Thursday, May 26, 2022

SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: "THE RISING" by Kerry L Peresta

The Rising by Kerry L Peresta Banner

The Rising

by Kerry L Peresta

May 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Rising by Kerry L Peresta

After an assault that landed her in a hospital as a Jane Doe two years earlier, Olivia Callahan has regained her speech, movement, and much of the memory she lost due to a traumatic brain injury. The media hype about the incident has faded away, and Olivia is ready to rebuild her life, but her therapist insists she must continue to look back in order to move forward. The only person that can help her recall specifics is her abusive ex-husband, Monty, who is in prison for murder. The thought of talking to Monty makes her skin crawl, but for her daughters’ sake and her own sanity, she must learn more about who she was before the attack.

Just as the pieces of her life start falling into place, she stumbles across the still-warm body of an old friend who has been gruesomely murdered. Her dream of pursuing a peaceful existence is shattered when she learns the killer left evidence behind to implicate her in the murder. The only person that would want to sabotage her is Monty—but he’s in prison! Something sinister is going on, and Olivia is desperate to uncover the truth before another senseless murder is committed.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Suspense, Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 168512092X (ISBN-13: 978-1685120924)
Series: Olivia Callahan Suspense, Book 2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“How low you fall points to how high you’ll rise.”
~Matshona Dhliwayo

The stark buildings and barbed-wire-topped walls surrounding the correctional facility reminded me of a Hitchcock movie.

My fingers tightened on the steering wheel. I found a parking spot, and waited in the car a minute, taking in the starkness and finality of a prison compound. My heart did a little lurch when I thought about Monty—my ex-husband and the father of my two daughters—inside. Incarcerated. I guess since I hadn’t seen him since his indictment, it didn’t seem real.

However, I’d learned that having sympathy for Monty was like having sympathy for a snake just before it sank its fangs. “It’s been eighteen months. You can keep it together with this psycho,” I hissed to myself. I hiked my purse onto my shoulder and walked out into the buttery sunshine toward the visitors’ entrance.

I presented my driver’s license, endured a frisk, offered my hand for the fingerprint process, and walked through the metal detector, which of course, went off. With stoic resignation, I endured another frisk, a few hard glances from the guards, and eventually pulled the culprit from the pocket of my pants, an aluminum foil candy bar wrapper.

While I waited for Monty at one of the small, circular tables in the visitors’ room, I scanned the list of do’s and don’ts. Hands must be visible at all times. Vulgar language not allowed. No passing anything to the prisoner. No jewelry other than a wedding band or religious necklace.

I stared at my hands, sticky with sweat. My heart beat in my throat.

I lifted my curls off my forehead and fanned my face with one hand. Three other visitors sat at tables. One woman with graying hair piled like a crown on her head stared at the floor. When she noticed that I was looking at her, she raised her head and threw me a sad smile. A younger woman at another table struggled to keep two young children under control, and an older couple with stress-lined faces whispered to each other as they waited. The room had tan, cinder block walls, a drop-in ceiling with grid tiles that probably hid video cameras, and a single door. No windows. A scrawny, fake plant in one corner made a half-hearted attempt at civility.

The metal door opened. My thoughts were mush, a blender on high. Could I do this? After two years of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and every other kind of therapy the docs could throw at me, shouldn’t I react better than this?

Remember, they’re only feelings.

I squared my shoulders. Wiped my palms on my pants.

As Monty offered his cuffed wrists to the corrections officer, he scanned the room under lowered eyelids. When he saw me, he gave me a scorched- earth glare. After the guard removed his handcuffs, he shook out his arms and rubbed his wrists. The raven-black hair was longer, and brushed his shoulders. He’d been working out. A lot. He wore a loose-fitting top and pants. Orange. As usual, he was larger than life, and in the bright white of the visiting space, surrounded by matching plastic tables and chairs, he was a raven-haired Schwarzenegger in a room full of Danny DeVito’s. I’d once had hope for reconciliation. The thought gave me the shakes now.

He dropped into the chair across from me and plopped his hands on the table. “What do you want?”

I spent a few seconds examining his face—this man I’d spent twenty, long years trying to please, and the reason I’d been assaulted and left for dead by Niles Peterson, a wreck of a man whose life Monty had destroyed as well.

The man responsible for my convoluted recovery from a brain injury that stole my past. Even after two years, I still had huge gaps in my memory, and staring at him felt like staring at a stranger instead of an ex-husband. “My therapist says I need to look back to move forward. I wanted to ask you a few questions, that’s all.”

“Okay,” he grumbled. “I’ll give you a few minutes. Oh, and you’ll love this. I have to attend counseling sessions about how to keep my ‘darker dispositions’ under control, and I have one of those in thirty minutes.”

Resisting a smile, I quipped, “Are they helping?” He rolled his eyes. “What are the questions?”

“I still have problems remembering stuff. There are things I need to… figure out about who I was before—”

“Before you hooked up with my ole’ buddy Niles?” he interrupted, with a smirk. “Before you threw away everything we had? Before you got yourself in a situation that could’ve gotten you killed? Before you started treating me like a piece of shit?”

I was careful not to react. I’d had enough therapy to understand how to treat a control freak that tried to make me the reason he ended up in prison. That part of my life—the part where Monty had been in charge and his spouse had to obey or else—was over. “Are you done?” I asked.

He clamped his lips together.

I folded my hands on the table and leaned in. “I’ll get right to the point. What drew you to me in the first place? What was I like before the accident, from your perspective?”

Monty tried to get comfortable in the plastic chair. Beneath his immense bulk, it seemed like a child’s chair. “Is that how you’re dealing with it?” His lips twisted in disgust. “It was an assault, Olivia. He tried to rape you, for God’s sake.”

I looked away. “It’s over, and he’s in the ground, thanks to you.”

He crossed his arms and glared. A corrections officer lifted his hand. With a grunt, Monty slapped both hands on the small table where the officer could see them.

After a few beats, he sneered, “You mean besides the obvious attraction of an older guy to a high school girl?” “Give me a break, Monty.”

He chuckled. “You were kind of…I don’t know…scared. I was drawn to you in a protective way. You were shy.”

I frowned. “What was I scared of?”

“Your crazy mom had married some jerk that kept you off balance all the time. Don’t you remember him?”

I thought for a few seconds. Nothing came.

“That coma still messes with you, doesn’t it? Well…might be good not to remember. Maybe he did things to you that he shouldn’t have.” Monty raised his eyebrows up and down.

I wanted to slap him, but I kept my expression neutral.

“A brain injury recovery is unpredictable. I still lose memories, even if someone has drilled them into me. I’m trying to use visualization. I have this feeling…that if I can see it, the rest will be like dominos.”

“So you may not ever remember? Even the good things about our marriage?”

I laughed. “We must have very different perspectives about the word ‘good’, Monty.”

Monty’s jaw muscles flexed. “Next?”

“Was I a capable mother? Was I available and…loving to the kids?”

Maybe it was my imagination, but his lower lip quivered. Did the guy have a heart after all? I’d always believed he loved our daughters. I hoped this was true.

“Olivia, you were a good mother. We had our problems, but you made a good home, and took excellent care of the kids. You were at every freakin’ event, every school fundraiser, everything.” He scowled. “I took a big back seat to the kids.”

“What problems did we have? When did they start?”

