Friday, 23 March 2018

#BlogTour The Silent Games by Alex Gray @Alexincrimeland @partnersincr1me

The Silent Games by Alex Gray The Silent Games

by Alex Gray

on Tour March 12 - April 14, 2018


Alex Gray's stunning new Lorimer novel, set against the backdrop of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, brings the vibrant city to life in a race to stop the greatest threat the city has ever known.

2014: The Commonwealth Games are coming to Glasgow and security is extra tight, particularly after a mysterious bomb explodes in nearby rural Stirlingshire. As the opening ceremony for the Games draws ever closer, the police desperately seek the culprits. But Detective Superintendent Lorimer has other concerns on his mind. One is a beautiful red-haired woman from his past whose husband dies suddenly on his watch. Then there is the body of a young woman found dumped in countryside just south of the city who is proving impossible to identify. Elsewhere in Glasgow people prepare for the events in their own way, whether for financial gain or to welcome home visitors from overseas. And, hiding behind false identities, are those who pose a terrible threat not just to the Games but to the very fabric of society.

Critical Praise:

An excellent procedural in which Gray ... does for Glasgow what Ian Rankin did for Edinburgh in the annals of crime fiction.” — Kirkus Reviews on The Silent Games

“Gray has no equal when it comes to unmasking killers and she has excelled herself here . . . Gray is the new master of Scottish crime writing.” — Scottish Daily Express

“Brings Glasgow to life in the same way Ian Rankin evokes Edinburgh.” — Daily Mail (UK)

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: March 13th 2018
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780062659262
Series: A DCI Lorimer Novel, #11 (Stand Alone)

Get Your Copy of The Silent Games from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & HarperCollins. Don't forget to add it to your Goodreads!!

Read an excerpt:

From Chapter 2
It was worse than he could ever have imagined.
Even from the roadside, where a line of police cars was parked, Lorimer could see the devastation. Plumes of smoke and flames still rose from the heaps of broken trees, and as he emerged from the Lexus, his skin was immediately touched by flakes of ash drifting in the air. The smell of burning wood was overpowering, and he could hear the occasional crackle and hiss of fire beneath the whooshing sound from the firemen’s hoses as arcs of water were trained into the heart of the inferno. His eyes took in the gap in the hedge where the fire engines had broken through to reach the narrow walkers’ path, and the tyre marks on the verge. It would be replanted, no doubt, but the burning trees would leave a scar that would take far longer to heal.
‘Detective Superintendent Lorimer? Martin Pinder.’ The uniformed chief inspector was suddenly at his side, hand outstretched. Lorimer took it, feeling the firm once up and down as the officer motioned them to turn away from the direction of the cinders. ‘Sorry to call you out, but as I said, we needed someone to front this. And your name came up.’
‘But isn’t this a local matter?’ Lorimer asked. ‘We’re in the district of Stirling, surely?’
Pinder shook his head. ‘It’s bigger than you might imagine,’ he began. Walking Lorimer a few paces away from the line of cars, he dropped his voice. ‘And there is intelligence to suggest that it may have a much wider remit.’
‘Oh?’ Lorimer was suddenly curious. The telephone call had mentioned an explosion, the immediate need for a senior officer from Police Scotland and a request to keep the lid on things, but nothing more.
‘You said intelligence.’ He frowned. ‘You mean Special Branch?’
Pinder nodded. ‘I’ve been charged with giving you this information, sir. And doubtless your counter terrorism unit will already be involved.’ He licked his lips, hesitating, and Lorimer could see the anxiety in the man’s grey eyes.
‘We are given to believe that this is just a trial run.’ Pinder motioned to the fire behind them.
‘A trial run,’ Lorimer said slowly. ‘A trial run for what?’
Pinder gave a sigh and raised his eyebrows.
‘The Glasgow Commonwealth Games.’
Lorimer looked at the man in disbelief, but Pinder’s face was all seriousness.
‘That’s almost a year away. Why do they think. . .?’
‘Haven’t been told that. Someone further up the chain of command will know.’ Pinder shrugged. Perhaps you’ll be told once you liaise with Counter Terrorism.’
Lorimer turned to take in the scene of the explosion once more, seeing for the first time the enormous area of burning countryside and trying to transfer it in his mind’s eye to the newly built village and arenas in Glasgow’s East End. He blinked suddenly at the very notion of carnage on such a vast scale.
‘We can’t let it happen,’ Pinder said quietly, watching the tall man’s face.
Lorimer gazed across the fields to the line of rounded hills that were the Campsies. Glasgow lay beyond, snug in the Clyde valley; on this Sunday morning its citizens remained oblivious to the danger posed by whatever fanatic had ruined this bit of tranquil landscape. He had asked why the local cops hadn’t taken this one on, and now he understood: the threat to next year’s Commonwealth Games was something too big for that. And since the various police forces in Scotland had merged into one national force, Detective Superintendent William Lorimer might be called to any part of the country.
‘The press will want statements,’ Pinder said, breaking into Lorimer’s thoughts. ‘It’s still an ongoing investigation. Don’t we just love that phrase!’ He gave a short, hard laugh. ‘And there is no loss of life, so we can try for a positive slant on that, at least.’
‘They’ll speculate,’ Lorimer told him. ‘You know that’s what they do.’
Pinder touched the detective superintendent’s arm, nodding towards the figures milling around on the fringes of the fire. ‘Apart from you and me, there is not a single person here who has been told about the background to this event. So unless the press leap to that conclusion by dint of their own imagination, any leak can only come from us.’
When Lorimer turned to face him, the uniformed officer was struck by the taller man’s penetrating blue gaze. Fora long moment they stared at one another, until Pinder looked away, feeling a sense of discomfort mixed with the certainty that he would follow this man wherever he might lead.
Wouldn’t like to be across the table from him in an interview room, he was to tell his wife later that day. But there on that lonely stretch of country road, Martin Pinder had an inkling why it was that the powers on high had called on Detective Superintendent William Lorimer to oversee this particular incident.
Excerpt from The Silent Games by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2018 by Alex Gray. Reprinted by permission of Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Alex Gray
Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Health, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English. Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles, and commissions for BBC radio programs. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers' Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing. A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, she is the author of thirteen DCI Lorimer novels. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.

