Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.
A holiday in this tropical resort could be her last.
Delia Frost is ready to quit her job and take a holiday. But she wants a relaxing holiday, not the one her husband dreams of; traveling in a motorhome. Sending airfare money to her two children who are holidaying abroad so they can all meet up for this family holiday, she packs her and her husband’s bags for seven glorious days in a tropical island resort.
But even thieves need to take a holiday, and once more Delia finds herself caught in a web of thievery and murder. And this time it is not only her life in danger, it is the lives of her children.
Can she catch this murderous thief before it’s too late?
ONE DAY AGO
A door slammed, startling the cleaner who had left the balcony door open to air out the smell of bleach. The wind liked to whip across the ocean straight into the rooms on this side of the resort. Josephine pulled the glass door closed, slipped a mask over her face to block out the acrid stench of cleaning products, and popped her headphones onto her head.
Cleaning the hotel rooms with headphones was against hotel policy. It was written on the board in the staff room: PLEASE DON’T WEAR HEADPHONES WHILE CLEANING THE ROOMS. It had something to do with a cleaner once surprising a male guest who had left a sign on the door handle to make up the room, but had forgotten something and returned. The cleaner, a young woman from the Pacific Islands named Roxy, had not heard him return. The way Josephine had heard the story; Roxy claimed the guest had groped her, and the guest claimed he’d busted Roxy rummaging through his suitcase. Roxy had a habit of stealing items, so Josephine had believed the guest’s story. But Roxy was also stunningly beautiful, and often international guests would offer her money to come live with them, so Josephine had also believed Roxy’s story. Both were probably right.
Bottom line: the cleaners always got blamed.
Deep in her thoughts, Josephine hadn’t heard the door to the bathroom open. And she hadn’t heard someone creeping across the tiled floor. But the song on her music list ended and she heard a noise coming from within the closet.
This room was empty. Guests weren’t due to arrive until tomorrow.
Glancing at the balcony door, she saw it was closed.
Her mother believed in ghosts. Josephine did not.
She switched off the music. There. Something was inside the closet.
Probably a possum, she thought. Or a stupid bird. The resort was swarming with wild animals that liked to break into rooms and steal food or other items. Once, a magpie had flown in and stolen a woman’s bikini and used it in its nest.
Josephine crept towards the closet door. She was deathly afraid of animals. But she had to get it out of the room before it caused the worst kind of mess to clean.
Halfway across the room, the closet door opened.
Someone stepped out.
They wore a white billowing top and pants and a large straw hat, as if they were a ghost, and her breath caught in her throat. She slipped off her mask, suddenly unable to breathe.
“You can’t be in here,” Josephine said. “This room isn’t supposed to be occupied till tomorrow. How did you get in?”
The intruder held up a hand and pointed a finger at the balcony door. This room was on the second floor. The intruder would have to have climbed thin air to get inside.
She still couldn’t see the intruder’s face: the hat was pulled down low. They were a small build, nothing discernible, and she was too startled to pull her gaze away to check for features that might tell her more about this person’s identity and intention.
It could have been a man beneath the loose-fitting clothes, but it could also have been a woman. And until she saw the face, she had no idea if they were young or old.
“I have to call the manager,” Josephine said.
The intruder’s finger wiggled in the universal sign of ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you’.
Suddenly loud music blasted out of the small stereo – each room had a DVD player, a TV, a small stereo, and a selection of CDs. This was loud, noisy, angry music.
Josephine’s insides chilled. This was just how Roxy had described her attack.
At last the intruder lifted their head. She stared into a set of dark eyes that brimmed with anger.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, shouting to be heard.
The intruder stood there, blocking her exit through the front door. The balcony door wasn’t an option because it was a sheer drop to the pool area below.
“Okay,” Josephine said. “You can leave now. I won’t report you. I can keep my mouth shut. You ask my cousin if I’ve told anyone about the money she stole from her in-laws’ restaurant.”
