Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Book Showcase: HIS GUILT by Shelley Shepard Gray

His Guilt

by Shelley Shepard Gray

on Tour July 10 - August 10, 2017



Synopsis:


His Guilt by Shelley Shepard Gray

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray delivers the next novel in her Amish of Hart County series—a suspenseful tale of an Amish man who will risk all to protect the woman he loves.

Mark Fisher has returned home to Hart County, determined to put the past behind him. Two years ago, after being wrongly accused of assault, he left the Amish community, though never forgot his home. When the one person who had helped him through his rough times asks for help, Mark returns. But it is pretty Waneta Cain who makes him want to stay…
Neeta is one of the few people in Hart County who doesn't believe Mark is guilty of hurting anyone. However, his worldliness and tough exterior do make her uneasy. As she begins to see the real man behind all the gossip and prejudice, she wonders if he is the man for her.
Just when Mark starts to believe a new life is possible, a close friend of Neeta's is attacked. Once again, everyone in the community seems to believe he is guilty. But what hurts most is Neeta's sudden wariness around him. When another woman is hurt, a woman who is close to both Neeta and himself, Mark fears he knows the real culprit. And time is running out. Will Mark be able to find him before Neeta becomes his next victim?


Book Details:


Genre: Fiction, Amish Fiction
Published by: Avon Inspire/HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 4th 2017
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 0062469134 (ISBN13: 9780062469137)
Series: The Amish of Hart County #2 | It is a stand-alone novel
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 


Read an excerpt:



