Thursday, July 15, 2021

Murder is Our Business (Turner Hahn and Frank Morales Case Files Book 1) by B.R. Stateham - A Review


 

Turner Hahn and Frank Morales are two detectives who work out of the South Side Precinct in the Homicide Division. Turner resembles a movie star from the days when Hollywood was golden, and Frank? Well, let's just say that Stephen King would be Frank's creator's biggest fan. He is scary big, he is intentionally or unintentionally intimidating (depending on the circumstances), and he is brilliant. He is also the perfect partner for Turner, whose dashing good looks and analytical aptitude blend seamlessly with the monolith that is Frank.

Murder is Our Business provides a peek into their case files. There are ten stories that range from twisted to diabolical, and everything in between. As you make your way through their accounts of crime and retribution, you will share their experiences with a bit of beauty and the beast, a little bait and switch action, and deplorably dysfunctional families. Turner and Frank have also witnessed first hand when the best laid plans go violently awry, and last but not least, when dead guys refuse to remain dead.

Murder is Our Business is quite the delightfully macabre bill of fare. B.R. Stateham brings his characters to life so vividly that whether they are on the side of right or on the side of wrong, you feel their determination, their drive, their frustrations, and even their triumphs. Join Turner Hahn and Frank Morales as they travel down this path of dark and haunting memories. You can get your Kindle copy here and your Paperback copy here.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Good Neighbor by R. J. Parker - A Review

 


Residing in a small community creates its own atmosphere of comfort and security. Having neighbors makes each one of us feel as if we’re one part of thew hole picture of the neighborhood. We aren’t necessarily able to get to know all our neighbors, or perhaps, any, but the fact that they are nearby implies a safe haven in case those closest to us are not available in our time of need. That was how Leah Talbot felt one evening when she struck a deer on her way home. When she tried to get back on the road, her car ended up in a ditch. Unfortunately, her situation got even worse because her cell phone’s battery was dead, the night was cold and rainy, and her only option was to walk all the way to the village.

As she began her trek, she noticed a light on up ahead. She knew there was a house past the gate, but had never met the occupant. Certainly, whoever lived there would assist her; after all, that’s what neighbors do, right? She reached the house, knocked on the door, a man answered, and invited her in. He introduced himself as Martin Tate, and was very accommodating to Leah. He let her use his phone to try to reach her husband, and called a tow truck to help getting her car to the repair shop. The call to her husband went to voicemail, so she decided to go back to her car and wait for the tow. The driver would take her home. She thanked the man for his help, and left.

The next morning, Leah decided to visit Martin Tate to offer her thanks again, and give him a bottle of wine to show her appreciation. When she pulled up to the house, however, she saw crime scene tape and police cars. She was informed by law enforcement that the occupant of the house had been murdered. She was horrified that the gentle man who was so gracious the previous night had been killed. Confusion and fear overcame the horror when she was informed the victim was the sole occupant of the house – a woman. As disturbing as the situation had become, she realized last night’s encounter with Martin Tate was only the beginning when she received a text from him. Should she tell the police, or do a little investigating on her own? Was he a friend or a relative of the murdered woman, or was he the one who killed her?

Parker’s chapters are short, crisp, and fresh. You will never see what’s coming until you turn the page, and believe me, you will want to continue turning page after page. The Good Neighbor will keep you breathless from beginning to end, and even beyond. One important tip for you though: If you ever feel the need to knock on your neighbor’s door, make sure you know who is on the other side of that door. You can get The Good Neighbor here.



Sunday, November 29, 2020

Roland of the High Crags by B. R. Stateham - A Review

 



Roland of the High Crags. A Bretan monk. A warrior. A wizard. Once honored. Now, disgraced. An apostate. A traitor to his faith. Loathed and reviled. Yet, he continues with all that is in him to try to eradicate Evil from his world and all others. Evil taunts him, stalks him, and hunts him. Roland responds in kind, with all the cunning, strength, and determination he possesses. One wintry night at the Bretan Monastery, he is awakened from his sleep by a dreadful vision. The Fates were planning to task him with a sacred duty.

The First Clan – the Dragon Clan, has risen again, set on fulfilling their prophecy; that is, to destroy mankind, and any and all who stand in their way. The Abbot of the Bretan Monastery knows the First Clan’s army is close and that they plan to attack and destroy all within. He also knows Roland has the ability to find out how many have joined their deadly cause, as well as the First Clan’s strengths and weaknesses. Those at the Monastery must prepare to defend themselves and their holy sanctuary. Roland takes on this duty to seek out this ancient Evil.

