Friday, October 12, 2018

Guest Reviewer Gnarly Talks About Crimes Past by Lauren Carr! Out October 16th!

Whew! Lauren Carr's Latest is so complex and filled with unending sub-plots, that I was just a bit overwhelmed, even though I am a charter member of Carr's Phantoms! So immediately, I thought of Gnarly! He was right there through the majority of the events in Crimes Past and I decided he was just the one who could highlight what readers might want to know... Welcome Gnarly!

Hi Everybody, it's great to be back here at Book Readers Heaven to share about the latest Mac Faraday book by my favorite author--especially since she made me the Star of this entire series!

First, I have to clarify that when the Cold Case in this book took place so many years ago, I WAS not working with Mac at the time! Rather I was helping his mother with her books! So, to put it gently, there wouldn't have been a cold case if I had been there...

Nevertheless, that case where newlyweds had been murdered right after their wedding ceremony, had never allowed Mac to get over it! Especially since he promised the bride's daughter that he would discover who had killed her mother...

And, now, Gina was getting married and he was so upset that he never solved the case...that he volunteered his lodge for the wedding and invited everybody who had been at that first marriage... Seriously, well, I wasn't too sure that was a good idea, but at least I'd be there to help this time!

First, I should tell some of you who may not have heard, I have been honored to be elected as Mayor of Spencer, Maryland.
With a giant statue and all the privileges that come with the title... And I don't think it will be a spoiler to let you know that I'll be conducting a wedding as Mayor. Ok, Mac stands in for some of my duties, saying the words over the Bible and rings, but it's by Mayor Gnarly's power that they will then be married. Only thing I can't tell you is who is also getting married! And what a surprise for all fans of this series!

Truthfully, I didn't sit in on the constant discussions and rehashing of the old case as all the visitors for the wedding sat around enjoying their free visit to a luxury hotel. Mainly because I had my own problem to deal with with--a neighbor's cat who happened to die when it attacked me... But I had a witness and then that cat disappeared! Maybe I didn't kill it but this neighbor was so mean and hated dogs, while she allowed her feral cats to roam free...there oughta be a law! Seriously why don't cats have to have 

licenses. Hmmm, now that I'm Mayor, I think I'll be talking to the Sheriff...soon.
I had friends working for me and one officer even moved in of her own time to surveil what was happening since we were all sure that the "lady" of the house was really causing the problems. Wow, was she shocked when she saw more than she had been watching for! Could it be...???

But first I had to get back to Spencer Inn for my Book Launch party - Yes I wrote a book, The World According to Gnarly, (Amazon doesn't have it yet, we checked...) with Mac's wife's doing a lot of the work for me...The books are flying off the shelves since I already had so many fans! And while we were signing books, one particular conversation with Mac and others who he worked with back then, had everybody arguing as a former cop got drunk and started rambling on about who had really done the dirty when the two cops got killed long ago. Somebody must have been listening...Soon that chain-smoker was upsetting everybody when he continued drinking and to smoke inside, including in his room! Hey, did you ever hear a commode blow up!?! Boy, was everybody scrambling when that blast went off! The smoker on the throne didn't make it...

I felt bad for Mac as he had to consider and think through who might have murdered the bride and groom who were now in the "cold case." But as he was talking with so many and hearing pieces and parts of conversations that had taken place, he even had to begin to suspect one or more of the officers for whom he'd been a mentor....and he had to start thinking about whether one in particular was dirty or not... And also whether there was more than one person involved with the murders... Either way, the next murder victim is Derringer, Mac's former friend he had mentored... Bummer... 

Well by that time, I knew I had to get into the thick of this investigation. Two of the former officers were now dead and there were many potential suspects, while the actual wedding was fast approaching, after which everybody would leave. I swooped in and dealt with things--so much so that even the bad guy had to admit he didn't know I could move like I did... Sure I might snooze a lot when I'm bored...but when I'm needed "on the job," and you are who I'm after, you'll see what I was trained to do!

Gnarly launched himself off of David’s back into the seat that Gabriel had just vacated. The dog took (the killer's) hand into his jaws, clamped down on it and the gun, and shook... screams of anguish filled the air. The SUV rocked back and forth during the battle that ensued until the officers opened the passenger door to allow both to spill out onto the road. Gabriel tried to roll over to see what was happening, but David kept him pinned to the ground. “What’s going on?”
 “Our mayor is explaining his zero tolerance for crime policy,” David said.

Yes, it was one of my better moments, even though I'm not an active K9 officer all the time. But it sure has been fun to share about our new Mac Farraday book! And I know what you're going to say, so I'll do that for you too! It's a must-read for Carr's Phantoms and highly recommended for all mystery/crime procedure fans...and animal lovers too!

Good to see everybody again! And Remember ...


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Mary Lynn Plaisance Presents The Book of Pilar Grace - A Startling Glimpse of America...

