Dead in a Pickup by B. L. Blair


About the Book

When Leah Norwood finds the body of Brandy Perez in a pickup parked outside a house for sale, she is once again drawn into the hunt for a killer. Brandy was a party girl with a questionable reputation. She dated a lot of different men including local bad-boy Marcus Cantono. At the time of her death, Brandy claimed to be in a relationship with a wealthy businessman, and there are only a few men in Reed Hill who fit that description.

Marcus is already dealing with vandals trying to close down his restaurant, his mother’s sixty-fifth birthday party, and family members restarting their drug dealing operation. He doesn’t need lead murder suspect added to the list. The evidence against him is strong, and Leah’s snooping soon makes her a target. She’s determined to help Marcus while trying to keep her relationship with the sexy chief of police intact.

Leah loves a good mystery. Can she find the killer before the killer finds her?

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Excerpt

Glancing at the pickup again, I wondered if the woman would know anything. If she was waiting for someone who lived in the area, she might be familiar with the residents. She still hadn’t moved, and I was getting a little worried. It was a warm spring day, and I was surprised she was sitting in the cab with the windows up and the engine turned off.

Before I could decide whether to approach her, my phone rang. Thinking it was Tracy, I answered without checking. I was surprised to hear Griggs on the line.

“Good morning,” he said when I answered.

“Hi,” I replied with a smile. “Please don’t tell me you can’t make lunch.”

“Are you kidding me?” he said, humor lining his voice. “I think I’d get run out of town if I canceled on you again.”

“Oh, I doubt that.”

“You weren’t at the council meeting or at the gym.”

“What do you mean?”

“Gabe made a very pointed comment at the city council meeting the other night about not showing for our double date.”

As one of the leading employers in town, Gabe sat on the city council. He had been instrumental in hiring Griggs as our police chief, and he and Griggs had become friends. Gabe, Olivia, Griggs, and I had planned to meet at the movies on Saturday. It was one of the times Griggs had to cancel. Gabe understood this. He was simply giving Griggs a hard time.

“He had to know you couldn’t help it,” I said.

“Sure. As a council member and city leader, he understands and supports my dedication to the job. But as your friend, he’s not happy.”

I could still hear the humor in Griggs’s voice so I didn’t apologize for Gabe’s behavior. My friends could be protective.

“Of course, Cantono wasn’t as understanding.”

“Marcus?”

“Yes. Marcus. When I saw him at the gym this morning, he asked how our date went. He wasn’t pleased when I told him I had to cancel. I think he might’ve threatened my life.”

I laughed. Marcus and Griggs had gotten off on the wrong foot. Griggs being law enforcement and Marcus being part of a law-breaking family hadn’t helped. They now seemed to have reached an understanding. Not exactly friends, but no longer enemies.

“I’m sure he didn’t mean it,” I said. “You must’ve gotten to the gym early.”

“Yeah. I got a decent night’s sleep as it was quiet at the station. No domestic calls, no accidents, and especially no murders. I had to sleep on the couch in my office, but I wasn’t disturbed. I think that may be what angered Cantono. He didn’t look like he had slept at all.”

“That’s odd. I saw him at the store yesterday. He didn’t mention any late plans. Just going to Bella’s to help out. Maybe he didn’t sleep well and went to the gym early to wear himself out so he could sleep tonight.”

“Maybe. He certainly looked tired, but enough about him. What are you doing?”

“I’m sitting on the porch of a house waiting for my real estate agent to arrive so she can show it to me. Do you know anything about an accident on the freeway?”

There was a short pause. “We heard about it, but it’s being handled by the state troopers. They didn’t ask for any assistance so it can’t be that bad.”

“Probably a fender-bender that backed up traffic. Tracy said she was almost to the exit. Hopefully, she’ll be here soon.”

Another pause. “You’re looking for a house?”

He sounded surprised. It had been my plan to purchase a house for years. I had been saving for a down payment that would allow me to have a reasonable monthly mortgage. We had paid off all our business loans, and the store was doing well. Buying a house had been such a big part of my life for a while now that I didn’t realize until that moment I had never mentioned it to Griggs. In some ways, it felt like we’d been dating forever, but in reality, we still barely knew each other. I took a few minutes to tell him about my plans.

“I just bought a house myself,” he said. “I thought I could show it to you today.”

“I’d love to see it.”

“Great. I’ll meet you at the store around one.”