On his journey, Roland sees the destruction that the Dragon Clan have left in their wake. His heart is heavy seeing the last castle of the Dragon Clan Anktooth overcome with flames, and bodies of the dead. He had tried to assist them in their fight, but the First Clan continued to prevail. Baron Anktooth summons Roland and entrusts him to protect his granddaughter, Ursala, who is a female dragon child and a Pearl Princess. He also asks Roland to help to raise an opposing army to help with the fight against the First Clan. Roland, the dragon child, and three others who join them on this quest, begin their journey.

Roland of the High Crags is a story about love and loss, joy and pain, trust and betrayal. Stateham’s vivid descriptions of characters, locations, and settings flood the senses. The smoke from the campfires stings your eyes, and fills them with tears. The cries and screams of the enslaved and tortured assault your ears. Your heart fills with joy and contentment while you enjoy the laughter of a child. You will accompany Roland and his party on their quest, and share their triumphs and their tragedies. Won’t you join them as they continue to try to rid all worlds of Evil? You can find them here.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

While You Slept by R J Parker - A Review




It was going to be just another ordinary day. Same old, same old, for Lily Russell, a recently divorced single mother with a young daughter named Maisie. Lily had custody of Maisie, and a restraining order against her ex-husband Ewan. She wanted their lives to go on - go on as smoothly and safely as possible. That goal was easily achieved by installing an alarm system complete with cameras around her home and property. The alarm system was also equipped with a speaker, which she planned to use to scare away a flock of pigeons that frequently congregated on her garden wall. The system was linked to her phone, and she would be alerted should anyone trespass. On this day, Maisie was at school and Lily was at work. Just another ordinary day. Ordinary, until the motion detector in her garden signaled an intruder. When she pulled up the image on her phone, her blood ran cold.

The camera showed a man standing in her garden, and he was wearing a cut-out mask of her daughter Maisie's face. She didn't know what to think, and activated the microphone and told the intruder to leave - to get off her property. She also told him that the police were on their way. He didn't move an inch, but simply waved to the camera. Her co-worker was calling the police, and while Lily watched, the intruder climbed over her garden wall and disappeared. Her daughter's face. He was wearing a mask in the image of her daughter's face. She immediately called her child's school to verify that the girl was still there and safe, and told the staff member that there was a family emergency and that she would be picking Maisie up right away. She hoped the police would be at her house when she and her daughter arrived home. What is happening? A mask of her daughter's face.

The police were there when Lily and Maisie arrived home, and the officer verified the house and property were safe. Remembering what she had seen, that was small comfort for Lily, but doors were locked, alarms were set, and after Maisie was tucked in for the night, she decided to have a glass of wine to relax before going to bed. When she awoke the next morning, she felt a bit ill. She reasoned that was likely due to the wine. While moving through the house however, she encountered locked doors. What was going on? She went to get her keys where she had left them the night before, but they were nowhere to be found. Her phone showed a missed call from an unknown number, and then rang again from that same number. When she answered it, a man asked her if she felt safe, told her to check her app, and then he hung up. The image in her phone was the man still wearing the mask of her daughter's face, and he was in her kitchen. He also had Lily's keys in his hand.

She's able to get into the kitchen, and he is gone, but so is reality. When she looks out the window, what she should have seen was her back yard and garden. What she saw instead was rubble and rocks from a demonished building, and it appeared that she was approximately 200 feet above the ground. She realizes that she and her daughter are in an exact replica of her home, right down to the cabinet and drawer contents. There is plenty of food and drink for them both, and duplicates of all their clothes. The only difference is that there is no way out. How is this possible? Who would do such a thing? She has no outgoing phone service, but her captor calls her to ask if she needs anything, yet yields no clues as to his purpose or identity.Lily and Maisie are now in the middle of a nightmare. All they can do now is eat, sleep, and try to stay alive. Lily must keep her child safe and calm, while trying to find a way out.

Does their captor watch them? Does he listen to them? Where exactly are they? Does her ex-husband have anything to do with this? If not, who would place her and her child in such a dangerous situation? Follow along with Lily and Maisie as they fight to survive through each day and night, not knowing who is behind this twisted scenario or most importantly, why this is happening. R. J. Parker delivers an intense thriller that will keep you guessing right up to the end, which is just as shocking as the start. This tale of fear, confusion, and desparation makes for great bedtime reading. Sleep tight...