He leaned in. “You don’t remember our sex life? How terrible it was? Nothing I could do would get you to….” He shook his head. “You couldn’t even fix a decent meal. You should have been grateful you married someone like me so I could…teach you things.”

CHAPTER ONE

“Keep your voice down!” I insisted, embarrassed.

He cocked his head and grinned. “You always had this…desperate need for my approval or whatever. And when you conveniently avoided telling me you weren’t taking birth control it caused a lot of issues that could’ve been avoided.” He snorted. “Like being in here.”

I tried to rein in my disgust.

“So, let me get this straight. Your priority in our marriage was sex and good food and to pin all our issues on your child bride?” My tone hardened. “A young woman who came from a single-parent home? Who had no understanding what a good and normal guy was like?”

He gave me a look that could peel the skin off my face.

“How did you react when I didn’t do things the way you wanted?” I continued.

“Like any man who’d been disrespected. I corrected the issue.”

“How? By yelling? Physical force? Kicking your pregnant wife in the stomach?” This was a memory I had recovered.

A vein pulsed in his neck.

“How often, Monty? Were these reactions a…a lifestyle in our marriage?” “Look,” he snarled, “I don’t know that this is productive.”

“It is for me,” I said, brightly.

I glanced at the closest officer. He had his hands full with an issue at one of the other tables.

“Mom told me that Serena and Lilly floated out to sea one time, on a rubber raft. Do you remember that?”

His eyes found a spot on the wall.

“So you do remember. What happened?”

“Look, they were, I don’t know, four and six or so. I didn’t think it would be a problem for me to run grab a drink from our bag, and come back. I was gone less than five minutes. How could I know they’d lose control of the raft?”

An earthquake of anger shot through me. “You turned your back on a four-year-old and a six-year-old and expected them to have control of a raft? They were babies!”

“Yeah. Well.” He rose. “Looks like this question thing of yours isn’t working for me.” He pushed his chair in with a bang. The correctional officer gave him a look. Monty strode to the officer’s station and held out his wrists. Adrenaline made me a little shaky after he’d gone, but it wasn’t from fear of the man. My therapist would call this real progress.

I left the room and gathered my things from the visitors’ processing center. As I walked out of the prison facility, all I could think about was…why? Why had I married this guy? And stayed for twenty years? I couldn’t even remember myself as a person who could do that.

At least I’d dragged more information out of him. I was determined to piece together the puzzle of the past I’d lost.

***

Excerpt from The Rising by Kerry L Peresta. Copyright 2022 by Kerry L Peresta. Reproduced with permission from Kerry L Peresta. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Kerry L Peresta

Kerry’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper column, “The Lighter Side,” (2009—2011), and magazine articles in Local Life Magazine, The Bluffton Breeze, Lady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is the author of three published novels, The Hunting, women’s fiction, The Deadening, Book One of the Olivia Callahan Suspense Series, and The Rising, Book Two. Book Three in this series releases in 2023 by Level Best Books. She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, editor, and copywriter. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, South Carolina Writers Association, and the Sisters in Crime organization. Kerry and her husband moved to Hilton Head Island, SC, in 2015. She is the mother of four adult children, and has a bunch of wonderful grandkids who remind her what life is all about.

Catch Up With Kerry L Peresta:
www.KerryPeresta.net
Goodreads
BookBub - @kerryperesta
Instagram - @kerryperesta
Twitter - @kerryperesta
Facebook - @klperesta

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

 

 

ENTER TO WIN:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for The Rising by Kerry L Peresta. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

 

 


Monday, May 23, 2022

SHOWCASE & GIVEAWAY "EXIT STRATEGY by Linda L Richards

Exit Strategy by Linda L Richards Banner

Exit Strategy

by Linda L. Richards

May 16 - June 10, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Exit Strategy by Linda L Richards

A shattered life. A killer for hire. Can she stop?

Her assignments were always to kill someone. That’s what a hitman—or hitwoman—is paid to do, and that is what she does. Then comes a surprise assignment—keep someone alive!

She is hired to protect Virginia Martin, the stunning and brilliant chief technology officer of a hot startup with an innovation that will change the world. This new job catches her at a time in her life when she’s hanging on by a thread. Despair and hopelessness—now more intense than she’d felt after the tragic loss of her family—led her to abruptly launch this career. But over time, the life of a hired killer is decimating her spirit and she keeps thinking of ending her life.

She’s confused about the “why” of her new assignment but she addresses her mission as she always does, with skill and stealth, determined to keep this young CTO alive in the midst of the twinned worlds of innovation and high finance.

Some people have to die as she discharges her responsibly to protect this superstar woman amid the crumbling worlds of money and future technical wonders.

The spirit of an assassin—and her nameless dog—permeates this struggle to help a young woman as powerful forces build to deny her.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dexter will love Exit Strategy.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: May 17th 2022
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1608094227 (ISBN13: 9781608094226)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Today

He proves to be a genial companion. I’d never doubted that he would. Across the table from him in a romantic restaurant, I can see his pale eyes are sparked with amber. Or is it gold? Maybe it depends on your perspective. A trick of the light.

So much of life, I’ve found, are those things: perspective and also light. Or maybe that’s saying exactly the same thing.

He tells me he’s in “finance,” a term that is vague enough to accommodate a whole range of activities. I’ve done some research, though, and I know he is a hedge fund manager; that his apartment in this town is a playpen: weekends only. I know he is based in the City and that he flies down here for the occasional weekend, especially since his divorce, which was messy. He doesn’t say that: “messy.” But when he briefly skates over that episode of his life—the period of time in which “we” became “me” —he makes a face that is unpleasant, like he’s got a bad taste in his mouth. I let it ride. Where we are going, it won’t make a difference.

He tells me funny, self-deprecating stories. I reflect that he is someone I would date—in another lifetime. If I dated. If I still had a heart.

“This is a fun first date,” he says in that moment, as though he has read my mind. His thick dark hair flops over his eye endearingly, and my heart gives a little flutter. I’d try to stop it, but I don’t hate the feeling. That flutter. It feels good, in this moment, to simply feel alive.

“Yesterday, Brett. Wasn’t that our first date?” I ask, more for interaction than anything real. Because, of course, the few moments on a rooftop we shared were not a date by any standard. Especially since I was trying to think how to kill him for part of that time. But he doesn’t know that, so maybe it doesn’t count?

“Nope,” he says firmly. “That was a meeting. This,” he indicates our wine and the delicate nibbles between us, “this is a date.”

“How does it end?” I ask pertly. Knowing the answer. Knowing he doesn’t. Wanting to know what he thinks.

He looks at me searchingly for a moment, then smiles raffishly, a certain boyish charm bubbling through. It’s a practiced look. He’s used that smile before, to good effect, I can tell. He’s probably done that his whole life. I don’t dislike him for any of that. It distresses me slightly that I don’t dislike him at all. It would be beneficial to me if I could find it in myself to dislike him.

“It ends well,” he says. A beat. And then: “It ends as it should.”

There is more conversation, just like that. An ancient dance.

After a while he excuses himself to go to the bathroom.

Once he’s out of sight, I slip a vial out of my purse. It contains a powder I made myself. Oleander flowers, dried, crushed and mixed with salt and a few strong spices, intended to cover the plant’s bitter taste. I don’t know how well those spices mask the taste. It’s not as though I can test it, and none of my customers have ever complained.