I agreed, and we said goodbye. I was starting to get worried about Tracy. The ten minutes had stretched to thirty, and she still wasn’t anywhere in sight. I looked up and down the street. There was no traffic. Cars were parked along the curbs, but nothing was moving. It was a little eerie.

The woman in the pickup still hadn’t moved. I rose from the porch and walked toward her. The pickup was old, but it was in decent shape. It looked like something from the fifties or sixties with a smaller cab and bed. The closer I got, the more concerned I became. She was so still. A knot formed in my stomach as I edged nearer.

The woman appeared to be asleep, head back against the headrest, eyes closed, but I knew she wasn’t asleep. I stared through the windshield and saw the bruising around her neck so very reminiscent of my own. Unfortunately, the tie lying on the seat next to her was familiar too.

Tracy pulled up behind my car as I was calling 911. It was too late for the woman inside, but I knew a crime scene when I saw one. The one thought that kept running through my head was what was Marcus’s tie doing on the seat of a dead woman’s pickup?

 

About the Author


B. L. Blair writes mystery/romance stories. Like most authors, she has been writing most of her life and has dozens of books started. She just needs the time to finish them.

She is the author of the Leah Norwood Mysteries and the Lost and Found Pets Mystery Novellas. She loves reading books, writing books, and traveling wherever and as often as time and money allows. She is currently working on her latest book set in Texas, where she lives with her family.

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The Greenleaf Murders by R.J. Koreto

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The Greenleaf Murders

by R.J. Koreto

January 23 - February 17, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Greenleaf Murders by R.J. Koreto

Young architect Wren Fontaine lands her dream job: restoring Greenleaf House, New York's finest Gilded-Age mansion, to its glory days. But old homes have old secrets: Stephen Greenleaf—heir to what’s left of his family’s legacy—refuses to reveal what his plans are once the renovation is completed. And still living in a corner of the home is Stephen's 90-year-old Aunt Agnes who's lost in the past, brooding over a long-forgotten scandal while watching Wren with mistrust.

Wren's job becomes more complex when a shady developer who was trying to acquire Greenleaf House is found murdered. And after breaking into a sealed attic, Wren finds a skeleton stuffed in a trunk. She soon realizes the two deaths, a century apart, are strangely related. Meanwhile, a distraction of a different kind appears in the form of her client's niece, the beautiful and seductive Hadley Vanderwerf. As Wren gingerly approaches a romance, she finds that Hadley has her own secrets.

Then a third murder occurs, and the introverted architect is forced to think about people, and about how ill-fated love affairs and obsessions continue to haunt the Greenleafs. In the end, Wren risks her own life to uncover a pair of murderers, separated by a century but connected by motive. She reveals an odd twist in the family tree that forever changes the lives of the Greenleafs, the people who served them, the mansion they all called home—and even Wren herself.

Praise for The Greenleaf Murders:

"A delightful who-done-it in which the house is as engaging as the wonderful heroine. Readers will want to get lost in these rooms and these pages."

Cate Holahan, USA Today bestselling author of Her Three Lives

"If you love houses and puzzles - which I do - you will be captivated by THE GREENLEAF MURDERS, the first in Richard Koreto's new series. Equally sure-footed in the gilded age of the mansion's heyday and the contemporary world of its decline, Koreto has woven a pretzel of a plot, introduced a charming new heroine, and whetted appetites for more grave deeds and grandeur."

Catriona McPherson, multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series

"The Greenleaf Murders mixes a modern suspense mystery with the love of old-world mansions and iconic High Society. Buried secrets threaten a family clinging to their former glory as two murders surface, a century apart. Koreto weaves a story that creates the perfect tension between the beauty of the golden era and the fear of a killer in plain sight."

L.A. Chandlar, national best selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series

"One would think that a murder mystery featuring old homes, architecture, and rich blue bloods would be a dull read, but that’s not the case with R.J. Koreto’s finely-written “The Greenleaf Murders.” Filled with twists and turns and sharply-drawn characters, this well-done novel is very much recommended."

Brendan DuBois, award-wining and New York Times bestselling author

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 264
ISBN: 9781685122089
Series: Historic Homes Mysteries, #1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Level Best Books

Read an excerpt:

Last night, Wren had dreamt she went to Manderley again.

When she was fifteen, her mother had given her a copy of Rebecca, saying it was one of her favorites. A voracious reader, Wren finished it in a few days, but her reaction was not what her mother had hoped for.

