blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Absent Victim – David Roy

No body, no motive, no name…so who did she kill?

When wealthy divorcee Stephanie Kuler asked a private detective to investigate a murder, he told her to go to the police instead. 

But when she told the rest of the story, he took the case. 

There was no body, no reason to kill and no name for her supposed victim, but she knew she was the murderer. 

Solving the mystery meant jail for her and a headache for him. Premonition, false memories, déjà vu…the mind playing tricks or reality distorted through time? 

The unmissable new thriller from David Roy explores the dark side of memory and its impact on us all.

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David Roy was born in Bangor, Northern Ireland in the mid ’60s. After a number of years in the army he left a life in uniform to read for a degree, ultimately qualifying as a secondary school teacher.  

He is the author of many books, the first written in 1994 as an account of his service in the first Gulf War. His book ‘The Lost Man’, the first of his Ted Dexter adventures, featured on ITV ‘The Alan Titchmarsh Show’; where it was shortlisted in The People’s Novelist competition. 

As well as being a soldier, David has been a dishwasher, a teacher, a civil servant, a security guard, a welfare assistant and an ambulance crew member. He is married and now lives in the north of England with his wife and two daughters.

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My thoughts: this was a very clever and slightly strange tale. A woman insists she’s killed someone but doesn’t know who, when, how or why. The police aren’t interested, this is too silly for them but the narrator – a private investigator, agrees to try to solve this. He’s also got several other cases on the go so puts his best man – the rather peculiar Billy, on the case.

There’s absolutely no evidence to go on, the client barely exists online, she’s given them almost nothing to work with so it’s time for some rather unorthodox approaches, like hypnotism. It’s all twists and turns as they try to piece the truth together. Does the answer lie in Steph’s past? In the family she never knew or the care home she was raised in? How deep will they have to dig? And why does she seem so determined to send herself to prison? Answers will be revealed. (But not by me!)

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Change – Kirsten Miller

Big Little Lies meets The Witches of Eastwick—a gloriously entertaining and knife-sharp feminist revenge fantasy about three women whose midlife crisis brings unexpected new powers—putting them on a collision course with the evil that lurks in their wealthy beach town. 

In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment…

After Nessa James’s husband dies and her twin daughters leave for college, she’s left all alone in a trim white house not far from the ocean. In the quiet of her late forties, the former nurse begins to hear voices. It doesn’t take long for Nessa to realize that the voices calling out to her belong to the dead—a gift she’s inherited from her grandmother, which comes with special responsibilities.

On the cusp of 50, suave advertising director Harriett Osborne has just witnessed the implosion of her lucrative career and her marriage. She hasn’t left her house in months, and from the outside, it appears as if she and her garden have both gone to seed. But Harriett’s life is far from over—in fact, she’s undergone a stunning and very welcome metamorphosis.

Ambitious former executive Jo Levison has spent thirty long years at war with her body. The free-floating rage and hot flashes that arrive with the beginning of menopause feel like the very last straw—until she realizes she has the ability to channel them, and finally comes into her power.

Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio of women discover a teenage girl whose body was abandoned beside a remote beach. The police have written the victim off as a drug-addicted sex worker, but the women refuse to buy into the official narrative. Their investigation into the girl’s murder leads to more bodies, and to the town’s most exclusive and isolated enclave, a world of stupendous wealth where the rules don’t apply. With their newfound powers, Jo, Nessa, and Harriett will take matters into their own hands…

My thoughts: of the three woman I loved Harriett the most – she just doesn’t care a lick about what other people think about her anymore. They say she’s a witch, fine, she’s a witch. Jo and Nessa still worry about other people’s opinions, even as they investigate the missing girls and the super privileged community on the cliffs.

This is a shocking and brutally honest book in many ways. Women are often overlooked and undervalued. All three of these women and many others whose stories weave into the narrative have suffered, often horrifically, at the hands of selfish, cruel and overindulged men. From sexist comments and being passed over for promotion to domestic violence and sexual assault, woman suffer. And now these three are not going to take it anymore. Woe betide any man who crosses them.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Generation Killer – Adam Simcox

The second thrilling instalment of Adam Simcox’s ‘wildly entertaining’ (Adam Hamdy) THE DYING SQUAD series.

There’s a new serial killer on the streets of Manchester – and only a dead cop can stop them.

Detective Joe Lazarus works for the Dying Squad, solving crimes the living police can’t. When the Generation Killer starts wiping out Manchester’s innocents, Joe and his new partner Bits have mere hours to catch the murderer. A young woman’s life depends on it.