Chapter 1

Horse Cove, Kentucky
August 4

He was watching her again.
As she handed her customer change across the counter of the Blooms and Berries nursery, Waneta Cain did her best to pretend that their newest employee was not inordinately interested in everything she did. He was simply observant.
Surely, it was just her imagination playing tricks on her anyway. Mark Fisher was probably trying to see how she handled the checkout counter. She used to watch Mr. Lehmann all the time when she'd first started at the nursery.
That had to be the reason.
"Thanks for your help, Neeta," Mr. Killian said, interrupting her thoughts. "I'd be lost without you."
"I'm simply glad I could help ya," she told the Englisher with a bright smile as he lifted his box of seedlings from the wide well-worn countertop. "See ya soon."
The man tipped his ball cap. "You sure will if I can't get these to bear fruit. Wish me luck."
"Good luck and good blessings, too." After helping him with the door, she let it close behind her with a satisfying thunk.
She chuckled to herself. That Mr. Killian was a terrible gardener but a frequent customer. She sincerely hoped that one day he would develop that green thumb he wanted so badly.
"Do you always act that way?"
A shiver coursed through her as she turned.
Meeting Mark's dark-brown eyes, which seemed to be studying her intently, she struggled to appear calm. "Like what?"
Mark stepped away from the row of metal shelves located in the back of the store. He'd been unpacking boxes and restocking shelves for the last hour. Methodically sorting and organizing merchandise while she helped customers. "Like they're your friends," he replied. "Like you're so happy to see them." Stepping closer, he lifted his shoulder. "Is that how you really are… or is that just an act?"
She didn't care for the way he seemed to be insinuating that she wasn't genuine. "It's not an act. Mr. Killian is in her a lot. He's nice. We are friends."
"He's English and must be fifty years old."
"I don't see how that matters. I can like people who are different than me."
"Maybe you can. But you were sure smiling at him a lot. Or do you do that on purpose? To make sure that he will return?"
His question made her uncomfortable, but his sarcastic tone made her angry. "I don't know why you are asking such things. I really don't like what you are suggesting. I'm not doing anything out of the ordinary or smiling at customers in any special way. I'm just being my regular self."
"Huh. So you treat everyone with smiles and kindness. You are friends with all sorts of people. Even people who are different from you. Except me."
"I've been perfectly amiable to you," she retorted. Except, of course, that was a lie.
"I don't think so," Mark murmured. "I've been her seven hours, four of them barely six feet away from you."
She knew that. She'd known exactly where he was every moment they'd been together. "And?"
"And during all that time you've hardly said ten words to me. You sure aren't smiling at me."
She opened her mouth, closed it again. What could she say? He wasn't wrong.
Mark stepped closer, invading her space. She could see the fine brown hairs on his forearms now. Noticed that he hadn't shaved in a day or two.
"Is it because I was taken in for questioning?" he asked quietly, his dark-brown eyes watching her, as if he feared she would run. "Or, is it just me? Do you not want anything to do with me, Waneta?"
Her palms were sweating. She fisted both as she tried to come up with an answer. He was right on all accounts. She was uneasy around him.
Fact was, Mark Fisher was a large man. Tall and well-muscled. He had a rough way about him, too. It was disconcerting.
Of course, she'd always felt uneasy around him. He'd been an angry teenager, always glaring and short-tempered with most everyone. After he finished school, he'd worked for a few people around town. Rumor had it that his brother, Calvin, had taken off as soon as their mother did. Mark had even lived in Mr. Lehmann's home for a time, until he was taken in for questioning about Bethany's assault.
And after he was questioned, then let go for insufficient evidence, he disappeared for two years.
Now he was back.
Mr. Lehmann assured her that Mark hadn't done anything wrong, but a lot of people in the community still believed that he was the masked man who'd beaten Bethany Williams. It wasn't much of a stretch. Bethany had told lots of people that her assailant was over six feet tall and was very strong. But she also said she wasn't able to identify the man.
Few other details had circulated after that. Then Bethany and her family moved up north, practically the moment she was released from the hospital.
Realizing Mark was still waiting, Waneta said, "I haven't spoken to you much because we don't' know each other."
His eyes narrowed. "But that's not really true. We knew each other once. We did go to the same Amish school."
"You were ahead of me in school. We hardly talked then." He was only three years older than herself, but they were miles apart in terms of how they'd lived their lives. He'd also been the kind of boy she'd been a little scared of. He was rough and always seemed so angry.
For a second, he looked dumbfounded. "So, you do remember."
"Of course I remember you and your brother, Calvin. Our school wasn't that big, Mark." Feeling pretty good about how self-assured she was sounding, Neeta folded her arms across her chest. "But that was a long time ago. Years have gone by."
"Yeah. You're right," he said slowly. "Years have gone by. Practically a whole lifetime."
He sounded so sad. She wondered what was going through his head. Did he regret hurting Bethany? And what had been doing for the two years since it all happened? Why had he even come back to Horse Cave? Surely, there were other, far better places to start over.
The door jangled as a couple came in. Like Mr. Killian, they were regular customers. James and Katie Eicher were Amish and lived on a large farm on the outskirts of town.
Glad for the reprieve, she smiled at them. "Hiya, Katie. James. How can I help you?"
Just as Katie was about to answer, her husband put a hand on her arm. "Go wait in the buggy, Kate."
Katie looked at her husband in confusion, then blanched when she caught sight of Mark. Without a word, she turned and walked back out the door.
When it closed again, James glared at Mark. "What are you doing here?"
Mark lifted his chin. "I work here."
"Is that true, Neeta?" James asked. "Did Henry actually hire him?"
"Jah. Today is Mark's first day." Unsure how to handle his anger, she cleared his throat. "Now, um, how may I help you?"
"Where is Henry?"
She looked around the room, which was a ridiculous exercise, seeing as it was perfectly obvious that Mr. Lehmann was not there.
"He's out back," Mark said, pointing to one of the four large greenhouses behind the retail store. "You want me to go get him for ya?"
"I don't want you to do a thing for me," James said. "I'll go find him myself."
Mark rocked back on his heels. "Suit yourself."
Neeta winced at his flippant tone.
James, however, looked irate. Pointing a finger at him, James said, "I'm telling you now, Fisher. You stay far away from my wife. Don't talk to her. Don't even look at her."
Instead of looking cowed, the corners of Mark's lips lifted. "Or what?"
"Or I'll do everything I can to ensure that you leave here for good."
Mark narrowed his eyes. "Are you threatening me?"
Ignoring Mark again, James turned to her. "I can't believe you are working in here with him. Do your parents even know?"
Before she could say that they did not, James strode out the door. It slammed in his wake.
For a good couple of seconds, Neeta stared at the door. She tried to calm herself, especially since she'd just realized that her hands were shaking.
Why was she so rattled? Was it because she was afraid of Mark Fisher?
Or because James's anger had been so scorching?
"You never answered him," Mark said from behind her, startling her out of her dark thoughts. "Do your parents know that you are working here with me?"
"Nee."
"Why not?" he asked. "Is it because you're afraid that they'll want you to stay far, far away from the dangerous Mark Fisher, too?"
Before she could answer, the door opened again. This time it brought in Mr. Lehmann.
He looked from Mark to her and signed. "I came to check on how you two are doing after James Eicher's visit. It doesn't look like you're doing too gut."
"I'm fine, Mr. Lehmann," she said. "But, um, well, it's four o'clock."
"Which means it's time for you to get on him," he said with a kind smile. "Grab your things and get on your way. We'll see you tomorrow."
She smiled weakly as she turned toward the back storage room, where her belongings were stowed. For the first time since she's started working at the nursery, returning to work filled her with dread.
She didn't trust Mark. Worse, she didn't trust herself when she was around him.

