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2019 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists

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Take note, mystery fans! Crime Writers of Canada has announced the shortlists for the 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards.
Cape Diamond

Cape Diamond

A Frank Yakabuski Mystery
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

Cape Diamond, the second book in the Frank Yakabuski Mystery series, is atmospheric and action-packed. Set near the Northern Divide — as was the first installment, Edgar Award nominee (Best Paperback Original), Ragged Lake — the book opens with Yakabuski called to investigate a gruesome crime scene. A body has been left hanging from a schoolyard fence. On closer inspection, Yak finds a large diamond in the murder victim’s mouth.

Two criminal gangs — the Shiners and the Travellers — are …

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Excerpt

Chapter One

 

The first ones to cross Filion’s Field that Monday morning were shift workers heading to the O’Hearn sawmill on Sleigh Bay. The field was on the west end of an escarpment that soared high above the Springfield River, and each worker would have left a high-rise apartment, lunch pail and coffee thermos in hand, then taken the shortcut across the sports field to be standing at the Sleigh Bay bus stop by 5:45 a.m.

The sun appeared that morning at 6:41, and so the men walked in the dark. Likely they walked with their heads down and eyes to the ground, in no hurry to greet the day, as they were shift workers heading to the O’Hearn sawmill on Sleigh Bay.

They could have missed it. When the workers were tracked down by police later that day — there were nine in total, all men — not one was interviewed for more than five minutes.

Next to cross the field were early-morning workers on their way to the city of Springfield: file clerks and security guards, dishwashers and parking lot attendants, construction labourers and split-shift bus drivers. By the time these workers crossed, the sun was in the sky, a winter sun that would have been more white than yellow, that would have shone through the birch and spruce at the edge of the escarpment and the canyon openings between the high-rise apartment buildings, casting shadows that would have lain directly in their path. Police were able to track down twenty-two of these workers. Each was interviewed at length. No one remembered seeing anything unusual about the east-side fence of Filion’s Field that morning.

The last to cross were children, taking another shortcut, this one leading to a cut-opening in the fence and beyond that a trail through the woods that brought them to Northwood Elementary School. It was hard to get an accurate number for the children. Police estimated there could have been as many as thirty.

During first recess, a half-dozen boys returned to Filion’s Field and that was when a police officer spotted them, throwing rocks at something tied to the fence, a target of some sort. The rocks arced in the air. The boys laughed. By then, the sun had risen high enough to be shining directly through the chain-link fence that surrounded the field, casting geometric shadows on the soccer pitch that replicated the metal mesh.

The cop’s name was Donna Griffin, a young cop who had come to the North Shore projects to serve a family court warrant. She watched the boys, trying to figure out what game they were playing. Eventually, she started walking toward them. When she was spotted, the boys turned as one, like a herd of deer spotting a hunter. Then they took off as one, heading toward the hole in the fence and the path beyond.

The cop knew better than to give chase, as there was no way she was going to catch those boys. A couple of them had looked fast enough to make All City. She watched them disappear into the woods, and before the last child’s back vanished, she realized no boy had turned to yell at her. Not one jeer or taunt when it was obvious she was not giving chase. A half-dozen boys. From the North Shore projects.

She kept walking. Was halfway across the pitch when the object tethered to the fence began to take shape, began to occupy time and space and become a thing defined. She stopped fifteen feet short of the object. The shadows fell across her, not in the pattern of chain-link, but as two large intersecting lines. She stared up at the fence and found herself wishing she had chased those boys.

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Though the Heavens Fall

Though the Heavens Fall

A Collins-Burke Mystery
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover

As 1995 dawns in the North of Ireland, Belfast is a city of army patrols, bombed-out buildings, and “peace walls” segregating one community from the other. But the IRA has called a ceasefire. So, it’s as good a time as any for Monty Collins and Father Brennan Burke to visit the city: Monty to do a short gig in a law firm, and Brennan to reconnect with family. And it’s a good time for Brennan’s cousin Ronan to lay down arms and campaign for election in a future peacetime government.