Catch Up With Alex Gray On, Goodreads, & Twitter!

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alex Gray and Witness Impulse. There will be 3 winners of one (1) Print copy of Alex Gray’s THE SWEDISH GIRL. The giveaway begins on March 12, 2018 and runs through April 15, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.
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Thursday, 22 March 2018

#CoverCrush Heresy S.J. Parris

For new visitors do I want to explain that Cover Crush is something that my friend Erin over at Flashlight Commentary came up with and I adopted the idea together with some other friends. And, now we try to put up a Cover Crush every week. You can check below my pick of the week for their choices this week!

When fugitive Italian monk Giordano Bruno—philosopher, magician, and heretical scientist—arrives in London, he’s only one step ahead of the Inquisition. An undercover mission for Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster provides added protection. Officially, Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe at Oxford University; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen. But when his mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly deaths and the charms of a mysterious but beautiful young woman, he realizes that somewhere within Oxford’s private chambers lurks a brutal killer. . .


The cover image itself is captivating in itself, however, the added details that reflect the plot (the Copernican theory) adds to my fascination with the cover. I feel that this cover reflects what I look for in a historical mystery set in the Elizabethan age. 

Check out what my friends have picked for Cover Crush's this week:

Stephanie @ Layered Pages

#BookReview München (Munich) by Robert Harris @Robert___Harris (SWE/ENG)

Munich by Robert Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


September 1938

Hitler är fast besluten att starta krig i Europa. Chamberlain vill desperat bevara freden. Europas framtid beslutas i en stad som kommer att bli berömd för det möte som äger rum där.

Samtidigt som Chamberlains plan flyger över Engelska kanalen och Führerns tåg åker söderut genom Tyskland, reser två unga män med sina egna hemligheter mot München. Hugh Legat är en av Chamberlains privata sekreterare, Paul Hartmann är en tysk diplomat och medlem av anti-Hitler-rörelsen. De nära vännerna har inte setts på sex år. Nu kommer deras vägar att korsas igen. Vem är du villig att förråda? Dina vänner, din familj, ditt land eller ditt samvete?

München är en stämningsfull och fartfylld skildring av Münchenöverenskommelsen. Det är en fascinerande roman med välavvägd prosa som som sprakar av träffsäkra historiska detaljer.


München är en bok som jag snabbt läste igenom, nog för att boken inte var jättetjock men jag måste erkänna att jag även var totalt fängslad över handlingen som utspelas under fyra dagar i september 1938. Robert Harris är en författare som har en förmåga att skriva böcker, vare sig det är historiska eller mer moderna, som fängslar och München är definitivt inget undantag. Någon jag tänkte på medan jag läste boken var hur lite jag egentligen visste om Münchenöverenskommelsen eller rättare sagt kommer ihåg och jag var fascinerad att läsa om hur Chamberlain verkligen strävade att bevara fredan i Europa, medan Hitler däremot verkade mer sträva mot dra i krig.

Handlingen är väldigt spännande, medan maktens män planerar ett möte i München sker det saker i kulissen. Inte alla i Tyskland är på Hitler sida och helst av allt vill de bli av med honom. För Hugh Legat, en av Chamberlains privata sekreterare blir dessa fyra dagar väldigt intensiva när en gammal vän tar kontakt med honom igen. Paul Hartmann, tysk diplomat och medlem av anti-Hitlerrörelsen. Kan de tillsamman stoppa Hitlers planer?

