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#Review “Scar Tissue (The Cole and Callahan Thriller Series)” by Patricia Hale

Scar Tissue cover

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5/5 stars!

Scar Tissue is not just an intriguing police procedural but a good look at family dynamics…dysfunctional family dynamics, because there are some totally messed up folks in this read dealing with several timely themes.

The death of a wealthy young coed, Ashley Lambert, is ruled a suicide but the family has trouble accepting it and PIs Griff Cole and Britt Callahan are called in to go deeper than the preceding police investigation.

As they dig into the background of Ashley and her family, skeletons fall out all over the place.

Meanwhile, Griff and Britt have bought a home together and while Britt is trying to wrap her head around it, she finds out all is not well with their new neighbors, a young couple whose toddler went missing and was never found.

While it looks as though there is no connection between their case and their new neighbors, the plot twists arrive and everyone’s a suspect.

In the end, you can’t help but feel sorry for Ashley… and her roommate. I can’t imagine living the life either young woman had, but oh my god, Ashley’s parents—Greg and Gwen—are proof some people should not be allowed to have children. They were both horrid people but deserved each other since they didn’t marry… or stay married for the right reasons. Their avarice and narcissism screwed up their kid, no doubt about it.

Neighbor, Rhea McKenzie, is also a sympathetic character who endured much. The resolution to her story was a bit surprising, but I understood and agreed with Britt… justice doesn’t always work the way it should.

Griff and Britt are a great couple and it was nice reading about a couple with equal footing. Their personalities compliment each other and the mutual respect is as strong as the love between them.

Scar Tissue was my first Cole and Callahan Thriller Series read but it won’t be my last. Solid writing and well-developed plot and characters make me want to read more of this investigative team’s stories. Fans of thriller, suspense and women’s fiction will enjoy Scar Tissue.

Enjoy!

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Synopsis:

Scar Tissue by Patricia Hale

Track star, Ashley Lambert, has just been accepted into the prestigious Johns Hopkins University, so when she jumps eighteen stories to her death her parents hire the PI team of Griff Cole and Britt Callahan to find out why. The investigation exposes a deeply disturbed family hiding behind a façade of perfection and follows Ashley’s descent into performance enhancing drugs and blackmail. Ashley’s coaches, peers and even her parents come into question. The disturbing truth behind Ashley’s death is testimony to lines crossed and allegiances sworn…. in the name of love.

Meanwhile, things don’t add up next door. Britt’s working overtime researching their new neighbors whose one-year-old son disappeared four years ago. Rhea McKenzie, has a secret and bruises aren’t the only thing she’s trying to hide. When an off-hand comment discloses a connection to Ashley Lambert the two cases become entwined, setting off an unstoppable chain of events. Britt is sucked into an alliance with Rhea and driven to make decisions that challenge her ethics, threaten her relationship and in the end, push her over a line she never thought she’d cross.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Intrigue Publishing
Publication Date: September 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 194
ISBN: 978-1-940758-85-5
Series: Cole and Callahan #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Patricia Hale. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on October 1, 2018 and runs through November 1, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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#Review “Magical Memories” by L.S. Fellows

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Magic Sail

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5/5 Stars!

I’ve been waiting for this sequel since the day I finished book 1, Magic O’clock.

I pre-ordered, joined the blog tour and re-read book 1… twice.

And like Archie Royle’s daughter, I still wasn’t ready. I was caught off-guard not by the depth of emotions, but the sheer weight.

Archie’s death is no mystery or plot twist. The author laid it right out there in the blurb. You know it will happen.

Just as Archie’s family knew the end was approaching. And as his youngest daughter resigned herself to that fact when she had to place him in a skilled care facility.

But it was with a broken heart she, at last, accepted it as pneumonia joined the Dementia in taking him farther away from her. However, as prepared as she was, losing him takes her to her knees… and I was right there with her.

Death sometimes brings out the worst in those left behind. When anger flares, jealousies, slights, and resentments thought long-forgotten get tossed around like a beach ball. The youngest daughter knew she’d committed no offenses against her two older sisters out of spite or otherwise, but she allowed their bad attitudes… until she didn’t, and when she digs her heels in, she goes from her father’s biggest fan to his staunchest advocate. The gloves come off and she holds nothing back. Great scene!

When family and friends gather to say their goodbyes to Archie, his baby girl is surprised at the new insight she gets into the man she thought she knew so well. It comforts her and helps to close the divide between her and her older sisters.

My first tears fell at only 20% into this short read. Where book 1 inspired memories of my own father’s last days, Magical Memories brings to mind memories shared and that had me smiling by 88%.

ANY reader would enjoy Magical Memories, regardless of preferred genre. I highly recommend downloading books 1 and 2 and reading them together. Readers shouldn’t be leery of tags like death and grief because, at its core, Magical Memories isn’t about how Archie Royle died but about how much he was loved.

Enjoy!

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Magical Memories

As Archie Royle takes his final breath, three sisters race to say their goodbyes.

Two don’t make it in time.

I do.

And now, it’s all my fault they’re too late.

Despite him having dementia.

Despite them not visiting in over a month.