But …

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Excerpt

Chapter I

 

Monty Collins

 

It was Tuesday, January 24, 1995, and Monty Collins was on assignment in Belfast. He was defending a lawsuit filed against a Canadian-owned company that had a large farm equipment factory on the outskirts of the city, and he had secured a temporary placement with a Belfast law firm by the name of Ellison Whiteside. Monty’s office was in the city centre near Queen’s Square, with a window looking out on the Gothic-style Albert Memorial Clock, which stood over one hundred feet high in the square. He did some paperwork on the farm equipment file and conferred with a couple of local clients, then left the office for lunch in the company of two fellow lawyers from Ellison Whiteside. It was their habit, and would now be his, to head over to McHughs bar, no apostrophe, for a pint and a bite to eat. Wisely, his companions had brought umbrellas for the short walk in the cold winter rain; Monty turned up the collar of his jacket and kept his head down till they reached the bar. They got the last vacant table and ordered soup, sandwiches, and pints of Guinness. It was apparent that the pub regulars had got an early start to the day. Two old fellows were having a row over the leek and potato soup, specifically about what leeks were and where they were grown.

“They’re in the same family as onions. And garlic.”

“In yer hole, they are! Where are we, Ireland or Italy?”

“You’re not even in Ireland!” someone declared from the bar.

“Those are fightin’ words, Charley. Every inch of land on this island is Ireland, and every blade of grass growin’ on it.”

“And every leek!” another guy chimed in. “And they’re green and white. Not a patch of orange on them at all.”

Soup grew cold but pints were consumed before their ideal temperature altered for the worst.

Monty enjoyed a few laughs with his colleagues until they departed for a meeting. He sat and finished his meal. When he was about to get up, he saw a man slide off his barstool and come towards him. He had a wild crop of white hair and stubble on his face, and he appeared to be in his late seventies.

“Those fellas with you were from Ellison Whiteside, am I right, sir?”

“That’s right.”

“You’re new here.”

“Yes, I am.”

“What part of America are you from?”

Monty and other Canadians got that all the time. Everyone assumed they were from the United States. A very few people could discern a Canadian accent, often making the comment that it was softer than the American. Maura was recently told that hers was “sweeter.” No surprise there, Monty supposed; Cape Breton speech often sounded like a mix of Scottish and Irish. He addressed the man in McHughs and said, “I’m from Canada.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon. My mistake. No offence intended.”

“None taken.” And if offence had been taken, Monty was too much the polite Canadian to say so.

The man lowered his voice then. “You’re a solicitor with Ellison’s?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, I have a matter I’d like to discuss with you. A highly confidential matter.”

“I keep all my work confidential.”

“Very good, as it should be. And it’s good to have somebody new in town. The solicitors here have become a wee bit cynical. Worn down by all the violence, you know.”

“Town” sounded somewhere between “tine” and “tarn,” “bit cynical” like “but sunnacal,” “violence” like “vayalence.” Monty nodded in acknowledgement.

“So could I have an appointment with you? Without delay?”

Might as well get it over with today. “Sure, come in after lunch. Ask at the desk for me. My name is Collins, Monty Collins.”

“Interesting combination, sir. Sounds as if you’ve a Brit and a lad from County Cork in your family tree.”

“I have both; you are correct.”

“I’ll see you this afternoon.”

Monty paid for his meal and his pint and returned to his office, where he sat reading the file of a man who claimed he had tripped coming out of the loo in his local bar and had fallen on his knees. Monty could imagine how popular this man — and his solicitor — would be if they took a well-loved publican to the law over something like this. It was hardly the life-and-death legal drama he was accustomed to in the courts at home, defending clients who faced the possibility of life in prison for murder. He shook away those thoughts and started to reach for another of his files when the firm’s receptionist popped her head in the door. “Mr. Malone would like to see you, Monty.” She rolled her eyes.

“Sure, show him in.”

She mouthed the words “good luck” and went back out to reception. Then Mr. Malone, the man from McHughs, was in his doorway. He reached around and closed the door ever so quietly and sat in one of the two client chairs in front of Monty’s desk.

“So, Mr. Malone . . .”

“Hughie.”

“Hughie. How can I help you?”

“You can help blow the lid off one of the biggest cover-ups the wee statelet called ‘Northern Ireland’ has ever known!”

“Cover-up,” Monty repeated.

“A cover-up at the highest levels is what I suspect.”

“I see.”

Hughie sat there nodding his head.

