27 November, 2023

November 27, 2023 0

Face of Greed by James L'Etoile - #Thriller #Procedural


Face of Greed by James L’Etoile Banner

Face of Greed

by James L'Etoile

November 6 - December 1, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Face of Greed by James L'Etoile

Greed, corruption, and betrayal— no murder is as simple as it seems

When a prominent Sacramento businessman is killed and his wife injured in a brutal home invasion, Detective Emily Hunter and her partner, Javier Medina, are called to investigate. At first glance it seems like a crime of opportunity gone horribly wrong, but Emily soon finds there might be more to both the crime and the dead man.

The high-stakes investigation also comes at a time when Emily is caring for her mother who has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and Emily struggles to balance her job with her personal life. The city’s political elite want the case solved quickly, but darker forces want it buried.

Could there have been a motive behind the attack, making it more than a random home invasion? Emily uncovers clues that cause her to reconsider her understanding of the crime. A deadly game of greed and deception pulls Emily deeper into the shadowy world of gang violence and retribution. She has to walk the razor’s edge to identify the killer—without becoming the next victim.

Praise for Face of Greed:

"An incredible story that grabs you by the throat and tosses you across the room. L’Etoile is a gem."
—J.T. Ellison, USA Today best-selling author

"James L’Etoile is such a talented and terrific storyteller! His real-life experience in the criminal justice system gives his compelling, high-stakes thrillers an authenticity that only a savvy insider can provide. You'll be turning the pages as fast as you can!"
—Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today best-selling author

"Smart-mouthed, tough, pull-no-punches Emily will do whatever it takes to solve the case, and she and Javier keep investigating until they finally uncover the tragic, shocking truth. The suspenseful, twist-a-minute, fast-moving plot . . . make[s] this an outstanding must-read."
Booklist (Starred Review)

"Face of Greed is yet another fantastic offering from James L'Etoile, thoroughly enjoyable, a true winner—Bravo!"
—Baron Birtcher Los Angeles Times best-selling author

"L’Etoile’s long career in California criminal justice lends veracity to this page-turner—the courtrooms and precincts feel uncommonly lived-in. Admirers of strong female protagonists will be eager to see more from Hunter down the line."
Publishers Weekly

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Procedural
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: November 2023
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 9781608095889 (ISBN10: 1608095886)
Series: Detective Emily Hunter, Book 1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Oceanview Publishing

Read an excerpt:


Emily Hunter learned to be wary of open doorways when she rolled up to a call. In the five years of her assignment to the detective bureau of the Sacramento Police Department, she knew bad things often lurked in the dark behind partially open doors. When it was the front door of your own home, at seven in the evening, the anxiety bit deep.

She crept close, listening for anything or anyone who didn’t belong. Her hand tapped the grip of the Glock on her hip as she climbed the stairs. The lights were on, and the television blared an infomercial for a product promising the end of dry skin.


Emily had moved her mother in with her four months ago after the seventy-year-old retired teacher suffered a series of memory lapses and household accidents. The advancing scourge of dementia meant Connie Hunter was unable to live a safe, independent life in her own home.

“Mom, are you there? Sheila?” Emily called out for the caregiver she’d hired to stay with her mother while Emily worked long hours as a detective.

When no response came from within, Emily’s subconscious went to a very dark place. She’d investigated a series of home invasions in the city where gangbangers targeted the homes of elderly people to terrorize and loot money and prescription drugs from the weak and powerless.

The front door hadn’t been kicked in, and there was no sign of a forced entry. Emily entered and scanned the living room—except for the missing mother and caregiver, the home appeared normal.

She turned off the television and heard the kitchen faucet running. A quick look into her remodeled kitchen found the water running over a sink full of dishes, but no one there. She shut the water off and spotted Connie’s GPS-enabled pendant on the kitchen counter. She held the tracker in her hand.

Emily heard the front door slam followed by the metallic click of the deadbolt. She heard the voices before stepping into the living room. Sheila had draped a comforter from the sofa over Connie’s frail shoulders. Her mother was wearing a light housecoat and a pair of fuzzy pink slippers. She shivered as Sheila rubbed her arms, warming her.

“What happened? Where were you?” Emily asked.

“I found her wandering down the street, near the park,” Sheila said.

Connie looked small and fragile in the housecoat, one too thin for the cold spring air.

“Mom, what were you thinking?”

“It was time to go,” Connie said with a shiver in her voice.

“Go? Go where?”


Emily bit her lip. It wasn’t the first time her mother mentioned going home, or a need to do something somewhere else. Sundowner’s Syndrome, the doctors called it. A little gift that came with dementia—confusion, a sudden surge in anxiety, and a feeling that she was lost. In a way, she was.

“Mom, this is home now,” Emily said.

“I swear, I turned my back for a second while I was finishing up the dinner dishes, and she slipped out.”

“She hasn’t pulled that one before. What happened?”

“She seemed a little more confused than usual but couldn’t tell me why. She was watching her shows, then walked out. I can’t be responsible for her wandering off. You might want to think about moving her into a facility—”

“I’m not putting my mom in a home.” Emily draped the GPS locket around her mother’s neck.

“Why weren’t you wearing this?”

“That’s not mine.”

“Yes, it is. Remember? We talked about it.”

Connie didn’t respond, but the look behind her eyes was one of confusion and uncertainty.

Emily’s work cell phone vibrated in her pocket. Calls after seven in the evening weren’t telemarketers who should be banished to a leper colony. These nighttime calls invariably meant someone suffered a beating, rape, or another murder in a city with no shortage of victims. In earlier years, she’d wondered if she didn’t answer the phone—if she let it ring until it stopped—would the crime still occur? Could she prevent another victim from ending up in some desolate field? A few hundred calls later, her naïve hope evaporated, and she came to terms with the fact the flow of victims in this city was never-ending.

She stabbed the answer button. “Hunter here.”

“Evening, Detective, please hold for the Watch Commander,” a woman’s voice instructed.

While Emily waited, she plodded to the office in the rear of her home and removed a fresh notebook out of the bottom drawer. On the first line of the first page, she wrote, “1935 hours, rec’d call from Watch Commander.”

“Hi Emily, Lieutenant Ford here. Initial report is a home invasion gone bad. One victim dead and one injured.”

“Another one? Where are we talking about?”

“The location is . . .” Emily heard rustling paper in the background. “Here it is. It’s 1357 46th Street. That’s a nice neighborhood.”

“It used to be anyway. I’ll call Medina and get there as soon as I can,” Emily responded.

“I called him first. His name was up on the rotation. Javier said he would meet you on scene. Emily, there’s something else you need to know.”

Emily fell silent.

“The Chief’s already there. He’s taking a personal interest in this one.”

“Oh sweet Jesus! That’s never a good sign.” Emily tossed the notebook on the desk.

“Gotta mean this is a high profile case. So, watch your back.”

“I appreciate the heads up. I’ll be there as soon as I tie up something.” She disconnected the call and tried to figure out how she could work the case remotely. Maybe her partner, Javier, could hold up his phone and livestream the crime scene. Who was she kidding?


Emily found her mother and Sheila parked in the living room watching a television show that was popular in the sixties. Connie had calmed, and her face was relaxed.

“I can stay,” Sheila said. “I overheard the call. I think she’s calm now. It won’t be long until she’s off to bed. I’ll keep an eye on her.”

“Thank you. Call me if there is any problem and please make her wear that GPS pendant. I’ll figure something out . . .”

As Emily changed into a fresh blouse, the thought of Chief Clark wandering through the crime scene kept surfacing. Whatever drew the top cop out to a crime scene after dark wasn’t going to bode well for the assigned detectives.

Once in her dark blue Ford Crown Victoria, Emily let the defroster attack the rapidly-forming condensation on the windshield. Sections of the window cleared and showcased the obnoxious blue Christmas lights her neighbor clung onto four months after the holiday season. They blinked on and off at once, stabbing a constant strobe into the detective’s bedroom window—another flimsy excuse for her insomnia.

As the car warmed up, Emily got out and scraped a thin film of ice from the driver’s window with the side of her hand. She stole a glance down the quiet street, gathered her shoulder length dark hair in a ponytail, and stepped back into the shadows, away from the car. She followed the fence line to the neighbor’s glowing stale yuletide shrine. Emily pulled the seventh and tenth small bulbs from their sockets and partially rethreaded the hellish electrical orbs back in the strand. The entire string blacked out, and she basked in the electric silence without the hellish current knifing out into the night. Then she returned to the car, backed out of the driveway, and wondered when her lazy-ass neighbor would recognize he’d become a victim of a drive-by-bulbing.

Emily made a right on J Street and sped to 46th, where the glow from the blinking red, blue, and yellow lights of emergency vehicles exacted some sort of revenge for her neighbor’s light display. Residents of this upscale enclave didn’t typically park their Benz, Jag, or Maserati on the street. Their precious status symbols were locked away in garages, or behind walled courtyards. She recognized the silver Crown Vic in front of her as the Mayor’s car and crept forward until her front bumper came within an inch of the Mayor’s sedan, effectively boxing the politician’s ride against a fire vehicle with a bright red and white sign warning, “Keep Back 100 Feet.”

“The Chief and the Mayor at the crime scene. Fricken awesome.”

The residence dwarfed the other homes on the block by double. A massive red brick front, coupled with heavy black iron gates to the right side of the residence, gave the place the feel of an embassy compound. Emily approached the front door, where an officer stood post, ensuring only official personnel entered the crime scene. She identified herself to the young officer in his freshly pressed dark blue uniform. After signing in on a clipboard held by the officer, Emily snagged a pair of blue paper booties from a box on the porch and pulled them over her shoes. She stepped through the front door and immediately noticed blood spatters on the marble floor, each marked with yellow plastic numbers. She grabbed a set of nitrile gloves and pulled them on before she accidentally contaminated the scene.

Emily followed the sound of voices and the strobes of camera flashes to a room down from the entryway. She paused at a large living room space where a petite blond woman sobbed on a white leather sofa. A paramedic knelt in front of her and tended to a red lump on her forehead. Detective Javier Medina sat in the chair next to her.