“Rebecca was horrible, but Maxim was no prize either. And the second Mrs. De Winter—kind of wimpy.”

“You didn’t like anyone in that book?” asked her exasperated mother.

“I liked Mrs. Danvers. I know she was insane, but she really appreciated the house. If people had been nicer to her, maybe she wouldn’t have burned it down. The best part of the book was Manderley. I’d have liked to live there, in splendid isolation, and Mrs. Danvers would take care of things. She was the only one in the book who knew how to do something.”

Her mother just stared. What teenaged girl talked about living by herself in an ivy-covered British mansion? She kissed her daughter on her forehead. “Wren, you really are an old soul.”

But although Manderley was her first love, Wren proved fickle, and also fell in love with Holyrood House, Blenheim Palace, and Versailles.

A succession of guidance counselors worried about Wren, although she gradually learned to make friends, and even go on dates. However, nothing could replace her love for houses, and it was a foregone conclusion by college that she would become an architect like her father and spend as much time as possible working with houses and not people. And not just any houses, but the kind no one had lived in for a long time.

As Wren approached 30, her father made her a junior partner and told her if he could close the deal with Stephen Greenleaf, he’d let her take full responsibility for Greenleaf House. Once the proposal they had worked on so hard had been completed, Wren couldn’t think about anything beyond spending her days in that Gilded Age gem, one of the largest private residences ever built in New York City. Over the years, like the second Mrs. De Winter, she dreamed of Manderley, never more than when she was hoping for the Greenleaf job.

She came home late one evening after visiting a job site and found her father in the study of the home they still shared. Living at home had become a temporary convenience while she was at graduate school, which turned into a habit, as they liked each other’s company. Not that either would admit it.

She watched him sketch. Although the firm had an office in midtown Manhattan, her father preferred to work in the study of their Brooklyn townhouse. For normal work, she knew it was safe to interrupt him, but not while he did the sketches—his avocation, his passion, just him and his pencils, creating columns and cornices, chair railings, and gargoyles. The only light poured from the desk lamp, illuminating the fine paper and her father’s high-domed forehead. She wanted to know if he had heard anything—but had to wait patiently.

Eventually, the scratching stopped, and he put his pencil down.

“If you haven’t eaten yet, Ada left her spaghetti and meat sauce in the refrigerator. She’s a fine housekeeper, but that particular dish is a little common.”

“Only you would describe a dish of pasta as ‘common.’”

“You know what I mean. And if you don’t understand the context, you shouldn’t be an architect.”

“Fine. But I think it’s delicious.”

“Yes,” he said, with a touch of impatience. “I didn’t say it wasn’t delicious. I said it was common.” He swiveled in his chair and smiled. “But you’re really here to ask if I’ve heard from Greenleaf? I told him today that we couldn’t put aside our other projects indefinitely. And that Bobby Fiore was the only contractor we could trust, and we couldn’t ask him to postpone other jobs, so with a few arguments about the price, he agreed.”

Wren laughed, did a little dance, and punched the air. Then she ran and hugged her father, which he tolerated. “I knew you’d convince him. You are the most wonderful father.”

“Wren. Take a seat.” He said it in his even, measured tone, the one he used for serious discussions. Wren wiped the smile from her face, pulled up a chair, and tucked a rebellious lock of hair behind her ear. In the half-dark room, he took her hands in his.

“I have no doubt that you have the technical skills for this job. My concern is the personal skills. These are the Greenleafs. They were a force in this city when it was still New Amsterdam. We see their house merely as an architectural jewel. The family sees it as a symbol of how tightly they are tied to the history of this city. They are different from other people.”

“People are people,” she said.

“First of all, no. People are different. And even if you were right, people are not your strong suit.”

“I’ve worked well with our clients,” she said defensively.

“You referred to one of our clients as ‘a pompous bourgeois vulgarian.’”

Wren rolled her eyes. “Let’s not go there again. I didn’t say it to his face, just to you.”

“Do you think you hid your feelings?”

“You’ve said worse,” she countered. Then realized she had lost the argument when his eyes went up to the framed certificate on the wall—the Pritzker Prize, often called the Nobel Prize of architecture. I’ve earned my right to arrogance. You have a long way to go.