München är fängslande, välskriven och djupt tänkvärd. Jag är speciellt imponerad över personlighetsbeskrivningarna och då framförallt Chamberlain vars vilja var att bevara freden till vilket pris som helst. Var det fegt att skriva under Münchenöverenskommelsen, att blunda för tecknen på att detta är bara en respit? Tja,vi sitter med facit i handen och vet att inget hade stoppat Hitler och jag måste erkänna att jag känner sympati med Chamberlain och hans fredbevarande inställning.

Tack till Bookmarks förlag för recensionsexemplaret!


September 1938

Hitler is determined to start a war.

Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace.

The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there.


As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Fürher’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own.

Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now. as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again.

When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?


Munich is a book that I read quickly, probably because the book was not that thick, but I have to admit that I was also totally captivated by the story set during four days in September 1938. Robert Harris is a writer who has the ability to write books, whether it's historical or more modern, that captivate and Munich is definitely no exception. Something I thought while reading the book was how little I really knew about the Munich agreement or, probably more accurately, I remembered, and I was fascinated to read how Chamberlain really sought to preserve peace in Europe, while Hitler seemed to strive to go to war.

I found the story to be very compelling, while the men of power are planning a meeting in Munich, things are happening off the scene. Not everyone in Germany is on Hitler's side and some of them wouldn't mind getting rid of him. For Hugh Legat, one of Chamberlain's private secretaries, will these four days become very intense when an old friend contacts him again. Paul Hartmann, German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler movement. Can they stop Hitler's plans?

Munich is captivating, well-written and memorable. I'm particularly impressed with the personality descriptions and especially Chamberlain whose will was to preserve peace at any price. Was it cowardly to sign the Munich Agreement to ignore the signs that this is only a respite? Well, we have the luxury of being able to look back and know that nothing had stopped Hitler and I have to admit that I feel sympathy for Chamberlain and his peacekeeping attitude.

Thanks to Bookmarks förlag for the review copy!

#BookReview Panic Room by Robert Goddard @TransworldBooks

Panic Room by Robert Goddard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes the danger is on the inside . . .

High on a Cornish cliff sits a vast uninhabited mansion. Uninhabited except for Blake, a young woman of dubious background, secretive and alone, currently acting as housesitter.

The house has a panic room. Cunningly concealed, steel lined, impregnable – and apparently closed from within. Even Blake doesn’t know it’s there. She’s too busy being on the run from life, from a story she thinks she’s escaped.

But her remote existence is going to be invaded when people come looking for the house’s owner, missing rogue pharma entrepreneur, Jack Harkness. Suddenly the whole world wants to know where his money has gone. Soon people are going to come knocking on the door, people with motives and secrets of their own, who will be asking Blake the sort of questions she can’t – or won’t – want to answer.

And will the panic room ever give up its secrets?


Panic Room is the first book I have read by Robert Goddard and the cover and blurb intrigued me. A panic room that should be open, but is closed and no one knows what's inside, together with a mystery woman who is hiding out at the house. I just knew I had to read the book.

Panic Room is a book that not really lived up to my expectations, sure it's an interesting book, with a great mystery, but I found myself not really engrossed in the story and one thing that really disappointed me was that Blake turned out to be such a let-down. I had hoped for a more thrilling background, but the more I learned about the less interesting she became. I mean I still don't see what special relationship she had with the house owner and her past was, well nothing special, nothing that I felt made her interesting. I did find Don Challenor, the estate agent who more and less just happened to get mixed in the whole mess, to be more interesting. I mean, who doesn't like a character who by mistake get caught up in something? Don's presence made the book better.

As for the ending, you know what, oh it was so disappointing! Sorry, I just thought that the ending was too "Hollywood", too safe, not daring enough. Sure, it may seem wrong to wish for a different ending, but that would have truly shocked me. In this case, it just felt lackluster because one knew how it would end. There is just no thrill to reading a book that fails to shock the reader.

All and all is Panic Room an interesting book that ultimately failed to live up to my expectations. I found myself wanting to know the truth, but the pace of the book and the lack of suspense was a drawback. If the ending had been a bit more unexpected would it definitely have made the book better!

I want to thank Transworld Publishers for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

#Wishlist March Exceptional Women (Nonfiction)

Marsh wishlist is all about exceptional women that scandalized society by daring to break the role model! Here's to all brave ladies of the past!