Joe’s former partner Daisy-May has her own problems. Children are going missing in the afterlife, and she’s the only one who seems to care. Her investigation uncovers a conspiracy so vast, it threatens both the living and the dead.

Her predecessor the Duchess can’t help this time; she’s tracked her treacherous sister, Hanna, to Tokyo, where she’s been recruiting the dead. The Duchess must enlist the help of a local detective if she’s to have any choice of stopping her.

Time is running out for the Dying Squad. And if they can’t crack their cases, it’s the living that will pay…

My thoughts: time to crawl through some toxic Gloop once more and hang out with the residents of the Pen. Or not, as this case seems to be taking everyone soil side. Joe Lazarus and his new partner Bits are chasing a murderer, who’s killing grandfathers and their grandchildren in Manchester, Daisy-May’s trying to find out where the children of the Pen are going missing and why, and the Duchess has tracked her homicidal sister to Tokyo.

Of course none of these things is even remotely straightforward or easily resolved and there’s all sorts of chaos and horrors to fight through before even getting an answer, and without a way to communicate with each other, no one knows what’s happening or if their different cases might be connected. Just another day in the afterlife of the Dying Squad.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Gauntlet & the Burning Blade – Ian Green

In the second instalment of the Rotstorm series, heroine Floré must continue to fight back against the encroaching children of the storm – but now her daughter Marta is dying, too. Can Floré save her daughter, and her people, from threats familiar and new?

Break the chains. Hold your strength. Burn your foes.

Once a warrior of the Stormguard Commandos, Floré wrought horrors in the rotstorm to protect her people. She did her duty and swore to leave the bloodshed behind. But when her daughter, Marta, was kidnapped, Floré was forced to once again raise her gauntlet against the devils of Ferron to bring her home.

Now Marta is dying from the skein-magic she inherited from her father, and the Protectorate is weakened by the absence of the whitestaffs. The mystical order of healers and sages fled to their island citadel of Riven when strange orbs cut through the night.

Floré and her comrades must race to find a cure for Marta, to find the truth of the whitestaffs’ betrayal, and to fight back against the encroaching children of the storm.

Floré has taken up her gauntlets and her sword to keep her people safe – but steel alone might not be enough…

My thoughts: a lot happens in this book, and there are various interludes and different characters have their own chapters, as the disparate groups slowly start to meet. The soldiers that Florè and Benazir command are heading off to hunt for the whitestaffs, who have withdrawn to their island home, Tullan One-Eye is also around and the rotfolk are on the move, led by a charismatic crow-man. Ashbringer is still hunting Tullan, Janos might still be alive somehow, and Marta desperately needs him.

As each character moves towards the others, there will be fighting, there will be loss, but perhaps there will also be some clarity as to what it is the Stormguard are fighting, and why the whitestaffs have run.

Florè and her comrades continue to be interesting and enjoyable figures, though I want more from mole-person Voltos and also more Cuss and Yselda. Hopefully the next book will do that.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: With Fire in Their Blood – Kat Delacorte

Packed to the brim with bisexual and queer representation, With Fire in Their Blood is a simmering supernatural romance set in the crumbling Italian city of Castello, where mafia clans make the rules, dark magic pulses the streets and the sins of the past threaten to consume the present. . . 

When sixteen-year-old Lilly arrives in Castello, she isn’t impressed.
A secluded town in the Italian mountains is not where she saw her last years of high school playing out. 

Divided for generations by a brutal clan-family war, the two halves of Castello are kept from destroying each other by the mysterious General, a leader determined to maintain order and ‘purity’. . . whatever the cost. 

Lilly falls in with the rebellious Liza, brooding Nico and sensitive Christian, and sparks begin to fly. But in a city where love can lead to ruin, Lilly isn’t sure she can trust anyone — not even herself. 

And then she accidentally breaks Castello’s most important rule: when the General’s men come to test your blood, you’d better not be anything more than human… 

Perfect for lovers of Chloe Gong, Renée Ahdieh and V.E. Schwab, With Fire in Their Blood is quality YA storytelling at its best by an exciting new voice in YA fantasy. 

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Kat Delacorte was eleven years old when her family moved from the United States to a small town in central Italy. She soon began writing stories about her new friends developing superpowers, and she hasn’t looked back since. She graduated with a BA in History from Columbia University, and lives in Venice, Italy. 

My thoughts: Lilly’s whole life, what there was of it anyway, is uprooted when her dad gets a job in a small Italian town thats proudly stuck in a sort of timeloop – no WiFi, no technology at all really. There’s a reason for that, as Lilly discovers. This town burns witches, or those it suspects of being Saints, as they’re known. And the mysterious General keeps a tight grip on everything in the town.

