo dolls) and has a supernatural undercurrent that normally wouldn’t work so well for me, but this? This was genius.

It’s starts in 1999 and Florence is attending the funeral of a killer she helped to catch back in 1969. It immediately jumps back to that time period and remains there until almost the end. Florence was exceptionally well developed, I loved seeing how she grew and matured between the late sixties and late nineties, she was such an interesting woman and the way she was mistreated as a female police officer at the start of her career was appalling but fascinating.

This was so immersive, the atmosphere was chilling and eerie and full of tension, both because of the missing teenagers and also because of the hostility that Florence experiences all because she’s a woman. The case was complex and kept me on my toes and the ending was outstanding, I never saw it coming! Bolton is at the top of her game, I can’t recommend this book and her work more, she’s a truly gifted author.

The Craftsman in three words: Intricate, Chilling and Dark.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: February 6, 2018

Publisher: Twelve

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

A searing portrait of suburbia, friendship, and family strained by a devotion to false appearances.

In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.

Review:

Are you guys sick of my obsession with books with neighbors in the title yet?! I hope not because I have at least one more in my immediate TBR pile, so stick with me. I’ve said it before, but there is something so interesting about the secret lives of the people you live next door to, they may look like the ideal, happy little family but oftentimes that’s just what is presented to the world. Good Neighbors follows four couples who’s only true connection is their proximity and the age of their children. Oddly enough, when one of the couples adopts a Russian little girl things start to splinter and their idyllic little world begins to crumble.

This is told from Nicole’s point of view and it’s written in a peculiar way, the writing style was almost staccato, there was an abruptness at times, the sentences were often short and sparse but strangely enough I liked it. There was a simplicity about it that I liked and it read differently than your average book, it had a style all of it’s own. Nicole was well drawn for the most part, but there were some loose ends surrounding her extended family that I wish would’ve been more resolved in the end. Actually, the ending in general was left very open and I tend to like things that are resolved more.

This was a slow building, character driven domestic drama that’s light on the suspense but intriguing in it’s own way. It almost had a literary fiction type of feeling, it was smart and smooth and there would be much to discuss with a book club. I can’t really think of any other book or author to compare it to and sometimes that’s actually great.

Good Neighbors in three words: Intelligent, Steady and Interesting.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

About the Author:

Joanne Serling’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review. She is a graduate of Cornell University and studied and taught fiction at The Writers Studio in New York City. She lives outside of New York with her husband and children and is at work on her second book.

Connect with Joanne

Website | Facebook | Twitter

April Wrap Up

I honestly can’t even believe another month has passed you guys! Sometimes it feels like life is just one big blur, a frenzy of shuttling kids around town, trying to spend quality time with my husband and then squeezing in some much needed reading time. Phew, I’m tired! Anyway, April was great for me, I read 29 books and overall I loved most of them. My quick thoughts on each book are below as well as links to my full review if you’re interested. And I would love to know how your month was as well!

Digging In: Witty, wise and affecting.

The Good Liar: Unexpected, Tight and Riveting

The New Neighbors was one I struggled with.

Abel’s Revenge: Menacing, Different and Gritty.

The Wildflowers: Dramatic, grand and eloquent

Too Close to Breathe: Authentic, Dark and Solid.

The Other Mother: Unnerving, Atmospheric and Polished.

The Man on the Middle Floor: Unique, Thought-Provoking and Discomfiting.

Keeper: Unflinching, Intelligent and Dark.

A Breath After Drowning: Controlled, Fresh and Intriguing.

Deadly Secrets: Gripping, Pacey and Multifaceted.

Somebody’s Daughter: Timely, Touching and Fluid.

The Husband Hour: Moving, Insightful and Heartfelt.

The Key to Death’s Door: Menacing, Horrifying and Gripping.

Our Little Secret: Subtle, Manipulative and Smart.

The Elizas: I had some issues with this one unfortunately.

