#BlogTour Absolution by Paul Hardisty @Hardisty_Paul @Orendabooks

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: March 30, 2018

Publisher: Orenda

Genre: Thriller

Blurb:

It is 1997, eight months since vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker fled South Africa after his explosive testimony to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Paris, Rania LaTour, journalist, comes home to find that her son and her husband, a celebrated human rights lawyer, have disappeared. On an isolated island off the coast of East Africa, the family that Clay has befriended is murdered as he watches.

So begins the fourth instalment in the Claymore Straker series, a breakneck journey through the darkest reaches of the human soul, as Clay and Rania fight to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances and murders, and find those responsible. Events lead them both inexorably to Egypt, where an act of the most shocking terrorist brutality will reveal not only why those they loved were sacrificed, but how they were both, indirectly, responsible.

Relentlessly pursued by those who want them dead, they must work together to uncover the truth, and to find a way to survive in a world gone crazy. At times brutal, often lyrical, but always gripping, Absolution is a thriller that will leave you breathless and questioning the very basis of how we live and why we love.

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Absolution! I have an extract from the book to share today.

Extract:

*1*

Guns and Money

26th October 1997

Latitude 6° 21′ S; Longitude 39° 13′ E, Off the Coast of Zanzibar, East Africa

Claymore Straker drifted on the surface, stared down into the living architecture of the reef and tried not to think of her. Prisms of light crazed the many-branched and plated corals, winked rain- bows from the scales of fish. Edged shadows twitched across the shoals, and for a moment dusk came, muting the colours of the sea. Floating in this new darkness, a distant echo came, hard and metallic, like the first syllables of a warning. Clay shivered, felt the cold do a random walk up his spine, seep into the big muscles across his back. He listened awhile, but as quickly as it had come, the sound was gone.

Clay blew clear his snorkel, pulled up his mask, and looked out across the rising afternoon chop, searching the horizon. Other than the weekly supply run from Stone Town, boats here were few. It was off-season and the hotel – the only establishment on the island – was closed. He could see the long arc of the island’s southern point, the terrace of the little hotel where Grace worked as caretaker, the small dock where guests were welcomed from the main island, and away on the horizon, a dark wall of rain-heavy cloud, moving fast in a freshening easterly. He treaded water, scanned the distance back toward the mainland. But all he could see were the great banks of cloud racing slantwise across the channel and the sunlight strobing over the world in thick stochastic beams, everything transient and without reference.

He’d lost track of how long he’d been here now. Long enough to fashion a sturdy mooring for Flame from a concrete block that he’d anchored carefully on the seabed. Long enough to have snor- kelled every part of the island’s coastline, to know the stark difference between the life on the protected park side, and the grey sterility of the unprotected, fished-out eastern side. Sufficient time to hope that, perhaps, finally, he had disappeared.

The sun came, fell warm on the wet skin of his face and shoulders and the crown of his head. He pulled on his mask, jawed the snor- kel’s mouthpiece and started towards the isthmus with big overhand strokes. Months at sea had left him lean, on the edge of hunger, dark- ened and bleached both so that the hair on his chest and arms and shorn across the bonework of his skull stood pale against his skin. For the first time in a long time, he was without pain. He felt strong. It was as if the trade winds had somehow cleansed him, helped to heal the scars.

As he rounded the isthmus, Flame came into view. She lay bow to the island’s western shore, straining on her mooring. He could just see the little house where Grace lived, notched into the rock on the lee side of the point, shaded by wind-bent palms and scrub acacia.

And then he heard it again.

It wasn’t the storm. Nor was it the sound of the waves pounding the windward shore. Its rhythm was far too contained, focused in a way nature could never be. And it was getting louder.

A small boat had just rounded the island’s southern point and was heading towards the isthmus. The craft was sleek, sat low in the water. Spray flew from its bow, shot high from its stern. It was some kind of jet boat – unusual in these waters, and moving fast. The boat made a wide arc, steering clear of the unmarked shoals that dangered the south end of the island, and then abruptly changed course. It was heading straight for Flame. Whoever was piloting the thing knew these waters, and was in a hell of hurry.

Clay floated low and still in the water, and watched the boat approach. It was close enough now that he could make out the craft’s line, the black stripe along the yellow hull, the long, narrow bow, the raked V of the low-swept windscreen. It was closing on Flame, coming at speed. Two black men were aboard, one standing at the controls, the other sitting further back near the engines. The man who was piloting wore sunglasses and a red shirt with sleeves cut off at heavily muscled shoulders. The other had long dreadlocks that flew in the wind.

Twenty metres short of Flame, Red Shirt cut power. The boat slowed, rose up on its own wake and settled into the water. Dread- lock jumped up onto the bow with a line, grabbed Flame’s portside mainstay and stepped aboard.

Clay’s heart rate skyed. He floated quiet in the water, his heart hammering inside his ribs and echoing back against the water. Dread- lock tied the boat alongside and stepped into Flame’s cockpit. He leaned forwards at the waist and put his ear to the hatch a moment, then he straightened and knocked as one would on the door of an apartment or an office. He waited a while, then looked back at the man in the jet boat and hunched his shoulders.

‘Take a look,’ came Red Shirt’s voice, skipping along the water, the local accent clear and unmistakable.

Dreadlock pushed back the hatch – Clay never kept it locked – and disappeared below deck. Perhaps they were looking for someone else. They could be just common brigands, out for whatever they could find. All of Clay’s valuables – his cash and passports – were in the priest hole. His weapons, too. It was very unlikely that the man would find it, so beautifully concealed and constructed was it. There was nothing else on board that could identify Clay in any way. Maybe they would just sniff around and leave.

Nine months ago, he’d left Mozambique and made his way north along the African coast. Well provisioned, he’d stayed well off- shore and lived off the ocean for weeks at a time – venturing into harbour towns or quiet fishing villages for water and supplies only 10 paul hardisty

when absolutely necessary, keeping clear of the main centres, paying cash, keeping a low profile, never staying anywhere long. He had no phone, no credit cards, and hadn’t been asked to produce iden- tification of any sort since he’d left Maputo. Then he’d come here. An isolated island off the coast of Zanzibar. He’d anchored in the little protected bay. A couple of days later Grace had rowed out in a dinghy to greet him, her eight-year-old son Joseph at the oars, her adolescent daughter in the stern, holding a basket of freshly baked bread. He decided to stay a few days. Grace offered him work doing odd jobs at the hotel – fixing a leaking pipe, repairing the planking on the dock, replacing the fuel pump on the generator. In return, she brought him meals from her kitchen, the occasional beer, cold from the fridge. He stayed a week, and then another. They became friends, and then, unintentionally, lovers. Nights he would sit in Flame’s darkened cockpit and look out across the water at the lamp- light glowing in Grace’s windows, watch her shadow moving inside the house as she put her children to bed. One by one the lights would go out, and then he’d lie under the turning stars hoping sleep would come.

After a while, he’d realised that he’d stayed too long. He’d made to leave, rowed to shore and said goodbye. Joseph had cried. Zuz just smiled. But Grace had taken him by the hand and walked him along the beach and to the rocky northern point of the island where the sea spread blue and calm back towards the main island, and she’d convinced him to stay.

But now Clay shivered, watching Dreadlock move about the sail- boat. The first drops of rain met the water, a carpet of interfering distortions.

‘Hali?’ shouted Red Shirt in Swahili from the jet boat. News? ‘No here,’ came the other man’s voice from below deck.

‘Is it his?’ said Red Shirt.

‘Don’t know.’

‘It looks like his.’ ‘Don’t know.’

‘No guns? No money?’ ‘Me say it. Nothing.’ ‘Fuck.’

