Friday, May 27, 2022

Final Deception, Final Justice by Dan Pedersen

Pedersen wrote and self published a series of mysteries, most taking place on Whidbey Island. Born on Whidbey and still living on the island, I am embarrassed to say I had not read any of the mysteries until recently, for a reading group discussion. I was familiar with Pedersen from his writing about local birds, a book about Whidbey Island, and his contribution to a book on island shore hikes, Getting to the Water's Edge.

Final Deception is the first Whidbey Island Mystery. It begins with a graphic description of a fall from Deception Pass Bridge. Most assume the Bella's death was suicide. Brad and a friend fly to Whidbey to attend the memorial get together. Having known Bella years ago, they are not so sure her death was not murder. A sheriff's deputy wonders too.

Pedersen wrote novels to entertain but also to get people thinking about social and personal issues. This novel centers on the noisy Growler jets at NAS Whidbey Island, the noisiest since the base was built during WW II. Some think the noise harms themselves, animals, and the environment. Others think the presence of the navy on the island is saving the economy and business. Bella was of a strong opinion. “Noise was the price islanders paid for selling their souls...” (56)

Final Justice is the fourth in the series but the next to take place on Whidbey. It features characters from previous novels and is best read after the earlier ones, including those set elsewhere. The plot in this mystery is based on an event from 1984. A white supremacist group had a compound on Whidbey at the time. The leader was killed when the FBI raided the group. (You can read about that event here.) In the present time, it appears another group on Whidbey may have terrorist ideas. A woman is missing and may be held captive by the terrorist group. 

Pedersen wrote this novel during the Trump administration and many characters feel free to express their displeasure with the man. It was suggested the rise in home grown terrorism was directly related to the President's rhetoric. This novel was written in the present tense, unlike the earlier one I read. I did not find that writing style pleasant.

Pedersen was one who loved the birds of Whidbey and readers will find references to many. He has done a great job showing off the beauty of Whidbey. He also gives interesting historical facts about places on Whidbey. Who knew Billy Sunday once came to the island, speaking at Maxwelton? Anyone who would like an introduction to the beauty of the island and the flavor of the various communities would do well to read Pedersen's mysteries.

Pedersen's books were self published and could have used a bit more editing. I often noted missing punctuation, as did previous readers of the library books, penciling in what was missing. The printed editions I read had plenty of white space and could be considered more novellas than actual full length novels. The mysteries are decently plotted. I liked the novels well enough that I have already purchased the next one set on Whidbey.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Dan Pedersen (1947-2021) was born in Mount Vernon, WA, and moved to Whidbey Island in 1986. He received a master's degree in journalism from the University of Washington. He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, including time at Mountain Home, Idaho. He then worked for a number of newspapers. Most of his career centered on a marketing magazine, and a newsletter and many annual reports for Safeco Corporation. He retired from a corporate career in 2002, writing material for Island County Marine Resources Committee. He wrote a blog and self published several books on family history and rural living and began a mystery series. There are ten mysteries in all, many taking place on Whidbey Island. You can read past contributions to Pedersen's informative blog here. You can read more about his career and a tribute to him here.

Independently published.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Traveling Prayer Shawl by Jennifer Lynn Cary Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

Book: The Traveling Prayer Shawl

Author: Jennifer Lynn Cary

Genre: Christian Women’s Fiction/Split-time

Release date: March 17, 2021

Her dream account just landed in her lap…

…So did the future of her family

And she’s got two months to save them both.

Cami Madison’s grandmother died, leaving her with a task she must complete or all the inheritance goes to charity. Plus her boss handed her the ad campaign that will win her the coveted vice presidency opening.

Both have the same time table.

When she realizes the projects are intertwined, things really start to unravel.

Kate Hanson raised her granddaughter after the child became an orphan in a car accident. But not all scars are on the outside.

Can Kate’s last request help Cami to heal?

Will Cami be able to step up to the job?

You will love this split-time women’s romance because when family is on the line, everyone knows the only way to survive is wrapped in prayer.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

I liked this touching story of relationship reconciliation. I liked how Cary developed the plot, centering on first cousins who did not get along well in childhood. A wise grandmother knew exactly how to structure her will so that lives would be changed and troubled relationships healed. We get flashbacks to help us understand how things got to be where they are today.