“Just remember that these people pay our bills. I know we often work to protect them from their own worse instincts, but let’s try to be a little more politic. Your mother used to say you lived in your own special world. But you have to join the rest of humanity every now and then. And that brings me back to Greenleaf House. This is the very important symbol of what was once one of the most important families in this city. Keep that in mind when dealing with Stephen Greenleaf.”

“We’ve already had several meetings, don’t forget. He didn’t seem that unusual to me—runs his own asset management firm. I’ve dealt with Wall Street types before. It won’t be a problem.”

“Wren.” Again, heavy on her name—all her life, this had been the sign of a serious conversation. “The Greenleafs made their money before there was a Wall Street. People like this are unusually touchy about their families and histories. Now that you’re actually starting, his behavior may change. There could be some emotional repercussions. To make this a success, you will have to watch out for those feelings and manage them.”

“And you’re about to say—again—that I understand houses but not people.”

“Let’s just say it’s more of an effort for you. You can work with people. You just don’t like to. But I made you a partner. So you can’t just do the fun parts of your job. You have to do it all.”

“Yes, father,” she said. He was serious, so there could be no more pushback from her. No verbal fencing. He wanted her to live up to his expectations.

“It isn’t your father who’s asking you, Wren. It’s the senior partner of this firm, Ms. Fontaine.”

She nodded. “I understand, Ezra.”

And then he lightened his face with a smile. “But before we move on to the particulars, there is one more piece of advice, this time from your father. It may be hard to remember in any residence we work on, but especially in one with more than 70 rooms, it is not just a house. It’s someone’s home. It was Mr. Greenleaf’s childhood home, in fact, and his aunt has lived there her entire life. You’re not very sentimental Wren—and that’s fine. Neither am I. But please remember that—it’s not just a building. It’s a home.”

***

Excerpt from The Greenleaf Murders by R.J. Koreto. Copyright 2022 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.

  

Author Bio:

R.J. Koreto

R.J. Koreto is the author of the Historic Home mystery series, set in modern New York City; the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England; and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, as well as various anthologies.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Catch Up With R.J. Koreto:
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Twitter - @RJKoreto
Facebook - @RJKoreto 

 

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The Wayward Path by Mark Love


About the Book


Charity Gray was an intelligent, inquisitive teen who disappeared fifteen years earlier. When her body is discovered, it should be a typical cold case. Before the Detroit police can get started, the FBI commandeers the investigation, with a prime suspect in mind: retired mobster Leo Agonasti. 

When Agonasti slips through their grasp, he reaches out to Sergeant Jefferson Chene. Their unusual friendship draws Chene into the thick of the case. Burdened with two reluctant FBI agents, Chene is working against the clock and the feds to find the real killer.

Chene senses they are getting close to the answers. Will he be able to solve the murder and clear the old mobster of this heinous crime before time runs out?

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 Excerpt

“I can’t remember the last time you actually went on vacation, Pappy,” I said. “Nice to know you’re confident in our abilities to keep things going.”

“Y’all okay, Chene. But keepin’ an eye on them young’uns will keep ya busy. Suarez is still gettin’ used to the way we do business.” Pappy grunted. A tilt of his head preceded a plume of cigarette smoke. It drifted out the window. Smoking wasn’t allowed in public buildings in the state. Pappy torched the memo. If he stepped outside every time the nicotine urge hit, his office would have to be a lean-to in the parking lot.

“Bet you’re looking forward to that vacation,” I said.

“Yup. Leavin’ Friday. Two weeks in the Blue Ridge Mountains. No Yankees allowed. Y’all on yer own. Think you can handle anythin’ pops up?”

“We got it covered.”

“Lot can happen inna few days.”

A knock on the doorframe interrupted my response. The desk sergeant poked his head in the room. “Sorry to bother you, Captain. Chene has a very impatient visitor.”

“Expectin’ someone?”

I shook my head. “You get a name, Burnley?”

The sergeant nodded. “Not sure I believe it. Maximo Aurelio.”

I’d been slumped in the chair, legs out and crossed at the ankles. Before I could move, Cantrell was at his computer, clicking buttons and pulling up the security camera that focused on the lobby. “F*** me hard,” he muttered.

Maximo Aurelio was standing three feet from the reception desk. His hands were out, palms up and empty. He was looking right up at the camera.

“Hope y’all ain’t got a date, Chene.”

I pushed out of the chair. “I’ll go see what he wants.”

Pappy was right beside me. “We go together.”