‘What we do?’

‘We find him. Let’s go.’

The jet boat’s engines coughed to life with a cloud of black smoke. Dreadlock untied the line, jumped back aboard and pushed off. The boat’s bow dipped with his weight, then righted. Clay dived, watched from below as the craft made a wide circle around Flame, buffeting her with its wake, then turned for shore.

It was heading straight for Grace’s house.

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.

Blog Tour: The Last Friend by Harvey Church @HarveyChurch1 @CarolineBookBit #TheLastFriend

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: January 9, 2018

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

The Knock on his Door…That Changed his Life

Fifteen years after Donovan’s daughter is abducted, Monica Russell knocks on his door. She claims she knew his daughter while in captivity and says she made a promise to tell him about their friendship.

The Last Friend to hold His Daughter’s Hand

When Monica claims to know where his daughter’s remains are buried, Donovan is immediately committed to doing whatever this last friend needs from him, regardless of the warnings from his family and friends.

The Friend Who Can Help Him Seek Vengeance

And when Monica claims to know where he can find the man who abducted, assaulted, and murdered his princess, Donovan knows he will stop at nothing to get his vengeance.

What Cost Will He Ultimately Pay?

Monica claims she can show Donovan a lot of things about his daughter, but what price will Donovan ultimately pay the young lady who claims to be the last friend to know his daughter?

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Last Friend! I read and really liked this book late last year and am so pleased to be sharing some more with you guys today.

The Last Friend – Harvey Church
Character Spotlight
– Special Agent Mike Klein –

| Who is Special Agent Mike Klein

Klein is an old-school investigator. He began his career investigating missing people, kidnappings, abductions, ransoms, etc.. But with funding constraints, his unit has shrunk. He’s now overworked, hitting the mid-point in fifties and eyeing retirement.

He believes in the justice system, the rule of law, and that makes things difficult for him in the case of Elizabeth Glass and the many other young girls who have gone missing in The Last Friend.

| The Inspiration for Klein’s Character

Once, while I was out of town with my family, I dined out at a restaurant. Nothing fancy, just a regular place, and it was packed. At the next table, there was a trio of older men. One of them was the most handsome older man I’d ever seen – strong jaw, penetrating eyes, the kind of tan and weathered look that belongs in a Western Romance. At this man’s worst, he’d look better than me at my best. As we all do, I started wondering what this man did for a living. In my mind, he was an investigator. The only reason he was dining at this restaurant was because the owners had kidnapped kids from across the country and forced them into working for them, and this special agent was going to lock the place down once his crème brûlée arrived. (Okay, I might have had wine, on an empty stomach, but that was honestly how Klein’s character came to me).

| The Creation of Klein

Er, see above?

I’ll add that bringing the old guy from the restaurant into my novel involved giving him traits that—oh, wait, I get to talk about that next…

| About Klein’s Character

So, as I was saying, adapting the good-looking old man to the novel wasn’t as easy as I thought. Was he married? What’s his past? What does his office look like? And, most importantly, how do these things reveal themselves when Klein is a secondary character to the grieving father (Donovan) and his missing daughter’s last friend (Monica)?

To compensate for Klein’s secondary role in the Last Friend he is the secondary character of another novel I’ve written (The Last Night) as well as one in development for a summer 2018 publication. The summer 2018 novel gets more into Klein’s head as he tidies up some loose ends from The Last Friend, particularly that opening chapter…

| Does he have any similarities with anyone ‘real’?
If so .. tell us more!

If anyone ever asked me what Klein and I have in common, the answer would be: nothing. We are polar opposites in terms of our nicotine addictions, our calm and collected way of dealing with injustice, our beliefs in the ‘system,’ our views on politics, how we dress, and what’s important to us. That’s not to say or suggest that special agent Mike Klein is an idiot (because it’s probably the other way around), but we’d probably not cheer for the same football team. And if we were ever seated at a bar together—okay, we share an appreciation for single malts, which is a start, I suppose—we’d probably disagree about things like fiscal policy, which Netflix show to watch next, and whether David Hasselhoff is going to make a comeback as Michael Knight.

| What do you like most about your character?

He’s fearless and certain about everything he does. Klein doesn’t make mistakes. Plus, he’s the type of guy that offers hope that a better world exists outside of all of the horrible things that happen around us.

| What do you dislike about your protagonist’s character?

Klein’s inflexibility doesn’t allow him to see shades of grey. For Klein, everything is a black and white problem. In The Last Friend, that’s not a big problem—a young girl was kidnapped and her captor should suffer. But in The Last Night, things aren’t so black and white, and that causes issues for Klein.

| Would you and Klein be friends ‘in real life’?

I think it’s good and smart to be friends with people who can save your life, and Klein could definitely do that. But he probably wouldn’t cheer for my favourite teams, and he’d likely try to stiff me for the tab if we went out for drinks. Plus, I bet he enjoys golfing, and I can swear and throw things out of frustration in the comfort of my own home, without having to pay inflated green fees, thank you very much. So, no, Klein and I likely wouldn’t be friends.

| What’s Next?

Up next for Klein is the novel, The Last Night. In this one, Ethan Vernon’s wife was taken away from her home in an ambulance in the middle the night. Except she never made it to the emergency room. When Ethan starts doubting himself, he searches the other hospitals, always with the same result: your wife’s not here. At his wits’ end, he calls emergency services and learns that no ambulance was ever dispatched to his house in the first place. In fact, Ethan himself becomes a suspect in what he believes is a massive cover-up, only to come face-to-face with a truth he might rather never know. Guess who is in the middle of this mess? Yup, special agent Mike Klein.

About the Author:

Harvey Church has a background in finance, which is how he found himself writing about the people and ridiculousness (sometimes the same thing) of that field in his Edwin Burrows light mystery series. Although he considers himself retired from that field (aka not working), he’s planning another three Edwin Burrows novels for 2018.

His first “serious” novel, The Last Friend, is a Kindle Scout writing competition winner and was published by Kindle Press on January 9, 2018. The BookLife Prize called it “an entertaining read for mystery and thriller fans alike,” and said it is “an unexpected and exciting series of events that will grab readers.” Harvey plans two sister novels to The Last Friend in 2018, one titled The Last Night (Spring 2018) and the other tentatively titled The Last Survivor.

For fun, Harvey likes to practice street magic and spends hours engineering tricks to wow his audiences. He is also an avid hockey fan (Go Leafs Go). He has a wife and two kids. His favorite color is blue, but he drives a black car because he read somewhere, back in the 90’s, that radar detectors have a tough time seeing them. Interestingly, he never speeds because he’s too busy singing like nobody’s watching, or maybe it’s that everybody is deaf.

He’s a supporter of double-chins, double-dates, and double-dipping (though never on double-dates), and obviously enjoys writing about himself in the third person, in the voice of the narrator from The Royal Tenenbaums.

Connect with Harvey Church by searching Harvey Church Mysteries on Facebook, at @hashtag_harv on Instagram, and @harveychurch1 on Twitter. You can also find him wandering the streets of Chicago, Toronto, Montreal or the Lido deck of a Princess Cruise ship. If you ever meet Harv, ask to see a magic trick!

Don’t forget to sign up for his email list at AListHarvey.com

Harvey Church Online:

Website:harveychurchmysteries.com
Twitter:
twitter.com/HarveyChurch1
Instagram:www.instagram.com/hashtag_harv/

Blog Tour: Evanathia’s Gift by Effie Kammenou @LoveBooksGroup

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: August 7, 2015

Blurb:

In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets – ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.

The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean,

who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for.

EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.

Happy Saturday everyone and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Evanthia’s Gift! I have an extract to share today.