As Lilly investigates the town’s past and finds links to her own dead mother, she discovers she has some unusual gifts herself.

A clever and imaginative take on the witch trials of the past and the problems of living under a censorious regime. No information gets in or out.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Last White Man – Mohsin Hamid

One morning, Anders wakes to find that his skin has turned dark, his reflection a stranger to him. At first he tells only Oona, an old friend, newly a lover. Soon, reports of similar occurrences surface across the land. Some see in the transformations the long-dreaded overturning of an established order, to be resisted to a bitter end. In many, like Anders’s father and Oona’s mother, a sense of profound loss wars with profound love. As the bond between Anders and Oona deepens, change takes on a different shading: a chance to see one another, face to face, anew.

Mohsin Hamid writes regularly for The New York Times, the Guardian and the New York Review of Books, and is the author of Exit West, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Moth Smoke, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and Discontent and its Civilizations. Born and mostly raised in Lahore, he has since lived between Lahore, London and New York.

My thoughts: there’s a sense of Kafka about this story of Anders, who wakes up one morning to discover that over night he has changed colour, becoming darker. He’s not alone and soon there are fewer white people than ever before. This, unsurprisingly if you’ve been paying attention to world events over even just the last few years, doesn’t go down well with everyone and there are ugly confrontations. Anders feels forced to leave his home and go to live with his dying father.

His girlfriend Oona is slow to change, and her mother is frightened of the prospect, inhaling the nonsense online – much like anti-vaxxers or covid conspiracy nuts of the last few years. But since becoming darker is inevitable in this reality, she has to come to terms with it. Although there is a suggestion that she never truly accepts it.

I was intrigued by the author’s use of the word “dark” to describe this change. It is only at the end that he says brown. But throughout he doesn’t specify how much darker, or whether it happens gradually in some cases. I don’t really have an explanation but it’s an interesting word choice.

A slight novel this does pack and punch and is very thought provoking. You find yourself wondering how you would feel or what that would be like in the world we live in – especially in a country like America, which is still so segregated.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Little Theatre on Halfpenny Lane – Clodagh Murphy

Aoife and her sisters know exactly what to do when they inherit their Great-aunt Detta’s theatre on Halfpenny Lane:

  • Restore the dilapidated building to its former glory.
  • Perform together on its stage to packed houses and rapturous applause.
  • Live happily ever after.
    But they didn’t count on Detta leaving a share in the theatre to her godson, Jonathan. Now they’ll have to persuade him to buy into their vision of stardust and magic – or find the money to buy him out.
    As they fight to save the theatre, Aoife also battles her growing feelings for Jonathan. Because she can’t let herself fall for the man who’s about to bring the curtain down on their dreams.

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  • Author Bio Clodagh Murphy lives in Dublin, Ireland. She has worked as a bar waitress, cleaner, secretary, editorial assistant, mystery shopper and movie extra. But she always dreamed of being an author, and after more jobs than she cares to (or can) remember, she now writes full-time. For more information about her books or to sign up to her newsletter, visit her website.
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My thoughts: this was a lovely story of sisterhood and theatre. The three sisters want to restore their great-aunt’s theatre, turn it into a going concern again and stage a production of Chekhov. But first they need to raise a lot of money. Luckily their aunt meant a lot to the Dublin theatre community and they’re all up for a fundraiser or two. And maybe Aoife might get through the tough exterior of Jonathan and her stage fright.

Enjoyable, funny and sweet, I knew I’d enjoy a story about a theatre (theatre kids never say die) and I was right!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Elodie’s Library of Second Chances – Rebecca Raisin

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!
When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.
It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.
Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?
But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed?

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Rebecca Raisin writes heartwarming romance from her home in sunny Perth, Australia.
Her heroines tend to be on the quirky side and her books are usually set in exotic locations so her readers can armchair travel any day of the week. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous
heroes who have brains as well as brawn, is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional.
Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true, once in a lifetime love. Her bestselling novel
Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop has been optioned for film with MRC studios and Frolic Media.

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My thoughts: Elodie is hired to reinvigorate a library – one she visited as a child. But she’s keeping a secret and her wealthy family at arms length. She wants to do this on her own, no family money, no media, no red carpets.

Her ideas are innovative and fun – I liked the idea of “borrowing” a person and hearing their life story. Unfortunately not everyone feels the same way. And there’s a dishy local journalist she’s hoping to kiss.