While You Slept will be available July 24, 2020. You can get your copy here.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Dinner Party by R J Parker - A Review






Eight friends – four couples, get together one evening for some food, some wine, and some conversation. This is not the first time they have gathered for a dinner party. They have known each other for years, and are comfortable with each other’s company. This evening however, something new will be added. A game. A game they will all play. It is a game based on trust. What better game to play with friends, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, for those involved, this game is also full of secrets and betrayal. While this was not the first time they got together, it most certainly will be the last.

Their game of trust was supposed to alleviate guilt, and bring peace and forgiveness. Instead, it brought fear and division. Secrets that were never meant to be shared hang over them all like shrouds. The game didn’t bring them closer; it brought them death. One by one, they begin to die. Game over? Not a chance. R. J. Parker has effectively delivered to his readers the dinner party from Hell. You are introduced to the characters, and feel like you are getting to know them. Before long however, you realize that you didn’t know any of them at all. The surprises never stop coming, and neither do the nightmares. The Dinner Party is loaded with twists and turns, lies and deception, and will take you to the edge over and over again. Make sure you have plenty of time when you begin reading, because it’s impossible to put this thriller down.

You can purchase Dinner Party here or here.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 38 - Perfection


The prompt this week was as follows: The genre was fantasy, the setting was an antique shop, and the item was a gold fish. Love begins in many ways, and for my character Sarah, it started with a peek into a glass bowl.

Perfection

“Janice, I’ve enjoyed our lunch, but before you drop me off at home, could we stop in at that antique shop by the mall? I want to see if they have anything new.”

“New? Sarah, everything in there is junk. It’s all cracked, dusty, and…”

“Come on, you know what I meant. I love the knick knacks I’ve found there. Besides, it’s okay if they’re flawed. Something doesn’t have to be perfect to be loved. All it takes…”

Sarah stopped, and turned away to look out the car window. She had been born with deformed legs, and wore braces that enabled her to walk. A childhood disease had left her blind in one eye. She had never dated, and even her own parents had been ashamed to be seen with her in public.

“Sarah, we’ll stop there. You take your time. I don’t need anything, so I’ll wait in the car. There’s no hurry, hon.”

***

Sarah was surprised to see a young man behind the counter. The elderly lady who ran the stop was very unpleasant and always seemed angry, but Sarah was used to her. She was concerned, and asked about her.

“My grandmother passed away,” he said. “I’m here to close the shop. I have my own business out of state, and there’s no other family to keep this going. Everything is half off, Miss. See anything you like?”

Sarah noticed the goldfish on the counter. It looked pitiful with only one eye, twisted fins, and malformed tail.

“Is the goldfish for sale?” Poor thing, she thought, it needs someone to love it.

“That thing?” The young man handed the bowl to Sarah. “It was behind the counter. I was going to dump it in the river. You can have it. Anything else for you?”

“Not today, but thank you. This is all I need.”

***

“You bought an ugly fish, Sarah? How much did they cheat you out of for that?”

“He was free, Janice, and he’s not ugly. He’s flawed – like me. I can’t explain it, but he needs me, and I need him too.”

“As long as you’re happy, dear. I’ll drop you off at home now.”

***

Sarah put fresh water in the fish’s bowl and sprinkled some food on top that the man in the shop had given her. She placed the bowl on the kitchen counter, and cautioned her cat Tangerine.

“Tange, this is our new friend. You leave him alone because he’s not very strong. I’m going to get a book from the living room, and then you and I will go sit in the back yard.”

When she heard the crash, Sarah ran into the kitchen. She saw that her cat had gotten on the counter and knocked the fish bowl on the floor. Tangerine was standing over the fish, nibbling at its tail.

“No! Get away!” Sarah shouted and clapped her hands to get the cat away from the fish. She couldn’t bear the thought of her poor little fish coming to such a brutal end. She opened the back door and Tangerine ran out into the yard. She picked up the fish, and quickly got a bowl from the cupboard and filled it with water. She hoped it wasn’t too late to save her beloved fish.

“Please don’t die,” she said quietly. “I need you to be all right. I love you.”

All of a sudden, the fish disappeared from her hand, and a tall young man appeared in front of her. He was missing one arm, and his back was hunched. She looked up at his face, and thought he had the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. She felt faint.