Extract:

Anastacia beamed with joy as she stepped out of the taxicab, cradling her precious newborn child in her arms. The air was heavy with humidity, and the heat was oppressive—typical July weather in New York City. She hastened into her building to get the child away from the blaring noise of the passing traffic, as well as the lingering smell of exhaust. Her friend, Stavros, paid the cab driver and walked in behind her.

“We are home Sophia mou.” She lovingly brushed her finger across her daughter’s cheek.

Stavros unlocked the door to the apartment, helping Anastacia inside and onto the couch. He took the baby from her arms and care- fully placed her in a white wicker bassinet, covered with layers of white lace and pink bows.

Even after spending several days in the hospital, Anastacia was still tired. The birth had not been an easy one, and adding to her stress were thoughts of juggling a career along with single motherhood.

“Thank you Stavros. I don’t know what I would do without you and Soula,” Ana told him.

“You know Soula will be storming through that door any second.”

Stavros laughed, shaking his head as he thought of his wife.

“Yes, I imagine she will and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sit

with me a minute until she comes.”

He sat down beside her.

“I know I keep saying it,” she continued, “but I appreciate you and

Soula standing by me all these months. I couldn’t have wished for better friends. When we were in school you would tell me about your Soula back home and I never dreamed she would become my closest friend.”

“Ah, yes. I missed her and I chewed your ear off.” Stavros relaxed back into the taupe cushions of the sofa. “It was good to have you to talk to about her. Friendship goes both ways, Ana, and you have always been the kindest of friends to us.”

“You’re a good man, Stavros. I would listen to you and think, ‘Someday I want to be adored by someone the way Stavros loves Soula.’ Sometimes you want something so much you are blind to what is real and what is not,” she murmured regretfully.

Stavros slid over to the other end of the couch and took Ana’s hands in his. “Everything good will come to you—believe me.”

Ana smiled unconvincingly, and nodded. “I am grateful for so much. My beautiful baby and two wonderful friends.”

She looked up when she heard the sound of the creaking door. Soula burst in, her arms flung open with excitement to welcome Ana home. Always full of energy and enthusiasm, the tall slender blonde with the sparkling green eyes picked up the baby.

“Ftou sou, ftou sou,” she pretend spat, as she made the sign of the cross over the baby, a common Greek gesture to keep evil away. Soula pinned a Byzantine icon onto the bassinet. Dangling from the pin was an evil eye.

“I see the baby?” asked Konstantinos, the two and a half year old standing beside Soula and pulling on her skirt. Tall for his age, the boy peeked over the edge of the bassinet with large expressive eyes that were rimmed with thick, dark lashes.

“Come, Konstantinos, but be very careful not to lean on the Effie Kammenou

bassinet,” Soula instructed her son. “Is Sophia not the most beautiful little girl?”

“I’m big. I take care of Sophia.” He rubbed her arm gently and kissed her tiny, delicate hand.

“You will, just like you will take care of the new baby your mamá will have soon,” Ana said. She rose from the couch to pat Soula’s expanding belly and then bent down to wrap her arms around Kostas, kissing his plump, little cheek.

“Stavros, come take a picture of the children. Sit on the couch Kostas, and Theía Ana will let you hold Sophia.”

Ana took a seat next to Konstantinos and carefully placed Sophia in his lap, mindful to fully support the infant.

“Love you Sophia mou,” Kostas told her.

Soula clasped her hands together as if in prayer. “Oh, Ana, look at them. They will grow up together and someday they will fall in love.”

“Soula! They are babies. When they grow up, a long time from now, they will decide who to fall in love with.”

“No, I tell you this is why God put us together. We will be one family. I know these things,” she insisted.

“I love you, Soula. There is no one like you in the world. But these are modern times and when our children are adults they will make their own decisions.”

“As long as they marry Greeks,” Soula maintained, with a wave of her hand.

“Yes, because that worked out so well for me,” Ana said, her voice laced with sarcasm.

Soula sighed, “Oh, Ana mou. I’m sorry. Do you think Jimmy— Ugh, I want to spit when I say his name. Do you think he knows about Sophia? I was afraid he would find out and bring you trouble. I want all that to be behind you.”

“It is behind me. Sophia has my name, not his. His name is not on the birth certificate. He is to never have a claim on her. I don’t know where he is and I don’t care. I only know that Uncle Tasso said he would Evanthia’s Gift

never bother me again.” She shook her head as if to scold herself. “I’ve troubled so many people. I disappointed my parents and myself. But more than anything I worry how this will affect my child. How will I ever be able to trust my judgment again? How did I let this happen?”

“You fell in love. With the wrong man, yes, but you learned from it. We learn from our mistakes, Ana.”

“Yes, but will my daughter pay for my mistakes? I will never fail Sophia; she will always be my first priority. She’s all that matters to me now.”

“Come, let’s get you in bed. You didn’t have an easy time of it and you need your rest.” Soula turned to her husband. “Stavros, take Kostas home and tell Aunt Litsa to come when she is ready.”

Soula walked with Anastacia to her bedroom. She got her bedclothes out and helped Anastacia change into them. Soula wheeled the bassinet from the living room to the foot of the bed, reaching in to straighten Sophia’s covers.

“Thank you, Soula. You’ve done enough for me. Go home now. You need to rest also. Aunt Litsa will stay the night and help me.”

“I will check on you in the morning.” Soula left as a weary Anasta- cia crawled into bed.

Ana’s mind wandered as she began to drift into slumber. Coming to the States had been her dream, but dreams didn’t always turn out the way you expected.

She was grateful, though, to have a supportive family. Her Uncle Tasso owned the apartment building and with his help she was able to stay in her apartment after throwing out and divorcing her philan- dering husband. Her eyelids were as heavy as ten-pound weights but thinking of Jimmy kept her awake. Just days after catching her husband in an act of infidelity that had her reeling, she’d been hit with another blow. She learned she was pregnant. She wanted no connection to him and needed to be rid of him and the humiliation that went with it. But now, because of her child, she would be connected to him forever.

Well, not if I can help it.

#BlogTour The Gardner’s Daughter by Kathryn Hitchins @KathrynHitchins

Amazon

Release date: March 15, 2018

Blurb:

Motherless nineteen-year-old Ava has always believed brilliant botanist Theo Gage to be her father. But when a chance discovery reveals she is not his daughter, her world falls apart. Determined to discover her true identity, Ava impetuously runs away and enlists the help of inexperienced private detective, Zavier Marshall. Pursued by shadowy figures, she takes on a new name and follows in her dead mother’s footsteps to work at the mysterious Fun World Holiday Camp. Penniless and cut-off from everything she’s ever known, and trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a ruthless criminal gang, will Ava survive in a world where she s more valuable dead than alive? Will she discover the shocking truth behind her mother’s death? And will she find her real father before it s too late?

I’m delighted to have on my blog today, K A Hitchins, author of The Girl at the End of the Road and The Key of All Unknown, both short-listed for Woman Alive magazine’s Reader Choice Award 2017. I asked her about the inspiration of her latest novel, The Gardener’s Daughter, released on 15 March 2018.

“It was only when I lost my father and began speaking to friends about what he had meant to me that I realised how many people don’t have a good relationship with their dads, or even had any real contact with them during their childhoods.  I decided I wanted to write a novel about how much our identity is tied up with knowing where we’ve come from.

“A friend had told me of a girl who’d discovered in her teens that she was the result of an extra-marital affair. The other man had backed off when he realised his lover was pregnant with his child. The marriage survived the affair and – after seeing the ultrasound scan – the husband decided to commit himself to raising the baby with his wife. He adopted her officially when she was born, to prevent the biological father coming back on the scene in later years. The girl had a normal and happy childhood, but in her teens her parents told her that her Dad was not her biological father.”