...It's already two minutes Pilar, and you not at the table, yet." Her Aunt Dill's voice got louder. No one could hear her yelling in the remote area where they lived. She saw her Uncle Jack was off of the trawl boat, walking to the house on the long wharf. Dill never called him.
"I'm coming right now, Aunt Dill." Pilar ran fast and passed in front of her Uncle Jack. When she entered the front door, as soon as the screen door slammed shut, she got one smack with the strap on her butt. Pilar's sack of school books fell to the floor and she began crying as she held her butt from the sting of the strap.
"You late... after you said you wouldn't be late. Stop crying! Want another whip on da butt? What did I always tell you about that crying? Shut up, Pilar. Want another whip on da butt? I'll whip that butt of yours til you can't sit anymore! You hear me?"
Jack entered the front door. "Dill, put da strap away and get supper on da table." He took Pilar by the arm and pulled her panties down. She had a red strap mark across her butt. "I told ya more than one time not to mark the child, Dill. Don't mark her at all! Look what ya did." Jack turned Pilar around to show the strap mark to Dill like she was a piece of new furniture that had been ruined. "Ya knew what happened the last time you marked her legs. Da boss was here and it's not good for business. You hear me? Pick up da strap!"
Pilar was shaking with fear seeing both of them mad at the same time. That had never happened before. She was wondering why he didn't want anyone seeing her with marks or bruises. It wasn't good for his business? She didn't know what his business was. He was always on the trawl boat but it never left the water...
Pilar knew very well to do what she was told. She picked her school books off of the floor and put the school sack on her twin bed, going immediately to sit at the table. She sniffled as she ate her friend chicken and gravy.
"If your mama wouldn't have just left you here and run away, I wouldn't be having all this trouble with you."
Dill always mumbled those words when she was mad. She always blamed her sister Nora for leetng herself get pregnant. Pilar heard those words hundreds of times, but never asked any questions for fear of the strap. This time she asked, "Then, why my mama left me with you, Aunt Dill?"
"Why? You ask me why? I told you to never talk about your mama in this house. Your mama is dead to me, so shut up asking about her."
"I know," Pilar answered still sniffling from the hurt on her butt. "But, I'm twelve now. I'll be thirteen on Valentine's Day. Tomorrow. Why she left he here if you didn't want me?"
...Dill, shut up! You talking too much. Just shut up!" Jack was madder at Dill now than before. Pilar was shrinking in her chair hoping not to get whipped again for making Dill mad...
She heard the screen door close while Jack yelled at Dill, "Clean up that mess ya made and don't ever hit Pilar again with that strap! Ya hear me?"

She finished tying her shoe laces. "I can't believe he gave her a hit with the strap." She grabbed her school sack, shoved two biscuits in it from the table when Dill's back was turned, and quickly went out the door. As she passed by Jack, she said nothing and went to where she had to wait for the school bus. She could see it on the old bridge...
The bus stopped and the driver told Pilar, "Good morning. I hope you have a good day. Here I brought you a candy." He was always nice to Pilar.
"Thank you Mr. Riggs."
She took her usual front seat behind Mr. Rigs next to the window and kept quiet. Pilar was the only child he picked up on that side of the old bridge along that lonely back road. He knew they were poor and he heard others teasing her since she was in first grade. He made it clear to the rest on the bus each year, that the seat behind him was for Pilar. Mr. Rigs was the only person she felt safe with...

The Book of Pilar Grace

By Mary Lynn Plaisance

We all know the tragedy of human trafficking around the world. Criminals have found that they can make more money with sex slaves than many other options. They consider it business and have little, if any concern, about the humans involved--except to take care of them enough to keep them in good shape for their clients...

When I contacted the author for permission to use some of the pictures in the book, she shared concern about her being so mad when she wrote the book, that she may have gone too far in writing the potential true story of what happens to those victims who are caught in the reality of human trafficking. 

In fact, the devastating reality in the life of Pilar Grace was so very hard to read. From the time she was old enough to realize what was happening to her, she was an unloved, abused child that knew only fear. The pain of a strap hanging near the front door of her home was often used, mainly by her aunt. Pilar Grace lived with her aunt and uncle, and was told that her mother had become pregnant when young, gave her baby to her sister and left town...The only thing that Dill was willing to share with her was a Black fur hat that her mother had left behind. She held it close to her constantly...dreaming that her mother really did love her and would find her...

I believe it is important to read about the facts, the reality of what occurs through human trafficking. The first few chapters are extremely graphic. My one thought was that I hoped the whole book wasn't as revelatory. It wasn't! If you are unwilling to learn about what happens to many of our children, then don't buy this book. But if you are concerned and care about children, please take this opportunity to learn more so that you can help in any way you can, including warning your children and teaching them about seeking help if they are faced with any type of abuse...  