Max greeted me with a bone-crushing handshake and a brief attempt at a grin. He and Cantrell exchanged nods. This was no social call. Just the idea of Max being inside a state police post was enough to put me on edge. No doubt he was as well.

Maximo Aurelio was a reputed lieutenant for one of the Detroit area’s largest organized crime families. There was a history of violence that many had tried to attribute to him over the years, without success. Ten years ago, Max, who was also known as Maxie A, had gone into retirement. The Mob had changed a lot in the twenty-first century. Max was supposedly living a quiet life, spending a great deal of his free time with Leo Agonasti, a childhood friend. If Max was a lieutenant, then Leo was a captain. Our paths had crossed occasionally since I became a cop.

Pappy turned his full attention on Max. Cantrell wagged a finger back and forth, his variation of “get on with it.” Max understood the unspoken message.

“The FBI has an arrest warrant out on Leo for murder,” Max said slowly, his gravelly voice reaching even lower on the register than normal.

“Why come to us?” I asked.

“Leo’s instructions. When he heard the charges, he told his lawyer two words. ‘Get Chene.’ Far as I know, he’s not saying anything else. The lawyer called me. Guess she didn’t know you.”

“Where’s Leo at?”

Max swiveled slightly to face Cantrell. “He disappeared. I think he’s still in the area but can’t even begin to guess where he’s at. Chances are he’s going to keep moving. But he’s no murderer, Chene. You gotta believe that.”

Pappy squinted at Max. “We ain’t gotta believe nuthin’. We’re talkin’ ’bout criminal activity. Y’all ain’t exactly a couple a Girl Scouts sellin’ cookies.”

“Leo was a background guy. He’s not violent. He couldn’t murder someone.”

“He had y’all for that?”

Max clenched his jaw before swinging to face me. “This isn’t about me. Can you at least check into the warrant?”

My gaze flicked to Cantrell. He gave me a minuscule nod in response. “The FBI does not normally handle homicide investigations. Are you sure the information you got is accurate?”

Max slid a business card across the table to me. It bore the FBI logo and contact information for the Detroit office. Getting involved in an ongoing federal investigation was contrary to the way Cantrell operated. But I didn’t think walking away was an option.

“I’m going down there.”

Pappy shook his head. “Un nuh. We goin’.”

Max raised his palms. “I’m not stepping foot in that building. Surprised they’re not looking for me.”

“Give ’em time,” Cantrell growled. “Day ain’t over yet.”


About the Author

Mark Love lived for many years in the metropolitan Detroit area, where crime and corruption are always prevalent. A former freelance reporter, Love honed his writing skills covering features and hard news. He is the author of the Jamie Richmond romance mysteries, Devious, Vanishing Act and Fleeing Beauty, and the novella Stealing Haven. His short story, Don’t Mess with the Gods, was written with Elle Nina Castle and included in the Magic & Mischief anthology. Love also writes the Jefferson Chene mystery series, WHY 319? and Your Turn to Die and The Wayward Path. Love resides in west Michigan with his wife, Kim. He enjoys a wide variety of music, books, travel, cooking and the great outdoors.


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Saturday Quote

This week's Saturday quote is from Something Deadly on Desert Drive by Kris Bock
available from Tule Publishing.




 

Canter with a Killer (A Horse Rescue Mystery) by Amber Camp


About the Book


Perfect for fans of Amanda Flower and Mollie Cox Bryan, Amber Camp’s debut novel will have you galloping through the pages, as a horse rescue owner races to find a killer and clear her name.

Mallory Martin left her marriage and her unfulfilling job to move back to her hometown of Hillspring, Arkansas, and start a horse rescue. It’s everything she’s been missing, with paddocks of happy horses and one very quirky donkey. But when her cantankerous neighbor and longtime critic, Albert Cunningham, is found murdered in his fancy show barn, Mallory becomes suspect number one. Since Sheriff Grady Sullivan is ignoring all good sense and focusing only on Mallory, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Aided by her best friend, Lanie, and rescue volunteer Tanner, Mallory races headlong into the investigation in search of the real killer. But horses and murder aren’t the only thing on her mind when she meets Albert’s handsome son, Braydon. Sparks fly, and soon she’s got a new boyfriend. But there’s a case to be solved, and she redoubles her efforts to learn the truth.