That must have been quite a shock. How did she react?

She was completely devastated: her older sister was her half-sister; her beloved paternal grandparents were not relatives at all. There was a short spell of rebellion before, thankfully, she managed to work through these issues.

So this was the inspiration for your third novel?

Yes. This story fascinated me. I began to realise that many of the positive things in my life were a direct result of the happy and secure upbringing my parents had given me, rather than any intrinsic goodness or talent in me. I decided I wanted to write about identity and how this is affected by the fathers we have – good fathers, bad fathers and absent fathers. My motherless nineteen-year-old heroine, Ava Gage, accidentally discovers she’s adopted when trying to do a good turn for her Godfather. In a fit of anger, she impetuously runs away in search of her biological identity. Penniless and cut-off from everything she’s ever known, and trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a ruthless criminal gang, she unearths the shocking truth behind her mother’s death and discovers who her real father is – with a sprinkling of romance and humour along the way!

‘The Gardener’s Daughter’ is a Young Adult thriller. Have you written YA before?

This was my first attempt at YA, but as I have two teenagers at home I thought I would try and write something that would appeal to them. My first novel, The Girl at the End of the Road, is a mystery/romance about a man who loses everything in the credit crunch and goes back home to live with his parents in the Suffolk village of his birth. He bumps into a mysterious woman from his past and discovers that things are not always what they seem, people aren’t always who they appear to be, and a ‘successful life’ depends very much on your perspective.

My second novel, The Key of All Unknown, is the story of brilliant scientific researcher who wakes up in hospital unable to speak or move and with no recollection of what happened to her. Determined to find answers and prove to her family and doctors that she’s not in a persistent vegetative state, she searches for clues in the conversations she overhears and in the fractured memories that haunt her. Slowly realising that nearly everyone she loves or works with has a motive for wanting her dead, her only hope of survival is to discover the truth and unlock the key of all unknown.

I have to admit, that writing YA was more difficult than I envisaged. Having two novels under my belt I thought it would be a breeze to write something for a younger audience but in fact the opposite is true. It isn’t a question of simplifying the writing. Teenagers don’t like to be talked down to, and they won’t waste their time reading something unless they’re gripped from the word go and the storyline relates to the issues in their life.  After all, YA authors aren’t just competing with each other for teenagers’ attention, they’re competing with computer games, YouTube, and social media. Thankfully, the initial pre-release reviews have all been five star, so I must have done something right!

Author Bio

K A Hitchins studied English, Religious Studies and Philosophy at Lancaster University and later obtained a Masters in Postmodern Literatures in English from Birkbeck College, London University. Her debut novel, The Girl at the End of the Road, was published by Instant Apostle in March 2016, followed by The Key of All Unknown in October 2016. Both books were short-listed for Woman Alive magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award 2017, with The Key of All Unknown reaching the final three. Her third novel The Gardener’s Daughter was published on 15 March 2018. She is married with two children and lives in Hertfordshire.

Website Link www.kahitchins.co.uk

Twitter @KathrynHitchins

Facebook Kathryn Hitchins

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015464465799

K A Hitchins, Author page

https://www.facebook.com/KathrynHitchins/

Instagram kathryn_hitchins

#BlogTour Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil @jeanmcneilwrite @legend_press

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: February 15, 2018

Publisher: Legend Press

Genre:

Blurb:

When NGO worker Nick drops unexpectedly into the lives of Pieter and Sara Lisson, he feels he has found the parents he never had. Nick is enraptured by their lives of splendour and acclaim as much as the stirring setting of the African city where they live, but he soon senses a secret at the heart of his new family. Nick then meets Riaan, the Lissons’ son, and so begins an intense connection that threatens to erupt into a relationship neither had ever considered. In the shadow of the Brandberg, the glowing mountain that stands at the heart of the desert, Nick will discover that his passion for Riaan is not the only fire which threatens his newfound home.

I’m so pleased to be the stop on the blog tour for Fire on the Mountain today! I have an extract to share with you all.

Extract:

I

‘Nice part of town,’ the taxi driver said, as soon as I gave him the address. I couldn’t read the tone in his voice – envy, rue, contempt. Perhaps all three.

We began the long ascent of the mountain. I craned my neck to look at the city beneath us. I could see where I had come from now, the wide-mouthed harbour anked by half- nished highways. This was where I’d been marooned for days. Some of the overhead yways simply stopped abruptly halfway along the roadway, like the highest platform in a diving pool. From up here the gigantic Chinese container ships and oil rigs looked so much smaller. I allowed my eye to skate over the ship, but even so my heart lurched as its green hull ashed at me in the mid-day sun.

We kept ascending, so quickly my ears popped. I could smell jasmine and frangipani through the car windows. We wound through tree-darkened avenues. The houses expanded with each metre climbed until they were full- blown palaces. Finally the taxi delivered me to a sandstone- coloured structure perched on the side of the mountain. It looked like a house you might nd in a Dutch village, adapted for life in the subtropics.

‘I didn’t know it was possible to live this far up,’ I said to the taxi driver.

‘It is if you’ve got enough money.’

I buzzed the gate and spoke to a woman’s voice – Sara, I supposed. The gate slid open and we glided up the drive, so steep it felt like being in a funicular. Stout plants clambered over the terraced levels on either side of the driveway; they were spiky and bulbous at the same time, with avid, rubbery leaves.

A blond woman with jade green eyes descended the steps to the house. She seemed to oat; her sense of ownership was that complete. She was long-legged, dressed in white trousers and a sand-coloured blouse.

‘Pieter is out running,’ Sara said, as she gave me her hand. ‘He’s training for the marathon.’

‘Oh.’ I nearly said, but I thought he was a writer. I’d never pictured a writer running a marathon.

‘Come in, let me get you some coffee.’

I dropped my bags. I saw her eye glance at them nervously, as if I had brought dogs and not luggage. She motioned for me to sit in the living room.

When I entered the room I couldn’t help but stop and stand stock-still. My jaw may even have fallen open.

‘Quite the view, isn’t it?’ Her voice, the cool neutrality of it, told me that many a guest had been similarly stopped in their tracks.

The wide arc of the bay was stretched out before us. In the distance was the low, whale-like back of Garzia Island, which even with my slim knowledge of the city I knew was a former penal colony from when the Portuguese were still loitering on this promontory of the planet, hoping for lucre.

To the right of Garzia Island were blonde hills which gleamed like ax in the sun. The mountain with its strenuous attened peak lled an entire window. The living room was glass on two sides. The thought entered and exited my mind, too eeting to matter. People in glass houses.

Sara went to the kitchen. Later she would tell me she asked me to sit down three times that morning but as soon as I sat I stood up again.

I could not tear my eyes away from the mountain. The jagged peak that marked one undulation of its range soared into the sky, piercing a hole in it. Next to the house a date palm towered, its trunk of scaled chocolate bark perfectly offsetting the dark shale of the mountain. Straight ahead was the ocean; off to one side was the harbour, half-hidden behind a headland. My eye rested on it again for a second. The ship, patiently waiting alongside the quay.

I reminded myself it was Saturday. Tomorrow the ship will leave.

‘So,’ Sara began, when she nally got me off my feet. ‘How long are you here for?’

‘I’m not sure. I – I’ve just had a change of plan.’

She nodded, calmly. If she had been English, alarm bells would already have been sounding in her mind: How long will I be stuck with this person? Why does he have so much baggage? Why has a random contact of our niece ended up on our doorstep?