Baby Teeth: Controversial, Twisted and Wicked.

A Home at Honeysuckle Farm: Warm, Sweet and Happy.

Then She Was Gone: Intriguing, Spellbinding and Addictive.

The Favorite Sister: Biting, Dramatic and Edgy.

Go Ask Ali: Sarcastic, Feisty and Witty.

Our Kind of Cruelty: Slick, Seductive and Twisted.

Bachelor Nation was a fun read for fans of the show.

The Perfect Mother: Devious, Misleading and Clever.

The Family Gathering: Authentic, Charming and Heartwarming.

One Way or Another: Encouraging, Delightful and Positive.

Everybody Needs a Bridge: Thoughtful, Emotive and Engaging.

Every Single Secret: Unsettling, Surprising and Absorbing.

The Way of Beauty: Moving, Tender and Compassionate.

Review: Limelight by Amy Poeppel

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: May 1, 2018

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Allison Brinkley—wife, mother, and former unflappable optimist—discovers that a carefully weighed decision to pack up and move her family from suburban Dallas to the glittery chaos of Manhattan may have been more complicated than she and her husband initially thought.

Allison learns that New York is unruly and bewildering, defying the notions she developed from romantic movies and a memorable childhood visit. After a humiliating call from the principal’s office and the loss of the job she was counting on, Allison begins to accept that New York may not suit her after all.

When Allison has a fender-bender, witnessed by a flock of mothers at her son’s new school, she is led to the penthouse apartment of a luxurious Central Park West building and encounters a spoiled, hungover, unsupervised teenager who looks familiar. It doesn’t take long to recognize him as Carter Reid—a famous pop star who has been cast in a new Broadway musical. Through this brush with stardom, Allison embraces a unique and unexpected opportunity that helps her find her way in the heart of Manhattan.

In a book that delivers laughs, warmth, and delightful wish fulfillment, Poeppel dives into celebrity culture and modern motherhood with her trademark style.

Review:

Ahhh I loved this book SO much, it seriously surprised me by just how much I enjoyed it and I don’t even know why. I’ve had Small Admissions sitting on my bookshelf for over a year and now I’m so frustrated with myself for not reading it sooner. Amy Poeppel nailed every single aspect of this book, and I wholeheartedly did not want it to end!

Allison is my new fictional BFF, I could not get enough of her from the moment I read the first chapter. She’s gutsy, witty, caring and a little crazy but she’s real. She has three kids and they were so honestly depicted as well, I mean what teenager today doesn’t curse inappropriately at the worst possible time? Or what young boy doesn’t develop a fascination with the female anatomy at some point? #Truth Carter is the mega pop star that Allison finds herself working for and though they’re an unlikely duo, I loved Allison’s tactics in dealing with him. He’s a pompous, self absorbed jerk, a womanizing party animal, (Think Justin Bieber, maybe even worse) and she treated him no differently than one of her own kids, and this made for some hilarious moments and fantastic scenes.

I love reading books about celebrities (real or fictional) and Poeppel gave me the best of both worlds by including both. The behind the scenes look at Broadway was everything, admittedly I know absolutely nothing about the backstage life of a play but everything she created rang true, it was super authentic and believable to me. So much so in fact that I had to stop myself from checking to see how much tickets are to see Limelight.

I can’t say enough good things about this book, it really had it all for me. I wondered if I would be disappointed by the ending but Poeppel kept things real and there wasn’t some unrealistic, happy ever after conclusion, which was awesome because that wouldn’t have worked well here and the way she handled things was perfection.

Limelight in three words: Savvy,

Modern and Sparkling.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: A Woman Scorned by Jack Jordan @JackJordanBooks

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: May 3, 2018

Publisher: Corvus

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Are you afraid?

You should be.

The husband: in over his head with no way of knowing the truth.

The mistress: blinded by love, betrayed by her family…

The neighbour: will stop at nothing to protect the life he has fought to create.