Javier and Emily became partners six months ago, and while he had more time in the department, Emily’s tenure in-grade as a detective made her the senior investigator. Unlike many of his fellow officers, he didn’t resent a woman—particularly one with fewer years behind the badge—holding the lead position.

Emily thought Javier possessed a natural inclination to the job. He could coax a confession from a suspect, or listen to a victim with an honest sense of compassion.

Javier nodded at Emily and pointed toward the kitchen. The Mayor came strolling out with a glass of wine, handing it to the woman.

“Thank you, Johnny.”

Mayor Stone perched next to her on the sofa and held her hand—the one not holding a wine glass.

“It’s probably not a good idea to drink anything until we make sure you’re checked out. You took a pretty solid blow to the head,” Javier said.

“Lori needs a little something to calm her nerves, something you certainly aren’t doing,” Mayor Stone said.

Emily continued down the hallway and located the hub of activity in a well-appointed office. It gave off more of a library vibe, with floor to ceiling polished mahogany bookcases on the two sidewalls and subdued lighting through Tiffany glass lampshades. A set of French doors with large windows opened out onto a manicured garden.

Chief of Police Thomas Clark, a tall man with the weathered face of a ranch hand, stood off to one side as an evidence technician framed-up a series of photographs of a dead man, face down in a pool of blood, in the center of the room.

“I’m glad you and Medina caught this one, Detective,” the Chief said, somber with a glance toward the Mayor.

“Chief,” Emily replied with a quick nod of her head to the living room and the city politician.

Chief Clark shrugged. “Long-time family friend is what I understand. Sure seems there’s more to it than that. She called him first thing after 911.”

Emily circled behind a medical examiner’s assistant who secured paper bags over the victim’s hands to preserve any forensic evidence. A uniformed officer stood near the patio door and observed the activity.

“You first on scene?” Emily asked.

“That would be me,” the officer said. “My partner and I responded to a 911 call from the residence. We found the wife in here kinda hanging over him. She seemed pretty messed up with what she stumbled into.”

Emily scanned the overturned furniture, files strewn on the floor, said, “What were they looking for? Wife give you any indication?”

The officer shook his head.

She noticed a red smear on the officer’s gloved hand. “Did you touch the body?”

The officer held up his bloody right latex glove and explained, “Yeah, I checked for a pulse and found his throat slit from ear to ear.”

Emily nodded. “You have an ID on this guy yet?”

“Yep, sure do. That’s the homeowner, Roger Townsend. He and his wife, Lori, are the only two occupants. She came home and interrupted the suspects.”

“She able to give any ID on them?”

“Detective Medina is with her now.”

A medical examiner’s assistant unfolded a plastic tarp next to the body to contain any fibers or trace evidence. The assistant said to whoever listened, “We’re gonna roll him now.”

The body stuck on the hardwood flooring where the thickened blood adhered to Roger Townsend’s face. A sickening elastic snap sounded as his head released from the floor. When the body rolled face-up, Townsend’s dead eyes stared up at the assembled group hovering over him. One eye was puffy, his cheek welted from a blow. The body settled, and Roger’s jaw fell slack, exposing the gaping slash wound to his neck. The wound severed the major blood vessels and nearly cut through to his spine. The victim’s head remained attached only by the thick muscle bundle at the back of his neck.

Deputy Forensic Pathologist Elizabeth White knelt alongside the body. “Ward, get a shot of this, please.” She pointed to the gash in Roger’s throat.

One of her staff stepped in and snapped a series of photographs of the victim’s body in the new position.

“Our subject suffered a gunshot wound to the back, but I see no evidence of an exit wound,” Dr. White said.

“COD?” Emily asked.

“There’s no surviving an attack this severe. Exsanguination—he bled out right where he dropped.”

“Looks like he took a beating before he died. Any defensive wounds?”

“None evident now. I’ll be able to tell you more later, Emily. We’ve taken liver temps and gotten everything we can from the scene. I’m ready to transport the body. I've tentatively set TOD approximately two hours ago. You need anything else before they cart him off?” Dr. White asked.

“When can I take a look at your crime scene photos?”

“By the time you return to the bureau, they’ll be downloaded and emailed to you.”

“Thanks, Doc,” Emily said. She remembered a few years ago the same photos would take hours. A vestige of the past that labeled her as one of the last dinosaurs to leave the comfort of paper and convert to the digital age. New detectives coming on board now would never know the joys of film developing, paper map books, and carbon paper.

The Chief motioned for Emily, who had paused behind the victim’s desk over a stack of papers spread out on the slick bloody surface. She felt the papers were too neat, too tidy, in a room that suffered a tossing. Emily used her phone and snapped a photo.

“Here’s what they came for,” the Chief said and pointed to the open floor safe.

Emily approached the floor safe, squatted, and shot photos of the high-end safe and the sliding cabinet capable of hiding it from view. She ran her gloved hand around the lip of the safe. Nothing felt rough or out of alignment, telling her the safe wasn’t forced or cut open; someone opened it using the combination lock. Emily started to stand when a white smudge in the bottom of the dark safe caught her attention. A small trail of light-colored crystalline powder stood out on the safe’s black steel floor.

“Hand me an evidence vial, would you,” Emily said to one of the crime scene techs behind her.

She grasped the clear plastic tube in one hand and swept up the powder into the container with a plastic scraper. After she capped the vial, Emily used a pen from her pocket, labeled it with her name, badge number, and sequence number of the sample. “I want to make sure this is tested back at the lab. Not enough to do a field test without destroying the whole sample, but I’d swear it’s meth.”

“Then it belonged to the killer. He must’ve dropped it when he stole whatever Roger kept in the safe,” the Mayor said. So much for keeping the crime scene secured.

“We don’t know yet, Sir,” Emily answered.

“What we do know is Roger Townsend wasn’t involved in the drug trade.”

Emily stood and faced the Mayor. “And exactly how do we know that?” The irritation on the detective’s face bled over into her voice. At five-six, she needed to look up at the politician.

“Townsend held power and influence in this community. He ran my last reelection campaign and donated a significant amount of money to several prominent legislators. He had no need to be involved in drugs.”

Emily shrugged and replied, “Maybe it’s how he raised his donated cash. If he was involved in politics, then he’s dirty.”

The Chief stepped between the two, and Javier caught his partner’s eye as he stuck his head in around the corner. He had a knack of sensing Emily’s fuse of self-destruction burned short and knew to extract her before this confrontation with the Mayor exploded.

“Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, I’m done with Mrs. Townsend. I’m sure she would appreciate a moment of your time,” Javier said.

Mayor Stone’s eyes narrowed, and the muscles on his jaw tightened into thick cords on his square face. He glared hard at Emily, then turned and strode out of the room toward the front of the home.

The Chief turned to Emily. “Don’t poke the bear.”

“What? Because our victim here ran in some high-powered political circles, I’m supposed to ignore the evidence?”

“No one is saying sweep it under the rug. Make sure you use a little diplomacy and document the hell out of everything.”

A metallic rattle interrupted the conversation, and the medical examiner’s team rolled a compact folding gurney into the room. One of the two men opened up the gurney and lowered it close to the ground next to the victim’s plastic-wrapped body.

“You ready for us to take him?” one of the M.E.’s staff asked.

Emily turned to Javier, who nodded and responded, “Yep. He’s ready for you. We’ve gotten what we need.”

While the M.E.’s technicians bundled the body and placed it onto the gurney, Emily asked her partner, “When did the Mayor get here?”

Javier leaned back against a bookshelf. “He was already here when I arrived. And I got here twenty minutes after the first units rolled up. They caught me on my way home from a date.” He grimaced and closed his eyes immediately after divulging his abbreviated date.

“Really? A date? Ended kinda early didn’t it? I take it you struck out?”

Javier’s cheeks flushed, and he approached the victim’s desk and sorted through the documents. “It was fine, thank you very much.” Javier changed the topic. “I called the Chief and let him know Mayor Stone happened to be here consoling the widow when I arrived.”

“Yeah, good call.”

“Turns out Mr. Mayor lives a few blocks away.”

“Uh huh,” Emily responded. “What did you get from the wife?”

“Not much. She came home, found her husband on the floor, and someone clocked her from behind. When she came to, she worked herself free from a phone cord, but by then the killer had disappeared.”

“She get a look at who hit her?”


“How long was she out?” Emily asked.

Javier paused from sifting through the paperwork on the victim’s desk and said, “She doesn’t know, but it took her about ten minutes to work free from the phone cord around her wrists.”

“You buy her story?”

“I don’t know. If someone clocked me from behind, I wouldn’t have a goose-egg on my forehead.”

“You think she’s holding back?”

“I do. Perhaps not intentionally. Could be shock,” Javier said.

“Did the wife tell you if anyone else knew the combination, or what he kept in the safe?”

“No, she didn’t mention the safe.”

“Well,” Emily said. “Let’s go ask her.”

The newly widowed Mrs. Townsend parked on the white leather sofa with Mayor Stone, her hands held tightly in his. “Lori, we’ll handle everything. You need to take care of yourself now,” he said.

“Mrs. Townsend, I need to ask you a few questions,” Emily said in a soft voice. For all of her faults, the detective handled the survivors of murder victims with sensitivity and compassion. She didn’t refer to them as the “next-of-kin,” which implied they weren’t victims of the crime. Wives, brothers, husbands, and children who experienced a loved one ripped from their lives were victims. The only difference is they remained behind and continued to suffer the loss. They bore the pain of surviving.

Mayor Stone dropped Lori Townsend’s hands and said, “Detective, this isn’t necessary right now—she’s been through quite enough, I would think.”

The small-framed blonde turned in her seat and crossed her legs. Blood stained the knees of Mrs. Townsend’s spandex tights, and when she noticed the red patches on her legs, she became conscious of them and tried to cover the spots with her hands. The red polish on her right index fingernail was chipped and she seemed self-conscious about it. “I’ve already told the other detective what happened. I don’t know what else I can say,” she said.

