Blog Tour Extract~ Cold Breath by Quentin Bates

Hi everyone,

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Cold Breath by Quentin Bates, and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all a little further down!

About the author:

Bates, Quentin.jpg

Quentin Bates made his escape from suburbia at the end of the seventies as a gap year turned into a gap decade spent in the north of Iceland. He worked ashore and at sea before returning to England and, once finally ashore for good, drifted by accident into journalism.

Finally the lure of fiction became too strong to resist. Sergeant Gunnhildur and the series of novels she features in have their origins in a deep affection for Iceland and its people, and an intimate knowledge of Icelandic society and its language, customs and quirks.

Today Quentin divides his time between the north of Iceland and the south of England, translating books from Icelandic in addition to working on his own fiction.

About the book:

COLD BREATH.jpg

Gunnhildur reluctantly allows herself to be taken off police duties to act as bodyguard to a man with a price on his head . . .

Hidden away in a secure house outside Reykjavík, Gunna and the high-profile stranger, a guest of the interiors minister, are thrown together – too close for comfort. They soon find they are neither as safe nor as carefully hidden as Gunna and her boss had thought. Conflicting glimpses of the man’s past start to emerge as the press begin to sniff him out, as does another group with their own reasons for locating him. Gunna struggles to come to terms with protecting the life of a man who may have the lives of many on his conscience – or indeed may be the philanthropist he claims to be.

Isolated together, the friction grows between Gunna and the foreign visitor, and she realises they are out of their depth as the trails lead from the house outside Reykjavík to Brussels, Russia and the Middle East.

Cold Breath by Quentin Bates

Extract:

Go for a walk,’ the pale man suggested. ‘Don’t go far. Don’t go out of sight.’
The plump man opened his mouth to speak and then quickly shut it. It had been an instruction, not a suggestion.
‘How long?’ he asked, his voice quivering. Next to him his wife could not hide the helpless hatred in her eyes.
‘Twenty minutes,’ the dark man said, pointing to the wavelets being whipped up on the surface of the lake by a bitter wind. ‘Leave your phones on the table. Go that way and walk around the lake. Be where we can see you.’
‘You . . . ?’ the woman began.
‘Come on, Hanne. We don’t have a choice,’ the man muttered to his wife, taking her arm. He stared steadfastly ahead as they walked away, while she shot a single furious glance over her shoulder towards the two men.
It was supposed to be the holiday they had been looking forward to. For the first time there was no need to hurry. There were no longer projects to manage, classes to teach, meetings to attend, deadlines to meet, or jobs waiting for them to return to. Retirement meant they could spend as long as they wanted touring this rocky island they had long wanted to visit, arriving before the tourist season got underway and taking things slowly, dawdling around the northern coastline as they made their way to Reykjavík, stopping whenever and wherever they saw fit.
That had been the plan, she reflected bitterly, until the unwelcome visitors had arrived one night before they had got as far as the ferry, with an offer they dared not refuse.
‘How long should this take?’ the pale man asked, watching as the tubby man and his stick-thin wife walked stiffly, arm-in-arm, around the shore of the lake.
‘Not long. Under the driver’s side bunk. Tools?’
They disappeared into the camper van, and the dark man opened a compact tool box on the table as he looked around.
‘Nice truck,’ he said. ‘House-proud people. Very tidy.’
‘Maybe they
wanted the place to look its best for their visitors.’
The elderly couple, still arm-in-arm, returned windblown after a slow walk around the grey waters of the lake where the wind filled the air with spray.
‘We’re finished. Thanks for your co-operation,’ one of the men said, standing up from his seat in the camper van’s back door as the couple approached.
‘It’s not as if we had a choice in the matter,’ the woman snapped at him, her voice loaded with helpless anger.
He shrugged. ‘It’s not our choice either, I’m afraid. Now we’d like you to go away and enjoy the rest of your holiday. Forget you ever saw us.
It goes without saying that you won’t say a word to anyone, ever. In which case you’ll never hear from us again.’
The pale man dipped a hand into his pocket and took out a sheet of paper folded into four. He held it up and handed it to the woman.
‘What’s this?’
‘Take a look.’
She unfolded it carefully and stiffened as she saw it. Her husband’s face sagged as she showed it to him.
‘Your
house. Your daughter’s house,’ the pale man said, his finger sliding over each of the four pictures. ‘Your son-in-law’s business. And this is where your mother lives. Just so you know. Not one single word.’

 

Check out the tour:

Cold Breath - Quentin Bates - Blog Tour (2).jpg

Blog Tour~Unrest by Jesper Stein

Hi everyone,

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Unrest by Jesper Stein and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all a little further down!

About the author:

Jesper Stein, journalist, forfatter
Jesper Stein, journalist, forfatter

Jesper Stein was born in Aarhus, Denmark. He began his writing career as
a journalist and covered the Balkan war, and catastrophes in Africa. He
then worked as a culture journalist for 10 years, interviewing lauded fiction
writers, such as John le Carré, Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbø, Henning Mankell, Peter
Høeg, Peter James, PD James, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood and Haruki
Murakami.
He made his literary debut in 2012 with Unrest – the first in the Axel Steen
series. He has received massive attention for his sharp eye for detail, rich
and innovative plotting and confident prose. Praised by critics as a writer
who will keep readers on the edge of their seat, Stein has emerged as one
of the most talented authors of crime fiction in Scandinavia.