The suspects mount quickly. There’s Albert’s girlfriend, Kathleen, who was on the farm when he was murdered; organic farmer Heather Rogers, who accused Albert of contaminating her creek; and Philip Atwood, who’d been trying for a right-of-way across Albert’s farm. None of the evidence is holding up though, and Mallory learns that she'll need to take the reins on this investigation if she's going to clear her own name.

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About the Author


Amber has lived in Northwest Arkansas for twenty+ years, working as an RN at a rural hospital in the area. She has a menagerie of animals that includes dogs, cats, horses, chickens, and what has been described as the Mule from Hell, which may or may not be a slight exaggeration. Writing has always been a focus in Amber's life, something she describes as "food for my soul." An avid reader since grade school, she enjoys multiple genres and is always looking for new authors to add to her favorites. Amber is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS
January 23 – Jane Reads – AUTHOR GUEST POST  
January 23 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT
January 24 – Christy's Cozy Corners – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
January 24 – Mythical Books – SPOTLIGHT
January 25 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
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January 26 – FUONLYKNEW – REVIEW
January 26 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – AUTHOR GUEST POST
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January 28 – Lady Hawkeye – CHARACTER INTERVIEW  
January 28 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews -SPOTLIGHT
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February 1 – Baroness Book Trove – REVIEW
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Blindsided by Marguerite Ashton

Blindsided
Marguerite Ashton
(The Forgotten Daughter, #1)
Publication date: July 13th 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

Diagnosed with depression, Lexi Archer prefers to continue outpatient treatment. But someone else has other plans.

BlindSided tells the story of Lexi Archer, an eighteen-year-old woman who wakes up in a hospital bed, handcuffed to the rail, and realizes she doesn’t remember what happened the night before.

After being released from the hospital, Lexi’s transferred to the Milwaukee County Jail, where she’s informed about her pending charges for first-degree murder.

Intent on proving she’s innocent, Lexi places a phone call to her stepsister asking for her help. As Lexi gets closer to the truth, she unravels ugly secrets about her dead mother that will change her life forever.

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Excerpt:

With me, my troubles ran deep. So deep that no matter how much I prayed, everything seemed to remain the same. Trouble followed me no matter where I went. Better yet, the situations surrounding my life keep getting worse. I’m convinced it’ll take more than just prayer.

      When everything started years ago, I knew I wanted to be set free. A friend of mine whose past almost mirrored my own mentioned emancipation. Upon doing my research online, I learned if I filed, I had the option of filing for partial or total separation from my parents. However, depending on my case, my parents might still have some financial responsibility for me.

      What I did know was that I didn’t want to be emancipated from my dad. I just wanted out from under my mom’s thumb. A thumb that she used to pin me down and manipulate me by any means necessary. Making me feel worthless and as if my feelings didn’t matter. I was afraid of my mother.

My psychologist diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder and PTSD; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the trauma I’d endured during the divorce and while in momma’s care.

      Things weren’t made any easier for me when my dad lost his fifty-fifty placement, and primary custody was given to my mother. The worst mistake the court could have made. The problem was I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

      I’d been a part of making sure that my father no longer had shared placement.

      Do I regret the part I played?

      Yes.

      Don’t get me wrong. Mom wasn’t all bad. During my younger years, I remember seeing her sweet smile when she stroked my dark curly hair as she told me how much she loved me. What child doesn’t yearn to be loved by her parents? Especially, a daughter with low self-esteem.

      It was me who helped Mom to tear down my dad. The same man who spent Sundays after church in his yard, tending to his lawn and chatting with the neighbors.

 

Author Bio:

When Marguerite Ashton was in her twenties, she took up acting but realized she preferred to work behind the camera, writing crime fiction. A few years later, she married an IT Geek and settled down with her role as wife, mom, and writer!

Her blog, Criminal Lines: Settled Writer Past 40 is her outlet while building dollhouses and plotting out her next book.

Marguerite lives in Wisconsin and enjoys RVing.

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Nothing Ever Happens Here by Mar Preston


About the Book

A trio of IT thieves dig in deep under the radar in a California mountain village to divert a truck shipment to sell on the black market in China. Holly Seabright, Village patrol chief and animal activist, is pulled into a high-tech heist of a rare cancer drug for children. Distracted by burglaries, and her best friend’s decision to become a dominatrix, Holly struggles to calm the Facebook-fueled anxiety that is setting neighbor against neighbor in this isolated town with one road in, one road out.