That day, the day after her latest beating at home, the day after her uncle Jack had hit his wife and warned that Pilar was not to have her body marked since it was bad for business, the day before her birthday...and the day that some of the boys on the bus started picking on Pilar, a most beautiful thing happened...Pilar gained a friend... Her name was Becky...

When the boys had started on Pilar, Becky chose that day to strike back at the boys. She had learned long ago to aggressively stand up for herself. Although her parents were not bad, still they showed little love for Becky and that day, Becky came up and sat on the same seat with Pilar. Stumbling through the awkwardness, Pilar was both scared and thrilled to think she might have a friend. Becky took an interest and soon Pilar was sharing just like she read about in the many books that she had borrowed from the library. At least her aunt had never stopped her from reading, so she had learned much from the stories, but had not known a real and true friendship... In fact, Becky talked Pilar into skipping school on her birthday, something that scared Pilar, but it turned out to be one perfect day...before Pilar disappeared...

"Becky, you're going to the principal's office...
"Me? He told me he was going to rape me...right
here on the school bus...
Becky whispered to Pilar, "If he ever puts his hands on
me, I'll cut his hands. I mean it."
"What's rape?"
"We need to talk the minute we get off this bus..."
For her birthday, her uncle invited her to go with him to the boat, where she was going to help him now that she was 13. He led her to a beautiful room like she had never seen before and she was thrilled when he said she would sleep and stay in this room from then on...

That night she was terribly raped by the boy on the bus who had been taunting her... She knew it was rape because Becky had explained rape, sex, and more about things she had never known about...

Now she had a "schedule" in that beautiful, hate-filled room, as one man after another visited...

And in the moments in between, she wrote in a book she found in the room, a black book which she used to, in her mind, clean out all thoughts of what was happening to her...
Dear Black Book, "Help me! I'm tired of being abused and I'm about to give up. Becky told me about sex, I bled enough from cutting myself and I have enough of being a sex slave to every man in a suit, but I cut to cope. They use me like the broom I use to sweep the dust off the porch. I'm not dust. One day I want to be a princess in a gown of gold. Can't you hear me screaming? Aunt Dill was right. No one can hear me screaming. Help me Black Book! I'm only 13!     Pilar Grace
She had begged her uncle to bring her book, Princess in a Gown of Gold, and was so happy when he agreed to get it. That book had helped her through her abuse because it told about a poor girl that had been abused, but who had run away and married a prince...

It had always helped her at home, but here in her jail room, beautiful as it might be, she could no longer dream of becoming a princess. She only dreamed of awaking and being out of her nightmare!

And then it happened...

Becky had found her and they escaped by hopping a train to New Orleans! That was also the night that Becky's life turned into a nighmare as she saw the fancy bar where her father worked, and later saw him kill a young girl... He had sent Becky to the boat, where she could still see what was happening...and as she had passed a window, Pilar had seen her and later reached out to her wherever she was held on the boat...

The terror of the first few chapters were lightened when Becky and Pilar got to New Orleans. Suddenly, everything started out differently, as if destiny had taken over and had led them to where they needed to go. Suddenly their lives were like a fairy tale... Serendipity led the two girls from then on into what seemed to be a magical home, where they were welcomed and loved, each step taking them closer to what their lives were to be...but only if the evil that followed them was...gone...

Wow! From a startling bit of reality in the lives of two young girls, comes a magical tale that evolved as if God had said..."Enough is Enough!" The author has woven each step after step as into a tighter and tighter web that could only be solved in one way... 

The wise lady, Sonja,who had welcomed the girls in New Orleans, knew they were both damaged and she lovingly explained:
Don't confuse a broken person with an evil person. A broken person can be fixed. An evil person cannot...Evil people can't do good because it's not inside of them. You cannot make a bitter grapefruit grow from a sweet apple tree. It's an apple tree."
This book faces the evil that is right now in America and around the world related to physical and sexual abuse of children and teens of both sexes, as well as adults. But the important part of the book was that evil can be defeated...and that broken people can be fixed... Plaisance has written a magical book for all of us who have been broken in some way--letting us know that destiny is ahead, in front of us, waiting...I've read several books by this author, but this is my favorite and is right there for selection as a personal favorite for 2018. But, remember, it is your choice--you must choose to read the reality of evil happenings to find the magical ending to your story...  


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Silent Witness by Nicola Beaumont - Enjoyed the Characters!