About the book:

UNREST_HIGH

2007. On the streets of Nørrebro, the worst riots Denmark has experienced for many years see violent
clashes between the police and far-left autonomists protesting the closure of the Youth House.
Meanwhile, in a local cemetery, an unidentified man is found bound and murdered, his body propped
up against a gravestone.
Detective Superintendent Axel Steen is called to the scene, where all signs suggest the dead man is the
victim of police brutality during the riots. But as the investigation progresses, Axel soon discovers that
many people, both inside and out of the force, have an unusual interest in the case – and in preventing
its resolution.Axel will stop at nothing until he’s uncovered the truth – no matter what. But as he tussles
with his ex-wife, his boss, a far-left journalist with a grudge, the security forces and a well-known drug
lord, the consequences turn out to be greater than expected… especially for Axel himself.

Click HERE to get your copy!

Extract:

While they were speaking, Axel looked over at the dead man. He was slight and appeared to be dark-haired, with a narrow face and wide open, empty brown eyes. Axel took a few steps closer. The custom was to wait for the forensics team, let them do their work and afterwards hold a preliminary post-mortem with a forensic pathologist, but Axel always tried to read the crime scene right away. The first unconscious impression could be invaluable later.

There were traces of blood on the body’s lips; not red, closer to black, the colour blood goes when oxygen has been working on it for a short time. The tongue was sticking out between them, thick and purple, as often seen in victims of strangling.

The earth around the body was heavy and black, with no grass. There were bottle tops, broken glass, a chipped cobblestone, wet branches and a pizza box between the white snowdrops. No particular signs of a fight, but on the wall about three feet above his head there were traces of a dried liquid, most likely blood. Maybe he had been killed right here?

Axel thought it through: was it one of the autonomists who, during the street fighting, had got into a scuffle with some officers, who had then overreacted? At the police academy in recent years, much hadbeen done to ensure the mental health of the corps, but it didn’t change the fact that many policemen hated the demonstrators in Nørrebro and their occasionally life-threatening actions. There weren’t many who, like Axel, could remember as far back as May 18, 1993, when the police had found themselves forced to shoot at a group of demonstrators who were on the verge of killing them withcobblestones – but there were enough confrontations nowadays for the hatred to are up again.

He had to swiftly get an overview of which police officers had been on guard duty in the cemetery. And if it turned out that they had nothing to do with the murder, who could have killed him and, moreover, dumped him in a place that was swarming with cops, while the rest of the city had been vacuumed clean of police?

Axel walked up to the wall and looked behind the dead man’s back. His hands were bound with something that looked like strips – the modern plastic handcuffs that the police used. They had been pulled really tight and seemed to have cut into the skin on his wrist. He was wearing a pair of black military boots, black canvas trousers, a brown sweater and a black windcheater. He didn’t look like a typical autonomist. Axel went over to him and bent down. The smell of death was mixed with the stench of urine. It could have been people who had pissed up against the wall, but it was more likely the victim who had wet himself during the treatment he had been subjected to. Axel carefully put his hand into the inside pocket of the jacket and shed around for a wallet or something else that could reveal who he was.

Nothing.

He called the divisional commander over.

“I’ll need a list of the names and numbers of the men on duty in here last night, where they’ve been, when, and records of anyone else who’s been in the area – personnel, people under arrest, press – withnames and civil registration numbers. And then all of you will have to come into HQ to report what you’ve seen – or not seen.”

“Isn’t that a bit over the top? We’ve been on the go since eight o’clock yesterday evening.”

“Nothing is over the top when it comes to murder.” Axel looked down the path. “Do you have everything under control? Are you sure you haven’t seen anyone here yesterday evening or tonight?”

He got an ice-cold, indignant look from his colleague.

“We’ve taken six people in total – four of them climbed over the wall during the street fighting outside and they were just thrown out again. Two were arrested. We hunted them down with dogs. Theywere stockpiling Molotov cocktails in here.”

“No one else?”

“We haven’t seen anyone. We’ve kept it completely closed.”

Axel shook his head and nodded at a figure trudging towards them. “And what about him over there, you bloody amateur? Is he one of ours in civvies, maybe?”

Catch up with the tour:

UNREST_blog tour 2018

Blog Tour Extract ~ Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds

Hi everyone,

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Rod Reynolds’ latest book, Cold Desert Sky. I’ll be sharing an extract with you all further down, but first here’s the all-important bookish information 🙂

About the author:

Rod Reynolds.jpg

After a successful career in advertising, working as a media buyer, Rod Reynolds took City University’s two-year MA in crime writing, where he started The Dark Inside, his first Charlie Yates mystery. This was followed by the second book in the series, Black Night Falling, in 2016. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.

About the book:

Cold Desert Sky.jpg

No one wanted to say it to me, that the girls were dead. But I knew.

Late 1946 and Charlie Yates and his wife Lizzie have returned to Los Angeles, trying to stay anonymous in the city of angels.

But when Yates, back in his old job at the Pacific Journal, becomes obsessed by the disappearance of two aspiring Hollywood starlets, Nancy Hill and Julie Desjardins, he finds it leads him right back to his worst fear: legendary Mob boss Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a man he once crossed, and whose shadow he can’t shake.

As events move from LA to the burgeoning Palace of Sin in the desert, Las Vegas – where Siegel is preparing to open his new Hotel Casino, The Flamingo – Rod Reynolds once again shows his skill at evoking time and place. With Charlie caught between the FBI and the mob, can he possibly see who is playing who, and find out what really happened to the two girls?

Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds

Extract:

CHAPTER ONE

DECEMBER 1946

No one wanted to say it to me, that the girls were dead. But I knew.

