Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for September 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some August books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have noir, harboiled mysteries, cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, animal mysteries, culinary mysteries, historical mysteries, paranormal mysteries, crime thrillers, action thrillers, horror thrillers, police procedurals, private investigators, amateur sleuths, forensic specialists, FBI agents, reporters, stalkers, serial killers, human trafficking, organised crime, cold cases, crime-busting witches, crime-busting werewolves, crime-busting dogs, kidnapped teens, missing mothers, murdered techies, murders in small towns and big cities, in New Zealand, Minnesota, Las Vegas, Boston, Florida, India and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Crime Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things crime fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

A Missing Mom and Mutt Munchies by Aleksa BaxterA Missing Mom and Mutt Munchies by Aleksa Baxter:

Maggie May Carver is done with murder. She’s sworn that if she finds another dead body she’s just going to step right over it and continue on her merry little way. But when a little boy with sad eyes and freckles shows up asking her to find his mom, she just can’t say no.

Once more Maggie is in the thick of things, this time trying to find a little boy’s mom in time for his birthday with the help of her cranky grandpa, the handsome local cop, and his charming but criminally-inclined brother. Oh, and of course, her incorrigible Newfoundland, Miss Fancypants.

Chestnuts, Camping and Culprits by Cindy BellChestnuts, Camping and Culprits by Cindy Bell:

Kerri was looking forward to camping with her grandfather. Too bad their campsite just became a crime scene.

Kerri Gale is excited to be going camping with her grandfather, George, and her cute Yorkshire Terrier, Cashew. She is looking forward to a relaxing break and is leaving her nut shop, Nuts about Nuts, in the capable hands of her best friend and employee, Natalie. But when there are protesters and loggers at loggerheads in the Cascade Grove State Park, their idyllic camping trip isn’t as drama free as she had hoped.

Then things go from bad to worse when someone is found murdered on the mountain. Foul play is suspected, and her grandfather is one of the main suspects. With George having many secrets he can’t reveal and his nemesis, Detective Colleen Carver, on the case, Kerri knows that she must do everything she can to keep her grandfather out of jail. But when the murderer has their eyes on another victim, George and Kerri know that there is far more at stake than George’s freedom.

Will Kerri find the murderer before her grandfather lands up behind bars? Or there is another victim?

Recipe included: Ginger Chestnut Cookies

Danger Zone by Stacy ClaflinDanger Zone by Stacy Claflin:

Someone is going to great lengths to destroy Alex Mercer’s life.

On the surface, the Mercers are finally settling into a comfortable routine—Alex’s job is going great, he’s accepted his unusual family dynamics, and they’re even planning a dream vacation. Things couldn’t be better.

Or could they?

Dig a little deeper, and the problems are growing out of control. Someone is threatening to ruin Alex, his wife is harboring a shocking secret, and their daughter is hiding a dangerous new relationship.

If Alex’s cyber-stalker doesn’t get him first, his family could implode on its own. If he can’t unravel the tangled mess in time, he might lose everything—and everyone—he holds dear.

Bright Lights by Mark DawsonBright Lights by Mark Dawson:

Is John Milton on the path to redemption or the road to revenge?

John Milton has done some bad things in his life. Very bad things. Now he’s looking for ways to make amends. But trouble always seems to be looking for him.
Heading from San Francisco to Las Vegas, Milton’s solo road trip takes an unexpected turn when he picks up Jessica Russo, a young woman in distress at the side of the road. She urgently needs a ride and he’s happy to help her out.

But what starts out as a simple favour quickly becomes something more sinister. Once they get to their destination, it’s clear something isn’t right. Working for the Vegas casinos has got Jessica’s father wrapped up with the wrong people. A mistake that could prove fatal for him and his family.

This is just the beginning of a dangerous journey that will take Milton from Sin City to Siena and beyond. As Milton goes deeper into a world of violence, ruthlessness and revenge, will he finally put his demons to rest? Or is he about to awaken the devil he’s been trying to smother for so long?

Ghostly Fears by Lily Harper HartGhostly Fears by Lily Harper Hart:

Ten years ago, Harper Harlow lost a classmate. Jennifer Jessup was sweet, nice, and seemingly aimless in life. She came from a good family, lived on an island, and was spoiled with every material gift that could possibly be bestowed upon her.She was still unhappy.Now, a decade later, her father Byron Jessup has approached Harper with a business opportunity. He wants her – and the rest of her operation, of course – to spend a long weekend on his island. Other psychics and ghost hunters will be there, as will his family. The goal? To find out what happened to Jennifer.Harper feels weighed down with guilt, enough so that she can’t see straight. She feels bad about not reaching out to Jennifer when she was still alive and even worse about not looking for her once she went missing.Harper is out of her element. The other psychics are driving her crazy … and making her nervous. She can’t even decide if she believes Jennifer is missing or dead. When another woman on the island disappears, Harper is left with nothing but endless questions.She’s determined to find the answers, even if she has to delve into the past to do it. Someone doesn’t want her getting those answers, however, and it’s going to be a fight to the death to see who comes out the other side.

The Mystery of a Techie's Murder by Vijay KerjiThe Mystery of a Techie’s Murder by Vijay Kerji:

Priya, a software engineer, is found dead in her apartment when her flatmate Julia is away on a weekend. Detective Mayur finds a Pizza Hut cap with the strand of hair in it at the crime scene along with a cigarette butt and shoe prints. Krishna Raj, Priya’s manager, says Priya became close to her colleague, Praful, who has been sacked by his previous employer because of the sexual harassment charges. Mayur also learns that Priya’s fiance loves someone else and is forced to marry Priya by his parents. He also comes across Priya’s ex-friend and her uncle, who were also interested in Priya. He finds that her younger sister has a motive to become a sole proprietor of their father’s assets. Will Detective Mayur find the murderer in spite of hitting the dead end?

Oracles and Obituaries by Amanda M. LeeOracles and Obituaries by Amanda M. Lee:

Halloween is Avery Shaw’s favorite time of year. What’s not to love? Slasher movies, hot chocolate and corn mazes. She’s addicted to them all.

During a visit to one of those mazes, she runs across several men trying to kidnap a teenage girl. In true Avery fashion, she intervenes … resulting in a severe injury. While she’s on the mend, she starts tracking information on a group of people working in the area.

Avery can’t decide if she’s on to something or imagining things. The attack leaves her weaker than she would like, something she refuses to acknowledge, and questioning her investigative mind.

Eliot Kane, her live-in love, decides to help. As much as he wants her safe, he understands she needs to take control. Together, they’re going to dig until they find the information they need. Unfortunately for both of them, the deeper they get, the more they start to wonder just how big of an operation they’re dealing with.
Information pours in, leading to questions about missing girls from years before … and an odd woman serving as an oracle for the Halloween fans in the present. She’s keeping a secret, too, and Avery is determined to figure out what it is.

As she’s proven her entire life, Avery won’t quit until she wins. This time, however, the battle is going to be long, dark and deadly.

She won’t ever give up … even if the search for the truth ultimately kills her.

No Crones About It by Amanda M. LeeNo Crones About It by Amanda M. Lee:

Scout Randall is settling in with the northern Lower Michigan branch of Spell’s Angels. She’s feeling bold, brash … and just a little bit flirty thanks to her burgeoning relationship with Gunner Stratton, a shifter whose father happens to serve as the chief of police in Hawthorne Hollow.

Things are going well … until they’re not.

A group of shifters who used to live in the area have returned and they’re up to something. Right from the start, Scout is suspicious but she can’t quite explain why. Then, when a local homeless man is found dead – with Scout’s name literally carved into him – she starts to believe that she’s being set up to take a fall.

Gunner is determined to help. His history with the shifters in question makes things difficult, though. On top of everything else, it becomes apparent that the dead guy’s ties to Scout run deep … like genetically deep. He’s related to her, and for a woman who was abandoned as a child, it’s a hard blow to absorb.

Gunner is determined to stick close as the warring wolves close ranks and start issuing threats. It’s going to take everybody working together to find the answers Scout desperately needs, including uncovering the secret of her past. When one of their own is taken, Scout has no choice but to put her full cache of magic on display.

It’s going to be a fight to the finish, rival gangs going at one another, and only one side will be victorious.

Which one will it be?

The Pale White by Chad LutzkeThe Pale White by Chad Lutzke:

After being held against their will in a house used for trafficking, three girls plan their escape.

Alex: A hardened goth-punk who’s convinced she’s a vampire with a penchant for blood.
Stacia: A seventeen-year-old raised by an alcoholic mother, her fellow captives the only family she’s ever truly had.
Kammie: The youngest of the three—a mute who finds solace in a houseplant.

But does life outside the house offer the freedom they’d envisioned? Or is it too late, the scars too deep?

A coming-of-age tale of revenge and survival that explores a friendship and the desperate measures taken to ensure they stay united, held together by the scars that bind them.