 

But I won’t let anger win.

After all, we’re all grieving, aren’t we?

Surely, as a family, we can let bygones be bygones.

 

It’s what Dad would want. Expect.

It’s what he deserves.

We have so much to be grateful for.

So many fond and magical memories to share.

Magical Memories cover

 

Magical Memories is a fictional tale of loss, grief and moving on.

Purchase Link – http://getbook.at/MagicMem

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Magical Goodbyes

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#Review “Who Cares If They Die?” by Wendy Dranfield

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5/5 Stars!

Small town life will kill you… literally!

For a boring little town, Maple Valley, Hampshire is vying for murder capital of the country.

An apparent suicide begins to take on the trappings of murder, but before ducks can be lined in a row, more deaths occur. Officer Dean Matheson dreams of earning a detective’s shield, and solving the mystery behind the woman found hanging in the woods could be his winning ticket but he needs to 1) avoid the lazy, glory-seeking detective assigned to the case, and 2) learn to keep it in his pants!

Dean, Dean, Dean! Geeze. He believes Detective Miller’s dislike for him is holding him back, but nope. Dean is holding Dean back.

Estranged from his wife because he had an affair with the medical examiner for a few months because he was needy and grieving after his brother’s suicide, (what-everrrrr, Dean) he was sizing the new prison psychiatrist up only seconds after she sat next to him at the diner’s counter. *Hard eye-roll, but holds back from flinging Kindle* So Dean, Sheila, and Beth are on my adults-behaving-badly list early into the read. Wife Linda was hiding her own sins, but Dean didn’t know that until later. However, he did react like an hypocritical ass when he found out.

Had Dean not been so single-minded… and easily manipulated, he might have solved the mystery from the woods… like I did, and this read would have been less than fifty pages! 😀  HA!

The murderer was good though, and not just in method but also persona, playing a role for all of the town, though different with each person encountered. Attention to detail was meticulous. Choosing a small, rural town was genius. The killer stays under the radar because everyone knows everyone and is in their business. Perfect. Makes me wonder exactly how long the planning took, and just how crazy is the criminally insane… crazy like a fox? And why is this killer… a killer? WOW! NICE plot twist!

Choice of most victims, unfortunately, was spot on. Their character wasn’t just questionable on some pious level, but their behavior and offenses were facts most of Maple Valley knew about so their deaths aren’t questioned at first. One is even seen as a win for the victim’s abused fourteen-year-old daughter, so who cares if they die? NICE!

As information about the serial killer—and the dead—comes to light, Dean sees the full picture, but it’s good old-fashioned police work by retired Maple Valley Detective Jones which breaks the case. Dean’s mentor and idol does the leg-work and figures it out. But will he do it before more lives are lost, including Dean’s? Loved Jones!

The spins and twists of Who Cares If They Die will keep mystery and suspense lovers turning pages right up to the end and I highly recommend it.

Enjoy!

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CoverDid she jump or was she pushed?

It starts with the hanging woman in the Maple Valley woods; the woman with no shoes, no car and no name. On paper it’s an obvious case of suicide – but to Officer Dean Matheson, something doesn’t add up.

Then there are the other deaths, deaths that also look like suicides – but are they? The victims are all women living on the fringes of society, addicts and criminals. Who will miss them? Does anyone really care if they die?

Dean Matheson is making it his business to care, even if it means he becomes the target …

 

 

Purchase Links

Amazon US     |       Amazon UK  

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#Review “The Christmas Sisters” by Sarah Morgan

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4/5 Stars!

A heartwarming story about family and the miracles found in the Christmas spirit.

Stress levels are high as Suzanne and Stewart McBride look forward to having their three adoptive daughters all together for a Scotland Christmas.

Hannah, Beth, and Posey are all at difficult crossroads in their lives and they’re each determined to handle things… their way. What’s the worst that could happen?

Posey hates to disappoint anyone… ever. Still, she’s the closest thing to a free spirit the family has. And I’d never let her drive me to the airport—HA!

The accident that took their parents has left Beth overprotective and overly cautious. She stresses over the safety and well-being of her two young daughters while at the same time she laments over being just a mother and longs for the challenge of returning to the workforce. But is she willing to sacrifice herself to do it?

Hannah is the worst of the three and by worst I mean emotionally damaged. She has to control every aspect of her life and feels like a failure when she can’t. A new relationship brings a surprise of its own… and also one of the few times I was angry while reading this wonderful story.

Hannah was a complex character but well developed. She bore the most emotional pain from losing her parents and most of it, like her sisters, was of her own creation in her mind. Yet, even as admissions are made and long overdue conversations begin, I felt as though Hannah was determined to hang onto her pain. It takes several conversations with her sisters and parents (Stewart is so awesome!), and Adam (YAAY, Adam! Another great character!) taking a step back to bring this silly woman to her senses.

Suzanne McBride went above and beyond to make a perfect life for her girls. But perfection doesn’t exist, and she felt like a failure anytime her children weren’t happy. Like Beth, she went overboard in being the protective, nurturing mom, and by trying to make things happen a certain way, like Hannah, tried to control outcomes. But where Hannah did it to keep people at arm’s length, Suzanne did it to make sure everyone was happy. However, in the end, she realizes she’s lost her sense of wonder and adventure… two of Posey’s best qualities.