‘Well this is as good a place as any to have your plans change.’ She smiled easily, warmly, I thought. ‘You can certainly stay here as long as you like. We’ve got no one coming until April.’

It was mid-December. ‘It shouldn’t be that long, at least I hope not,’ I said. ‘I’ll just make some arrangements for my trip home, and then let you know.’

‘That’s absolutely ne. It’s a pleasure to have a friend of Ruth’s here.’ Her delivery was unruf ed, awless.

I accepted Sara’s invitation to join her on a walk on the mountain behind the house. She met me at the bottom of the steps. She’d changed into trim shorts. She must have been in her late fties or early sixties but her legs were perfect; there was nothing of the tell-tale bulge of skin at the knees, or those black spidering veins. I stared long enough for her to take my amazement as a compliment, perhaps, because she gave a sudden smile.

We started down the road, which soon ended in a paved cul-de-sac. From it a path led into a sparse forest. It was dry as tinder in areas, the ground parched and weedy. All

the trees and owers we passed were unfamiliar – thick, bulbous owers. They looked water-hungry but somehow thrived in the seasonally dry climate.

We came to a ssure in the mountain. The sound of water cascading came to meet us. The trees parted to reveal a narrow stream.

‘Slaves would come here to wash clothes,’ Sara said. Her voice was complex – rich, melodic, but with a tinge of darkness to it, or perhaps this saturnine note was code for her disapproval of the city’s history.

I looked up, trying to nd the mountain’s summit among clouds. I could feel it, somehow, that this shaded bower had once been a place of hardship. Alongside the river were stone steps, knee-worn through hundreds of years of prostrations, and beside them, at, table-like washing rocks. I could see the interlacing strata of grey mudstone and sandstone, its outer shield dark shale. Then layers of granite: feldspar, quartz, black mica, all glittering in the strange bright light.

Sara smiled. ‘You seem trans xed.’

‘By the mountain? I guess so. I used to be a geologist.’ ‘But now you work for a humanitarian relief organisation.

How does that t in?’

I was used to this comment. I can’t work you out, people

– colleagues, my line manager, strangers met on planes, would say.

‘It’s complicated.’ I offered an apologetic smile.

‘Everything’s complicated.’ Her laugh was itself complex, rueful, rise-above-it-all. ‘Pieter should be back about lunch- time. He’ll need to take a shower and wind down.’

‘Does he often train for marathons?’

‘Oh yes, and cycle races, triathlons, endurance contests. Everyone does that here.’

By everyone she couldn’t have meant the squatter camps I’d seen on the way in from the airport, their faded tutti- frutti shacks, people inside broiled alive by tin roofs in the

summer and congealed in winter. They were enrolled in a different endurance contest.

We arrived back at the house. Sara showed me to their guest at, which was self-contained but attached to the main house through an internal door. She told me they had designed and built the at themselves, and that she used to see her clients there while Pieter worked in his basement of ce.

By then the sun parried the swift ocean clouds for position and shone through, the light bright, carrying within it the promise of a humid heat, should the clouds dissolve. I stood in the light for a minute as Sara undid the three locks and de-activated the house alarm. I registered what was about to happen to me. For a moment, I thought I would be alright. But I could only watch helplessly as the air gathered itself into blackberries, then went dark.

‘We thought we’d lost you there.’

up.It felt like I was lying on concrete. I realised I was. I sat

I opened my eyes into the face of a blond-haired man. He was crouching on one knee. His ngers were wrapped around my wrist. He might be a doctor. There was a clinical glint in his gaze. His voice was familiar, somehow, although I’d never seen him before.

‘Nothing to be sorry about. We’d like you to lie down inside, though. You might nd that more comfortable.’

‘Hey, take it easy.’

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘I haven’t been sleeping well,’ I said, as the man helped me to my feet. ‘I haven’t been eating either.’

‘Not sleeping and not eating, hey?’ His tone was avuncular, but suspicious.

‘I’ve been under a lot of stress – at home.’

‘That’s ne, Nick, don’t worry,’ Sara’s voice came from somewhere behind me. ‘We just want to make sure you’re alright. You fainted stone dead, there.’

I realised the man was Pieter. ‘We’re going to put you in bed and then we’ll call Marina, our doctor.’

‘No!’ I nearly shouted. ‘I mean, I don’t want to put you to any trouble. Please don’t make a fuss. It’s just dehydration. I’ll take a couple of salt sachets. I’m not concussed. I’ll be ne.’

They looked at me in tandem, a double-headed puppet of concern, the same kind-but-wary expressions on their tanned, shining faces. They don’t know you from Adam, I told myself. You have to reassure them.

‘I’ve had some dif cult decisions to make recently, and it’s left me very strung out. But I’m ne, now.’

Sara gave me the sturdy, professional look psychiatrists likely turn on liars.

‘Okay, Nick. But take those salts and get some sleep. We’ll check on you in a few hours.’

When I woke it was late afternoon. My bedroom had a patio door. I opened it and was confronted with a garden, two chairs, and the same panoramic view of the harbour and mountain, although the majestic sweep I’d admired in the living room was curtailed by the curve of the house.

The light lay in gold ribbons on the anks of the mountain. A heat haze had settled over the harbour, blurring the outlines of supertankers. My eye scurried over the quay where the ship was moored but not before I’d seen that it was still there.

I resolved to tell Pieter and Sara the truth, of my fainting spell, why I was here, why I had no idea how long I would stay. They had been kind to me, they deserved to know.

Pieter appeared from around a corner. He wore a crisp white shirt tucked into jeans and a leather belt. He was barefoot and his hair was plastered to his head from his shower. He was very thin – one of those men who are naturally so. You could see the architecture of the bones and muscles in his face.

‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Much better.’

‘You haven’t got a headache?’

‘No, nothing like that. No concussion.’

‘That’s good. I had one once. I came off my bike, just up

there, on the mountain.’

This was the moment in which I would say, Look, I’ve

just made this crazy decision I don’t understand. I’m not supposed to be here, but I’ve got nowhere to go.

We turned our faces in tandem, like sun owers, toward the setting sun.

‘This time of year the sun rises in the sea and sets behind the mountain – we get light all day,’ Pieter said. ‘The people who live on the other side are spared the wind but they get far less light.’

My confession unravelled itself, or it abandoned me, or I let it be carried away by the moment. I had so little experience with secrets, guilty or otherwise. I’d never liked them; a secret was a dripping overheated greenhouse.

‘I’ve never been anywhere the wind is so erce in the summer,’ I said.

‘Not like that in England, is it?’

A dog appeared, a mongrel, or a cross, a bullish dog with a bruiser’s face.

‘Hello, Lucy.’ He turned to me and grinned. ‘The name doesn’t really t the face, does it. But she’s a sweetheart. Arr! Grrr!’ He planted his legs wide apart, a position of mock threat. Lucy went wild with pleasure, charging away, thrilled, then turning on a dime to come back to face the monster.

Behind Pieter I saw a bright light that seemed to zing from inside him in a perfect giant Z, a ash of miniature lightning.

‘What was that?’

‘Transformer.’ Pieter pointed to a sizzling cylinder nestling in a telegraph pole halfway down the road. ‘They often explode – too much load on the system. Don’t be alarmed if the electricity cuts out. We have candles.’

He turned back to the dog, who rushed at him, growling, purple gums bared. For a moment I thought she would bite. But she stuck her head between his calves and squealed with delight.

‘We have rolling electricity cuts, this time of year,’ he went on. ‘They announce them in the paper, supposedly, but it can cut out any time.’

‘Are there shortages?’