“I realize you’ve spoken with Detective Medina, and we know you’ve been through an ordeal. I’d appreciate a few moments of your time to help us find the person responsible for the death of your husband.” Emily sat on the corner of a large white marble coffee table directly across from Mrs. Townsend.

“Detective,” the Mayor warned.

“It’s all right Johnny,” Lori responded, putting a hand on the Mayor’s knee. “Go ahead, Detective. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it will help me put the pieces together, too.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Townsend.”

“Please, call me Lori,” she responded while she pulled her blond hair together, quickly securing it back in a ponytail, readying for a fight. Her stiff posture told Emily this woman was used to being in control.

“Tell me, how many people knew your husband kept a safe in his office?”

“I really couldn’t say. I mean, he didn’t do a great deal of business here at the house. Every so often he’d hold a meeting in his office, so someone could’ve seen him open the safe.”

“I’ll need a list of those people, Mrs. Townsend.”

“Really now, Detective.” Lori let out a nervous laugh. “I’m sure Councilman Perkins, Senator Rodriguez, and the Mayor didn’t conspire to murder my husband.”

“How many people knew the combination to the safe, Mrs. Townsend?” Emily asked.

“That was Roger’s safe. I don’t think anyone else knew the combination.” Her face hardened as she thought about the question. “You don’t think I had anything to do with this, do you? Roger never gave me the combination. That was his baby.”

The Mayor puffed up and put his hand on Lori’s shoulder. “I’m sure that’s not what the detective meant. Did you, Detective?” He cut an icy glare at Emily.

“I asked if anyone else other than your husband could’ve opened the safe?”

“No, Roger was the only one with the combination.”

“What did your husband keep in the safe?”

“I know he kept some cash in there, along with business papers.”

“How much money would he keep in there?”

“I don’t know, not much; maybe ten—twenty thousand or so?”

Emily considered her response and wondered what kind of world it would be where ten grand was pocket change. She decided to throw her a curve and asked, “Did your husband keep any drugs in the safe?”

“Hunter, damn it! I’ve already told you Townsend was not involved with illicit drugs. You’re done here. Lori, I’m taking you to the hospital,” the Mayor announced as he stood and extended his hand to Lori.

Lori Townsend drew herself up from the sofa in a slow and calculated way that carried a feline quality. She stood up on her toes and kissed the Mayor’s cheek. “Thank you, Johnny, I’ve had quite enough for one night.”

As the Mayor held out a jacket for Lori, she turned her back on Emily. “Roger wasn’t into drugs. He wasn’t that kind of man.” She shrugged into the jacket. The Mayor put his arm around her shoulder and escorted her out of the room.

Javier leaned against the hallway near the living room, said, “Well, that went well.” He paused until the front door sounded. “The Mayor’s all twisted up with this one. There’s more here than some family friend connection. Trying to cover some shady campaign financing?”

Emily stood at an assortment of photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Townsend arranged on a small white enamel table. Javier picked up one of the silver frames and handed it to Emily. A group of smiling people in black tie dress; Roger Townsend and his wife, Lori, with another attractive blond woman and Mayor John Stone.

From behind them, a young uniformed officer called out, “Hey, Hunter, move your car so I can drive the Mayor home with his prom date.”

Emily tossed the officer her keys. “I’ll follow you out. Give me a minute to finish up.”

“Poor kid, I wonder what he did to deserve his assignment?” Javier asked.

The cell phone in Javier’s pocket played the first few notes of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and he pulled it out quickly. “Detective Medina.” He listened for a few seconds and hung up. “That was the Medical Examiner’s Office. They’ve scheduled the post for eight in the morning. That’s quick.”

Emily nodded. “Everything about this case is quick—too quick.”


Excerpt from Face of Greed by James L'Etoile. Copyright 2023 by James L'Etoile. Reproduced with permission from James L'Etoile. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

James L'Etoile

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his award-winning novel, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, and director of California’s state parole system. Black Label earned the Silver Falchion for Best Book by an Attending Author at Killer Nashville and he was nominated for The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. Dead Drop garnered a Lefty and Anthony Award nomination, and a Silver Falchion Award, and a PSWA win for best novel.

You can find out more at:
BookBub - @crimewriter
Instagram - @authorjamesletoile
Twitter/X - @JamesLEtoile
Facebook - @AuthorJamesLetoile



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20 November, 2023

November 20, 2023 0

RSVP to Murder by Carol Pouliot - #Mystery


RSVP to Murder by Carol Pouliot Banner

RSVP to Murder

by Carol Pouliot

November 6 - December 1, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


RSVP to Murder by Carol Pouliot

A new twist on the 1930s English country house mystery.

Embarking on their most daring time-travel experiment to date, Depression-era cop Steven Blackwell and his 21st-century partner-in-crime Olivia Watson travel to the Adirondack Mountains for a Christmas party at one of the legendary Great Camps. Their host, a wealthy New York publisher, has planned a weekend filled with holiday activities, but, as the last guest arrives, temperatures plummet and a blizzard hits. Before long, the area is buried in snow, the roads are impassable, and the publisher is poisoned.

Unwilling to wait until the local police can arrive, the victim’s widow convinces Steven to launch an unofficial investigation. Soon, a family member goes missing and Steven and Olivia discover a second victim. Trapped with a killer, Steven and Olivia race against the clock before the murderer strikes again.

Praise for RSVP to Murder:

"A classic holiday movie and Agatha Christie novel mashup"
~ Shawn Reilly Simmons, author of the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series

"RSVP to Murder is Agatha Christie with a time-travel twist. Pouliot supplies us with just what we crave in a great locked-room mystery: a blizzard, closed roads, dead phone lines, roaring fires, and lots of suspects and motives—all set in a luxurious Adirondack Great Camp in 1934. Snap on your seatbelt and travel with Steven and Olivia, you’ll be happy you did!"
~ Tina deBellegarde, Author of The Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series.

"A Great Camp in the Adirondacks serves up a sumptuous setting of plump armchairs, roaring fireplaces, and the heady scent of Christmas pines—all begging to be settled into with this thumping good vintage whodunit set in the 1930s. Cleverly plotted with plot-twists aplenty and some time-travel to boot, this immersive mystery is a gem."
~ Laurie Loewenstein, Author of the Dust Bowl Mystery Series

"Readers are invited to the glamour of the Thirties, where the rich are putting on the Ritz, until there’s a murder to solve. Join time-travelers Blackwell and Watson in a race to the Racines’ Adirondack Great Camp to catch a killer. A clever...and a thoroughly unique must for fans of the paranormal and historical. RSVP today!"
~ Gabriel Valjan, Author of the Shane Cleary Mysteries series

"The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries’ latest installment, RSVP to Murder, combines the thrilling and “timeless” aspects of Jack Finney’s classic TIME AND AGAIN mixed with the wit and charm of a modern, puzzling mystery. Highly recommended for all lovers of time travel, history, romance and wily sleuths."
~ L.A. Chandlar, Best-selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 2023
Number of Pages: 305
ISBN: 9781685123857
Series: The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, #4
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

December 31, 1902
New York City, New York

She was marrying the wrong man.

With a silk-gloved hand, Margery Belleville lifted the bottom of her wedding gown and peeked around the heavy, carved doors into the nave of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Several hundred guests—ladies in expensive finery, wool coats trimmed with ermine and fancy hats with brims reaching out over their shoulders, and tuxedoed men in black silk top hats—awaited the wedding of the decade. St. Patrick’s reminded Margery of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with its Gothic-style pointed arches and rich stained-glass windows set in lacey webs. The soaring, vaulted ceiling, lit by crystal chandeliers suspended on long rope-like cables, rose hundreds of feet in the air. Light from the chandeliers reached into the far corners of the church and mingled with the glow of candles twinkling in wrought-iron stands. Inhaling the scent of balsam fir from the many holiday decorations, Margery gazed down the long center aisle, where she would soon walk with her father.

Margery stepped back into the vestibule, her pure-white gown rustling softly as she moved. She was, at least, happy her parents had allowed her the choice of her wedding dress, if not the groom. Margery and her mother had searched in several shops, nearly deciding to have the dress custom made when they came upon this elegant, sleek gown. The moment Margery laid eyes on it, she knew it was the one. The high neckline draped in soft folds beneath her chin, flattering her face. The form-fitting bodice hugged her curves, yet avoided the dreaded hourglass silhouette, with its yards of smooth satin skirt billowing around her. Margery’s unadorned veil revealed topaz eyes and soft lips, but covered her rich auburn hair and cascaded down her back. This was the gown of a modern, independent woman. If only her life matched the dress.

His conversation with the bishop finished, Anthony Belleville joined his daughter. “Are you ready, my dear?”

The organ began Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” and a rumble echoed throughout the nave as the guests stood and turned toward the back of the cathedral. Trembling, Margery took her father’s arm.

He must have felt her shaking because her father leaned over and, to Margery’s astonishment, whispered, “I know he’s not your first choice. But you will be well cared for and you know Gil adores you. I don’t know which man has captured your heart, but you won’t lack for anything with Gilbert Racine. The publishing empire he’s going to inherit will provide a comfortable, even pampered, life. He’s the best choice to keep you in the style your mother and I have provided. I can’t bear the thought that you would ever lack for anything, my dearest daughter.”

Margery was further shocked when her father wiped a tear from his eye.

It was at that moment when Margery Belleville, soon to be Margery Racine, accepted her fate. She would be a good wife for her successful businessman husband. She would provide him with children and a well-run home. She’d bury her feelings deep inside, lock them away in a cupboard, and throw away the key. She could not marry the man she loved. But she might grow to love the man she married.

Margery forced a smile and reached up to give her father a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be alright, Papa. Gil will be a good husband.” She patted his hand. Straightening her spine, Margery gave a sharp nod of her head. “I’m ready.”


Excerpt from RSVP to Murder by Carol Pouliot. Copyright 2023 by Carol Pouliot. Reproduced with permission from Carol Pouliot. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Carol Pouliot

A former language teacher and business owner, Carol Pouliot writes the acclaimed Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, traditional police procedurals with a seemingly impossible relationship between Depression-era cop Steven Blackwell and 21st-century journalist Olivia Watson. With their fast pace and unexpected twists and turns, the books have earned praise from readers and mystery authors alike.

Carol is a founding member of Sleuths and Sidekicks, Co-chair of the Murderous March Mystery Conference, and President of her Sisters in Crime chapter. When not writing, Carol can be found packing her suitcase and reaching for her passport for her next travel adventure.

Learn more and sign up for Carol’s newsletter on her website:
BookBub - @cpouliot13
Instagram - @carolpouliotmysterywriter
Facebook - @WriterCarolPouliot
Sleuths and Sidekicks



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17 November, 2023

November 17, 2023 0

Dark Dweller by Gareth Worthington - #SciFi #Esoteric


Dark Dweller

by Gareth Worthington

November 13-24, 2023 Virtual Book Tour



Captain Kara Psomas was pronounced dead when her research vessel slammed into Jupiter.

More than a century later, the crew of the Paralus, a helium mining freighter, find a pristine escape pod with a healthy young girl nestled inside. A girl who claims to be Kara—and she brings a message of doom.

She says she has been waiting in the dark for that exact moment. To be found by that particular crew. Because an ancient cosmic being has tasked her with a sacred responsibility. She claims she must alter the Fulcrum, a lever in time—no matter the cost to the people aboard—or condemn the rest of civilization to a very painful and drawn-out demise.

She sounds convincing. She appears brave. She might well be insane.

Praise for Dark Dweller:

"... intense, exciting, and nerve-wracking ... taut, tense, and ultimately explosive. A fantastic read not just for science fiction aficionados but for all lovers of adventure."
~ Readers' Favorite

"Dark Dweller is that rare beast of hard sci-fi that can pull off high-end concepts, but also entertain the reader with tension and strong set pieces."
~ SFBook Review

"A story steeped in intrigue, vivid descriptions, and action-packed dialogue."
~ Midwest Book Review

"Epic, bleak, provocative."
~ Indiereader Review

"Knuckle-hard science fiction."
~ Bestsellers World

Dark Dweller Trailer:

Book Details:

Genre: Hard sci Fi mixed with esoteric elements
Published by: Dropship Publishing
Publication Date: February 2023
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 9781954386051 (ISBN10: 1954386052)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


Dr. Sarah Dallas

"Are you the fucking pilot, Hair?” Boz screams at me, piggy eyes aflame in her round face.

I hate that moniker: Hair. Not important right now. The fact we’re going to die is. “No, I’m not, but—”

“Then stay in your lane and shut your hole.”

Breathe, Sarah. Don’t punch her. You’re the ship’s counselor. Be professional. Do not punch her. The mantra rings over and over in my skull, but Boz tests every ounce of my training. There are four of us on this twelve-year round trip. Assaulting the pilot isn’t the best idea.

I release a very measured breath and fix my attention on the largest planet in our solar system looming large in the viewfinder of our liner—the Paralus. Jupiter is enormous, its surface banded with reddish-brown and off-white clouds, rushing and crashing into one other. Its one angry red eye stares at us, at me.

My supposed intellect short-circuits as I try to quantify and categorize. In the face of something truly awe-inspiring my tiny human biological computer is unable, or refuses, to comprehend the sheer magnitude of this world. Yet my limbic system must have some ancient recollection of dealing with overwhelming reverence, forcing a rush of adrenaline through my bloodstream and into my trembling muscles.

Just look at it.

The Paralus shudders as we hurtle into the upper atmosphere. Jupiter has a will of its own, intent on sucking us into its gassy interior. Ironic, given we’re here to grab its vapors. Helium-3 to be specific, to act as cryogenic coolant for our nuclear fusion reactors at home and space stations set out along the Interplanetary Transport Network. Jupiter has helium in spades, while Earth has precious little, and so now we risk our lives on ridiculously dangerous missions to mine the ether. In the age of interplanetary travel and colonization, profit trumps human life—as always.

Metal squeals and the hull creaks. The luminous tabs and keys beneath crystal glass control panels stutter and flicker. Even the slick white walls and soothing curves of the Bridge’s interior can’t muffle the complaints of the frail, human-made underpinnings.

A tear slips from the corner of my eye and my knuckles are white as I grip the armrests.

“Are you crying?” Boz yells, peeling her stare from the enormous viewfinder to gawk in disgust at me for daring to have any emotion other than anger.

“We’re coming in too hot,” I press, flitting a concerned frown from Boz to the planet and back again in hopes she takes the hint to watch where the hell she’s going. “Can’t the AI take over?”

“Which part of shut up isn’t penetrating all that hair?” Boz clicks her tongue, then tweaks on the thruster yokes. Sweat beads on her forehead. “I got this, Dallas. Now back off.”

I wriggle back in my seat and adjust the harness again. Everyone hates a backseat driver, but if she gets this wrong Jupiter will seize the Paralus and we’ll never have enough thrust to escape. We’ll either be torn to shreds or crushed like a tin can. Either one a shitty way to go.

Our freighter shakes like a rag doll in the mouth of a puppy, the nuts and bolts of this dilapidated piece of junk threatening to come loose. The Paralus is fragile as all hell and entirely breakable—the sort of construction a five-year-old makes out of drinking straws and modeling clay. A mile-long needle with a nuclear fusion engine at the aft end, a Scoop and transport shuttle docking bay, the AI mainframe in the center, and two spinning rings: one for cargo, and one for medbay, exercise room and living quarters. Ops, also called the Bridge, sits right in the nose.

Perfect for a front-row seat to our doom.

“Still too much speed,” Boz says. “Increasing retro-thruster burn.”

Will that do anything? The main retro-thrusters have been firing while we’re asleep for months now, slowing us to enter orbit correctly, which sounds great on paper but—given the heap of shit we’re in—means diddly squat.

“Boz, keep her steady,” Commander Chau calls from his chair.

“I’m trying, sir,” she yells back.

“Tris?” Chau says loud enough to be heard over the din of warping metal punctuated at regular intervals by the warning alarm.

“The trajectory is off, something’ changed,” Tris Beckert, our co-pilot and chief engineer, replies in his Texan drawl. “Jupiter’s not where we predicted. It’s not a big ol’ shift, but enough.”

I swear my ass just clenched hard enough to make a button on the seat. A ton of unmanned craft have slammed into their destination planet or just whizzed on by into space forever. I’m no astrophysicist, but was once told reaching a target in space like standing on Everest and firing a bullet at a pea-sized target on the other side of the Earth.

“We’re comin’ in a little steep,” Tris says, tapping away at his readout. “AI is helpin’ Boz compensate—”

The alarm blares again.

“Warning, orbital entry path suboptimal,” says a synthetic, sonorous voice from overhead.

Only an AI could so calmly announce our deaths.

“Yes, I fucking know, Dona,” Boz spits back. “Reverse thrusters won’t do it. Gotta skip over the atmosphere. Just need to burn more delta-v.”

The Paralus lurches under a burst from the engines. The horizon of Jupiter fills the viewfinder, its swirling fumes mixing like milk and coffee in a fresh latte. A fresh latte? Shut up, Sarah.

On the horizon, flashes of white light, tinged with green edges, emanate from just below Jupiter’s cloud line.

Tris shoots a worried look at Boz.

“Asteroids exploding on impact?” she yells without breaking her concentration.

“I don’t think so,” Tris shouts back.

“You better fucking hope not or we’re about to get cratered,” Boz says.

Cratered. Great. Pebble-dashed with chunks of space rock. The spindly nature of the Paralus helps it to not be a gigantic target, but it only takes one puncture and we’re all screwed.

Why am I here, again?

“Hold on to your pantyhose,” Boz says, perspiration running down her temples.

The Paralus is battered, a pathetic kite in impossibly strong winds, as we plunge farther into the outer atmosphere of Jupiter. The viewfinder is near black—sunlight can no longer penetrate the violent vapors assaulting us. Multiple feeds from external cameras cycle on and off, but offer no help.

Boz roars long and loud, heaving on the yokes while Tris taps away at his console, calculating and recalculating—pinging his very human assumptions off the computations of the AI. Chau sits, smooth jaw set and stoic, his narrowed sights fixed on some imaginary endpoint to this nightmare of an orbital entry. He looks oddly calm.

I squeeze my eyes shut and mumble a prayer, though to whom I don’t know. God, Yahweh, Allah. Anyone who’ll listen. In moments of extreme stress, time seems to slow, the human mind suddenly able to function on some higher level, absorbing all the information it can in hopes of averting disaster. Behind my eyelids, in a weird half-dream, half-out-of-body experience, I see myself clinging to the harness. Observing the cowardly pose fills my astral-projected self with shame, which only grows with the knowledge I’m not praying for loved ones at home who might miss me when I’m gone, but to make it out alive so I can go on ignoring them for a little longer.

Except for Dad, always have time for Dad.

The shuddering stops.

I open my eyes. The last wisps of Jupiter’s atmosphere slip past revealing vast, open space. Here, unadulterated with the light of human cities, the universe is alive. The light from the smallest of stars reaches out to me from across the expanse. The feeling of relief at still being alive is replaced with nausea. The same feeling one gets when peering into a pitch-black well, wondering how far down it goes. We came so close to death, but what difference would it make? The universe doesn’t care. Look at how big it is.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Boz says, slumping back in her chair.

“Hey now,” Tris pipes up.

“Sorry, Tris.”

She’s not sorry. Tris doesn’t like too much swearing, but Boz does it anyway. Several times a day. So do I, just in my head. Isn’t that what we all do? Hide a little piece of who we are to placate others. To survive society. But again, it’s hard to care when you’re out here knowing the cosmos really doesn’t give a rat’s ass what we do. The desire to let loose a string of expletives nearly overwhelms me. Nearly.

“I want to know what happened,” Chau says, his expression cold like granite. “How could our trajectory be that off?”

“It wasn’t,” Tris replies, shaking his head. “I told you, Jupiter moved.”

Chau narrows his eyes. “Not possible.”

“Engineer Tris is correct,” the AI says, its tone unchanging. “Jupiter’s orbital path appears to have altered.”

“How the hell is that possible?” Boz asks.

“Ya’ll got me,” Tris replies, tapping at his screen. “Some kinda gravitational irregularity?”

“Affecting Jupiter?” Chau says, one eyebrow raised. “Jupiter moves celestial bodies, not the other way around.”

Tris shrugs. “I’ll look into it.”

“Fine, but after the grab,” Chau says.

“I need to get us back into a proper orbit,” Boz says, already tapping away at her console. “That’s gonna take a while. We had to burn long and hard to skip over the atmosphere. It’s gonna be like turning a galactic Buick.”

“Do it,” Chau says.

“Um.” As the word leaves my lips I wish it hadn’t.

All eyes fix on me.

Shit. Well done, Sarah. Best follow through now. “Is that an aerostat in our flight path?”

“What are you talking about, Doctor,” Boz says.

I point out of the main window.

The crew follows the imaginary path from my fingertip out into space and to the spheroid metallic object. “If that’s an aerostat, it’ll do a lot of damage if we hit it.” Though they’re flexible, colliding with one of these weather stations dropped into the atmosphere to monitor the constant violent storms would fuck us up.

“That ain’t an aerostat, that’s a ship,” Tris says, squinting. “Too far out of the atmosphere. Wrong shape.”

“Are we going to hit … whatever that is?” Chau asks.

Boz shakes her head. “We’re headed out. Seems it’s geo-synched, in orbit.”

“You’re eyeballing it?” I ask.

Boz glares at me. “How about you let me do my job, Dallas?”

Chau holds up his hand. “Enough. What do we do about it?”

Tris clears his throat. “ITN protocol says we have to prioritize the grab, but … this is a little unorthodox. There’s no precedent for an alien ship.” He shoots a nervous glance at Chau.

Chau sniffs hard. “There’s no evidence to suggest it’s an alien ship. How close will we come to it?”

Tris’s fingers flit across his console at lightning speed. Then, with a dramatic swipe, he sends the flight path file from his panel to Boz who looks it over.

“Within a hundred feet,” Boz says. “Just like I said.”

Yes, Boz, I get it— you’re a genius and I’m an idiot. Seriously, Sarah, hold it together. “Do we need to adjust?”

“If we try that, we’ll push ourselves further out,” Tris says, “and it’ll take longer to re-enter synchronized orbit.”

“At a hundred feet we can get a pretty good look at it, though, right?” I say.

Tris nods. “I’d get a window seat now, because we’re about to zip by.”

We, of course, aren’t going to unbuckle and float over to the large window, so we all just fall into a confused silence and fix our attention to the small vessel that is fast approaching—or rather the one that we are fast approaching.

Could this really be alien? Are we the first humans to encounter other intelligent life? Finding microbes on Mars some fifty years ago was a little anticlimactic, especially at a time when humankind had finally started to pay consideration to our own dying world. Too little too late. But a spaceship? Maybe this crappy trip was worth it after all.

The alien vessel is now large enough in the viewfinder to study it a little better. Too damn close if you ask me, but hey, I’m just the shrink right?

Boz glances over her shoulder at Chau. The two of them don’t cross words, but exchange an unspoken question.

They’re right to be confused. What the hell is going on?

The ship, or pod, is roughly egg-shaped, and in the outer lights of the Paralus seems to be grey in color. No windows. Small rear thrusters. And an ITN insignia.

“Holy shit,” Boz says. “It’s an escape pod.”

“Did the last liner report a pod ejection?” Chau asks.

“Not to my knowledge,” Boz says. “Tris?”

The Texan shakes his head. “I got no record of that.”

“Those markings, they’re old,” I pipe up. “See the logo? Saturn is included now, since the expansion. This is pre-rebrand, done more than twenty years ago. Actually, that looks even older. Museum old.” That tidbit of information only serves to remind them who I am, how I’m here, and that they really don’t like me or my family. Shit.

“Chief,” Tris says. “We gotta see what’s over there. I can take a Scoop.”

Chau looks to Boz.

She just shrugs. “I have to swing her around Jupiter to get us into orbit. I can use the gravity to catapult us ’round and come up on the pod again. Give us time to gear up.”

Chau tents his fingertips. “How will that affect the grab?”

“Well, it’ll delay it,” Tris says, rubbing at his square jaw. “But Jupiter isn’t going anywhere.”

“Didn’t you just say it moved?” My lips try to hang on to the last word as if I can suck back the regrettably snarky remark.

Tris pinches his lips together and gives a subtle shake of his head.

You’re right Tris; shut up, Sarah.

“Oh man, we best still be haulin’ when we return,” Boz says, and shoots me a look as if this whole thing is somehow my fault. “Only get paid if we have a load.”

Hauling back Helium is all anyone gives a shit about, because it means getting paid. Helium is this century’s gold rush. This is hilarious, given I’ve listened to enough company speeches to know that helium is the second most abundant element in the universe. The problem is, while God was handing out the element, He—or She or It—seemed to skip Earth. Our planet’s crust is probably not even in the parts per billion range. In the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s only 5.2 parts per million per volume. So, Jupiter is our reservoir, our lifeline. Still, the ITN has protocols for situations like this. The pod could pose a threat to continued mining. Though no idea what kind of threat, not my wheelhouse. “I think the ITN are gonna call this one,” I add. “Something like this will trump a helium grab. The AI has probably locked all systems anyway. We won’t get to do the job yet.”

Boz tuts again.

“You are correct, Dr. Dallas,” the AI says. “Current mission suspended until investigation completed.”

Chau tents his fingertips. “The faster we clear that pod, the faster we get back on mission.”

Everyone unbuckles and swims out of the only door in or out of the Bridge. Boz gives me a long, hard, disapproving stare, but Tris flashes a grin. Chau doesn’t even bother to acknowledge me. For him, a shrink has two jobs on these freighters: make sure the crew don’t lose their minds in deep space, and stay the hell out of the way.

So far, no-one’s lost their marbles, yet.


Excerpt from Dark Dweller by Gareth Worthington. Copyright 2023 by Gareth Worthington. Reproduced with permission from Gareth Worthington. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Gareth Worthington

Gareth Worthington holds a degree in marine biology, a PhD in Endocrinology, an executive MBA, is Board Certified in Medical Affairs, and currently works for the Pharmaceutical industry educating the World's doctors on new cancer therapies.

Gareth is an authority in ancient history, has hand-tagged sharks in California, and trained in various martial arts, including Jeet Kune Do and Muay Thai at the EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore and 2FIGHT Switzerland.

He is an award-winning author and member of the International Thriller Writers Association, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the British Science Fiction Association.

Born in England, Gareth has lived around the world from Asia, to Europe to the USA. Wherever he goes, he endeavors to continue his philanthropic work with various charities.

Gareth is represented by Renee Fountain and Italia Gandolfo at Gandolfo Helin Fountain Literary, New York.

Catch Up With Gareth Worthington:
BookBub - @GarethWorthington
Instagram - @garethworthington
Twitter/X - @DrGWorthington
Facebook - @garethworthingtonauthor
YouTube - @garethworthington7564



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13 November, 2023

November 13, 2023 0

Second Term by JM Adams - #Action #Suspense #Thriller


Second Term by JM Adams Banner

Second Term

by JM Adams

October 23 - November 17, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Second Term by JM Adams

A lame duck president's desperate power grab threatens democracy in the United States—can former intelligence operative and single mother Cora Walker prevent catastrophe?

September 2012. Cora Walker, a DIA defense operative, learns of a terrorist plot in Benghazi and rushes to a secret installation to stop it. When her superiors ignore her dire warnings, she’s forced to mount an unsanctioned attempt to thwart the attack. Her team barely repels the large force of invaders determined to kill Americans.

Sixteen years after her heroic actions in Benghazi, Cora is the press secretary for the Speaker of the House. As a single mom, she’s struggling to balance her demanding job and her home life. Soon, things get more complicated at work as the lame duck president suspends habeas corpus and begins arresting members of Congress in a desperate attempt to retain power.

Cora springs into action to save the Speaker and prevent catastrophe. She’ll have to work strategically to keep everyone safe—alliances turn sour, and her trust in others begins to falter. It’s an uphill battle for Cora until an explosive finale exposes what can really happen to democracy when political extremism reaches new heights.

Praise for Second Term:

"Second Term is second to none when it comes to high stakes action and nonstop thrills. J. M. Adams has fashioned a ticking time bomb of a political thriller that evokes the best of classics from Seven Days in May to Six Days of the Condor."
~ Jon Land, USA Today best-selling author

"A battle of wits that heats up the pages, this one will hold you tight until all is revealed."
~ Steve Berry, New York Times best-selling author

"In his debut novel, Second Term, J. M. Adams keeps the pages of his political thriller turning at a blistering pace, led by a character you’re going to root for aloud. If only she were real!"
~ Jerome Preisler, New York Times best-selling author

"I sat down with Second Term and didn't stop reading until I finished it. Breakneck pace and an all-too-plausible scenario, with a vivid and memorable protagonist. I hope we see more of Cora Walker."
~ Joseph Finder, New York Times best-selling author

"Adams effectively harnesses the headlines to create suspense."
~ Publishers Weekly

Book Details:

Genre: Action, Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: October 2023
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781608095919 (ISBN10: 1608095916)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Oceanview Publishing

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

September 10, 2012
Mediterranean Sea, North Africa

A heavy breeze rolls off the Mediterranean Sea pushing away the stench of the city slowly dying around me. The deep salty air offers a snippet of comfort although I have no idea why. There are no childhood memories of the sea. I grew up in western Colorado and southwestern Virginia. Maybe it’s the brief respite from the taint of chemicals and human waste that’s embedded itself into the pores of this city. I feel like I’m constantly gagging on smoke from the unseen forest fires that raged in Colorado when I was a kid.

The buildings around me are pockmarked with bullet holes. Sandbags stand watch in front of every entrance with piles of rubble towering from thirty to fifty feet high. This place is a giant landfill waiting to fall into the sea. I walk another block and come across a building that looks like something took a mammoth crescent-shaped bite out of it. Rebar splinters off in several directions like webs constructed by a giant spider.

There’s no way to underscore the toll of human suffering here. My line of sight follows another tower of rubble going up to the second floor where a little kitchen comes into view. On the left side of the room there’s vibrant yellow wallpaper, a Roman numeral wall clock, and a table topped with a bright floral Persian table runner. On the right, the walls are stained with blood and black scorch marks. There are more weapons than food in this cursed city and the reminders are everywhere.

Western leaders continue to fool themselves into believing that the death of Muammar Gaddafi would have brought some semblance of sanity or stability to this region. The Brother Leader’s forty-year reign of terror against his people might have ended, but death and chaos rule this city with an iron hand.

Libya is a slave to its violent history, and no one is looking for a way out. But what do I know? I’m just a covert foot soldier for the American Department of Defense. I can’t begin to understand why Washington believes that with Gaddafi gone, it’s nothing but butterscotch and ponies here in North Africa.

I have a wake-up call to deliver to my superiors that may realign some of that thinking, but only if I can make it to the CIA installation in one piece. I’ve been collecting intel for the past two months posing as an English teacher for a wealthy family living in a chateau in Derna.

Derna was the perfect place for undercover work. The charming Libyan port city is about 200 miles east of Benghazi and doesn’t begin to fit in with the rest of Libya. It’s one of the wealthiest areas in the country, a quaint little town nestled into beautiful green mountains rich with exotic sea cliffs and waterfalls. Two days ago, I obtained information that forced me to blow my cover and run. There was no way to securely transmit the sensitive information I’ve gathered without landing in a cell never to be seen again.

My pickup time is slated for the conclusion of the Muezzins’ call to Fajr prayer. The Fajr is the first of five daily Muslim prayers broadcasted from speakers atop the mosques that are still standing around the city. They stick to strict schedule and this morning’s devotional is set for 4:58am (the true dawn) although the sun won’t rise until after 6:30 this morning.

I emerge from the shadows of the long-abandoned Benghazi Cathedral. It’s ironic that one of the most prominent structures in this old Muslim city is a decaying Roman Catholic Church. I have little time to get to the parking lot at the 7th of October Hospital without drawing attention to myself. Good luck with that, I laugh out loud. Hopefully my baggy clothes, hat, and short haircut can fool anyone who doesn’t get too close.

I pull the wide brim of my camouflage bucket hat lower to cover more of my face. My oversized camo jacket is untucked over a dark t-shirt hanging over black jeans. The street is still deserted as I execute what I like to call my husky “man-walk.” I emit an audible sigh of relief rounding the corner by the burned-out Hamzawi Café. I’m less than a hundred yards away from the hospital and have a straight shot to my destination where I can hole up until my ride arrives. At the same time, two militiamen turn the corner and are coming my way. So much for a smooth escape. Why aren’t they preparing for morning prayers?

I ease my Cressi finisher knife into my right hand spinning the blade backwards against my forearm to keep it out of sight. The sharp pinprick of the blade against my skin provides some small comfort. The knife is specifically designed for underwater hunting, but it’s always done the job for me. Five inches long with a deadly stiletto tip. I have zero interest in any confrontation, but that pipe dream is starting to evaporate.

“Asalaamu alaikum,” I say in my practiced husky “man-voice” trying to sound masculine friendly, but in a hurry.

Thankfully, both of their AK-47s remain slung to their backs.

The guy on the left is slightly built, with a camo hat that looks a little like mine. He’s not paying any attention, but the bigger man closer to me answers with a slight edge to his reply, “Wa alaikum salam.”

His eyes are alert and suspicious underneath bushy caterpillar eyebrows and a tangled mane of black facial hair.

I try to politely pass them on the right when the hairy man lashes out seizing my shoulder and reaching for a compact revolver from his belt. I wonder what prompted him to grab me at the same time I plunge the length of my blade deep into his armpit underneath an outstretched arm. His eyes pop wide open in horror. He grunts in confusion as I turn my blade twice before yanking it out of his body and jabbing two explosive thrusts deep into his throat.

Blood erupts from the neck wound covering my hands as I step forward to his companion who is in the clumsy process of unslinging his rifle. I dispatch him quickly with a sweeping arc of my blade and survey the area for witnesses. I’m lucky that this unfortunate incident took place in the cover of darkness. We are the only people on the street, and our encounter made very little noise.

The entire altercation took less than ten seconds. My arms are covered in bright red arterial blood with one of the men gurgling bubbles from his open neck wound at my feet. I lean down and try to leave as much of the mess as I can on his jacket. I switch jackets with my second victim as the loudspeakers crackle to life around the city signaling the start of the morning prayers. Any sane person would want to sprint from the scene, but my training forces me to walk casually away from the dead men lying in the street. I walk into the hospital parking lot. There’s a black Mercedes. The plate matches the numbers I’m expecting as I throw open the passenger door and slam it behind me.

“That’s a good way to get shot,” says the smiling driver in place of a greeting, his hand resting on the Glock 19 in his lap. He studies me with open curiosity.

“If you don’t want company, you should probably keep your doors locked in a neighborhood like this,” I answer.

“Jesus,” he asks, voice rising in concern as he stares at the blood-soaked jacket on my lap. “You hit?”

“It’s not mine. I had a run-in with a couple of locals around the block,” I say quietly.

“A run-in? You’re covered in blood,” he says. I nod.

“Those two militia dudes? Big shaggy guy?” I nod my head again.

“We need to get out of here,” he says.

“Better wait until prayers are over,” I answer. “We shouldn’t be on the streets during prayers.”

“Muhammad will have to see his way past our sins,” he says, slamming the car into gear and pulling out onto the empty street. “I’m Deckard by the way. Welcome to Benghazi.”

I nod, scanning the streets for anything out of place.

“There’s wipes in the glove box. You should clean up the best you can. We should be back at the ranch in fifteen to thirty depending on roadblocks. You sure you’re OK?”

I reach for the wipes as a violent cough escapes my lips. The worst thing about Benghazi isn’t the people waving guns; it’s the never-ending cloud of macabre dust that dominates the air here. North Africa is hot, the air is thick, and it’s only rained once since I got here two months ago.

A bottle of water appears in front of my face, and I suck it down in two gulps.

“The station chief told me to look for a seasoned operative. You don’t look old enough to drink. Are you Langley? Everyone else here is.”

Langley is shorthand for CIA. I wonder if he’s going to prattle on all the way to the station.

“Something like that,” I say.

“So what should I call you?” he asks with a twinkle in his eye. “Jane the Ripper?”

“Jack is fine,” I chirp back. “Got another water?”

“You don’t look line any Jack I’ve ever met. Anyway, the station chief has a hard-on for you already,” he says handing me another water. “Says you’re compromising the Agency’s mission in Benghazi and you shouldn’t be coming in at all.”

I lean my head back and close my eyes. The last thing I need now is some sad little station chief crying to me about his little slice of turf in the desert. I need to talk to Washington and get the American ambassador out of Libya or at least stop him from coming to Benghazi.


I have to admit, the driver is quite competent, and that’s high praise coming from me. He’s avoiding the main roads and driving around in haphazard circles. The last thing he needs in life is to be caught up in one of the impromptu militiaman roadblocks with an armed woman scrubbing blood off of her skin. There is no rule of law here. It’s survival of the fittest and open season on Westerners.

People are shot dead in the street every day. Benghazi is inundated by a tsunami of guns, rocket launchers, and grenades, courtesy of the raided Gadaffi stockpiles around the city. Once Gadaffi was dead, the grand prize was a leaderless country where everyone suddenly had access to military-grade weapons.

“You got a change of clothes?” I ask.

“In the duffle behind the seat.”

I climb into the back and start rummaging through his bag. “Please,” Deckard says dryly. “Help yourself.”

I pull off my jacket and shirt, happy to see my sports bra didn’t catch any blood. I only have one more in my possession. I pull on his shirt, about two sizes too big, and tie it up at the bottom. I ball up my blood-covered jacket and hand it up to him. “Get rid of this, please.”

“Pockets empty?” he asks.

“No, just a blueprint for the U.S. Consulate, signed confession, and the bloody knife.”

He chuckles at my amazing wit and tosses it out the window.


Excerpt from Second Term by JM Adams. Copyright 2023 by JM Adams. Reproduced with permission from JM Adams. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

JM Adams

J.M. ADAMS has more than 15 years of on-air television journalism experience, reporting for CBS and NBC news affiliates across the United States.

Highlights from his career include sea patrols with the Navy after the 9/11 attacks and reporting on location from Kuwait, Iraq, and a number of hurricane disaster zones across the country. Adams was briefly detained in East Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Second Term is his debut novel.

Adams lives in Northern New Jersey with his wife, two daughters, and a pair of Cavashons who appear to have taken over the house.

Catch Up With JM Adams:
BookBub - @JM_Adams
Instagram - @jmadamsauthor
Twitter/X - @JM_AdamsAuthor
Facebook - J.M. Adams
TikTok - @jm_adamsauthor



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07 November, 2023

November 07, 2023 0

Mistletoe in the City by Amber Daulton - #Romance

Derek’s world is about to change forever—again.

After his father’s stroke, Derek Weston dropped out of college and returned home to help his parents with the family business, Oak Landing Apartments. Now living on the premises as the groundskeeper and handyman, he never expected the girl he’d secretly crushed on in high school to move into a unit right before Christmas or stir up desires he thought long gone.

Krista Hartley needs a fresh start away from her overbearing parents, but falling for the tattooed hottie who ignored her back in school wasn’t in the plans. Despite old hurts, Derek’s hot kisses and strong arms offer the shelter she craves.

When another woman sets her sight on Derek and drives a wedge between him and Krista, they’ll have to decide if their relationship is real, or just a winter fling.

