Punch Down by Ted Mulcahey

About the Book

A spur-of-the-moment road trip by the O’Malleys thrusts them into the middle of familial murder and chaos. From the vineyards of Walla Walla to the pastoral quietude of Whidbey Island, the husband-and-wife team ends up defending their friends against a pair of unlikely but lethal adversaries. Along with a familiar cast of characters, the lighthearted caper manages to bring together a missing foot, an award-winning cabernet, and a vengeance-seeking duo into another improbable and humorous adventure.

Amazon ~~ Barnes & Noble ~~ Goodreads



For a moment or two, both of us were lost in our memories stirred by the salty breeze of the sea, and we forgot about our canine companion. Then we heard her barking—the kind of bark that says she’s either afraid or anxious or upset. I’m never sure what the subtle differences are, but the sound always gets my attention.

“Where is she, Kevin?”

“She must be ahead. We would have seen her if she’d gone the other way.” We were about a half-mile from the road that had taken us to the beach, right where there was a small inlet beneath the bluff where we lived. The portion of the beach belonging to our property was coming into sight as we jogged up to the small cove.

“What the heck—?”

“I can see it, Kevin. It’s a boat washed up against the driftwood piles.”

“Emma, hey, Emma, come here.” She finally stopped barking and trotted over to us. Now that her pack was together again, she relaxed.

“Yeah, I guess. Let’s take a look.”

As Emma sat, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings, Jenne and I circled the small cabin cruiser. It was three minutes before my wife offered her opinion of the craft.

“Man, what a piece of crap.”

Did I tell you that, while usually easygoing and non-judgmental, she occasionally reverts to her previously demanding executive experience and delivers a succinct and immediate assessment?

“Um … I’m inclined to agree with you, hon. Let’s see if we can look inside.”

“You can do that if you want. I’m staying with Emma. No telling what might be in there.”

“Really? You mean to tell me you’re gonna let your husband, he of sixty years on this planet, climb up on this ratty old boat by himself?”

“If my idiot husband wants to risk his health by venturing onto a crappy old derelict boat, he deserves what happens to him.”

“Did you say idiot husband?”

“Uh-huh. If he climbs on that boat, he is.”

When she says stuff like this, it makes me think twice about what I’m doing. Still, I thought information could be gained, so I continued the climb. “I’m going up there to see if I can find out who owns this thing.”

“Judging by the looks of it, the owners are better off without it. It’s a junker, and you’re still an idiot.”

Ignoring my wife’s slanderous insults, I got a foot on the back platform, then hoisted myself up to the aft railing. When I could finally see the rear salon and peer into the cuddy cabin, I had to admit her instincts were on the money. I climbed over the railing, stepped on a dozen empty beer cans, and peered into the small cabin below.

The temperature was probably forty-five degrees, and the light was beginning to recede at four in the afternoon in late November. Still, I could make out several items scattered about the dirty, malodorous lower level. Along with the aromas of beer, seawater, and rotting food, I could make out numerous bottles, old clothes, garbage, and a Converse high-top sneaker. A nastier smell made its way into my olfactory nerve—one I’d only experienced in the vicinity of roadkill or the occasional dead rat.

Still hoping for something to tell me the vessel’s origin, I asked my bride if she could pass me up one of the hundreds of bleached sticks piled amongst the driftwood.

“I’ll do it if you promise to hurry up. It’s getting dark and cold, and Emma’s hungry. Me too.”

I was starting to get the feeling Jenne would rather I wasn’t investigating. “I promise. Just hand me something I can reach in the cabin with and I’ll be done.”

I was handed either a six-foot gnarled root or a white petrified snake and used it to shove around the items on the floor of the lower deck. There was nothing to provide any helpful information, and with a final flick of the wrist, I whacked the sneaker aside.

It didn’t move, and its weight caused the skinny stick to crack. I thought it odd, so I carefully hooked a small knot on the end of the root on the top of the shoe and was able to flip it up so I could look inside. Dozens of tiny crabs scurried out of the opening. In their absence, a shiny white bone protruded. I could only imagine what filled the rest of the sneaker.


About the Author

Ted’s observations and stories are formed by his stint in the Army, his sales, marketing, and entrepreneurial activities, and his life growing up as one of nine siblings in a typical Irish Catholic family.

Starting in New England he managed to find his way to the Pacific Northwest where he has lived for over three decades. He now lives on an island in the middle of Puget Sound with his wife and trusted GSD, Emma.

Website ~~ Amazon ~~ Goodreads


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Oceanberry Blues by Joann Keder

About the Book

With hope dwindling for his recovery, Leo's wife, retiree Gemini Reed, finds a drug trial at Charming General Hospital that may offer hope.

When they arrive in the seaside hamlet of Charming, Oregon, they are shocked to learn that Doctor Wilson, the director of the program, has inexplicably disappeared. Gemini realizes he is Leo's best option. She must find Doctor Wilson before it's too late for Leo.

Meanwhile, salon owner and paranormal investigator, Feather Jones has been receiving dire messages from beyond. She's hearing that someone has been murdered, and unless she finds the killer, there will be more deaths.

Together, the two unlikely allies will expose the darkness and deceit at Charming General hospital. But will it be enough to save Leo?

Amazon ~~ Barnes & Noble ~~ Goodreads ~~ BookBub

About the Author

USA TODAY Bestselling Author, Joann Keder spent her formative years (44) on the plains of Nebraska before moving to the Pacific Northwest. Now she creates stories that include colorful characters and, of course, a good mystery!

Website ~~ Facebook ~~ Instagram ~~ Goodreads ~~ BookBub


a Rafflecopter giveaway

25 to Life by John Lansing

25 to Life by John Lansing Banner

About the Book


25 to Life by John Lansing
25 to Life is the fifth and latest installment in the Jack Bertolino series, written by John Lansing in the propulsive, cinematic, page-turning style he has become known for.

Gloria Millhouse, a beautiful African American law student, is working with the Project for the Innocent. She has done extensive research on inmate Carl Forbes, who she believes was wrongfully arrested, convicted and incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit, the sexual assault and brutal murder of a teenage girl in Los Angeles twenty-three years ago. Gloria dies in a car crash on Malibu Canyon Road after questioning powerful, politically-connected men who were witnesses at Carl's trial and knew the victim personally. Private investigator Jack Bertolino is brought on to discover the truth behind Gloria's death. Was her crash simply a random accident or a conspiracy to prevent the courts from reopening the case and granting Carl Forbes a new trial? Jack believes that Gloria was murdered, and as the body count rises, it becomes clear that if Jack can find Gloria's killer, he will also find the man responsible for the teenager's assault and murder. And Carl Forbes can walk out of prison a free man.