Nina Thomas glanced at the envelope on the floorboard of her convertible and wondered about the stranger who had sent it. Why come forward after so many years? She had tried to find the mysterious H. Anderson--had gone through the six H. Andersons listed in the Hampton, Virginia, area where the letter had been postmarked, but she'd had no luck. Three had never heard of Shadow Creek, two had hung up on her, and one, she discovered, had committed suicide just two weeks before, leaving his very angry landlady with a considerable bill for back rent and utilities-and according to said landlady--"an apartment she wouldn't be able to ever rent again."
It was then that Nina knew she would have to make the trip to Shadow Creek. The tree-lined street came to an end as she eased the small two-seater onto the highway. No turning back now, she thought, as the white clapboard houses with pro-panel roofs faded into the distance. Wind whistled across the open top as she pressed on the accelerator. Her cropped hair bounced around her head, tickling the back of her neck, and her stomach rolled on a queasy wave of emotion. She wanted to investigate so badly--needed to investigate--but somehow she knew if she unlocked secrets from the past, things would never be the same again. She would never be the same again. A part of her dreaded that.
The uncertainty of disrupting her life hung in the air around her, picking at her relentlessly. Like the steady drip of a faulty tap. Every time she convinced herself that she needed to know the truth, something--fear, maybe--had her gut stalling, questioning, wondering. Her father was dead. Nothing could change that--even a letter popping up years later that turned an accident into murder. 
But what about justice? What about truth? What about? ... 
What about peace, moving on with life, not dwelling on the past? Searching for the truth wouldn't bring him back. It would probably serve no other purpose than to cause her further pain. And her life was finally painless. She'd saved enough money for college, she had a mother and stepfather who loved her more than life, and the dreams were finally beginning to subside. After all these years, she could finally trust people, she no longer feared going to sleep, no longer had to force herself to touch her head to a pillow. Did she really want to dredge up the past and risk reviving the nightmare that had haunted her entire childhood? Nina shivered and pressed the button to refit the soft top. 
At seventy miles an hour, even a July wind could be cold. Deep down, though, Nina knew the chill that hammered her body didn't have anything to do with the wind. The eerie images still frightened her. 
Reflections of an unknown known creature with the face of a boar and the body of a man--long arms and legs with huge, round black eyes and a stubbed snout. She had never been able to correlate the nightmare to the crash, but within the depths of her soul, she knew the two were related. Struggle as she might, she still couldn't remember the accident, except for a vague image of her daddy and a big green helicopter. The psychologists she had been shuffled to as a child told her the memories might come into focus one day, but not to pin her hopes on it. She had been awfully young, they'd said, and might never regain the memory of that one traumatic incident. Instead of realistic memories, an eight-year-old Nina had created her own version of what had happened that day. She was convinced the helicopter had been her father's vehicle to heaven, and as much as her mother had tried to persuade her there was no helicopter involved, Nina had still believed.
Then, one night when she was twelve, she dreamed of another man being in the car with them. The person just the misty haze of a faceless man in a blue suit-had helped her father into the Heaven Helicopter and taken him into the sky. The thought that the blue-suited man was an angel stayed with her until she was old enough to rationalize that angels don't wear blue suits, and God doesn't need a helicopter. Her mind came back to the present, and she nodded to a trucker passing her in a metallic, lavender-flecked Peterbilt before turning her attention to the radio. 
Static hissed through the speakers, so she flipped to the AM band. "Just remember, my faithful brothers and sisters, that our God is not a God of fear, but of peace. Walk with the Lord in righteousness, and you shall find peace"
As the preacher's voice drew out the "s" sound in peace, Nina forgot the road and stared down at the radio as if the voice had spoken to her directly. She wasn't a religious person, but recently, she had started to realize that she'd lived a great deal of her life in fear. Fear that people would think she was crazy for having to see a shrink. Fear that she should remember and couldn't. Fear that she would never save enough money for college. Funny thing was, fear was even driving her right now. 
Fear that if she ignored the letter H. Anderson had sent, she'd regret it for the rest of her life. Fear that if she investigated, she would find nothing but trouble ... Fear that she'd discover her father wasn't the honorable man she'd always believed he was.

Rylan Andies was sitting in his Arizona Highway Patrol car when Nina Thomas, in her little red convertible zipped by...What he wasn't expecting when he zoomed out to follow, was that Nina was actually coming to Shadow Creek, even though he had learned she was on the road, traveling...

Pulling over, Ry already regretting having to hassle her, but he had no choice. It was his job to protect her and she was heading into trouble, no doubt about it!
He was hooked as soon as she lifted her eyes...

She rifled through her purse again, then clicked open the glove compartment for her registration and proof of insurance. When she turned back to hand him the information, her gaze slammed into his chest like a bullet. Confusion etched her features--and fear. Not a fear of getting a ticket, but more a fear of the unknown--that doe-in-the-headlights look he'd witnessed so many times over the years. He really didn't like himself right now. This was a cruel game, but one that had to be played to the full if he were going to glean from her the information formation he needed...

Nina drove into Shadow Creek, immediately locating the Bed-and-Breakfast, then turned to finding a place to eat. Then immediately starting to look over the papers she had brought with her...she didn't want to waste any time starting her investigation... She didn't know who it was that had sent her the envelope and letter which revealed that her father had been murdered, rather than killed in the accident. While she hoped to discover who had sent it, she was mainly concerned to verify whether or not his message had been correct. Had her father been murdered? She didn't even know how to begin, but begin she would. She never realized that she was walking into danger when she made her decision to try to find out what happened.