A sweet, fun and funny book about not judging a book by its cover and a person by what local gossips have to say.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Little Dirt Road & Juiced – Ted Mulcahey plus giveaway

The O’Malleys are doing what? How is it possible that dangerous complications arise from their simple vacation in wine country? With their recent move to South Whidbey Island, only the O’Malley’s would stumble upon drug smugglers, embezzlers, and murderers amongst the locals. The quirky, pastoral island, reachable by a less than speedy ferry from Mukilteo or the narrow, deteriorating Deception Pass bridge, is no match for the wicked men about to visit.

A notorious drug lord and a nondescript enforcer with freakish hell-raising skills invade the peaceful Pacific Northwest island—where not even the friendly locales and free-roaming long-eared rabbits can soften his homicidal heart.

Weeding through the facts and surprisingly connected characters with their trusted friend, Bellevue Detective Bill Owens, the narrative swirls from Mexico to Canada and throughout Puget Sound. It’s a heart-racing and outrageously offbeat adventure for two innocent people, proving once again that trouble will find the O’Malleys without the slightest amount of effort on their part.

Little Dirt Road excerpt

           “Kevin, Jenne, wow what are you two doing here?”
Robbie Burns had surprised Kevin and Jenne O’Malley as they were seated at the bar, killing time while waiting for their room to be made up.
“Mick, hey, what a stunner seeing you here.” Although slightly less than enthusiastic, Kevin’s tone seemed to escape Burns’ notice.
` “The U.S. sales division brought all the leading dealerships here for a sales meeting. I’ve never been here, but man, this is spectacular. How about you two?”
Even though the O’Malleys had stayed at the lodge a few times in the past, Kevin was reluctant to get into anything other than a cool hello with this fellow, even though they were casual acquaintances from their membership at the same golf club. “We’re here for a few days just to relax and visit a few wineries. Hope you have fun, we’re just heading over to reception to pick up our room keys. Maybe we’ll see you later.”
The two interior designers quickly made for the exit and set out for the quaint bungalow that housed the reception area. “Kinda, gave Mick the bum’s rush, eh Kev?”
“Yeah, well we’re here to unwind and the less I have to deal with that asshole the more relaxed I’m going to be.”
“Just because we stopped working for him on that barn out in Carnation doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy.” Jenne was slightly less critical of the man.
“I’m not saying he’s bad or evil. I just think he’s a pompous ass, very enamored with himself, and I rather not be around him.” Kevin, on the other hand, was less inclined to be subtle about these things.
They strode up to the reception table where Aaron was looking expectantly at them. They knew it was Aaron because his name tag said it was. The lodge was comprised of forty or so separate bungalows, each a duplex, spread over a magnificent valley with sumptuous views.
“Mr. and Mrs. O’Malley, your room is ready for you now. Would you like two keys?”
“Aaron, my man, can I ask you a question about another guest? It’s not that I’m prying, I just don’t like the guy and I don’t want our cottage to be anywhere near his. I understand you have privacy rules but we’re here to relax, and he’s not very relaxing.”
The Lodge didn’t get to be exclusive without being attentive to their guests. The staff was trained to serve, above all else.
“I understand sir, what’s the guest’s name?”
“It’s Burns, Robbie Burns.”
Aaron looked up from his screen with a pleased smile and said, “Not to worry Mr. O’Malley. He and his associates are at the far end of the property. You’re safe.”
With Aaron’s assurance that all would be well, they hopped a shuttle to their Napa-style cabin, their home for three nights.
The drive to the wine country was always relaxing. Seven hours to Ashland, OR to spend the night and break up the drive, and then only four hours or so to the epicenter of winemaking in the United States.
Staying at the famous, and very expensive Meadowlark Lodge in Rutherford, the O’Malleys had looked forward to four days of decompressing. It had been a bizarre year to say the least.
Their Bellevue Washington-based interior design firm had more business than they could handle at the moment. Their involvement in a white separatist terrorist attack at Kelsey Creek Country Club had been at the forefront of the national news for the last twelve months, the resulting unsolicited publicity a windfall to their practice.
After arriving at a lovely cottage on the hillside overlooking the valley, they unloaded their things, then sat on the deck and inhaled the fragrant lavender-filled air.
“Finally,” Jenne commented, “It feels great just to sit and listen to absolutely nothing.”
“I’m pretty sure there’s a golf tournament on, we could see who’s in the lead.” Kevin was a big fan of the sport and rarely missed an opportunity to indulge himself with some prime Golf Channel viewing.
“You turn that thing on, and you’ll be having sex with yourself the next three nights.” Jenne – pronounced “Jenny” – was less enthusiastic about the game and apparently was enjoying the “quiet time”.
“Okay, well, you put it that way then hell, I don’t need no stinkin’ TV.” Kevin needed only to be told once that the penalty for interrupting their silence was this severe. Three days in this beautiful place with no frolicking in the sheets was not an option.
After a half hour of basking in the autumn sun on a cloudless October afternoon, Jenne was ready to leisurely stroll up to the main lodge building for the daily wine tasting.
While the lodge was world famous for their hospitality, its owner was world famous for his cult wines, offered at enormous prices. The everyday tastings were of excellent producers from Napa Valley and were accompanied by appetizers.
As the couple entered the foyer of the lodge they were greeted by George Harmon, the owner of the place. He felt it was his duty to occasionally show up at these social gatherings to welcome the guests.
“Mr. and Mrs. O’Malley, welcome back and thanks for visiting us again.” Kevin had to hand it to the man, he knew his business. They had been here two years ago, so it took some effort on the owner’s part to research the current crop of visitors.
“Thanks, George, we love coming here. It’s got to be the most beautiful place in this part of the country.” That Jenne, Kevin thought, she really knew how to suck up to a potential client.
“I agree,” chimed in Kevin, “You also do a wonderful job with your staff, they always make us feel welcome.” If Jenne could suck up then Kevin wasn’t going to be far behind. Much of the O’Malleys’ work was in the hospitality segment and they were always on the lookout for marketing opportunities.
Kevin caught the immediate eyeroll from his wife and took the cue to dial back the schmooze level. He considered himself among the luckiest men alive to have Jenne for his wife and he still wasn’t certain what she saw in him.
Kevin, in his mid-fifties, and Jenne, five years younger, had been married for seven years. Strangely, it felt both old and new at the same time. Because of their design firm, they were together almost constantly, though he never tired of it.
Her stylish gray hair framed a beautiful olive complexioned face, which was only enhanced by her wide-set hazel eyes. Avid hiking and a dedicated workout routine kept her physique in better shape than women ten years her junior. Yes, Kevin concluded, he was a very lucky man.
“So what do the two of you have planned for the next few days?” Even though it seemed Harmon’s question was perfunctory, his apparent sincerity was appreciated.
“We’ll visit a few wineries, do a little hiking and just kick back. We might even play nine on your executive course.” Kevin had played the little nine-hole course here at the lodge the last time they visited and, although small in scale, it was still a hoot to play.
“If you don’t already have appointments, perhaps our concierge can set up a few things for you. There are several very small producers nearby that make fabulous wine. Because they are boutique places, smaller than a few thousand cases, most people haven’t heard of them. Most of their production is sold to upscale restaurants but you can still purchase from many of them.”
“Geez, George, that would be terrific. Who should we talk to?” Jenne was never shy about leading the way.
“I’ll take care of everything. We’ll even have our car and driver shuttle you around to insure you can enjoy yourselves without any concern about directions or driving after tasting.”
Kevin wasn’t certain why Harmon was being so solicitous but he sure as hell wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. “That’s very kind of you, George, we really appreciate it.”