Maybe the desperation showed on my face. No one wants to disappoint a zealot when he’s coming at you, demanding answers and looking for a sign that his search isn’t futile. The ninth day since they went missing, and every street rat and lowlife I could collar told me just enough to get me off their back: no clue/they probably split town/I’ll ask around. Walked out thinking they’d soaped me and that I didn’t know how this would end, the same as ever – two broken bodies in a funeral home or some godforsaken alley in this bullshit City of Angels.

Sunlight came at me between two buildings; late afternoon, already low in the sky – winter’s touch on an otherwise bright day. I bought a newspaper from a vendor, leaned against the wall and pretended to skim the headlines, front and back. I’d already been through it for real that morning, found no mention of them. Now it was just cover to scope the diner across the street. The joint was a corner dive on North La Brea, name of Wilt’s, nothing going for it save for the pretty broad dressed in Mexican getup out front, peddling the brisket special and looking like she’d sooner be someplace else.

 


Most everything I’d done so far was conducted in the hours of darkness; this was the first daylight meet I’d risked. Not my choice, but short notice was Whitey’s condition when we’d arranged it that morning. Whitey Lufkins – a lifetime losing gambler who stemmed his losses turning snitch for anyone with enough green. I knew him from my stint at the LA Times when he was a bottom-rung stop for every legman looking for street talk. Now that same street talk held that he was in over his head with his bookmaker – and his readiness to meet suggested it was true. He didn’t know it’d be me on the other side of the table, though; caution came first. Whitey thought he was seeing a private dick on the missing girls’ trail; I had to ask Lizzie to make the calls to set it up, and she played the dispassionate secretary without much call for pretence.

I was early but I spotted Whitey through the window, already inside. I stayed where I was, waiting and watching, looking for anything out of place. It was automatic now, had been since we returned to LA three weeks before.

I’d felt it as soon as we set foot back in the county, and Liz-zie the same. It’d taken less than a day to confirm that Bugsy Siegel was searching for us. Buck Acheson, my editor at the Pacific Journal, was the one to break the news; a rushed call from a payphone on Wilshire the day we got back, Buck saying he’d picked up on it a week before, while Lizzie and I were still upstate. His voice, his words – he played it all as low key as he could in the circumstance, but his sign off was resounding: ‘I’m pleased you’re back and your job’s still yours ifyou want it, but Charlie, it’s best ifyou stay away from the officesfor now.’ Buck wasn’t one to worry for himself, so the meaning was clear: don’t make it easy for him to find me.

 


The city that used to be mine, and now I couldn’t move for looking over my shoulder.

I let five minutes go by. Whitey fidgeted with his cup and checked his watch twice. Two men left the diner but no one else went in. About half the tables were occupied, more seated along the counter. No one that worried me on first glance, but who the hell knew any more? After Hot Springs. After Texarkana—

Whitey checked his watch again, looked ready to bail. I cracked my knuckles and crossed the street, went inside. He was facing the door, saw me as soon as I did. He had a pallor about him, where the name came from, but worse than I remembered and accentuated now by pockmarks on his cheeks. He made to get up then stopped himself halfway, caught in two minds. I slid in opposite him.

‘Charlie?’

‘Have a seat.’

Previous reviews:

Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds

Check out the blog tour:

COLD DESERT SKY_BLOG TOUR POSTER.jpg

Blog Blitz Extract ~ The M Word by Eileen Wharton

Hi everyone,

Today I’m taking part in the blog blitz for The M Word by Eileen Wharton and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all further down!

About the author:

31501118_1664430320342396_8895463327074058744_n.jpg

Eileen Wharton is not the naughty great-grandaughter of Edith Wharton. She is currently employed by MI5 but has had various jobs including: wigmaker to Donald Trump, Megan Fox’s stunt double and Ann Summers ‘toy’ tester. She also tells lies for a living.

She currently has five ‘lively’ offspring ranging from thirty to ten years of age and has no plans to procreate further much to the relief of the local schools and police force.

Her first novel, ‘Shit Happens’ was published in 2011 to worldwide critical acclaim. She’s also won awards for exaggeration. It did top the Amazon humour chart so she’s officially a best-selling author.

Her first children’s picture book, ‘The Shmoogly Boo’ was published in the same year and another is in the pipeline entitled, ‘My Dad’s Better than Your Dad.’

Her first crime novel, ‘Blanket of Blood’ was launched as a paperback on Friday 28th November 2016. She is now working on the sequel ‘Blood’s Thicker.’

 She teaches English to teenagers and lives on a council estate in Bishop Auckland. She has never eaten kangaroo testicles, is allergic to cats and has a phobia of tinned tuna.

Author links

https://www.facebook.com/eileen.whartonwriter

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eileen-Wharton/e/B00QQT2IKE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1525777837&sr=8-1

http://eileenwhartonwrite.wixsite.com/eileenwharton

About the book:

Eileen Wharton - The M Word_cover_high res.jpg

Roberta Gallbreath is middle aged and menopausal. She dislikes her children, detests her ex-husband and despises her colleagues.

When her mother dies, Roberta is left with a pile of letters and a mystery surrounding her son. The letters reveal Roberta’s heritage is not what it seems and she is soon on a mission to become a better person.

Told with humour and emotion, The M Word is the tale of one woman’s journey to find out where she came from. As she looks to the past for answers, more questions are raised. Will Roberta discover who she really is?