“Do not fear me, dear lady. I am Simon, and you have said the words to break my curse. You told me you loved me, and broke the spell. You see, the old woman in the shop was a witch. Ages ago, she wanted us to marry, but I loved another. She had an ugly soul and caused my beloved to fall ill and die. She then approached me again, and I told her I could never marry anyone with a hateful heart. She put a spell on me, and turned me into a deformed goldfish. She said now, no one would ever love me. Then she laughed, and said if some poor soul did, the spell would be broken. She had added that as a cruel joke, knowing in her black heart it would never happen.

“She kept me behind the counter to make sure I’d never find a caring home. When she died, the Heavens blessed me because her grandson brought me out of hiding, and you, my lovely one, took me and saved me.”

“I am not lovely at all. I am crippled, and half blind.”

“Your heart and soul are pure and kind, and you are filled with love. I knew these things the first time I saw you through the glass in the shop. I also knew I loved you then too. Time had stopped for me while cursed, but all is back in order now. You and I will grow old together, my precious, and a perfect future awaits.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 37 - School Days


The prompt this week was about the start of school, and sending someone (or something?) to school. We were to write from the viewpoint of the sender, not the sendee. Those first days can be exciting or traumatic or even both, and not just for the kids!

School Days

MONDAY

Today is my daughter Mara’s first day of school. Of course, that’s a big deal for her, but it’s an even bigger deal for me. I’m the one who has to stay home and worry all day about her. Why, you ask? Let me explain. When I sent her to nursery school, she had a great time with all the kids. In kindergarten, she was with the same group of children, and had a wonderful year. First, second, and third grades were a dream come true, because living in a small town, that same group of children stayed together year after year, and Mara was able to maintain all her friendships. Then, in the middle of fourth grade, it all came apart.

My husband is in the Army. Now, do you see the problem? He was transferred to a new city in a new state, so a new school was on the horizon. She would have to continue fourth grade in a different school in the company of strangers, and would be miserable for the rest of her life. Those weren’t my feelings, they were Mara’s, so I tried to be as upbeat as I could as I walked her to the bus. I had offered to drive her to school on the first day, or even for the first week, but she would have no part of that. According to my daughter, her life was going to end anyway, but having Mommy drop her off in front of the other kids would cause it to end sooner. I walked her to the bus; then, went home and cried.

TUESDAY

Monday night went badly. Mara got off the bus, went in the house, and locked herself in her room. I thought I’d attempt to communicate pre-bus this morning.

“Mara, how did school go yesterday? Did you meet anyone new?”

“Teacher told the class I was new, told them my name, and asked them to show me around. Why didn’t she just kill me then and there?”

“Honey, she was just trying to make you feel welcome, and to involve the other kids.”

“I threw up on the bus on the way home.”

Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

WEDNESDAY

We got the silent treatment again Tuesday night. I thought about calling her teacher, but remembered my own mother doing just that. The next day, my teacher announced to my class that my mommy called her because she was worried, and that she wanted the kids to be friends with me. It was several months before the kids stopped laughing at me, so I decided to let time work its magic. Walking to the bus this morning, I tried again.

“How was school yesterday? Did you have a lot of homework last night? You went to bed quite late.”

“Teacher gave us a lot. I had to read a whole chapter. Susie and Kevin said she does that a lot.”

Susie and Kevin? Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

THURSDAY

Wednesday night, Mara had dinner in the dining room with her father and me, and then went to her room to do her homework. Her bedroom door wasn’t slammed or even closed. It stayed open all night.

We chatted on the way to the bus this morning.

“What does your teacher have planned for today, Mara? Anything special?”

“Susie and Kevin and Molly and Tim said Thursdays are easy. We get to read form our favorite book and say what we liked about it. Here comes my bus. Bye.”

Susie and Kevin AND Molly and Tim? Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

FRIDAY

Thursday night, we all had dinner together and even played some board games. Mara went on and on about Brian and Mary and Josie and… I cried myself to sleep Thursday night. My husband kept asking me what was wrong, and I told him everything was right. He was confused, but I said I would explain later.

This morning’s walk to the bus left me concerned. Mara had quite a serious air about her. She wasn’t angry or upset; she just seemed extremely determined.

“Honey, is something wrong? Do you feel all right? Is something bothering you?”

“I’m okay, but this new girl started yesterday. She just moved here and had to start school in the middle of the year. Teacher told us all she was new and all that stuff, you know, so the new girl felt abarr…ebarr…umbarrassed. So, at recess, I took her over by the fence and told her teacher was just trying to make her feel welcome, and avol…evolve the other kids. I was just trying to figure out how I’m going to get her into some stuff today cause I told her me and my friends would show her around.”

Wow. Buckle up, folks. It’s a good thing I carry tissues in my coat pocket…