This contemporary Suspense Thriller / Horror novella with an all-female cast is the perfect read for fans of Robert R. McCammon, Stephen King, and Jack Ketchum.

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.

Deception by Jason RichardsDeception by Jason Richards:

It started as a simple case . . . then the bodies started piling up.

Elizabeth Barlow hires private investigator Drew Patrick to gather evidence of her husband’s affair. But the truth is even more devastating. Nevin Barlow is entangled with some of Boston’s most dangerous figures, and Drew’s investigation leads deep into a shadowy world of money-laundering and murder.

When an informant is run down in the streets of Boston, Drew realizes just how far Nevin Barlow and his associates will go to keep their secrets from coming to light. But in a world of lies and deception, nothing stays secret forever. A surprise twist will either help Drew prove his case or get him killed.

Witty and tough hard-boiled detective Drew Patrick returns in this gripping crime thriller novel that keeps the pages turning.

Say You Love Me by Willow RoseSay You Love Me by Willow Rose:

Former FBI-profiler Eva Rae Thomas is back and embedded in a true nightmare reaching deep into her own family.

What would you do if your brother was accused of a horrible crime, and you were certain he didn’t do it?

Life is not done throwing Eva Rae Thomas curveballs.

A phone call turns her life upside down – once again. The call is from her father, the man she hasn’t seen in thirty-six years, not since he kidnapped her sister in a supermarket.

Now, he is back in Florida, and he needs her help. Her younger brother – who she didn’t know existed – has been arrested on Amelia Island. The boy is in a coma after being shot by an officer during the incident. But his father doesn’t believe the police, and he asks for Eva Rae’s help to prove it.

At the same time, a serial killer is planning one of the most horrific mass killings in history.

Will Eva Rae find it in her heart to help her father after what he did to her? Will facing him again set her free or pull her under?

Dead Cat Bounce by Robert WhiteDead Cat Bounce by Robert White:

Old Mrs Bello lived above the family grocery store all her life, she worked hard, was frugal and lived an ordinary life. There was one thing that people knew about Mrs B though – she absolutely didn’t trust banks.

When she died at the age of 88 there was only one question on everyone’s lips – what happened to the family money?

Despite frantic searching from her surviving relatives, not a single cent was ever found and the missing family fortune passed into local legend.

Butchie Parmenter doesn’t believe in legends.

Experience has taught Butchie not to believe in anything except himself, so when good fortune unexpectedly lands at his feet he grabs the opportunity with both hands, determined not to let go. No matter what.

Butchie should have figured that nothing worth having ever comes easy and if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.

A Dark and Painful Mystery by Wendy M. WilsonA Dark and Painful Mystery by Wendy M. Wilson:

NEW ZEALAND, 1878: Has the missing man been murdered in the dense bush, or has he simply abandoned his wife and children for another woman?

Sergeant Frank Hardy and his new wife Mette attempt to solve two real mysteries from nineteenth century New Zealand: the whereabouts of Peter Kane, who left his home to look for work and did not return, and the brutal murder of an accommodation house owner who was splitting palings in the bush. Were they connected? If so, how?

As one newspaper said at the time about the Peter Kane disappearance:

“…the fate of the poor fellow may be cleared up, and the state of horrible suspense in which his unfortunate wife has been kept in for months brought to an end; and we would ask not only the people of Woodville, but of the other districts he may have visited, to take all possible steps to throw light upon what at present appears to be a dark and painful mystery.” The Manawatu Times, Volume III, Issue 81, 20 July 1878

This engaging novella is perfect for readers who have enjoyed the other three Sergeant Frank Mysteries. For readers who have not read the series already, the novella includes a backstory/history of the two main characters.

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Steampunk in East Frisia: Steamfest Papenburg 2019

Papenburg is an East Frisian town of about 38000 people near the Dutch border, which is probably best known these days as the home of the Meyer Werft , where many of the giant cruise ships carrying tourists across the world’s oceans are built, complicated by the fact that Papenburg is located about 40 kilometres inland along the rather narrow river Ems, which makes getting the newly built cruise liners to the North Sea something of a challenge. If you’ve ever been on a cruise in the past twenty years or so, chances are pretty good that the cruise ship was built in Papenburg.

Steampunk is not exactly something you would associate with Papenburg, even though the steamship MV Liemba a.k.a. Graf Goetzen, which starred in The African Queen as the German gunboat Königin Luise, was built here in 1913. Therefore, I was very surprised to learn that Papenburg not only has an active Steampunk community, but also hosts Steamfest, a Steampunk festival which took place for the second time in 2019. And since Papenburg is only about 114 kilometres away, I of course decided to pay Steamfest a visit.

Steamfest took place on the grounds of Gut Altenkamp, an 18th century manor house with a historical garden a little outside the town. The venue is absolutely perfect for the purpose, because it feels almost as if you’d somehow stumbled into the mansion of an eccentric inventor. Continue reading

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A no longer quite so new Thurvok story available: The Night Court

Before we get back to photos, con reports and genre commentary, here is a not quite new release announcement. Because I just realised that I never officially announced the latest Thurvok story, which came out just before I left for WorldCon.

Like most of the previous Thurvok stories, The Night Court was written during the July Short Story Challenge, where the aim is to write a story per day during the month of July. And in fact, The Night Court is the first 2019 July Short Story Challenge stories to be published.

Like many July short story challenge stories, The Night Court was inspired by fantasy art. The initial inspiration was this piece by Nele Diel. So I started writing the first scene, where Meldom walks through the city by night, only to be attacked and taken. However, I had no idea what would happened next. And so looked through my folder of inspirational images again and came upon this piece by Joseph Vargo. This image of a dungeon, complete with unfortunate prisoners and a grim looking inquisitioner, sparked an idea. What if whoever had captured Meldom was not a kidnapper, bandit or old enemy, but the law or what passes for it? Especially since the law has plenty of reasons to be after Meldom, given his past. And so the Night Court was born.

The titular Night Court is loosely based upon the Vehmic courts of medieval Germany or rather the legends surrounding said courts. Now I had long planned to write a story about someone innocently accused by a Vehmic Court someday, though I had intended it to be a historical along the lines of The Kiss of the Executioner’s Blade or Hangman’s Wages (and indeed, I may still write that story someday).

The roots for that particular idea go back to being made to read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s historical drama Götz von Berlichingen in high school. Nowadays, the play Götz von Berlichingen is mainly famous for one rather rude line, which regularly causes giggles in high school classes. Otherwise, Götz von Berlichingen is yet another classic German play about a man (the titular Götz) who is so determined to defend his principles (usually something about liberty and autonomy) that he doesn’t care who gets hurt by his obstinate behaviour. There were a lot of plays like that, all dating from the late 18th century and all written by a group of male authors who all knew each other, which we were made to read in high school. And the teachers inevitably expected us to side with the obstinate jerk protagonist and were always very surprised when we didn’t. “Nope, Wilhelm Tell having weird hang-ups about greeting a hat does not give him the right to endanger his kid, no matter how good an archer he is. Just greet the damn hat, no matter how silly the whole thing is.” – “Nope, Odoardo Galotti being pissed off at the aristocracy in general and this one Prince in particular does not give him the right to honour-kill his daughter. What the hell is wrong with that guy?”

Götz von Berlichingen at least offers plenty of excitement, as Götz’s obstinate behaviour comes back to bite him in the arse and the bishop he pissed off sends an army of killers after him. It also has more female characters than usual. Two of them are the loyal wife/girlfriend/sister type who only exists to support our hero in being obstinate, but the third, Adelheid von Walldorf, a Milady de Winter prototype, who seduces and poison men on behalf of the main antagonist, is much more interesting. And in the final act, there is a scene of a Vehmic Court with masked judges who sentence Adelheid to death for her crimes and then dispatch an executioner to kill her. This short scene is a complete non sequitur, it just pops up in the middle of a bunch of scenes of various male characters of the play dying, while maintaining their principles. Nor does Goethe ever follow up on the scene again. Does the executioner ever catch up with Adelheid? Goethe doesn’t tell us. Much to the frustration of my high school German teacher, I was not at all satisfied with that and kept asking what had happened to Adelheid, whether she’d been killed or escaped, and what was the matter with that spooky court with masked judges anyway, cause that story was obviously a lot more interesting than Götz and his principles.

That one scene with the Vehmic Court stuck in my head, as did the vague idea that someone should write that much more exciting story that Goethe failed to tell. And that someone might just as well be me. In the end, the Vehmic Court idea languished with all the other half-baked ideas for historical adventure stories somewhere at the edge of my consciousness. But while I was writing The Night Court, I thought, “What if Meldom hasn’t been captured by an official court after all, but by his world’s equivalent of a Vehmic Court?” The rest of the story largely told itself.