Praise for 25 to Life:

“Los Angeles–based private investigator delves into a murder with ties to a wrongfully convicted man in Lansing’s detective novel.”
“The author packs this latest installment in the Jack Bertolino series with new and returning characters. Gloria’s mysterious death is the catalyst, but it’s this vibrant cast that truly propels the tense narrative. The author’s incisive writing sets Jack on the investigation right away, and succinct chapters breeze by as he compiles a suspect list and looks into a host of crimes. Even as the culprits become more apparent, Jack must still prove they’re guilty. It all leads to a superb ending and the unmistakable sense that this series is nowhere close to slowing down.”
“Razor-sharp characters propel a taut, suspenseful thriller.”
~ Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Crime/Thriller
Published by: White Street Press
Publication Date: September 5th, 2023
Number of Pages: 276
ISBN: 979-8-9885 166-1-3
Series: The Jack Bertolino Series, 5
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | More

Read an excerpt:


Gloria was embarrassingly beautiful first thing in the morning. Her lively intelligent eyes, were the color of cocoa. Her perfect skin was a shade darker. She blew steam over the rim of her coffee cup, steeling herself for the day. Gloria mentally repeated the bullet points she wanted to make with her next group of interviewees.

Mug shots of Carl Forbes, a teenage African American boy, were taped to her mirror. A daily reminder of her life’s work. She quickly gathered her overflowing briefcase and iPad, and locked the apartment door behind her.

Gloria slid behind the wheel of her Fiat, the color of a pistachio, and headed for her first appointment with Councilman Mark Corcoran.

Gloria’s interview with the councilman wasn’t going well. Saying she worked with Project for the Innocent did her no good. Corcoran had agreed to give her ten minutes of his time, but the officious man had already checked his watch twice.

“I’m a big fan of your program,” Corcoran said. His unblinking eyes used to intimidate had no effect on Gloria. “But I believe your client is a guilty man. I followed the case—hell, we all knew the kid. Quiet type, lived a few blocks over, didn’t run with our set. Hard to believe him capable of such brutality, but he confessed to the crime.”

Gloria was prepared for this. “Carl says the arresting officers tortured the confession out of him. He was seventeen years old. Thirty-six hours without food or bathroom facilities. And look at the photograph, it’s clear he’d been beaten.”

The councilman glanced at the photo and handed it back. “He was picked out of a lineup.”

“Eyewitnesses are notoriously undependable. If the cops coerced the confession, it’s not a stretch to think they might have manipulated the lineup. And none of his DNA was found on, or in the victim’s body. Shelley Goldstein had been sexually assaulted before she was murdered. I believe Carl was set up. He’s already served twenty-three years for a murder he didn’t commit.”

Corcoran wasn’t moved. “Shelley was a lovely rich girl. None of the boys in our neighborhood stood a chance in hell with her. Sorry, but there’s nothing more I can add.”

“I was told you had a big crush on her.”

“We all had crushes on her. Who were you talking to?” All attitude now.

“I don’t reveal sources.”

Corcoran rose from his power desk, “Good luck with the case. I respect what you’re doing.”

Gloria understood an exit line when she heard one. She nodded, and walked out.

Gloria was early for her next interview. She grabbed a latte from her favorite coffee house, and took a window seat. She called Professor Ted Andrews who ran Project for the Innocent and filled him in on her less than stellar performance. Her mentor wasn’t pleased.

“It’s a little early in the game to be burning bridges” Ted said.

“I know, you’re right. I get it. But he was so arrogant.”

“Don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing a good job.” Ted counseled her to take a few days, consolidate her notes, and then they’d revisit the case. Not what Gloria wanted to hear. And then as an afterthought, “I think I’m being followed.”

That caught the professor’s attention. Gloria explained it was an SUV with tinted windows. She’d picked up a strange vibe. She made a few off-the-wall turns, and he was gone. She started questioning herself, said it was probably nothing. The professor reminded her when they exonerate one of their clients, someone else’s career and reputation sustains damage. It’s a dangerous business. He tells her to trust her instincts. Gloria took that to heart and signed off.

Hanna Cook was standing on the postage-sized porch of a tired California bungalow in Del Rey. She was pushing fifty but giving sixty a run for its money.

“So, what can I tell you about the bastard?” Hanna asked, droll.

Gloria shared a conspiratorial grin. Put the subject at ease, she’d been taught, and they might share their secrets.

“Do you remember the case? It was back in 2000. The sexual assault and brutal murder of a young co-ed.” Gloria reached into her briefcase, “This is a picture of Carl when he was seventeen.” She handed Hanna the photo.

“What did Kevin have to do with it?”

“I was hoping you could tell me. He’s on record as being part of the team who arrested the young man.”

“No,” she said wistfully, handing the photo back. “The less I knew, the better off I was. Kevin was an angry man who never should’ve been a cop. Went to his head. That, and the rye whiskey. Only thing that made him feel good … then it made him mean. When he wasn’t getting his kicks arresting dirt-bags, he’d start in on me.”

“Was he ever cited for physical violence?”

“Once or twice. It wasn’t like it is now. People with their cell phones, and cameras. And just try to arrest a cop back then for slapping around his wife…”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Gloria said, and decided to drop the hammer. “Carl claims your ex, and his partner, beat him into giving a false confession.”

Hanna considered that. “I almost shot Kevin one night. Had his gun. He woke up staring down the barrel. I started to cry and he slapped the thing out of my hands and gave me something to cry about. First call I made after they unwired my jaw was to a lawyer.”

The conversation was going nowhere. Nothing but conjecture to corroborate her inmate’s story.

It was dusk as Gloria made her way toward Twin Dragon Restaurant. She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw a gray Ford Expedition several lengths behind her. Was it the same SUV she saw before? There were lots of SUVs in LA. When she checked again, it was gone.

Gloria pulled her car onto the side street next to the restaurant. All was quiet. She draped a sweater over her briefcase in the rear compartment, locked up, and hoofed it around to the front entrance to pick up her order.

Five minutes in and out. When Gloria emerged, her hands were full and the smell was incredible. She rounded the corner—and had to look twice to make sense out of what she was seeing. Broken shards of glass fanned out around the back of her car. She took another tentative step forward and could clearly see the shattered rear window of her Fiat.

Her heart pounded, and her breath came in fits and starts. She prayed she was wrong. Yet as she neared her car, her worst fears were realized.

Her briefcase was gone.

Her throat went dry, and she stifled tears. She set the bag of food on top of her car and took in the scene. She looked around her car, checked the traffic on Pico, and the quiet side street for anything out of the ordinary.

Nothing. No one who could have witnessed the break-in. No one who cared that she was caught in a nightmare.