The wife: a woman bent on revenge, but how far is she willing to go…?

Dark as night, this is a brilliantly plotted, gripping short story from the e-book sensation, Jack Jordan.

Review:

If you’re a fan of Jack Jordan then you’ll probably agree with me that it feels like it’s been forever since the release of his smash hit My Girl. It’s been almost two years and I was SO excited to hear he was releasing a short story/novella this month and then a full length novel this summer! Let me tell you guys, it was worth the wait, normally short stories don’t blow me away, I’m usually not totally satisfied and am left wanting more. Totally not the case here, this bite sized treat packed one hell of a punch, it’s hands down one of the best novellas I’ve ever read.

This has four viewpoints, The Wife, The Mistress, The Neighbor and The Husband, just going by their titles alone I was alllll in. I mean, it alludes to a clear affair and the prospect of a nosy neighbor, there’s really nothing more to want for me. My biggest gripe with novellas is that usually the characters don’t feel fully developed and I’m left wanting to know more about them but Jordan managed to squeeze in an amazing amount of depth in 120ish pages, all four of the leads were fantastically drawn. Who knew you could pack so many twists and surprises into such a small window either, I cannot even tell you just how many times I was floored, seriously impressive and I never saw anything coming before it happened, bravo Mr. Jordan!

This couldn’t be more exciting and fast paced, I think I held my breath throughout the whole book and there’s just no way to read it in more than one sitting, it demands your undivided attention, a truly wild ride.

A Woman Scorned in three words: Thrilling, Twisty and Intense.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

Review: The Way of Beauty by Camille DiMaio @CamilleDiMaio #LakeUnionAuthors

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: May 1, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

Vera Keller, the daughter of German immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York City, finds her life upended when the man she loves becomes engaged to another woman. But Angelo Bellavia has also inadvertently opened up Vera’s life to unexpected possibilities. Angelo’s new wife, Pearl, the wealthy daughter of a clothing manufacturer, has defied her family’s expectations by devoting herself to the suffrage movement. In Pearl, Vera finds an unexpected dear friend…and a stirring new cause of her own. But when Pearl’s selfless work pulls her farther from Angelo and their son, the life Vera craved is suddenly within her reach—if her conscience will allow her to take it.

Her choice will define not only her future but also that of her daughter, Alice.

Vera and Alice—a generation and a world apart—are bound by the same passionate drive to fulfill their dreams. As first mother and then daughter come of age in a city that is changing as rapidly as its skyline, they’ll each discover that love is the only constant.

Review:

I don’t read historical fiction all that often, you guys know I stick to my thrillers with a rom com or some women’s fiction thrown in for some variety, but every time I do switch to a historical novel I wonder why I don’t read more of them?! The Way of Beauty was such a gorgeous book in every single way, it was so amazing that I’m going to be reading DiMaio’s other books ASAP.

The first half is set in the 1900’s and told from Vera’s perspective beginning when she’s just five years old and it follows her up until her early twenties. Much of her story revolves around the suffrage movement and while I had a basic grasp of what went on, this book definitely taught me more and it was fascinating. These women were warriors in lipstick, such strong and inspiring people, it was fantastic to read about this movement in detail. The second half follows Vera’s daughter, Alice beginning in the 1940’s so you still get to check in with Vera which was cool. I absolutely adored both of these women and DiMaio created such beautiful and heartbreaking stories for both of them. They were both incredibly well drawn, I felt like I knew both of their hopes, dreams and fears and I wanted what was best for them in the end.

The setting of NYC was so vividly imagined, I’m telling you guys DiMaio is an amazingly detailed writer and the style was part romantic, a dreamy type of wonder and part crisp, cool containment, it worked so well for me. There is some epic romance as well, swoon worthy stuff, but not the cheesy type, the kind that makes you sigh in contentment. This one broke my heart in it’s beauty one minute and made me ecstatically happy the next, if you’re a fan of HF this is a must read!

