Tag Archives: thriller

My Musing ~ Salem’s Cipher by Jess Lourey

Salem’s Cipher by Jess Lourey is the first book in the NEW “Witch Hunter” thriller series. Publisher: Midnight Ink, September 2016

Salem's Cipher A troubled codebreaker faces an epic plot reaching back through centuries of America’s secret history

Salem Wiley is a genius cryptanalyst, courted by the world’s top security agencies ever since making a breakthrough discovery in her field of quantum computing. She’s also an agoraphobe, shackled to a narrow routine by her fear of public places. When her mother’s disappearance is linked to a plot to assassinate the country’s first viable female presidential candidate, Salem finds herself both target and detective in a modern-day witch hunt. Drawn into a labyrinth of messages encrypted by Emily Dickinson and centuries-old codes tucked inside the Beale Cipher, Salem begins to uncover the truth: an ancient and ruthless group is hell-bent on ruling the world, and only a select group of women stands in its way.

I’ve read the author’s “Murder by Month” mystery series and enjoyed it tremendously, but this new series, knocks it out of the ballpark by delivering a fast-paced and action-packed thriller that doesn’t let up from the first page to its conclusion. The drama contained in the narrative of this riveting drama grabbed my attention immediately and kept me glued to the pages as I had to know how this will end and boy was I transfixed by all that was happening. The dangerous exploits surround our heroine everywhere she went and it was her dogged pursuit and determination that propel this intensifying, hold-your-breath story forward and I applaud the author on a job well done.

Author Showcase with Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, and Charles Salzberg

Triple Shot

Ross Klavan “Thump Gun Hitched” – I’ve got two main characters. . .Ty Haran and Bobby Dane. Both start off as cops in LA and both end up without badges and in real trouble. Haran is older, an experienced special officer and a decorated veteran who fought in the Middle East and has no illusions about heroism. He’s also trying not to let Bobby Dane drive him back to drinking (and failing at that). As for Bobby Dane, he’s been like a son to Haran, looks up to him but never really caught on to what Haran’s been trying to tell him—“Try not to get yourself killed.” These two guys have had one another’s backs for years…and ultimately, that’s what gets them into hard times.

For questions. . .

–If I had to ask each of them personally, the question would be. . .”What the hell were you thinking?” I guess Haran would say that watching out for one another became a habit and eventually they ran up a bill between them, a debt, that nobody could pay. So when Bobby Dane needed help, Haran listened, even though he wanted to wash his hands of the guy. And I think Bobby Dane would say that he wanted to be like Haran, or at least his fantasy of what kind of guy Haran was, and that kind of thinking can lead you to trouble, the kind that you can’t turn back from.

–I’d ask myself. . .are these guys based on anyone real? Good question. They’re a combination of certain guys I knew in the Army and when I was reporting the news, mixed in with fictional characters so that the reader gets an interesting take on this kind of story. And, I used to know a guy who taught hand-to-hand combat and was mostly hired by the police and military. He said he was once a cop. . .until he spent a year in prison after doing something really stupid with a handgun while drunk at a cop party. That’s what gave me the germ idea for the story.

–I’d also ask about the tone of the story—it’s really sort of a Western with automatic weapons. As a city boy, I like the desert. . .I like the way it looks and the feel of just that much lurking danger. I have a lot of respect for the desert and the Sun and what’s out there and have had enough experience not to go too far out. But I enjoyed writing about two guys who were friends who wind up in real danger in a place that’s dangerous just because it is.

The lead character in Smoked, you can call him Aggie, is a low-level marijuana and crystal meth dealer doing business in an unnamed Midwestern state. He’s the kind of guy who—when not selling illegal substances—is either lying or rationalizing. (You can tell because his lips are moving.) After getting in way over his head, and putting the few loved ones he has in jeopardy, he finds an inner strength he never knew he had in order to make things right. Back east in New York City, we refer to this realization as “Growing a pair.”

Question: Is Aggie based on someone in your life?
Answer: Yes. And to answer your next question, I’m pretty confident I’m safe from any liability as this person doesn’t read all that much and would have to admit to some pretty shady—read illegal—activities if he (or she) ever decided to prove Aggie was based on him (or her.)