‘Ah, if only it were that easy. No, it’s corruption, mis- management. A new government is about to be elected, although we’re in a one-party state, effectively. It makes you appreciate how useful it is to have two political parties contesting each other, however bad either of them will be. At least it bestows symmetry if not a chance for historical dialectic.’

His speech reminded me of the policy analysts in our of ce in London. I wasn’t used to athletic, vital men who were also intellectuals, if that’s what Pieter was. I lived in a country where a certain kind of man got things done, and a certain kind of man thought about things. Perhaps here they could be one and the same.

‘It’s not only power, but other infrastructure.’ He pointed into the harbour. Along its perimeter, an eight-lane highway conveyed sun-glinted cars into the interior like platelets rushing down an artery. Pieter told me that the diving board freeways I’d seen on my way in had been built in a spasm of economic optimism, which had just expired.

‘You are English, aren’t you?’ he peered at me.

‘The way you say it, it’s not a good thing to be.’

‘Well, it might not be, you know. The English don’t

have a good reputation in this country. They quashed the independence movement, then established a colonial system that set the country back a hundred years.’

‘I am,’ I conceded. ‘But I don’t feel very English. I was brought up all over the place – South America, Canada, the Caribbean.’

‘Was your father a diplomat?’

‘My mother, actually.’

‘Ah,’ Pieter gave a thin smile. ‘I fell into that trap didn’t I? Sorry. You know, you don’t look English either. You’re too dark. In fact you don’t look anything.’ He smiled. If I had known him better then I would have said I always felt like someone drawn in pencil. A child’s drawing of a man, maybe. Anyone could take an eraser and rub me out.

‘I’m impressed you still have the energy to play with the dog,’ I said. ‘After all that running.’

Sara answered for him. She emerged from the patio into the full sun, her hair gleaming. ‘Pieter’s got amazing energy. You’ll see.’

I turned to face Sara. ‘It must be so gruelling.’

‘Yes, it is sometimes.’ Sara smiled.

‘No, I didn’t mean… I meant the training.’

Sara only laughed. ‘Get some sleep, Nick. And don’t

forget to rehydrate.’

There was something jarring in her voice, not dismissive

but rather ironic, as if they still did not believe my story. I turned to look into her eyes. The note in her gaze was evaluative – masculine, I would have said until recently, but I realise now that this is a shorthand for something intangible I associate with men: a streamlining of judgement, an absence of empathy, or perhaps better said, a professionalisation of it. Or maybe just something withheld.

I went to bed in their granny at. Despite my fatigue I could not get to sleep for a long time. I listened to the night wind, which sliced sideways along the garden. Through a ssure in the curtain I saw the lights of the city stretched around the bay, a semi-circle of distant ickering candles.

I found myself thinking of Sara, of her contained quality. Her jade eyes and heart-shaped face. She was a professional, well-to-do, elegant woman who drove a Mercedes, but I had a sense this version of her was a decoy.

As I fell asleep that night in my new bed I thought, these are the strangest days I have lived in years, possibly in my

whole life. Here I am, in the house lled with people I don’t know, in a city where I never expected to spend more than a few days, telling lies, or no, that’s not quite right: not telling the truth. Why then do I feel such serenity, as if I have come home?

#BlogTour An Unquiet Ghost by Linda Stratmann @SapereBooks @LindaStratmann

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: March 1, 2018

Publisher: Sapere

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Blurb:

Mina Scarletti returns in her most thrilling mystery yet! Perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and Antonia Hodgson…

A family is being torn apart by rumours of a murderer in their midst. Can Mina solve the mystery and lay the ghosts to rest?

Brighton, 1871 .

Mina Scarletti is becoming well known for unmasking fraudulent psychics. So it is no surprise to her when a young couple write to her seeking her advice.

George Fernwood and Mary Clifton, betrothed distant cousins, have a family secret that is preventing them from getting married. Twenty years ago, their alcoholic grandfather died in his bed and since then rumours have been circulating that someone in the family murdered him.

Desperate to find out the truth, they have decided to seek out a medium to communicate with their grandfather, and they want Mina to help them find one who is genuine.

Though she is not a believer in ghosts, Mina is intrigued by the family mystery and decides to help them in any way she can.

Could one of the new mediums advertising in Brighton really be genuine? Will they help George and Mary find the answers they are looking for?

Or will this Unquiet Ghost ruin the chance of happiness for future generations …?

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for An Unquiet Ghost! I have an extract to share today.

Extract:

Chapter One

Brighton, 1871

‘The land of the dead’ wrote Mina Scarletti, ‘is like a mysterious, unknowable sea. It has no horizon; we cannot see where it begins or where it ends, if indeed, it does either. It has no floor, but its shadowy depths go on forever, and sometimes, there arise from the silent deep strange monsters.’ She laid the end of her pen against her lips and paused for thought.

Mina’s busy imagination was peopled with ghosts and demons. They lived in her dreams and on the pages of her stories, but not in her daily anxieties. Other worlds, she felt, must take care of themselves while she concerned herself with more immediate problems; her mother’s changeable moods, her sister Enid’s unhappy marriage and her younger brother Richard’s inability to find a respectable career. At that very moment, however, Mina was luxuriating in the absence of any demands on her time.

Winter in Brighton was, for those who liked to stay by their own fireside and avoid the centre of town, a season of the most beautiful peace. The oft-deplored Sunday excursion trains, which brought noisy crowds to the streets, had ceased to run at the end of October. November 5th had, as was usual, come and gone without any noticeable disturbances beyond the odd mischievously dropped squib, since the annual drunken dances around roaring bonfires took place several miles away in Lewes.

The professional gentlemen and their families had taken their autumnal holidays and were long gone, and the idle fashionables were arriving. Glittering convocations, balls and suppers that were wont to go on into the small hours of the morning and disturb nearby residents with the rattle of carriages and cabriolets were held far from Mina’s home in Montpelier Road, and would not trouble her. More to the point, she had the house almost to herself since her mother was in London trying to soothe Enid, whose twin boys were teething with extraordinary vigour. Richard was also in the capital, lodging with their older brother Edward, after reluctantly, and almost certainly briefly, accepting work as a clerk in the Scarletti publishing company.

Rain pattered on glass like insistently tapping fingers, but Mina had no wish to heed this dangerous call. In the cold street beyond her heavily curtained windows breezes that carried the salt sting of the sea tore mercilessly at the cloaks of passers-by, and a steel sky clouded the sun. Mina’s small fragile body did not do well in inclement weather, and she tried not to go out too often in the winter because of the danger of catching a chill in her cramped lungs. The recent charitable bazaar in aid of the children’s hospital presided over by illustrious patronesses and held at the Dome had not tempted her, since the crowded conditions were fumed with coughs and agues. She had contented herself with making a personal donation by post. Neither had she gone to see the much talked about panorama of Paris, depicted both in its old grandeur and the conflagrations that had spelled the end of the recent violent disturbances.

Once a week, carefully wrapped against the cold, she took a cab to Dr Daniel Hamid’s medicated Indian herbal baths where, enveloped in hot towels, she bathed in scented vapour that opened her airways and eased her chest. Afterwards, the doctor’s sister, Anna, a skilled masseuse, used fragrant oils to dispel the strains arising from Mina’s twisted spine, and taught her exercises to develop the muscles of her back so as to better support that obstinately distorted column of bones. Mina had last visited the baths only the day before and consequently was almost free from pain.

Mina’s bedroom on the first floor of the house was her haven, where she sat at her writing desk, one hip supported by a special wedge shaped cushion that enabled her to sit upright, and created her dark tales. The dumbbells she used for her daily exercises were hidden at the bottom of her wardrobe. Even as she reflected on the quiet she was enjoying she feared that it was only a matter of time before the house was in some kind of ferment not of her making, which she would be obliged to address, and then her back and neck would start to pinch again, but on that blissful evening, with the fire crackling in the grate, her new composition begun, and a nice little fowl roasting for her dinner, all was well.