I quickly sprinkle some of this concoction judiciously on the food that remains. I do it using natural motions. Anyone watching would think I was eating. A little OCD, maybe, but it wouldn’t look anywhere close to what is true. I mix it quickly into the salsa, the guacamole. I salt the chips with it. Sprinkle it on what is left of the chicken wings. I don’t dust the calamari. I’d noted he hadn’t been eating that. It will give me a safe spot to nibble, not that I plan on needing much time to eat. All of this will happen quickly, my experience tells me that.

Before he returns, I have this moment of absolute indecision. I very nearly call out to a nearby server; have her clear the table. I’m not even super sure why I don’t. All of this is going well. Textbook. And yet, I have qualms. Why? He’s lovely of course, there’s that. But beyond the way he looks or how he looks at me. Not long ago, things had happened that had made me resolve to do my life in a different way. Then I’d gotten an assignment and instinct had more or less kicked in. And it was easy to reason around it and to rationalize: if not me, then someone else, right? There would always be some other person ready to do the job. Viewed in that light, there was no earthly reason for me not to do what I do.

But still.

I don’t call a server. And the moment passes.

He comes back looking refreshed, like he’s maybe splashed water on his face or combed his hair, which is behaving for now. Not, for the moment, flopping into his eyes. I figure he probably did both—splashed and combed. He looks good.

He smiles when his eyes meet mine. A 24-karat smile that lights his whole face. My heart gives a little bump. “Fuck,” I say. But it isn’t out loud.

He takes his seat and starts talking again, picking up where we left off. He is easy. Comfortable. But I’m having trouble tracking the conversation; my mind is elsewhere. I’m thinking about what my next steps will be. After. And does it matter what he says right now? Really? If it does, it won’t matter for long.

I try not to follow his actions. Try instead to listen to what he is saying. These words will be his last ones, I know that. And part of me thinks I should do him that courtesy. At least. The courtesy of attention. But it’s difficult to follow his words now. I watch one corn chip as he picks it up, dips it into salsa. I watch him consume it, and it feels like all of it is happening in slow motion. All the while I am listening to his words—I am! —participating in the conversation, not wanting to miss any cues. And wanting to honor the small amount of time he has left. It’s all I can do.

The chip is consumed. I detect no reaction to the bitterness, so that’s a plus. He picks up a chicken wing, swirls it in the blue cheese dip, which makes me realize that, in my haste, I’d missed an opportunity by skipping doctoring the dip. He consumes the wing while we talk; a slight sucking, the meat peeling gently off the bone, all the while, the words flow, though it doesn’t come off as rude. He seems adept at eating and talking so everything stays and sounds as it should.

I listen closely, interjecting as appropriate when I think it’s necessary, all the while watching for . . . signs. I detect nothing until another wing and several chips later. His eyes are suddenly glassy. Sweat stands on his forehead. His hands shake.

“Brett, are you all right?” I ask, but it is pure form. I know he is far from all right. All right no longer exists for him.

“I don’t know. I’ve never . . . never felt like this before.”

I give it another minute. A little less than that. I know it’s all we’ve got. I make the right sounds, the correct motions of my hand. Even when no one is watching, people are watching. Physically, I am unremarkable. A middle-aged woman, so some would say I am invisible, certainly there is nothing about my appearance that makes me stand out. But there will be a future, when questions are asked and people are perhaps looking for clues. I don’t want them to be looking for me.

When he collapses, face directly into salsa, I scream, as one does. Not bone chilling, but an alarmed scream. Our server trots over, clearly distressed. The manager is on her heels. All as expected: it’s pretty terrible for business when customers collapse into their food.

“My date . . . he’s . . . taken ill . . . I don’t know what to do” etcetera. All as one would expect. I don’t deviate from the script.

An ambulance is called. Paramedics arrive quickly. The manager has already pulled Brett from the salsa, but it’s clear he is not all right. They take him away, one of the paramedics offering to let me ride in the ambulance. I decline.

“I’ll follow you,” I say, heading for my rental. And I start out following, but a few blocks from the restaurant I make the turn I know will lead me to the freeway and then the airport. My bag is in the trunk and it’s all mapped out: I am ready to go.

With this moment in mind, I’d left a ballcap on the passenger seat before I entered the restaurant. It is emblazoned with the logo of a local team. While I drive, I push my hair into the cap and wiggle out of the jacket I know I’ll leave behind. These are simple changes—hat on, jacket off—but it will change my appearance enough. I don’t anticipate anyone will be looking for me, but I like to think forward. Just in case.

I have no way of knowing for sure what will happen to him, but I can guess. From the amount of food I watched him consume, I figure he’ll probably have a heart attack before he reaches the hospital and will likely arrive DOA. And at the age and heft of him, and with a high stress job, they will probably not test for poison. And the woman with him at the restaurant? I figure no one will be looking for a girl who doesn’t follow up on the date that ended in hell.

From there it all goes like it’s being managed by a metronome: tick tock, tick tock. Arrive at airport. Drop off rental car. Get through security. Get to plane while they’re boarding. Claim aisle seat at the back of the plane. Keep my eyes peeled for both watchers or people who might recognize me from the airport. But everything goes exactly as it should. No watchers this time. No one looking at me in ways I don’t understand. In fact, everything is perfect. Everything is exactly as it should be. Except.

CHAPTER TWO

Last week

I had not planned on killing again. That is, it wasn’t in the plan. That’s not to say it was an accident. You don’t arrive for a date with a poison in your pocket unless you’re preparing to do some bodily harm. But, as I said, that hadn’t been the plan. Not before.

When the call came, I had been eyeballing my gun again. A darkness of spirit. A feeling I can’t fight or name.

For a while I had spent a lot of time wondering why I kept bothering at all. In recent weeks, there had been darkness all around me. Times that, if it wasn’t for the dog, I wouldn’t bother hanging around.

At times I wonder why I am still showing up every morning. For life, I mean. What’s the big appeal? What is the motivating factor? Is there a mirror beyond the darkness? A pool; some reprieve. I don’t know. Here’s the thing, though: at this point, I’m less convinced that I need to hang around to find out. It’s a battle I wage every day.

Most days.

Before the call comes, there are times it takes me a while to get out of bed. This is new. And when I do get out of bed, it takes a while longer still to orient. Motivating factor, that’s the question. Is there one? What is supposed to be motivating me? I don’t know for sure. So I wait it out.

And the call doesn’t come right away. First, and for a long while, everything is very silent. And not a churchlike silence. The sort one dreads when pieces fly together. First there was this and this and it all made sense. Then we added that other thing and we’re done.

I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. I mostly don’t bother anymore.

Why would one even bother anymore?

It wasn’t always like this.

Let’s put it that way.

There was a time when I didn’t live alone.

There was a time when someone loved me.

Several people loved me.

I don’t remember that time anymore. Not exactly. I’m like a ghost looking back at her memories from a previous lifetime. They are my memories, but they might as well belong to someone else.

Let me tell you this as I try to bring you up to speed.

I live at the forest’s edge. My house is small and simple. It is all I need. My garden is incomplete, though it is occasionally vibrant. I am alone but for the company of a golden dog.

I am alone.

These are the things I think about. Vibrant gardens. Forest’s edge. Seasons in motion. The padding about of golden feet. I don’t dwell on the past. I try not to dwell on the past. For the most part, I have released everything that has happened. It no longer has a hold on me.