The Christmas Sisters is a great holiday read that shows how a lifetime of held misconceptions, trauma and fear can fade away when the lines of communication… and hearts are opened.

Enjoy!

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In the snowy Highlands of Scotland, Suzanne McBride is dreaming of the perfect cozy The Christmas Sisters coverChristmas. Her three adopted daughters are coming home for the holidays and she can’t wait to see them. But tensions are running high…

Workaholic Hannah knows she can’t avoid spending the holidays with her family two years in a row. But it’s not the weight of their expectations that’s panicking her—it’s the life-changing secret she’s hiding. Stay-at-home mom Beth is having a personal crisis. All she wants for Christmas is time to decide if she’s ready to return to work—seeing everyone was supposed to help her stress levels, not increase them! Posy isn’t sure she’s living her best life, but with her parents depending on her, making a change seems risky. But not as risky as falling for gorgeous new neighbor Luke…

As Suzanne’s dreams of the perfect McBride Christmas unravel, she must rely on the magic of the season to bring her daughters together. But will this new togetherness teach the sisters that their close-knit bond is strong enough to withstand anything—including a family Christmas?

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G I V E A W A Y!

One randomly drawn winner will receive a copy of The Christmas Sisters!

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#Review “A Mother’s Lie” by Jo Crow

a Mother's Lie Audio cover

Audiobook Blast on October 2, 2018

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3.5/5 Stars!

Desperation leads Clara McNair to return to the small town where her reputation is less than stellar and she’s believed to be a murderer.

Clara left Hickory Hills, North Carolina under suspicion ten years ago after the disappearance of her parents.

Now a college-educated single-mom, Clara is desperate to raise the money for her terminally ill son’s treatment and agrees to a documentary back in her hometown about her parents’ disappearance as the tenth anniversary approaches.

However, their “disappearance” becomes murder when Richard and Glenda McNair’s remains are found on the property of their estate—and show signs of having been buried so someone dug them up to place the remains on the property.

And daughter, Clara McNair is the number one suspect. Still.

Barring evidence at a crime scene that points in a different direction, law enforcement always looks at those closest to the victims first… family, so I have no issue with a then-eighteen-year-old Clara being investigated but I am concerned that she’s still a prime suspect.

Children can and do kill their parents, however, I had a hard time suspending belief that an eighteen-year-old, rebellious, wild child out-smarted an entire police investigation. The McNairs went missing in 2007 and forensics were used in every area of police investigations. Is Hickory Hills anywhere near Mayberry? Is Detective Tony Elkins actually Barney Fife?  If Clara McNair was the killer, would she dig up her parents’ remain and plant them in her former home to incriminate herself and pick at old wounds that have never healed?

Clara has no one except James, her two-year-old son, and a bizarre clause in her grandfather’s estate will not allow her to sell home or property. The documentary is her last chance to make the money for the experimental treatment which could save her baby from the fatal brain tumors.

An old friend from the past reaches out to help Clara and give her some respite. Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch or unconditional friendship. Clara’s already tumultuous life spirals out of control and she could lose her freedom, her son, and her life.

Excellent plot twists! I figured out the first one but didn’t see that second one coming! Forensics did flash through my mind again though because even the most out-of-date law enforcement agencies have access to crime scene support.

Some interesting characters pass through A Mother’s Lie, but it’s the town itself which is the most interesting. Their hatred of Clara runs as hot and deep as it did ten years ago. They don’t just believe her a murderer, but the disappearance of Richard McNair brought the downfall and closure the McNair Furniture Factory—the area’s largest employer—so Clara McNair is also blamed for the economic hardships visited on Hickory Hills.

Though she takes the town’s rejection and verbal abuse in stride, Clara is at wit’s end when events begin to escalate and it’s obvious she… and James are in danger. She spends too much time in her own head and makes the world’s worst decisions. Even though the Mayberry, er, I mean Hickory Hills police department couldn’t even consider a suspect other than Clara, she missed many opportunities to help herself.

To be fair to Clara though, everyone in this story is hiding something or lying and it does hinder Clara looking into her own past. But when a ten-year-old mystery turns into a twenty-year-old coverup, Clara’s sanity could be yet another casualty in Hickory Hills.

Help does come from an unlikely source when Clara needs it most, but crazy people can be counted on to make mistakes and get too cocky.

I reviewed the audiobook version of A Mother’s Lie. While the narrator did a wonderful job with inflections, emotions, and different characters, I personally feel her voice is too soft for Clara McNair and even when Clara was angry, she sounded weak. I must confess here I also purchased the book and highlighted and re-read certain scenes for clarity in my mind.

Fans of mysteries and psychological thrillers will find an enjoyable read in A Mother’s Lie.

Enjoy!

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Synopsis:

A Mother's Lie by Jo Crow

When her child’s life is at stake, a mother will do anything to save him.

Clara McNair is running out of time to save her son, James. When the two-year-old is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, only an experimental treatment can save his life. She desperately needs money to pay for the surgery, but she’ll have to travel back to the site of her darkest memories to get it.