After they confirmed the following day’s agenda they headed back to their cottage. Rather than eat at the restaurant, Jenne suggested room service and a nice Oakville cabernet to celebrate their first night.
Kevin was secretly hoping that the festivities would further continue in the bedroom, but he knew better than to suggest the dessert items just yet. He was thinking those things always seemed to work out better if he didn’t do the planning.
The lodge was sandwiched between two steep hillsides, making for a cozy, quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the real world. On this clear, moonless evening, with the temperature dipping into the forties, the climb up the gentle slope to their cabin was refreshing.
The footpath, illuminated by pools of subtle, garden lighting meandered through sweet-smelling pines, lavender and clumps of feather grass. Rounding the last turn just short of their rooms, they looked up to a darkened porch leading to their entry door. The only other cottages they could see had their porch lights on.
“Looks like our light is burned out, not something you usually see at this place with all their attention to detail.” Kevin wasn’t overly concerned given the security of the resort.
“Kev looks like the door isn’t closed all the way. I’m pretty sure I closed and locked it when we left.”
“Maybe housekeeping left it that way when they did their turndown service.” Kevin’s suggestion sounded more hopeful than reassuring. The Meadowlark just did not make mistakes like this.
“Jenne, stay here for a minute and let me take a look first.” Kevin stepped up to the porch, reached inside to find the light switch, and flipped it on. Immediately the landing was brightly lit. “I guess the light works, it just wasn’t turned on.”
“You’d think housekeeping would know better.” Jenne was happy just to write it off as a mistake, perhaps a new employee on the staff.
“Yeah, maybe. Hold on a sec until I get the lights on in here.” As he stepped inside, Kevin flicked the rest of the toggle switches up, bathing the simply but elegantly designed interior in soft, efficient lighting.
The cottage was comprised of a foyer/living room area with a wood burning fireplace which connected to a bedroom, furnished with a king-sized bed, completed with Frette linens. Carrera marble and white subway tiles were the finishes of choice in the spa-like adjacent bath.
Normally Kevin would have relaxed at the sheer comfort of the place. Unfortunately, the sight of Robbie Burns’ limp body lying at the foot of the turned down bed and the deep red blood stains on the lavish Frette linens was going to curtail the planned activities he had counted on for the evening.