The M Word by Eileen Wharton

Extract:

Chapter 1

 

@RobertaGallbreath

#Restingbitchface

#Flissflop

‘Mother is dying,’ a voice on the house phone says.

‘Who is this?’ I ask.

‘It’s Fliss, who do you think it is?’

‘Let me see. It’s three years since I spoke to you last, Felicity, so I wasn’t expecting to pick up the phone and hear your voice.’

‘Are you coming or not?’ my sister snaps.

‘Where?’

‘Home, of course. She’s dying, Roberta. Even you must care about that.’ What’s with the even you shit? Why do people say that? My sister is good at emotional blackmail. ‘She’s asking for you. God knows why.’

‘How long?’

‘Days rather than weeks. Doctor said to gather the family. Can you tell Carolyn and Shoni?’

‘And Drew,’ I say. Silence. ‘He didn’t do it, Felicity.’

‘Whatever.’

‘I know my own son.’ Silence. ‘He might be a lot of things, but he’s not a thief.’

‘I didn’t ring to argue with you. Just get here, will you.’

‘I’ll come tomorrow,’ I say. She hangs up.

My sister’s a bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all sweetness and light myself, but Felicity is a witch and a martyr, and there’s nothing more unattractive than the smell of burning martyr. She stayed with Mother when she could have left to live in Bermuda with a police officer from Pocklington she had met on eHarmony. She’s bitter and twisted, and let’s face it, who wouldn’t be, living with Mother all those years?

 

#nilbymouth

Mother’s on form. Even on her deathbed, she can make me feel like crap. She sits up in bed, her grey curls flattened by the pillows she’s now propped on, winceyette bed jacket draped around her spiky shoulders, “ALICE GALLBREATH: NIL BY MOUTH” at her head.

‘Don’t know why you bothered coming all the way up here,’ she says.

‘It’s only twenty minutes up the road.’

‘Why do I never see you, then? There’s nowt for you in t’ will.’

‘I don’t want anything, Mother,’ I say.

‘That’ll be a first. Stand up straight and put your legs together. You couldn’t stop a pig in a passage.’

‘Stop with the compliments, will you?’ I say.

‘What you doing here?’

‘I came to see you.’

‘Want to watch me die?’

‘No, Mother. I came to say my goodbyes.’

‘Goodbye, then.’

‘Jesus, can you not just…’

‘What? Just what?’ Mother asks.

‘Just be nice,’ I say.

‘That’s rich, coming from you.’

‘Look, I know I haven’t been the World’s Best Daughter,’ I say.

‘Pah. Understatement of the year. Get one of those thingies from the nurse, will you?’

‘Thingies? Which nurse?’

‘The one that’s plain as a pikestaff. I need to say a decade of the rosary every time I look at her… A thingummy jig whatsit doodah…’ She sets off coughing, and I think she’s going to choke to death there and then. She waves her hand madly in the direction of the cupboard next to the bed.

‘In here?’ I ask. She nods. ‘A tissue?’ She nods again. I hand her a tissue, and she spits into it. Fresh red blood mixed with black swirls like a marble. She folds the tissue, shoves it into my hand and gestures to the plastic bag taped to her locker. I try not to retch as I stuff it in. ‘You haven’t exactly been Mum of the Year, either.’

‘Go on, kick me while I’m down.’

‘I’m not here to kick you, Mother. Felicity said you were asking for me.’

‘Yes, I wanted you to know that I know who took the money and your father’s watch, and I want you to get it back.’

‘Listen, if you’re going to accuse Drew again, I–’

‘I’m not.’

‘That was a terrible time for us…’

‘I wasn’t going to accuse Drew,’ she says. ‘I know it wasn’t Drew. He wouldn’t nick off his granny. I want you to get it back. I still want Drew to have it.’

‘Who was it?’

‘I don’t want it to cause trouble. I just want you to get it back.’

‘From where, Mother? Where do I get it from?’

‘Fliss,’ she says faintly.

‘I don’t understand. What about Felicity?’

‘It wasn’t your dad’s watch. Well, it was. But not the man you thought was your dad.’

‘What do you mean? What are you talking about? You’re talking in riddles. Whose was it? Mother?’

‘The letters explain,’ she says, her breath shallow and laboured.

‘Letters? What letters?’

‘In there,’ she says, pointing to the bedside cabinet. ‘They explain.’

‘Explain what?’

‘Everything. They explain everything. Forgive me…’

Her breath grows ragged, and the machine beside her beeps. A nurse comes running. It’s all a bit of a blur after that. Doctors run in. They shock her, and her heart starts again, then stops. They shock her again, calling, ‘Alice, Alice, can you hear me, Alice?’

When I’ve seen paramedics performing CPR on the telly, it’s so clean and clinical. This is brutal. Messy, noisy, the sound of ribs cracking, a blue mouth foaming, eyes rolling.

It seems like hours before a man in a white coat shakes his head and says, ‘Time of death, eleven twenty-two am.’

I can’t say that what I feel is sadness, but there is shock. Definite shock. Seeing Mother silent and not deadly. I wouldn’t say she looks peaceful or that she looks like she’s sleeping. She looks dead. Bitter Alice. Deceased. What did she want to explain? What did she want me to forgive?

I open her bedside cabinet and take out a brown bag. Inside is a bundle wrapped in red cloth. Unwinding the material, I can see letters, a huge bundle of letters, held together by elastic bands. I stuff them into my bag, intending to read them when I get home.

I sit beside the bed in a state of shock until Felicity arrives and blames me for killing our mother. ‘I think, in fact, that it was lung cancer that killed her.’