Clara has escaped the demons of her youth—or so she thinks. It’s been ten years since the mysterious disappearance of her parents. Widely suspected of murdering her mother and father, Clara fled west to start a new life. Now, a documentary film crew is offering cold, hard cash—enough to pay for James’s treatment—in exchange for the sordid secrets of her past.

With no other choice but to delve into a long-ago tragedy, Clara must unravel the lies surrounding that terrible night. Facing hostile gossip, Clara is fighting to clear her name and learn the truth about what really happened. But how far will she go into the dark to save her son—and herself?

Click Here to get your Audiobook copy of A Mother’s Lie, today!

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published by: Relay Publishing
AudioBook Release Date: April 23, 2018
AudioBook Length: 9 hrs and 59 mins
ISBN: 978-1979295420
Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Dense red clay was pushing between the teeth. Pond mist drifted across the manicured lawns, wisping through the dark eye sockets. Parts of the cranium were shaded a vile yellow-brown where decomposing leaves clung to its surface like bile expressed from a liver. The jawbone was separated from the skull, its curved row of teeth pointing skyward to greet the rising sun.

Two feet away, closer to the oak tree, other bones were piled haphazardly: a pelvis, high iliac crests and subpubic angle. A femur, caked with dirt, jammed into his empty skull. Sunlight decorated the brittle bones in long, lazy strips and darkened hairline fractures till they blended with the shed behind them.

It was peaceful here, mostly. The pond no longer bubbled, its aerator decayed by time; weed-clogged flowerbeds no longer bloomed—hands that once worked the land long ago dismissed. Fog blanketed the area, as if drawn by silence. Once, a startled shriek woke the morning doves and set them all into flight.

It was the first time in ten years the mammoth magnificence of the Blue Ridge Mountains had scrutinized these bones; the first song in a decade the morning doves chorused to them from their high perch.

A clatter split apart the dawn; the skull toppled over as it was struck with another bone.

In a clearing, tucked safely behind the McNair estate, someone was whistling as they worked at the earth. The notes were disjointed and haphazard, like they were an afterthought. They pierced the stillness and, overhead, one of the morning doves spooked and took flight, rustling leaves as it rose through the mist.

A shovel struck the wet ground, digging up clay and mulch, tossing it onto the growing mound to their left. The whistling stopped, mid note, and a contemplative hum took its place.

Light glinted on the silvery band in the exposed clay—the digger pocketed it—the shovel struck the ground again; this time, it clinked as it hit something solid.

Bone.

A hand dusted off decayed vegetative matter and wrested the bone from its tomb. Launching it into the air, it flew in a smooth arc, and crashed into the skull like a bowling pin, scattering the remains across the grass. With a grunt of satisfaction, the digger rose and started to refill the hole from the clay mound.

When it was filled and smoothed, and the sod was replaced over the disrupted ground, the digger lifted the shovel and strolled into the woods, one hand tucked in a pocket as they whistled a cheery tune lost to the morning fog.

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Excerpt from A Mother’s Lie by Jo Crow. Copyright © 2017 by Jo Crow. Reproduced with permission from Jo Crow. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Jo Crow

Jo Crow gave ten years of her life to the corporate world of finance, rising to be one of the youngest VPs around. She carved writing time into her commute to the city, but never shared her stories, assuming they were too dark for any publishing house. But when a nosy publishing exec read the initial pages of her latest story over her shoulder, his albeit unsolicited advice made her think twice.

A month later, she took the leap, quit her job, and sat down for weeks with pen to paper. The words for her first manuscript just flew from her. Now she spends her days reading and writing, dreaming up new ideas for domestic noir fans, and drawing from her own experiences in the cut-throat commercial sector.

Not one to look back, Jo is all in, and can’t wait for her next book to begin.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Facebook & Goodreads!

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jo Crow. There will be 5 winners of one (1) A MOTHER’S LIE by Jo Crow audiobook. The giveaway begins on October 2, 2018 and runs through October 8, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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#Review “A Fatal Obsession” by James Hayman

A Fatal Obession by James Hayman

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5/5 Stars!

Three young women reported missing—two already found murdered—and now promising starlet, Zoe McCabe is missing. Is she the fourth victim of the killer the media has dubbed the Star-Struck Strangler?

Will it make any difference that Zoe’s uncle is Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe, formerly of NYPD but now a cop in Portland, Maine?

Will Mike’s distinguished career with NYPD that ended under questionable circumstances bar him from helping with his niece’s kidnapping?

You must read the book to find these answers, and trust me, you want to read this book!

A late-night call from big brother, Bobby, brings Mike back to NYC. A nasty fall and early on-set pneumonia will take their elderly mother, Rose McCabe, from them. Mike returns with his partner (and brand new fiancée), Margaret ‘Maggie’ Savage, to say goodbye. They discover Zoe’s abduction after Bobby cannot reach her to let her know about Rose.

It’s cops against the clock to find Zoe before the killer works through his usual M.O. leaving a dead body in his wake.