An invention that can save the planet?

Somehow, someway the O’Malleys have found themselves in the thick of things once again. On peaceful, bucolic Whidbey Island, they become entangled in a corporate plot to stifle a paradigm-shattering discovery, one that promises to upend conventional thinking, topple markets, and create an entirely new industry.

Kevin and Jenne, along with scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, find themselves pitted against a band of bumbling criminals who will stop at nothing to get what they want—including arson and murder.

It’s another rollicking adventure for the retired interior designers ably assisted by their favorite detective, the FBI, and Emma, their ever-vigilant German Shepherd Dog.

Join the O’Malleys, along with their ever vigilant German Shepherd, Emma, on Whidbey Island as they take on criminals, embezzlers, drug lords, and murderers, putting themselves right in the center of all the danger. With the help of their friend, Bellevue Detective Bill Owens, will they come out on top?

Juiced excerpt

It was one of those dark, rainy afternoons in the Pacific Northwest. Four-thirty, and already the headlights were bouncing off the slick, shiny freeway. 
I was on my way back to Whidbey Island. Playing golf in Seattle in late November was not for the faint of heart. Bundled up with rain gear, umbrella stuck on the push golf cart, wet khakis tucked into even wetter socks, we had slogged through eighteen holes of betting and swearing.
Usually, the Wednesday round was followed by more swearing, drinking wine, and playing gin rummy, but today was different. Today was Jenne’s birthday. It was the big one, double nickels. Well, sort of a big one.
Of course, she told me to stay, have fun and enjoy myself – no big deal. When you’ve been married more than once, you absolutely know for sure that birthdays are a big deal. Unless, that is, you don’t care if your sexual activities are curtailed for, say, a month or two.
Well, not this husband. No sir. I managed to make the 5:30 ferry. And also had the foresight to stop at Walgreens and select a lovely greeting card. From Hallmark. I figured the card with a heartfelt message, along with the bouquet purchased at the Star Store when I drove through Langley, would put me in Jenne’s good graces.
It should have been a wonderful evening.
But it wasn’t.
I made the right onto Little Dirt Road. About five hundred yards up the hill, on the unpaved surface, I turned on the crushed gravel driveway leading to our tidy, shingled home. We live on a bluff that normally overlooks Saratoga Passage. Tonight it was dark and rainy.
And there were no lights on in the house or on the grounds.
This seemed odd. I negotiated the six steps to the porch in the dark. Emma was inside, barking as only a German shepherd can, when anything, and I mean anything, is perceived as a threat.
“Easy girl, easy. It’s me.” She quieted only slightly until I opened the door—it was unlocked—and she calmed down. I flicked the lights on, rubbed behind her ears, and stupidly called out
Jenne’s name. She’s not here, you dope. She wouldn’t be sitting in the dark. I walked to the kitchen counter. There was a note in her writing. “Went for a walk in case you get home early. Back around 4:30.” It was followed by a little heart and a smiley face.
What the fuck? It was 6:45. Still not accepting reality, I dialed her cell. The sounds of “The Irish Washerwoman,” her ringtone, came from the little nook with the fireplace, just off the kitchen.
This was strange. Even though she always thought she had forgotten her phone, she seldom did.
I stood there, searching my mind but coming up with nothing. Her car was in the courtyard, her phone in the house. Where the fuck is she?
We didn’t know that many people on the island. We knew our neighbors and a few others, but few were close friends. The only people Jenne was close to lived off-island. And they did not come up in this crappy weather.
One thing was certain, if she left around 3:30, she sure as hell wasn’t still on her walk.
I walked across the dark, grassy area separating us from our neighbors, Tim and Raye. I knocked on the door, perhaps a little too forcefully.
“Kevin. Hi, good to see you.” Tim was a gentle soul and a terrific neighbor, always there if you needed him, and highly considerate in every way.
“Hi, Tim. Have you seen Jenne? When I got home, the house was dark. She left a note saying she’d be back at 4:30. Do you know where she could be?”
“Geez, Kev, no, I don’t. I did see her a little before five. She was headed down the street. I thought it a bit odd because it was getting dark, but that was about it.”
“She was headed south?”
“Yes.”
“She always goes the other way on her walks and finishes by coming up the hill. She says it feels good to stretch out at the end of it.”
“Well, I don’t know about that, but I’m sure she was headed down.
Is there anything I can do?”
“Thanks. Not yet. Let me think about it first.”
Tim’s face showed genuine concern. “You know we’re here if you need anything.”
“I do, Tim. Thanks.”
I went back home and stood in the kitchen. “Emma, what do you think? Where the hell is your mom?”
The ninety-pound black and tan animal looked directly at me and twisted her head to the left. “Ah, I wish you could talk, kiddo.”
If Tim saw Jenne go back down the hill, maybe she was going to one of the homes on Saratoga Road. For some reason. To someone’s house, she didn’t know. Sure.
“Emma. Let’s go. Get in the truck.” Before I went entirely off the deep end, I figured a drive around the area might be productive. Maybe Emma could be of some help. Maybe.
We drove slowly down the hill, past Tim and Raye’s house and past the Robinsons, who lived on the opposite corner. Most of the properties were well over an acre. As a result, there weren’t many homes nearby.
After turning right on Saratoga, where there was no traffic, thankfully, we crept as slowly as possible. I rolled down the rear windows in case Emma caught a scent.
We passed three homes. Emma acted as though this was a simple trip to the store. Maybe even treats if she behaved.
On the left was a huge vacant field where sheep occasionally grazed. Beyond that was a long, straight two-track that served as a driveway for a home hidden by tall firs and cedars.
During our walks, we’d always speculate as to who lived there. Occasionally we would see an island car chug and sputter down the drive. Island cars are beaters that nobody would ever take on the ferry. They frequently break down, and hell hath no fury greater than ferry patrons missing the boat because some yahoo couldn’t start their fucking car.
We passed the mailbox and then the driveway. Then Emma went batshit crazy. It was close to nine o’clock when I pulled to the side of the road. I shut the engine off and turned out the lights, and tried everything to get the dog to quiet down, with no success. She had picked up a scent.