The old cover-up story again. This was not a new experience for Monty, nor for others in his profession. In fact, in a certain kind of case, with a certain kind of client, the client typically goes through a series of lawyers as each one drops his case for lack of merit. That often results in the disgruntled client lodging a complaint with the Bar Society or commencing a lawsuit against the lawyer on completely bogus and fantastical grounds. In virtually every case, the lawyer is accused of “being in on it,” that is, being part of a conspiracy with another party or parties to the complaint, along with other lawyers, the Crown prosecutors, and the judges. It is not unusual for the CIA to crop up in these allegations and, until recently, the KGB. Sometimes aliens had a hand in things as well. These cases often resulted in the client representing himself and foisting on the courts hundreds, even thousands, of pages of the claimant’s ramblings, on everything from his conspiracy theories to his revelations on the meaning of life and the universe. The self-represented litigant. As the old saying goes, “He who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”

“Tell me what has you concerned,” Monty urged him, against his better judgment.

“In the wee hours of November the fourteenth, 1992, my niece’s husband, Eamon Flanagan that was, fell off the Ammon Road Bridge and drowned. This happened the same night, and in the same vicinity, as a fatal shooting, which has never been solved. That same dark, early morning, Eamon just happened to fall off the bridge and drown.”

“Why do you believe this was something other than just an unfortunate accident?”

“There is no justice in the artificial state known to the world as Northern Ireland.”

“Yes, but in this instance, what do you think really happened to this man?”

“He was attacked and then thrown or pushed off the bridge.”

“What evidence do you have of that?”

“If you don’t mind me saying so, Mr. Collins, you sound like all the rest of them.” Signed lake all the rust o’ thum.

“This happened over two years ago. If things went as you believe they did, why has nothing been done before now?”

“Others have refused to take on the case.” Of course. That’s why he homed in on Monty, the new solicitor in town. The blow-in from away. “They’re afraid of losing their livelihood. Or worse.”

“That doesn’t exactly encourage me, Mr. Malone.”

“This statelet, this wee bastard of a political entity, is kept in place by fear. Terror from above.”

Monty had no desire to open that particular door, so he tried to steer the conversation back to the facts. If there were any. “What is it you know, which makes you think this was not an accident?”

“The injuries on the body.”

“Oh?”

“Blunt force trauma to his leg and other parts of him.”

“And that tells you what?”

“That he was struck by a powerful force before he went off that bridge.”

“Or he suffered trauma in the fall. The structure of the bridge, perhaps, or rocks below? I don’t have the advantage of seeing the post-mortem report, so there’s nothing I can say about that.”

“Katie has it.”

“Who?”

“His daughter. May I send her in to see you?”

Every cell in Monty’s body cried out No! But, trying to stifle a sigh, he said, “Sure. Send her in.”

Malone nodded and stood up and left the office.

Monty got busy for the rest of the afternoon and put the Hughie Malone visit out of his mind. He would not hold his breath waiting for the dead man’s daughter, if there was a daughter, to make an appearance in the offices of Ellison Whiteside, solicitors, Belfast.

Monty Collins and Maura MacNeil had come to Ireland because of Monty’s work on behalf of Canadian Earth Equipment Inc., which was one of the biggest clients of his law firm in Halifax, Stratton Sommers. The lawsuit against the company had been launched by farmers and “agribusinesses” — Monty hated that word; it made him lose his appetite — who claimed that their equipment wore out prematurely because of manufacturing defects. It was a multi-million dollar claim. Canadian Earth insisted that the fault lay not with its processes but with the company that supplied the metal for the equipment. Monty’s role would be to gather evidence and statements from the vast manufacturing complex to use in its defence and in the third party claim against the metal supplier. Stratton Sommers expected him to get this done and return home by early May. The fact that he was a Queen’s Counsel at home in Nova Scotia with more than two decades of experience gave him a leg up when it came to meeting the qualifications to practise law in the North of Ireland. Monty was pleased to have been chosen for the overseas posting, but it had to be said that his partners and associates had not exactly been queuing up in the hopes of snagging this assignment. It was not Paris, not Rome, but Belfast in the midst of the Troubles. With that in the forefront of his mind, Monty had done his research; the flat he had rented was close to the university and the Botanic Gardens, a part of the city that had been spared much of the horror of the past quarter century. A ceasefire had been in place since August, but nobody knew how long it would hold.

He and Maura had agonized over whether she and the children should accompany him. They settled on Dublin for her and the two youngest kids, Normie and Dominic. Normie was eleven going on twelve and Dominic was three. The oldest boy, Tommy Douglas, was attending university at home in Halifax. Maura had arranged a leave of absence from her job as a professor at Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, and she had been taken on as a part-time lecturer at the University College of Dublin’s law school. The family had been in Ireland before, but law courts and law books had not been part of the earlier trip.