Excerpt from His Guilt by Shelley Shepard Gray.  Copyright © 2017 by Shelley Shepard Gray. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins. All rights reserved.




Shelley Shepard Gray



Author Bio:



Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.


Catch Up With Ms. Gray On:


Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !




Tour Participants:







Don't Miss Your Chance to Win:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Shelley Shepard Gray and HarperCollins. There will be 4 US winners of one (1) print edition of His Guilt by Shelley Shepard Gray. The giveaway begins on July 10 and runs through August 10, 2017.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

2017 Book 244: THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson 
ISBN: 9780062105714 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062670847 (HarperLuxe)
ISBN: 9780062105738 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062682138 (HarperAudio)
ASIN: B01M3QYT9U (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 11, 2017 
Publisher: William Morrow 


With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.
Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.
It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.
Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

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Leia Birch Briggs is a professional graphic artist and novelist. Reasonably happy with her career and her life, Leia is thrown a slight curve when she realizes she's pregnant after a one-night stand at a recent comic con. The only problem is she isn't quite sure who the father is...okay, she knows who he is but doesn't really know his name. Then she receives frantic text messages and calls about her 90-year-old grandmother's unbecoming behavior. Leia is forced to confront her step-sister's disintegrating marriage, the mystery surrounding her grandmother's behavior, and the dilemma of what to do or not do about her pregnancy in Joshilyn Jackson's latest novel, The Almost Sisters.

Although Leia is well-known and respected in the graphic artist and fan community, to her family she is simply an "artist" and they're waiting for her to get a real career. It doesn't matter that Leia has supported herself for more than a decade as a graphic artist/novelist they simply don't understand that genre or how anyone can make money out of "drawing pictures." Leia has always perceived herself as somewhat of an outsider within her family, perhaps because her father died before she was born. She loves her mother, stepfather, and stepsister, but she's always felt that she could never really be as good as Rachel in looks, behavior, or demeanor. It doesn't really matter that no one wants her to be a Rachel duplicate, but that's how Leia thinks. Now Rachel's marriage is on shaky grounds and it doesn't help that Rachel's husband is Leia's first almost, sort-of, maybe, not-quite boyfriend. Leia might have been somewhat disturbed over JJ's marriage to Rachel, but she's moved beyond that and is happy for her sister or was happy for sister while she was happy. Now she doesn't know what to do to make her happy. The only thing she can think of is to take her 13-year-old niece, Lavender, with her to Alabama to check up on her 90-year-old-grandmother, Emily Birch Briggs or Birchie. Upon arriving in Alabama Leia finds out that Birchie is suffering from Lewy body dementia causing her to speak out inappropriately, hallucinate, and more. Until recently, this behavior was moderately well controlled by medication and Birchie's lifelong friend, companion and roommate Wattie Price, as well as kept secret from Leia, Birchie's only relative. Without asking Birchie or Wattie their opinions about matters, Leia decides that the estate must be evaluated and appraised and arrangements made for both Birchie and Wattie to move into assisted living. What follows is more like a scene from I Love Lucy and Murder, She Wrote. A steamer trunk is taken from the attic and skeletal remains are found that appear to be over 50 years old. Just who was in that trunk and why? How will the answers to those questions and more impact Birchie, Wattie and the residents of Birchville, Alabama?