The Bolter: Edwardian Heartbreak and High Society Scandal in Kenya by Frances Osborne

On Friday 25th May, 1934, a forty-one-year-old woman walked into the lobby of Claridge's Hotel to meet the nineteen-year-old son whose face she did not know. Fifteen years earlier, as the First World War ended, Idina Sackville shocked high society by leaving his multimillionaire father to run off to Africa with a near penniless man. An inspiration for Nancy Mitford's character The Bolter, painted by William Orpen, and photographed by Cecil Beaton, Sackville went on to divorce a total of five times, yet died with a picture of her first love by her bed. Her struggle to reinvent her life with each new marriage left one husband murdered and branded her the 'high priestess' of White Mischief's bed-hopping Happy Valley in Kenya. Sackville's life was so scandalous that it was kept a secret from her great-granddaughter Frances Osborne. Now, Osborne tells the moving tale of betrayal and heartbreak behind Sackville's road to scandal and return, painting a dazzling portrait of high society in the early twentieth century.

The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters by Anne de Courcy

For many years Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India (1898-1905), controlled all aspects of his daughters' lives. Irene (born 1896), Cynthia (born 1898) and Alexandra (born 1905) eventually revolted against their father's control. Irene had many affairs but never married. Cynthia married the up-and-coming Oswald Mosely, and Alexandra married the Prince of Wales best friend, Fruity Metcalfe. Throughout the 1920s, the sisters were at the centre of a fast and glittering world. This biography provides insight into their lives, public and private, and gives a different view of German, Italian and British fascism. Based on unpublished letters and diaries, this book provides new revelations about Oswald Mosely, the Cliveden set, Lord Halifax and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice de Janze and the Mysterious Death of Lord Erroll by Paul Spicer

In the spirit of Frances Osborne's The Bolter, this fascinating life of femme fatale and gorgeous Chicago heiress, Alice de Janzé, offers a solution to the decadesold murder of Lord Erroll—the story at the center of James Fox's acclaimed book and movie White Mischief.

A glamorous American multi-millionairess, Alice de Janzé scandalized 1920's Paris when she left her aristocratic French husband for an English lover—whom she later tried to kill in a failed murder-suicide in the Gare du Nord. Abandoning Paris for the moneyed British colonial society known as Kenya's Happy Valley, she became the lover of the handsome womanizer, Joss Hay, Lord Erroll. In 1941, Erroll was shot in his car on an isolated road. A cuckolded husband was brought to trial and acquitted, and the crime remained tantalizingly unsolved.

Paul Spicer, whose mother was a confidante of Alice's, used personal letters and his own extensive research to piece together what really happened that fateful evening. He brings to life an era of unimaginable wealth and indulgence, where people changed bed partners as easily as they would order a cocktail, and where jealousy and hidden passions brewed. At the heart of The Temptress is Alice, whose seductive charms no man could resist, and whose unfulfilled quest for love ended in her own suicide at age forty-two.

Those Wild Wyndhams: Three Sisters at the Heart of Power by Claudia Renton

Three sisters – beautiful, cultured and aristocratic, born into immense wealth during the reign of Queen Victoria. Their dramatic lives are here unfolded in a rich historical biography certain to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, ‘Georgiana’ and Stella Tillyard’s ‘Aristocrats’.

Mary, Madeline and Pamela – the three Wyndham sisters – were painted by John Singer Sargent in 1899. For The Times it was, quite simply, ‘the greatest picture of modern times’. But these beautiful, fin de siecle gentlewomen came to epitomize a vanished world. The languor of their pose reflects the leisured, gilded, existence of the late Victorian aristocracy that was to be dealt a deathblow by the First World War.

Yet the lives of these three Wyndham sisters were far more turbulent than their air of calm suggests. Brought up in artistic circles, their childhood was liberal and romantic. Their parents were intimate friends with the Pre-Raphaelites and the girls grew to become leaders of the aesthetic movement. Bowing to convention, they made excellent marriages but found emotional support from others – Mary with Arthur Balfour and the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt; Pamela with Liberal statesman and ornithologist Edward Grey. Their liaisons shocked society, while the First World War devastated their way of life.

‘Those Wild Wyndhams’ is their first ever biography, and is based on the many letters they have left behind – compelling, humorous and brilliantly illuminating. This sparkling debut by Claudia Renton captures them and their age in an unforgettable piece of historical and political biography.

The Rare and the Beautiful: The Art, Loves, and Lives of the Garman Sisters by Cressida Connolly

The garman sisters, who were born in England's Midlands and whose scandalous lives placed them at the center of European cultural activity in the middle of the twentieth century, were famous for their passion for the arts, defiance of convention, and the power to turn heads and break hearts. Their exquisite taste, colorful personalities, and unleashed pursuit of romance earned them a unique place in London's legendary bohemia, inspiring a generation of artists and writers.

Kathleen, an enigmatic artist's model and aspiring pianist, was the lover of the controversial American-born sculptor Jacob Epstein, who immortalized her in seven sensual portraits, fathered her three children, and became, at the end of his life, her husband. Kathleen's sister Mary married the maverick poet Roy Campbell, whose verse attack on the Bloomsbury group following Mary's affair with Vita Sackville-West caused a literary scandal. Mary and Roy, enamored by Mediterranean culture and lifestyle, lived in Spain, Portugal, and the south of France during the continent's turbulent decades, where inspiration and destruction came to them in equal measure. Lorna, the youngest and most radiant of the sisters, became the lover of the young poet Laurie Lee and the painter Lucian Freud, each of whom later married one of her nieces.