Mostly.

I have tried a lot of things to bring some sort of meaning to my life. Attempted. For instance, recently I have begun to keep a gratitude journal. It is a practice I read about somewhere. I try very hard to begin every day with that notebook, pen in hand. In gratitude. It changes the heart, I’m told. It changes the mind.

I have charged myself with finding five things every day for which I am grateful. It’s like an affirmation.

It is an affirmation.

Some days it is easy. Five things to affirm. How hard can that be? I have air. Sufficient food. There is a roof over my head. The beautiful golden dog. Some days there is rain. On others, sun. Both of those are things to be grateful for. The air is clean. The ground is firm. All reasons to give thanks. Most of the time.

On other days it is more difficult. On those days I sit there, stare at the blank page. Maybe a tear falls. Or more than one. Sometimes I begin to write and then stop; picking up and putting down my pen. The past is closer on those days, I guess. The past is nipping at my heels; my heart. On days like that I am filled with that unnamable darkness.

It is unnamed, but I recognize some of the contents. Guilt. Remorse. Regret. And variations on all of those things that incorporate measures of each. I don’t believe in regret, and yet there it is. Regret does not bother checking in with me about my beliefs.

***

Excerpt from Exit Strategy by Linda L. Richards. Copyright 2022 by Linda L. Richards. Reproduced with permission from Linda L. Richards. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Linda L. Richards

Linda L. Richards is a journalist, photographer and the author of 15 books, including three series of novels featuring strong female protagonists. She is the former publisher of Self-Counsel Press and the founder and publisher of January Magazine. Linda’s 2021 novel, ENDINGS, was recently optioned by a major studio for series production.

Catch Up With Linda L. Richards:
LindaLRichards.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @linda1841
Instagram - @lindalrichards
Twitter - @lindalrichards
Facebook - @lindalrichardsauthor
TikTok - @lindalrichards

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

 

 

ENTER TO WIN!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Exit Strategy by Linda L. Richards. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

 

 

MAILBOX MONDAY!

 

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists!!
Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia @ A Girl and Her Books, has a permanent home now at Mailbox Monday.
 ************

Here’s a shout out to the administrators:
Leslie @ Under My Apple Tree 
Serena @ Savvy Verse And Wit
Martha @ Reviews By Martha's Bookshelf 
Velvet @ vvb32reads
************
                THANKS to everyone for keeping Mailbox Monday alive. 
************
RECEIVED
1: WHEN WE HAD WINGS by Ariel Lawhon; Kristina McMorris; Susan Meissner
courtesy of Harper Muse via NetGalley
2: SHE'S GONE by David Bell
courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley
3: THE WAYS WE HIDE by Kristina McMorris
courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley
4: IMPROBABLY YOURS by Kerry Anne King
courtesy of Lake Union via NetGalley


Sunday, May 22, 2022

SHOWCASE & GIVEAWAY "A MESSAGE IN POISON" by BJ Magnani

A Message in Poison by BJ Magnani Banner

A Message in Poison

by BJ Magnani

May 9 - June 3, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

A Message in Poison by BJ Magnani

Sparks fly as Dr. Lily Robinson-the brilliant academic pathologist and covert assassin for the U.S. Government-investigates two seemingly unrelated deaths alongside her lover, Agent Jean Paul Marchand, and D.C. Medical Examiner Dr. Logan Pelletier.

A U.S. Senator and the president of a developing nation are found dead in their beds. As governments thousands of miles apart react to the fallout and begin their investigations, no one claims responsibility, and no motives are clear. Yet, the cause of death implies a link between the two—one that only a mind versed in poisons and politics can decipher. With her personal relationships teetering on the brink and her loved ones facing foreign threats, Lily must unravel the mystery and uncover a plot more calculating than anyone could imagine—but it may be too late.

A Message in Poison, the third part of the Art of Secret Poisoning trilogy (The Queen of All Poisons and The Power of Poison), continues with twists and turns as Dr. Lily Robinson travels the globe, stares down death, and finds herself at "another crossroad, another choice between life real or imagined..."

The fast-paced action juxtaposes nicely with the personal dilemmas Lily faces as she uncovers a new plot that forces her to reconsider her talents and place in the world.
~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Book Details:

Genre: Medical Mystery / Thriller
Published by: Encircle Publications
Publication Date: April 20th 2022
Number of Pages: 278
ISBN: 1645993256 (ISBN13: 9781645993254)
Series: A Dr. Lily Robinson Novel, The Art of Secret Poisoning Part 3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

I’ve done some terrible things in my life. Big lies splash in my wake and follow me until the water creeps into my lungs. I’ve murdered many people who deserved to die. I take the phrase ‘pick your poison’ literally. My arsenal of natural toxins and poisons hidden deep within a freezer provide enough variety to mimic natural death. The cool salt air at my seaside cottage coaxes plants in my poisonous garden to yield the natural killers that I need. And I have collaborators around the world who can provide for me what my garden cannot.

Yes, it’s true that I’ve spent much of my life taking care of patients as a physician and taught a generation of medical students. But it was this very expertise in toxicology that captured the attention of our government. They seduced me and then orchestrated a transformation from consultant to assassin. Some say it’s my jewel-green eyes, raven-colored hair, and even my stiletto heels that tend to disarm my victims. They are blinded to the truth. With eyes closed to the Hippocratic Oath, I travel the world, eliminating terrorists and traitors with poison, stealth in a bottle, in the name of preventing mass destruction on a global scale. Our small covert counter-terrorism team weeds out threats at home and abroad—sanctioned killing, the price of doing business. I’m told that ‘the good of the many outweighs the good of the one.’ It’s become my guiding mantra, allowing me to rationalize this dual existence.

I hide my secret life beneath the cloak of justice, and I’ve discovered that others do too. So I ask you if you’re sure you know the truth about those around you. This last year of my life has been fraught with revelations that I didn’t see coming. For more than twenty years, I thought my baby, my little girl, had died in the Colombian jungle. Not only did I learn that she’s alive, but I discovered that she’s attending the same medical school where I have my academic appointment—a life-changing disclosure. I tremble when I think that we may have brushed by each other not only at the university, but in my fleeting past. I look back and see momentary images of familiarity etched in my mind. Was my beautiful Rose right in front of me while I wore blinders of guilt and despair?

JP, my lover, and partner in our covert government band, grasps my turmoil. Desperate to soothe my soul, he promises that life’s twists and turns can only make us more resilient and resolute. Facing the wind, my body stands tall and hard like a tree firmly rooted in the ground. Having no support on its own, a vine uses its tendrils to clutch to the broad trunk. My stories are like this vine, ever climbing, ever strangling—a complicated life that requires both brilliance and strength.

***

Excerpt from A Message in Poison by BJ Magnani. Copyright 2022 by BJ Magnani. Reproduced with permission from BJ Magnani. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

BJ Magnani

BJ Magnani (Barbarajean Magnani, PhD, MD, FCAP) is the author of the Dr. Lily Robinson novels: The Queen of All Poisons (Encircle Publications, 2019), The Power of Poison (Encircle Publications, 2021), and A Message In Poison (Encircle Publications, 2022.) Lily Robinson and the Art of Secret Poisoning (nVision Publishing, 2011) is the original collection of short stories featuring the brilliant, yet deadly, doctor. Dr. Magnani is internationally recognized for her expertise in clinical chemistry and toxicology, has been named a “Top Doctor” in Boston magazine, and was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential Laboratory Medicine Professionals in the World by The Pathologist. She is Professor of Anatomic and Clinical Pathology (and Professor of Medicine) at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, and the former Chair of both the College of American Pathologists (CAP) Toxicology Committee and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Tufts Medical Center.