Just in case you couldn't tell, there's a lot going on in The Almost Sisters, yet I found this to be a compelling story that had me turning page after page to find out what would happen to everyone next. There were parts of this story that had me laughing out loud, seriously I spewed hot tea all over my keyboard at one point (don't drink or eat anything when reading pages 22-26). There were parts of the story that had me grabbing tissues. The Almost Sisters is a story about love, what we're willing to do for love, family (the family we're born into, the family we marry into, and the family we make from those we surround ourselves with), loyalty and community. There are several stories within stories happening here and no I'm not going to tell you all of them, but there's Leia's pregnancy story, her internal debate about writing her graphic novel origin story, Birchie and Wattie's story, Leia and Rachel's story, race in the South, and more. I loved the small town setting of Birchville, Alabama (there's something about Southern small towns) and it plays just as much of a character in the story as the others. There are plenty of strong women in this story and I LOVED them all: Leia, Birchie, Wattie, Lavender, and even Rachel. I could go on and on about this story, but if I did then there'd be nothing left to your imagination. I can simply say that if you want to read a well-written story that incorporates humor, grace, a sweet sense of family with realistic and realistically-flawed characters, then you'll want to grab a copy of The Almost Sisters to read ASAP. I do encourage you to wait until you have a few hours to sit down and read this book because you won't want to put it down (yes, it is that good). The Almost Sisters is the third novel that I've read by Ms. Jackson and as impossible as it sounds, each one is just as good as the one before if not slightly better.  I enjoyed reading The Almost Sisters so much I've given a copy to my 82-year-old mother to read and will be recommending it to several of my book groups. This is one book that I'm hoping several of my book groups will want to read just so I will have an excuse to reread it a few more times.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Meet the author

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with her through her website, Facebook, or Twitter.


This review and blog tour brought to you by TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Showcase: DUPLICITY by Jane Haseldine

Duplicity by Jane Haseldine | Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tour Banner



Duplicity


by Jane Haseldine


on Tour July 1-31, 2017




Synopsis:


Duplicity by Jane Haseldine


In Jane Haseldine's new novel of riveting suspense, Detroit newspaper reporter Julia Gooden is up against the city's most devious criminal—and her own painful past.
Julia Gooden knows how to juggle different lives. A successful crime reporter, she covers the grittiest stories in the city while raising her two young boys in the suburbs. But beneath that accomplished fa├žade is another Julia, still consumed by a tragedy that unfolded thirty years ago when her nine-year-old brother disappeared without a trace.

Julia's marriage, too, is a balancing act, as she tries to rekindle her relationship with her husband, Assistant District Attorney David Tanner, while maintaining professional boundaries. David is about to bring Nick Rossi to trial for crimes that include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and bribery. But the story becomes much more urgent when a courthouse bomb claims several victims—including the prosecution's key witness—and leaves David critically injured.
Though Julia is certain that Rossi orchestrated the attack, the case against him is collapsing, and his power and connections run high and wide. With the help of Detective Raymond Navarro of the Detroit PD, she starts following a trail of blackmail, payback, and political ambition, little imagining where it will lead. Julia has risked her career before, but this time innocent lives—including her children's—hang in the balance, and justice may come too late to save what truly matters…



What Reviewers are Saying about Duplicity:

"Haseldine has a gift for atmosphere, setting, and suspense, and the many twists and turns will keep readers guessing."—Library Journal

"Julia, introduced in The Last Time She Saw Him (2016), is ferociously bold and persistent as she deals with professional and personal adversity laced with duplicity in this action-packed, plot-driven mystery. This is hard-bitten crime fiction with changes ahead for its unrelenting series protagonist."—Booklist

"Haseldine (The Last Time She Saw Him, 2016) uses her experience as a crime reporter to bring authenticity to this exciting and gritty tale."—Kirkus Reviews




Book Details:


Genre: Mystery
Published by: Kensington Publishing
Publication Date: April 2017
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 149670407X (ISBN13: 9781496704078)
Series: Julia Gooden Mystery #2 | Duplicity can be read as a stand alone novel
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 



Read an excerpt:




Chapter 1
Glenlivet, light on the rocks. A cocktail waitress with bright fuchsia lipstick delivers the drink and motions her head in the direction of the aged fifty-something women two tables down. The recipient of the cocktail turns his head toward the hoots and low whistles from the likely recent divorcees who are ogling him like a lusty spectator sport.
"Want to join us, hon?" the ringleader asks and adjusts her leopard print halter-top to reveal an extra inch of orange, tanned cleavage. In case her intent wasn't clear enough, the woman scoops a sugar cube from her champagne cocktail, places it between her teeth and starts sucking.
"No thank you," the businessman answers coolly and places the unwanted drink back on the cocktail waitress' tray.
He turns his back on the spurned women and locks in on a tall, willowy blond in a white dress that clings to her slender curves as she moves fluidly across the casino floor in his direction.
She pauses at his table, slides into the empty seat across from him and carefully tucks a leather briefcase between her legs.
The rowdy commotion from the neighboring table of women abruptly stops as they wordlessly concede, they've been bested by a thoroughbred.
The businessman slips an Italian charcoal grey suit coat over his tall and tightly muscled frame. He tips back the last few sips of the drink he ordered for himself ten minutes earlier and heads toward the lobby, not bothering to look back. He knows the blond will follow.
In the elevator, the mouth of a camera lens captures its occupants' activities. The pair stand close, but just far enough apart so it doesn't look obvious they are together, just two attractive strangers in an elevator heading up to their respected rooms. The blond stunner holds the briefcase in her left hand and takes a risk. She lifts her pinky finger up and brushes the back of the businessman's hand for less than a second.
The elevator arrives on the VIP floor, the best the MGM Grand has to offer.
The blond bends down, slides a key out of the front pocket of the briefcase and opens the hotel room door. Inside, the man stands in front of the floor to ceiling windows. He takes a quick pan of downtown Detroit and then snaps the curtains shut. When it is safe, when they are alone, the blond, now anxious and wanting, drops the briefcase and goes directly for his zipper.
"Wait." He takes the briefcase over to the bed, opens it, and fans the stack of bills across the mattress like a seasoned blackjack dealer some thirty stories below.
"Two million. You don't trust me now?" the woman asks with a contrived pout.
He ignores the question until the cash has been fully accounted for.
"Come here," he commands.
He starts to remove his coat, but she is already there.
"I've missed you," she whispers and cups her long, delicate fingers around his crotch.
He reciprocates by running his hand across the thin silk of her dress directly over her breast, and then squeezes until the blond lets out a gasp.
The blond easily submits when the man pushes her down hard on the bed, letting him believe he still has the upper hand, that he is the aggressor. She stares up at his beautiful face, his breath coming faster now as his body starts to move in a rapid, steady rhythm above her. She doesn't mind when he closes his eyes. He wants her again, reestablishing her position of control, at least for now. That's all that matters.
When they are finished, the businessman turns toward the wall in disgust.
"I knew you weren't through with me yet," she says. "You take all your hostility out on me in bed. You're a rough boy, but I like it."
He ignores her, gets up from the bed, still naked, and heads to the bathroom. The blond is useless to him now. She knows it but still holds on.
"The birthmark on your ass is so sweet. It looks like a crescent moon with a shooting star underneath," she remarks. "Come back to bed and let me take a closer look."
The man spins around, anger flashing in his eyes as if the blonde's comment violated something personal.
"Shut up," he says.
"No need to talk dirty to me. You know I'll give you what you want, as long as you give me my share of the money."
"When it's over, you'll get it. That's the agreement."
"How do I know you won't screw me?"
"Because I'm not that guy. The money will be in a safe place."
"I want access to it."
"I don't think so."
The door to the bathroom slams shut and she is dismissed. Inside the shower, he scrubs every trace of the woman off his body, hoping she will be gone when he comes out. But the blond is still in bed. At least she is sleeping.
The businessman climbs back into his suit, grabs the briefcase and closes the hotel room door quietly behind him. The second elevator in the hallway opens and he disappears inside just as elevator one chimes its arrival to the VIP floor. Its single occupant emerges, a man, squat and thick but moving swiftly like a gymnast. He wears all black, a bulky windbreaker, sweatpants and a baseball cap as if he's just come from the hotel gym. He lets himself into a room with a key he extracts from a bulky fanny pack that flanks his waist. Inside, he quickly assesses the scene, pulls a tiny camera out from its hiding place inside a fake antique clock on the dresser and tucks it into his coat pocket.
He then retrieves a razor blade and scarf from the pack and heads toward the bed where the blond is still sleeping.