A Fatal Obsession is a tightly written police procedural. Mike reconnects with old friends and alliances just as new lines are drawn in the sand. However, even with some rivalries still uneasy despite the passage of time, there’s only a hint of cops-behaving-badly—although two attorneys are way too full of themselves.

Told in multiple POVs, the reader gets to watch the investigation unfold and get inside the head of kidnapper, Tyler Bradshaw.

Bradshaw is no choir boy but even as he plays the role of kidnapper, murderer, bully, and forced paramour, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him, if only just a little. He’s not everything he seems and before the story’s end, the depth of his true pain is revealed.

But it’s Zoe McCabe who wins favorite character honors from me.

She’s living a young woman’s worst nightmare—drugged, kidnapped, assaulted, beaten—yet, she keeps her wits about her. The young actress will play a variety of roles to get inside Tyler’s head searching for a connection… or weakness, and a way to escape.

Zoe has every reason to be weepy and hopeless. Tyler holds the power of life and death over her but she will not make it easy for him. Kudos to the author for such a strong female character who’s anything but a victim.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it will not be the last. Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage have other stories to tell, and yes, I’ve already downloaded one. But, you should grab this one—it’s a great place to start!

Enjoy!

Paperback version reviewed.

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Synopsis:

A Fatal Obession by James Hayman

“James Hayman’s edgy, ingenious novels rival the best of Lisa Gardner, Jeffery Deaver, and Kathy Reichs. A Fatal Obsession is his finest to date: a ferocious live-wire thriller starring two of the most appealing cops in contemporary fiction.” —A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

Zoe McCabe is a beautiful young actress on the verge of stardom who has been basking in the standing ovations and rave reviews she’s been getting from critics and fans alike for her portrayal of Desdemona in an off-Broadway production of Othello. As she takes her final bows, Zoe has no idea that, seated in the audience, a man has been studying her night after night, performance after performance. A man whose carefully crafted plans are for the young actress to take a starring role in a far deadlier production he has created just for her.

Portland, Maine detectives Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage are settling into the new rhythm of their relationship when McCabe gets a late night call from his brother Bobby that Zoe, McCabe’s favorite niece and Bobby’s daughter, has suddenly disappeared. The NYPD is certain Zoe’s abduction is the work of the man the tabloids have dubbed “The Star Struck Strangler,” a killer who has been kidnapping, abusing and finally strangling one beautiful young performer after another. Bobby begs McCabe to return to the New York City crime beat he’d left behind so many years ago, to work his old connections, and to help find Zoe before her time runs out. The stakes for McCabe and Savage have never been higher. Or more personal. And suddenly the race is on to stop a vicious attacker, before the McCabe family is torn apart beyond repair.

 

Book Details

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: Aug. 21, 2018
Number of Pages: 432
ISBN: 9780062876676
Series: McCabe and Savage Thrillers #6
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

The worst thing about the rage was its randomness. Tyler Bradshaw never knew what might trigger one. A tone of voice. A look. An innocent or perhaps a not so innocent remark. Tonight he could feel it starting to build just seconds after he’d begun walking down the center aisle of the small McArthur/Weinstein Community Theater on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Having attended all eleven previous performances in this limited-run production of Othello, Tyler knew exactly where he wanted to sit for tonight’s finale. The same seat he’d occupied for every performance so far. The same seat he was going to sit in tonight no matter what. A12. On the aisle. Front row. Right-hand side. By far the best seat in the house in terms of offering him the most intimate view of the death of Zoe McCabe, the young actress cast in the role of Desdemona.

This would be Tyler’s last chance to watch the woman he wanted so desperately, the woman who’d been haunting his dreams for months, meet death at the hands of Randall Carter, the well known black actor who was playing Othello the Moor. And if all went according to plan, this closing night would become opening night for a much more intimate relationship.

But Tyler had taken only a few steps down the aisle when he was stopped short by the sight of some son of a bitch sitting in his seat. The theater was practically empty, and some asshole had actually had the nerve to plant his butt in the seat Tyler claimed as his own. He stood for a few seconds watching the guy as the anger grew. Some skinny twerp with a shaved head and black-framed hipster glasses leaning over and talking to the woman next to him as if unaware of his transgression. Tyler barely managed to suppress an urge to run down the nearly empty aisle to the first row, pull the guy up by his ears and kick the shit out of him right then and there.

Take it easy, Tyler told himself. Don’t start a fight. Don’t cause a scene. Don’t get your ass thrown out of here. Do that and you’ll miss Zoe’s final death scene, and you really don’t want to do that. Still, when something he so desperately wanted was denied him, when something he considered rightfully his was withheld or taken away, Tyler found it nearly impossible to suppress the anger filling his brain. But he knew he had to try. Taking a deep breath, he managed to walk at a measured pace the rest of the way down the aisle. He stopped and stood directly in front of the guy in A12. He looked down. “Sorry, buddy,” he said in a voice filled with no more than a hint of threat, “you and your girlfriend are gonna have to move. This seat’s taken.”