Follow BJ Magnani on:
www.BJMagnani.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @bjmagnani
Twitter - @bjmagnani
Facebook - @bjmagnaniauthor

Join us for an InstaParty at #bjmagnani!!

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

 

 

 

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for A Message in Poison by BJ Magnani. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

 

 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

SHOWCASE & GIVEAWAY for DEATH WARRANT by Bryan Johnston

Death Warrant by Bryan Johnston Banner

Death Warrant

by Bryan Johnston

June 1-30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Death Warrant by Bryan Johnston

Death Makes Great TV.

Frankie Percival is cashing in her chips. To save her brother from financial ruin, Frankie―a single stage performer and mentalist who never made it big―agrees to be assassinated on the most popular television show on the planet: Death Warrant. Once she signs her life away, her memory is wiped clean of the agreement, leaving her with no idea she will soon be killed spectacularly for global entertainment.

After years of working in low-rent theaters, Frankie prepares for the biggest performance of her life as her Death Warrant assassin closes in on her. Every person she encounters could be her killer. Every day could be her last.

She could be a star, if only she lives that long.

Praise for Death Warrant:

“I absolutely loved Death Warrant! This will definitely make the ‘Best of 2022’ list.”
—Elle Ellsberry, Content Acquisition & Partnerships, Scribd

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: June 21st, 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 074430508X (ISBN13: 9780744305081)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Jesus, thought Joey, stopping to catch his breath while simultaneously chastising himself for using the Lord’s name in vain. They’d said the hike was challenging, even by hardy Norwegian mountaineering standards. But he didn’t realize “challenging” was code for “your lungs will be bleeding.” Probably not too demanding for a younger person, but he grudgingly admitted he no longer fit that demographic. Those advancing “middle-years” made his little adventures even more important to him. He took a swig from his water bottle and checked his watch. He’d been making good time. “That’s why you trained for six months, dummy,” he reminded himself for the umpteenth time, not that anyone could hear him. He’d seen a few hikers coming back down the mountain, but to his surprise he hadn’t seen anyone else making the ascent. He’d purposefully picked the least touristy season that didn’t include several feet of snow to make his bucket list trip, but still, he’d expected to see a few more people. Not that he was complaining; he was enjoying the solitude. With one last cleansing breath and the taste of copper dissipating from his mouth, he got to his feet for the final push. On the climb he’d taken to talking to himself, carrying on conversations out loud, playing the part of all parties involved. He’d found it highly entertaining, and it helped keep his mind off the lactic acid burning in his thighs over the five-hour climb.

“Why in heaven’s name does it have to be Norway? It’s so far away,” Joey said out loud in the closest resemblance of his wife Joanie’s patent ed exasperated tone. He’d had thirty years of marriage to fine tune it.

“Because that’s where the Trolltunga is, hon!” Joey replied.

He vividly remembered when the holo-brochure had arrived. “Have you ever seen anything like it?” he’d asked her. She hadn’t. The 3D image projected by the brochure had been impressive, and even his wife couldn’t deny that. The Trolltunga was a rock formation that sprang 2,000 feet straight up above the north end of a Norwegian lake whose name Joanie never could pronounce and was topped with a cliff that jutted out preposterously far, like an enormous plank of a pirate ship. Watching the image slowly rotating over the brochure on their dining table had sealed the deal.

Joey could taste the copper again but powered through. He knew he was almost there.

“Should have brought the stick, genius,” he grumbled to himself. “That’s what hiking staffs are for.” But he’d been afraid some careless baggage handler would damage it. The staff had been too important to him. The entire Boy Scout Troop had carved their names into it along with the final inscription, “Thanks for all your years of service.” He wasn’t sure who was prouder of the gift, him, or Joanie. Regardless, the staff would have been a help.

His research showed that the round-trip climb would be about 22 kilometers—45,000 steps—and the equivalent of climbing and descending 341 floors. He guessed he was right around floor 170. Almost there.

As he rounded a large boulder, he thought back on all his training, preparation, and admittedly, the inconveniences he’d put Joanie through, and recited one of his wife’s favorite admonitions, “Joey Dahl, I swear you will be the death of me.” But then what he saw stopped him in his tracks. At that moment Joey felt complete validation. He also instantly understood what made the Trolltunga such a draw for thrill seekers. The cliff ’s edge reached out so far that the photo op was one for the books, the type of picture you frame and hang in your den. A conversation starter.

Bragging rights. The other church deacons were going to be sick of hearing about it.

“Oh, babe,” Joey said, more to himself this time, “I wish you were here to see this.” But even six months ago he knew that was never going to happen, what with her condition, but she was never going to begrudge him this trip. He’d been dreaming about it for years.

It took a certain person, one immune to heights and vertigo, to walk to that cliff’s edge and look out. Joey was one of those people. He set up the small, portable tripod he’d brought and mounted his mobile device, his optic, to take pictures and video remotely. He couldn’t wait to show it to Joanie and the kids. Through a little trial and error, he eventually got the framing right and strode out to the edge. He turned to face the camera and spread his arms wide in a “look at what I achieved” pose. The optic’s camera lens clicked once, twice, three times.

And then the bullet hit him right above the left eye.

Joey Dahl dropped like a puppet whose strings had been cut, toppling backwards off the cliff, falling into space. Like a base jumper without a wingsuit or parachute. His body tumbled down the sheer cliff face, yet he never quite hit the side. His body stayed clear of the rocky wall, due to the sharp drafts from the lake below. The constant pushing away from the wall, managed to keep him undamaged, bullet wound aside, until he finally met the ground below, by a lake whose name his wife never could pronounce. By then, however, he’d been long dead.

@@@

Six thousand miles away, a room full of people in finely tailored suits and skirts were watching intently, applauding with their approval. One of them, a woman with severe bangs, all business, smoothly pivoted from the wall of monitors, her eyes drawn to another, smaller screen where a series of numbers were appearing in real time. She allowed herself a trace of a smile. The ratings were in. Perhaps not matching those of the pop star’s demise from last summer, but still better than management had expected. Enough to trigger her bonus. Maybe she’d take the kids to Six Flags.

Chapter 1

JANUARY

If you’re going to be summarily executed, you’d at least want the place that’s arranging your death to have a couple of nice rugs. Just for appearances. Nobody wants to be offed by some fly-by-night outfit that considers Ikea the height of corporate d├ęcor. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. I really didn’t know what to expect, they don’t show the offices on the commercials. I knew it probably wouldn’t be like walking into a tax-prep firm on a strip mall—some tiny space filled with cheap furniture, all pleather and particleboard. It is anything but, and instantly fills me with a good vibe and reinforces my belief that I am making the right choice. The entry doors are an artistic combination of rich amber-hued wood, glass, and burnished metal, most likely brass, but buffed dull to appear understated. Classy. You feel like you are walking into a place of importance, where critical decisions are made on a by-minute basis, which I guess they are.

Upon entering I’m greeted by a kindly gentleman with open arms. “Welcome, Ms. Percival, we’re so pleased to see you,” he says with utter sincerity. “Our receptionist will take care of your every need.”