Monty had spent three days in Dublin, at the little row house Maura had found on the city’s north side, before he headed north to Belfast to start work. He had leased a nifty little Renault hatchback from Burke Transport, and he left the city with assurances that the family would all be together again soon. It was a pleasant two-hour drive through rolling green fields. He was stopped at a border checkpoint, but the army — that being the British Army — did not detain him long.

Ellison Whiteside was a firm of solicitors specializing in civil litigation, and the arrangement was that Monty would work a few cases for the firm in addition to his work for Canadian Earth. This provided an interesting change of focus. In Halifax, he was a defence lawyer trying cases in the criminal courts. Or representing defendants and their insurance companies in civil trials, taking the position that the person claiming injury was barely hurt at all, that there was nothing wrong with the plaintiff beyond a few minor aches and pains, and that he or she was not entitled to retire from the workforce at the defendant’s expense. Now, here in Belfast, he worked mainly on the plaintiff side. Now he’d be the one claiming that the injured party would never work again, My Lord, because of the pain in his back, neck, leg, head, or little finger. He had to admit that the work wasn’t as exciting as winning acquittals in high-profile murder trials, but the sojourn in Belfast would be an adventure, he was sure.

There was somebody else who had a hand in this whole scheme, and that was Father Brennan Burke. The priest was practically a part of the Collins-MacNeil family now. Born in Dublin, he had a big extended family in Ireland. Although he was a frequent visitor to the country, he had always wanted to spend a longer stretch of time here. Brennan had originally intended to stay in Dublin but with prompting from some of his northern Republican relations who had never recognized the border — “It’s all Ireland, Brennan” — he decided on Belfast. That way, he said, “I can make sure that Monty will continue to receive the sacraments. And he’ll never be alone when it’s time to raise a glass after hours.” So he signed on to assist the other priests at a church in the north part of the city, and he would be staying with a cousin by the name of Ronan Burke.

Monty had made plans to go for an early pub supper with Brennan. Brennan expressed an interest in seeing Monty’s new residence, so they met there. He had the downstairs flat in a typical red-brick Victorian terrace house with projecting bay windows, on Camden Street near Queen’s University. They headed out from there, walked through the university district, and came to the shore of the River Lagan. Fortunately, the weather had changed, as it did frequently during any one day in Belfast, and the river shone in the setting sun, reflecting the flame-coloured sky above. They kept to the Lagan’s bank for a while and then turned into the streets of a neighbourhood Brennan called the Markets. A Nationalist area of brick houses with Republican murals and the green, white, and orange Irish tricolour, which would most likely be described here as green, white, and gold. People were out of their houses chatting and enjoying the late afternoon warmth. Monty and Brennan greeted them and were greeted in return.

They then left the residential area and found themselves on a busy street fronted by an imposing Portland stone building with columns and multi-paned windows. Monty had had a glimpse of the building on a short trip to Belfast three years earlier; it was a sight you wouldn’t forget. It was the High Court, its noble elevation marred by the enormous concrete blast wall that surrounded it. When would they be able to dismantle the wall? When would they deem it safe from car bomb attacks? Was there really a chance that peace would prevail at last?

“Some of our greatest buildings are those dedicated to the ideal of justice and the rule of law,” Brennan said.

“And rightly so,” Monty agreed. “Fiat justitia ruat caelum.”

“Well, we’re in a place now where justice and the rule of law have been taking a thumping for over twenty-five years.”

“Longer than that, I suspect.”

“Much longer indeed. Centuries. But you’re an officer of the courts now, Collins. You’ll put things to rights.”

“Yeah, with my trip and fall cases. Those are my files these days when I’m not sorting through cartons of papers from the equipment manufacturer. At least these cases won’t get me killed. Or so I would hope.”

“Nothing too thrilling yet, I guess?”

“Could be worse.”

He and Brennan continued on their walk, keeping an eye out for a place to enjoy some pub food for supper, and they found what they were looking for at the Garrick, a beautiful old bar with dark wood and gleaming fittings, dating back to Victorian times. As they sipped their pints and waited for their meal to be served, Monty asked, “So you’re settling in at your cousin’s place? You don’t miss rectory life and Mrs. Kelly?” Mrs. Kelly was the priests’ housekeeper in Halifax. A nervous, fussy woman, she made no secret of her disapproval of Father Burke for reasons too numerous to mention.