Question: Why base the story in the Midwest? Aren’t your Raymond Donne novels all set in the New York City (mostly Brooklyn) area?
Answer: I spend a lot of time in the Midwest as that’s where my wife grew up and my in-laws still live. I visit with my wife and daughter twice a year—summer and Christmas—and have developed quite a fondness for the location and the people. As much as I love NYC, I need to get out every once in a while, either physically or through my fiction. Writing about a location I don’t actually live in was quite a challenge and I learned a lot from taking it on.

Question: Will we see “Aggie” in a future novella?
Answer: Read Smoked—and the other two novellas in Triple Shot—and then you tell me. Since he is a first-person narrator with a penchant for manipulating the truth, it could go either way.

Trish Sullivan, approaching forty, is an on-air TV investigative reporter, working for a Syracuse, New York daily newscast. She’s smart, talented, and most of all ambitious. She realizes that if she’s going to move up on the food chain, which means getting signed by a network like NBC, ABC, and CBS, or a cable news network like CNN, MSNBC or Fox, she’s going to have to do it soon. And the only thing that’s going to get national attention is a big story. And so, when Trish is contacted by Meg Montgomery, who’s serving a life sentence for murdering her husband and two young children insisting she’s innocent, Trish thinks this might be the breakout story that gets her where she wants to go.

Meg Montgomery is in her early thirties, blonde, very pretty—thing a young Meg Ryan. She’s married and has two children, both under the age of 10. Or rather she was married with children. Now she’s in prison, convicted of killing all of them. She claims innocence and, with no other avenue open to her to prove that, she writes a letter to a local TV news reporter, Trish Sullivan, in hopes that Trish will investigate her case and perhaps uncover the real killer.

In effect, Meg and Trish are not so different—opposite sides of the coin—and this is perhaps what attracts them to each other.

Questions for Trish Sullivan
1. What made you go into the news business?
I’ve always been a news junkie. When I was a kid every night I looked forward to the news. I imagined myself up there, telling a story, breaking news to the public. My idol was Barbara Walters. She was tough, honest, and not afraid to ask the right questions. That’s who I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to interview important people. I wanted to travel around the world. I wanted to watch news being made and I wanted a hand in making the news.

2. What made you decide to investigate Meg Montgomery’s conviction?
Frankly, I saw a bit of myself in Meg. She looked fragile and yet she was obviously tough. She had to be to go through what she did. I was predisposed to believing she was innocent, but I wanted to make sure, which is why I offered her the choice. I wouldn’t investigate her case unless she took a polygraph test and passed. When she did, I was thrilled. This might be the story I was looking for, the story that would get the attention of the national news organizations. And if I could find enough evidence to get her a new trial, I was sure it would get me out of Syracuse and onto the career path I always wanted.

3. How did you feel when you realized you were being manipulated?
Betrayed. Embarrassed. Ashamed. I’d put my faith in Meg and she’d used me. My credibility was damaged, perhaps beyond repair. I knew I had to do something, otherwise my career would be over.

Questions for Meg Montgomery
1. Why did you marry your husband?
I was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. The cute girl who was always popular in school, but still looked down on simply because I didn’t come from a family with money or prestige. Marrying my husband was a step to change all that.

2. What was your marriage like?
It was more like a business partnership more than a marriage. My husband gave me something: legitimacy and instant prestige. He got a very pretty woman to be by his side, which raised his stock as much as he raised mine. That’s why I say it was a business deal more than a love match. But love fades anyway, so I didn’t think I was doing anything particularly wrong. He gained something and so did I, but in the end I gave more than I got, because he was not the man I hoped him to be.

3. Did you feel remorse or guilt for what happened?
I’m not the kind of person who looks back. I do what I do, what I have to do to survive, and I try not to judge myself. I know other people judge me all the time, so why would I have to judge myself?

Shadow towns, smugglers and secret notes—this trio of New York authors are a Triple Shot of twists and turns in three novellas published by Down & Out Books, August 2016

Payback leads to an unmarked grave in Ross Klavan’s Thump Gun Hitched. A freak accident forces two L.A. cops to play out a deadly obsession that takes them from back alley payoffs to hard time in prison, then deep into the tunnel networks south of the border to a murderous town that’s only rumored to exist. Before the last shot is fired, everything they thought was certain proves to be a shadow and everything they trusted opens into a trap.