Now the Thurvok stories are credited to Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp writer by day and masked crimefighter by night, who is the hero of my Silencer series. And though I wasn’t aware of it when I was writing the story, there are certain parallels between The Night Court and the Silencer story Countdown to Death, because in both stories, the protagonist finds himself accused, convicted and almost executed. And though both the Silencer and Meldom may be guilty of many other things (and compared to the pulp vigilantes from the actual 1930s, the Silencer is remarkably restrained and only rarely kills someone), they are innocent of this particular crime. So did Richard Blakemore’s experience in Countdown to Death influence his sword and sorcery story The Night Court, via me who was actually typing the story? Or do I simply keep returning to certain tropes and themes.

Whenever you have a court – even one of such dubious legality as the Night Court – you of course also have courtroom scenes. And so I have half-jokingly referred to The Night Court as a sword and sorcery courtroom drama, which it absolutely is.

So prepare to accompany Meldom, Thurvok, Sharenna and Lysha, as they face…

The Night Court
The city of Vanadur suffers under the thumb of the Night Court, whose bailiffs snatch random people off the streets and whose masked judges know only one verdict: guilty.

Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, is one of those who are snatched off the streets and put on trial by the Night Court. The accusation: murder. But while Meldom may have done many questionable things in the past, he knows that he did not commit this particular murder.

However, the Night Court is not inclined to believe him and so it’s up to Thurvok, Sharenna and Lysha to save him from the gallows.

This is a short story of 7100 words or 25 print pages in the Thurvok sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

More information.
Length: 7100 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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WorldCon 77 in Dublin, Part 2: The Hugos

Hugo finalist/accepter packet

The contents of the Hugo finalist/accepter packet given out at WorldCon 77. The certificates as well as one finalist pin have since been mailed to Gideon and Janice Marcus of Galactic Journey. The second pin remains with me and now lives on my favourite jacket together with a poppy and a badger pin.

In my last post, I talked about my general experiences at WorldCon 77 in Dublin, Ireland. Now here comes the long awaited Hugo commentary, even though everybody knows by now who the winners are and discussion has largely died down. Though this year’s Hugo commentary is a little different than usual, because this time around I was not only watching the Hugos via livestream – no, I was directly in the auditorium a few metres from the stage, since I was the designated accepter for best fanzine finalist Galactic Journey. Continue reading

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WorldCon 77 in Dublin, Part 1: The Good…

Yes, I know that my WorldCon and TitanCon report as well as detailed Huog commentary has been much delayed, but then I’ve been ill, first with a cold acquired at WorldCon and then with a stomach bug acquired from a dodgy poke bowl at Amsterdam airport. However, here is the long awaited WorldCon 77 report, complete with photos.

After my problems getting to Dublin, chronicled in this post, Amsterdam Schiphol airport decided to give me a very Irish farewell, complete with a rainbow over the airfield. Continue reading

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First Monday Free Fiction: The Bleak Heath

Welcome to a somewhat belated September edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.

The Bleak Heath by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertThis month’s free story is The Bleak Heath, a novelette in my Thurvok sword and sorcery series. As for why this particular story, I like to pick stories which are somehow related to the season. And at the moment, the Lüneburg Heath nature park is in bloom, an event I sadly missed due to being away for WorldCon and EuroCon. However, last year I wrote a story inspired by my annual hiking trip to the Lüneburg Heath, a story I eventually published as The Bleak Heath.

The Thurvok series is unique among my fiction, since it is credited to Richard Blakemore, the 1930s pulp writer protagonist of my Silencer series. In one story, Richard outs himself as a Weird Tales reader and sword and sorcery fan. He also muses that he would like to take a stab at writing something like that one day. This throwaway scene got me thinking, “What if Richard actually did write a sword and sorcery series in the 1930s?”

Fast forward a couple of  years, when I found myself writing a couple of old school sword and sorcery stories for the annual July short story challenge and thought, “What if this is Richard Blakemore’s lost sword and sorcery series?” And so the decision was born to pass off the Thurvok stories as a forgotten sword and sorcery series from the 1930s with myself as the editor who rediscovered them.

So prepared to accompany Thurvok the sellsword and his companions Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasionaly assassin, the sorceress Sharenna and Lysha, Meldom’s childhood sweetheart whom our heroes only just saved from the gallows, as they brave the dangers of…

The Bleak Heath

East of the city of Greyvault, there was a plain that stretched all the way to the Desolate Peaks. Few things grew here and even fewer people lived here, for the soil was poor and white as ash.

One of the few things that did grow on this plain was the hardy heather plant and so the entire plain was blanketed with patches of heather, crisscrossed by paths of white sand and dotted with juniper bushes and stunted birch trees and rocks that looked as if they had been randomly deposited here by a giant’s hand.

For a few weeks in late summer, when the heather was in bloom, the entire plain shimmered purple. The rest of the year it was brown and bleak. And so the people of Greyvault called it the Bleak Heath and did not go there, unless it was absolutely necessary. For the good people of Greyvault believed that the heath was cursed and haunted by ghosts and monsters born of sorcery and black magic.

But nonetheless, some travellers did cross the Bleak Heath, out of necessity or desperation. Four such travellers, two men and two women, were marching across the heath on foot, their forms outlined sharply against the slate grey sky.

One of the men was tall and muscular, with black hair and bronzed skin that was rarely found so far up north, where the winters were long and the sun was weak. He was clad all in leather, a great sword hanging on his hip. This was Thurvok, the sellsword.

The second man was shorter and more slightly built, lithe and wiry rather than muscular. His skin was pale, his hair dark and his eyes as grey as the skies above the heath. He was clad all in black, the only relief a silver amulet glittering at his neck and a silver dagger gleaming at his waist. This was Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, though he had recently sworn off killing except when absolutely necessary.

One of the women was tall, almost as tall as Thurvok. Her statuesque form was swathed in a moss green cloak. Strands of long hair the colour of flame fell from underneath the hood of her cloak. This was Sharenna, the sorceress.

The second woman was slight and clad in a gown of plain white linen of the sort worn by penitents and prisoners condemned to die on the scaffold. Her bare feet were wrapped only in rags, that offered scant protection against the prickly heather plants that sprouted from the path here and there. The harsh wind blew her long dark hair into her face and made her shiver in her thin gown. This was Lysha, daughter of a merchant from Greyvault and Meldom’s childhood sweetheart whom the other three had recently saved from the gallows.

Lysha did not complain about the cold and the harsh wind. In fact, she barely spoke at all. Nonetheless, Meldom noticed that she freezing and so he took off his own cloak and wrapped it around Lysha.

Lysha flashed him a grateful smile. “Thank you. But won’t you be cold?”

Meldom shook his head. “No, it’s fine,” he lied through his chattering teeth, “I’m used to it.”

As they continued on their way across the Bleak Heath, Sharenna moved closer to Meldom.

“Maybe we should stop and make camp for the night,” she said, keeping her voice low, so none of the others would hear, “Your girl is in a bad condition and you are not much better off.”

Meldom had his teeth clenched, so they wouldn’t chatter in the cold. But nonetheless, he shook his head. “No, we have to go on. It’s not safe here.”

“But why?” Sharenna wanted to know, “There’s no sign of any pursuit. And besides, I think that after the chaos we caused, the Rhagur rulers of Greyvault have bigger problems than us to worry about.”

Thurvok, slowed down his mighty strides, allowing the others to catch up.

“Such as the fact that their current governor was strangled by the murdered corpse of their previous governor,” he said with a grin, for the sight of a murderer getting his just comeuppance at the hands of his victim was a source of rare amusement to him, “And this time, the Rhagur can’t even blame the people of Greyvault, for it’s all too clear what really happened.”

“The Bleak Heath still isn’t safe”, Meldom insisted, “Or why do you think most travellers approach Greyvault via the Forest of the Hanged? Hint, it’s not because the route is so scenic and the smell of rotting corpses so intoxicating. It’s because awful as the Forest of the Hanged is, the Bleak Heath is worse.”

Thurvok looked around, scanning for hidden dangers, but all he saw were purplish blooming heather, jutting juniper bushes and scattered rocks.

“Doesn’t look very dangerous to me,” he remarked.

“But trust me, it is,” Meldom insisted, “There are… things here. Men turning to stone, rocks coming to life, creatures emerging from the night’s mists to snatch unwary travellers until not a trace is left…”

Thurvok emitted a roaring laugh. Sharenna shot him a warning glance, but Thurvok ignored her.

“Oh, come on. You know I don’t believe in that sort of thing.”

“Normally, I don’t believe in that sort of thing either,” Meldom replied, more than a little testy, “But this is different. I grew up in Greyvault. I’ve heard the stories all my life, stories about travellers gone missing on the heath, never to be seen again…”

“Stories, sure,” Thurvok countered, “Doesn’t mean they’re true.”

Before they could come to blows, Sharenna intervened. “Could we maybe just agree that whether the stories are true or not, this is no place to be abroad by night?”