“I imagine the screws in the Crumlin jail would be easier to take than Mrs. Kelly,” he said. “But all that aside, it’s lovely staying at Ronan and Gráinne’s. Plenty of room. Aideen’s the youngest; she’s at university in Galway. Tomás is about to be married and is living just around the corner, so he calls in for visits. Lorcan is rooming with some other lads in a flat off the Falls Road. I’ve a nice, comfortable room upstairs at Ronan’s, so it’s grand.”

“I understand Ronan works for Burke Transport, northern division?”

“He does. Part-time, a few mornings a week. He used to run it but he was, well, away for a stretch of time. Or two.”

“I see.”

“So somebody else runs the place and he’s there about half the time. His son Tomás is full-time, though. Does the books. Studied business and accounting, all that, in college. But Ronan wouldn’t be able to devote all his time to the transport operation anyway. He has other activities that are taking up his energies.”

“His name pops up frequently in the news.”

“He’s in the thick of things with the ceasefire and with some extremely delicate machinations that are going on, to try and get a peace agreement.”

“Good luck to him.”

“He’ll be needing it. To the Unionists, any accommodation with us papists is a surrender. And one of their mottos, as you’ve seen on the murals, is ‘No Surrender!’”

“Unionist,” Monty knew, meant union with the United Kingdom, not with the rest of Ireland.

“They are already calling the process a sell-out. Sull-ite. But they can’t have been sold too far down the river, because the Republicans are calling it a sell-out, too. Or they assume it will be, from what they’ve heard to this point. So you can imagine the rocky road ahead of the fellas trying to strike a deal. Here’s Ronan, with the best intentions in the world, and he’s getting as much resistance from his own people as he is from their age-old enemies.”

“He’d better watch his back,” Monty remarked.

“God bless him and keep him.”

It was a familiar phrase, uttered frequently and without much thought. Not this time. Father Brennan Burke had the look of a very worried man.

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The Winters

The Winters

edition:Paperback

"From the brilliant first line to the shattering conclusion, The Winters will draw you in and leave you breathless. . . . A must read." --Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
A spellbindingly suspenseful new novel set in the moneyed world of the Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that can't be escaped.

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter--a wealthy politician and …

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Excerpt

One
Last night Rebekah tried to murder me again. It had been a while since I'd had that dream, not since we left Asherley, a place I called home for one winter and the bitterest part of spring, the dream only ever recurring when Max was gone and I'd find myself alone with Dani.

As always, the dream begins with Asherley in the distance, shining from afar in a bright clearing. There is no greenhouse, nor boathouse, just a stand of red canoes stabbed into the pebbly beach. In fact, the Asherley of my dream looks more like it might have back in its whaling days, when from the highest turret you could still spot tall ships dotting Gardiners Bay.

Overpowered by the urge to be inside the house again, I pass easily through the thicket of forest that surrounds the property. I want so badly to wander its wood-paneled halls, to feel its plush red carpets beneath my bare feet, to move my fingers in the play of sun through the stained-glass windows, but an invisible force keeps me out. I'm relegated to the bay, where I float like a sad specter, made to watch those who still haunt Asherley act out the same strange pantomime.

I can see Max, my Max, relaxing on an Adirondack, one in a line like white teeth dotting the silvery-green lawn. He's reading a newspaper, framed by the majestic spread of Asherley behind him, its walls of gray stones, its crowd of terra-cotta peaks, its dentils studded with carved rosettes, anchored by the heavy brow of its deep stone porch. Every lamp in every room of the house is lit. A fire roars in every fireplace. The circle of windows at the top of the high turret burns like a sentinel over the bay, as though the house were about to put on a great show for me.

I call for Max but he can't hear me. I want to go to him, to touch his face, to smell his hair, to fit my shoulder under his arm, our sides pressed together. My throat feels strangled with that longing.

On cue, she strides out the back door, carefully balancing a tray of lemonade. She's wearing a white lace dress with a red sash, her blond hair glinting in the sun, her face so eerily symmetrical she'd almost be odd-looking except for the singular perfection of each and every one of her features. Here is Rebekah making her way down to Max, changing her gait to accommodate the steep slope of the back lawn. Now Dani bolts from the house behind her, laughing, her chubby legs charging straight for the water and for me. She's three, maybe four, her hair, far too long for a child, is the same white blond as her mother's. I often wish I could have met Dani when she was this young and unformed. Things might have been very different between us.