The characters were developed well. Cami is an accomplished woman. She has some rough edges needing softening and her grandmother's task sets in motion what needs to happen. I liked seeing how Cami came to face her areas of need and could reach out to others for help. Her greatest need gave Cary the opportunity to include a good gospel presentation in the plot as well as showing the power of prayer.

This is a good novel for readers who like seeing how God can change lives and form lasting relationships. It is a good exploration of one person willing to sacrifice for the well being of another, only to find what God has planned is best for all involved, including herself.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Historical Christian Romance author, Jennifer Lynn Cary, likes to say you can take the girl out of Indiana, but you can’t take the Hoosier out of the girl. Now transplanted to the Arizona desert, this direct descendant of Davy Crockett and her husband of forty years enjoy time with family where she shares tales of her small-town heritage and family legacies with their grandchildren. She is the author of The Crockett Chronicles series, The Relentless series, and The Weather Girls trilogy as well as the stand-alone novella Tales of the Hob Nob Annex CafĂ© and her split-time novel The Traveling Prayer Shawl.

More from Jennifer Lynn

The Traveling Prayer Shawl is actually a tribute to the wonderful women I’ve had the pleasure of making shawls with for the last ten plus years. We have a group that has remained faithful though some have had to leave, and new faces have joined. I thought this would be a book where there would be several points of view, sort of like how it is when we meet one Saturday per month. I even asked the girls when this idea began to churn if they could give me some character ideas.

Then one morning this scene came to me and wouldn’t leave. I wrote it out and sent it to my critique group. They thought I might be on to something.

Follow that with one of my prayer shawl girls asking if I was still interested in a character idea. Of course I said yes, and she handed me a fully fleshed out supporting character—Dericka.

I hadn’t planned on anything romantic but apparently my characters had other ideas. This story couldn’t get itself written fast enough.

The cherry on top was when another of my prayer shawl girls shared about a pattern her grandmother had designed that was published back in the 1960’s. With her permission, I include that pattern at the end of the book—an actual prayer shawl to crochet.

You will also see a prayer that is included with the shawl in the book. That is the same prayer that is given with each shawl from our Needles of Hope group. It was written by my dear friend, Pastor Lori Brown and used with her permission.

Crocheting is a relaxing craft for me and one I came to only a few years ago. My sweet grandmother tried to teach me to crochet, then gently suggested I stick with knitting. Ha! But my husband’s cousin came to visit and accepted the challenge, finally helping me to see what had been so elusive. Now I prefer it to knitting.

Though The Traveling Prayer Shawl is a stand-alone and not like my other books, I am currently working on another stand-alone split-time and have included the first chapter at the end of the book. Hope you will enjoy it and that you will try out my friend CeCe’s grandmother’s prayer shawl pattern.

Abundant blessings!

Blog Stops

An Author's Take, May 24

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, May 25

lakesidelivingsite, May 25

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, May 26

Texas Book-aholic, May 27

Boondock Ramblings, May 27

Inklings and notions, May 28

For Him and My Family, May 29

Miriam Jacob, May 29

deb's Book Review, May 30

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, May 31

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 31

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 1

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, June 2

Mary Hake, June 2

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 3

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, June 4 (Author Interview)

Vicarious Living , June 4

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 5

Blogging With Carol, June 6

Spoken from the Heart, June 6

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1df1d/the-traveling-prayer-shawl-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

When the Day Comes by Gabrielle Meyer

This novel is an interesting change from the usual time travel plot. Here, certain people live in two periods, changing over from one time to another while sleeping. Libby, the heroine, lives in 1774 Williamsburg and 1914 New York City. This will continue until she turns twenty-one when she can choose the time in which to continue living.

We get a good sense of the per-revolutionary atmosphere in the colonies through Libby's life in 1774. Libby and her mother are keeping a print shop going after Libby's father died and we see the turmoil caused by printing material opposing the king. We also see the sacrifices people are willing to make for freedom as a war seems immanent.

There is a direct contrast with Libby's 1914 life. Libby's mother wants to see Libby marry for influence, preferably a titled man in England. What a contrast in time periods, wanting to be free of England in one period while wanting influential ties to that country in another. There is also the contrast of another impending war in a different situation.

Writing a time travel novel, in this case called time crossing, is a difficult task. Meyer does a good job addressing the issue of changing history and God's sovereignty in the matter. Libby found out, “Only God is in control of our destiny.” (303) I did feel Meyer was vague on why God would have some people experience this dual time. I appreciated the surprising twist at the end, wrapping up well a quite puzzling situation.