But everybody who knew she was in town were on the alert! That included Carlucci, a criminal who owned the town, including the police, those in Washington who were leading the investigation in Shadow Creek, and those in town who were willing to support the activities there, to make money... or in fear... And Ry was right in the middle of them all! He worked for the government, but was undercover in the Highway Patrol, the latter office having three interesting characters that were in one way or another vying for Carlucci's favor... Ry's boss was Carlucci's brother-in-law, who thought he should have special privileges. But when he realized that Ry was being favored by the boss, he set out to compete with Ry in handling the orders...and specifically about Nina Thomas...

She had started asking questions even while she was checking in to where she was staying, asking if the owners knew of any accident that had occurred years ago. Most of the older citizens knew the story about a crazy vet who had gone over a hill, while his daughter was in the car...But nobody knew that any further investigations had occurred... And, depending on how close Nina got to answers, Carlucci would decide what to do...

Readers are learning the story as they read it, with no mystery except for the various whodunit activities, but a lot of suspense as various incidents began. The first major one was that the cabin portion of the Bed and Breakfast burned down while she was out, fortunately, but she lost everything including all that she had brought with her.

And Ry made his first mistake by inviting her into his home and loaning her money...She was confused--all he knew that his feelings for protecting her were so strong that he risked raising many questions--with everybody! Of course Nina was also attracted to him, but wasn't sure she could trust him...or anybody...since the fire... Especially when they confirmed it was arson...

But Nina didn't even have the money to go home, so she agreed with Ry that she might as well stay and finish what she started... until Carlucci had him fly down to meet with him to discuss Nina's plans...

Even though the plot was easy to follow, I enjoyed the various characters and what their interaction was with Nina... Nina? She was determined and obstinate enough to keep searching. What had happened to her father? Was it really murder? And who was the individual who had wrote to her, but then disappeared after stirring up all the memories of the tragic event so many years ago... The surprise ending was the icing on the cake and made the story a thoroughly enjoyable read. Do check it out!


Monday, October 8, 2018

Exposed Fury by Marie Flanagan - Great Whodunit!

An hour later, dressed in a navy worsted-wool business suit with a white silk blouse, she pointed her black Toyota Prius toward the Beacon Hill golf community just outside town. The car had been a gift from her father. It was the perfect vehicle for a private investigator because she could sit in it for hours with the air conditioner or heater running and not waste much gas. 
Sitting for hours in her car waiting to take a picture of someone was something she did a lot these days, so the car was a real blessing. Her father had wanted her to have a more reliable car than her old Jeep Wrangler. Annie hadn’t thought a new car was necessary, but once she was able to drive again, her father insisted. Something about her almost dying had made him very generous. 
She hadn’t refused the gift but kept her Jeep anyway. After all, it was paid for and had its uses. Annie smiled as she turned left onto Spectacular Bid Place, with its ever-so-slightly less-stately manors. All the roads in Beacon Hill were named after racehorses. The neighborhood dripped with pretension and new money. She pulled into a driveway that curved through a broad, snow-covered lawn. She rang the bell but didn’t have to wait. 
Laura opened the door as though she’d been standing by it all morning. “Hello, Annie. Come in.” Laura Carlton was lovely in a completely put-together way that Annie had never quite been able to manage for herself. Laura’s hair and nails were always perfect, and her clothes were expensive and conservative. Unfortunately, no amount of poise could protect her from Annie’s news. Laura had suspected her husband was cheating on her, and Annie was there to confirm those suspicions.
Laura’s lawyer, David Cohen, was seated at the table when they came into the kitchen. He stood to shake Annie’s hand. He wore cuff-links in his white silk shirt and a tie bar under a silk tie that highlighted his blue eyes. Annie had seen him around town. As usual, Cohen’s suit looked as though it cost more than Annie made in a month. Even the perfect cut of his salt-and-pepper hair was probably out of her price range. She’d been lucky to get work as an in-house investigator for Cohen, Strauss, and Associates Law Offices. They were right in downtown Leesburg and had a long history there as a quality law firm. Their regular investigator was out on maternity leave, and Annie had been filling in.
“So, what do you have for us?” Laura asked, sitting opposite Annie. Annie slid a large manila envelope of pictures across the table to David. “I should warn you there are five women in there.” 
A muscle in Laura’s jaw twitched. “Five different women? Or five encounters? Annie thought that was an odd question, but she said, “Five different women in five encounters.” 
Laura frowned. “He didn’t even bother coming home last night.” 
“I’m sorry.” Annie was surprised that Nick Carlton hadn’t come home. He’d struck her as dedicated to being a lunchtime Lothario. Laura sat straighter in her chair as if good posture could make the situation better. She ignored David rifling through the photos and poured the tea. 
Annie took a sip. “I know you asked me to follow him for two weeks, but before I continue with the surveillance, I wanted to check with you. It’s your money, but you have plenty now to take him to court and get a very nice settlement. Actually, showing him those pictures should be sufficient to keep you out of court altogether.” David nodded in agreement. 
“How many do you think there are?” Laura’s voice was tight as she reached for the envelope. David stilled her hand. “We talked about this,” he said. “You shouldn’t look.” 
Annie hesitated. She didn’t want to twist the knife, but she was pretty sure others existed. Still, she waffled. “I’m not sure. It’s five so far. That’s a lot of women to juggle. This is probably it.” Laura looked from one of them to the other...
Laura looked down at her tea as if answers were hidden there. “I want to be sure we have them all. Stay on it another week.” David looked as surprised as Annie felt. 
“Laura,” David said soothingly. “We have more than—” 
“I want another week,” Laura said firmly. 
Annie wanted to jump for joy but managed to contain herself...