My body instinctively thrusts forward to catch the girl, to prevent her from running too far into the bay and drowning.

Rebekah yells, "Be careful, sweetheart," which Max repeats. She puts the tray down. From behind, she wraps her arms around Max's shoulders and warmly kisses his neck. He places a reassuring hand on her forearm. They both watch as Dani splashes in the shallow water, screaming and laughing, calling, "Look at me, I can swim."

Then, as she always does in the dream, Rebekah becomes the only one who spots me bobbing in the bay, too near her daughter for her liking. She straightens up and walks towards the water, stalking me like a lion not wanting to disturb its prey. Still in her dress, she wades into the water, moving past a frolicking, oblivious Dani, until we are finally face-to-face. Her eyes narrow, forming that familiar dimple over her left brow.

I try to flee but my legs are useless.

"Who are you?" she asks. "You don't belong here."

Rebekah's mouth is close enough to kiss, a woman I'd seen in hundreds of photos, whose every contour I'd memorized, whose every expression I'd studied and sometimes unconsciously mimicked in my darker days, when my obsession was most acute and I had no idea how to live at Asherley, how to be a wife to Max, or a friend to Dani.

"I do belong here. She needs me," I say, pointing to Dani, my impudence surprising even me. I try to move but my feet are rooted in the sand below, arms floating beside me like weeds.

"She doesn't need you," Rebekah says, placing her hands on my shoulders in a reassuring manner. "She needs her mother."

Then she rears back slightly. Using all of her weight, Rebekah shoves me under the waves with a sudden violence, flooding my vision with air bubbles. I fight for the surface, to scream for Max to help me, but she's stronger than me, her hands a vise on my shoulders, her arms steely and rigid. In my dream, she's not angry. Rebekah kills me slowly and methodically, not with hate or fear. She's being practical. I am channeling vital resources away from her, rerouting Dani's feelings, altering Max's fate. My murder is conducted with dispassion and efficiency. And though I don't want to die, I can't imagine going on like this either, careful of my every move, looking over my shoulder, afraid to touch anything, break anything, love anything, worried his past will surface again and ruin what I've worked so hard for, what we've worked so hard for. Her task complete, my body painlessly dissolves into the waves and I disappear. I am dead and made of nothing. I am gone.

I woke up gasping for air, my hand at my throat. I kept reminding myself that everything is okay, we are okay, that we are alive and she is dead, cursing the fact that the dream had followed us here, our last stop, I hoped, for a good long while.

***
 
My back ached when I stretched that morning, unfamiliar beds the only downside to our decision to travel for the rest of the year to shake loose the recent tragedies. We found it helped to establish a routine. I would get up first and make us breakfast, for we only stayed in places with kitchens, a homemade meal the best way to start our wide-open days. We tried not to think too much about the past, about Asherley. It was gone, along with all of its secrets. We were building new memories, creating new stories, ones we might find ourselves telling new friends one day, finishing each other's sentences, saying, No, you go, you tell it. No, you-you tell it better.

Mostly our days were languid; sometimes I'd plan a museum tour or we'd take a long drive past ruins. Our nights were spent reading rather than watching TV, sharing the couch even if armchairs were available, our toes gently touching. There were few conflicts, though I was no longer naive enough to believe two people as different as we were, who'd spent as much time together as we had, would never bicker. But the truth was we were still getting to know each other.

Waiting for the omelet to thicken, I poked my head into the bedroom, resisting the urge to caress that thatch of dark hair that I had come to love in a quiet, calm way, a marked difference from how I loved just a short while ago. Hard to believe it had been less than a year since I'd met Max Winter, a man whose love seized me by the shoulders and shook me out of a state of dormancy, and who ushered in another emotion I had yet to meet in my young life: jealousy, the kind that grows like kudzu, vining around the heart, squeezing all the air out, fusing with my thoughts and dreams, so that by the time I understood what was happening to me it was almost too late.

I carefully closed the bedroom door, padded across the cool tile floors of the living area, with its dark armoires and overstuffed armchairs, and threw open the musty blackout curtains. I stepped barefoot onto the hot stone terrace, the sun so bright it hurt my eyes. In the distance, warm air steamed off the sea. From below, I could hear the Spanish-speaking shopkeepers already arguing over sidewalk space, and I was gut-punched by long-ago memories of a mother who sang to me in her mother's language and a father with sunburned shoulders, pulling fish out of the sea, their silver bodies violently jackknifing on the scarred deck of the boat we once lived on, our sleeping quarters the size of the smallest pantry you could find at Asherley. I could have fainted from an old grief. Here they were again, coming at me from afar, watery mirages of the people who once loved me, and I them, their long shadows cast by a low morning sun.