Gloria did a quick mental inventory of everything in her briefcase and came to the sickening realization her iPad and four months of hard work had been stolen. In some instances, information and notes of interviews that took hours to create, and hadn’t been copied. The flood gates opened and tears streamed down her cheeks. Light-headed, she had to lean against the car to keep her balance.

Was it an opportunistic crime? The thief saw an object, did a smash and grab. Could it have been that simple?

What else could it have been? The SUV? Gloria knew she was paranoid now. Scared silly. She grabbed a few napkins out of her takeout order and whisked the shards of glass that had landed on her front seats onto the curb. She turned on her headlights and pulled out, driving toward home.

Her head was still swimming. Gloria pulled to a stop, grabbed her cell phone and called her father.

After she told him what had happened, he quickly replied:

“Look, darling, don’t go home to an empty apartment,” he said with a tenderness that belied his courtroom reputation. “I don’t want you to be alone. Drive over the hill and spend the night. We can file a police report in the morning and set you up with a rental car.”

“I’ve got Chinese.”

“Shrimp with black bean sauce?”

“And Kung Pao.”

“I’ll chill the chardonnay. I don’t want you to worry. Drive safely, honey.”

“Okay, Dad. Thank you.”

Gloria clicked off, feeling loved, and headed for the Las Virgenes exit off the 101.

Malibu Canyon Road was two lanes of driving pleasure. Winding blacktop cutting through deep canyons and steep cliffs with sandstone outcroppings. It came to a dramatic end, revealing the Pacific Ocean and Malibu.

She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The missing rear window of her Fiat created a strange whistle as she powered the small car around the curves at forty-five miles an hour. Her rumbling stomach got the better of her, and Gloria rummaged around the bag with one hand and plucked out a dumpling. She smiled, took a bite, and glanced at the rearview mirror.

A large SUV appeared around one rocky turn, moving fast, and she hoped the driver wasn’t going to be a pain, and force her to pick up the pace.

Gloria made short work of the dumpling and used two hands to maneuver around a tight curve. Her discomfort swelled as she realized the SUV was closing the distance. Headlights on high beam. Her body tensed as she realized the vehicle bearing down on her was a gray Ford Expedition.

Gloria wondered if she was going mad. It looked like the same car she’d seen before. No, it was impossible, she thought, but picked up her pace. Fifty miles an hour was pushing it around the tight curves, and as fast as she was willing to go. Screw the driver.

The SUV was tracking her now. Tight on her fender. Headlights blinding. She grabbed her cell phone and hit her father’s number with one hand. Gloria slid around the next turn, and the phone dropped out of her hand.

“Back off!” she shouted over the whine of air thundering through the broken rear window as her speedometer hit sixty miles an hour. The SUV loomed in her rearview and she instinctively pushed the car to sixty-five, white-knuckling the steering wheel.

Gloria drifted over the broken white line as a car blasted by from the opposite direction, horn blaring, scaring the crap out of her. She came dangerously close to skidding onto the narrow gravel shoulder and colliding with the sheer cliff face.

And then, oh Christ, she felt the SUV nudge the back of her car.

Gloria stomped pedal-to-metal. Her small sedan rocketed to seventy miles an hour.

The SUV tapped her rear bumper again.

Gloria’s eyes teared. She was losing it but fought to keep the car on the road.

The SUV slammed into her harder. “Stop it!” she cried.

And then the power punch. Five thousand pounds of steel rammed her compact car.

Gloria couldn’t hear her squealing tires over the sound of her own screams as she went into a death spin.

Gloria knew she was going to die a moment before her car came out of the 360 on the opposite side of the road, barreling toward the cliff at seventy miles an hour.

Her Fiat smashed into the rocky berm and went airborne.

Time stood still.

The only sound: the whistling wind and Gloria’s beating heart.

The rock-strewn riverbed grew in size, filling her field of vision as she dropped out of the sky and bore witness to her impending death.

The pistachio Fiat that had brought Gloria so much joy in life burst into flames on impact and enveloped her broken body.


Excerpt from 25 to Life by John Lansing. Copyright 2023 by John Lansing. Reproduced with permission from John Lansing. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

John Lansing

John Lansing is the author of four thrillers featuring Jack Bertolino—The Devil’s Necktie, Blond Cargo, Dead Is Dead, and The Fourth Gunman—as well as the true-crime non-fiction book Good Cop Bad Money, written with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. He has been a writer and supervising producer on Walker, Texas Ranger, the co-executive producer of the ABC series Scoundrels, and co-wrote two MOWs for CBS. The Devil’s Necktie is in development at Andria Litto’s Amuse Entertainment, with Barbara DeFina attached as a producer.

A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and opportunities to WIN in the giveaway!





This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for John Lansing. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.


Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours


To Kingdom Come by Claudia Riess

About the Book

Amateur sleuths, Erika Shawn-Wheatley, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, art history professor, attend a Zoom meeting of individuals from around the globe whose common goal is to expedite the return of African art looted during the colonial era. Olivia Chatham, a math instructor at London University, has just begun speaking about her recent find, a journal penned by her great-granduncle, Andrew Barrett, active member of the Royal Army Medical Service during England’s 1897 “punitive expedition” launched against the Kingdom of Benin.

Olivia is about to disclose what she hopes the sleuthing duo will bring to light, when the proceedings are disrupted by an unusual movement in one of the squares on the grid. Frozen disbelief erupts into a frenzy of calls for help as the group, including the victim, watch in horror the enactment of a murder videotaped in real time.

It will not be the only murder or act of brutality Erika and Harrison encounter in their two-pronged effort to hunt down the source of violence and unearth a cache of African treasures alluded to in Barrett’s journal.

All four books in the art history mystery series are available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, IndieBound.org and at independent book stores. For bulk discount purchases, contact https://levelbestbooks.wordpress.com.



The first page identified the journal’s owner and date of inception in neatly penned script: Andrew James Dexter Barrett Book One: 22 March 1897 – 17 August 1897

The subject of where Book Two and beyond might have gone off to was not raised because it would have been futile and, at least for now, irrelevant. Erika carefully turned the page to reveal the journal’s first entry, thankfully in that same legible, script: 22 March, homecoming. They read on, silently.

Hard to believe it has been less than ten weeks since the SS Malacca, cargo steamship refitted as a hospital ship, set forth for the Benin coast with me and my fellow medics aboard. It seems like a lifetime ago, perhaps because I have become a new man, or rather a newly awakened man, in the interim.

I have learned firsthand what history books and hearsay can only, at best, inadequately describe, and I will never again shut my eyes to the indignities and injustices we self-proclaimed entitled few, heap upon our brethren: those less fiscally sound as well as those of darker skin.