Amazon: LITTLE DIRT ROAD JUICED

Goodreads: LITTLE DIRT ROAD JUICED

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Ted Mulcahey has lived throughout the US, the past 35 years in the Pacific Northwest. He’s an Army vet, sales and marketing VP, entrepreneur, business owner, avid reader, one of nine children, former caddie, and lover of dogs and golf. The last twenty-five years were spent in partnership with his wife Patte, as the owners of a highly respected and published hospitality interior design firm in the Seattle Area. They’re now living on Whidbey Island and enjoying its rural bliss. 

Ted writes about things he’s seen and places he’s been. He tries to incorporate personality traits of people he’s known into his fictional characters, although none of them exist in reality. Many of the locations are real but the names have been changed. 

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Interview with the author

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

For Juiced I found a number of articles discussing the projects (including their battery research) at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

For Little Dirt I spent many hours researching harmful drug culture as well as the geography of the Puget Sound waters.

For both, my many years in business were immensely helpful.

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

The easiest, of course, are the O’Malleys. The mercenary corporate characters are fun to write but often difficult. Emma, our GSD is the dearest.

How did you come up with the ideas for your books?

The idea for Juiced began when I came across an interesting article on vanadium battery technology.

For Little Dirt, it was more of a desire to highlight the many beautiful areas of the Pacific Northwest.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

Mostly the quirky characters I bump into while living on an island.

What makes your books different from other cozy mysteries out there?

The locales and perhaps the sarcastic sense of humor from the principal characters.

What advice would you give budding writers?

Sit down and write. Then when you’re done for the day think about what you’ve written, but write without thinking first—that’s when the real you happens.

Your book is set in the Puget Sound area. Have you ever been there?

I live there.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

There’s a good deal of Kevin O’Malley in me, but he’s likely an improved version.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

Nope.

How long have you been writing?

Off and on since my high school newspaper.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

Not block, per se, but sometimes it’s difficult coming up with a satisfactory resolution that is somewhat unique.

What is your next project?

The O’Malleys find themselves enmeshed in nastiness among folks in the Walla Walla wine country.

What genre do you write and why?

Cozy Mysteries, mostly for an enjoyable humorous journey that takes the reader somewhere else, if only for a little while.

What is the last great book you’ve read?

It’s an old one, but Word of Honor by Nelson DeMille made an indelible impression. Probably because I was a junior officer in the US Army during the same period as the story.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

“I really had fun reading it”, is always my favorite.

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

Similar in life experiences but I have considerably more foibles than Kevin O’Malley.

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

Paul Rudd and Sandra Bullock.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

“Ripple” by the Grateful Dead

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?