It takes me a second to realize the man is a hologram. I take a step closer and poke at it, which the holographic gentleman tolerates with a smile. Only the subtlest flicker gives away its true identity. From more than a few feet away you’d swear the man was flesh and blood. Holos are common these days, but this one takes the cake. The technology they have here obviously is top shelf stuff. Based on the greeting, they had me scanned and identified the moment I stepped through the front door.

I immediately pick up on the smell: lavender. It’s subtle but noticeable. Upon deeper consideration, the perfect scent. It’s probably the world’s most relaxing smell. Smells have a stronger link to memories than any of the senses, and I can feel myself imprinting the scent with the experience. What did my high school teacher always say? Smells ring bells. True that. I’ll probably go to my grave associating that smell with this place. Ha, go to my grave, bad choice of words for this visit.

The lobby floor is a combination of real hardwoods and Persian rugs so soft you instantly want to take your shoes off for the sheer sensory experience. The space feels more like the lobby of a four-star hotel: tasteful, elegant, contemporary without pressing the issue. The woman behind the reception desk is perfectly in line with the ambience. She is probably in her late thirties, attractive but non-threatening. I like the cut of her jib, as my mom used to say. Her clothes are professional but still fashionable. If I were to guess, they were most likely chosen for her by a consultant, like news anchors choose their clothes to project an image of trustworthiness. When I approach the desk, her face lights up with one of the most endearing smiles I have ever witnessed. I lean in a bit and squint to make sure she’s real. Yep, carbon-based life form.

“How may I help you?” she asks, and I absolutely believe she means it. “I’m here to get whacked.” I mimic guns with my fingers, firing off a couple rounds at her before blowing the non-existent smoke from the barrels. When I’m nervous I say stupid stuff. Stupid or snarky. Stupid, snarky, or sarcastic. I’ve been attempting to pare it down to just one for the last ten years with mixed results. I try to sound like being here is no biggie, but my voice sounds shrill in my ears, and I seriously doubt my anti-perspirant is up to the challenge.

The woman, unfazed by my cavalier attitude, nods with a soft, endearing smile. “Of course. You can speak with one of our sales associates. Please take a seat. Someone will be with you in a moment.”

She gestures to a cozy waiting area with a half-dozen comfortable looking chairs, one of them occupied by a distinguished looking woman idly paging through an issue of Vanity Fair, one of the last media hold outs that still clings to the quaint notion of publishing on paper. I can see an A-list actress of some substance gracing the cover, dressed in a bold red riding jacket, khaki jodhpurs and knee-high boots. I can practically hear the baying of the hounds. The actress is currently all the rage and the expected shoo-in come award time for her role in a recent high-profile drama that has captured the country’s imagination. A period piece that boasts betrayal, star-crossed love, and overcoming staggering odds in the face of adversity. Or at least that’s what the trailers led me to believe.

I turn back to the receptionist. “So, how’s it work?” “Pardon?” she asks innocently.

“I mean, do you get to choose? Sniper shot? Blown up? Pitched into a vat of acid? There was one episode, brutal, they dropped a piano on the guy, like in a cartoon.” I also yap when I’m nervous.

The receptionist’s smile doesn’t waver. “I remember it well.” She gives me a polite nod and says, “Your sales associate will answer all of your questions,” and then tips her head in the direction of where the woman with the magazine is sitting.

With a wink I fire off another round at the receptionist, holster my hands in my pockets, and turn toward the waiting area. Jesus, she must think I’m a moron. I take a seat several chairs away from my silver-haired counterpart. She glances up at me and gives the tiniest of polite smiles— held a beat longer than is socially necessary—before turning her attention back to her magazine. In that singular moment we become confederates, there for the same reason, and she is acknowledging to me with that brief exchange that regardless of my race, sex, social standing, or political leanings, that I—we—are about to become members of a rather unique club. All for one, one for all.

My distinguished clubmate looks distinguished, well, prominent. The cut of her suit speaks of dinner parties of the well-heeled, where talk of debutantes and cotillions is not simply language of earlier generations. And that’s what’s puzzling. I’d simply assumed this place was not frequented by the 1 percent. I mean, why would they need to resort to this measure? They’re all loaded. They’ve got the means to provide for their family members without going to the extremes this joint provides. It then dawns on me that maybe not everyone here is doing this for the money. But why else? Fame? Boredom?

A moment later, a slim middle-aged woman with flawless hair approaches and addresses my clubmate. She rises to her feet, shakes the proffered associate’s hand, and off they go. It is now just me and the glossy A-lister.

I don’t even have a chance to pick up the magazine before my appointed sales associate arrives to greet me. If there ever was a physical embodiment of warmth and compassion, he stands before me. He introduces himself as Benjamin and I can no sooner call him Ben than flap my arms and fly to the moon. To call him Ben would be an affront. This is Benjamin, the type of man who walks one step behind his wife, who enters a room of strangers with his hand on the small of her back to let her know he’s right there with her. Benjamin is clearly a man who listens more than he speaks and gives careful consideration before he does. This is my three-second impression.

Benjamin appears to be maybe a decade older than me, in the early throes of middle age with salt-and-pepper hair, receding, in baseball terms, at the power-alleys of his forehead.

He wears a nice-fitting suit of deep blue with the thinnest of pinstripes. His shoes, brown, match his eyes. It’s the eyes that support everything. His whole demeanor, his warmth, radiates from those dark twins. But I can see upon further review that the smile that rides along with them is what seals the deal. The smile and eyes work in tandem. One without the other, strong, but together, unimpeachable. I would buy a Rolex out of the trunk of this guy’s car.

Benjamin shakes my hand and asks me to join him in his office where we can chat. That’s what he says¾ chat, not talk. The perfect word to set my mind at ease.

Just two pals.

His office is small but nicely appointed and has a window overlooking a wooded urban park. The lavender scent follows us into the room, which I appreciate. Benjamin offers me a seat in front of his desk and takes the chair behind it. The desk is tidy, with nothing but a couple of framed family photos, a World’s Most Okayest Employee mug, and a glass computer tablet mounted on a small, low-profile frame to keep it upright when he chooses to use it in that position.

Benjamin steeples his hands on his desk and fixes me with those molten lava cake eyes.

“So, Frances,” he begins. Not Ms. Percival, but Frances. “You’d like to learn more about . . .” He glances at his glass tablet and looks up with a small smile. “. . . how to get whacked.”

“Pretty much. And by the way, you can call me Frankie.”

“Then Frankie it is. And by the way, it’s okay, you can call it by its official name, a death warrant.”

“Fair enough.”

“How much do you know about the process?” Benjamin asks evenly. He says process with a long o. Benjamin has what used to be called a Trans-Atlantic accent. You’d hear it all the time in ancient movies with actors like Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It’s halfway between a British and American accent. Like something taught at a New England boarding school. It sounds divine.

I shrug. “Not much. How come there’s hardly anything about it on the Internet? I mean, that’s pretty crazy that you’re able to keep it so hush-hush.”

Benjamin nods and smiles compassionately. “It is rather amazing, isn’t it? You’d think someone would talk. Somebody always talks. I’m embarrassed to say I really don’t know.”

And I believe him.

“And yet virtually nothing shows up in the media,” I observe, probably a little more pointedly than intended.