The man moves silently as he eases his body onto the bed. He inches forward across the mattress and then straddles the blond with his hips, locking her in place until she is prone and pinned to the bed. Without opening her eyes, she smiles, thinking her lover has returned. She flicks her tongue across her lips and then opens her mouth expectantly.
"Shhh," he whispers. "You pay now. We know what you did."
The woman's eyes fly open, and she tries to scream out her assailant's name, but he cuffs one stubby hand across her mouth before she can utter a word. He lifts the razor from his pocket and begins to gently slide the unsharpened side of the blade down her stomach until it reaches the top of her public bone.
"Please!" she begs. "I'll give you what you want."
The razor stops short before it makes its final descent.
His breath is warm and steady against her ear. "How do you know what I want?"
"Money. I'll give it to you."
He pauses as though considering the request and flicks the dull side of the blade back and forth across her skin.
"God, please. You don't want money then. Okay. Just tell me what you want and I'll give it to you."
He shakes his head and teases the sharp edge of the razor blade against her leg.
"Who is it?" he whispers as the razor makes a tiny, precise knick on the inside of her thigh, drawing a single drop of blood that trickles down her ivory skin like a crimson teardrop.
"The name. I'll give you the name!" she pleads. "Sammy Biggs, the Butcher. He's the one. I just found out, I swear. I didn't betray you. He did. Now please! Let me go."
The hired hand sighs deeply, as if savoring an indulgent pleasure, now finally satisfied. But not quite. Lessons must be learned and never forgotten. The man stuffs the scarf down the woman's mouth to muffle the pain of her penance. It is engrained in his soul those who sin must atone. He clasps the razor blade between his thumb and middle finger and cuts the blonde's left earlobe off in one clean slice.
"Hail Mary, full of grace," he prays as he pulls out a locket from underneath his black T-shirt. He kisses a likeness of the face of the blessed Virgin Mary etched into the front of the gold necklace charm and stuffs his newly won keepsake from the blond into his pocket.
Chapter 2
Concrete, grey, cold, and quickly passing is the only thing Julia sees. The running started the previous summer when she was at the lake house, the place she mistakenly thought would be a sanctuary for her boys after the separation from her husband David.
The runs started as just one lap around the rocky coastal loop along Lake Huron. But when Julia migrated back to the Detroit suburbs for a second shot at her marriage, her runs progressed and three times a week turned into seven and the start times became earlier and earlier.
Five a.m. Julia conquers the stretch of her Rochester Hills comfortable suburban neighborhood within five minutes. She expands her perimeter to downtown and then all the way to the Auburn Hills border. Ten miles today. No negotiation.
Julia races through the darkness just starting to break and ignores everything she passes, the funky downtown stores, the tidy homes with daily papers waiting on the icy driveway blacktops and the Assembly of God church with its bulletin board warning "Sin: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time."
None of the scenery matters. The steady rhythm of her sneakers pounding against the concrete pushes Julia forward, getting her closer to some invisible finish line as she race her one constant opponent: herself.
Spring officially arrived in Michigan a week prior, but the depressing mounds of frozen grey snow from another cruel Midwestern winter obviously didn't get the memo. Julia pushes herself harder and starts to sprint as she passes her oldest son Logan's middle school, her half-mile mark to home, and breathes in deeply. The cold air stings as it goes down, but it's worth it. Julia is certain she can smell the beginnings of the ground starting its impatient thaw and the bulbs, in a deep slumber since October, beginning to stir. Change is coming and she is ready for it.
A car drives by slowly, reaches the corner and then turns back around in her direction. Julia instinctively moves away from the curb and reaches down toward her waist pack. Instead of a water bottle, Julia packs protection, pepper spray and a folding knife with a three-inch blade. Paranoia always ran hard and deep after what happened to her brother when Julia was a little girl, compounded by twelve years covering the crime beat, not to mention a deranged religious fanatic who kidnapped her youngest son. For Julia, it all adds up to one thing: Trust no one.
The car slows to a crawl as it approaches a second time. A dark sedan, nondescript, probably a Ford model about five-years-old with tinted windows, Julia calculates as her hand sweeps inside her pack. She runs her fingers across the flat side of the knife's blade as the car's driver side window opens.
"Hey, Gooden, I thought that was you. If you're going to jog in the dark, you better wear brighter colors or you're going to get mowed down out here," Detroit Police Detective Leroy Russell says. Julia recalls Russell lives somewhere in the Rochester Hills community, where his ex-wife is an assistant professor of journalism at Oakland University.
Julia finally exhales, her breath turning into a puff of white that disappears into the frigid late March morning. Now knowing she won't have to engage in hand-to-hand combat, Julia fixes her gaze back on Russell whose trademark Mr. Clean buzz cut looks freshly-shaven. She feels the sting of adrenaline coursing through her body as the fear leaves her.