She nodded at the sky, which was turning from pink to violet to deep indigo.

“So I’d suggest we find shelter and make camp.” She turned to Meldom. “Is there a village around here or an inn or a cave or some other place where we could rest?”

Meldom shook his head. “There’s nothing. Just heath and rocks. And the rocks are cursed.”

“Maybe we should find shelter among a cluster of rocks or behind a particularly large one then,” Sharenna suggested.

“Didn’t you listen to me?” Meldom snapped, “The rocks are cursed. Some say that they used to be men who tried to cross the heath and were turned to stone for their troubles.”

“You don’t believe in that, do you?” Thurvok asked, his eyes wide with incredulity.

“I don’t know what to believe, all right? All I know is that people have been vanishing and rocks randomly appearing on the Bleak Heath since before I was born.”

“Whether the rocks are cursed or not, we need to find shelter for the night,” Sharenna said, ever the peacemaker, “And personally, I think that even cursed rocks are safer than sleeping out in the open and risk freezing to death.”

Thurvok was about to agree to her plan, because it made sense. But before he could, he was interrupted by Lysha, who had trudged onwards, while the other three were arguing.

“Look,” she exclaimed and pointed into the distance, where the unrelenting bleakness of the heath was interrupted by a light on the horizon.

Thurvok turned to Meldom. “I thought you said no one lived here.”

Meldom nodded. “I did. Because no one does.”

“Well, where does that light come from then?”

***

This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in The Bleak Heath. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.

 

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The 2019 Dragon Awards successfully manage to evade full respectability for another year

You’ll have to wait a bit longer for my WorldCon and Hugos post-mortem, because DragonCon, a big convention in Atlanta, Georgia, that is a curious mix between massive media con, inclusive cosplay con and conservative con for wargamers and military SF fans, took place this weekend. DragonCon is also the home of the Dragon Awards, whose development I’ve been chronicling since the beginning. So I feel duty-bound to report about this year’s Dragon Award winners, too.

But let’s start with the other fiction award given out tonight at Dragon Con, namely the 2019 Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction. The winner was “When We Were Starless”, a lovely novelette by fellow German Simone Heller, which was also a Hugo finalist this year. A highly deserved win.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Dragon Awards proper. To recap, the Dragon Awards have had a short but rather eventful history. Supposedly conceived as an award to reward the sort of widely popular works that are often overlooked by other SFF awards, they became basically consolation prizes for Sad and Rabid Puppy affiliated authors during their first year, struggled with withdrawals by big name finalists during their second year and were invaded by popular self-published authors and Kindle Unlimited content mills during their third year. Compared to previous years, the announcement of the finalists for the fourth year of the Dragon Award seemed to point at increased mainstream respectability. There were lots of big names books and authors among the finalists, which suggested that the Dragon Awards would maybe finally do what they had set out to do, namely reward broadly popular mainstream works. Credit for this largely goes to the Red Panda Fraction, a group of Atlanta area fans and DragonCon attendees, who created a handy eligibility spreadsheet to make nominating easier.

However, compared to the finalists, the actual winners this year seem like a step backwards. So let’s take a look at the individual categories:

A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad Torgersen wins best science fiction novel in what must be one of the most baffling Dragon Awards wins since the first year. Why baffling? Because if the Dragon Awards are supposed to honour popular, you’d expect the most popular books to win. However, according to admittedly flawed criteria like Amazon, Goodreads and LibraryThing ranks and ratings, A Star-Wheeled Sky is at the lower end of the popularity scale among the finalists in this category, as Contrarius explains in the comments to this post on Camestros Felapton’s blog. Meanwhile, the most popular finalist in this category by a wide margin is Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey, followed by Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, which was also my choice. Of course, Brad Torgersen has been actively promoting the Dragon Awards and asks his fans to vote. And while Torgersen is mainly associated with the Sad Puppy disaster of 2015 in wider fandom these days, he is popular with the Baen and Analog crowd and Baen is traditionally strongly represented at DragonCon, plus A Star-Wheeled Sky is a Baen book. However, Tiamat’s Wrath has the advantage of being connected to the hugely popular The Expanse TV series and DragonCon is a multi-media con. Though Brad Torgersen has finally won an award, which should make him happy, while Becky Chambers got to take home a Hugo this year and Daniel Abrahama and Ty Franck are crying all the way to the bank.

The winner in the best fantasy novel category is another Baen book and another name that will be familiar from the Sad Puppy fiasco, namely House of Assassins by Larry Correia. Nonetheless, this is a less surprising win than Torgersen’s, because Larry Correia does have a big and very engaged fanbase and is also very active in promoting the Dragon Awards, though he supposedly asked his fans not to nominate him this year. That said, I’m sure he’ll be devastated at his third Dragon Award win in this category in four years. My own vote was for The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie, BTW.

The Dragon Award for best young adult novel goes to Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard. No real surprise here, it’s a popular novel by a popular author. And indeed, the YA category is where the Dragon Awards come closest to doing what they set out to do, namely rewarding highly popular works. My own vote was for Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, BTW.

The winner in the best military SFF category is Uncompormising Honor, the latest Honor Harrington tome by David Weber. Again, this is not a huge surprise, because both David Weber and the Honor Harrington series are extremely popular, though apparently quite a few fans were disappointed with Uncompromising Honor. David Weber is also a frequent guest at Dragon Con and has won in this category three times to date. However, Uncompromising Honor likely also profited from the fact that the other finalists in this category were several indie published books which – while popular – may not be all that well known outside the Kindle Unlimited eco-system. And while the other traditionally published finalist in this category, The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, is a great book (and was my personal pick), it’s also very much not what habitual readers of military science fiction are looking for and in fact, many military SF fans actively hate this book. For example, here is a review which claims that Kameron Hurley hates the military science fiction genre and is out to destroy it.

The winner in the best media tie-in category is Thrawn: Alliances, a Star Wars novel by Timothy Zahn. This is one win that’s not at all surprising, because the Thrawn character is hugely popular among Star Wars fans, particularly old school Star Wars fans, though personally I never saw the appeal, not even back when I read Heir to the Empire, when it first came out. Of the characters Timothy Zahn added to the Star Wars canon, I’ve always liked Mara Jade a lot, but never much cared about Thrawn. Still, lots of Star Wars fans obviously disagree. My own vote was for The Way to the Stars, a Star Trek Discovery novel by Una McCormack BTW.

The Dragon Award for best horror novel goes to Little Darlings by Melanie Golding. It’s a very popular novel, though more psychological thriller than horror novel. But considering that the readership for psychological thrillers is a lot bigger than the horror readership, I’m not surprised that it won. My own vote was for We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix BTW.

The winner in the best alternate history category, finally, is Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling. Now Stirling obviously is popular with the Dragon Awards crowd, since he has had several nominations in various categories so far. Nonetheless, I’m surprised that he managed to beat what is by far the most popular book on the ballot, which also won the Hugo and Nebula Award for best novel, namely The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. Of course, the war gamer contingent is strong at DragonCon and Black Chamber is very likely more to their taste than The Calculating Stars. Or maybe The Calculating Stars had too many girl cooties. Meanwhile, what was probably the most mainstream finalist on the whole Dragon Award ballot, Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan, lost out as well, so the Dragons have successfully fended off the Booker Prize crowd. Now I have to admit that I was secetly rooting for Machines Like Me, even though I voted for Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar, if only because Ian McEwan’s reaction to DragonCon and the Dragon Awards would have been so worth it.

The film and TV categories offer no real surprises. Avengers: Endgame wins best film – after all, it is officially the highest grossing movie of all time – and the hyper-popular (and lovely) Good Omens wins best TV series. My own votes were for Captain Marvel and Star Trek Discovery respectively.

The comic and graphic novel categories offer no real surprises either. The hyper-popular Saga wins best comic book with its latest tear-jerking arc. Coincidentally, Saga was also my pick in this category. X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis by Ed Piskor wins best graphic novel, which again isn’t very surprising, for even though the X-Men are no longer as popular as during their heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, they’re still one of Marvel’s bigger guns. My own vote was for On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden.

I never vote in the gaming categories in the Dragon Awards, because I’m not much of a gamer. This year’s winners are Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, a Pokemon Go type augmented reality game, which likely also profited from the continuing popularity of Harry Potter, Red Dead Redemption 2, a western themed PC/console game so popular that even I have heard of it, the board game Betrayal: Legacy and the Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep Slipcase Set role-playing game. None of these winners strike me in any way as unexpected or unusual.

In general, it’s notable that while indie published authors or author collectives can get Dragon Award nominations, they don’t win. For example, Chris Kennedy’s publishing outfit had four finalists on the ballot this year and also made a strong showing in 2017 and 2018, but so far they haven’t won. Ditto for other indie authors. Meanwhile, Baen continues to do well at the Dragons. This year, all of the three Baen books on the ballot won in their respective categories, but then Baen is very active in DragonCon’s literature track and apparently, they do have a sizeable fanbase at DragonCon. It’s also notable that in two categories, best fantasy novel and best military SFF novel, the same author (Larry Correia and David Weber respectively) won three out of four years. Yes, I know that both Weber and Correia have big fanbases at DragonCon, but a bit more diversity would be nice.