Life was so much simpler for Tim O’Mara’s marijuana-selling narrator in Smoked when all he had to worry about was keeping his customers, now ex-wife, and daughter satisfied. When he forges a reluctant alliance with his ex-wife’s new lover, he realizes there’s lots of money to be made from the world’s number one smuggled legal product—cigarettes. Unfortunately, his latest shipment contained some illegal automatic weapons. Now he’s playing with the big boys and finds the price of the game way over his head. Murder was never part of his business model.

And finally in Twist of Fate, Charles Salzberg follows Trish Sullivan, an ambitious TV reporter working in a small, upstate New York market. She receives a note from Meg Montgomery, a beautiful young woman convicted of murdering her husband and two children. Montgomery claims she’s innocent and Sullivan, smelling a big story that may garner some national attention, investigates and turns up evidence that the woman has, indeed, been framed. What happens next changes the life of both women in unexpected ways.

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Meet the authors
Ross KlavanROSS KLAVAN’s novel, Schmuck, was published by Greenpoint Press in 2014. He recently finished the screenplay for The Colony based on the book by John Bowers. Nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, his original screenplay, Tigerland, was directed by Joel Schumacher and starred Colin Farrell. He has written screenplays for InterMedia, Walden Media, Miramax, Paramount, A&E and TNT. As a performer, Klavan’s voice has been heard in dozens of feature films including Revolutionary Road, Sometimes in April, Casino, In and Out, and You Can Count On Me as well as in numerous TV and radio commercials. In other lives, he was a member of the NYC alternative art group Four Walls and was a reporter covering New York City and London, England.


Tim O'MaraTIM O’MARA has been teaching math and special education in New York City public schools since 1987, yet he is best known for his Raymond Donne mysteries about an ex-cop who now teaches in the same Williamsburg, Brooklyn, neighborhood he once policed: Sacrifice Fly (2012), Crooked Numbers (2013), Dead Red (2015), Nasty Cutter (January 2017). His short story, The Tip, is featured in the 2016 anthology Unloaded. The anthology’s proceeds benefit the nonprofit States United To Prevent Gun Violence.


Charles SalzbergCHARLES SALZBERG is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair (re-release Nov. 2016), Devil in the Hole (re-release Nov. 2016), Triple Shot (Aug. 2016), and Swann’s Way Out (Feb. 2017). His novels have been recognized by Suspense Magazine, the Silver Falchion Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award and the Indie Excellence Award. He has written over 25 nonfiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times, with Soupy Sales. He has been a visiting professor of magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the Writer’s Voice and the New York Writers Workshop where he is a founding member.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Triple Shot. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end September 19, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life with Sabrina Vaughn by Maegan Beaumont

Blood of SaintsI don’t sleep well.

Maybe it’s a holdover from my old life as a homicide inspector. Maybe it’s the remnants of paranoia that cling to me, shaking me awake in the middle of the night to listen to the quiet for a whispering voice. . .

Hey there, darlin’, Did you miss me?

There’s no voice. Hasn’t been for nearly a year now. Nothing in my head but my own thoughts and maybe that’s what wakes me. The silence. It’s big. Too big sometimes. During the day, there’s activity. Kids and dogs. Meals to prepare. Dishes to wash. Routine. Noise. Things to do. Life to hide behind.

The silence feels different in the dark. It feels like waiting.

I feel the press of Avasa’s nose against my knee and I open my eyes to find her sitting on the floor next to my side of the bed. As soon as I open my eyes she whines softly and stands, her paws mincing impatiently as if to say, come on, you’re wasting time.

I don’t want to wake Michael but as soon as I shift toward the edge of the bed, I feel his arm snake around my waist, pulling me close. “Sabrina,” he murmurs, eyes still closed.

“Avasa needs to go out,” I say, turning to press a kiss to his sleep-softened mouth. “I’ll be right back.”

“Want me to take her?” he offers, sounding more alert.

“Nope.” I kiss him again and the arm around my waist loosens. I ease out of bed and Avasa dances backwards to make room for me. I pull on a pair of pajama pants and Michael’s discarded T-shirt while she watches me, tail twitching, not so much excited as she is impatient. “Keep your pants on,” I hiss at her and she chuffs at me in response, making me laugh.

She leads me down the hall, into the kitchen. Moonlight streams in through the window and I can see her clearly as she sits down in front of the backdoor, tail swishing. I reach past her and flip the lock as I look at the clock mounted on the wall. It’s 3AM.