The reward is in solving the riddles and completing the story.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

Long


Gloria Steinem once said "Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." That’s how I feel when I’m writing.
If I’m on the golf course, there are times I feel I should be home doing chores or doing something with my wife (although she’s probably just as happy in the garden than having me underfoot).
If I’m doing chores or something with my wife, there are times I feel I should be writing or maybe taking Emma for a walk. When I’m writing, though, I never feel like I’m missing out on something or feeling guilty about not doing something. There are periods I get so lost in the story, the places and the characters that I lose all sense of time. You’d think sitting in a crummy task chair for three hours with no pee or coffee breaks would force an occasional glance at a watch or clock, but that doesn’t happen.
I had dabbled with writing for a long time while I was working. Usually, it was a short story or maybe an article for a trade posting. There were dozens of openings and characters started and discarded over the years. Finally, after we sold our business, I had some time to fill and revisited the remaining detritus of my efforts. I deleted most and kept a few which turned into my first completed novel, Bearied Treasure.
The title was my wife’s idea, and I can’t tell you how many people told me I had misspelled Buried. It’s the story of a fictional cult on a small island just off the coast of Vancouver Island and features a humongous Kodiak bear. Being my first effort, it is riddled with amateurish mistakes, but I still love the characters and literally shed a tear or two when I finally typed the last period.
I think Ms. Steinem had it right, at least for me.

My thoughts: these books were a lot of fun to read. In Little Dirt Road a trip to wine country ends with a dead body in Kevin and Jenne’s hotel room bed. They head home, little knowing trouble is following them. Luckily they have a knack for making interesting friends and even a shoot out in a neighbour’s fancy wine cellar doesn’t stop them.

In Juiced, they’re at it again, embroiled in trouble – corporate espionage and murder this time. Jenne helps an elderly neighbour and inherits her house. Just in time to assist a scientist to create a battery that doesn’t need difficult to extract lithium and is cleaner too! As long as he doesn’t get killed, this will revolutionise power.

In both cases there’s crazy antics and very peculiar hitmen (the pair in Juiced in particular). Their friend Bill, a detective, cannot understand how the O’Malleys keep getting involved with criminals, from finding fentanyl hidden in a wall to scientific secrets under the floorboards, everywhere they go, they’re knee deep in chaos and intrigue. Luckily they come through relatively unscathed.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Good Shepherd and the Last Perfect – Susan Kaberry

In 14th Century Languedoc, after a century of persecution drove the Believers underground, a revival of the Cathar heresy gains a foothold in the mountain villages of the County of Foix. As it sweeps around the region, two men leave their homes and families and become embroiled in the forbidden faith.

Based on Inquisition records archived for nearly 700 years in the Vatican, this is a fictionalised account of the epic, true story of these two men, Pierre Maury (Pedro, the shepherd) and Guillaume Belibaste (Guy), who was fated to become the last of the Cathar Holy Men (Perfects).

As the Inquisition launch a brutal campaign against them, the men must again leave their loved ones and seek safety across the border in Aragon. As many Perfects are burned alive and friends and family are arrested, can Guy and Pedro stay safe? And can their faith and their friendship survive as the Inquisition become closer and ever more brutal?

Susan Kaberry lives in Manchester with her husband and two miniature dachshunds. She began writing fiction when she retired after working in the NHS for most of her life. Her first Cathar novel was The Chatelaine of Montaillou, also based on Jacques Fournier’s records. She has also written a memoir Britannia Street under her maiden name of Beth Cox.

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My thoughts: based on records by Bishop Jacques Fournier, about the interrogation and torture of Pedro Maury and Guy Belibaste, Cathars and Good Men or Perfects, this is the story of how two ordinary men became important figures in what was called The Heresy, for which thousands of people were killed in the Middle Ages.

Pedro is a shepherd, working for his wealthier cousin Raymond when he is inducted into the secret faith of the Cathars, while Guy was raised in the beliefs. The religion was forced underground following the massacre at Beziers and incarceration at Carcassonne of many more. But Good Men or Perfects, as the leaders were called, still travelled to speak to believers, and Pedro and Guy become the last two. Their lives must have been shrouded in secrecy and fear.

The book tells of their attempts to live quietly and not attract the attention of the Catholic Church, while preaching to their flock and carrying out the duties of their office. Sadly they are betrayed by a man they thought was trustworthy and subjected to the offices of the Inquisition.

Based on the testimony of Pedro (Guy’s unfortunately has been lost) recorded by Fournier, this story about faith and strength, even to the cruellest of ends – Pedro is imprisoned, Guy burnt at the stake as a heretic, is moving and tragic.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.