But Benjamin doesn’t seem to mind. He holds his hands out, shoulders arched in the classic Beats me pose. “Those are the interior machinations of the machine that are a mystery even to me. Ask me what time it is, and I can tell you. Ask me how the watch works, and I can’t. Much of the information is purely on a need-to-know basis.”

“And you don’t need to know?” I ask.

“Way above my paygrade. We’re highly compartmentalized.” He can see my skepticism. “Rest assured; I can answer most of your questions.”

He settles back into his chair and that’s when it occurs to me. The eyes. Brown. The receptionist’s eyes were brown. The other sales associate’s eyes were brown. Don’t ask me how I notice this, it’s what I do. I notice things. Little stuff that often is of no consequence. That’s why I was always a fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. He noticed things. While others saw, he observed. I thought that was cool. We were kindred spirits. Of course, his gift of observation made nonsense of mine, but the one thing I have going for me is that I am nonfiction. I live in the real world. What I don’t have is the benefit of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle ensuring that I can spot a scuff on a shoe and divine that the culprit had brushed it against a curb in a rush to catch the number five bus. It’s bullshit, but it’s entertaining bullshit. Instead, my ability to notice things on a high but more realistic level has made me reasonably successful in my career—I’m a mentalist. My job is to observe. Take note. Listen and connect dots that others don’t see. I suppose I could be a cop or a private investigator, but that seems like work. Being a mentalist, on the other hand, is fun. We’re like magicians, but without the corny patter. Do I really have the gift of divination and clairvoyance? Sometimes it sure as hell feels like it. Let’s just say I’ve got a knack. However, a byproduct of my keen perception is an overactive imagination. I’ll sometimes see things for more than they are. But it does make life more interesting.

Back to the brown eyes. Of course. Brown eyes are soft, they’re compassionate. Blue eyes are striking, but in a place like this you don’t want striking, you want everything to be the Xanax of appearance. Calming. I’ll bet every public-facing employee here has brown eyes. In fact, I would imagine they’re all screened by a team of consultants to within an inch of their lives to fit specific criteria. A place like this probably only hires people who radiate kindness. I wonder how they measure that? There’s got to be some way to quantify a person’s level of kindness and compassion beyond spending five minutes in a room with them. With today’s technology, I’m sure someone’s found a way to figure out the analytics. To make it measurable.

Benjamin breaks into a smile no less cozy than an electric blanket. “So, what would you like to know?”

“Uh, how about you tell me what you can, and I’ll ask questions as they come to me.”

Benjamin gives a short nod. “Certainly. Let’s begin with the 30,000- foot view, and for clarity’s sake, I will use vernacular that I’m technically not supposed to: You will be killed, and your death will be televised.”

“Pretty damn clear vernacular,” I say.

Benjamin is all smiles. “I know, right? Gets to the meat of it pretty quick.”

“What did you mean by vernacular you’re not supposed to use?” I ask.

“Part of our internal policies. Company culture.” Benjamin says amiably. “Our programs are to be referred to as ‘episodes,’ not ‘shows.’ There are no ‘victims,’ but ‘participants’ or ‘souls.’ And all ‘participants’ will be shown the highest respect and dignity.”

“Mighty neighborly of you.”

“Thank you,” says Benjamin, looking sincerely appreciative of my comment, despite its snark. “Let me see if I can guess your next question,” he asks. “How does it work?”

“You’ve done this before, Benjamin.”

“Once or twice. We’ve got plenty of packages to choose from, depending on your budget, time frame, and other factors.”

“What kind of factors?”

Benjamin turns his eyes to his glass tablet, makes a few taps and swipes to call up the necessary information. “Do you care if it’s clean or messy? Quick and painless or would you rather feel the experience? Do you want a run-of-the-mill termination or something more exotic?”

“Who the hell wants to feel the experience of dying?”

“You’d be surprised. There are some people who want to embrace their last moments on earth. I’m told they think that’s when they feel most alive.”

“That’s whacko.”

“Preaching to the choir here, Frankie.” Just a couple of pals. “What do you mean by exotic?”

Benjamin leans back in his chair and stares up at the ceiling for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “Well, there was one we did a few years back that struck me as outside the lines, as well as being spectacularly challenging.”

“What was that?”

“Piranha attack. And he lived in the city.” “No shit?”

“That one took some serious production to pull off. We had to bring in twice our normal crew. But it was worth it; the ratings were outstanding.”

“How outstanding?” I ask.

“Are you familiar with ratings?” “A little.”

Benjamin taps on his glass tablet. “Piranha attack …… 48.8 rating, 71 share.”

He informs me that a rating point is a percentage of the total viewing population being polled and the share is the percentage of that population that’s watching at that moment. So that meant almost half of the country was watching and 70 percent of those who had their TVs, computers, or optics on were tuned in. I wonder what the other 30 percent were watching.

“Holy crap! Those are Super World Bowl numbers.”

“Actually, a little higher.”

“And I read that a thirty-second ad in that game runs for ten million dollars.”

Benjamin ruminates for a beat. “10.2, last I checked.”

This is where the rubber meets the road, where the money comes into play.

“So, how does it work? Money-wise, I mean.”

Benjamin clasps his hands in front of him and his face takes on an astonishing look of grace. I don’t know what they are paying him, but it isn’t enough.

My brain is having a difficult time reconciling the fact that this man who looks and sounds like a warm bath works for a company that kills people for profit.

“Certainly,” he says. “This is why you’ve come in. So your family will be sufficiently provided for after your passing.”

His demeanor strikes me as that of a funeral director talking costs for the casket, flowers, and organist. A tricky balancing act. Put the client at ease while doing your job to assure you’re keeping the company in the black, so the owner can continue to pay his gas bill, the mortgage, and take his kids to Disneyland.

“If you choose to move forward with our services you will pay a fee, earnest money, as it were, again based on some of the criteria I listed earlier—time frame, complexity.” Benjamin pauses for an instant, like it’s important to him that the following line land properly. “The up-front fee is to ensure we aren’t seen as preying on the desperate.”

“I can see how some might get that impression,” I reply with a straight face.

Benjamin smiles at my understanding. “Once our service is rendered and your passing is confirmed, your designee—the dependent, as it were—will receive a percentage of the advertising revenue brought in by the televised production.”

“And I’m guessing the more elaborate the production, the higher the ratings, and therefore more money for the . . . what did you call it? The designee?”

Benjamin cocks an eyebrow. “Usually, but not necessarily. I’ve seen some pretty pedestrian terminations receive quite robust ratings because of the backstory involved.”

“Backstory?”

“Well, a background that may give the episode a little more drama. Let me give you an example.” Benjamin does the glance-at-the-ceiling thing again, drawing on memories. “There was one episode where the method of death was a simple blow up. Explosives set to go off at a designated time and location. Nothing overly dramatic. But what gave it an extra twist was that on the day of the scheduled event our client decided to take his dog for a walk. An unexpected deviation from his normal schedule. We were embarrassingly unprepared for this. All our research gave us a 99 percent chance that he would be alone at the time of detonation. But as fate would have it, that miscue on our part became a ratings bonanza.”

“What did taking his dog for a walk have to do with any of that?” I ask.