This is a good novel for readers who like exploring two interesting time periods in America's history in the context of the difficult choices Libby had to make in both situations. There is a bit of romance too. Meyer provides information on historical fact and fiction at a note at the end. All in all, an entertaining and informative novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Gabrielle Meyer (www.gabriellemeyer.com) has worked for state and local historical societies and loves writing fiction inspired by real people, places, and events. She currently resides along the banks of the Mississippi River in central Minnesota with her husband and four children. By day, she's a busy homeschool mom, and by night she pens fiction and nonfiction filled with hope.

Bethany House, 384 pages. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Falling Apart, Falling For You by Chris Posti

I liked this “coming of age” novel about older women. Three women nearing sixty years of life will be reunited for the first time after leaving high school forty years before. While they were close friends their senior year, much life has happened since. What will their reunion be like? Will they still be friends or will past hurts and mistakes cause barriers? How will they relate their life failures and successes?

The women each have issues needing to be addressed. Suzanne has just lost her job yet may have just found the man for her. Rachel's husband has just died and she must make decisions about her future. Marla has just sold her business for millions but happiness eludes her because of her past actions.

Posti has provided us with a good novel exploring three very different women and how they face potential changes in life. One is controlling. Another holds grudges. They grow through these and other issues as they interact with each other. Part of their transformations come through helping the small town of their youth escape decline and death. Another part of the transformations is the women finding their spiritual basis for well being in their faith.

Posti has a good writing style. I found the story engaging. There is a good deal of exploring personalities and how they interact. We see the importance of forgiveness and of letting go of the past in order to venture toward the future. There is some humor and some welcome surprises. Conservative readers may be surprised at the amount of alcohol drunk by these women and their friends but other than that, a fine novel for older women. It is a good debut effort.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Chris Posti, born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, has moved more than a dozen times. She spent thirty years as a job search expert, executive coach, human resources consultant, newspaper columnist and public speak before trading in her high heals and leather briefcase to fulfill her dream of being a women's fiction author. You can find out more at ttps://chrisposti.com/.

Elk Lake Publishing, 346 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, May 21, 2022

A Sprinkle in Time by Dana Mentink Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

Book: A Sprinkle in Time

Author: Dana Mentink

Genre: Cozy mystery (general market)

Release date: May 24, 2022

It’s Alpenfest in Upper Sprocket! Yodelers are congregating in the square, tourists flocking to the town, and Trinidad Jones is scooping up some fall flavors at her Shimmy and Shake Shop.

The cherry on the sundae is her upcoming feature in Go West magazine. She’s determined to serve up the perfect interview, but it won’t be easy, thanks in part to her meddling Cuban grandfather Papa Luis who has decided to make Sprocket his home for the foreseeable future. Papa Luis has set himself up as a taxi driver in his classic 1951 Buick.

But things take a turn when Papa Luis tells her he’s found a corpse in his trunk. Upon closer investigation, they realize the body has disappeared. With the assistance of Juliette and Bonnie (her sisterhood of exes) and the way too handsome nut farmer Quinn Logan, Trinidad must solve the mystery of the disappearing corpse, before her father is up to his neck in a murderous mess.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

I liked this entertaining cozy mystery that is a good reminder of the deadly nature of small town politics. Trinidad is a fun amateur sleuth and innovative creator of humongous ice cream shakes. She has to be especially observant to identify the clues leading to the villain. Her Papa Luis is quite the character and adds entertainment to the plot. Quinn is a good potential romantic partner for Trinidad, but, my goodness, he has some family relationship issues he needs to straighten out. The setting is fun. I've been to Joseph and seen the Wallowas. Upper Sprocket and the Alpenfest is a great way to highlight the area.

This is an enjoyable cozy mystery with good characters and a wonderful setting. And the ice cream! Make sure you don't read this mystery while even slightly hungry because you'll find the descriptions of the unique milkshakes will have you running to the freezer. There are some delicious recipes included too.

This novel is the second in a series but read well on its own. You can read my review of the first in the series, Pint of No Return, here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Dana Mentink is a USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author as well as a two-time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner, and the recipient of a Holt Medallion. She’s written over fifty titles in the suspense, lighthearted romance and mystery genres. She is pleased to write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, and Poisoned Pen Press. You can connect with Dana via her website at danamentink.com, on Facebook, YouTube (Author Dana Mentink) and Instagram (dana_mentink.)