“I beg your pardon,” the guy said in what Tyler thought was a condescending tone. Tyler hated it when people condescended to him. New York was full of them. It was one of the reasons he really didn’t like spending time in the city even though he’d been born here. Even though he still kept an apartment here. Even though he’d worked three years at his uncle’s fancy Wall Street law firm. That job had gone down the crapper the day Tyler totally lost it when one of the other associates had condescended to him. Told Tyler in front of like ten other people that the only reason the firm had hired Tyler was because his uncle happened to be managing partner. Tyler reacted by slugging the guy right then and there in front of six other lawyers. Knocked the bastard flat on his ass. Then followed up with a kick to the gut. A deliciously satisfying kick even though it marked the end of his legal career. The only reason Tyler hadn’t been charged with assault was that his uncle convinced the other guy his own career would go much better if he simply forgot about the whole thing. Tyler still got pissed off when he thought about that asshole.

“You heard me,” Tyler said to the guy who’d taken his seat, making sure he kept his voice quiet and controlled. “You’re sitting in my seat. This has been my seat for the last two weeks. The entire run. And it will continue to be my seat for tonight. That means it’s time for you to tell me how sorry you are and get up and move.”

Condescension changed to huffiness. “I don’t know who you think you are but there’s no reserved seating in this theater. We took these seats first. That means they’re ours. There’s plenty of empty seats all over the place. Just take one of those and leave us the hell alone.”

“This is my seat and you are going to have to move.”

For exactly twenty-three seconds the guy said nothing. Tyler knew it was twenty-three without having to consult his watch. It was this brain thing he’d had ever since the so-called accident. He always knew precisely to the second what time it was and precisely how much time was passing. Just as he knew how many steps it would take to get from one place to another without having to think about it. It hadn’t always been that way. Just since his old man had tossed him headfirst into the shallow end of the swimming pool at their country place when he was fourteen and he’d bashed his head against the concrete. That’s when the rage problems started as well.

For the entire time, the guy just sat where he was and looked up at Tyler. Maybe he was debating whether to challenge someone who, at six foot three and two hundred and twenty pounds, was way the hell bigger than he was.

Tyler was getting closer to hoisting the guy out of the seat and tossing his skinny little ass out into the aisle. Which would have ruined everything. Thankfully, one second before he would have done just that, the guy’s wife or girlfriend or whatever she was, broke the impasse.

“Come on, Richard,” she said. “Let’s move. I don’t like being this close to the stage anyway.”

“I oughtta call the police,” said Richard.

“Call whoever the fuck you want, Richard. Just get your ass out of my seat.”

“Richard. Please,” said the woman. “This guy’s unhinged.”

“Yeah, Richard, I’m unhinged,” said Tyler, putting as much menace in his voice as he could.

“And if you want to know the truth, I’m getting more fucking unhinged by the second.”

The woman rose, took Richard’s hand and pulled. “Please,” she said.

The guy finally stood. No doubt relieved not to have to confront someone as big and angry-looking as Tyler. But, Tyler figured, also ashamed that he lacked the cojones to stand up to the bully who’d shamed him in front of his girlfriend. A lot of people responded to Tyler that way. He usually enjoyed it when they did. He especially liked it when people backed down and did exactly what he told them to. Which was most of the time. Most people were too chicken-shit to stand up for themselves.

Tonight was no different. The guy named Richard picked up a canvas messenger bag from the floor and let the woman lead him across to the other side of the small auditorium, where they found seats a couple of rows back. Tyler watched them go. Neither looked back at him. Neither noticed the small, satisfied smile he threw at them. Confrontations that ended like this and the adrenaline rush that came with them always made him feel better.

Before sitting down, Tyler unzipped his backpack, pulled a pair of latex gloves from the package he’d put in there, and put them on. Then he took out a packet of antibacterial wet wipes and used three of them to wipe down the seat, the backrest and the arms before easing his large frame down into seat A12. His seat. That done, he closed his eyes and focused on breathing deeply in and out. Pictured the rage that had come from the confrontation slowly dripping out of him, drop by drop, like water from a leaky faucet. That’s what Dr. Steinman, the therapist he started seeing a year after the swimming pool incident, had taught him to do when he felt this way. He watched the drops falling . . . exactly one drop per second . . . and knew without counting that one hundred and forty-four drops had fallen before he’d totally emptied himself of the anger and felt calm enough to open his eyes.

Tyler had another twenty-one minutes and twelve seconds to wait before scheduled curtain time. Maybe even more minutes and seconds before the curtain actually went up, because they never seemed to get the timing right. To pass the time he popped a couple of sticks of Juicy Fruit gum in his mouth and started chewing. Then he pulled a week-old copy of the New York Daily News from his backpack and unfolded it. He stared for what had to be the hundredth time at the banner headline, the big black letters seeming to leap out at him from the front page. StarStruck Strangler Strikes Again. He wondered if that was just one headline or if that was the nickname they were going to give the killer. He wondered if the name would stick. Tyler thought about it. Star-Struck Strangler wasn’t nearly as interesting as, say, Son of Sam. Though it was, he supposed, equally alliterative. Both had multiple S’s, which had always been one of Tyler’s favorite letters. He repeated the headline to himself. Star-Struck Strangler Strikes Again. Four ST words in a row. Tyler preferred S words when they were followed by L’s. Words like slasher. Slimy. Sleazy. Slippery. Slinky. Slick. Slutty. Yes, SL words were much better than ST words. His favorite SL word, slithy, wasn’t a real word at all. Just something made up by Lewis Carroll. ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. Wonderful creepy-crawly sounds.