She begins to respond to Russell when the smell hits from the open car window. Julia makes out the distinct aroma of almost metabolized late-night, heavy drinking and Old Spice, the latter applied so liberally, it makes her eyes sting.
"How are you doing, Russell?" Julia asks. "Are you on the early shift?"
Russell reaches toward his glove compartment and extracts a green bottle of Excedrin which he pops open and then crushes four white tablets under his tongue.
"Retirement party last night for Sergeant Walter Shaw," Russell explains. "I'm meeting Navarro for breakfast, so hopefully an order of scrambled eggs and home fries will soak it all up before a hangover hits."
"You and Navarro are meeting up to discuss the Rossi trial," Julia states, no question necessary. "I caught both your names on the prosecution's witness list."
"That's right."
Julia jogs in place without realizing it and strategizes how she can pump Russell for information for her story. The court part of the crime beat is her least favorite, despite the fact Julia is married to a lawyer. To her, courtrooms feel like tight little boxes where various versions of the truth run fast and loose amidst the big show, and the winner is often selected not by the culmination of the presented facts, but by which side puts on a better performance.
"I heard there's going to be a surprise witness the prosecution is going to pull out at the last minute. Do you know anything about that? We can go off the record. You know I won't burn you. I just need a name," Julia pushes.
Russell reaches up and massages his right temple with his index finger.
"I don't know," he says. "Even if there is some last-minute witness, Judge Palmer probably won't allow it if they aren't on the list. Why are you asking anyway? You've got a much better source at home. You and David are back together, right?"
"We're working on it. I can't ask David though. It would be a conflict of interest. The D.A.'s office doesn't want to get sued for leaking information to the press. Plus, David and I are pros. Neither of us would cross that line."
"Come on. You can't tell me you don't pull some favors in the bedroom to get your husband to talk. Sex is a woman's secret weapon. It always has been since the dawn of time. A sweet, firm ass has toppled many a mighty man. I'm more of a leg man, myself though," Russell says as he gives Julia's well-toned runner's legs a nod of silent approval.
At thirty-seven, Julia has long mastered the fine art of the dodge and weave around unwanted advances. Unless the guy is completely out of line, Julia ignores the come-on like it never happened. The talent serves her well covering the cop beat, where egos and virility are often intertwined, enormous, and surprisingly fragile.
"Where are you and Navarro having breakfast?" she asks.
"Chanel's in Greektown. You want to join us?"
Julia gives just a hint of a smile. Dodge and weave successful.
"Thanks for the invite. I'll try."
"All right, Gooden. Tell the assistant D.A. we'll see him later. And be careful out here in the dark," Russell answers and raps a red-chafed hand outside his driver side window before he disappears behind the tinted-glass.
Julia watches Russell's car pull away and a small shiver runs down her back.
(Don't ever take a ride from a stranger, Julia, or I swear, I'll kick your butt).
The sudden childhood memory jolts her, and Julia starts to sprint as if she could race fast enough to outrun the passage of time and warn her younger self to lock the door the night her older brother Ben was taken.
Julia finally reaches home, nowhere left to run. She drops onto the front step, looks up at the first soft lights of dawn finally penetrating through night's heavy cloak of darkness and chokes back a sob. She knows how to get through the pain. She always has. Julia pushes her emotions down deep and focuses on what she can control.
Her mind clicks off the pieces of the Rossi story she will have to assemble and file into some kind of compelling piece to run in the paper's online edition before opening arguments. The facts will be the bones of her story: Nick Rossi's illegal Detroit empire is believed to encompass hijacking and shipping stolen goods, mainly computers and electronics, illegal gambling and drug trafficking. Both the feds and the Detroit PD had been trying to nail him for years. Rossi finally got busted in a city police sting courtesy of hidden cameras placed in the VIP suites of the MGM Grand Hotel. Images on the tapes showed payoffs to the former Detroit mayor and a city councilman, in addition to drug trafficking and cash exchanges for high-stakes gambling bets.
Julia kicks at the frozen ground with the toe of her sneaker and assembles the color elements she will add as sidebars to the main article, the ones that will make the story real to the readers and ultimately make them care: the seventeen-year-old West Bloomfield high school track star who overdosed and died at a party after he graduated that night from ecstasy to heroin for the first and final time, courtesy of Rossi's stash. Then there is the story of Rossi himself, only nine years old when he witnessed the rape and murder of his mother during a home invasion while the young Rossi bore silent witness as he hid inside a closet and watched the horror unfold through a crack in the door. Since Rossi's dad had taken off before his son was born, the young Rossi moved in with his uncle, Salvatore Gallo, who ran a moderately successful dry cleaning business with a small bookie operation on the side. Julia and Salvatore Gallo have history, and Julia makes a mental note to herself to call Gallo before she gets to the courthouse to see if he'll talk.