More from Dana

Who wouldn’t want to visit Upper Sprocket? Sure there’s the odd corpse that turns up, but it’s a charming place, complete with a rail riders excursion business and the Shimmy and Shake Shop, run by the determined Trinidad Jones. It’s fall in Sprocket and the locals are hosting a series of Alpenfest events with everything from yodeling performances to sausage cook offs. Papa Luis, Trinidad’s grandfather is happy to shuttle people around in his classic Chevy Bel Air until a body turns up in his truck. But other than that, Sprocket is an idyllic place with a newly opened train car inn operated by Bonnie, one of three women who were married at various times to the same rapscallion of a man. Oh, and then there’s Noodles, Trinidad’s senior Labrador retriever who has learned how to operate the windshield wipers which comes in handy as stormy weather approaches. Trinidad, Papa, Bonnie and Noodles along with other Sprocket residents are going to have their hands full as Alpenfest kicks off and gruesome items begin to pop up around town. Come along on the adventure as Trinidad wades knee deep into the sticky mess.

Railriding research with my sister!

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, May 21

The Write Escape, May 21

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, May 22

She Lives To Read, May 22

Daysong Reflections, May 23

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, May 23

Texas Book-aholic, May 24

Pause for Tales, May 24

Inklings and notions, May 25

Blossoms and Blessings, May 25

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, May 26

For Him and My Family, May 26

deb's Book Review, May 27

Blogging With Carol, May 27

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 28

Christina's Corner, May 29

Tell Tale Book Reviews, May 29

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, May 30

Simple Harvest Reads, May 30 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, May 31

Labor Not in Vain, May 31

Bigreadersite, June 1

Vicky Sluiter, June 1

Genesis 5020, June 2

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 2

Lighthouse-Academy, June 3

A Good Book and cup of Tea, June 3

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Dana is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a signed book!!

(If the winner is outside the U.S., then he or she will receive an eBook.)

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1df1a/a-sprinkle-in-time-celebration-tour-giveaway


I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, May 20, 2022

Exit Strategy by Linda Richards Blog Tour and Giveaway



Exit Strategy

by Linda L. Richards

May 16 - June 10, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

A shattered life. A killer for hire. Can she stop?

Her assignments were always to kill someone. That’s what a hitman—or hitwoman—is paid to do, and that is what she does. Then comes a surprise assignment—keep someone alive!

She is hired to protect Virginia Martin, the stunning and brilliant chief technology officer of a hot startup with an innovation that will change the world. This new job catches her at a time in her life when she’s hanging on by a thread. Despair and hopelessness—now more intense than she’d felt after the tragic loss of her family—led her to abruptly launch this career. But over time, the life of a hired killer is decimating her spirit and she keeps thinking of ending her life.

She’s confused about the “why” of her new assignment but she addresses her mission as she always does, with skill and stealth, determined to keep this young CTO alive in the midst of the twinned worlds of innovation and high finance.

Some people have to die as she discharges her responsibly to protect this superstar woman amid the crumbling worlds of money and future technical wonders.

The spirit of an assassin—and her nameless dog—permeates this struggle to help a young woman as powerful forces build to deny her.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dexter will love Exit Strategy

My Review:

I enjoyed this novel, the plot a change from the usual one featuring an assassin. Richards' writing style is a bit different from the typical thriller in that it is in the present tense and mostly prose. We readers experience the life of the heroine through her thoughts in first person narrative. There is some dialogue and not a great deal of action. Most of the novel's text is descriptive prose.

The character development is a bit different than I expected. Richards does not delve into the particular mental attitude the nameless heroine experiences as an assassin. This was covered, I think, in the first novel in this series where the heroine actually becomes an assassin. We do experience her thoughts about her remaining family members and an attempt to reconnect with her as well as her attachment to her dog.

I always like to learn something when reading a novel, in this one a bit about start up companies and financing. I also found out more about short selling stock and what it might take to make that work. Since the company in this novel is about energy production, I also learned about private generation of energy and selling it to the power company. And there was also some interesting information about nutrition.

For the assassin to protect the woman to whom she is assigned, she has to figure out who would want to kill her and why. That is a bit of a strange process and it is only by making mistakes and eliciting the help of others she gets even remotely close. There is an interesting twist at the end as to who killed who and why.