“I really have to teach you how to let yourself out,” I tell her, pulling the door open and she bolts ahead of me. Instead of heading into the yard she stops short, dropping her rump on the top tread of the steps, planting herself between me and yard. “Hurry up, knucklehead. I’ve got another couple hours to sleep and I don’t want to waste it on—”

Avasa growls, low and deep in the back of her throat, the sound of it tightening the skin on the back of my neck.

Something’s out here.

I think of the antique larder a few feet behind me. There are guns in there. It would take me less than a minute to unlock it and arm myself. Instead, I leave the safety of the doorway, pulling it shut firmly behind me to join my dog on the porch. “Shhh,” I say, smoothing my hand over her sleek head while I scan the yard. As soon as I touch her, she settles, pressing her head against the top of my thigh.

The moon is full, washing the yard in bright, silvery light. About fifty yards ahead is the river. Beyond it more land—we’re surrounded by nearly five-hundred acres. Beyond that, the steep cliffs that encircle our valley and keep us safe. There is nothing out here that doesn’t belong. It’s impossible.

Still, I feel naked. Exposed, and I lace my fingers around Avasa’s collar, getting ready to yank her into the house if I have to. . . and then I see him.

He’s sitting on the opposite bank of the river, watching us. Seeing him, my fingers relax and I sink down to sit on the top step next to Avasa. “Your boyfriend’s back,” I say and she answers me with another growl, this one softer than the first.

The wolf is big. His massive head held high, steel gray fur glowing blue in the moonlight. He’s a frequent late-night visitor, usually accompanied by the small pack he leads. This time he’s alone.

“I think he likes you,” I tell her. I swear she rolls her eyes at me.

About a hundred yards from where he’s sitting is a bridge. If he wanted to, he’d have little trouble finding his way across and into our yard but he doesn’t. As usual, he stays on his side of the river. He just sits there, watching us. Watching me.

It happens again—the skin on the back of my neck goes tight. A warning and I instantly aim my gaze as the narrow dirt road beyond the bridge, half expecting to see someone traveling its narrow width but it’s empty. We’re still alone here—still safe—but I have the feeling that’s about to change.

When I swing my gaze back toward the river, the wolf is gone.

I stand. “Come on,” I say to my dog and she reluctantly follows me inside.

Blood of Saints is the fifth book in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series, published by Midnight Ink, August 2016.

He wants a miracle

And he won’t stop killing until he gets one

Deep in the mountains of Montana, former Homicide inspector Sabrina Vaughn has found the kind of peace she’s always dreamed of. And with Michael O’Shea, she’s found the kind of love she never thought possible. Together, even under the constant threat of faraway adversaries, they’ve managed to build the kind of idyllic life they’ve both longed for.

But a life this safe was never meant to last. When twenty-year-old forensic evidence connects her to a string of recent murders, Sabrina must leave her new life behind and return to the place she was brutally raped and tortured in order to search for a killer who’s as cunning as any she’s ever encountered.

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Meet the author
Maegan Beaumont is the award-winning author of the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series. Her debut novel, Carved In Darkness was awarded the 2014 gold medal from Independent Publishers for outstanding thriller as well as being named a Foreword, book of the year finalist and Debut Novel of the Year by Suspense Magazine. When she isn’t locked in her office, torturing her protagonists, she’s busy chasing chickens (and kids), hanging laundry and burning dinner. Either way, she almost always in to company of her six dogs, her truest and most faithful companions and her almost as faithful husband, Joe. Look for the fifth novel in her series, BLOOD OF SAINTS, released by Midnight Ink in August 2016. Connect with Maegan at maeganbeaumont.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win the complete 5-book series set (Carved in Darkness, Sacrificial Muse, Promises to Keep, Waiting in Darkness and Blood of Saints). U.S. residents only, please. The giveaway will end August 18, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ Among The Wicked by Linda Castillo

Among The Wicked by Linda Castillo is the 8th book in the “Kate Burkholder” thriller series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, July 2016

Among The WickedChief of Police Kate Burkholder is called upon by the sheriff’s department in rural, upstate New York to assist on a developing situation that involves a reclusive Amish settlement and the death of a young girl. Unable to penetrate the wall of silence between the Amish and “English” communities, the sheriff asks Kate to travel to New York, pose as an Amish woman, and infiltrate the community.

Kate’s long time love interest, State Agent John Tomasetti, is dead set against her taking on such an unorthodox assignment, knowing she’ll have limited communication – and even less in the way of backup. But Kate can’t turn her back, especially when the rumor mill boils with disturbing accounts of children in danger. She travels to New York where she’s briefed and assumes her new identity as a lone widow seeking a new life.