There was a knock at her door, and Rose, the general servant, appeared holding an envelope. Rose was a sturdy, serious girl who worked hard and uncomplainingly, trudging up and down the flights of stairs that linked the basement kitchen with three upper floors, keeping winter fires burning, running errands in all weathers, and coping with the petulant demands of Mina’s mother and the turmoil that usually resulted from Richard’s unannounced visits. ‘I’m sorry to disturb you, Miss, but it’s one of those letters. Shall I put it on the fire?’

Mina hesitated, but she had reached a pause in her work, and a moment more would make no difference. She laid down her pen. ‘Thank you, Rose, let me see it first.’

From time to time letters would arrive in a variety of hands that Mina did not recognise, addressed to ‘Miss Scarletti, Brighton’. The authors had read in the newspapers of her appearance to give evidence at the recent trial of the mediumistic fraud Miss Eustace and her confederates in crime, which had resulted in those persons being committed to prison for extortion. The unknown correspondents had guessed that due to Mina’s unusual surname, letters with such an apparently insufficient address would be safely delivered, and so, all too often, they were. Since the trial had featured prominently in both The Times and the Illustrated Police News, these letters came from every corner of the kingdom.

Some correspondents believed that they could persuade Mina of the great truth of spiritualism, and wrote earnestly and at great length on the subject, declaring their fervent belief in such miscreants as D. D. Home, the celebrated medium who had tried to cheat an elderly lady out of her fortune, and Mrs Guppy, a lady of substantial dimensions who claimed be able to fly using the power of the spirits, and pass through solid walls without making a hole. Others wanted to engage Mina’s services to investigate a fraudulent practitioner, distance of travel not being seen as any obstacle, on the assumption that she would be glad to pay her own way for the fame it would bring. There were also those who declared that she was undoubtedly a medium herself who would or could not acknowledge it, and offered to ‘develop’ her in that skill. It was with weary trepidation therefore that Mina opened the envelope, with the object of briefly reviewing the contents before they were consigned to the fire.

She found a single sheet of folded notepaper, printed with the name and address of Fernwood Groceries in Haywards Heath, a Sussex village not far from Brighton. ‘Quality! Freshness! Wholesomeness!’ she was promised, this notion being enhanced by an engraving of a plump, smiling child clutching a rusk. The letter, however, was not on the subject of foodstuffs.

Dear Miss Scarletti,

Please forgive me, a complete stranger, for writing to you, but I would not presume to do so unless I believed that you are able to assist me in a matter of great importance and delicacy. Please be assured that all I wish to humbly beg of you is your advice on a subject of which, I have been told, you have considerable knowledge.

My name is George Fernwood, and I recently became betrothed to a Miss Mary Clifton. We wish to marry in the spring. There is, however, a matter of grave concern to us, which I will not describe in this letter, but which we both feel should be resolved before we take that joyful step.

I hope you will permit us to call on you at whatever time would be most convenient to yourself.

Assuring you of my sincere and honest intentions,

Yours faithfully,

G. Fernwood.

‘Dinner in half an hour, Miss,’ said Rose, tonelessly. ‘Do you want boiled potatoes or boiled rice?’

Mina had eaten savoury rice when dining with Dr Hamid and his sister and knew how it ought to look and taste. ‘Potatoes, please,’ she said, absently, staring at the letter. ‘And when I have written a reply to this, you must take it to the post box.’

‘Yes, Miss.’ Rose’s face betrayed nothing of her thoughts, but there was something in the tilt of her head and a slight movement of her shoulders that said ‘I suppose you know your own business best.’

When the maid had returned downstairs, Mina read the letter again, considering why it was that she had decided to respond to Mr Fernwood’s plea. His words were polite and respectful, that much appealed to her, and his object, a warmly anticipated wedding, was commendable. Mina could not see how she might help the couple achieve happiness, but the letter hinted that there might be a mystery to be solved, and she thought that in that quiet November time, such a project might stimulate her mind. As she penned a reply, she did however wonder if she was once more about to explore the dusty veil that lay between the living and the dead.

Website: http://lindastratmann.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaStratmann?lang=en

Facebooks: https://www.facebook.com/Books-by-Linda-Stratmann-270261905489/

Blog Tour: Perfect Death by Helen Fields @Helen_Fields @AvonBooksUK

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK

Release date: January 25, 2018

Publisher: Avon Books UK

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

There’s no easy way to die…

Unknown to DI Luc Callanach and the newly promoted DCI Ava Turner, a serial killer has Edinburgh firmly in his grip. The killer is taking his victims in the coldest, most calculating way possible – engineering slow and painful deaths by poison, with his victims entirely unaware of the drugs flooding their bloodstream until it’s too late.

But how do you catch a killer who hides in the shadows? A killer whose pleasure comes from watching pain from afar? Faced with their most difficult case yet, Callanach and Turner soon realise they face a seemingly impossible task…

Hey everyone! I’m so excited to be sharing an extract from Perfect Death today as part of the blog tour. This series has been on my TBR for far too long and 2018 will be the year I get on it.

Extract:

Extract Four: Chapter 23, p.156

He got up, brushing spiders from his head, pointing the torch back towards the rear of the hut. Pushing between a couple of old ale barrels, he tried not to breathe in the foul air, wishing he’d ignored Jones’ request and brought backup. As he avoided an old badger trap, his foot landed on something that managed to be both soft and crunchy at once. He shone the light downwards as he stepped back. The fingers on which he’d trodden curled inwards. Callanach knelt down, shining the light up and down the torso, knowing that it was too late. The bodies of the living didn’t generally smell like this. Jones has lost control of his bowels, bladder too from the looks of the floor. Laying down the torch and taking a knife from his pocket, he cut through the gaffer tape that had been sealed around Jones’ neck and removed a bag from the head.

‘Louis?’ Callanach said, tapping his cheek lightly. Something felt wrong. Jones’ face, whilst warm, wasn’t moving the way he expected it to. The lower half was stiff and inflexible. Holding the torch in his mouth, Callanach got a better look. As he slid one hand beneath Jones’ head, his fingers plunged into a warm wet mess, stringy to touch with boney splinters in the mix. ‘Fuck!’ He pulled his hand back out, watching the grey red mixture slide off his fingertips. Louis Jones was dead, and no amount of resuscitation was going to make any difference. His brains were currently decorating a wide section of the floor, the entrance wound a neat black hole on his forehead. Flashing the light slightly downwards, Callanach took a closer look at Jones’ mouth. His bottom lip had been pulled upwards over the top lip and a nail gun had been used to send an industrial pin into his upper palate.

Oohh that’s so creepy!! Just my style haha.

Blog Tour: Appetite by Anita Cassidy @AnitaCassidy76 @RedDoorBooks

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: January 11, 2018

Publisher: Red Door Books

Blurb:

Because everyone hungers for something…

Food and Sex: two appetites the modern world stimulates, but also the ones we are expected to keep under control. But what happens when we don’t?

Embarking on an affair, lonely wife and mother Naomi blossoms sexually in a false spring while David, the fattest boy at the local comprehensive and best friend of her son, struggles to overcome bullying and the apathy of his divorced mother.

David finally starts to learn about the mechanisms of appetite through a science project set by his intelligent but jaded teacher, Matthew. David’s brave efforts to change himself open Matthew’s eyes to his activist girlfriend’s dangerous plans to blow up VitSip, a local energy-drink company where Naomi works.