‘She was alright last night,’ she says. ‘She was chatting about Freda Birchill’s granddaughter being done for shoplifting.’

‘She wasn’t alright, though, was she? You called me up here because she was dying. You said to me that she didn’t have long left.’

‘Yeah, but I didn’t think…that she would really die.’ Her face crumples then, and I feel almost sorry for her. I put my hand on her shoulder, and she shrugs it off. ‘Do you think it’s been fun looking after her for the past twenty years while you swanned off to the city? You, the big I am.’

‘It’s Newcastle, Felicity, not New York. If you wanted a life, you could have chosen one.’

‘Chosen? Chosen?’ Her voice rises, and she beats her chest. ‘I didn’t have choices. My path was paved when you left. I couldn’t leave as well, could I? She’d have been on her own.’

I ignored her self-pity party. ‘She mentioned the money and Granddad’s watch. She said she knew Drew didn’t take it.’

‘If you’ve come here to cause trouble, I swear I’ll …’

‘Do what? Fliss, you invited me to come.’

‘Just go back to where you came from.’

‘I came from here, actually.’

‘So why do you talk as though you have a mouth full of marbles?’

‘What is it you want from me, Felicity?’

‘Nothing. I want nothing. Precisely what you’ve given me over the years.’

‘I’m going back,’ I say. ‘Let me know the arrangements for the funeral.’

‘Oh, yes, leave it all to me as usual. You can tell Drew to stay away, for a start.’

‘I’ll tell him no such thing. And I’ll tell you another thing, Mother wants him to have his granddad’s watch. Well, she said it’s not Dad’s. So, what do you know about that?’

‘Nothing. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.’

‘She wants me to find the watch and give it to Drew, and that’s what I’m going to do.’ Her face turns red, then green, then white. She storms off, sticking her nose in the air.



Make sure to check out the other blogs taking part in the blitz:

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Blog Tour: Burnout by Claire MacLeary

Hi all,

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Burnout by Claire MacLeary and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all!

About the author:

cmcl.jpg

Claire MacLeary lived in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Fife, before returning to her native Glasgow. She describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies.

About the book:

Burnout.jpg

“My husband is trying to kill me.” A new client gets straight to the point, and this line of enquiry is a whole new ball game for Maggie Laird, who is desperately trying to rebuild her late husband’s detective agency and clear his name. Her partner, “Big” Wilma, sees the case as a non-starter, but Maggie is drawn in.

With her client’s life on the line, Maggie must get to the ugly truth that lies behind Aberdeen’s closed doors. But who knows what really goes on between husbands and wives? And will the agency’s reputation – and Maggie and Wilma’s friendship – remain intact?

Click HERE to order your copy!


Burnout, by Claire MacLeary

The woman leaned in. ‘I’ll get straight to the point. I think my husband is trying to kill me.’

Wow! Maggie jolted upright. That’s a first!

She struggled to maintain eye contact whilst her mind worked overtime. If their initial telephone conversation was anything to go by, this Mrs Struthers promised to be a profitable new client for the agency. But a threat on her life? That was a whole new ball game.

Maggie re-lived the dressing-down she’d had from DI Chisolm earlier that year when she got herself involved in an active murder investigation. What on earth was she going to do now?

Maggie took another squint at Sheena Struthers. Small-boned. Short hair. Good skin. Not much make-up. Pretty in an old-fashioned sort of way. And ages with herself, she reckoned, or thereabouts. In short, the realisation hit home, like Maggie in another life.

Poor woman looked a bag of nerves: eyes staring, fingers picking relentlessly at her cuticles. Almost as fraught as Maggie had been when she’d first picked up the reins of her husband’s private investigation business. Still, the woman would be frightened, wouldn’t she, if someone really was trying to top her?

‘That’s a very serious allegation, Mrs Struthers,’ Maggie continued.

‘Sheena, please.’ The woman opposite pushed her cappuccino to one side.

They’d met in Patisserie Valerie in Union Square. Maggie had passed it often enough but never been inside. In her straitened position, she couldn’t afford to stump up nearly three pounds for a cup of something and the same again for a pastry. But the easy parking suited both her and her prospective client, and the cafe was low-key, more private than Costa Coffee or Starbucks.

‘Sheena.’ Maggie started to smile, then, remembering the subject matter, hastily rearranged her face. ‘On what grounds, might I ask, is this allegation based?’

Lord, would you listen to yourself? Since becoming a PI, Maggie had schooled herself to think like a detective. Now she was beginning to talk like one.

‘Just a feeling, really. It’s hard to explain, but…’

‘It’s this time of year.’ She cut the woman off mid-flow. ‘The run-up to Christmas puts a strain on the most solid of marriages.’ What she wouldn’t give, now, to have a man at her side, strain or no.

‘You’re so wrong.’ Sheena Struthers looked her straight in the eye. ‘I’ve done my homework, Mrs Laird. Looked into other agencies, in Aberdeen and further afield. For one thing they’re much too big. You’ll appreciate that in my situation…’ She cast a furtive glance around the cafe. ‘Discretion is paramount. With companies that size, one can never be sure.’

‘But the police,’ Maggie interjected. ‘Shouldn’t you…?’

‘My dear…’ Keen brown eyes gazed into Maggie’s own. ‘One gets the impression they’re stretched enough, don’t you agree?’

Maggie offered a non-committal, ‘Mmm.’