I liked the novel. I liked learning about energy and stocks. I would have liked less prose and more action but did enjoy the novel as written. I think I need to read the first in the series to satiate my desire to understand the mind of an assassin.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: May 17th 2022
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1608094227 (ISBN13: 9781608094226)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Today

He proves to be a genial companion. I’d never doubted that he would. Across the table from him in a romantic restaurant, I can see his pale eyes are sparked with amber. Or is it gold? Maybe it depends on your perspective. A trick of the light.

So much of life, I’ve found, are those things: perspective and also light. Or maybe that’s saying exactly the same thing.

He tells me he’s in “finance,” a term that is vague enough to accommodate a whole range of activities. I’ve done some research, though, and I know he is a hedge fund manager; that his apartment in this town is a playpen: weekends only. I know he is based in the City and that he flies down here for the occasional weekend, especially since his divorce, which was messy. He doesn’t say that: “messy.” But when he briefly skates over that episode of his life—the period of time in which “we” became “me” —he makes a face that is unpleasant, like he’s got a bad taste in his mouth. I let it ride. Where we are going, it won’t make a difference.

He tells me funny, self-deprecating stories. I reflect that he is someone I would date—in another lifetime. If I dated. If I still had a heart.

“This is a fun first date,” he says in that moment, as though he has read my mind. His thick dark hair flops over his eye endearingly, and my heart gives a little flutter. I’d try to stop it, but I don’t hate the feeling. That flutter. It feels good, in this moment, to simply feel alive.

“Yesterday, Brett. Wasn’t that our first date?” I ask, more for interaction than anything real. Because, of course, the few moments on a rooftop we shared were not a date by any standard. Especially since I was trying to think how to kill him for part of that time. But he doesn’t know that, so maybe it doesn’t count?

“Nope,” he says firmly. “That was a meeting. This,” he indicates our wine and the delicate nibbles between us, “this is a date.”

“How does it end?” I ask pertly. Knowing the answer. Knowing he doesn’t. Wanting to know what he thinks.

He looks at me searchingly for a moment, then smiles raffishly, a certain boyish charm bubbling through. It’s a practiced look. He’s used that smile before, to good effect, I can tell. He’s probably done that his whole life. I don’t dislike him for any of that. It distresses me slightly that I don’t dislike him at all. It would be beneficial to me if I could find it in myself to dislike him.

“It ends well,” he says. A beat. And then: “It ends as it should.”

There is more conversation, just like that. An ancient dance.

After a while he excuses himself to go to the bathroom.

Once he’s out of sight, I slip a vial out of my purse. It contains a powder I made myself. Oleander flowers, dried, crushed and mixed with salt and a few strong spices, intended to cover the plant’s bitter taste. I don’t know how well those spices mask the taste. It’s not as though I can test it, and none of my customers have ever complained.

I quickly sprinkle some of this concoction judiciously on the food that remains. I do it using natural motions. Anyone watching would think I was eating. A little OCD, maybe, but it wouldn’t look anywhere close to what is true. I mix it quickly into the salsa, the guacamole. I salt the chips with it. Sprinkle it on what is left of the chicken wings. I don’t dust the calamari. I’d noted he hadn’t been eating that. It will give me a safe spot to nibble, not that I plan on needing much time to eat. All of this will happen quickly, my experience tells me that.

Before he returns, I have this moment of absolute indecision. I very nearly call out to a nearby server; have her clear the table. I’m not even super sure why I don’t. All of this is going well. Textbook. And yet, I have qualms. Why? He’s lovely of course, there’s that. But beyond the way he looks or how he looks at me. Not long ago, things had happened that had made me resolve to do my life in a different way. Then I’d gotten an assignment and instinct had more or less kicked in. And it was easy to reason around it and to rationalize: if not me, then someone else, right? There would always be some other person ready to do the job. Viewed in that light, there was no earthly reason for me not to do what I do.

But still.

I don’t call a server. And the moment passes.

He comes back looking refreshed, like he’s maybe splashed water on his face or combed his hair, which is behaving for now. Not, for the moment, flopping into his eyes. I figure he probably did both—splashed and combed. He looks good.

He smiles when his eyes meet mine. A 24-karat smile that lights his whole face. My heart gives a little bump. “Fuck,” I say. But it isn’t out loud.

He takes his seat and starts talking again, picking up where we left off. He is easy. Comfortable. But I’m having trouble tracking the conversation; my mind is elsewhere. I’m thinking about what my next steps will be. After. And does it matter what he says right now? Really? If it does, it won’t matter for long.