At the mercy of their appetites, this exciting debut novel shows that some hungers can never be satisfied…

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Appetite! I have an extract from the book to share today.

Chapter One Monday 7th January

David

Looking down, resting awkwardly against a lamp post, David kept out of sight of the school for a little longer. He always did this. And he always spent the time hoping, after each blink, that his eyes would open to find the buildings blown up or the pavement underneath him bathed in a strange, pale light before it fell away, his body being sucked up into a spaceship full of friendly, intelligent (female) aliens. But the bomb never fell, the UFO never came. With appalling consistency, it always got to 8.45, the bell always began to ring and he always had to walk over the road and through the gates.

Even while he had been enjoying the coloured lights and comforts of the recent Christmas holidays, this had been on the edge of his mind, causing the same lingering sense of unease as a receding nightmare. When he wasn’t imagining the destruction of the school or the convenient abduction of himself, he was watching. Watching grey trousers and grey jackets against grey concrete. A parade of uniform and uniformity marching steadily towards black gates holding black bags. And there, with blazers stretched across their backs, bunching up under the armpits and pulled taut across the hips, were the fat kids. Winter coats hung open loosely. They rarely fitted properly anyway, but after Christmas? Well, you could just forget about buttons then. They were, as always, bringing up the rear, looking only at the ground as they lumbered towards the looming metal gates, some of them quickly finishing chocolate bars and bags of crisps as they walked, the actual cause of and the imagined cure for their misery scrunched up and tossed on to the pavement before they entered the playground.

I hate fat kids, thought David. Everyone hates fat kids. Or pities them. Which is even worse.

Watching them as they went through the school gates was like watching a grinding-machine at work. Hard cogs relentlessly turning, breaking things down, chewing them up. Once he stepped inside he was trapped: as far from home and its comforts as he would ever be.

Today, he thought, should be a good day. Today, I am feeling unusually angry. These days, the days when he felt this rage, were the easy ones. It was the sad days he found the hardest to bear. Days when the sadness was there when he woke up in the morning and followed him until nightfall like a weary shadow. The sadness was viscous, a tar pool that pulled at him, wanting to drag him under.

But today he was angry, and the edge that gave him made what lay ahead seem more tolerable.

The bell rang.

Crossing the invisible line that traced across the tarmac, he felt his back go rigid.

‘Hey, fat fuck!’

‘Who ate all the mince pies? Pretty bloody obvious from here…’

‘I didn’t think it was possible for you to get fatter, but Jesus…’

And it wasn’t just the older kids. The younger ones taunted him too. Taunted and laughed.

Automatically and unconsciously, David’s shoulders hunched and his head went down. It was an attempt, no matter how futile, to minimise the space he filled. The rage, though it formed a hard carapace around his mind, was as ineffectual at protecting him from the verbal assault course he was enduring as the rounding of his shoulders was at disguising a simple fact. The simple fact that, of all the fat kids, he, David, was the fattest.

Blog Tour: Forget Her Name by Jane Holland #GuestPost @janeholland1 @rararesources

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK

Release date: January 25, 2018

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Rachel’s dead and she’s never coming back. Or is she?

As she prepares for her wedding to Dominic, Catherine has never been happier or more excited about her future. But when she receives an anonymous package—a familiar snow globe with a very grisly addition—that happiness is abruptly threatened by secrets from her past.

Her older sister, Rachel, died on a skiing holiday as a child. But Rachel was no angel: she was vicious and highly disturbed, and she made Catherine’s life a misery. Catherine has spent years trying to forget her dead sister’s cruel tricks. Now someone has sent her Rachel’s snow globe—the first in a series of ominous messages…

While Catherine struggles to focus on her new life with Dominic, someone out there seems intent on tormenting her. But who? And why now? The only alternative is what she fears most.

Is Rachel still alive?

I’m so excited to be one of the stops on the blog tour for Forget Her Name today! I have a fabulous guest post from the author to share.

Guest Post:

A Day in Your Life by Jane Holland

Although I do the same things most days, the order in which I do them is usually different, and that’s the way I like it. I enjoy the routine and discipline of daily writing. But I’m easily bored, and anything too same-old or rigid would drive me crazy. So though I write every day, for anything between one to five hours, it tends to happen in a different place and at a different time from day-to-day.

I get up early with the kids, two of whom go to school. My first hour after they’ve left is usually spent on answering emails, dealing with admin, and social media (a must these days for writers who want to find and keep a readership). I then either write during the day, or put it off until the evening, depending on daily circumstances.

Some days I go out to a café and write there, straight to my laptop. In spring and summer, I sit on my decking in the sunshine and write long-hand, much to the fascination of our two cats, who often come to see what I’m doing! I also rent a Cornish beach hut fifteen minutes away, with a stove to make coffee, where I can work all day, weather permitting.

Sometimes I sit up in bed to work. Sometimes I use my desk. Sometimes I stay up to write after everyone else is in bed, late into the night. Occasionally, I will dictate rather than type, to save my fingers!

I take numerous hotel breaks where I work flat-out over the kids’ half-term or a long weekend. I also rent a cottage twice a year for a week or two, and hunker down there on my own, achieving a great swathe of fast writing without interruption while my husband holds the fort.

After a year’s break, I’m currently home-schooling my youngest daughter again – I have five kids altogether – so that’s made work a little complicated. Luckily, Indigo also loves cafés and the beach hut! So we sit opposite each other, and I write my book for an hour or two while she does school work or perhaps some sketching. (Art is her favourite subject, and she’s very talented at it; she wants to be a professional artist when she grows up.) During school days, I tend to write later in the day, so I can spend more time teaching her. Then I catch up with my word count late at night or at weekends!

As you can see, my only constant is the fact that I get the writing done on a daily basis. Everything else is subject to change! My minimum daily word count is 1000 words, which is an industry standard, but I always hope for double that. On good days, or on retreat, I write nearer five thousand. I tend to edit as I go along, getting everything as perfect as possible, rather than write a ‘dirty fast’ draft. This is because I get bored with a book after it’s done, and hate rewrites!

In the afternoon, all my kids return to the house, and things get too rowdy for work. I usually cook the children their meal earlier than ours, so I spend at least an hour, sometimes more, in the kitchen most evenings. But that means I get to hear what everyone has done during the day, which I love, being a very hands-on mum. Often our conversations turn into an impromptu lesson about politics, history or science … a hang-over from the days when all my kids were home-schooled! But my teenage twin boys are autistic, and love accumulating facts, so they seem to enjoy the extra learning time.

Later, I eat a meal with my husband, and we watch the news, or a film or television show together. That’s an important time for us, to reconnect and share anecdotes about our day. We’re both screen fiends, so we’re often also online while watching a boxset or Netflix, sharing news developments or other internet stuff.

If I’m up against it with a deadline, I might then crack on with my novel or network on social media or write a blog post like this for a couple more hours after my husband’s gone to bed. (He has to get up much earlier than me!) Otherwise, I’ll go to bed and devour a couple of chapters of my current reading book until my eyelids close …

And that’s essentially a typical day for me as a novelist.

Love getting a peek into a typical day for Jane, thanks so much for sharing!

About the Author:

Jane Holland is a Gregory Award–winning poet and novelist who also writes commercial fiction under the pseudonyms Victoria Lamb, Elizabeth Moss, Beth Good and Hannah Coates. Her debut thriller, Girl Number One, hit #1 in the UK Kindle Store in December 2015. Jane lives with her husband and young family near the North Cornwall/Devon border. A homeschooler, her hobbies include photography and growing her own vegetables.

Social Media Links –

https://twitter.com/janeholland1

https://www.facebook.com/jane.holland.1253

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneHollandAuthor/