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Archive for April 5th, 2017

Mystery, Cozy Murder Mystery
Date Published: January 2017

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DAM WITHERSTON is a cozy murder mystery, the third in a series set in the fictive town of Witherston in the north Georgia mountains where Cherokees lived for a thousand years. This tale of blackmail and murder in the present involves interracial rape and pregnancy in the past, in 1977 and in 1828, when intercourse between Cherokees and whites was considered an abomination in the racist South.
The story takes place in March of 2017, when Mayor Rich Rather and attorney Grant Griggs receive blackmail messages from a “Donna Dam,” whose name they don’t recognize. Donna Dam threatens to expose their shameful activities of forty years ago if the two men do not take a paternity test and if Mayor Rather does not withdraw his proposal to build a dam. The dam would create a lake on top of sacred Cherokee burial ground. Donna Dam demands $9,900 in cash to keep their secret. The editor of the local online newspaper Witherston on the Web, who publishes Donna Dam’s letter to the editor, reports that forty years ago the Kelly Barnes Dam broke in Toccoa, Georgia, leaving thirty-nine people dead and many more homeless. What is the connection?
The teen-age twins Jaime and Jorge Arroyo, who helped solve the mysteries of Downstream and Fairfield’s Auction, have just discovered an ancient Cherokee burial site when they hear an explosion upstream. The twin’s mother, Detective Mev Arroyo, investigates the fire at the fishing shed, where Rather and Griggs had left their blackmail money, and discovers a body. DNA links the deceased to the twins’ friend Eric.
As in the earlier Witherston murder mysteries Mev is aided in her sleuthing by Jaime and Jorge, her husband Paco, and her aunt Lottie, who help her learn the truth of what happened in 2017 and in 1977 and 1828. DNA ancestry tests reveal kinship between the Cherokees and the present inhabitants of the north Georgia town that no one would have predicted and some would not have disclosed.
The reader participates in the detection by getting information from many different sources: the characters’ dialogue, email, text messages, deeds, and Witherston on the Web, which carries news reports, weather forecasts, announcements, obituaries, Jorge’s column about nature, Jorge’s cartoon, and Lottie’s column about Witherston’s history.
Excerpt 
PROLOGUE
                Mayor Rich Rather grabbed his cell phone when a beep signaled the arrival of an email.
                “Excuse me,” he said to Trevor Bennington, Jr., President of Bennington Financial Services and member of the Witherston Town Council. “I’m expecting an estimate from Appalachian Landscape Contractors.”
                He opened his email.
From:  Donna Dam (donotreply@xxx.com)
To: Rich Rather
PAYBACK TIME
Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.
Dear Mayor Rather:
Do you remember what you were doing on the night of November 5-6, 1977? I bet you do.  You will pay for it.
There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $9,900 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret.
Donna Dam
Sent from my iPhone
                “Anything wrong, Rich?”
                “No, nothing, nothing at all. Thanks, Trevor.” Rich stood up. “But I’m afraid I’ve got other business to attend to. I’m sorry to be cutting our meeting short. So sorry.”
                The mayor showed him out of his office and deleted the email.
                Grant Griggs sat down for Friday morning coffee with Patrick Davis, President of Witherston Savings and Loan. As was their custom at the Witherston Inn Cafe they’d taken a back table.
                “Looks like Rich will give the contract to Appalachian Lakescape Contractors, Grant,” Patrick said. “I lobbied him hard.”
                “Thanks, Patrick. I promise that will work out for both of us.”
                Grant’s cell phone beeped.
                “Do you mind if I check my email, Patrick? I’m expecting a message from Phyllis Graph.”
From:  Donna Dam (donotreply@xxx.com)
To: Grant Griggs
PAYBACK TIME
Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.
Dear Mr. Griggs:
Do you remember what you were doing on the night of November 5-6, 1977? I bet you do.  You will pay for it.
There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $9,900 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret.
Donna Dam
Sent from my iPhone
                “Shit,” Grant muttered. “Patrick, I’m sorry to have to leave you, but I’ve got to see a client. I must go now.” He deleted the email and walked out of the restaurant.
                Red Wilker was vacuuming the stuffed black bear the taxidermist had just delivered to Wilker’s Gun Shop when he got the email.
From: Donna Dam (donotreply@xxx.com)
To: Red Wilker
PAYBACK TIME
Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.
Dear Mr. Wilker:
Would you like for the people of Witherston to know that you are buying up property in Saloli Valley with inside information about the proposed lake? I bet you wouldn’t.
There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $5,000 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret. And you could get jail time.
Donna Dam
Sent from my iPhone
                “‘What the duck is this? Look, Grace. Who in creation is Donna Dam?” He handed his cell phone to his wife.
                Grace read the email. “Is she referring to your land buy-outs in Saloli Valley?”
                “How could she find that out? How could anybody?”
                “Rich knows. Grant knows. Phyllis knows. Patrick knows.”
                “They all have a stake in the lake. They won’t be talking.”
                “What are you going to do?”
                “Don’t ask. You don’t need to know.”
                Red deleted the email.
About the Author
Dr. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. She has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1973.
Betty Jean is a teacher, scholar, translator, humorist, and writer. After retiring in 2011, she published a column about animal behavior in the local paper titled “Cosmo Talks” and began writing fiction. Her Witherston Murder Mystery series, set in north Georgia, includes DOWNSTREAM, FAIRFIELD’S AUCTION, and DAM WITHERSTON.
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Xenogeneic: First Contact by Lance Erlick

Xenogeneic is a science fiction thriller about first contact with an alien race that lost their civil war and wants to take over Earth.

Dr. Elena Pyetrov’s father vanished in space 18 years ago while searching for extraterrestrial life. As an aerospace engineer, Elena travels into space to search for answers and continue his work. Her ship is pulled off course and crashes. She suspects extraterrestrial interference.

The alien Knoonk lost their civil war in a distant star system and fled to Earth’s neighborhood to hide and regroup. They seek a new home—Earth. Unable to live in Earth’s toxic environment, the aliens kidnap and use humans to genetically modify their species to adapt.

Surviving the crash, Elena and her shipmates are transported to a closed cave system where the Knoonk monitor and control everything. Elena tries to make a connection with her hosts and find ways to work together, but Knoonk leaders rebuff her and force the humans to submit as slaves. The aliens use illusions, distractions, and social experiments to learn from their hostages and keep them off balance. Resistance by captive humans brings swift punishment to break the human spirit.

​While Elena continues to look for ways to cooperate with the Knoonk, it becomes apparent that there can be no compromise. The Knoonk want to capture Earth for their species. It is winner take all. With time running out, Elena must dig deep to uncover the alien plan and find a way to stop them before the human race faces enslavement and extinction.

Amazon  ~   Barnes and Noble   ~  Goodreads

Lance Erlick

Author’s Bio

Lance Erlick writes science fiction thrillers for young adult and adult readers. He is the author of The Rebel Within, The Rebel Trap, and Rebels Divided, three books in the Rebel series. In those stories, he explores the consequences of Annabelle Scott following her conscience. He authored the Regina Shen series–Resilience, Vigilance, Defiance, and Endurance. This series takes place after abrupt climate change leads to the Great Collapse and a new society under the World Federation. His latest novel is Xenogeneic: First Contactabout encounters with an alien race aiming to take over Earth.

Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest  

Guest Post

THE WORLD OF XENOGENEIC: FIRST CONTACT

In 1620 after many Puritans were pushed out of England by King James, some fled to America. They founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony where they were free to practice their beliefs. At first, they lived in peace with the native population, but in time they displaced the indigenous people.

In Xenogeneic: First Contact, the alien Knoonk lost their civil war and fashion themselves as persecuted pilgrims in need of a new home. The idea for this story came not only from early American history but also from SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). This project monitors potential communications from space, but also promotes sending out welcoming messages. In fact, all of our wireless signals float into space, so it isn’t just the SETI project telling the universe we’re here. The hope is that we could learn if there are other intelligent species out there, opening up the opportunity to learn from each other.

However, the broadcasts are also available to intelligence species that do not bear humans goodwill. In the case of the Knoonk, they needed a place to regroup and start over, but found Earth’s atmosphere toxic. They need either to terraform an inhabited planet, which would take many decades, or adapt their genetics to Earth in a generation, which is what they choose to do.

To defend themselves against the victors of their civil war, the Knoonk decide to use their technologies to dominate Earth. Too bad humans are in the way. Genetically adapting their species to Earth is taking too long. Time is running out, which creates internal divisions among the Knoonk.

Elena Pyetrov is kidnapped into a closed cave system controlled by the aliens. She discovers her long lost father, now dying of old age, and other kidnapped humans. To keep the humans off balance and under control, the Knoonk ration food and water, use illusions and experiments, and reduce humans to subsistence by promoting clan warfare among the kidnapped population. While the Knoonk have advanced technologies and weapons, humans must deal with scarcity in barren caves. Elena becomes a pawn of the alien’s internal struggles and has to survive the cave challenges and sort out what the humans are up against, who she can trust, and what she can do to stop their plan.

My Review

4 stars

Elena Pyetrov’s father disappeared in space eighteen years ago. Everyone has figured him dead and Elena wants to complete his mission. But while in space something goes horribly wrong and her ship crashes. It seems that an alien race, the Knoonk fought a civil war and lost. They have decided to take Earth over as their own planet. The problem is that they are not able to survive in its atmosphere so they have been capturing humans for years and experimenting on them to they to adapt themselves. It’s up to Elena and the other human captives to stop the Knoonk.

I read Lance Erlick’s Regina Shen series and was excited to see what happened in this book. I was really pleased with the results. Elena is a strong woman and determined to finish her father’s work. But the Knoonk are doing messed up things to the humans they have captured. They have broken them to their base human needs. It’s up to Elena to get everyone gathered together and fight back.

This was a good story and had an original plot. My problem is that we get stuck in several continuous loops of the same thing over and over as they try to fight back. It gets the point across about how hopeless the humans have become. It’s going to be an uphill fight for Elena to get everyone gathered together but it got to be repetitive and frustrating.

I really enjoyed this book. If it is to be a series I would be happy to read the next book. Otherwise this is a great standalone book.

I received Xenogeneic: First Contact from iRead Book Tours for free. This has no influenced my opinion in any way.

Giveaway:​

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The Echo Man

The Echo Man

by Richard Montanari

on Tour March 20 – April 7, 2017

Synopsis:

The Echo Man by Richard Montanari

It is fall in Philadelphia and the mutilated body of a man has been found in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. The victim’s forehead and eyes are wrapped in a band of white paper, sealed on one side with red sealing wax. On the other side is a smear of blood in the shape of a figure eight. The victim has been roughly and violently shaved clean — head to toe — a temporary tattoo on his finger.

As another brutalized body appears, then another, it becomes horrifyingly clear that someone is re-creating unsolved murders from Philadelphia’s past in the most sinister of ways.

And, for homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, the killer is closer than they think…

Praise:

“This tale had me gripped by the throat, unwilling to do anything but anxiously turn the pages. Richard Montanari’s writing is both terrifying and lyrical, a killer combination that makes him a true stand-out in the crowded thriller market. The Echo Man showcases a master storyteller at his very best.” -Tess Gerritsen, bestselling author of The Silent Girl

“Richard Montanari’s The Echo Man continues his work as a writer whose prose can capture quite extraordinary subtleties. When a man’s facial expression is described as “not the look of someone with nothing to hide, but rather of one who has very carefully hidden everything,” we know we are in good hands, and with The Echo Man, we are in the hands of one of the best in the business”. – Thomas H. Cook, bestselling author of Red Leaves

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: February 7th 2017 (first published January 1st 2011)
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 0062467425 (ISBN13: 9780062467423)
Series: Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne #5
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

For every light there is shadow. For every sound, silence. From the moment he got the call Detective Kevin Francis Byrne had a premonition this night would forever change his life, that he was headed to a place marked by a profound evil, leaving only darkness in its wake.

“You ready?”

Byrne glanced at Jimmy. Detective Jimmy Purify sat in the passenger seat of the bashed and battered department- issue Ford. He was just a few years older than Byrne, but something in the man’s eyes held deep wisdom, a hard- won experience that transcended time spent on the job and spoke instead of time earned. They’d known each other a long time, but this was their first full tour as partners.

“I’m ready,” Byrne said.

He wasn’t.

They got out of the car and walked to the front entrance of the sprawling, well- tended Chestnut Hill mansion. Here, in this exclusive section of the northwest part of the city, there was history at every turn, a neighborhood designed at a time when Philadelphia was second only to London as the largest English- speaking city in the world. The first officer on the scene, a rookie named Timothy Meehan, stood inside the foyer, cloistered by coats and hats and scarves perfumed with age, just beyond the reach of the cold autumn wind cutting across the grounds.

Byrne had been in Officer Meehan’s shoes a handful of years earlier and remembered well how he’d felt when detectives arrived, the tangle of envy and relief and admiration. Chances were slight that Meehan would one day do the job Byrne was about to do. It took a certain breed to stay in the trenches, especially in a city like Philly, and most uniformed cops, at least the smart ones, moved on.

Byrne signed the crime- scene log and stepped into the warmth of the atrium, taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells. He would never again enter this scene for the first time, never again breathe an air so red with violence. Looking into the kitchen, he saw a blood splattered killing room, scarlet murals on pebbled white tile, the torn flesh of the victim jigsawed on the floor.

While Jimmy called for the medical examiner and crime- scene unit, Byrne walked to the end of the entrance hall. The officer standing there was a veteran patrolman, a man of fifty, a man content to live without ambition. At that moment Byrne envied him. The cop nodded toward the room on the other side of the corridor.

And that was when Kevin Byrne heard the music.

She sat in a chair on the opposite side of the room. The walls were covered with a forest- green silk; the floor with an exquisite burgundy Persian. The furniture was sturdy, in the Queen Anne style. The air smelled of jasmine and leather.

Byrne knew the room had been cleared, but he scanned every inch of it anyway. In one corner stood an antique curio case with beveled glass doors, its shelves arrayed with small porcelain figurines. In another corner leaned a beautiful cello. Candlelight shimmered on its golden surface.

The woman was slender and elegant, in her late twenties. She had burnished russet hair down to her shoulders, eyes the color of soft copper. She wore a long black gown, sling- back heels, pearls. Her makeup was a bit garish— theatrical, some might say— but it flattered her delicate features, her lucent skin.

When Byrne stepped fully into the room the woman looked his way, as if she had been expecting him, as if he might be a guest for Thanksgiving dinner, some discomfited cousin just in from Allentown or Ashtabula. But he was neither. He was there to arrest her.

“Can you hear it?” the woman asked. Her voice was almost adolescent in its pitch and resonance.

Byrne glanced at the crystal CD case resting on a small wooden easel atop the expensive stereo component. Chopin: Nocturne in G Major. Then he looked more closely at the cello. There was fresh blood on the strings and fingerboard, as well as on the bow lying on the floor. Afterward, she had played.

The woman closed her eyes. “Listen,” she said. “The blue notes.”

Byrne listened. He has never forgotten the melody, the way it both lifted and shattered his heart.

Moments later the music stopped. Byrne waited for the last note to feather into silence. “I’m going to need you to stand up now, ma’am,” he said.

When the woman opened her eyes Byrne felt something flicker in his chest. In his time on the streets of Philadelphia he had met all types of people, from soulless drug dealers, to oily con men, to smash-and-grab artists, to hopped-up joyriding kids. But never before had he encountered anyone so detached from the crime they had just committed. In her light- brown eyes Byrne saw demons caper from shadow to shadow.

The woman rose, turned to the side, put her hands behind her back. Byrne took out his handcuffs, slipped them over her slender white wrists, and clicked them shut.

She turned to face him. They stood in silence now, just a few inches apart, strangers not only to each other, but to this grim pageant and all that was to come.

“I’m scared,” she said.

Byrne wanted to tell her that he understood. He wanted to say that we all have moments of rage, moments when the walls of sanity tremble and crack. He wanted to tell her that she would pay for her crime, probably for the rest of her life— perhaps even with her life— but that while she was in his care she would be treated with dignity and respect.

He did not say these things. “My name is Detective Kevin Byrne,” he said. “It’s going to be all right.” It was November 1, 1990. Nothing has been right since.

Excerpt from The Echo Man by Richard Montanari. Copyright © 2017 by Richard Montanari. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

Richard Montanari

Author Bio:

Richard Montanari is the internationally bestselling author of numerous novels, including the nine titles in the Byrne & Balzano series.

He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

My Review

4 stars

Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne are back an on the hunt two killers. The first one is targeting young women as they leave their Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. But then they find a mutilated body.  Upon further inspections they learn that there was an old murder case in the same location. Then more bodies start turning up, heads wrapped in paper, and a small tattoo on a finger. But the catch is that the bodies are left in old murder scene locations that these people had a connection to. It seems someone has been going through the old case files and staging the murders. It looks like someone on the police force has become a vigilante.

I really liked this story. There were a lot of twists and turns and I didn’t expect the killer until the reveal. Jessica and Kevin work well together. I enjoyed following along as they put the pieces of the puzzle slowly together.

My only complaint is that the book is just over 500 pages long. Long books don’t bother me if they keep me engrossed in the story. Unfortunately there were parts that started to drag or felt like things were just thrown into the story to take up pages.

Beyond that, this is my first Balzano and Byrne story. I really enjoyed it and would like to read the other books in the series to see what I have missed.

I received The Echo Man from Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

Tour Participants:

Don’t forget to check out these other stops – they’ll be featuring reviews, interviews & More giveaways!

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Richard Montanari and Harper Collins. There will be 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of The Echo Man by Richard Montanari. The giveaway begins on March 20th and runs through April 9th, 2017.

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