On Saturday, 20 March, when the ship pulled into Gosport, England, Father was waiting for me on the dock in top hat and frock coat, dapper as the nobleman he is. As I heave-hoed my laundry bag containing the rescued Benin treasures into our horse-drawn carriage, Father commented on its obvious weight. “What have you got in there?” he asked, with barely a trace of curiosity. “Medical books and instruments,” I answered without hesitation, realizing as I uttered the words that I had no intention of bringing him into my confidence.

I had been getting about on my own for years and could very well have hired a carriage to take me on the sixty-six-mile journey home, but Father had been adamant about accompanying me, even though it meant that both he and his coachman must overnight at an inn to, and again from, Gosport. In retrospect, I wonder if his intention, perhaps not conscious, was to use our extensive time alone to reclaim his control over me, since he did, after all, spend a good deal of time speaking of his activities in the House of Lords and pressing upon me the certainty that I was “marvelously suited” to that rewarding life. Mid-point between Gosport and Hertfordshire, we rented rooms at the inn in Guildford, where Father and the coachman had stayed the night before. To dilute Father’s lecture disguised as conversation, I must have consumed more ale that night than I had in the previous six months.

I awakened this morning well rested, but with a raging headache. Father must have taken pity on me because for the balance of our journey he eased up considerably on his mission to refashion me as a slightly taller version of himself. We arrived home late this evening, and Mother’s embrace and smile of relief comforted me no end. Never mind my goals in life. All that mattered to Mother was my safe return to Barrett Farms.

Guest Post

Which character (other than the protagonist) in the book is your favorite and why?

I don’t know if she’s my favorite character, but Madame Denise Fontaine is my favorite (fingers- flying-over-the-keyboard) character to write.  She’s a nonagenarian, very clearly defined physically (at first glance she reminds the protagonist of the portrait of Whistler’s Mother), as well as morally (in memory of her friend, she has the woman’s Auschwitz ID number tattooed on her own arm).  At the same time, this feisty, sassy, saucy, savvy 90+-year-old is as free as a bird verbally and strategically.  A “What have I got to lose?” T-shirt would reflect her outlook perfectly. 

Most of the time planted in a wheel chair, Madame D uses her frailties to suit the situation, playing them up to get others to let their guard down.  A Parisian, she speckles her speech with French, but her English is impeccable.  She is the proprietress of an upscale tattoo parlor (“Rouge Tatuage”). The establishment was at one time her parents’ antique prints and maps shop, but its business faltered during and after WWII, and it was finally converted in 1955.  Madame D has retained a good many valuable prints, and they come in handy when a critical quid pro quo is called for.

Madame D is a recurring character/cohort, introduced in book 4 of my art history mystery series.

About the Author

Claudia Riess is an award-winning author of seven novels, four of which form her art history mystery series published by Level Best Books.  She has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt, Rinehart and Winston, and has edited several art history monographs.  Stolen Light, the first book in her series, was chosen by Vassar’s Latin American history professor for distribution to the college’s people-to-people trips to Cuba.  To Kingdom Come, the fourth and most recent, will be added to the syllabus of a survey course on West and Central African Art at a prominent Midwest university.  Claudia has written a number of articles for Mystery Readers Journal, Women’s National Book Association, and Mystery Scene magazine.  At present, she’s consulting with her protagonists about a questionable plot twist in Chapter 9 of the duo’s murder investigation unfolding in book 5; working title: Dreaming of Monet, scheduled for release winter 2024.  For more about Riess and her work, visit www.claudiariessbooks.com.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dangerous Undercurrents by Suzanne Baginskie

About the Book

After a fiery explosion kills their trusted FBI partner, Special Agent Elaine Bishop’s life is thrown into jeopardy, along with her tough-as-nails partner, Agent Mike Weber. Their covers blown, and a drug dealer orders a target on their back. In an instant their lives become terrorized. They agree to a covert mission using a fake marriage as their cover and are whisked aboard a seven-day cruise traveling to the Western Caribbean. Posing as a honeymooning couple, they board the cruise ship with a newly appointed FBI agent named Franklin Knight.

They dive into their assignment investigating missing women and so-called accidental drownings, that threatens to ruin the ship captain’s reputation. His own security officers have failed at discovering the source. When Agent Bishop disappears on the twelfth deck’s walking path, Agent Weber combs the ship like a madman in search of her. Once he finds her, he becomes her twenty-four-hour protecter and seeks to flush out her stalker. Agent Bishop worries every corridor poses a threat, but within Weber’s arms she finds a safe haven. Soon the three agents discover a sinister conspiracy onboard involving human trafficking and border infiltration. Will they learn the stalker’s identity before he intervenes and destroys their chance of forever?

Amazon ~~ Goodreads



PROLOGUE Miami, Florida – July, 2022

FBI Special Agent Nathan Miller glanced at his watch when the tires touched down on the Miami International runway. They’d arrived forty-five minutes late. Mumbling a curse under his breath, he blamed the industry’s pilot shortage for his delayed departure. He juggled his carryon and exited the plane, blending into a busy crowd of people headed toward the baggage claim. Some of them probably had loved ones waiting at the other end. Fifty-five and single, he’d never married. No significant other would be there to greet him. Miller’s thoughts focused on his prior week vacation spent on Cancun’s sandy beach, where he’d relaxed beneath the hot Mexican sun, cooled off in the Caribbean Sea, and downed too many margaritas.

Last night, he’d enjoyed drinks in a tiki hut bar with an attractive female. She sat on the stool next to him and shared her tale of woe. Her fourteen-year-old sister never came home after a night spent partying on that very same beach. Two years had passed and still no news of her whereabouts. Squinting at her, he listened intently, and never uttered a word about his FBI status at the Cybercrime, Human Trafficking and Homicide Division back in the states. He’d heard this same sad story repeated many times before and came on this trip to definitely unwind. Eight months from now, he’d submit his twenty-year retirement date and then sit back and collect his pension and do more of the same. He finished his drink, placed the empty glass on the counter and asked for a refill. An hour later and after a few more margaritas, they toasted the scenic Mexican sunset as it disappeared into the turquoise ocean. She rose and asked, “Would you like to have a nightcap in my hotel room?” He grinned and couldn’t refuse. Memories of their last night together warmed his loins.

Until reality sank in. Had his reserved ride stuck around? He pulled his iPhone from his pants pocket and speed dialed. The reservation had been made under the fictitious name of Jackson, which most likely rose across the man’s cell screen. The driver answered on the first ring. “This is Luis, Mr. Jackson. I know your flight was delayed. The good news is I’m close by. See you in about twenty?” “Sounds good.” Miller tucked his phone away and spotted his suitcase revolving along the curved carousel tract headed in his direction. He reached down, yanked the bag into an upright position, and wheeled it toward the outdoor pickup area. Confident no one would recognize him, he maneuvered through the crowd dressed like a tourist in tan cargo shorts, tropical shirt, and sunglasses. When he paused at the curb, he blended in among dozens of people on the sidewalk searching the road for their ride. Voices buzzed around him, and the high humidity formed beads of perspiration that threatened to drip on his brow. He sighed and inhaled, deeply breathing in a mixture of Dangerous Undercurrents 3 bus, automobile, and taxicab exhaust fumes. He covered his mouth and coughed. Welcome back to the city of Miami.

Miller scanned the roadway. Where was his driver? He glanced at his wristwatch; more than twenty minutes had passed. Should he call for another? A splash of red stopped beside him. He turned. Idling at the curb sat a red Honda Civic, its magnetic business sign hung on the door. The driver lowered the passenger window and asked, “Are you Mr. Jackson?” Agent Miller nodded. “I’m Luis.” Miller steered his luggage to the rear end of the vehicle. The guy hopped out, hurried to his trunk, and tossed Miller’s carryon bag and suitcase inside. “Please be seated in the back, sir.” Miller climbed in. Thin, maybe five foot eight with thick curly hair, Luis slid in behind the steering wheel. His coffee-brown eyes peered at Miller through the rearview mirror. “Where to exactly?” Miller replied with an address two blocks from the FBI complex where he’d left his car parked. Protecting his true identity had become quite necessary in the last few years. Working in Miami at the FBI for almost ten years, he lived in the north section of town. Not a long trip, except on Sunday mornings when devout church goers left their homes for worship and increased the stream of cars. Rush-hour traffic couldn’t have been worse. Once they reached Interstate 75, the three car lanes moved forward at the speed of snails.


About the Author

Suzanne Baginskie retired from a law office as an office manager/paralegal career after twenty-nine years. Published by Magnolia Blossom Publishing, an imprint of DS Publishing, she’s written a romantic suspense series called ‘FBI Affairs’. The titles include Dangerous Charade-Book one, Dangerous Revenge-Book-two, Dangerous Innocence-Book-three and Dangerous Undercurrents-Book four. All books can be read as standalones. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Florida Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-in-Crime, Florida Gulf Coast Sisters-in-Crime, Tarpon Springs Writers and Author's Guild and The Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Website ~~ Facebook ~~ Instagram ~~ Twitter ~~ Goodreads

Honey Drop Dead (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs

About the Book

The murder of a political bigwig at a Honey Bee Tea sends Theodosia Browning buzzing for answers in this latest installment of the New York Times bestselling series.

Theodosia’s Honey Bee Tea was an elegant affair set in Charleston’s new Petigru Park amid newly planted native grasses and a community beekeeping project. But when a phony beekeeper shows up and sprays toxic smoke at the guests, the party erupts in chaos. Worse yet, a shot rings out and Osgood Claxton III, candidate for state legislature, falls to the ground—dead.

Holly Burns, the gallery owner who asked Theodosia to cater the tea, is understandably heartbroken. A man is dead, her guests are angry and injured, and the paintings that were on display are left in tatters. When the police don’t seem to have a clue, when old-line politicos don’t want questions asked, Holly begs Theodosia to run a shadow investigation and help restore her gallery’s good name.

Between hosting a Wind in the Willows Tea and a Glam Girl Tea, Theodosia questions everyone that had a bone to pick with Claxton. This includes Booker, an angry outsider artist; Lamar Lucket, Claxton’s political opponent; and Mignon Merriweather, the dead man’s soon-to-be ex-wife. But the investigation becomes a political hot potato following a second murder, the revelation of a messy affair, a chase through a swamp, and a vandalized shop.


Amazon ~~ B&N ~~ Kobo ~~ Bookshop.org ~~ PenguinRandomHouse ~~ Goodreads


About the Author

Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fundraising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

Website ~~ Facebook 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 8 – Baroness Book Trove – REVIEW
August 8 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW
August 9 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
August 9 – Christy's Cozy Corners – REVIEW
August 10 – The Mystery of Writing – SPOTLIGHT
August 10 – The Plain-Spoken Pen – REVIEW
August 11 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT
August 11 – The Book Diva's Reads – AUTHOR GUEST POST  
August 12 – Maureen's Musings – SPOTLIGHT
August 13 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee – SPOTLIGHT
August 13 – Cassidy's Bookshelves – SPOTLIGHT
August 14 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
August 14 – Guatemala Paula Loves to Read – SPOTLIGHT
August 15 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR GUEST POST
August 15 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW
August 16 – Angel's Guilty Pleasures – SPOTLIGHT
August 16 – Novels Alive – REVIEW
August 16 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
August 17 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 17 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
August 18 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW
August 18 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT
August 19 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 20 – The Mystery Section – SPOTLIGHT
August 21 – My Reading Journeys – SPOTLIGHT 

Saturday Quote

This week's Saturday quote is from Murder by the Seashore by Samara Yew available for preorder on Amazon.

A Corpse in the Condo by M.K. Dean

About the Book

Vacations are supposed to be fun, but when veterinarian Ginny Reese combines a trip to a coastal island to check out an inherited property with patching up her relationship with her sister, things quickly get out of control.

First there’s a corpse in the condo. Then a fortune in artwork goes missing. The lead investigator is a publicity hound, and there’s a hurricane bearing down. To top it off, Ginny’s former boyfriend, Joe Donegan, believes the police are looking at her for insurance fraud and murder.

With the help of her friends and her trusty dog, Remington, it’s up to Ginny to find the paintings and the killer before the storm wipes everything away.

Amazon ~~ Barnes & Noble ~~ Apple Books ~~ Kobo

Goodreads ~~ BookBub



“There,” Liz said with satisfaction, at the same time the GPS announced our destination was on the right. The entrance to Sand Dollar Cove took us through a wooden privacy fence into a lot marked with signs saying, “FOR RESIDENTS ONLY.” The development proved to be a small collection of condominiums within easy walking distance of the beach. The property itself looked as though it was well-maintained, save for the giant pots of wilting flowers at the entrances to each building. You’d think for the amount of money people spent there, the least the management could do was water the plants. Or choose something more heat resistant.

“Oooh, I bet it has an ocean view. You can charge more for that.” Liz craned her head to peer up at the building from her side of the car. “I hope there’s an elevator.”

“At this point, I’ll settle for indoor plumbing.” Remy tried to barrel out of the car when I opened the driver’s door, but I told him in no uncertain terms to stay put until I could open the back and clip his leash on. Being sable, rather than the usual black and tan, he often was mistaken for a coyote or a wolf by those not familiar with the range of German Shepherd coloring. He sprang out at my command and gave himself a full body shake before dragging me over to the nearest scrubby bush to relieve himself. I could sympathize. My legs are long, but as soon as Remy was done, I did a short little shuffle toward the first building with embarrassing haste.

“You should have gone on the ferry,” Liz admonished as she hefted one of her suitcases out of the back of the car.

“Thanks, Mother. Next time I will.”

I hadn’t thought about using the restroom on the boat, having spent the entire ferry ride admiring the view. Now the need was impending. I hurried up to the building’s main doors.

“Hey!” Liz called out after me. “Aren’t you going to bring up anything from the car?”

“Later,” I said over my shoulder. “I need to find a bathroom now.”

“I’m not carrying your bags in!”

Had I been one of her children, I’d probably have turned around and stomped my way back to the car. Instead, I rushed into the building and made straight for the elevator. Normally I’d take the stairs, especially with a big dog like Remy, but the last leg of our trip had pushed my bladder to the bursting point. I leaned heavily on the UP button, pressing it several times for good measure. When it arrived, I bundled Remy into the elevator.

The doors opened onto the third floor. As we came out of the elevator, a door farther down the hall swung wide and a couple exited one of the units. The woman dragged a suitcase on wheels, arguing with the man following her. As we got closer, I heard her say, “I don’t care how much we paid for this trip. I won’t stay here another minute longer!”

I kept Remy in a heel position as she flounced past, while her partner gave me an apologetic glance when he trailed behind carrying his luggage.

Unit 1301 was ahead on the left. As we approached, Remy lifted his head and scented the air. A second later, I became aware of a nasty, fetid odor. Worse than anal glands. Worse than fish lying out in the sun all day. The reek grew stronger the closer we got to the condo.

It came from Amanda’s unit.

“Oh, no.” I took a firmer grip on Remy’s leash as I turned the key in the lock.

It had to be a wild animal of some sort. A possum or a raccoon. I needed to check it out before Liz made it upstairs. She’d freak out if she knew something had died in our unit. I’d identify the source of the smell, take a quick run to the bathroom, and we’d call maintenance for cleanup.

Still holding tight to Remy, I turned the handle and pushed open the door. Gagging convulsively, I stumbled back out of the unit with my arm covering my nose and mouth, dragging Remy with me when he would have dashed in to investigate. I pulled the door shut just as Liz stepped out of the elevator, hauling two of her five bags behind her, her hair hanging in damp locks around her scowling face.

“Why are you still standing out here?” She demanded as she walked up. Screwing up her face, she added, “What’s that horrible smell?”

“Call 9-1-1. There’s a corpse in the condo.”


About the Author

M.K. Dean is the new pen name of award-winning author McKenna Dean as she delves into the world of cozy mysteries. Ms. Dean lives with her family on a small farm in North Carolina, that she shares with dogs, cats, and various livestock. She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like teabags, only sexier.

Website ~~ Facebook ~~ Instagram ~~ Twitter ~~ Goodreads ~~ BookBub ~~ TikTok


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Murder A La Mode (Coffee & Cream Cafe Mysteries) by Lena Gregory

About the Book

From author Lena Gregory comes a delicious new series that will warm your heart and leave you guessing until the very end...

When twenty-five-year-old Danika Delaney, black sheep of the Delaney clan, returns home to Long Island to take over Jimmie's, her eccentric uncle’s old fashioned malt shop on eastern Long Island, she’s not exactly thrilled. But things start to look up when her uncle tells her she can do whatever she’d like with the shop, and it seems she might realize her dream of a small trendy cafĂ©. That is, until she discovers the body of her ex-boyfriend’s estranged wife in a melted puddle of rocky road in the malt shop basement. With her two sidekicks, her sister and a good childhood friend, in tow, Dani searches for–or stumbles upon—one clue after another. But as she narrows down the suspect list, she realizes if she’s not careful she may end up in a puddle of her own...

Amazon ~~ Barnes & Noble ~~ Kobo ~~ Goodreads

 About the Author

Lena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island, but she recently traded in cold, damp, gray winters for the warmth and sunshine of Central Florida, where she now lives with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Her hobbies include spending time with family, reading, and walking. Her love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night. She works full time as a writer and a freelance editor and is a member of Sisters in Crime.

Newsletter ~~ Website ~~ Facebook ~~ Facebook Page ~~ Twitter ~~ Goodreads ~~ Pinterest


a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 8 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
August 8 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – REVIEW
August 9 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
August 9 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee – SPOTLIGHT
August 10 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT
August 10 – Baroness Book Trove – REVIEW
August 11 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR GUEST POST
August 11 – Christa Reads and Writes – SPOTLIGHT
August 12 – Elizabeth McKenna - Author – SPOTLIGHT
August 12 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
August 13 – Cozy Up With Kathy - REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
August 14 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 15 – The Mystery Section – SPOTLIGHT
August 15 – Christy's Cozy Corners – REVIEW
August 16 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
August 16 – Jane Reads – CHARACTER GUEST POST
August 17 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR GUEST POST
August 17 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – CHARACTER GUEST POST
August 18 – Guatemala Paula Loves to Read – REVIEW
August 18 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY
August 19 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
August 20 – Maureen's Musings – SPOTLIGHT
August 21 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
August 21 – My Reading Journeys – SPOTLIGHT

Echo from a Bayou by J. Luke Bennecke

Echo from a Bayou by J. Luke Bennecke Banner

About the Book


Echo from a Bayou by J. Luke Bennecke

Murder. Treasure. A supernatural twist.

John Bastian is plunged into a dangerous journey to uncover the truth about his past life after a freak skiing accident unlocks hidden memories. With unshakable visions of a brutal attack, the cursed Lafayette treasure, and a captivating redhead, John searches to find answers and confront the man who murdered him. On a perilous path and with a hurricane fast approaching, John fights for his survival and the safety of those he loves, threats haunting him at every turn.

Will he find redemption, or be consumed by an unquenchable thirst for revenge?

Praise for Echo from a Bayou:

"Thoroughly entertaining—murder, mayhem, adventure, and another chance at a stolen love. Echo from a Bayou is a vibrant, fast-paced thriller that will keep you enthralled until its explosive end."
~ Independent Book Review

"An action-packed thriller with a focus on redemption and second chances, this Deep South adventure is an original, genre-bending read."
~ Self-Publishing Review

"A consistently nimble and riveting cross-genre tale."
~ Kirkus Reviews

"Bennecke’s narrative is a riveting blend of high-octane action and suspense that keeps readers on the edge of their seats."
~ Literary Titan

Echo from a Bayou Trailer:

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Jaytech Publishing
Publication Date: August 2023
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 9780965771559
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1
John Bastian
November 8, 2016 - Mammoth Mountain, CA

Never had I seen so many angry trees in one place.

Through a gondola window covered with spider cracks, ominous mountains loomed in the darkened distance. One peak in particular, a white, snowcapped giant, laughed at me with his frozen face and pointed pines, pompous with knowledge he had risen to life, fallen, and rebirthed his dominance over countless millennia.

Ignoring the familiar tug to spiral down another rabbit hole of negativity, I instead envisioned myself racing down a crazy-steep, treeless, triple black diamond slope at the summit of Mammoth Mountain: Huevos Grande.

Passengers continued to pack inside the already-full car, oblivious to our collective need to breathe oxygen, already limited in the high-altitude air that smelled of sweaty gym socks.

“And I don’t see you wearin’ no helmet,” Kevin said.

“Enough about Sonny Bono already, that was a long time ago,” I said, glancing down at Kevin, who, at a foot shorter than me, sported matching black ski pants and jacket with a rainbow-colored voodoo doll embroidered on the back. The snowboarding boots boosted his height by two inches, bringing his height up to five feet five inches.

My closest friend for the last two decades and best man at the wedding of my disaster of a marriage, we’d met at track practice during senior year of high school.

With my last shred of patience wearing thin, I waited with Kevin in the front corner of the room-sized orange cube, near the sliding doors. Skis propped and steadied with one hand, I gave his down-insulated shoulder a friendly punch with the other and said, “Stay positive, man. We need as much optimism as we can handle.”

“Glad you finally gettin’ your head outta them clouds,” Kevin said. “Sooner you forgive Margaret, sooner you can get on with your life, Johnny Jackass.”

“You know I hate it when you call me that.”


Two months ago, he’d suggested this trip to some of California’s highest slopes in order to check off the last item on our mid-life crisis bucket list.

One final group of skiers jammed inside, jerking the box that would soon glide us up to the peak of peaks. My heart flopped around inside my chest as I ignored the instinctive urge to go back to our room and down a double bourbon. Instead, I adjusted my black beanie, giving Kevin a forced smile. A tinge of alcohol withdrawal headache pinged my noggin. I dug out two Tylenol gel caps from my inner jacket pocket, popped them into my mouth and swallowed without water.

I tightened my lips and turned my head, glancing through a different gondola window, up to the 11,000-foot peak riddled with wide, white, invincible slopes.

But a shiver crawled up from my legs to my neck, deflating any remnants of confidence.

I tapped open a weather app on my phone. “This might be the last run. That huge storm front’s almost here.”


We both enjoyed the occasional humorous embellishment of stereotypical hip-hop culture, even though Kevin had two masters’ degrees from Berkeley, one in American history and another in theater arts.

After separating from Margaret three years ago, the entire divorce process continually marinated in my head, but I wanted—needed—to lick my mental wounds, get on with my life, and find a new purpose. Hence my agreeing to this trip.

Heads bobbed among the other snow enthusiasts, along with a colorful assortment of mirrored goggles and insulated garments. My height allowed me an unobstructed view of my fellow sardines.

“Think of all the times they said it was supposed to rain back home in Newport Beach,” I said. “Nothing. Just a few drops here and there. Damned drought’s horrible.”

A man with dark, heavy-lidded eyes stood five feet away from us in the rear of the gondola, wearing a baby blue sweater and black jeans. Then for no apparent reason, he started tapping his forehead repeatedly on the gondola wall.

Dude wore no ski jacket.

No ski pants.


Short and thin-framed, as he rubbed the nape of his neck, his entire presence screamed of fear and anger. Black-rimmed glasses sat atop his nose, above a thick Freddy Mercury mustache, his face flushed red.

Kevin bounced up and down several times, arms crossed, rubbing his outer shoulders, probably to increase his blood flow. Too much caffeine for him. Again.

“So, tell me ’bout this good news you got,” Kevin whispered, shivering. The primary reason we’d listed this ski trip on our bucket list five years ago was an excuse to spend some “bro” time away from work, away from our real lives. Now it served as a way for me to hide from my memories of Margaret.

But it wasn’t working.

Leaning in close to Kevin to make sure nobody else heard our discussion, I said, “We got a big real estate deal set to close on a sweet piece of beachfront commercial property. Killer views. And with that single commission, I’m planning to rebuild my brokerage.”

A thought wandered into my mind, of creamy smooth whiskey flowing gently over my tongue and down into my gut. Something to sooth my frayed nerves.

Kevin smiled with his huge, toothy grin and jumped again. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about.”

I don’t know why, but the overall appearance of the mustached man in the corner, coupled with his darting glances and multiple throat clearings, gave me the willies. I turned away, trying to ignore him and his negative vibes. Finally, the line to the gondola had shriveled to two skiers, a mother and her young son. The kid had a smile the size of a crescent moon as he crossed the threshold from the loading platform to the gondola. But his boot snagged on the lip of the doorway. He landed hard on his knees in front of me and, with a loud grunt, rolled onto his side.

I leaned down, extended my arm, and helped the hundred-pound fella to his feet.

The kid smiled, thanked me, and I patted him on the back. “No worries.”

His mother placed her hand over her chest and gave me a thankful glance. A pleasant warmth filled my heart.

The lady in charge of the gondola stuck her head inside and gave a brief speech about the trip lasting fifteen minutes, staying inside the safety areas, avoiding out of bounds markers, and something about having fun.

“What’s up with this cracked window?” a man interrupted with a raised voice, pointing to the rear corner.

“Scheduled for repair tomorrow.”

“Jesus,” the man muttered to himself, waving off the woman.

Seconds later, the doors slid shut and we started our ascent.

Halfway up to Mammoth’s highest ridge, the inside of my right shoulder started throbbing. Strong. Like never before. After dropping forty pounds over the past six months, every joint of my now two-hundred-pound body ached and moaned whenever I moved. I hoped the Tylenol would work its magic soon.

A loud metal-on-metal screeching noise filled the air and with a thundering thud, the haul cable crashed to a dead stop. Everyone covered their ears.

Our car continued its forward momentum. We swayed up, peaked, and arced backwards, like a giant, slow-moving pendulum on an old grandfather clock.

Passengers screamed.

I braced my back against the gondola wall and scanned the surface of the tiny sea of forty or so shuffling, mumbling human souls, all of us suspended mid-air and clinging to life by a thin, wobbly, and probably frayed cable.

I craned my head and peeked downward and immediately wished I hadn’t. My stomach lurched. A jagged, rocky crevasse stared back up at me from hundreds of feet below us.

“I knew we shouldn’t have come up today,” a woman said.

Emergency amber lights flashed and a broken tin-can voice shot from inside a wall speaker. “. . . worry . . . got . . . down . . . soon. Sorry for . . . thank you . . .”