Exposed Fury

By Marie Flanagan

Annie Fitch had been following Nick Carlton for a week, having been hired by his wife to discover and document whether he was cheating on her. Actually, she knew he was, but needed the documentation to file for divorce. She still loved him, even knowing he was a sex addict, but she needed to many...

So far, Annie had taken pictures of 5 different women in 5 different situations. It was plenty to document her justification for divorce, but she asked Annie to continue to follow him for the additional week she had originally been hired for. Annie was thrilled to have the work, although her new career as a PI was constantly growing...

But as good fortune comes your way, soon it may be gone, because when Annie was walking her dog, Chester, he had found and led her to what seemed to be a body lying in an alley...

Later to be identified as Nick Carlton! No more surveillance needed...

Annie had been a cop before she was shot on the job and had been unable to return to her former detective position. So on finding a body, she automatically called her former partner, Gunner and later explained how she knew the man and had been following him on behalf of his wife...

Of course, the spouse was immediately a suspect, but Annie didn't think so and continued to support her as the investigation began...

Can you imagine what Gunner was facing on tracking down who might have killed him, besides his wife? The pictures of the five women Annie had shot led only to the fact that none of the women really knew Nick. Soon it was discovered that Nick belonged to a web site which essentially coordinated those who wanted to meet, blindly, He had been involved with hundreds, mostly for afternoon delights! 

While the investigation had much pressure to be solved from the top, the time commitment for reviewing Nick's life was extraordinary! Both Gunner and Annie were happy when Laura, Nick's wife, asked Annie to try to find Nick's killer...The two were back together, although Annie was looking at her work differently since she was not considering Laura as a suspect...

OK, so a murder took place, but somehow the investigation turned out to be funny--considering how many potential killers there were--hundreds of partners as well as their husbands or boyfriends...And readers become more involved with the lives of Gunner and Annie, in particular. 

Annie is a sympathetic character. She loved being a detective, and had a hard time adjusting to being unable to go back to the job. In fact, though physical therapy had helped greatly, she was still susceptible to situations where her body could not respond as it needed to do, even as a PI.  And her family, and lover, didn't help since they wanted her to be satisfied in some safe job, which was just not meant for Annie.

Chester added greatly to the story, especially since he first found the body, and then the weapon! Of course, questions about Annie's involvement became an issue as well, so that even a news reporter became Annie's stalker. I discovered I was enjoying the book so much that I wasn't spending too much time trying to pick up clues of whodunit! But that was ok, except when Annie discovered that Laura had been drugged! Just how dangerous was this killer?!

Another interesting twist was what Nick's wife wanted to do with some money Nick had put into a trust...Funny how love works...

A great police procedure/PI whodunit that keeps you interested, as well as establishes the lives of the various main characters. For me, I'd like to see more of Annie, especially, and how and where her life if leading... Highly recommended!


Marie Flanigan grew up all over the Commonwealth of Virginia as the youngest of three girls. Star Wars and comic books dominated her youth. She has a couple of degrees from George Mason University and is a licensed Private Investigator. Over the years, she's been a disc jockey, a web developer, and a children's librarian.

An avid gamer, she reviews video games for After nine car accidents, five concussions, and brain surgery, she decided that perhaps she was more suited to a quieter life. She and her husband and three dogs live happily and somewhat chaotically outside of Washington D.C.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Steven Manchester's Award-Winning Novel - Three Shoeboxes - Another Family-Oriented Novel!

Three Shoeboxes Takes the Grand Prize at the 2018 New York Book Festival!

Steven Manchester must have known his latest book was going to be a sensation, when he provided a prequel for his readers...Check out not only that free prequel, but my review ... I will add, though, that some of that will be duplicated in the later novel, but that helps readers once again get into the entire store.  If you haven't yet read the book, I recommend you go directly to the fantastic novel!