Angry, dark eyes stared back at her.
“Okay. I’ll leave and you stay.”
Josephine took a step toward the door.
The intruder took a step forward.
She quickly backed up.
A knife appeared in the intruder’s hand.
Her weapon of defence was a spray bottle containing bleach, which she threw at the intruder before spinning to bolt for the balcony door.
She felt a hand grab her long hair, which hotel rules stated had to be tied back, only now her ponytail was being used like a rope to drag her into the room.
She started kicking and screaming. Realised that nobody would hear her screams over the music, but she screamed anyway.
A hand landed on her mouth.
She bit it.
She bit harder, so hard that she was flung across the room. She scrambled up, hissing like a cat, curling her fingers into claws, her long nails now her only defence.
The glint of the steel knife stopped her. And then the intruder surprised her by tossing the knife onto the lounge.
Her gaze was fixated on the knife as it swung through the air, and she followed its trajectory to the lounge. Her reflexes sprung into action. She lunged for the knife, but the intruder lunged at her, barrelling into her and knocking her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her.
“What’s the combination to the safe?” a gruff voice asked.
“I. Don’t. Know.”
The hands around her throat were squeezing tight.
Tears coursed down her cheeks, blinding her.
Play dead, her brain commanded.
And so she did. She let her body go limp, her mind go free, and she closed her eyes and took herself to a quiet place, a special place, one reserved for moments of enlightenment.
And then the tight feeling around her throat was gone.
She lay there, too afraid to move, and equally afraid not to leap up and run for her life.
And the music stopped.
In the distance, she heard seagulls squawking. A warm breeze blew into the room. Laughter billowed up from the pool. The balcony door must have been open for her to hear the sounds of activity down below.
How long should I lie here, she wondered? Five minutes. Ten? An hour?
She finally opened her eyes.
And realised that she couldn’t move. Her body was numb. Her mouth wouldn’t open. None of her limbs worked.
And then loud music blasted again.
Twilight reflected on the water like millions of fireflies, casting a shimmery haze to reflect off the surface. The white hulls of the luxurious cruisers in the harbour captured the remaining afternoon sun. Smaller boats bobbed gently up and down. Seagulls flew overhead. Pelicans settled to roost on the streetlights. A gentle breeze blew in as if it also sought a place to settle for the night.
A perfect balmy evening. Just the way I liked it. Not too hot. Not too cold. Moments like this were called Goldilocks moments, where everything was ‘not too this’ or ‘not too that’. I stood motionless, gazing out across the marina, soaking up the perfect moment, wishing for a glass of champagne to toast this magnificent sight. I could see why this placed was called Majestic Island.
I tore my gaze away from the marina and pulled it toward the mainland, eight kilometres away and yet still visible from the island. At least for another few hours until night closed its curtains. A moving light on the water’s surface caught my eye. It belonged to a small dinghy. The white anchor light moved up and down, as if it was drifting along the current. Darkness had not yet fallen so I could see that the dinghy was without its master.
“What are you looking at, Mrs Frost?”
I flinched. Richard had startled me. And why was my husband suddenly referring to me as Mrs? He knew I hated the reference, it made me feel old. Worse, it made me feel like his mother, who insisted on everyone calling her Mrs Frost. I liked his mother, and she liked me, but I wasn’t interested in becoming her.
His lips lifted in a smile; he was teasing me.
“Just watching the harbour, Old Man,” I replied, using the term he disliked the most. His silvery hair was the only indication that he was almost fifty-five, but his hair had been silver for so long, strangers had difficulty guessing his age.
He stopped beside me and joined me in gazing out over the bay. “Gorgeous view.”
“Yes, but that boat is floating in the water without a master.” I pointed a finger; it took Richard a few seconds to locate the slow-moving anchor light.
“Are you sure it’s adrift?”
“I’ve been watching it for a while. It’s moved with the current, but there isn’t anyone on board. It’s out there, floating aimlessly, alone, lost.”