‘And besides,’ Mrs Struthers insisted, ‘you must realise that any police involvement could endanger my marriage.’

For the second time that afternoon Maggie was caught on the back foot. Make your mind up, woman: your marriage or your life? ‘Oh, yes,’ she murmured, ‘I see what you mean,’ though she was at a loss to follow this line of reasoning.

‘Nor could I take the matter to a solicitor,’ Sheena Struthers continued. She leaned in close, dropped her voice. ‘My husband is an accountant, you see. Moves in rather a closed circle. And Aberdeen, it’s small enough, still. Word gets around,’ she looked to Maggie for reassurance. ‘Doesn’t it?’

‘It certainly does.’ Maggie buried her nose in her cup. She knew only too well what the woman was alluding to. The police were as much a closed circle as any other professional body.

‘From what I’ve heard, you are a person of some integrity. And operate outwith,’ she raised a questioning eyebrow, ‘what one might loosely call “the establishment”. In short, Mrs Laird, your firm seems the perfect fit.’

Oh, to Hell! Maggie had intended to bring the meeting to a close. Now she’d let this Struthers woman take control. She straightened in her seat. ‘It’s kind of you to say so, but I really don’t think I’m the right person.’

‘You will help me, won’t you?’ Sheena reached across the table, clutched at her arm. ‘Please?’

Burnout, by Claire MacLeary is published by Contraband. Available as an ebook from 8 March, price £5.99. Available in print from 29 March, price £8.99.


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Blog Tour: We Were The Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard

Hi everyone,

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for We Were The Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard, and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all. First though, here is all of the bookish information you will need!

About the author:

RB1.jpg
Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more. Her first novel, Whisky et Paraboles, garnered an array of prestigious awards in Quebec and caught the attention of British researcher, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, of the University of Westminster, who saw for herself how Roxanne weaves poetry and geography together to delve into her characters’ intimate worlds. This desire for intimacy permeates all of Roxanne’s novels, as well as her play, J’t’aime encore, and her published essays, which have focused on the human aspects and impacts of the military. In 2013, the publication of her private correspondence with Corporal Patrick Kègle, entitled En terrain miné, started quite the conversation.

This thought-provoking discussion about the need for weapons was a stepping-stone for Roxanne to undertake unprecedented research at Quebec’s largest military base. Meeting and speaking with dozens of women and men who served in Afghanistan in 2009 inspired her to write a collection of hard-hitting short stories, Cinq balles dans la tête, slated for publication in autumn 2017.

We Were the Salt of the Sea is Roxanne Bouchard’s fifth novel, and the first to be translated into English. As much a love story and a nostalgic tale as it is a crime novel, it was shortlisted for a number of crime fiction and maritime literature awards in Quebec and France. It haunts people’s memories, ties seafarers’ hearts in knots and seeps its way into every nook and cranny, but most importantly, the sea in this book is a calling for us all to set our sails to the wind. Roxanne Bouchard is currently writing an essay on literary creativity and plotting Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès’s next investigation.

About the book:

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As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky…

Published by Orenda Books, click HERE to order your copy!


 