“How can someone take something from you when it lives in your heart?”
 – Dr. Faust Fiore

The ambiance was perfect, the service reached beyond doting, yet neither of these could compare to the meal. The filet mignon swimming in bĂ©arnaise sauce melted like ice cream in July. 

“Surprised?” he asked, grabbing for her hand. 
“I actually am this time,” she admitted. After so many failed attempts at keeping a secret, she was impressed her husband hadn’t leaked a word—especially to the kids, she thought. “Thank you.” 
A pink hue spread evenly across his boyish face. “You’re welcome.” 
Jen studied her husband, wondering, How did I ever get so lucky? Beyond his dark hair and penetrating eyes, he was the definition of a devoted husband and father who considered spending time with his three children a favorite pastime. And he’d worked hard for years, finally reaching a point in his life—at thirty-eight—when he could start breathing easier. 
“How’s work?” she asked. 
“Ross just assigned us a pretty big project,” he said and stopped. “But I don’t want to talk about work tonight.” 
What about talking about me returning to work then? she asked in her head. “The kids then?” she teased. 
“Nope,” he said. “I couldn’t love them any more than I do, but even they can survive without our attention for the next few hours.” 
She was taken aback. With all our day-to-day responsibilities, I can’t remember the last time we shared a night like this, she thought, her chest feeling warm. They’d just ordered coffee and dessert when the pianist stopped playing and made an announcement. 
“I’d like to ask everyone to join me in wishing Mr. and Mrs. Mac Anderson a happy anniversary. Fifteen years ago today, they took each other as man and wife, and we’re honored to have them celebrating with us tonight.” There was a buzz of polite applause. 

Stunned, Jen looked across the table to catch the blush of a little boy paint her considerate husband’s face again. Before she could say a word, the pianist broke into his next song—their wedding song. Her chest filled with emotion, causing her eyes to swell. 
“Thank you, Mac,” she whispered past the lump in her throat. “I…” 
He leaned across the table and grabbed her hand, interrupting her. “Happy anniversary, babe,” he said. For whatever reason, she expected him to reach into his pocket and pull out his annual token of love. He didn’t, so she grabbed the wrapped present from the empty chair beside her and handed it over to him.

“This gift is the one thing that means more to me than anything else in the whole world,” she told him, her eyes swelling more. While the pianist filled the room with a nostalgic melody, Mac tore through the wrapping. In one magical moment, he reached the prize. It was a framed photo of them and the kids—Jillian, Bella and Brady.
“Our family,” he gasped. Before he could react any further, she hurried over to kiss him. “God, do I love you,” he said. 
“And I love you too,” she said, hugging him tight and ignoring a room full of stares. “So, I get another fifteen years then?” he asked. She never answered. Their shared embrace said it all. After a few moments, he pushed her away to look into her eyes. “You’re not going to ask me where your present is?” he asked, smiling. 
She half-shrugged. “I hadn’t thought about it,” she fibbed. 
He laughed. “I’ll give it to you at home. It was too big to bring here.” 
“Oh, I bet it was,” she said, giggling. He laughed again, quickly raising his hand to call for the check. 
⧝ As they stepped out of the restaurant, Mac stopped short on the sidewalk and turned to face her. “Hey,” he whispered. 
“Yeah?” she said, stepping into his arms. 
“I really love you, you know.” 
“I know.” 
“Do you?” he asked. Her lips parted to reply when he pulled her even closer. “I mean it,” he said. “I love you, Jen.” 
She felt overwhelmed by this genuine display of affection. She knew this proclamation went far beyond the three words they exchanged each day—a nice little habit they’d established from the beginning. This was intended as a confirmation of all they were—and will be forever. It was as though they were young again and he’d professed his love for the first time—sincere and unashamed. 
She grabbed his face in both her hands and considered all they’d been through together. They began as any first love—filled with innocence and thrills—before life eventually ushered in reality. Back then, our romance was so intense, burning as brightly as the sun, she thought, and twenty-four hours in a day wasn’t nearly enough time to be together. “I know,” she told him, “and I love you more today than ever before, more than I have the words to describe.” A ball of raw emotion choked her. 
He kissed her long and hard. “I do,” he said. 
“What?” she asked. “I still do,” he repeated with a smile. “After fifteen years, I promise to take you as my wife in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health—all of it. I want you, no, I need you as my wife for the next fifteen years and the rest of my life after that.” 
She kissed him back, matching his fervent passion for her. “I still do, too,” she vowed, feeling like she was being reborn. When they reached the car, she turned to him. “There’s no way you’re ever going to top this one,” she said, grinning. It was the best memory she’d ever been given. “So, what’s the big gift waiting for me at home?” 
He winked. “The consummation,” he said. 
⧝ After gazing at his beautiful wife, Mac looked up and slammed on the brakes. The car in front of them had stopped short. “Jackass!” he barked, his heart racing. 
Jen leaned forward in the passenger seat. “I think there’s been an accident,” she said. 
Once the rubbernecker in front of them had inched past the scene—never even considering to stop—Mac slowed to a crawl and surveyed the scene. Two cars had been involved in the wreck. “It looks like it just happened,” he told Jen. 
She nodded. “I hope everyone’s all right.” The windshield of one of the cars had been shattered, half of it now covered in crimson red. That’s a lot of blood, he thought, his own blood turning cold. Should I stop? Almost involuntarily, he pulled off to the side of the road. “They need help,” he said to his worried wife. And someone really needs to help them, he thought, trying to steel himself to be that someone. His body’s fight or flight response, however, pled for him to drive on and avoid the gruesome scene. 
As Mac swung open the driver’s side door and took one step out of the car, a siren wailed in the distance. Leaning to his right, he peered into the rear-view mirror. Flashing red and blue lights strobed into the dark night behind them. “The cavalry’s arrived,” he said aloud, more for himself than for Jen. 
“Thank God,” she said, nodding. “I just hope no one’s hurt bad.” As the siren got louder and the flashing lights brighter, Mac glanced at the blood on the windshield one last time. Someone’s definitely hurt, he thought. There’s nothing worse than a friggin’ car accident. 
Jen sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, her oversized bouquet of flowers sitting before her in a crystal vase. 
Mac entered the room, grunting and pounding on his chest like a silverback gorilla. “Be honest,” he said, “last night was amazing, wasn’t it?”
Jen dropped the paper and kissed him. “You were an animal, babe. It was the most incredible eight minutes of my life.” 
Mac grabbed for his chest, pretending he’d just been wounded. Jen laughed. Goofball. His eyes drifted off for a moment. “Eight minutes?” he muttered. “I didn’t realize it lasted that long.” He shrugged. “That’s not bad after fifteen years, right?” 
Laughing, Jen handed him a cup of coffee. “You know I’m teasing,” she whispered, kissing him again. “Last night was amazing. You were very sweet for putting so much thought into it.” She gazed at him. “And I’m holding you to that promise.” 
“Ditto,” he said. 
“And I really love my treasure box.” 
Mac smiled. “And I love the framed photo, Jen.” 