As with the nominations, the Dragon Award winners continue to be heavily male dominated. Of seven winners in the novel categories, only two are women. If you include the non-novel categories, you get another female winner with Fiona Staples in best comic book. The winners are also overwhelmingly white, though Larry Correia identifies as Latino as fas as I know. Besides, as Camestros Felapton points out in his post here, to date all ten winners in the two headline categories, best science fiction novel and best fantasy novel, have been men. Somehow, I doubt that those who wring their hands that the winners in the fiction categories at the Hugos and Nebulas were all women in the past three years, will be at all bothered by this.

According to the Dragon Awards’ official rules and regulations, the administrators have the right to pick winners and finalists without taking the will of the voters into account, though there is no evidence either way that they are exercising that right. And indeed, we have nothing in the way of voting and nomination data for the Dragon Awards, which makes the results difficult to analyze.

But once again – and I know I say this every year – the Dragon Awards have to decide what they want to be. Do they want to be the award for broadly popular SFF that they set out to be? Do they want to be an award for conservative leaning SFF? Do they want to be the best Baen book award? Do they want to be the best indie published SFF book award? None of these options are necessarily bad, though it would help if DragonCon were to settle on one of them. This year, however, the finalists pointed at option A, while the winners seem to point at options B and C.

On the other hand, the odd inconsistency of the Dragon Awards may also be linked to the inconsistent nature of DragonCon itself. Cause from what I’ve heard – I’ve never been there myself – DragonCon is a huge multi-media convention, which has a big contingent of young, diverse and overwhelmingly left-leaning media fans and cosplayer, but also a conservative leaning literature track catering to older military SFF fans and wargamers. In many ways, the Dragon Award results reflect this split.

So after an encouraging step forward in the 2019 nominations, coupled with a step back in the actual winners, the question is where will the Dragon Awards go in 2020?

ETA: I already linked to Camestros Felapton’s take on the 2019 Dragon Award winners above, but in the meantime he has also dug up a Dragon Award cheating allegation from the usual suspects, which begets the question how on Earth one can cheat in the “anything goes” Dragon Awards short of hacking the nominations/results. There is also quite a bit of discussion going on in the comments of both posts. Camestros also has a third Dragon Awards post, in which he goes a little deeper into the probabilities of the Dragon Award winners in the best science fiction and best fantasy category being all men.

And at Women Write About Comics, Doris V. Sutherland offers her take on the 2019 Dragon Award winners and also notes the Baen dominance.

ETA2: Richard Paolinelli also felt the need to share his take on the Dragon Awards and displays his usual issues with reading comprehension. To clairfy some points, I specifically said that “Larry Correia identifies as Latino”, because not all people of Portuguese ancestry do. And there were ten winners, all men, in the best science fiction novel and best fantasy novel categories over the four years of the Dragon Award, because two winning books were written by co-author pairs. James S.A. Corey is actually two people, Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank, and Larry Correia and John Ringo are two people as well.

Comments are closed. Awards posts inevitably bring out the trolls.

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Two Plugs: A New Anthology and a Podcast Appearance

Yes, my WorldCon, TitanCon and Hugo write-up is coming, but it may take a bit more time, because in addition to the cold I caught at WorldCon, I also picked up a stomach bug from a dodgy poke bowl at Amsterdam airport, which took me out of commission for a couple of days. So Hugo and WorldCon post-mortems will have to wait for now.

Besides, I have two other announcements to make. For starters, an anthology to which I contributed came out yesterday. The anthology in question is Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958 – 1963), edited by Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey with a foreword by Dr. Laura Brodian Freas Beraha. Now I’m obviously not a forgotten woman writer from the Silver Age of science fiction. However, I provided the introduction to one of the fourteen stories in the anthology, “Of All Possible Worlds” by Rosel George Brown.

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958 - 1963), edited by Gideon MarcusRediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958 – 1963):

  • Fourteeen uncut Silver Age science fiction stories by women
  • Fourteen introductions providing historical, biographical, and literary context
  • One foreword by Dr. Laura Brodian Freas Beraha
  • One introductory essay by Gideon Marcus

From the team that produces the Hugo-nominated Galactic Journey:

The Silver Age of Science Fiction saw a wealth of compelling speculative tales — and women authors wrote some of the best of the best. Yet the stories of this era, especially those by women, have been largely unreprinted, unrepresented, and unremembered.

Until Now.

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) features fourteen selections of the best science fiction of the Silver Age by the unsung women authors of yesteryear, introduced by today’s rising stars:

Unhuman Sacrifice (1958) by Katherine MacLean, introduced by Natalie Devitt
Wish Upon a Star (1958) by Judith Merril, introduced by Erica Frank
A Matter of Proportion (1959) by Anne Walker, introduced by Erica Friedman
The White Pony (1960) by Jane Rice, introduced by T.D. Cloud
Step IV (1960) by Rosel George Brown, introduced by Andi Dukleth
Of All Possible Worlds (1961) by Rosel George Brown, introduced by Cora Buhlert
Satisfaction Guaranteed (1961) by Joy Leache, introduced by A.J. Howells
The Deer Park (1962) by Maria Russell, introduced by Claire Weaver
To Lift a Ship (1962) by Kit Reed, introduced by Gideon Marcus
The Putnam Tradition (1963) by Sonya Hess Dorman, introduced by Lorelei Marcus
The Pleiades (1963) by Otis Kidwell Burger, introduced by Gwyn Conaway
No Trading Voyage (1963) by Doris Pitkin Buck, introduced by Marie Vibbert
Cornie on the Walls (1963) by Sydney van Scyoc, introduced by Rosemary Benton
Unwillingly to School (1958) by Pauline Ashwell, introduced by Janice Marcus

“Female authors wrote stories about coming of age…cautionary tales…stories set beyond our universe…You’ll find these themes and more in this anthology. I hope that as you read their stories you don’t try to ‘feminine’ versus ‘masculine’ elements. What you are about to read is really good science fiction, plain and simple.” -from the foreword by Dr. Laura Brodian Freas Beraha

Rediscovery is a great anthology, which proves that there was and is life far beyond the confines of Campbellian science fiction. If you’re at all interested in the history of science fiction and how we got to where we are now, you should absolutely read it. You don’t just have to take my word for it either. James Davis Nicoll pretty much agrees in his review.

Get your copy at Amazon or the Journey Press website.

***

To get back to WorldCon 77, one of the best things about WorldCons and other cons is that you inevitably run into a lot of interesting people. And one of the people I met at WorldCon 77 was Mirco from the German podcast Steamtinkerer’s Klönschnack. And so I wound up getting interviewed for the podcast.

The episode is now online and you can listen to it here. Mirco also shares his impressions of WorldCon 77 in this blogpost. Only in German, alas.

As promised, my own WorldCon 77 and Hugo post-mortem is coming, though I’ll probably take a break for the Dragon Award winners, who will be announced tonight, first.

 

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for August 2019

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month
It’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some July books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, YA fantasy, sword and sorcery, paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, science fiction romance, science fiction mystery, space opera, military science fiction, feminist science fiction, vintage science fiction, humorous science fiction, dystopian fiction, Steampunk, gaslamp fantasy, time travel, witches, mermaids, shapeshifters, pirates, space marines, crime-busting witches, grim reapers, arranged marriages, time travelling taxmen, cyborg gladiators, sword and sorcery courtroom dramas, rediscoverey women authors of the Silver Age and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog run by Jessica Rydill and myself, which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

Buy and Spell by Stacey AlabasterBuy and Spell by Stacey Alabaster:

Sometimes you just need to solve a mystery because you’re the main suspect

Ruby Swift is settling into her life as a private investigator while protecting her secret magical life. When her new, unwanted neighbor turns up dead, she must find the real killer to clear her own name. Can Ruby come up with a spell to buy her way out of trouble?

Buy and Spell is part of the Private Eye Witch Cozy Mystery series. If you like fun paranormal mysteries, you will love Ruby Swift and her magical adventures.

Get Buy and Spell and start solving your next supernatural mystery today!

Claiming T-Mo by Eugen BaconClaiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon:

In this lush interplanetary tale, Novic is an immortal Sayneth priest who flouts the conventions of a matriarchal society by choosing a name for his child. This act initiates chaos that splits the boy in two, unleashing a Jekyll-and-Hyde child upon the universe. Named T-Mo by his mother and Odysseus by his father, the story spans the boy’s lifetime — from his early years with his mother Silhouette on planet Grovea to his travels to Earth where he meets and marries Salem, and together they bear a hybrid named Myra. The story unfolds through the eyes of these three distinctive women: Silhouette, Salem and Myra. As they confront their fears and navigate the treacherous paths to love and accept T-Mo/Odysseus and themselves, the darkness in Odysseus urges them to unbearable choices that threaten their very existence.