Dredgers and trawlers
‘Well, let me tell you, mam’zelle, that hotel and bar over by Caplan
beach – burned to the ground, it did!’
He opened the dishwasher too early, allowing a scalding cloud
of steam to escape. He slammed it shut again and turned to me.
Leaning over the counter, he tried to catch a glimpse of the letter
from Key West I had reopened to remind myself what it said, but I
pulled it away.
‘And let me tell you, quite the fire it was and all! The whole village
came out for a ganders in the middle of the night. Folks even came
up from Saint-Siméon and Bonaventure to see! I made the most of
it and opened up the bistro. It didn’t let up for two days! The flames
were licking all up the walls, and bed springs were popping all over
the place. Had the firemen running around in circles, it did! You
should’ve seen the ashes all over the beach! And let me tell you, it all
went up in smoke! The hotel, the bar, even the slot machines! You’re
not too disappointed, I hope?’
I smiled. If I’d driven for ten hours to feed the slots at the Caplan
beach hotel, then yes, I probably would have been disappointed.
‘Over there, see? It was just the other side of the church – a bit
further west. But now there’s nothing left of it. Must’ve been about
two months ago, I’d say. Everyone knows what happened. I can’t
believe you didn’t hear about it – it made the front page in the Bay
Echo. They even did a special feature about it, with colour pages and
everything! They say it was probably arson, and the insurance won’t
pay up. Cases like this, they’re always looking to point the finger. But
let me tell you, it’s funny they told you to go sleep there, you know…’
I checked the date. The letter had been mailed from Key West
We Were the Salt of the Sea.indd 10 23/01/2018 17:20
we were the salt of the sea 11
two months ago. I put it back in my bag. I had nothing to hide, but
nothing to say either. He cleared away my leftover pizza, tossed it
into the bin and took a step to the side, not entirely satisfied.
‘Let me tell you just one thing, the best place to stay is at Guylaine’s,
right here, just across the way. You’ll be a lot more comfortable
there than up at the hotel that burned down!’
Keeping his distance this time, he opened the dishwasher again,
which was still rumbling away. He picked up a red-chequered tea
towel and started flapping the steam away like a matador struggling
to tame a mad bull. Then, brimming with local pride, with the tip of
his chin he pointed out a big house to the east of the bistro, nestled
against the cliffside, looking out to sea in quiet contemplation. A
charming auberge that promised a warm welcome.
‘It’s the finest one around! Quiet too. Guylaine doesn’t have kids
or a husband. And further down, over there, that’s the fishermen’s
wharf and the Café du Havre is right alongside. If it’s fishermen you
want to meet, you should go there for breakfast mid-morning, when
they come back in. Guylaine will be out for her walk right now, but
she’s sure to stop by later. She always comes in to say hello.’
He visibly softened. Without thinking, he picked up a scalding
glass, juggled with it then flung it onto the counter like a curse. He
gazed out towards the auberge again, then turned to me with a sigh.
‘How about a coffee while you’re waiting?’
I’ve never really liked those bed and breakfasts where you’re
expected to make chit-chat, tell people who you are, where you’re
from, where you’re going and how long you’re staying, and listen to
the owners spouting on about their country-home renovations. But
it sounded like I might as well forget about finding another hotel
around here, and I’d never been one for camping, so Guylaine’s was
beginning to look like my only option.
He cleared my plate and empty glass away and placed a mug on the
counter in front of me before charging back for more, index finger
pointed questioningly at my bag. ‘If you’re looking for someone
around here, I can probably help.’
We Were the Salt of the Sea.indd 11 23/01/2018 17:20
12 roxanne bouchard
I hesitated. Swivelled my chair around to face the other end of the
bistro. As I recall, the sea was the only thing on my mind right then.
The thick smell of it. The breakwater darkening into shadow, ready
to slip beneath the heavy blanket of night. With no lights out here,
how much could you see along this coast?
‘Let me tell you just one thing, though, I know plenty of folk
around here.’
I still didn’t have the words to talk about her. She had always been
unpronounceable; but now, all of a sudden, I had to casually drop
this woman’s name into conversation. Should I roll it seven times on
the tip of my tongue, swish it around my mouth like a vintage wine
or crush it with my molars to soften it?
‘Spit it out, then. Who are you looking for?’
I figured I’d have to get used to the name, for a while anyway. Put
on a brave face and add it to my vocabulary at least, if not my family
tree. So for the first time, contemplating the sea, I said it. I took a
deep breath in and let it all out.
‘Marie Garant. Do you know her?’
He recoiled. All the sparkle in his face fizzled out, as if I’d blown
out a candle. Suddenly on his guard, he looked at me suspiciously.
‘She a friend of yours?’
‘No. I don’t actually know her.’
He picked up the glass again and started rubbing the heck out
of it.
‘Phew! You had me worried there. Because let me tell you, that
Marie Garant, she’s no woman to get close to. Especially not you, if
you’re a tourist that is. I wouldn’t go around shouting about her if
you want to make any friends around here.’
‘Excuse me?’
‘But you’re not from around here, so you weren’t to know, of
course.’
‘No, I wasn’t.’
‘Is she the reason you’re here?’
‘Er … No.’ It was barely a lie. ‘I’m on holiday.’
We Were the Salt of the Sea.indd 12 23/01/2018 17:20
we were the salt of the sea 13
‘Ah! So you are a tourist! Well then, welcome! I’m Renaud. Renaud
Boissonneau, dean of students at the high school and businessman
with business aplenty!’
‘Er, pleased to meet you.’
‘Let me tell you, we’ll take good care of you. How did you like the
pizza? Most of the tourists haven’t arrived yet – this place is usually
full of them. That’s right, it’s always packed here. People think it’s
nice and rustic. Did you see the decor? This place has history, let me
tell you. Because you might not have noticed, but we’re in the old
rectory. That’s why the church is right next door! The patio wraps all
the way around, so anyone who wants to avert their eyes from the
steeple while they’re drinking their beer can go and look at the sea
or the fisherman’s wharf instead. Oh, and the curate lives upstairs.
Which means, let me tell you, that when you’ve had a couple of
drinks and you’re ready to confess your sins, you can just go right
on up!’
Having successfully tamed the dishwasher, he was now noisily
unloading some mercifully unbreakable plates.
‘I do pretty much everything around here, I do. How about that
decor? … See. I was the one who did it all. Let me tell you, I brought
up everything I could find in the basement. See how original it is?
There’s wagon wheels up on the ceiling with oil lamps hanging from
them, clogs, little wooden birdhouses, tools, saws, cables and rope,
and I hung some old oilskins in the corner. Do you need a rain
jacket? I suppose it’s been a nice day today. But it has rained a lot the
last little while, don’t you think?’
‘I hadn’t noticed.’
‘Ah, a city girl!’
As if the distance gave him permission to confide in me, he leaned
in to whisper something. ‘And let me tell you, I do all the decor, wait
tables and wash the dishes, but you’ll never guess what – soon I’m
going to be cook’s helper as well! At fifty-three! Never too old to be
young again, mam’zelle!’
He straightened up and slammed the dishwasher shut again.
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14 roxanne bouchard
‘Everything you see over there, it’s all from our place. That globe,
them old cameras, the marine charts, the grandfather clock, the twohanded
saw, the horseshoes. Do we say horseshoes or horse’s shoes?
Let me tell you, I reckon you can say either. Oh, and them bottles,
the clay pots, them mismatched mugs, even the recipe books! So
tell me, which way did you come? Through the valley or round the
point?’
‘Er, through the valley.’
‘Good on you, not going out of your way for nothing!’
He rubbed the counter like he was trying to make his rag all dizzy.
‘Out of my way for nothing?’
‘The point! Percé, the Northern Gannets, Bonaventure Island …
talk about going out of your way for nothing, mam’zelle! Think you
want to go there?’
‘I don’t know. I haven’t made any plans yet.’
‘Because we just got some tourist brochures in today! I haven’t
read through them yet, but … Ah! If it isn’t the fair Guylaine herself!’
All at once, he flung the rag away into the sink as if he had dirt
on his hands.
Guylaine Leblanc, to look at her, must have been at least sixtyfive.
With salt-and-pepper hair pulled up into a loose bun, she had
about her that air of goodness that grandmothers in American family
movies exude. She laughed tenderly with a twinkle in her eye for
Renaud, who was clearly putty in her hands.
‘Have you met our new tourist, Guylaine? What was your name
again?’
‘Catherine.’
‘Catherine what?’
‘Day. Catherine Day.’
‘Catherine Day wants to stay at yours; you have a room for her,
don’t you?’
Renaud kissed Guylaine on both cheeks and then she walked me
over to her sewing shop, Le Point de Couture, on the south side of
Highway 132, where she sold clothes and did alterations. The auberge
We Were the Salt of the Sea.indd 14 23/01/2018 17:20
we were the salt of the sea 15
was at the rear of the shop, well away from any road noise. The
vast ground floor was decorated in the same fashion as Renaud’s
bistro with a surprisingly comforting hodgepodge of antiques and
easy chairs, and there was a deep veranda overlooking the shore.
Guylaine had three rooms for tourists upstairs; she must have slept
somewhere at the top of the staircase that led to the attic. She gave
me a room facing the sea – her favourite, she said – all decked out
in white and blue, with driftwood trim and a hand-stitched quilt on
the bed. It was a very nice room.