I try not to follow his actions. Try instead to listen to what he is saying. These words will be his last ones, I know that. And part of me thinks I should do him that courtesy. At least. The courtesy of attention. But it’s difficult to follow his words now. I watch one corn chip as he picks it up, dips it into salsa. I watch him consume it, and it feels like all of it is happening in slow motion. All the while I am listening to his words—I am! —participating in the conversation, not wanting to miss any cues. And wanting to honor the small amount of time he has left. It’s all I can do.

The chip is consumed. I detect no reaction to the bitterness, so that’s a plus. He picks up a chicken wing, swirls it in the blue cheese dip, which makes me realize that, in my haste, I’d missed an opportunity by skipping doctoring the dip. He consumes the wing while we talk; a slight sucking, the meat peeling gently off the bone, all the while, the words flow, though it doesn’t come off as rude. He seems adept at eating and talking so everything stays and sounds as it should.

I listen closely, interjecting as appropriate when I think it’s necessary, all the while watching for . . . signs. I detect nothing until another wing and several chips later. His eyes are suddenly glassy. Sweat stands on his forehead. His hands shake.

“Brett, are you all right?” I ask, but it is pure form. I know he is far from all right. All right no longer exists for him.

“I don’t know. I’ve never . . . never felt like this before.”

I give it another minute. A little less than that. I know it’s all we’ve got. I make the right sounds, the correct motions of my hand. Even when no one is watching, people are watching. Physically, I am unremarkable. A middle-aged woman, so some would say I am invisible, certainly there is nothing about my appearance that makes me stand out. But there will be a future, when questions are asked and people are perhaps looking for clues. I don’t want them to be looking for me.

When he collapses, face directly into salsa, I scream, as one does. Not bone chilling, but an alarmed scream. Our server trots over, clearly distressed. The manager is on her heels. All as expected: it’s pretty terrible for business when customers collapse into their food.

“My date . . . he’s . . . taken ill . . . I don’t know what to do” etcetera. All as one would expect. I don’t deviate from the script.

An ambulance is called. Paramedics arrive quickly. The manager has already pulled Brett from the salsa, but it’s clear he is not all right. They take him away, one of the paramedics offering to let me ride in the ambulance. I decline.

“I’ll follow you,” I say, heading for my rental. And I start out following, but a few blocks from the restaurant I make the turn I know will lead me to the freeway and then the airport. My bag is in the trunk and it’s all mapped out: I am ready to go.

With this moment in mind, I’d left a ballcap on the passenger seat before I entered the restaurant. It is emblazoned with the logo of a local team. While I drive, I push my hair into the cap and wiggle out of the jacket I know I’ll leave behind. These are simple changes—hat on, jacket off—but it will change my appearance enough. I don’t anticipate anyone will be looking for me, but I like to think forward. Just in case.

I have no way of knowing for sure what will happen to him, but I can guess. From the amount of food I watched him consume, I figure he’ll probably have a heart attack before he reaches the hospital and will likely arrive DOA. And at the age and heft of him, and with a high stress job, they will probably not test for poison. And the woman with him at the restaurant? I figure no one will be looking for a girl who doesn’t follow up on the date that ended in hell.

From there it all goes like it’s being managed by a metronome: tick tock, tick tock. Arrive at airport. Drop off rental car. Get through security. Get to plane while they’re boarding. Claim aisle seat at the back of the plane. Keep my eyes peeled for both watchers or people who might recognize me from the airport. But everything goes exactly as it should. No watchers this time. No one looking at me in ways I don’t understand. In fact, everything is perfect. Everything is exactly as it should be. Except.

CHAPTER TWO

Last week

I had not planned on killing again. That is, it wasn’t in the plan. That’s not to say it was an accident. You don’t arrive for a date with a poison in your pocket unless you’re preparing to do some bodily harm. But, as I said, that hadn’t been the plan. Not before.

When the call came, I had been eyeballing my gun again. A darkness of spirit. A feeling I can’t fight or name.

For a while I had spent a lot of time wondering why I kept bothering at all. In recent weeks, there had been darkness all around me. Times that, if it wasn’t for the dog, I wouldn’t bother hanging around.