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Kingdom of the Blind

Kingdom of the Blind

A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

INSTANT #1NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A December 2018 Indie Next Pick
One ofKirkus Reviews' Best of 2018 Picks
BookPage Best of the Year 2018
A LibraryReads Pick for November 2018
A LibraryReads Hall of Fame Winner
Washington Post's 10 Books to Read This November
One of PopSugar’s Best Fall Books to Curl Up With

“A captivating, wintry whodunit.” —PEOPLE

"A constantly surprising series that deepens and darkens as it evolves." —Marilyn Stasio,New York Times Book Review

“A spellbinder . …

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The Girl in the Moss

The Girl in the Moss

edition:Paperback

A shallow grave exposes deadly secrets as bestselling author Loreth Anne White brings her thrilling series of romantic suspense to its shocking conclusion…

Disgraced ex-cop Angie Pallorino is determined to make a new start for herself as a private investigator. But first, she and her lover, newly promoted homicide detective James Maddocks, attempt a quiet getaway to rekindle a romance struggling in the shadows of their careers. The peace doesn’t last long when human skeletal remains are found …

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Cobra Clutch

Cobra Clutch

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

"Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead thought he'd traded the pro-wrestling world for the slightly less dangerous one of a bar bouncer and errand boy for his father's detective agency, but the squared circle wasn't quite done with him yet. When his former tag-team partner draws upon their old friendship for help in finding his kidnapped pet snake, Jed finds himself dragged back into the fold of sleazy promoters, gimmicky performers, and violence inside and outside the ring. As the venom of Vancouver's crimi …

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Excerpt

One

"Some asshole kidnapped my snake."

"That sounds like a hell of a case."

"I'm serious, man."

"So am I."

"You don't believe me?"

"Not really, no."

"I thought you would. That's why I came to you."

"Just so I'm clear, by 'kidnapped' you mean someone actually stole your pet snake?"

"Yes. And her name is Ginger."

"The snake or the kidnapper?"

"The snake."

"Are you're sure Ginger didn't, like, slither off somewhere?"

"I'm sure."

"Seriously, who put you up to this?"

"I can't believe you think this is a joke."

"It was my cousin, wasn't it?"

"You know what? Forget it."

I took another sip of my banana milkshake and glanced around the Dairy Queen in search of an accomplice. "You're videotaping this, right? Declan wouldn't go to all this trouble and not get this on camera."

Johnny slammed his fist down on the table. "Damn it, Jed! I'm not screwing around here!"

"All right, take it easy. I believe you."

"About goddamn time."

"You have to admit, it's not the easiest sell. I'm also not sure which is more disturbing -- the fact that someone went to the trouble of kidnapping your pet snake or that you actually named a reptile after a Spice Girl."

My old friend smirked despite himself. "You're an even bigger smart-ass than I remember."

"Fair enough. Now why don't you take me through this thing from the top?"

Johnny plucked a crinkled photo out of his wallet and handed it to me. In the picture he was leaning against the turnbuckle of a professional wrestling ring with a yellow python with brown patches draped over his shoulders. "That's my baby," he said.

"I can see the resemblance."

"Eh?"

I pointed at the tattoo of a yellowish-brown python spiralling around one of his sinewy forearms.

"Oh, yeah. I got inked for Ginger's birthday a few months back. I've had her for three years now, Jed. I make my entrances with her around my neck and keep her ringside during my matches and everything. I can't wrestle without her."

"Any idea why someone would want to take your snake?" I asked, handing back the photo.

"Christ, I don't know. You're the private investigator."

"I'm a bouncer, Johnny. Not a PI ."

"That's not what I've heard."

"My old man is the one with the licence. I just help him with some of the leg work from time to time."

"So do some leg work for me now and help me get Ginger back. You should have seen the cops this morning, man. They laughed at me while I filled out the theft report."

"I'm sorry, bub," I replied earnestly. "I can't help you."

Johnny gripped my forearm as I stood.

"Baton Rouge, man."

My heart skipped a beat. "That was a long time ago."

"You owe me."

"You sure you want to play this card?"

"I am. I got nowhere else to go."