Human voices mumbled. Our car continued to sway back and forth. Kevin stared at me with rapidly blinking eyes.

Wire tension ebbed and flowed, bobbing us up and down.

The mustached man standing in the opposite corner of the gondola rubbed his temples, bared an assortment of mangled teeth, and banged his fist several times against his forehead. His eyes darted left to right. He squatted and I lost sight of him behind a rather hefty woman wearing an all-pink jumpsuit.

I leaned toward Kevin. “Something’s wrong with that dude.”

Chapter 2

Kevin glanced toward the mustached man in the gondola. “Something’s wrong with us.” He jerked his arms and legs, squirming. “This ain’t cool, man. We ain’t supposed to be hangin’ up here in the damned sky like this. I’m ’bout ready to freak my ass out right now.”

The car started free-falling toward the earth, filling the gondola with terrified screams and giving me a weightless feeling. But only for a split-second. Another boom, then we slammed to a sudden stop. I struggled to overcome g-forces that easily doubled my weight.

The mustached man stood, wiped his brow, grabbed at his chest, and hammered his head three times against the gondola wall. “Stop it. Leave me alone, Jacques. I can’t breathe,” he yelled to absolutely nobody. “Need air.”

Arms above his head, he’d rotated one of his skis horizontally above him, ramming the front tip through the cracked rear window, shattering the plexiglass. More screams. He threw down his ski and, climbing onto the handrail, punched out the remaining shards and grabbed the inside of the window frame, pulling his head and upper torso through the opening.

A burly, bearded man from the crowd grabbed the guy’s leg, but took a boot to the face and landed hard on his ass, blood pouring from his nose, lips, and chin.

Kevin and I bolted toward the escapee, trying to seize the man’s flailing legs and wrestle him back to safety.

Before we could pull him inside, the car jolted back to life, yanking us all sideways. Kevin and I fell off balance, both losing our grip on the man’s legs. The gondola continued its trek upwards toward the peak, the inertia sucking the rest of the man’s body out the window.

I jumped and thrust my entire upper body through the window opening. Looking straight down the side of the car, I fully expected to see a falling body. But instead, the man dangled from the side, gripping the sill with one hand. His glasses slipped from his face and plummeted toward the canyon below.

Then he looked at me. We connected.

Fear engulfed us both. Pure, primal panic.

The distant rocks below made my vision spin. Finding untapped internal strength, I somehow managed to grab hold of his right wrist and forearm with my gloved hands and told myself to focus. “Hold on. I got you. Give me your other arm.”

Legs flapped in the open air, he struck the side of the car, bouncing and slipping along the wet metal. Someone grabbed my waist and secured me. But I wiggled my way further out the window another couple of inches, waiting for the right moment to let go with my right hand and grab the left wrist of this crazy man.

My abdomen slid against plexiglass shards still embedded in the windowsill, sharp pieces scraping along my jacket, poking, pushing, prodding into my belly. The padding in my gloves only handicapped my grip, my forearm muscles pulsating and burning to quit.

“Stop messin’ around and pull that dude back inside,” Kevin said from inside. “Before we get to the next support tower.”

Both my forearms begged to release their grip. I doubled my efforts to maintain a solid hold on the dangling man while turning my head, looking forward to the other side of the tower where the canyon rose steeply, and the gondola car would only be a dozen feet above a patch of soft powdery ground. A landing spot. If I could manage to hold onto this guy another few seconds and let go, the drop would be non-lethal. Maybe a fractured ankle. Maybe nothing.

Or I could try to pull him inside.


The man waved his left arm around, making it impossible to grab. “Relax so I can grab ahold of your other hand.” He slapped his free hand against the steel wall. Now’s my chance. In a split second, I let go of his arm with my right hand and grabbed his left wrist, squeezing with every ounce of strength I could muster, knowing my focus, determination, and strength were this man’s only connection to life.

With both arms secured, I turned my head upwards. “I got him! Hurry! Pull us back in!”

My left forearm cramped. More pain surged through my right shoulder. A fresh jolt of adrenaline provided strength to continue another second.

Our eyes locked dead. “I got you,” I said. A sense of confidence washed over me, knowing I could heave the man up and inside. “Talk about your fucked-up Mondays.” The man blinked, confused. “First round’s on me when we get back down.”

A tiny smile appeared in the corner of his mouth.

But my body slid further out the window portal, sucked downwards. All remaining optimism popped like a water balloon. My belly continued scraping against the bottom of the windowsill as my lungs continued pumping, laboring to provide the oxygen I needed to complete the rescue.

The gondola swept upwards onto the final support tower. As we made our way across most of the pulleys, the cable we hung from jerked us around, shaking the entire car sideways, blasting up and thrusting our mass down.

With both forearms completely numb, physical control of my grip became impossible.

When our cable connection slid and bounced across the final pulley, the car slammed down and stopped. The g-forces tried to tear my body in half. But an instant later, the crazy man released his grip on my arms. The only thread tying that poor man to life snapped.

His eyes stared directly at me, into me.

A primal scream.

He fell, belly-up, arms and legs thrashing in a futile effort to save himself. The plummeting body shrank with each microsecond until his body thwacked onto a jagged rock protruding from the snow, forcing his right leg to wrench behind his back, crimson red instantly covering the surface of his once pale face.

Kevin and several others sucked me back up inside the gondola.

“Why’d he let go?” I asked mostly to myself, the world spinning, staring at the aluminum floor and failing with numb gloved hands to wipe saliva from my lips. “I had him.”

Kevin patted my back. “Not your fault, man. You tried. You almost died trying.”


Excerpt from Echo from a Bayou by J Luke Bennecke. Copyright 2023 by J Luke Bennecke. Reproduced with permission from J Luke Bennecke. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

J. Luke Bennecke is a veteran civil engineer with a well-spent career helping people by improving Southern California roadways. He has a civil engineering degree, an MBA, a private pilot’s certificate, and is a partner in an engineering firm. He enjoys philanthropy and awards scholarships annually to high school seniors.

In addition to his debut novel, bestselling and award-winning thriller Civil Terror: Gridlock, Bennecke has written several other novels and screenplays, a creative process he thoroughly enjoys. His second Jake Bendel thriller, Waterborne, was published in 2021 by Black Rose Writing and received several awards. Echo from a Bayou is his latest suspense thriller with a supernatural twist, available August 2023.

Bennecke resides in Southern California with his wife of 32+ years and three spunky cats. In his leisure time he enjoys traveling, playing golf, voiceover acting, and spending time with his grown daughters.

Catch Up With J Luke Bennecke:
BookBub - @JLukeBennecke
Instagram - @JLukeBennecke
Twitter - @JLukeBennecke
Facebook - @JLukeBennecke 


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and opportunities to read excerpts!