At times I wonder why I am still showing up every morning. For life, I mean. What’s the big appeal? What is the motivating factor? Is there a mirror beyond the darkness? A pool; some reprieve. I don’t know. Here’s the thing, though: at this point, I’m less convinced that I need to hang around to find out. It’s a battle I wage every day.

Most days.

Before the call comes, there are times it takes me a while to get out of bed. This is new. And when I do get out of bed, it takes a while longer still to orient. Motivating factor, that’s the question. Is there one? What is supposed to be motivating me? I don’t know for sure. So I wait it out.

And the call doesn’t come right away. First, and for a long while, everything is very silent. And not a churchlike silence. The sort one dreads when pieces fly together. First there was this and this and it all made sense. Then we added that other thing and we’re done.

I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. I mostly don’t bother anymore.

Why would one even bother anymore?

It wasn’t always like this.

Let’s put it that way.

There was a time when I didn’t live alone.

There was a time when someone loved me.

Several people loved me.

I don’t remember that time anymore. Not exactly. I’m like a ghost looking back at her memories from a previous lifetime. They are my memories, but they might as well belong to someone else.

Let me tell you this as I try to bring you up to speed.

I live at the forest’s edge. My house is small and simple. It is all I need. My garden is incomplete, though it is occasionally vibrant. I am alone but for the company of a golden dog.

I am alone.

These are the things I think about. Vibrant gardens. Forest’s edge. Seasons in motion. The padding about of golden feet. I don’t dwell on the past. I try not to dwell on the past. For the most part, I have released everything that has happened. It no longer has a hold on me.

Mostly.

I have tried a lot of things to bring some sort of meaning to my life. Attempted. For instance, recently I have begun to keep a gratitude journal. It is a practice I read about somewhere. I try very hard to begin every day with that notebook, pen in hand. In gratitude. It changes the heart, I’m told. It changes the mind.

I have charged myself with finding five things every day for which I am grateful. It’s like an affirmation.

It is an affirmation.

Some days it is easy. Five things to affirm. How hard can that be? I have air. Sufficient food. There is a roof over my head. The beautiful golden dog. Some days there is rain. On others, sun. Both of those are things to be grateful for. The air is clean. The ground is firm. All reasons to give thanks. Most of the time.

On other days it is more difficult. On those days I sit there, stare at the blank page. Maybe a tear falls. Or more than one. Sometimes I begin to write and then stop; picking up and putting down my pen. The past is closer on those days, I guess. The past is nipping at my heels; my heart. On days like that I am filled with that unnamable darkness.

It is unnamed, but I recognize some of the contents. Guilt. Remorse. Regret. And variations on all of those things that incorporate measures of each. I don’t believe in regret, and yet there it is. Regret does not bother checking in with me about my beliefs.

***

Excerpt from Exit Strategy by Linda L. Richards. Copyright 2022 by Linda L. Richards. Reproduced with permission from Linda L. Richards. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Linda L. Richards is a journalist, photographer and the author of 15 books, including three series of novels featuring strong female protagonists. She is the former publisher of Self-Counsel Press and the founder and publisher of January Magazine. Linda’s 2021 novel, ENDINGS, was recently optioned by a major studio for series production.

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I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent aand honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Dead Against Her by Melinda Leigh

This is the first book I have read in this series and I liked it. There is enough background that I felt it read well on its own. I like the heroine, Bree, a gutsy sheriff. Appointed to her position, she has to frequently defend herself and her actions, especially when a previous corrupt deputy she forced to resign is found murdered.

In addition to solving a murder, Bree must deal with harassment in the form of fake pornographic photos let loose on the internet. Though easily proven fake, some gleefully promote them, hoping to force Bree to resign. That use of fake media could be right out of today's headlines.

I like Leigh's writing style. The action is nearly continuous as the plot moves along at a good speed. There is a bit of suspense near the end too. The character development is done well with a good balance of action in the plot and Bree's personal life.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of a novel from a prolific author. I will be looking for more from her.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. A bestselling author, she began writing as a way to preserve her sanity while raising her kids. She found she enjoyed writing more than analyzing financial statements and decided to turn her hobby into a career. Her debut novel, She Can Run, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She has received several awards, including two Silver Falchions and three Golden Leaf Awards. She is a two-time RITA Award finalist and has earned three Daphne du Maurier Award nominations. Her books have sold over 11 million copies. She lives near the beach with her family and a herd of spoiled rescue pets. You can find out more at https://melindaleigh.com/.

Montlake, 303 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)