Julia's cell phone buzzes inside her waist pack. She looks suspiciously at the phone. 6:15 a.m. Even as a reporter, no one calls that early unless it's an emergency, and she knows David is still at the house with their boys, Logan and Will, who are sound asleep. She is about to hit the ignore button but stops at the last second when she recognizes the number. Gavin Boyles, the acting mayor's chief of staff. The other piece of color she needs for the story.
"Gooden here. You're lucky I'm up."
"You told me you ran at dawn, so I figured I'd catch you before you got into the newsroom," Boyles answers. "I checked online a few minutes ago, and I didn't see your story posted yet."
"It'll be up later today. Do you have something for me?"
Boyles, a former TV news anchor before he became a flack, still has the oozing, ultra-smooth voice of a game show host. Julia met him ten years earlier at the scene of a major fire that obliterated a Detroit high-rise and eighteen of its residents who were trapped inside. Boyles showed up late and asked Julia if he could take a look at her notes and she could debrief him on the situation.
"Always working the story, that's why you're so good," Boyles says.
"You're too kind," Julia answers and plays the pleasantry game while she waits for Boyles to cut through the bullshit.
"Are you including Mayor Anderson in the story?
"Acting Mayor Anderson?" Julia asks.
"Semantics. We'd prefer not to have Mayor Anderson's name mentioned unless it pertains to how he is working tirelessly to turn the city around since former mayor Slidell's indictment for his involvement in the Rossi case. If you write another story about how Slidell took bribes from Rossi to shut him up, you're doing a disservice to the people of the city. Detroit has suffered enough, don't you think? You could turn this into a positive story."
"And how has Anderson turned the city around exactly?"
"Public perception. I want to share something with you. This is off the record for now, all right?"
"Of course," Julia answers and wonders whether the call might not be a complete waste of her time after all.
"Mayor Anderson will be holding a press conference today announcing a strategic task force dedicated solely to promoting all things positive in Detroit, including a volunteer-driven beautification project to help improve blight. It was my idea. Detroit is trying to make its way back. The residents don't need a rehashing of another corrupt city official story."
"Politics isn't my beat."
"Neither is business, but your articles are hurting the casinos. Detroit got gutted after the auto industry crashed, and God knows we can't afford to take any more hits. There's a responsibility, a fine line, we journalists need to ethically tow."
"I'm still a journalist. Last I checked, you weren't."
On the other end of the phone, Boyles blasts an obnoxious guffaw.
"Always blunt, aren't you? The press conference is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on the steps of city hall. I assume you'll be available since the trial will break for lunch. Mayor Anderson specifically asked for you to be there."
"Thank you for the invitation. I'll run this by my managing editor and let her decide who to send. You know how this works. It's not my call."
"Got it. I'll call Margie myself and put in the request. I'm surprised the paper is letting you cover the story when your husband is prosecuting it. Good for you though. You won't have to work as hard this time."
Julia grits her teeth and forces herself to still play nice. She may need Boyles in the future.
"I always work hard."
"I just meant…"
Julia cuts off Boyles before he can finish. "Thanks for the call and the heads up on the press conference."
Julia gives her phone the finger, the sentiment she'd really like to give Boyles directly. Instead, she shuts her phone off and heads into the warmth of her house that hits her like a blowtorch. She strips off her North Face jacket and then peels off her running pants and nylon shirt that stick to her clammy skin. She frees her curly, dark brown hair from its ponytail and pads softly down the hall as not to wake the boys. Inside the office, she leans over the desk and begins to search for her competitor's coverage of the Rossi trial. She pulls up the Detroit News website and feels a tug in her stomach. In addition to a big picture preview story on the case, Julia knows the Detroit News reporter is writing a sidebar profile on David as first chair for the prosecution and his likely run for D.A. next year, a promise David made to himself after he gave up a lucrative private practice partnership six months earlier to become a public servant. Still standing, Julia bends down closer to the desk and begins to search whether the Detroit News found out about the surprise witness, or worse, if they got the name before she did.
***


Excerpt from Duplicity by Jane Haseldine. 
Copyright © 2017 by Jane Haseldine. 
Reproduced with permission from Jane Haseldine. 
All rights reserved.




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Jane Haseldine is a journalist, former crime reporter, columnist, newspaper editor, magazine writer, and deputy director of communications for a governor. Jane writes the Julia Gooden mystery series for Kensington Publishing.


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