The murder of a popular dump worker and a rich Chinese tech marketer, people Holly knows, must connect? But how? Murder is the business of Holly’s boyfriend, the sheriff’s detective who could use her help but is too proud to take it. Despite his allergies, he is still pushing Holly to move in with all her cats. Where does he fit in her crowded life? How does Holly run a department, flee with her own animals and then rescued horses during a wildland fire?

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Excerpt

Russ DeMarco knew he’d found his man when he saw Gerald Mencken prying the top off a Tupperware sandwich container, sniffing the contents, and pulling a Thermos from a refrigerated bag. Ah, bringing his lunch and saving money. Mencken set up his laptop in front of him, giving anyone who approached his corner table an icy stare of discouragement. A skilled hacker, Russ already knew Gerald had medical debts; he was passed over for promotion. Russ figured he’d be open to his plan. Like Gerald, Russ’s career as an IT specialist at a national freight forwarding company was stalled. Nearing thirty, and in lifetime competition with his brothers, it was time to take the risk. But he needed someone like Gerald to make it happen.

Russ sat down at the table opposite Gerald with a swagger of confidence. They were an unlikely match, Russ tanned and sinewy, Gerald, fat and pasty pale. Russ ignored the noontime buzz of the cafeteria at a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Los Angeles. Nobody was looking at them.

“I’ve got an idea,” Russ said.

“Who are you?” Gerald growled.

Russ handed him a business card from a well-known freight shipping company. He read IT Security and the name Russ DeMarco.

Gerald looked at it, turned it over, and shrugged. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

“Not yet. But I know a lot about you.”

“Yeah? I don’t talk to people I don’t know,” Gerald said, pulling the screen down on his laptop, packing away his lunch in the refrigerated bag, and stiffly getting to his feet.

Russ toned down the smile. He was a shrewd judge of people, especially the ones under pressure. Besides, Gerald had two ways to interpret the invitation.

“You have access to cargo shipments by truck. I can access — and change — schedules and drivers and destinations.” He carefully enunciated each word. “You ever heard of pharmaceutical shipments diverted, trucks getting out of the GeoFence and turning up missing?”

Gerald gave Russ a pale stare. “I could report you.”

“You didn’t ask me what else I know about you.” Russ leaned forward and took the business card from Gerald’s hand. “Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. There’s a bar in the hotel at Sunset and the 405 on the way home. Meet me there at seven tonight.”

“You live in the mountains?”

“I do,” Russ said, bringing up the smile. “Just like you.”

That was the beginning. Russ’s job was to plug the weak spots an able thief could exploit to snatch cargo from a loaded semi. No one was better placed to pull off a major cargo heist. He had tested his plan, a simple one, a few palettes off the back of a truck, and it worked. To make it lucrative enough for a heist big enough for the risk, he needed partners.

Gerald’s company had a cancer treatment in production Russ had been following in the industry news. A major shipment was going out to Asia sometime this summer. Diverting that shipment off the back of the truck was a payoff that would set him up for years. He knew it could be done. And how.

He needed Gerald and one other partner who had Chinese connections.

Russ didn’t have friends he could casually sound out to see if they were interested. He woke up at night, ridden with anxiety, trying to think of somebody he could approach. Jerking off calmed him briefly, but it wasn’t enough. The pestering thoughts wound around him, making him forget all the problems sex caused him.

Maybe something would happen. Maybe it wouldn’t. Urgency throbbed in his chest like a worrying A-fib heartbeat. Soon. It had to be soon. He tossed the ID badge he’d dummied up into the trash on the way out. So much for the plant’s security.


About the Author

Mar Preston is the author of eight gritty police procedurals, five of them set in the Santa Monica Police Department against the backdrop of a glitzy beach city bristling with celebrity, international, and homeless crime. Her books might be described as quirky, more character than action-driven. Readers remember good characters more than chase scenes and explosions.

A second series takes place in a tranquil California mountain village, featuring a Sheriff’s detective from Bakersfield and his ally, the chief of the village patrol department. The third in the series is titled “Nothing Ever Happens Here.”

She distilled what she learned writing whodunits into a series of seven eBooks on the topic of “Writing Your First Mystery.”

She would like to tell you that she has a writing and blogging schedule that she adheres to rigidly, but this is also not true.

In 2019 she upended a 40-year hiatus in California, 20 of it in Pine Mountain Club, where “Nothing Ever Happens Here” is set, and returned to her roots in Ottawa, Canada. She has almost convinced herself she can stand the Canadian winter.

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