“Delia, you make it sound like it’s in the depths of despair.”
“It could be dangerous when the ferry arrives.”
“You’re right. I’ll tell the restaurant manager about the boat. He can call the marina manager to check it out.”
The ferry had dropped us on Majestic Island an hour ago. I’d hardly had time to unpack: Richard had made dinner reservations at the marina restaurant. We’d been on our way there when Richard had told me to wait while he went on ahead to check on our booking. I hadn’t questioned his reasoning: this might have led to a long discussion about something I was too tired from the ten-hour drive today to feign interest in. So I’d let him go on ahead while I stopped to soak up the sunset.
“Our table is ready,” Richard said. “We can go in now.”
I nodded, too distracted to give him my full attention. The dinghy was keeping me mesmerised. To wish to be in that boat as it floated out to sea was an irrational desire to escape, and yet I couldn’t stop the idea from settling in.
At last, I pulled my attention away from the boat and headed inside the restaurant, a place named The Shack, with wooden walls and floors, and marina paraphernalia strung about. Fishing nets hung from the ceiling. A large aquarium with colourful fish inside sat behind the main desk. There was a large metal artwork with the four cardinal directions hanging behind the bar. A massive blue marlin fish was mounted to a wooden beam.
The waiter smiled at me and held out his arm like he was directing traffic. I’d lost sight of Richard, so I had no idea where our table was located.
“Where are we sitting?” I asked the waiter.
He turned and headed for the table against the window.
I caught a glimpse of myself in a porthole-shaped mirror: white Capri pants with a red and black off-the-shoulder top. I could take no credit for the top – it had belonged to my twenty-two-year-old daughter Georgia, and I’d inherited it after she’d left for her overseas trip. I hadn’t had the chance to wear it until now; summer wouldn’t reach our hometown of Batemans Cove for another few months. My suitcase was filled with whatever of my daughter’s tops and summer shoes were suitable for a fifty-three-year-old woman, and whatever I could fit into.
The waiter stopped at the table.
Richard sat on the left, and there were two other people seated around the table.
“Mum.” Georgia leapt up, hugged me and planted a kiss on my cheek. I noticed that she’d cut her dark hair so that it fell in curls just below her shoulders. Her skin was golden brown, that I almost hadn’t recognised her.
My son stood up next. Tristan was two years older than Georgia. I had last seen him a few months ago, and yet I was taken aback at how much he’d changed. He had a neatly-trimmed beard and he seemed to have grown another two inches taller. I had to stand on my toes to accept his kiss on the cheek.
“What are you doing here?” I said to them both. “You weren’t supposed to be arriving until tomorrow.”
Georgia grinned. “Dad wanted to surprise you. Surprise.”
I spun to find Richard grinning like a man with the winning lottery ticket.
“If I’d known you were coming,” I said feigning annoyance, “I’d have had my hair done and worn make up.”
Georgia laughed. “Oh, mum you look great. Hey, isn’t that my top?”
I grabbed them both and pulled them close. They were my rocks and I felt anchored by their presence. All thoughts of drifting out to sea were instantly forgotten.
The waiter arrived, his presence breaking apart our huddle. Standing beside him was a gorgeous woman with long dark hair, dark eyes, and a pale yet not sickly complexion. She wore an off-the-shoulder yellow top and a denim skirt. I suddenly wondered if we had been seated at her table and the waiter was here to move us.
Tristan brushed past me to stand beside the woman. “Mum. I’d like to introduce you to Mary Ramirez. She’s my fiancé.”
My hand reached for the back of the chair for support. Three months ago, Richard had suffered a heart attack. I finally knew how it felt to have one’s heart just stop.
“Way to go, big brother,” Georgia said, hugging Tristan tightly then throwing her arms around Mary.
“Congratulations,” I said, finding my voice. “This is a bit of a shock. A nice shock, but still a shock.”