The Garman sisters became involved in the radical literary and political circles of Europe between the two world wars. Their lifestyle was outside the prevailing mores: bisexuality, unfaithfulness, and illegitimate children were a matter of course. Headstrong and flamboyant, they sidelined their own talent for writing, painting, and music, their friendships, material comforts -- even their own children -- in the cause of art and beauty.

In fourteen short chapters, The Rare and the Beautiful -- inspired by the exquisite Garman Ryan art collection, bequeathed by Kathleen Garman and including works by Bonnard, Constable, Picasso, Degas, Pissarro, Braque, Modigliani, and van Gogh -- evokes the extraordinary milieu of scandal, high drama, and high culture that defined twentieth-century bohemia. An unorthodox biography of women who broke the rules with inimitable style, it is also a thoughtful meditation on the power of the muse, the glamour of art, and the personal sacrifice it exacts.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

#BookReview The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel @panmacmillan @StMartinsPress @FreshFiction #FFreview

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.

Now, ten years later, Ruby is single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about what it will be like to see Ethan again, who just so happens to be the best man.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there is nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past . . .


THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is a book that I was interested in reading because I had read that it was a modern retelling of PERSUASION by Jane Austen. I love modern retellings. I usually don't read much contemporary romance fiction, but I have a weakness for retellings so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this book.


#BlogTour The Fix by Robert Downs @partnersincr1me

The Fix

by Robert Downs

on Tour March 1 - April 30, 2018


The Fix by Robert Downs
Professional gambler, Johnny Chapman, plays the hand he’s dealt, but when he’s dealt a series of losers, he decides to up the ante with more money than he can afford to lose. Just when he thinks his life can’t get any worse, it does. The loan shark he owes the money to demands that he pay up and sends his goons after him. The man offers Johnny one way out—fix a race by fatally injecting the dog most likely to win. A piece of cake, Johnny thinks, until he looks into the big brown eyes of the beautiful dog, and the price suddenly seems too great to pay. Now Johnny’s on the run and the goons are closing in…

Book Details:

Genre: Noir
Published by: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: December 2nd 2017
Number of Pages: 166
ISBN: 9781626948174
Grab your copy of The Fix on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Goodreads!

Read an excerpt:


The taste of liquor still lingered on his lips. Six months without a drink, and he had the chip to prove it. His eyes were downcast, the table was green felt, and his wooden seat jammed the lower part of his back. The overhead light was dim, and he had his hat pulled down over his eyes. Johnny Chapman had lost three hands in a row, and he didn’t want to lose a fourth.
The Indian sat across from him with his hands folded across his chest, wearing dark sunglasses in a dark room, his hair shaved close to his head, and a tooth missing near his front. He cracked his knuckles between hands and even once during. The sound bounced off the walls in the closet of a room.
“Well, what’s it gonna be?” Thomas Kincaid asked. “I ain’t got all night.” His lips formed a sneer before he took a long pull on a dark drink. His eyes flicked in every direction except straight ahead.
“Don’t rush me.”
“If you move any slower, we’ll both be looking up at the daisies,” Thomas replied. He looked at his two cards for what must have been the third time.
Johnny sucked his lip between his teeth, flashed his eyes once toward the ceiling, and flipped a chip onto the deck. The roar in his ears nearly pulled him away from the hand, but the click of the ceiling fan managed to hold his attention. The darkness helped with his focus as well.
The girl sat across from him, dark hair drifting to-ward her shoulders and even a bit beyond. Teeth as white as a bowl of rice. A drop of moisture near her upper lip entered the equation. Her T-shirt bunched out at the front, and her eyes were as cold as Alaska. She played her cards close to her chest, and her bets were even. For the most part. She managed to toss in a few extra chips when she had a hand. But she was a straight shooter and hadn’t bluffed once. Johnny knew it was coming, though. He just didn’t know when. Even if he managed to run like hell, she’d probably still clip him at the ankles. Her chip stack sat more than a third higher than his own.
She had a good smile. That one. Not too much of the pearly whites, but just enough for a man to take notice. The words on her chest accentuated her assets. Tight, clean, and turquoise—the T-shirt, not her breasts.
Johnny’s eyes flicked to his watch, and his phone buzzed in his pocket. The alarm. His leg vibrated for a second more and then it stopped.
It was almost time. The medication. It took the edge off, and stopped his mind from racing off to infinity and beyond. The man with the dark rims and the white lab coat prescribed it in a room bigger than the one he was in now. If he didn’t take his meds in the next ten minutes, the headaches would start soon after.
The ceiling fan whirred again. The backroom was stale and damp, the casino out on the edge of the reservation with nothing but tumbleweed and small trees for over a mile. Diagonally opposite from the little shithole that he called home for the past several years. The run-down piece of trash with the broken Spanish shingles, cracked stucco, and clouded windows.
Seconds turned over, one after another, and still there was no movement from the Indian to his right. Lapu Sinquah flipped his sunglasses up, and dragged them back down, but not before his eyes looked around the table. The Indian made a face and flipped two chips onto the green felt.
The girl was next. She scratched her forehead. Her expression remained neutral. When Caroline Easton flipped her head, her hair remained out of her eyes. Her look resembled cold, hard steel. She followed the Indian with a two-chip flip.
Thomas tossed his cards away, and it was back to Johnny. He felt it: an all-consuming need to win this hand…and the next one…and the one after. Desire consumed him, after all. Or maybe it didn’t.
The hand that got away. The hand that consumed him, pushed him over the edge, and had him calling out in the middle of the night. One voice. One concentrated effort before the moment passed him by. He couldn’t imagine losing, ending up with nothing. Bankrupt.
This minute reasoning had him playing cards night after night, hand after hand, reading player after player. Moment after moment. Until the moments were sick and twisted and filled with jagged edges and punctured with pain. Or left him dead and buried on the side of the road in a ditch with half of his face missing.
The winning streak wouldn’t last. It’d be gone again. Like a sound carried away by the breeze in the middle of a forgotten forest. This time, he wouldn’t fold too soon. This time, he’d play it differently.
The one that got away. The pot in the middle that would have covered three month’s rent. But he tossed his cards aside, even though he’d been staring at the winning hand for damn near three minutes.
His eyes flicked to each of the three players before he once more peeled his cards back from the table and slid the two spades to the side.
The Indian glared at him through the darkness and his dark sunglasses. “Well?” Lapu asked. “What the fuck, man?”
Johnny tossed his shoulders up in the air. “I’m out.”
“Just like that?” Caroline’s long dark hair whipped around her head.
“Sure, why not?”
The Indian rubbed his shaved head. “You’re one crazy motherfucker.”
Johnny shrugged. “I never claimed to be sane.”
The ceiling fan whirred faster, clicking every five seconds. The air was heavy and suffocating, and he yanked on his collar with his index finger. Two drinks were drunk, and a glass clinked against a tooth. One chair slid back and another moved forward.
“There’s over two grand in the pot,” Lapu said.
Johnny gave a slight tilt of his head. “And I know when to walk away.”
The Indian jerked to his feet and extended a finger away from his chest. “It was your raise that started this shitstorm.”
“True,” Johnny said. “And now I’m going to end it.”
Caroline combed her hair with her fingers. “You haven’t ended anything.”
“I’d rather have that as my downfall than lose it all to you nitwits.”
Caroline smirked. Her white teeth glinted against the light overhead. “Who made you queen of the land?”
“I’d like to think it sort of came up on me,” Johnny said. “It sort of took me by surprise. Existence is futile.”
The Indian smirked. His stained teeth were nearly the color of his skin. “Futility won’t help you now.”
The hand was between the girl and the Indian. Her assets versus his. One smirk versus another. The sun-glasses were down, and both the movements and expressions were calculated. Chips were tossed, and the last card was flipped. Caroline took the pot, and her cold expression never wavered.
A ten-minute break ensued. Johnny used the bath-room, washed his hands, shoved two pills into his mouth, cupped his hands underneath the spout, sucked water from his palms, dunked his hands underneath the liquid once more, and splashed the water on his face. He grimaced at his own reflection, the dark, sunken eyes. He sucked in air and dried his hands. His shoes clicked on the broken tile on his way out the door.
His chips hadn’t moved, and neither had the table. The stack of chips was smaller than when he started this game. As the losses mounted, his amount of breathing room decreased. His longest losing streak was thirteen hands in a row.
The blinds were doubled, and his mind numbed. Compassion was a long forgotten equation, and sympathy wasn’t far behind.
The conversation picked up again, and the Indian perfected a new glare. “I never heard so much chatting over a game of cards.”
“It’s not just a game,” Thomas said. “Now, is it?” One dark drink was replaced with another, and the man’s eyes glazed over.
The girl tapped her wrist with two fingers and flipped her hair. “I think we’re already past the point of sanity.”
“If there was ever a point, it was lost—”
“I had a few points of my own that were somehow hammered home.” Johnny flipped three chips into the pot in one smooth motion. He had a hand, and he was determined to play it, even if he had to stare down the girl and the Indian at the same time.
“The game of life succeeds where you might have failed,” Lapu said.
Thomas knocked back the remainder of yet another drink. “I don’t accept failure.”
Johnny’s eyes flicked to his wrist. “You don’t accept success either.”
“Why do you keep looking at your watch?” Thomas asked. “Are you late for a date?”
The girl called and tossed three chips into the pot with only a slight hesitation. She had a hand, or she wanted to make it appear as such. Her lips moved less and less, and her eyes moved more and more. Her features were clearly defined.
Johnny kept his expression even.
“You’re not late for anything that I’ve seen,” Caro-line said.
Both the Indian and Thomas folded.
“I’d like to take you out back and shoot you.”
“Would that somehow solve the majority of your problems?” the Indian asked.
Johnny nodded. “It might solve a few.”