Three Shoeboxes

By Steven Manchester

In an interview about Manchester's latest book, he noted that he wanted to write a story about PTSD, that occurred outside the military setting. I applaud Steven for that decision. When trauma occurs in an individual's life, it is only that individual who can realize it. And sometimes even that individual does not understand what is happening...

Mac and Jen were very much in love, even after 15 years and the 3 children who had been added to their marriage were all special to Mac, especially. He spent time with his kids, and made sure to teach and answer questions that inevitably arose.

So, when Mac started to become short-tempered and listless, not being able to maintain attention, even on the job, he recognized the problem and decided to see his doctor. It had started with an inability to breathe and he wondered whether he was having a heart attack. Adrenaline raced and his extremities tingled. Was he dying?

But the attacks kept coming... And right in the middle of his angst about his own life, Jen started talking about going back to work, as they had always planned when all the children were in school. Now, Mac felt nothing but dread of Jen not being home...and available...

Finally he told Jen, but decided to go alone to the ER...only to hear medical staff chatting about another one coming in with chest pains which were bound to be anxiety attacks... Learning it was probably stress, he lied when he told the doctor that he had somebody to talk to...not even realizing he meant a professional... And actually he thought it was physical--how could it not be?

The sad part of stress-related diseases is that many times they result in physical symptoms and are not properly diagnosed as soon as possible. Mac was trying to deal with his sporadic spells of not being able to breathe. But in trying to deal with it on his own, those around him were receiving the brunt of his deteriorating moods and outbursts...

Three Shoeboxes is not an easy book to read. But it is written so closely in factual reality for those suffering from some form of PTSD, that it is a welcome look at a family drama situation often occurring, but not completely understood in America. As a victim of job burnout, which resulted in clinical depression, I was impressed with the life-like situations provided by Manchester. Not everybody knows, as I did, what has happened to them. But that knowing did nothing to prepare me for the chemical changes that resulted for me, and which are still with me after over 15 years. Please take the time to read this book; it may someday help you through adjusting to the same or a similar situation like Mac experienced.

Not understanding the reason for the book's title until the very end made this a much more poignant story. The inability to deal with real life sometimes brings about a totally different family dynamic. One that the victim of Stress or PTSD or Clinical Depression, whatever is diagnosed, cannot easily gain control of... The whole family suffers and some do not make it through the results of the illness. But Mac would not give up in Three Shoeboxes and his fight back is both heartwarming and an inspiration to those who may one day need to remember this one book they once read... Any reader interested in Family Drama - this is a must-read...