Book Links:
Goodreads | Amazon.com | Amazon.in | Bookbub

Read an Excerpt from Mistletoe in the City:

“Hi, Krista.”

A deep voice jerked her upright. Heat raced into her face, and air lodged in her throat. Wake up, Krista. Right now. She closed her eyes, forced air in and out of her lungs, and pushed the image of Derek Weston out of her mind. She opened her eyes.

What the hell?

Derek stood in front of her table with his pierced eyebrow arched.

She hadn’t noticed the black cone-shaped ring the day before, but she’d never forget the morning he’d shown up in sophomore English with a hoop in his swollen eyebrow.

“What are you doing here?” She winced as his other eyebrow rose. Licking her dry lips, she braced her hands on her knees and stood. “Sorry, I’m just surprised to see you.”

Derek shrugged, but his blue-eyed gaze never left hers. “Yeah, I get it. We haven’t seen each other in three years. You look good, Kris.”

Her heart somersaulted. Only her friends called her Kris. He tunneled his fingers through his dark, shiny hair, and the sexy locks cascaded over the back of his head to dangle around his clean-shaven cheeks and strong chin in erotic waves. The black stud in each of his earlobes poked out from between the locks like a dare for her to lick them.

She longed to reach out and stroke the ribbed fabric of his clingy, V-neck sweater, so she grasped her sweaty hands together behind her back instead. Safety pins secured patches of bands she’d never heard of on his denim jacket, and a collection of badass leather bracelets circled his left wrist. His mouthwatering jeans hung low on his hips, and she was half tempted to lean over the table and check out his footwear to complete the sexy picture of him in her mind for her to take out and drool over later.

Focus, Krista. She rolled her tight shoulders. High school is ancient history. You went to college, slept with a few guys, met a special guy, and then dumped his sorry ass. Be cool. You’re an adult. Act like it!

Easier said than done.

“You’re bigger than I remember.” Her face heated again. “I mean, you’re taller.”

A grin curled his lips. “Not really. I hit six-one back in school, but I am broader now.” He spread his arms wide and glanced down at himself. “There’s a room at my mom’s house that I can’t even enter without turning sideways because my shoulders are so wide. Granted, the doorway is insanely narrow, but I still feel like the Hulk every time I go into the laundry room.”

Her lower belly quivered. She clenched her thighs together and swallowed hard. “Well, you look good, too.” If only she could drizzle chocolate on him and lick it up. “It’s great to see you, but why are you here? Young, single, straight guys don’t usually come to craft fairs. Did your girlfriend drag you here?” Okay, so she fished for information. So what? If Derek wanted nothing to do with her romantically, she better find out now and let him fall into the acquaintance category as the groundskeeper and assistant manager of the Oak Landing Apartments.

If she was lucky, she could call him a friend.

About the Author:

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through Daulton Publishing, The Wild Rose Press, and Books to Go Now, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.
She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats. 

Amber on the Web:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon Page

06 November, 2023

November 06, 2023 0

Read an Excerpt from Girl on Trial by Kathleen Fine - #YA #Mystery #Thriller


Girl on Trial by Kathleen Fine Banner

Girl on Trial

by Kathleen Fine

October 23 - November 17, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Girl on Trial by Kathleen Fine

Does doing one bad thing make you a bad person?

Sixteen-year-old Emily Keller, known by the media as Keller the Killer, is accused of causing the deaths of a family of four, including young children. Emily is one of the youngest females to be accused of a crime so heinous, making this the nation’s biggest trial of the year. But what really happened that fateful night—and who’s responsible—is anything but straightforward.

Living in a trailer park in Baltimore with her twin brother and alcoholic mother, Emily’s life hasn’t been easy. She’s had to grow up fast, and like any teen, has made questionable decisions in a desperate attempt to fit in with her peers. Will her mistakes amount to a guilty verdict and a life in prison? It’s up to the jury to decide.

Praise for Girl on Trial:

"Kathleen Fine has written a compassionate, thought-provoking thriller that will have readers asking themselves big questions about redemption while also turning the pages with breathless anticipation. From her opening pages, Fine grabbed my attention and didn't let go until I closed the book, hardly twenty four hours later. Fine's story reminds us that everyone has a backstory and that the root of empathy involves discovering the particulars of someone else's history with an open heart and mind."
~ Christie Tate, Author of Reese’s Book Club and NYT bestseller GROUP

"In her sharp debut Girl on Trial, Kathleen Fine deftly weaves the past with 16 year-old Emily Keller’s present-day manslaughter trial, allowing readers to put together the puzzle pieces of what really happened the day everyone says Emily killed an entire family. With her vivid characters and a well-developed setting, Fine evokes compassion for people trying their best and reminds us that there’s more to every story than meets the eye. Girl on Trial asks readers to wonder: are we more than our biggest mistake, and does everyone deserve redemption?"
~ Jessie Weaver, author of Live Your Best Lie

"Readers will be on edge as Emily’s decisions lead her to become involved in and vulnerable to dangerous situations… The epilogue brings the roller-coaster ride to a satisfying conclusion…. Gripping, tragic, but ultimately hopeful."
~ Kirkus

“In Kathleen Fine’s Girl on Trial…interpersonal dynamics are revelatory… reality wars with public perception…a suspenseful thriller in which a maligned teenager is forced to fight for justice.”
~ Foreword Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: YA Contemporary Mystery/Thriller
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: October 2023
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 9780744306835 (ISBN10: 0744306833)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Read an excerpt:


January 12, 2022

“The only reason I come to this meeting is for my weekly caffeine high,” Tiffani with an i admitted. Emily nodded at her friend as she took a sip of her lukewarm, watered-down coffee, a taste she’d gotten used to. A taste she now associated with healing.

“I’m not no strung-out addict or nothin’,” Tiffani continued and then focused on Emily, remembering that Emily, in fact, wasn’t there just for the coffee. “No offense—wasn’t tryin’ to say nothin’ bad about addicts. It’s just they don’t give us caffeine inside, ya know?”

“No offense taken.” Emily smiled as she wrapped both hands around her coffee cup, relaxing her tense shoulders. She’d become used to Tiffani’s candor and had grown to appreciate the woman’s raw honesty. She watched as Tiffani sprinkled some sugar into her undersized paper cup and stirred it with the plastic spoon tied to a container with blue yarn. Tiffani glanced around the room and then untied the yarn, placing the spoon into the pocket of her gray, state-issued sweatpants. Emily bit her lip, debating if she should stop her, but then decided not to. Tiffani was going to do what Tiffani wanted to do—she always did and always would.

“I gnaw on the edges of this enough and it gives me a sorta sharp blade.” She gave Emily a wink as she patted her pocket, keeping the new weapon safe as she took a seat in the circle with the other women.

“One minute, ladies,” the guard announced to the group as the chatter quieted down and the women took their seats in the circle. Emily picked up an NA book from the only empty seat in the circle that Nikki left for her as a placeholder. She sat down in its place, shifting uncomfortably in the metal chair. She moved her eyes toward the group secretary, Darlene, as she flipped through a stack of papers on her lap.

“Hello, I’m an addict and my name is Darlene. Welcome to the Lincoln Juvenile Correctional Center’s group of Narcotics Anonymous. Can we open this meeting with a moment of silence for the addict who still suffers, followed by the serenity prayer?” Emily closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she tried to stop her palms from sweating. She still got anxious even though she’d been attending the meeting every week for the past year. How has it been an entire year? she wondered. So much has happened in only twelve months.

“Is there anyone here attending their first NA meeting or this meeting for the first time?” Darlene asked. “If so, welcome! You’re the most important person here! If you’ve used today, please listen to what’s being said and talk to someone at the break or after the meeting. It costs nothing to belong to this fellowship; you are a member when you say you are. Can someone please read, Who Is an Addict? and What Is Narcotics Anonymous?

“I will,” Chantelle volunteered as she reached across the circle, grabbed the paper from Darlene, and began reading aloud to the group.

“Yo, Em,” Nikki leaned over and whispered in Emily’s ear. “You celebratin’ today?” Emily nodded at her timidly. She didn’t like speaking in front of people even if it was a group of women she trusted.

“You’ll do great,” Nikki whispered as she punched Emily lightly in the arm. Emily peered around the circle to make sure no one was paying attention to Nikki’s whispers. They weren’t supposed to have side conversations during the meeting—the guard would send them out of the room if he caught them.

When Chantelle finished the reading, Darlene thanked her and said, “Now can someone please read Why We Are Here and How It Works?”

Emily watched anxiously as the paper was passed down to Trina. She closed her eyes and listened to Trina’s words, clenching her jaw tightly.

“I used last night,” Nikki muttered so quietly, Emily wasn’t sure if she was meant to hear her. She glanced over at Nikki, who was staring down into her coffee cup shamefully. Nikki had been the first person to introduce herself to Emily at her initial meeting, making her Emily’s OG friend in the group. Emily furrowed her brow and placed her hand on top of Nikki’s. She wished Nikki had told her about the relapse earlier—then she could have had an actual conversation with her about it. She wondered where Nikki could’ve gotten her hands on anything since she’d heard a rumor the guards had been doing weekly bunk checks.

One day at a time, Nikki had told Emily, so many months before when she’d been a broken shell of herself. “One day at a time,” Emily whispered, trying not to let the guard hear their buzzing.

Seeing Emily’s tentative face, Nikki mumbled, “My roommate snuck some smack up her papusa. Had her boyfriend’s kid bring it in when he visited her. Whack, dude. Whack.” She shook her head and rubbed her buzzed hair with her rugged hands. “She’s a bad influence on me. I gotta get a new roommate.”

Emily frowned, aware that there was nothing she could do to help Nikki. Nikki had to want sobriety for herself, just like Emily had wanted it. She squeezed Nikki’s hand tightly and whispered, “Glad you’re here.” As much as Nikki’s relapse upset her, it gave her a tiny bit of strength to share her story. Maybe she could help Nikki even a little bit today by sharing her own struggles.