“Or,” she said, “then again, it might not.”
The last card was flipped, and bets were tossed into the center of the pot. Johnny raised, and Caroline countered with a raise of her own. He called, flipped his cards over, and his straight lost to her flush. Half of his stack disappeared in one hand. He ground his teeth and chewed his bottom lip.
“I don’t like you,” Johnny said.
Her expression was colder than Anchorage. “You never liked me.”
“There might have been mutual respect, but that ship sailed out into the great beyond and smacked an iceberg.”
“Does not equal acceptance,” Johnny said.
“It will keep you up most nights,” the Indian said.
Determined not to lose again, Johnny kept his eyes on the prize and his dwindling stack of chips. The girl to his right had never flashed a smile, and now her stack of chips was nearly three times the size of his own. His eyes flicked to his wrist once more, and he grimaced.
For several moments, the ceiling fan took up all the sound in the room.
His breath hiccupped in his chest, and he swayed in his chair. The wood jammed against his lower back, and the angry green felt kept an even expression. His mouth moved, but no sound escaped from between his lips.
He fell out of his chair and cracked his head on the carpet. For the next few minutes, he drifted in and out of consciousness.
“Did his heart just stop?” Lapu asked.
Thomas leaned across the table. “What the hell are we talking about now?”
Lapu stood up. “I think that fucker passed out.”
“Which fucker?” Caroline’s chest pressed hard enough against her shirt to slow down her blood flow. Her eyes narrowed, but her hand was steady.
“The one that was losing.”
“That’s all you fuckers.” She tapped her tongue against her upper lip. “You’re all losing.”
Lapu shoved his chair back. “I don’t like losing.”
“But you do it so well.”
Thomas’s body shifted in his chair. “Not on purpose.”
The ceiling fan stopped, and the walls trapped all remnants of sound. One beat of silence was followed by another.
Lapu moved first. He slapped two fingers to Johnny’s wrist and checked for a pulse. The heartbeat was low and weak and arrhythmic.
“What do we do now?” Caroline asked. “Have you got a plan?”
Thomas stood up and sat back down again.
“Cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar,” Lapu said. “Both have the potential to reduce the effects of arrhythmia.”
She pointed. “Or maybe he has pills in his pocket.”
Lapu nodded. “That is also an option. Check his pockets while I prop up his head.”
“I need another drink,” Thomas said. “I’d rather not be sober if a man is going to die.”
Caroline rolled her eyes. “Don’t be so melodramatic.”
Lapu had watched his father die with a look on his face not that far from the one Johnny wore now: the lost eyes and the still body, with his spirit on the verge of leaving this world for the next. Lapu poked through his pockets in a methodical fashion and found a prescription bottle with a half-peeled label. He popped the top, poked his finger through the slot, and removed two pills. He peeled Johnny’s lips apart, shoved the pills inside his mouth, and forced him to swallow. Minutes later, his life force had altered considerably, and color had returned to Johnny’s cheeks.
Lapu nodded his head. “There’s a purpose to every-thing.”
Thomas leaned over and slapped Johnny on the cheek. “I believe in the possibilities of a situation. Those moments that lead from one into the next, filled with passion and compassion and equality, and some other shit.”
Caroline smirked. “Which is what exactly?”
“Not losing another hand.”
Johnny inched his way to a sitting position and slapped his forehead. “Fuck me—”
“Not likely,” Caroline said. “It neither looks enjoy-able nor promising, but that’s a nice try, though.”
“Your perspective has gotten skewed,” Thomas re-plied.
“That’s certainly possible,” she said, “but I wouldn’t be so sure.”
< <
More hands were played, and more hands were lost. Johnny’s stack of chips diminished faster until he was left with two red ones and half a drink. His even expression had vanished long ago, and his feet had started tap-ping during the last three hands. The Indian had six chips to Johnny’s two, and the rest were distributed between Thomas and Caroline, with the girl staring above a tower nearly level with her chin. Her expression hadn’t changed, and neither had her methodical approach to playing cards.
The barrel of a gun dug into Johnny’s lower back-side after he expunged the last two chips he had to his name. He didn’t have time to move or breathe, and he hadn’t even noticed Thomas shift his weight and remove the pistol from somewhere on his person. But the digging did further enhance Johnny’s focus and destroy his moral support. “Cuff him.”
“What the fuck?” Johnny replied.
“It’s time you realized the full extent of your losing.”
Johnny couldn’t see Caroline’s expression, but her voice was filled with menace and hate and exhibited more force than a battering ram.
“Stand up, you piece of trash.”
The gun shifted, and Johnny rose. The room spun, and he considered passing out all over again, but he pulled himself back and inched his way toward the metal door that was a lifetime away.
The barrel against his back never moved or wavered.
< <
She hated cards. Had hated the act and aggression of gambling most of her life. The thrill of winning and the heartbreak of defeat neither moved nor motivated her. Tossing chips into a pot, calculating the odds in her head, reading players around the table, and playing the hands of the other players instead of playing her own made her head throb from the weight of the proposition. But she did it, over and over again. If she thought about it long enough and hard enough, Caroline might have called herself a professional gambler, but that was a term she hated even more than the act of taking money from unsuspecting souls who had a penchant for losing. But if her two choices were paying the rent, or living on the street, she would choose rent every time and worry about the consequences later.
She couldn’t change her fate, or her odds. All she could do was play the hand she was dealt, match it up against what the other guys and gals had around the table, and study the ticks and idiosyncrasies that made each player unique. Over-confidence and euphoria were concepts she knew well, and she could smell it coming like a New Mexican thunderstorm. Even though she understood what she needed to do, she hated her hands even more than she hated long division. With each passing second, her trepidation grew, and the calm she exuded on the surface was a thunderstorm underneath the shallow exterior. It had gotten to the point that it was totally out of control, and probably would be for the rest of her life. It wasn’t satisfying, or even mesmerizing, and yet here she was week after week, going through the motions. The same types of players sat around the table with the same types of expressions painted on their uneven faces. The voice in her mind echoed in time, and she did her best to keep the whispers at bay. But the plan backfired, just as all good plans did that were built on a foundation of lies.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Caroline asked.
“Trying to win,” Johnny said. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
“Losing,” she said. “And not even admirably. You really are one stupid bastard.”
She had been called to test him, to see if he would break and crumble beneath the weight of a bad hand or two or ten, and he had folded faster than a crumpled handbag smashed against a mugger’s face. She had chipped away steadily at his chips, until two red ones were all he had left, and a tower of multicolored circles stood in front of her.
< <
Johnny had a hand that was planted in his lap by the gods, or maybe it was Julius Caesar himself. He couldn’t remember the number of times he’d lost in a row. Six or maybe it was seven. The torment and punishment continued unabated, and he licked his lips more with each passing second. The hands played out one after another against him, and the gates of Hell had opened before him. The girl to his right was methodical, and the jabs kept on coming, one right after another.
Her hands were probably her best feature. The way her fingers slid across the table, shoving chips and poking at her cards, and prodding the weaknesses of those around her, only made him long for her even more.
But this was it. His moment. And he wasn’t about to let it pass him by. Two minutes later, though, the moment passed, his chips were gone, a gun was shoved against his backside, and he was escorted out of the building.
Excerpt from The Fix by Robert Downs. Copyright © 2017 by Robert Downs. Reproduced with permission from Robert Downs. All rights reserved.
Robert Downs