Beneath the headline that dominated the front page was a subhead set in slightly smaller black type. It read, Missing Ballerina Found Murdered on Beach. No alliteration there unless you counted the M’s in Missing and Murdered and the B’s in Ballerina and Beach, and Tyler didn’t think that really counted. Tucked next to the headline and subhead was a color photo of an attractive young blonde, her hair pulled back in a bun, smiling at the camera. A happy smile, he thought, for a woman who’d turned up dead over a week ago. Tyler flipped open the tabloid and read full the story once again:

Friday, October 2, 2015. The body of 21-year-old Sarah Jacobs, a dancer with the New York City Ballet who had been reported missing two weeks earlier on September 15, was discovered late last night lying in a shallow, sandy grave on a stretch of beach in Sherwood Island State Park., The beach is located on the Long Island Sound in the affluent suburb of Westport, Connecticut.

Investigators say Ms. Jacobs’s body was discovered at approximately six a.m. by Westport resident Edward Todd. Todd told police he was walking his dog on the beach as he does every morning, when the dog raced ahead and started sniffing at something in the sand. When Mr. Todd was close enough to see it was the remains of a human body, he immediately dialed 911 on his mobile phone and informed Westport police, who arrived moments later. After identifying the body, Westport detectives notified the NYPD, which had been searching for Ms. Jacobs since her disappearance.

The victim, Sarah Jacobs, was a well-regarded dancer who was considered a rising star with the New York City Ballet. According to police sources, the victim’s body, when found, was wearing a black leotard and black ballet slippers, an outfit identical to the one she wore on stage during her last performance at Lincoln Center on September 12, three days prior to her disappearance. Her hair was also arranged identically to the way it had been during the performance.

Ms. Jacobs was the daughter of prominent Broadway producer Frederick Jacobs and Chelsea art dealer Marjorie Hanscomb Jacobs. Both parents refused to comment on the discovery of their daughter’s body. André Komar, the company’s ballet master, told reporters, “Sarah was an exceptionally gifted young dancer with a bright future ahead of her. All of us who knew and worked with her here at the New York City Ballet are grieving along with her parents. This is a real tragedy and we will all miss her enormously.”

Assistant New York City Medical Examiner Dr. Peter Weisman told reporters the apparent cause of death was strangulation. He also said the body was badly bruised and there were clear signs that Ms. Jacobs had been sexually assaulted prior to death. Her body is scheduled to be autopsied by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine, among other things, time of death and if strangulation was indeed the cause.

The victim has been the subject of an intense New York Police Department manhunt ever since her disappearance. She was last seen leaving a private party at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan on the evening of September 15th. Her father told reporters she left the party early after complaining of feeling “queasy” and said that she was going to take a cab home to her Greenwich Village apartment.

Ms. Jacobs is the third young member of New York’s performing arts community to have disappeared from Manhattan since the beginning of the year. The body of an earlier victim, Ronda Wingfield, 28, an actress who appeared frequently in musical productions in Manhattan and elsewhere, was discovered last May 19th in a wooded section of Manhattan’s Highbridge Park.

A third performer, actress Marzena Wolski, who also lived in Manhattan and who, for the last two years, had a starring role in the TV crime drama Malicious, was reported missing September 28th. Police have reportedly found no clues as to Ms. Wolski’s whereabouts.

When asked if police believed the three kidnappings and two confirmed deaths were the work of a serial killer, the NYPD’s chief of detectives, Charles Pryor, told reporters, “While we can’t be absolutely sure at this point in the investigation, given the obvious similarities in the choice of victims, all of whom performed on television or on stage, as well as similarities in the cause and manner of death of the two victims found so far, we are fairly certain that that is the case.” Pryor added, “There are currently no suspects but we are hopeful that the discovery of Ms. Jacobs’s remains will provide some relevant leads.”

Tyler reread the article a couple of times even though he already knew it pretty much by heart, as he did just about everything else that had been published about the kidnappings and murders. He then turned back and examined the front-page photo of Sarah Jacobs. With her long, narrow face, Sarah wasn’t really all that pretty. At least not compared to Zoe McCabe. For Tyler Bradshaw, there was no one who could compare to Zoe.

Tyler finally returned the paper to his backpack, relaxed in his seat and waited patiently until the curtain rose, and Roderigo and Iago entered a bare-bones version of a sixteenth-century Venetian street. Tyler watched the beginning of the play with minimal interest. It wasn’t Iago or Roderigo he’d come for. Tyler’s only reason to sit through this part of the play over and over again was to make sure he got the right seat to feel the closeness of the woman he so desperately wanted. His gaze never strayed from her from the moment she first came on stage in Act I, Scene III, until she was finally done to death in Act V, Scene II, bloodlessly smothered by the actor who played the title role. When the play got to that point, Tyler whispered Desdemona’s last words to himself, doing his best to mimic the way Zoe spoke them.