Kate infiltrates the community and goes deep under cover. In the coming days, she unearths a world built on secrets, a series of shocking crimes, and herself, alone… trapped in a fight for her life.

All it took was one sitting with a couple of breaks to finished this fast-paced and action-packed drama that had me engrossed in all that was happening from the moment Kate went up North. From the narrative of the author, I could feel the tension and apprehension that Kate felt as she dived into a dangerous situation with some unexpected developments. Who should she trust? Was she truly alone? Who is the mastermind? How will this end? The frenetic pulse of this intensifying and gripping story reached a crescendo that when it was all said and done, everything fell into place and the aftermath was worthy of the outcome. The author knows how to spin a brilliantly-written tale where the dialogue, the character’s role and the setting are pivotal to how well this story is told. This is a one of the best book in this compellingly riveting series and I’m looking forward to more exploits with Kate, John and the gang in Painters Mill, Ohio.

My Musing ~ Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt

Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt is the first book in the NEW “Afton Tangler” thriller series. Publisher: Penguin Random House, July 2016

Little Girl GoneIn the first Afton Tangler thriller, the unforgiving cold of a Minnesota winter hides the truth behind an even more chilling crime…

On a frozen night in an affluent neighborhood of Minneapolis, a baby is abducted from her home after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second.

As family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D., it’s Afton Tangler’s job to deal with the emotional aftermath of terrible crimes—but she’s never faced a case quite as brutal as this. Each development is more heartbreaking than the last and the only lead is a collection of seemingly unrelated clues.

But, most disturbing of all, Afton begins to suspect that this case is not isolated. Whoever did this has taken babies before—and if Afton doesn’t solve this crime soon, more children are sure to go missing . . .

The author got me good by delivering a well-written drama that completely captured my attention from beginning to an ending worthy of the all the pages that preceded It. From the start we know who did it but what we see is how this case is investigated and solved and that is what makes this tale so enticingly intriguing. Afton is one determined and gutsy protagonist and I like how she thinks in this fast-paced and intensifying thriller that kept me riveted to all that was happening with anticipated action and reaction. The multiple point of views enhanced the telling of this tale which gave me a great perspective on the various players in this story. The narrative kept me immersed in all that was transpiring giving me that heart-pounding moment when I knew everything was going to be as it should. A great read and I’m looking forward to the next book in this exciting new series.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) book from the author.

A Day in the Life of Afton Tangler by Gerry Schmitt

Little Girl GoneI’m sitting here in police headquarters shivering like a Chihuahua in a snowstorm. But not because of the brutal cold. It’s because Chief Thacker called me in to help deal with a baby that’s been kidnapped. A three month-old by the name of Elizabeth Ann who was stolen from her crib in an affluent Minneapolis neighborhood. Her teenaged babysitter was also violently assaulted and is over at Hennepin County Medical Center right now with rope burns and a broken nose.

The parents are frantic and the detectives I work with seemed stunned when they viewed the grainy baby cam footage that was salvaged. It looks as if the perpetrator might be a woman! Maybe even a woman they’re tentatively calling the doll lady – a woman who creates “reborn” dolls that look and feel like they’re alive. There’s a crazy cult-like following of these dolls, and doll enthusiasts, as well as childless couples, actually sign adoption papers and pay high fees just to get their hands on these dolls.

Is that crazy or what?

Still, the trail for Elizabeth Ann and her abductor is getting colder and not much is being done. There just aren’t a lot of clues.

I’m not a police detective, although I’d like to be. I’m Afton Tangler, a family liaison officer who’s tasked with dealing with victims and victims’ families in the messy aftermath of violent crimes. I’m also a mom, so I understand the heartbreak that Elizabeth Ann’s mom and dad are suffering right now.

My friend, Detective Max Montgomery, just told me that the dead body of another child had been discovered at the bottom of wooded ravine and a young man with a camera phone has been seen snapping pictures of newborns at nearby Memorial Hospital. And, lucky girl that I am, one of the FBI agents on the case just made a pass at me.

When I finally got home tonight and saw my own kids, Poppy and Tess, I knew I had a big decision to make. I’m thirty-four years old, have never drunk a Cosmopolitan, never worn a Wonderbra, never vacationed at Club Med. If I know what’s good for me, what’s smart for my career, I’ll keep my nose clean, stay the hell out of this investigation, and maybe even get around to pursuing my frivolous “want list” some day.