Author Bio:

Robert Downs aspired to be a writer before he realized how difficult the writing process was. Fortunately, he'd already fallen in love with the craft, otherwise his tales might never have seen print. Originally from West Virginia, he has lived in Virginia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and now resides in California. When he’s not writing, Downs can be found reading, reviewing, blogging, or smiling.

To find out more about his latest projects, or to reach out to him on the Internet, visit:, Goodreads Page, & Facebook Page!

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#BookReview The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (@simone_stjames) @BerkleyPub

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming--until one of them mysteriously disappears...

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past--and a voice that won't be silenced. . . .


Is it only a little over a year ago since I discovered Simone St. James through the fantastic book Lost Among the Living? Apparently so since then have I read a couple of her older books, and I quite enjoy her haunting tales. The Broken Girls captivated me from the first page and I enjoyed this hauntingly tragic story. As a big fan of books with dual storylines was I intrigued by both stories.

Journalist Fiona Sheridan sister was murdered twenty years previously and her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. Although it seems that the case is closed with the boyfriend being tried and convicted for the murder can't Fiona shake the feeling that something about the case is wrong. While Fiona investigates Idlewild Hall that has now been sold do we learn what happened in the 50s, through flashback chapters, at the school when one of the girls went missing...

The Broken Girls is an engaging story with an underlying feeling of paranormal. It's the paranormal vibes that make this book a bit extra thrilling to read I think. I found that I hardly could put the book down when I started to read it and I enjoyed both storylines. This is a fabulous book, very atmospheric, and I can't wait to read more from Simone St. James.

I want to thank the Berkley for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!