“No touching,” the guard yelled from across the room, eyeing Nikki and Emily. As if being scolded by a teacher, Emily reddened and instantly pulled her hand away from Nikki’s.

Darlene reached below her chair and lifted a shoebox to her lap. “This group recognizes length of clean time by handing out key tags. If you have one coming to you, please come up and get it. The white one is for anyone with zero to twenty-nine days clean and serene.” Darlene opened the box to reveal a white key tag and dangled it in the air. Nikki glanced at Emily and then hesitantly stood up to collect her tag. The group clapped and whistled wildly as she crossed the circle and took her tag. She gave a couple of the women fist bumps as the group chanted, “What do we do? Keep coming back!” Emily put her fist out as Nikki gave it a bump. She hoped this small gesture, this modest group of women cheering for Nikki, would be the reason she’d quit for good this time.

“The orange one is for thirty days clean and serene.” Emily watched as two women got up, collected their tags, and sat back down. Applause and chanting “What do we do? Keep coming back!” vibrated the room.

As Darlene handed out the tags for two months, three months, and so on, Emily gripped her chair, knowing her turn was coming. Her palms, damp with her sweat, began to slip along the chair’s metal sides.

“The yellow one is for nine months clean and serene,” Darlene announced.

Nikki peered at Emily and nudged her bicep. “Your turn is coming up soon,” she whispered. Emily smiled at her, trying to give the façade of bravery, but she felt anything but brave. What she really wanted to do was run as fast as she could out of the room and into the parking lot.

“The glow-in-the-dark one is for a year clean and serene.” You can do this, Emily thought as she unsteadily stood up and walked toward Darlene. All the women in the room clapped loudly and chanted as she took the tag and went back to her seat, her face flushing with pride.

Darlene placed the box back under her chair and collected the sheets of readings from the women who had read. “Today, Emily is celebrating her one-year anniversary with us. You ready, Em?”

The women’s applause quieted and all eyes turned toward her. Clenching her fists tightly, she felt her beating heart rise to her throat. She scanned the room at the women and girls before her. Addicts, inmates, and friends. My people, Emily thought as she said, “My name is Emily, and I am an addict. This is my story . . .”


Trial Day 1: January 7, 2019

The alarm on Emily’s phone chimed just as Sophie whispered in her ear, “Wake up, Emawee. Wake up.” She opened her eyes widely, her body covered in sweat, her sheets soaked yet again. “Time to wake up.” She heard Sophie’s whisper get farther away, humming distantly from somewhere in her dreams.

From somewhere in her nightmares.

As she turned off the alarm, she tried to overlook the numerous text messages that’d surfaced from numbers she didn’t recognize.

“Die, killer”

“You’ll pay in hell for what you did.”


How can people I don’t even know want me dead?

With shaky hands, she deleted the texts as a CNN report popped up on her screen, updating her on the “Trial of the Year,” that was beginning that day:

CNN Breaking News
The Biggest Trial of the Year Begins Today, January 7, 2019. Emily Keller, also known by the media as Keller the Killer, is accused of causing the deaths of four family members, two of them small children. Only 16 years old, Emily is one of the youngest females to be accused of a crime so heinous.

Emily buried her face in her pillow, taking a deep breath. She tried to hold back the habitual tears that were creeping out from the corners of her eyes. I have to be strong today; no crying, she told herself as she rubbed her temples slowly. I need to put on my protective armor, or I’ll never make it through today alive. She reached under her mattress, grabbed her orange pill bottle and gave it a shake, the rattling sound of the tablets comforting her. She poured two pills onto her clammy palm and placed them gently on her tongue. Protective armor.

“Emily?” her brother, Nate, quietly inched open the bedroom door, “You awake? It’s time to start getting ready for court.”

Without looking up at him, she nodded as she rolled out of bed, trying not to think about how wrong the prosecution had the facts and how she could be sent to prison because of it. As she attempted to walk toward the door, her ankle monitor snagged on her lavender bedsheet. She yanked the sheet off in frustration and dragged her feet to the bathroom to prepare for the first day of her new life.

Debbie and Nate were already waiting for her in Debbie’s rumbling Toyota Camry when she stepped out of the trailer.

“It’s your turn for shotgun.” Emily opened the door to the backseat where Nate was already buckled in.

“You can take it today,” he muttered, avoiding eye contact with her.

“I don’t need pity shotgun just because I’m on trial for murder, Nate,” Emily replied curtly as she reluctantly sat down in the front seat. As she buckled her seat belt, she already regretted scolding Nate for doing something kind. I’ll apologize to him later, she told herself. Nate had been up with her until three o’clock that morning, listening to her cry and consoling her. I don’t deserve him, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut.

She rolled down her window and took a deep breath of fresh morning air as her mom lit a Virginia Slim, her hands trembling. “Morning vodka shot hasn’t kicked in yet?” Emily muttered under her breath as she turned on the radio. Or maybe one shot doesn’t cut it anymore, Emily thought.

“What hasn’t kicked in?” Debbie asked as she ashed her cigarette into an empty coke can, oblivious to Emily’s disrespectful comment.

“Coffee hasn’t kicked in yet?” Emily corrected herself as she investigated her face in the cracked side mirror of the car. The face staring back at Emily was swollen from weeks of nonstop crying. Although she’d put on some of her mom’s waterproof mascara, she still looked like someone had run her over with a truck. You’re so repulsive, she thought as she tried to comb her drab chestnut hair with her fingers, squinting at her image through the cracked glass. She wanted to disappear. Sink down into the seat of the car and disappear forever.

As she pinched her upper cheekbones to give her face some color, she glanced at Nate through the corner of the broken mirror, hoping he couldn’t tell she was staring at him through the mosaic lens. Since he had headphones in his ears, she assumed he was listening to a news podcast about the trial. The expression on his face looked like it was straining to stay calm, but she could read his emotions no matter how hard he tried to hide them. When you shared a womb with someone, you knew everything they were feeling.

There was actually supposed to be three of them. Her dad had left when he’d found out Debbie was pregnant with triplets. He’d said since he didn’t want one baby, he definitely didn’t want three. Emily used to sometimes think about how different her life would’ve been if their other brother hadn’t died at birth. Maybe he would’ve punched Tom Swanson for dumping her two years ago since Nate didn’t do a thing about it. Maybe he would’ve taught Emily to throw a football since Nate was anti-athletics.

Maybe he could’ve stopped Emily before she lost herself. Maybe he could’ve stopped this whole situation. Maybe no one would have died.

“Valerie told us to meet her around back when I spoke to her on the phone last night,” Emily directed her mom as they pulled up to the courthouse. Debbie nodded as she navigated her ancient car around to the back of the building, avoiding the crowd hovering at the entrance.

“Shit, look at all of the people,” Nate announced as he stared at the crowd and cameras surrounding the front of the building. No one seemed to notice their rickety car escape past the swell to the rear parking lot. Maybe they were expecting some sort of official-looking black SUV like you see in crime movies and not our pathetic piece of tin, Emily speculated, thinking about how some seniors at her school owned nicer cars than her mom’s. She peeked down at her gray dress and nervously picked little lint balls off it as her mom parked the car.

“You look fine, Em,” Debbie insisted as she opened a mini bottle of vodka from her purse and took a swig, “That dress looks lovely on you.” Debbie had spent her tip money to buy Emily “new” thrift store clothes for the trial. Emily was now pulling at a seam on the edge of the dress, making it unravel.

As she waited for her mom to finish her shot, she felt around for the phone in her purse to make sure it was turned off. She’d turn it on later that night once her mom and Nate were sleeping so she could read through her texts and the news in privacy. That way, if she cried, no one would see her. Strong people don’t cry, she told herself.

“You need a pill?” Debbie asked as she fumbled through the large purse on her lap. The Valium Emily had taken that morning was beginning to set in, and she was starting to feel unreasonably calm.

“I’m good.” Although I’ll need another one soon, she thought. It hurt her too much to live in reality.

Emily’s lawyer, Valerie Anderson, was standing at the back entrance of the building, propping open the heavy metal door with her bright red heel. As Emily stepped out of the car, Valerie waved her hands frantically, “Quick, before they catch on that you’re back here!” she shrieked as she lifted her long, hot pink nails to her mouth.

“We better hurry.” Debbie grabbed Nate’s and Emily’s hands, tugging them toward Valerie.

“Wait,” Emily urged as she struggled to catch up to her petite mom’s gait. Without warning, her black heel wobbled to the side and she stumbled, falling onto the hard concrete. Before she had the chance to assess the damage to her knees, Nate dropped his mom’s hand, grabbed Emily up by the arm, and quickly escorted her to the door. As they approached Valerie, all eyes looked to the blood running down Emily’s knees. Emily was surprised the wounds stung so badly even though the rest of her felt numb.

“We’ll have to find some Band-Aids ASAP before we converse.” Valerie’s heels echoed in the hallway as she led them to their room. Emily slouched over even more than she had been as she followed Valerie, spying the name Keller stuck to a metal door with a yellow Post-it. As they stepped inside, the heavy door slammed behind them with a loud thud.


Excerpt from Girl on Trial by Kathleen Fine. Copyright 2023 by Kathleen Fine. Reproduced with permission from Kathleen Fine. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Kathleen Fine

Kathleen Fine received her Master’s in Reading Education from Towson University and Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from University of Maryland, College Park. She is a member of the Maryland Writers Association, International Thriller Writers, and Author’s Guild. When she’s not writing and selling real estate, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling to the Outer Banks, and of course, reading anything she can get her hands on. She currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband, three children, and Sussex Spaniel. Her short stories have been published in Litro Magazine, Pen in Hand, The Maryland Writer’s Association Anthology, and in The Indignor Playhouse Anthology. Girl on Trial is her debut novel.

Catch Up With Our Author, Kathleen Fine:
BookBub - @kathleenfineauthor
Instagram - @kathleenfineauthor
Twitter/X - @kathleenfine
Facebook - @fine.kathleen
TikTok - @kathleenfineauthor



Tour Participants:

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



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