The Way of Beauty in three words: Moving, Tender and Compassionate.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter @EmilyDCarpenter #LakeUnionAuthors

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: May 1, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Emotionally guarded Daphne Amos always believed she’d found a kindred spirit in her fiancé, Heath. Both very private people, they’ve kept their pasts hidden from the world, and each other, until Heath’s escalating nightmares begin to put an undeniable strain on their relationship. Determined to give their impending marriage the best chance of succeeding, Heath insists that Daphne join him on a seven-day retreat with Dr. Matthew Cerny, a psychologist celebrated for getting to the root of repressed memories. Daphne reluctantly agrees—even though the past is the last place she wants to go.

The retreat’s isolated and forbidding location increases her unease, as do the doctor’s rules: they must relinquish their keys and phones, they’ll be monitored at all hours by hidden cameras, and they’re never to socialize with the other guests.

One sleepless night, Daphne decides to leave her room…and only then does she realize that the institute is not at all what it seems—and that whatever’s crying out from Heath’s past isn’t meant to be heard. It’s meant to be silenced.

Review:

There is something compulsively readable about Emily Carpenter’s books, once I start them I have a difficult time putting them down. She creates the creepiest, most eerily atmospheric settings and she writes so well you find yourself completely immersed in the story, it’s as if you’re actually inside it yourself and experiencing it with the characters. It’s an unsettling experience to say the least, but one I wholeheartedly enjoy.

The whole idea of a couples retreat that focuses on therapy is unappealing to me and then when you throw in a weird atmosphere with uneasiness oozing from the pages? That’s a hard no from me, and Daphne had similar feelings but she went despite her reservations. You see, no one has ever understood her quite like Heath does, they have a hard and fast rule where they don’t discuss their pasts, ever, and this works for both of them. Until now. Until Daphne decides maybe it’s time to share her secrets with Heath and in turn he may share his as well. I loved knowing that they both had skeletons in their closets but not knowing what they were, it kept me extremely engaged and doubtful of the pair of them. I never could decide if I actually liked either of them, but they were both interesting, mysterious and highly complex.

Another thing that Carpenter excels at is the way the structures her books. The Weight of Lies had a book within a book, SO cool, and this time around she worked with flashbacks. You know how oftentimes flashbacks read as disjointed or confusing? Not the case here, it starts with a prologue that immediately reels you in and then skips back to a week earlier. It flips back and forth until the days catch up to each other and everything culminates in a shocking ending. Interspersed between these time jumps you slowly find out about Daphne’s past, Carpenter gives you a little tasty morsel to whet your appetite and then she cuts you off again, WHY does that work so well for me?! It just does, it has me hanging onto over single word, dying to know what will be revealed next.

I said Carpenter was the queen of southern gothic fiction in my review of her last book and that still stands here, she is immensely talented and she has a firm fan in me. I haven’t read any recent others that write quite like and I mean that as a huge compliment, she stands out from the crowd.

Every Single Secret in three words: Unsettling, Surprising and Absorbing.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Everybody Needs a Bridge by Colleen D. Scott

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Release date: February 20, 2018

Genre: Fiction

Blurb:

High school is a difficult time for every teenager. When Erin enters a large public high school in 1980, she’s more than a little intimidated. Shocked by the realization that the legacy of her southern Alabama town isn’t a thing of the past, Erin struggles to find her way and in the process forms several important relationships. Brittany, whose genuine friendship and unconditional support help Erin navigate her unfamiliar surroundings. Shelby, whose strength and confidence challenge Erin to make her own decisions. And Emmet, whose magnetism and acceptance inspires her to dream of a different future.

Together they search for the answer to one important question: How do you define your own path, feel like you belong, and yet resist all of the social pressures and rigid expectations?

Ultimately, Erin is forced with a life-defining choice. Her decision will catapult her into adulthood, will test her faith, love and courage, and inevitably have an impact on the lives of those she loves most.