I took a deep breath, my mind scrambling to find an alternative solution. "I know some excellent private investigators. Why don't I give you some referrals?"

"So they can laugh at me too? No. I want you."

I sat back down. Johnny let out a huge sigh. "Thank you, Jed. Thank you so much."

I sucked back on my milkshake until the straw made a slurping sound. Some people complain about Dairy Queen and say they don't make quality shakes. I say that's bull. They're the only place that mixes their syrup with real bananas and that makes all the difference in my book.

I set aside my frosty treat and looked at my old friend. It had been a long time since I had last seen Johnny Mamba. Instead of the buff young wrestler I remembered, he now looked nearly a decade older than his thirty-eight years. Although still muscular, he'd lost a lot of mass and his skin now appeared more loose and leathery than tight and tanned. Crow's feet had crept their way around his eyes and his hairline had started to recede. The years he'd spent punishing his body on the professional wrestling circuit had definitely taken their toll.

"Let me see that picture again," I said finally. Johnny slid the photo across the table. "Can I have this?"

"No way," he said, snatching it out of my hands.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket. Johnny clued in and placed the photo flat on the table so I could snap a pic.

"Good enough. Now tell me about the, uh ... abduction."

"It was after practice last night. I left Ginger in her sack in the locker room while I showered like I always do. When I came out she was gone."

"How long was your shower?"

"Five minutes or so."

"Who else was there?"

"Nobody. I usually stick around after practice and work with the rookies so I'm always the last to leave."

"Johnny, if this really is a kidnapping then you would have received a ransom note."

Johnny produced a printout of an email. It read:
From: thesteelcrab@gmail.com
To: gingerlover69@hotmail.com
Subject: PAYMENT
-----------------------------------------------
Ten thousand dollars or you never see the
snake again. You have three days to get the
money.
-----------------------------------------------

Johnny stared at me with saucer plate eyes. "What do you think?"

"I need you to forward me a copy of this. You still have my email?" Johnny nodded.

"What about thesteelcrab@gmail.com? Does that mean anything to you?"

"No."

"I find it curious the kidnapper would send you a ransom note via email, but I guess that might explain why you were given three days to secure the funds instead of one."

"How so?"

"I doubt they would know how often you check your email and they had to ensure they gave you ample time to receive the message. Any idea how the kidnapper got your address?"

"Every wrestler's email is posted on the XCCW website."

"XCCW?"

"X-Treme Canadian Championship Wrestling. Fastest growing professional wrestling promotion in Western Canada."

"I've never heard of them."

"It's a great circuit. Quality talent, awesome schedule, lots of exposure. You ever thought about a comeback? XCCW would be the perfect place for you to --"

I silenced Johnny with a glare.

"I was just throwing it out there," he said quietly.

I let it go and tapped my finger on the printout. "No offense, Johnny, but why would someone in their right mind expect you to pay ten thousand dollars for a pet? Couldn't you just buy another snake for a fraction of that amount?"

"I love her, man. I'd pay anything."

"Odds are whoever took Ginger knew that."

"What are you saying? That the son-of-a-bitch who took Ginger knows me?"

"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying. Do you have any enemies? Anybody that would want to hurt you?"

"No way, man."

"Anybody at XCCW?"

"Are you kidding? I'm like Tom Cruise at a Scientology convention at that place."

"How about the money? Can you afford to pay the ransom?"

"I got some coin squirreled away for a rainy day."

"And how many people are aware of that fact?"

Johnny shrugged, tucking his long hair behind his ears. "A bunch, I guess. My Nana died a few months back and left me about twenty grand."

"You never played connect the dots much when you were a kid, did you, Johnny?"

He blinked a few times. After a moment, it clicked. "Oh, shit! You think they knew about my inheritance?"

"No one without intimate knowledge of your relationship with Ginger would waste time with a scheme like this. How many people does XCCW employ?"

"Maybe eighty or so, including wrestlers and staff. I haven't been back since Ginger was taken but I can show you around if you need me to."

"No, I want you to steer clear of there for now," I replied. "Best thing you can do is lay low and let me do my thing."

"You got it, Jed. So what do you charge for this kind of thing?" he asked, cracking open his wallet.

"Just your word that this squares us," I said, sliding out of the booth. "I'll be in touch." "Are you sure? Isn't there anything else I can do?" "Yeah. Get to the bank." I tossed my empty cup in the garbage and ordered another large banana milkshake to go.

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