That death’s unnatural that kills for loving.

Alas, why gnaw you so your nether lip?

Tyler sometimes practiced gnawing his nether lip when Zoe said the lines. She was right. It didn’t seem natural. Still, the most famous writer who ever lived had written it that way.

Some bloody passion shakes your very frame:
These are portents; but yet I hope, I hope
They do not point on me. . . .
A guiltless death I die.
Oh yes, my love, he whispered to himself, a guiltless death you die. But not too soon I hope. For I’m quite sure I want you with me for a much longer time than the Star-Struck Strangler had allowed either of the others.

And then, when it came time, he mouthed the famous lines spoken by the Moor.

When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well . . .

Tyler had fixated on these words since he’d watched the first performance two weeks ago, for he believed they precisely defined who he was. They were his lines because he believed that he too was one who loved not wisely but too well.

When the play finally ended and the curtain fell two hours, twenty-seven minutes and thirty seconds later, it was the third longest of the twelve performances he had attended. It irritated Tyler that the actors couldn’t do a better job of getting the timing right. Yes, in one performance, the actor playing Iago had even screwed up one of his lines and Othello had to ad-lib filler dialogue until Iago got his brain back on track. But that was the only time they had an excuse.

He let the irritation go when Zoe and the rest of the cast stepped in front of the curtain to take their bows. He stood with the audience and applauded as loudly as, if not more so than, anyone else in the theater. Took the overchewed ball of gum from his mouth and whistled loudly.

Of course, Tyler’s applause was only for Zoe. His gaze fixed only on her. Her dark and penetrating eyes. Her glorious smile. The slender perfection of her figure. At last, when the curtain calls were finally finished and the actors gone from the stage, Tyler slung his pack around one shoulder and walked out, once again practically the last to leave the theater. For the first time, his mind was finally and truly made up. He could wait no longer. He pulled a crushable Aussie outback hat from his backpack and put it on. Kind of goofy-looking, but what with all the damned surveillance cameras on the streets these days, the wide brim did a good job of hiding his face. And on a cold, drizzly night like this, it wouldn’t even attract much attention. Tyler left the theater by a side exit, crossed the street and stood in the shadows of a darkened computer repair shop, waiting for Zoe to emerge from the stage door dressed in her own street clothes.

When she finally walked out, she wasn’t alone. She was with Randall Carter, the big black dude who played Othello. They stood together on the sidewalk talking. Tyler felt rage once again building as they talked. Especially when Carter leaned down and kissed Zoe on the lips. Nothing passionate. Nothing sexy. But still. The woman Tyler considered his own kissing some hotshot Hollywood bastard? A black hotshot Hollywood bastard no less, which made it even harder to take. Tyler could barely keep his rage from roaring back, barely restrain himself from rushing across the street and kicking the shit out of Carter. While he stood there seething, a black Lincoln SUV pulled up. Randall Carter got in. Zoe waved. The car drove off. Zoe pulled up the hood on her rain jacket and started walking by herself along the street. Tyler watched and waited until she was a little ahead before following.

***

Excerpt from A Fatal Obsession by James Hayman. Copyright © 2018 by James Hayman. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

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#Review”The Barefoot Road” by Vivienne Vermes

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4/5 Stars!

The Barefoot Road is set in a remote village surrounded by mountains in Transylvania. But, it could be Nazi Germany, Cape Town, South Africa or Des Moines, Iowa, the story is the same—people fear what they do not understand.

There is little understanding in The Barefoot Road, and when people don’t understand, those with an agenda can manipulate them.

To raid villages, murdering women and children.

To send a message by gouging an eye from a woman’s head.

To see evil spirits in the innocent dancing of children.

To slit the throat of an old woman.

The saddest part of it all is while the fearful may not be the ones to  perpetrate the violence, they are as guilty for not speaking up or out. They watch and wait then return to their dreary lives where each day is only distinguished from another by birth, death or marriage.

Early in the story, it says, “… that a hunger lay under the earth. It would sleep for a while, a generation perhaps, until, fed on old blood and fear, it would rise again, claiming the land, and the people who lived on it, as its own.”

Nature’s elements and the earth have a starring role in The Barefoot Road, exacting their due even in good weather.

But do I blame a hunger in the earth?

Set aside some time to take this journey and you’ll understand why I don’t blame possessed land but ignorant, foolish men who never learn from life and history and doom us all to repeat it.

The Barefoot Road isn’t pretty or joyous, but it is honest, intense, relatable, and an excellent read.

Enjoy!

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Vivienne Vermes’ debut novel is a gripping read which will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, thrillers and evocative themes. The book begins with a young woman found, emaciated and unconscious, in the mountains surrounding a village in Transylvania. When it is discovered that she is of an ethnic group which was violently driven out of the regions many years before, old wounds are reopened as the villagers are reminded of their role in the bloodshed.

An uneasy peace is maintained until a young married man falls in love with the girl, and tension begin to rise within the community. The mysterious disappearance of a child causes this tension to mount into hysteria, driving the story to its chilling outcome.

 

Purchase Link

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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