Review:

This is one of those books that’s tricky to slot into one particular genre, it begins when Erin is just starting high school so there were times it felt like a straight up YA novel, but this was laced with dark themes and heavy topics giving it an adult vibe as well. It’s set in the 1980’s in the south so there was some nostalgia as well and a historical feel as well, but regardless of whatever label you want to use this was a thought provoking and engaging read.

One of the darkest themes that I alluded to earlier, the most prevalent one is racism and being set almost forty years ago really shows just how terrible race relations were back then, especially in Alabama. Erin is different from her peers, she hates how everyone is labeled and categorized, kind of ironic that I had a hard time labeling this book. She struggles to fit in and she’s not even sure that she wants to fit in, she just wants to live her life without judgement and I think we can all relate to that on some level. She was a very well constructed character, the book follows her from high through to college and through various highs and lows.

As much as I know that society has taken huge forward strides in terms of race relations this book will still strike a chord with people today, which is sad in a way, it would be so great if it wasn’t still relevant, but it is. It covers some tough topics but is very well written and ultimately uplifting.

Everybody Needs a Bridge in three words: Thoughtful, Emotive and Engaging.

Overall rating: 4/5

Review: One Way or Another by Colleen Coleman @CollColemanAuth @Bookouture

Goodreads

Release date: April 26, 2018

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Blurb:

Twenty-nine-year-old Katie Kelly is at an all-time low. The love of her life, gorgeous Ben Cole, took a job abroad and broke her heart, the restaurant she’d put her all into went bust, and now she works in a retirement home, cooking beige mush for the residents.

Not exactly the life Katie had dreamed of…

So when the opportunity comes up to work for one of the best chefs in the country – Katie’s idol – she is determined to get the job, no matter what. But then she discovers who she’s competing against: Ben.

As the competition heats up, Katie and Ben spend more and more time together, and it’s clear the old spark is still there… But only one person can win their perfect job, and Katie is going to make sure it’s her. She knows she can’t let Ben back in – or can she find a way to have it all?

A hilarious, heart-warming story about romance, good food, and following your dreams, for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Marian Keyes and Cate Woods.

I’m so thrilled to be one of the stops on the blog tour for One Way or Another today!

Review:

Colleen Coleman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors for several reasons, but one of the things that I enjoy the most about every single one of her books is that she writes stories about female empowerment with such positive messages, you can’t help but feel ready to conquer the world by the time you finish one of her books! Her books are so well rounded, you get the hopeful messages but you also get some romance and humor and this time around you get food, how does it get any better?!

Katie is such a likable person, she’s totally relatable, she has moments where she’s kick ass and fearless and then others where she’s down in the dumps and hard on herself. We all have highs and lows of course so it’s extremely easy to empathize with Katie’s woes. I’m such a foodie so naturally I adored that aspect of this book, although it did make me super hungry! Add in some amazing secondary characters who ranged from the hilarious and inspiring to the nasty and rude and you have a fantastic, emotionally charged plot that made for such an enjoyable read.

Grab this one when you’re in the mood for a super fun read that offers lovely messages of hope but not in a pushy way, Coleman gets her point across in an easy and non confrontational manner that leaves you happy, smiling and wanting to make your own mark on the world.

One Way or Another in three words: Encouraging, Delightful and Positive.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

About the Author:

Colleen was born in Canada and raised in Ireland. She is the winner of the much-coveted Novelicious Undiscovered People’s Choice Award launched to find the next ‘chick-lit star’.

She spent years teaching English and Philosophy before finally taking a deep breath, scrunching both eyes shut, putting her pen to paper and vowing not to lift it again until she wrote the words ‘the end’. As a result, her first novel, Don’t Stop Me Now was born.

Colleen lives between London, Ireland and Cyprus with her very patient husband and very,very chatty twin daughters.

For chat, pics and updates visit www.colleencolemanbooks.com

https://twitter.com/CollColemanAuth