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Blog Blitz: Blind Luck by Dave Stanton

Hi all,
Today I’m taking part in the blog blitz for Blind Luck by Dave Stanton, and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all further down. First though, the bookish info!
About the book:
Dave Stanton - Blind Luck_cover_high res
 

Jimmy Homestead’s glory days as a high school stud are a distant memory. His adulthood hads amounted to temporary jobs, petty crime and discount whiskey. But when he wins $43 million on the  lottery all that changes.


With money, everything is great for Jimmy, until people from his past start coming out of the woodwork seeking payback over transgressions Jimmy thought were long forgotten.


Caught in the middle are private detective Dan Reno and his friend Cody Gibbons – two men just trying to make a living.

Reno, fighting to save his home from foreclosure, thinks that’s his biggest problem. But his priorities change when Gibbons and Jimmy are kidnapped by a gang of cartel thugs. In a fight to save his friend’s life, Reno is drawn into a case that will result bodies scattered all over northern Nevada.

But Can Reno save his friend?

Blind Luck by Dave Stanton

About the author:

Dave+Stanton

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1960, Dave Stanton moved to Northern California in 1961. He attended San Jose State University and received a BA in journalism in 1983. Over the years, he worked as a bartender, newspaper advertising salesman, furniture mover, debt collector, and technology salesman. He has two children, Austin and Haley, and lives with his wife, Heidi, in San Jose, California.

Stanton is the author of six novels, all featuring private investigator Dan Reno and his ex-cop buddy, Cody Gibbons.

Links:

www.facebook.com/DanRenoNovels

Twitter: @DanRenoNovels

danrenonovels.com/

www.amazon.co.uk/Dave-Stanton/e/B00HLT6BB0/

www.amazon.com/Dave-Stanton/e/B00HLT6BB0/


BLIND LUCK

DAN RENO BOOK 2

Say you’re on a wandering drunk binge. The year you spent on the wagon seems a lifetime ago, a life that ended when you came back to the bottle like a soldier coming home after a long war. You don’t remember the day you decided to have a quick taste, just one, and then, it would be back to your predictable, sober life. But there’s no such thing as ‘just one,’ you always knew that, and you stayed drunk from that moment, as if it were the most natural process in the world.
Then, you run out of money, taking odd jobs to stay afloat, until one morning, you wake up in some unknown town out in the godforsaken Southern California desert. You crawl from your bed and step into the parking lot of the fleabag boardinghouse you call home. And for some reason, as you hike down the empty street to your day labor job, you suddenly take a hard left and walk straight out of town, out onto the ancient, sunbaked sand and rock of the earth’s floor. You walk through the sagebrush and thistle, heading east toward the horizon, as if the vastness of the land holds some sort of mystical answer to your life.
Before long, you fall to the ground and sleep in a patch of shade. Around noon, you wake up, parched, confused, your lips so dry they’ve split, your hair gritty and hanging in your face. Automatically, you trudge back toward the distant buildings that shimmer in the heat, sadly but stubbornly beckoning you back to a life you gave up on for no reason you can remember, and traded in for a bottle of whiskey.
But you’re broke again, and you got to eat, so it’s back to another day of bust-ass, miserable hangover work, with only the prospect of begging a front for chow and liquor to look forward to. That night, for the hell of it, you buy a two-dollar state lottery ticket, get drunk on a quart of beer and a half pint of cheap bourbon, and dream of an existence so farfetched that you almost cry when the gray light of dawn creeps through the ratty curtains in your room and wakes you from your drunken fantasy.
You walk down the deserted street with your head hanging from your shoulders like a bag of wet sand, and stop at the twenty-four-hour market to spend your last four bits on a cup of coffee. The clerk runs your Lotto stub through the machine, and you’re halfway out the glass door before his frantic screams jolt you out of your stupor. You stare at him with bloodshot eyes, a Styrofoam coffee cup shaking in your dirt-caked fingers, the steam rising to your trembling mouth. And you listen to him tell you that you’ve just become a rich man.


 

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