@@@

Chris miller had no idea Max, the gray-muzzled little lab mix padding alongside him, was causing conniptions in a television studio four states away. Well, padding was generous, it was more like limping, or waddling; Max was pushing ninety-eight in people years and built like a kielbasa sausage—mostly due to Chris’s soft heart and table scraps. Chris figured Max could eat anything he damn well pleased for as long as he lived. Seven years previously, Chris and Max had been hiking in Zion National Park when Chris fell down a crevasse and was pinned. He only had enough water to last about a day. But Max had run for help, just like in the classic Timmy-fell-down-the-well scenario. Ever since, Chris spoiled his aging mutt mercilessly.

And that’s what the people in the television studio hadn’t foreseen. “How long before he’s at the optimal detonation coordinates?” asked the director. He dabbed an already moist handkerchief across his brow for the dozenth time in the last fifteen minutes.

“Ten minutes,” replied the field producer, an edge to her voice. She was crumpling and uncrumpling a paper cup in her fist that moments earlier had been half filled with water which she had slugged down, desperately wishing it was something stronger. “My team has the space cleared. No civilians present. At least for now. For the time being, everything is go.”

Nothing was go, thought the director. Things were far from go. But he had to keep a lid on it. He glanced up at the bank of monitors covering the control room wall. A half dozen or so showed audiences from around the globe watching the action. Most at impromptu Death Warrant parties. The public did seem to bond in these instances. The director liked to see how the audience was reacting to the circumstances; it helped him craft the story arc and emotional payout by seeing first-hand what they were responding to. At that moment the audience members were generally freaking out. Nobody wanted to see a cute, albeit fat, little dog blown to bits. In the pre-show the audience is given the opportunity to know the method of termination. It was impossible to guess which way they’d lean from episode to episode. Sometimes they wanted to know, other times they wanted to be surprised.

On this night, however, the votes were for knowing. When the hosts shared that the death would be delivered by explosion, the initial reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Detonation was always a crowd pleaser. But the closer they got to boom-time, the antsier the audience became. They didn’t know the exact moment, but they did know that a little dog was more than likely going to be caught in the line of fire. Thus, the freaking out.

“How could nobody have seen this coming?” shouted a large, imposing executive from the back of the room, a hint of a German accent in his voice. Not a soul dared make eye contact or a feeble excuse; that would have been career suicide. In circumstances like this they resorted to their training, experience, and professionalism, which ran in abundance in this control room. They were the cream of the crop and liked to think they were prepared for any emergency.

The director turned to a small, earnest looking man huddled over a computer screen in the corner of the studio. “Stats. What the hell? Why the dog? He was supposed to be solo.”

The lead statistician gave a shrug. “Over the past 245 days since the job was approved, the featured participant made a nightly walk to this park 232 times.” The man glanced back down to his monitor. “He always left between 6:00 and 6:10 p.m.” The statistician turned back to the director. “It was, to use a more colloquial term, his evening constitutional. You could set your watch by him. Over those 232 times he brought his dog along a grand total of two times.” The man pointed at his screen. “Based on our numbers, the odds of the featured participant taking the dog were less than 1 percent. Well below our threshold.”

The field producer cleared her throat. “Uh, evidently one of those new doggy cafes just opened on the far side of the park. You know, one of those trendy coffee shops that sell dog biscuits along with cappuccinos? Our, um, best guess is that Mr. Miller may be taking his dog there for a treat.”

Back over in the corner, the statistician shrugged again. “Human nature is always the wild card.”

***

Excerpt from Death Warrant by Bryan Johnston. Copyright 2022 by Bryan Johnston. Reproduced with permission from Bryan Johnston. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Bryan Johnston

Bryan Johnston takes tremendous pride in being an eleven-time Emmy award-winning writer and producer during his 25 years in local network television. Following his career in broadcast, he became the Creative Director for a Seattle-based creative agency, developing concepts and writing scripts for companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, T-Mobile, and Amazon. He has authored several books and written for numerous magazines and websites. Bryan lives in the Seattle, Washington area with his wife, two kids, and one large Goldendoodle. He is a devout movie lover, sports fan, and avid reader. His one great hope is for the Seattle Mariners to make it to the World Series before he dies. He's not holding his breath.

Catch Up With Bryan Johnston:
www.BryanRJohnston.com
Goodreads
Twitter - @BryanRJohnston
Facebook - @bryan.johnston.370

Join us in the InstaChat at #bryanjohnston

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

 

 

Don't Miss Entering for a Chance to WIN!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Death Warrant by Bryan Johnston. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

 

 


Thursday, May 19, 2022

MAKE ME DISAPPEAR by Jessica Payne

 

By the time I realized the truth about Daniel it was too late. But the truth about me? He never saw that coming…

Dr Daniel Ashcroft was perfect: handsome, romantic, protective. I thought I was so lucky.

But then I heard the rumors about his previous girlfriend, that she had vanished without a trace.
That’s when I found the cameras in my apartment.

I was trapped. Daniel made it clear I couldn’t leave him, not without risking everyone I loved. I had to disappear, so 
I arranged my own kidnapping.

I should have known Daniel would never let me get away that easily. But he could never have predicted what I’d do next…

Make Me Disappear is a brilliantly twisty psychological thriller guaranteed to keep you up all night. Fans of The Wife Between UsGone Girl and The Couple Next Door will find it impossible to put down.

MY THOUGHTS

This is Jessica Payne's debut novel and one you don't want to miss. It's a page turner for sure.

A woman and man dating. A nurse and doctor to be more clear. Noelle is a well loved nurse who is in a relationship with a well respected doctor Daniel Ashcroft. Daniel wants to ask Noelle to marry him. He wants them to start a life together. The perfect life. Give his mother grandchildren. Make a home. But something is not quite right with their relationship. He's a bit too controlling. He keeps very close tabs on Noelle. Knows everything she does. She already knows how he is doing these things but he has no idea. Noelle needs to get away. Far away. He's already "lost" two girlfriends. One missing and one who managed to get away. 

While Noelle does go to a bit of an extreme to escape it's understandable under the circumstances. She has to disappear and never be seen again or he could very well kill someone she loves. The only family she has left. Her cousin Kari. Could Daniel be so cruel as to take away her cousin. Could he have been involved in her aunts death. The best thing is for Noelle to fake a kidnapping and never be heard from again. But things will take a turn. A turn that she did not see coming. 

This book is told from Noelle and Daniel's perspectives. Each tells what is happening and what did happen. Daniel only wants her back. He only wants them to have a life together. To make his mother happy by giving her a grandchild. Who is Dr Daniel Ashcroft exactly. What is he truly capable of. Is he truly a cold blooded man who will do anything to get what he wants. Or is he being set up. 

This is a great story. A little over the top in places but still keeps you on edge in a few places. Quite a few places. You will want to like characters that you can't figure out. You will despise some. In the end you will probably hate a couple of them. I sure did. I also didn't much like the cousin. She was swayed way too easy for the person you meet at first. I did figure out who was behind it all but I usually do. It did not take away from the book at all. 

I think Jessica Payne has done a splendid job with this book and I look forward to more. This being a debut only leaves room for even better. At least I hope. This one is truly good. It's a page turner.

Thank you #NetGalley, #JessicaPayne, #Bookouture for this ARC. This is my own true feelings about this book.

4/5 stars and I recommend it highly.


SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: "THE RISING" by Kerry L Peresta

The Rising by Kerry L Peresta May 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour Synopsis: After an assault that landed her in a hospital as a Jan...