The Night Court by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertThe Night Court by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert:

The city of Vanadur suffers under the thumb of the Night Court, whose bailiffs snatch random people off the streets and whose masked judges know only one verdict: guilty.

Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, is one of those who are snatched off the streets and put on trial by the Night Court. The accusation: murder. But while Meldom may have done many questionable things in the past, he knows that he did not commit this particular murder.

However, the Night Court is not inclined to believe him and so it’s up to Thurvok, Sharenna and Lysha to save him from the gallows.

This is a short story of 7100 words or 25 print pages in the Thurvok sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

Knight Protector by Lindsay BurokerKnight Protector by Lindsay Buroker:

An arranged marriage she can’t escape.
A sexy bodyguard who will protect her at all cost.
A forbidden love she can’t give in to…

As one of the sultan’s fourteen daughters, and a successful businesswoman who puts money in the family’s coffers, Princess Nalini thought she would escape an arranged marriage.

She thought wrong.

Her father insists that an alliance with the savage and ambitious Star Kingdom is the only way to avoid a war at home, and for some reason, Prince Jorg—a man she’s never met—wants to marry her.

As if that weren’t bad enough, her father believes the betrothal may make her a target and is assigning her a bodyguard, the victor of one of his odious gladiator matches. She doesn’t want some brutish stranger intruding on her privacy.

But her new protector—Tristan—is not the brute she expected. He has a quick wit, a sexy smile, and even sexier things under the smile.

Unfortunately, Nalini can’t let herself fall in love with Tristan, not when she’s soon to be betrothed to another man. As her father’s daughter, it’s her duty to help her people by cementing this alliance. No matter how much she wishes otherwise…

~

As Tristan grew up on the streets, his father a convict and his mother a drug addict, all he ever wanted was to become one of the Star Kingdom’s elite knights, something that very few commoners ever achieve. After Tristan labors for years as a squire, the king is ready to appoint him a knight… if he accomplishes one simple task. He must infiltrate the sultan’s palace, gain the trust of Princess Nalini, and make sure she doesn’t run away from her marriage with Prince Jorg.

There’s just one problem.

Nalini isn’t the spoiled rich brat he expected—she spends her days working as hard as he does—and he soon develops feelings for her. With her betrothal looming, and the career he’s worked his whole life for at stake, Tristan can’t let himself act on those feelings.

But can he stand back while a man who doesn’t deserve her claims her for his wife?

Mermaid's Wish by Stacy ClaflinMermaid’s Wish by Stacy Claflin:

Every other princess prepares to rule her kingdom after her father’s death. Me? I have to get ready to rule all underwater kingdoms—after killing my father.

I already fulfilled the prophecy once. Kind of. I have no interest in killing again.

But no one asked what I want.

It’s this stupid Queen Sirena prophecy. My father—my real, biological father—is obsessed. And he’s the king, so he gets what he wants. Namely me, embracing a destiny I fear.

As I come to terms with my new reality, I find myself alone, cut off from my best friend and boyfriend and unable to convince my parents this is all a terrible idea.

My father, the king, wants me to kill him. He’s set plans in motion to make it happen.

I’m too weak to refuse. And hopefully too strong to succeed.

Peavley Manor by Robert DahlenPeavley Manor (Or, Introducing Macalley) by Robert Dahlen:

Alice Peavley was a sales clerk in a book shop, until her rich uncle left her his estate in his will. She moves to the manor, meets her new tenants and neighbors, and adjusts to life in the eccentric town of Darbyfield with the help of her valet, a sardonic gnome named Macalley. Alice gets mixed up in misadventures involving a concert gone askew, a chaotic baking competition, and a mischievous squatter, but there is a more sinister plot afoot to steal her land and her fortune. Can Alice get to the bottom of the conspiracy and save Peavley Manor? Find out in this comedy of manners, mayhem and magic!

Gullible's Travels and Taxing Rabble by Rachel FordGullible’s Travels and Taxing Rabble by Rachel Ford:

A shadowy interdimensional organization. A special assignment. A bizarre alternate universe.

When a recruitment agent from the Interdimensional Bureau of Temporal Investigations knocked on his door, there was no way Alfred Favero, Senior Analyst with the Internal Revenue Service, could just walk away. How could a man of law and conscience turn down the chance to stop crime across dimensions and times?

Now, he’s in bizarre alternate dimension, where suspicion is fact and fact is suspect. To succeed, he must question everything he thinks he knows about this new world – and even the mission itself.

Otherwise, Alfred Favero might have taken his last trip through time.

The Robin Hood of Couches by Aaron FraleThe Robin Hood of Couches by Aaron Frale:

Reese investigates corporate fraud and discovers some joker has been giving away free couches to the needy, because when a person can no longer afford the subscription service fees, all their furniture disappears. The bearer of sofas ends up in a ditch when blunt force trauma snuffs out the poor’s best chance of not living in an empty room their whole life. Reese rolls up his sleeves. Time to get to work.

 

 

Defender by Anna HackettDefender by Anna Hackett:

Rescued from alien slavers, the only place she feels safe is in the brawny arms of a big, gruff cyborg.

Astrophysicist Dr. Jayna Lennox’s life imploded the day her ship was attacked by aliens. Through months of captivity, she’s survived by shutting down and not feeling. Then she’s freed by the House of Rone cyborgs and finds herself in the arms of huge, tough Mace. Struggling to heal, Mace is the only thing that makes her feel safe. The only person who makes her feel like she isn’t broken. But there are more of her crew members imprisoned in Carthago’s desert, and Jayna will have to delve into her darkest memories to help save them.

Born to fight and bred for rage, Mace barely survived his gang-ridden homeworld. Thanks to Imperator Magnus Rone, he’s found a place at the House of Rone. Unlike the other cyborgs, he feels, but only anger and annoyance. When a small, wounded human woman works her way under his skin, Mace finds himself feeling things he’s never felt before…along with a powerful need to keep her safe.

Jayna vows to help find her fellow humans, even if it means revisiting her nightmares and being part of a dangerous mission into the desert. But as the passion between her and Mace explodes, she finds herself with two battles on her hands: the battle to free the humans from their captors, and the war to win Mace’s scarred heart.

Dark Dancer by B.R. KingsolverDark Magic by B.R. Kingsolver:

One Master survived the inferno that destroyed the Order of the Illuminati. He may know that I survived, but does he suspect that I betrayed the Order?

Rudolf Heine has sent Hunters flooding into Westport, wreaking carnage on vampires, shifters, and mages. Normal humans are taking notice, and the shadow world teeters on the verge of being revealed.

The Hunters also may be hunting me. Do I stay and fight for my new life and my friends, or run again?

Freaky Reapers by Amanda M. LeeFreaky Reapers by Amanda M. Lee:

Poet Parker put the past behind her. At least she thought she did.

Life on the streets wasn’t what she had in mind for her forever and she jumped at the chance to join Mystic Caravan Circus when an invitation was extended. She didn’t look back.

That was ten years ago, and now Poet is going back to the exact area she used to haunt … and she’s nervous.

The friends she left behind are scattered. Some are dead. Some have moved on to other things. Some turned out to be something else entirely. Others simply disappeared into the wind.

Unfortunately for Parker, forgetting isn’t easy … especially when a group of banshees start infringing on Mystic Caravan’s territory and the creatures seemingly have ties to the people Poet left behind.

Between the reapers also working the case – a crazy family called the Grimlocks who can’t stay out of trouble – and the guilt weighing Poet down given the way she fled, she has her hands full.

Someone is controlling the banshees, stealing girls from the streets and creating a merry band of monsters. It’s up to Poet to find out who and protect two street girls who remind her of herself.

Poet doesn’t want to look back but she has no choice … what she finds might be more evil than she ever imagined.

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958 - 1963), edited by Gideon MarcusRediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958 – 1963), edited by Gideon Marcus, foreword by Dr. Laura Brodian Freas Beraha

  • Fourteeen uncut Silver Age science fiction stories by women
  • Fourteen introductions providing historical, biographical, and literary context
  • One foreword by Dr. Laura Brodian Freas Beraha
  • One introductory essay by Gideon Marcus

From the team that produces the Hugo-nominated Galactic Journey:

The Silver Age of Science Fiction saw a wealth of compelling speculative tales — and women authors wrote some of the best of the best. Yet the stories of this era, especially those by women, have been largely unreprinted, unrepresented, and unremembered.

Until Now.