Or I can bulldog my way into this investigation, find that missing baby, and nail the son-of-a-bitch kidnapper’s ass to the wall.

It isn’t a difficult decision.

Little Girl Gone is the first book in the NEW Afton Tangler thriller series, published by Berkley Publishing Group, July 2016.

In the first Afton Tangler thriller, the unforgiving cold of a Minnesota winter hides the truth behind an even more chilling crime. . .

On a frozen night in an affluent neighborhood of Minneapolis, a baby is abducted from her home after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second.

As family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D., it’s Afton Tangler’s job to deal with the emotional aftermath of terrible crimes—but she’s never faced a case quite as brutal as this. Each development is more heartbreaking than the last and the only lead is a collection of seemingly unrelated clues.

But, most disturbing of all, Afton begins to suspect that this case is not isolated. Whoever did this has taken babies before—and if Afton doesn’t solve this crime soon, more children are sure to go missing.

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Meet the author
Gerry Schmitt is the author of Little Girl Gone, an Afton Tangler Thriller was released July 5, 2016. Writing Gerry Schmittunder her pen name Laura Childs, she is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty-six mysteries, including the Scrapbooking Mysteries, Tea Shop Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Gerry is the former CEO of her own marketing firm, has won dozens of TV and radio awards, and produced two reality TV shows. She and her professor husband enjoy travel and their two Shar-Pei dogs.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a hardcover copy of Little Girl Gone. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end July 13, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.


weekly update

Coming up on dru’s book musings (7/4 – 7/9)
July 4: Lena London by Julia Buckley (Writer’s Apprentice)
July 5: J.J. Tanner by Linda Wiken (Dinner Club)
July 6: Liz Talbot by Susan M. Boyer (Liz Talbot)
July 7: Afton Tangler by Gerry Schmitt (Afton Tangler)
July 8: Isobel Avery by Chelsea Field (Eat, Pray, Die)
July 9: TJ Sweeney by Susan Van Kirk (Endurance)

“Oliver Twisted” by Cindy Brown – Grace K.
Mackenzie & Mackenzie P.I. swag pack from Jennifer L. Hart – Linda H.
“Caught Bread Handed” by Ellie Alexander – Kim D.
“Cracked to Death” by Cheryl Hollon + cheese tray – Lesley P.
“The Last Time She Saw Him” by Jane Haseldine – Sally G.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Six months. Six months into 2016 and it seems it came at a fast and fury pace. I did a lot this year with attending two reader/fan conventions (Phoenix and Bethesda), several book launches, mostly held at the Mysterious Bookshop. I’ve seen several Broadway shows and was disappointed to hear that one of the ones I wanted to see was closed already. Now I’m gearing up for the second half of the year with two more reader/fan conventions.

For the period of January to June 2016, I’ve read 116 books.  I hope to read at least 220 books and I’m on pace to achieve that goal.

Several bloggers put up their First Half Favorites for 2016 and after sorting through the books, here’s what I’ve selected:

Cozy Mysteries

  • Breach of Crust by Ellery Adams
  • Gone With The Witch by Heather Blake
  • A Churn for the Worse by Laura Bradford
  • An Unhappy Medium by Dawn Eastman
  • Rock-A Bye-Bones by Carolyn Haines

Traditional Mysteries

  • Double Knot by Gretchen Archer
  • Lowcountry Book Club by Susan M. Boyer
  • The Saints of the Lost and Found by T.M. Causey
  • Goodbye To The Dead by Brian Freeman
  • Reckoning and Ruin by Tina Whittle

Ink and BoneInk and Bone by Lisa Unger is published by Touchstone, June 2016. Genre: Thriller

“Ink and Bone” is a riveting and mesmerizing tale of suspense that pulled me in while succumbing to the narrative that kept me reading like there was no tomorrow. Excellent Read! Good job Lisa.

A Day in the Life of Lexi Jakobson by Michael Wiley

Black HammockMy name is Lexi Jakobson and I’m nineteen years old and I live on Black Hammock which is a barrier island south of the Florida-Georgia border. Don’t believe what they say about me. I have been off the island. To go to high school when I went. And church when Walter got on that kick.

Black Hammock Island. One square mile. One bridge. Population 172 and dropping fast. As flies.

I like to read and who can blame me?

You should know my mother but if you do I’m sorry. You certainly have heard her name which is Kay Jakobson. You probably have seen her paintings. Self-portraits that a gallery in Atlanta sells to suckers. Not that you’re necessarily one.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark.” Stephen Crane’s “A Dark-Brown Dog.” My favorite is anything by Edgar Allan Poe.

You want my story? I’ll trade you. Your story for mine. I like stories.

I’ve been called outlandish. My story has been.

Outlandish describes me very well.

Black Hammock is outlandish. It’s an island and an outland. It’s in the Jacksonville city limits but you would hardly believe it. Ask the mayor where Black Hammock is and he’ll most likely say “uhhhh.” Imagine the corner of a city and then take the corner of that corner and another corner of the second corner. That’s Black Hammock. A snake swallowed its own tail and when it went to look for itself it was gone. That is not a metaphor. If a black hole had live oak trees and pinewoods and a white sand beach at the edges of outer space and brackish creeks where you could find oysters and crabs scientists would call it Black Hammock.

Which is why I like to read.

That and Mother’s husband Walter. You could excuse Walter by saying he’s sick but he isn’t. He’s as healthy as a chicken. He’s just evil. He has been known to beat me. He has been known to beat my brother Cristofer. He has never raised a hand against Mother. If he did she would run him off the island with a weapon or with her bare hands which are as dangerous as a weapon. Sooner than raise a hand Walter would feed her warm milk with a spoon.

I have another brother his name is Oren.

I’ve never met him.

On a bloody night eighteen years ago Oren disappeared from our house on Black Hammock. Mother and Walter think he’s dead. If they knew he was alive Walter would fret the way a grown man shouldn’t if he wants to keep the respect of his neighbors. Mother would put down her paintbrushes and scream. And scream. Cristofer doesn’t know about Oren. Cristofer’s brain will always be young.


I have an ache in that spot between the belly and the breasts that has no name. It’s like a cavity in a tooth and the ache makes no sense because a cavity is a hole and a hole shouldn’t hurt it is empty. This is not a metaphor. Either. The dentist will tell you that the hole hurts because it’s a hole. The hole will stop aching if the dentist fills it.

A policeman named Daniel Turner used to come to our house and ask about Oren. As if he was a dentist. That is a metaphor. Daniel Turner brought me candy and I was sorry when Walter chased him away and told him we no longer welcomed his questions and questions and questions. Walter says some questions have only secret answers. Where do you find secret answers? In the blood that dried between the floorboards eighteen years ago.

Walter will tell you that these answers are dangerous. He’ll fret even if the neighbors are watching. If Mother even thinks about the questions a groan comes up from her throat and out of her mouth until she puts two fingers on her lips to silence herself.

Where is Oren?

Is he buried in the pinewoods where Mother and Walter believe they put him?

Could the dried blood between the floorboards liquefy and pulse like a tell-tale?

I have the secret answer.

The answer is Oren’s coming home to Black Hammock.


Black Hammock is the third book in the Daniel Turner thriller series, published by Severn House Publishers, June 2016.

Homicide detective Daniel Turner revisits an 18-year-old unsolved case in the third of this intriguing and atmospheric crime noir series.

We had set out from Atlanta to kill my mother and her husband. A slow kill.

Oren has returned to the family home he last saw when he was eight years old. Eighteen years later, he is bent on an elaborate scheme of revenge.

Homicide detective Daniel Turner was never able to forget the unsolved case, the disappearance of Amon Jakobsen all those years ago. Convinced the man was murdered, he was never able to prove it. Now he has returned to the isolated house on Black Hammock Island following reports of a disturbance. Is this his chance to find out what really happened to Amon eighteen years before? And will he be in time to prevent history repeating itself?

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About the author
Michael Wiley is the Shamus Award-winning writer of the Joe Kozmarski mysteries, The Last Striptease, The Bad Kitty Lounge, and A Bad Night’s Sleep and, more recently, the Daniel Turner thrillers, Blue Avenue, Second Skin, and Black Hammock. Michael lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with his family and a variety of animals that walked or crawled into his house with his kids when he wasn’t looking. Michael teaches at the University of North Florida. Visit Michael at www.michaelwileyonline.com.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Extreme Prey by John Sandford

Extreme Prey by John Sandford is the 26th book in the “Prey” thriller series. Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, April 2016

Extreme PreyShe was an Iowa woman in her fifties, busy skinning a rabbit for dinner. She wasn’t thinking about the rabbit, though. She was thinking about murder. If and when, and where and how, and with what.