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) features fourteen selections of the best science fiction of the Silver Age by the unsung women authors of yesteryear, introduced by today’s rising stars:

Unhuman Sacrifice (1958) by Katherine MacLean, introduced by Natalie Devitt
Wish Upon a Star (1958) by Judith Merril, introduced by Erica Frank
A Matter of Proportion (1959) by Anne Walker, introduced by Erica Friedman
The White Pony (1960) by Jane Rice, introduced by T.D. Cloud
Step IV (1960) by Rosel George Brown, introduced by Andi Dukleth
Of All Possible Worlds (1961) by Rosel George Brown, introduced by Cora Buhlert
Satisfaction Guaranteed (1961) by Joy Leache, introduced by A.J. Howells
The Deer Park (1962) by Maria Russell, introduced by Claire Weaver
To Lift a Ship (1962) by Kit Reed, introduced by Gideon Marcus
The Putnam Tradition (1963) by Sonya Hess Dorman, introduced by Lorelei Marcus
The Pleiades (1963) by Otis Kidwell Burger, introduced by Gwyn Conaway
No Trading Voyage (1963) by Doris Pitkin Buck, introduced by Marie Vibbert
Cornie on the Walls (1963) by Sydney van Scyoc, introduced by Rosemary Benton
Unwillingly to School (1958) by Pauline Ashwell, introduced by Janice Marcus

“Female authors wrote stories about coming of age…cautionary tales…stories set beyond our universe…You’ll find these themes and more in this anthology. I hope that as you read their stories you don’t try to ‘feminine’ versus ‘masculine’ elements. What you are about to read is really good science fiction, plain and simple.” -from the foreword by Dr. Laura Brodian Freas Beraha

Wrecked Intel by Mandy M. RothWrecked Intel by Mandy M. Roth:

Operative: Cody Livingston (Shark-Shifter)

Wereshark and former Immortal Op Cody Livingston has spent decades keeping his head down and staying off the grid. Ever since he volunteered to be part of a test group when the government attempted to create super soldiers, he’s been in a fight for his life and those of the men he sees as brothers—fellow Outcasts. You see, his own government turned against him when the DNA manipulation attempts didn’t go as planned.

Now Cody spends his days trying to right the wrongs left in the wake of the experiments and protecting any innocents caught in the crossfire. This is easier said than done when he’s had to escape the clutches of a madman hell-bent on possessing Cody’s healing gifts and longevity. As old foes resurface, the stakes get even higher when Cody realizes he not only has a mate but that she’s in the crosshairs of the enemy as well.

Origins of the Tainted Bloodline by Rosie ScottOrigins of the Tainted Bloodline by Rosie Scott:

Alastor Cerberius is a troubled man.

After over a century enslaved in the oppressive underground, he and his best friend, Koby Bacia, escape their chains. They emerge onto the surface: a new world full of the unknown, freedom, and discovery. Desperate to leave his tragic past behind, Alastor changes his name to Calder and delves into the dangerous blood science of shapeshifting. With the new ability to transform into a lethal lizard at will, Calder finally has power after a lifetime of captivity.

Calder and Koby answer the ocean’s call with dreams of smuggling illegal goods as mercenary sailors. This is easier said than done, for the seas are full of horrors of their own, and each time Calder transforms into the beast, it further scars his damaged psyche. Worst of all, a botched business deal puts them at odds with a criminal ring of pirates that are determined to remain the greatest threat on the seas.

The Screening Routine by SMAThe Screening Routine by SMA:

[Tell me the secret you keep from yourself.]
It knows your joy.
It knows your fear.
It knows your desire.

After decades of war, a battered Earth begged the Routine—our most powerful artificial intelligence—to take control of the solar system and unite humanity.

Now, forbidden lovers must help the AI solve the mystery of a rising threat:

Itself.

A SCIFI ADVENTURE BEGINS
Weeks away from graduating into blissful civilian anonymity, Owen discovers that his fate has been hijacked by the Routine. Trapped within the Screening Complex, training school for the Routine’s chosen leaders, Owen is determined to resist the influence of his all-seeing artificial taskmaster.

…If only he could stop dreaming of the man with dark eyes.

Who is that stranger, and why has his presence stirred a new hunger in Owen—one more desperate than he’d ever imagined? Questions lurk around every corner, but there’s one truth Owen will never forget:

The Routine is lying to us all.

Join the discovery as Owen pursues the mysteries of the Routine—and learns the endless bounds of love and his own desire.

Exile by Glynn StewartExile by Glynn Stewart:

A dying world, shattered by a broken machine
A desperate flight, their only hope for refuge
A robotic race, ally and destroyer alike

The Republic of Exilium has grown in strength and confidence at the far end of the galaxy from the rest of mankind, sending out scout ships to survey the worlds around them as they try to learn more about the mysterious Construction Matrix AIs.

Finding one of the genocidal rogues of that mysterious “race” in the process of destroying an inhabited world, Captain Octavio Catalan takes his ship into a desperate battle. He is victorious—but he is too late. The world of the strange aliens he has encountered is doomed.

The distant Republic can barely help, but the honor of their leaders will not permit them to stand idly by. Ships and crews are set into motion to commence a desperate evacuation of their newfound friends, and debts with the strange Matrices are called in.

One branch of Matrices destroyed the planet. Another may well save it—but the AIs have their own agenda and the price they ask may be beyond the Republic and its new allies…

Conquest of Earth by James David VictorConquest of Earth by James David Victor:

When all else fails, blow up a bunch of stuff and hope for the best.

Solomon and the Outcast Marines have been pushed to the brink, but are still standing strong. When the Ru’ut plot is fully revealed, they must go on one last desperate mission to save humanity. If humanity has any hope, they must stop the invading aliens from conquering Earth. Can Solomon overcome his past, and his genetics, and save his friends and all of humankind?

Conquest of Earth is the ninth book in the Outcast Marines series. If you like science fiction with “heroes” who are anything but, the Outcast Marines will suck you into their battle to save humanity, from itself and the rest of the galaxy.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for August 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some July books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, animal mysteries, historical mysteries, jazz age mysteries, paranormal mysteries, crime thrillers, legal thrillers, action thrillers, spy thrillers, police procedurals, private investigators, amateur sleuths, lawyers, FBI agents, missing persons, serial killers, spies, terrorists, cold cases, crime-busting witches, crime-busting realtors, modern day pirates, murders in small towns and big cities, aboard cruise ships and in country inns, in Louisiana, Southern California, London, Hawaii, Maine, Miami and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Crime Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things crime fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

Buy and Spell by Stacey AlabasterBuy and Spell by Stacey Alabaster:

Sometimes you just need to solve a mystery because you’re the main suspect

Ruby Swift is settling into her life as a private investigator while protecting her secret magical life. When her new, unwanted neighbor turns up dead, she must find the real killer to clear her own name. Can Ruby come up with a spell to buy her way out of trouble?

Buy and Spell is part of the Private Eye Witch Cozy Mystery series. If you like fun paranormal mysteries, you will love Ruby Swift and her magical adventures.

Get Buy and Spell and start solving your next supernatural mystery today!

Alex Mercer Thrillers Boxset by Stacy ClaflinAlex Mercer Thrillers Boxset by Stacy Claflin:

Read the first three Alex Mercer thrillers in this convenient bundle…

GIRL IN TROUBLE
He gave up his daughter years ago, but now he’ll risk his life to save hers.

Alex Mercer is no stranger to kidnappings. The emotional scars still run deep from his sister’s disappearance years earlier. His daughter Ariana remains safe long after her adoption, and he cherishes the few times a year he gets to see her. The joy is palpable when he takes her on their first one-on-one outing. At least until he pauses to answer a text and Ariana disappears…

Wracked with guilt and determined to find answers, Alex teams up with an unlikely ally at the police department. As the clues reveal a pattern of missing girls, the kidnapping case becomes a race against time to save Ariana. What cost is Alex willing to pay to keep his daughter alive?

Girl in Trouble is the first book in a series of thrilling stand-alone novels spun off from the USA Today bestselling Gone Trilogy. If you like heart-pounding suspense, page-turning action, and characters you’ll never forget, then you’ll love Stacy Claflin’s engrossing new series.

TURN BACK TIME
A dangerous cult disbanded years ago. Now they’re back, and they want revenge.

Alex Mercer spends his spare time operating a blog for missing children—a pastime inspired by his daughter’s recent disappearance. Another relative goes missing. As he follows up on leads coming into his site, the police department is inundated with a rash of missing persons cases. The incidents seem unrelated until evidence ties the cases to a dilapidated apartment building known for its unsavory clientele. Suspicion falls on a disbanded cult. The same cult Alex’s own relatives had managed to escape from and bring down a decade earlier.

The cult leaders, recently released or escaped from prison, reassemble their members and mandate a new mission to capture and kill all those responsible for the breakdown of their community. After another loved one disappears, Alex is ready to rescue the missing people from certain death. But will he get there in time?

LITTLE LIES
He’s dedicated his life to saving missing persons, but will it be enough to save himself?

Alex Mercer traded in his troubled past to protect the powerless. His blog for tracking down missing persons got his foot in the door at the police academy. But on his first day of training, a heroic act drops him into the hands of the captors he once hunted.

Zoey planned to tell Alex how she felt the night he disappeared. As she and Alex’s family discover the bloody signs of his fate, past regrets and dark secrets begin to come to light. It’s enough to tear Alex’s loved ones apart.

Without hope of rescue, Alex must rely on his cunning to escape captivity. In his line of work, he knows all too well that each passing hour could kill his chances of survival…

Haunting in the Hallway by Kathi DaleyHaunting in the Hallway by Kathi Daley:

A heartwarming cozy mystery series about losing everything, taking a chance, and starting again.

After suffering a personal tragedy Abby Sullivan buys a huge old seaside mansion she has never even seen, packs up her life in San Francisco, and moves to Holiday Bay Maine, where she is adopted, quite against her will, by a huge Maine Coon Cat named Rufus, a drifter with her own tragic past named Georgia, and a giant dog with an inferiority complex named Ramos. What Abby thought she needed was alone time to heal. What she ended up with was, an inn she never knew she wanted, a cat she couldn’t seem to convince to leave, and a new family she’d never be able to live without.

In book 5 in the series, the new bank president, who happens to be the son of the man who founded the community bank, is found dead and buried in his own grave. The man was not popular in the small community after making a lot of changes with his fathers passing and the list of possible suspects who might want him dead is extensive.

Meanwhile, it is October and the inn is hosting Halloween themed events. The haunted weekends are just for fun but when guests report hearing noises in the hallway, Abby wonders if the inn might actually be haunted for real.

La Jolla Law by John EllsworthLa Jolla Law by John Ellsworth:

A California beach town, a murder at a Presidential reception, a detective who finds herself in hot water for sexual harassment…

Add to the mix a gifted boy band traveling cross-country and a tech billionaire who functions on cocaine with a plastic wife who refuses to return home from Paris where her lover does hair for Vogue. Now you have the opening chapters of La Jolla Law, the new series featuring attorney Thaddeus Murfee.

The Maseratis pull over when the President of the United States comes to town to kickoff his reelection campaign. Unfortunately, he has chosen the home of the tech billionaire to spend the night. Suddenly, that night erupts with police streaming through the doors. There, on the golden shoreline, a true American tragedy hits CNN at daybreak. Thaddeus is called into the rock-and-roll world of the beach dwellers when a gifted loner is accused of the crime.

Thaddeus arrives in Southern California thinking he’s already seen everything in his fifteen years of law practice.

La Jolla Law will show him just how wrong he is.

Sleeping Beauties by Skylar FinnSleeping Beauties by Skylar Finn:

The sleepy town of Barksdale, Louisiana isn’t known for much: except for its unusually high rate of disappearances.

When the daughter of a prominent businessman and a wealthy debutante vanishes, Reese Lindley returns to her hometown to cover the case for her podcast. Confronted by the past and her estranged family, Reese learns that the quiet town has more secrets to hide than she ever could have imagined.

 

Raging seas by Lily Harper HartRaging Seas by Lily Harper Hart:

For years, Rowan Gray has been searching for answers. She’s finally going to get them.

The group of people haunting her, the society that ripped her family apart, are due to arrive on The Bounding Storm … and nobody believes their goals are altruistic. That’s only proven true when death visits The Bounding Storm in their wake, leaving a mountain of questions and not enough answers.

Who are these people?
What do they want?

Quinn Davenport, head of security and Rowan’s boyfriend, is determined to figure out their plan, fight the effort, and eradicate the shadow that’s hanging over the future he plans on sharing with Rowan. They’re going to stand and fight together, no matter the outcome. To carry out the mission, they’re going to need a little help.

Rowan’s father and uncle board the ship in an undercover capacity, so it’s all hands on deck for the final ride. Before it’s over, Rowan will know the truth … and come face to face with an enemy she didn’t see coming.

This is the end, but it could lead to a new beginning.

Mid-Century Modern Murder by CeeCee JamesMid-Century Modern Murder by CeeCee James:

Stella’s mid-century modern listing was on track to be her easiest commission ever… until the buyers asked about the rumors of a girl who drowned nearby.

As part of her due diligence, Stella starts searching for answers and finds a cold case that makes no sense. A teenage girl who was a State swim team champion… drowned. Something about the case keeps tugging at the edges of her memory but Stella can’t quite put her finger on it.

Meanwhile, Stella’s quest to find out exactly what happened with her mother is finally gaining some traction. She’s close to getting the whole story; she can feel it. But the more determined she is to find out the truth, the more her family members warn her that she won’t like the answers.

As the decades-old drowning case becomes clearer, Stella is shocked to find her own history entwined with that of the dead girl. With each new revelation about her mother, she starts to wonder if her family is right but she just can’t stop herself until she knows every secret.

Agent Recruit by Ethan JonesAgent Recruit by Ethan Jones:

What price would you pay to learn the truth?

Russian FSB Agent Max Thorne is recovering from a daring assignment in the United States, which led to shocking discoveries about his mysterious past. As he begins the search to put together the missing pieces, Max learns that the elusive truth is buried deep under decades of secrecy, betrayal, and deception involving the CIA and KGB.

Barely able to stay one step ahead of powerful forces set on protecting those secrets at all costs, Max is determined to do the right thing. But what price will Max have to pay to learn the bittersweet truth, and can he protect the ones he loves?

Join Max as he faces the darkness that is the secret service the only way he knows how … head on.

Freaky Reapers by Amanda M. LeeFreaky Reapers by Amanda M. Lee:

Poet Parker put the past behind her. At least she thought she did.

Life on the streets wasn’t what she had in mind for her forever and she jumped at the chance to join Mystic Caravan Circus when an invitation was extended. She didn’t look back.

That was ten years ago, and now Poet is going back to the exact area she used to haunt … and she’s nervous.

The friends she left behind are scattered. Some are dead. Some have moved on to other things. Some turned out to be something else entirely. Others simply disappeared into the wind.

Unfortunately for Parker, forgetting isn’t easy … especially when a group of banshees start infringing on Mystic Caravan’s territory and the creatures seemingly have ties to the people Poet left behind.

Between the reapers also working the case – a crazy family called the Grimlocks who can’t stay out of trouble – and the guilt weighing Poet down given the way she fled, she has her hands full.

Someone is controlling the banshees, stealing girls from the streets and creating a merry band of monsters. It’s up to Poet to find out who and protect two street girls who remind her of herself.

Poet doesn’t want to look back but she has no choice … what she finds might be more evil than she ever imagined.

Rzor Rocks by Toby NealRazor Rocks by Toby Neal:

Paradise is plundered by pirates.

Someone is attacking and robbing luxury yachts as they sail the Hawaiian Islands leaving their passengers missing and presumed dead. Sergeant Lei Texeira, with her typical leap first look later style, dives into a case with the Coast Guard to find answers that lie as deep as Davy Jones’ locker.

He’s taking back what was stolen.

The Pirate King has a hidden agenda that’s bigger than the pillage of luxury yachts, and he’ll stop at nothing to reign on the sea.

If She Fled by Blake PierceIf She Fled by Blake Pierce:

When another 50 year old woman is found dead in her home in a wealthy suburb—the second such victim in just two months—the FBI is stumped. They must turn to their most brilliant mind—retired FBI agent Kate Wise, 55—to come back to the line of duty and solve it.

What do these two empty nesters have in common? Were they targeted?

How long until this serial killer strikes again?

And is Kate, though past her prime, still able to solve cases that no one else can?

Never Ever by Willow RoseNever Ever by Willow Rose:

Ex-agent Eva Rae Thomas is on the run. The past month she has done things she never knew she was capable of while hunting for her kidnapped daughter.

Eva Rae has risked everything,

-her career,

-her newfound love,

-her freedom.

She’s looking for the man they call the Iron Fist. The trail has led her to Miami.

Meanwhile, Miami is under attack. Hundreds of passengers in the Metrorail are exposed to a deathly nerve gas on a peaceful Monday morning. When Eva Rae Thomas sees her daughter on the surveillance footage from the attack, she knows it is no coincidence. But by the time she uncovers the chilling truth of how it is all connected, it might be too late.

Murder on Eaton Square by Lee StraussMurder on Eaton Square by Lee Strauss:

Murder’s Bad Karma. . .

Life couldn’t be better on Eaton Square Gardens where the most prestigious families lived, until one of their own dies and it’s murder.

Ginger and Basil are on the case, but it’s not a simple glass of bubbly fizz. The more the clues present themselves, the trickier the puzzle gets, and Ginger feels she’s on a wild goose chase.

But as someone close to the victim so aptly quips, “One shouldn’t commit murder. It’s bad karma.”

Reaping what one sows is hardly a great cup of tea.

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