She wasn’t thinking about who. She already knew who.

After a recent—and dangerous—adventure with his daughter, Lucas Davenport finds himself in a very unusual situation—no longer employed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. His friend the governor has been cranking up a presidential campaign, though, and he has a job for Lucas.

The governor’s been hearing strange things on the campaign trail in Iowa; nothing specific, just whispers that make him wonder if there are some crazies out there planning to do something. He’s passed it along to the appropriate people, but he’d feel much better if Lucas checked it out, too.

Lucas agrees—but he has no idea what he’s just gotten himself into. He’s seen crazies before in his career—all too many of them—but none quite like the ones he’s about to encounter now.

Filled with his trademark razor-sharp plotting and some of the best characters in suspense fiction, Extreme Prey is future proof that “John Sandford is at the top of his game” (The Washington Post).

This fast-paced and action filled drama begins like no other and ends with what’s next for Lucas. In between we are taken on a roller coaster ride as Lucas is once again on the hunt for vicious killers who’ll stop at nothing to get what they think other deserves and it will be up to Lucas to put that fire out. This was an intense read that had my heart pumping as each scene was fraught with danger the closer we got to the perpetrators as expertly written by the author. The narrative put me smack dab in the middle of all the action while the dialogue kept me engaged in all aspects in the telling of this story. This was another good story by the author and I look forward to the next chapter in the lives of Lucas and his friends.

A Day in the Life of Merit Bridges by Manning Wolfe

Dollar SignsHowdy from Austin, Texas, home of rolling hills covered in bluebonnets, great music, Tex-Mex and weird characters. I’m one of those characters, an attorney living a modern life with high rises and technology, but with one foot firmly planted on South Congress with the hippies and nonconformists eating Torchy’s Tacos and dancing at the Continental Club.

SoCo they call it now – it’s where my last client got into some serious trouble burning down a giant billboard. I’ve been trying to get him out of that mess, but things just keep getting worse for him and me. We’ve been to court, tried arbitration, and almost resorted to begging, but this Goliath corporation will not budge and now they’ve sent a monster after me named Boots King.

The police and my investigator, Ag, have been trying to find Boots, but he’s “slipperier than snail snot” as my office manager Betty likes to say. Yes, you can’t know me without knowing my office staff – we’re tight. I include my law clerk Val in that group. He keeps us all looking fashionable and stylish while we run around Austin protecting the innocent, foiling bad guys, and eating at award winning restaurants.

Just last week, we attended a lunchtime lingerie show at client Slag’s strip club. You should have seen Val’s eyes pop when he saw his first pole dance. We’re not entertaining ourselves all the time. We actually get some work done downtown in The Law Office of Merit Bridges, and make sure our clients are well served and happy – the ones who manage to stay alive that is.

My son, Ace, spices up our lives as well. He’s in Houston in a special school for dyslexic students. He’s the love of my life now that his father is gone, but I don’t want to talk about that. Ace and I get down to our beach house in Port Aransas as often as possible to heal our wounds and eat Gulf seafood.

I’d like to stay and chat longer, but I have a big trial coming up in a few days and I have to kick the boy toys out of my bed, get to work, and prepare for the fight of my life. More on that later. For now, just know that I plan to win. Not many mess with a Texas Lady Lawyer and survive to tell the tale. Next time you’re driving through town, give me a shout and I’ll brief you over a glass of wine.

Dollar Signs is the first book in the NEW Texas Lady Lawyer legal thriller series, published by Starpath Books, LLC, February 2016.

MERIT BRIDGES, an attorney and widowed mother in Austin, Texas, works hard, drinks too much wine, and sleeps with younger men. When Merit goes after a shady corporation threatening her client, she encounters hired gun Boots King. His charge is simple, “Stop her!” Merit and her team – including Betty, a mothering office manager with a bad-ass attitude – struggle to stay alive, while they navigate a labyrinth of legal issues, and prove once again that you don’t mess with a Texas lady lawyer.

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Meet the author
Manning Wolfe is an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas. She writes cinematic-style, smart, Manning-Wolfefast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first book in her series featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them. Connect with Manning at manningwolfe.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Dollar Signs. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end May 27, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.