“I’m sorry to spring this on you,” Tristan said with an apologetic smile. “But there’s no easy way to announce something like this.”
I supposed there wasn’t.
“Tristan stressed about how to tell you on the plane ride over,” Mary said. Even her voice was gorgeous, throaty and melodic.
She flashed her finger at me; it was as if a star had exploded and one bright shard had fallen to earth and landed on her finger. How could Tristan have afforded such a ring?
While Georgia gushed over the diamond, I sought out Richard’s hand. From the corner of my mouth, I said, “Did you know about this?”
“As if I’d keep something this big a secret from you,” he stage-whispered back.
It was my turn to admire the ring. All those years of wondering if my son would find true love drifted away.
I glanced up to see that Mary was staring at something happening in another part of the restaurant. She finally turned back to face us; her smile seemed forced.
“I thought you were in Africa on holidays,” I said to Tristan.
He grinned. “I was on holidays. That’s where I met Mary.”
“Let’s all sit down,” Richard said. He turned to the waiter. “We’d like a bottle of sparkling wine please.”
“Make it two bottles,” I said.
My nerves were in overdrive. I could literally have drained one of them on my own.
The waiter nodded and left. He returned with two bottles of sparkling wine and two buckets with ice, fussing over opening the first bottle, making so much noise with the ice bucket it was like listening to a cat at a litter box. I grabbed the other bottle and handed it to Richard to open.
I felt Tristan’s gaze on me.
“Aren’t you happy for me?” he asked.
“Of course I’m happy. I’m just a little shocked.”
“It’s still a bit of a shock to me too. I mean, who’d have thought I’d ever land a woman like Mary.”
He began to move his cutlery around on the table. That was when I suspected that Tristan was nervous about something.
Georgia blurted out what had been on my mind a few minutes ago. “So did you pay for the ring or did Mary?”
“That doesn’t matter,” he said.
Georgia address Mary next. “Well, if you take it off to go swimming, my advice is to leave it in the hotel main safe. The safes in the rooms are like toys. They’re too easy to break into.”
Georgia nudged me. “What are you having to eat?”
We were both hiding behind our menus to whisper between ourselves. It used to infuriate Richard and Tristan that we’d deliberate over the menu items with the precision of generals heading to war. What if you ordered ‘this’ and I ordered ‘that’ and then we shared? What else have you eaten today? What if we shared ‘this’ or ‘that’ meal and then each got a dessert? What dessert would we order? What if you ordered ‘this’ dessert and I ordered ‘that’ dessert and then we each got a taste? Should we have the creamy dessert knowing we are having the creamy main meal? Perhaps we should rethink our main meal selections? All the while deflecting the looks of exasperation from Richard and Tristan because they knew what meals they were having, because for them it could only ever be the most calorie-laden foods on offer.
But I wasn’t studying the menu. I was clutching it like a lifeline, using it as a shield, and as a means to study Mary. I had known that Tristan was bringing his girlfriend with him on this holiday – I had learned that he was serious about a girl, via my sister Madison, so I’d insisted that Tristan’s new girlfriend accompany him on this trip. If they were serious, I wanted to meet her. I hadn’t expected her to turn up waving an engagement ring around.
Though, I ought not to have been surprised. This was Tristan, the boy who fell in love with whoever smiled at him.
Lowering my menu, I snuck a glance in Georgia’s direction, and she wasn’t the slightest bit subtle about studying Tristan’s fiancé.
Tristan swatted her with his napkin. “Cut it out.”
“I’m not doing anything.” Georgia was unable to keep the grin off her face. “So are you two having an engagement party?”
Tristan’s gaze flickered to Mary who was placing her napkin in her lap. She looked up and gave Tristan a polite smile.
“It all happened rather quickly,” Tristan stammered. “We haven’t thought about it yet.”
“How did it happen, exactly?” Georgia sat with her arms folded over themselves, leaning in close. With one hand she lazily grabbed for the wine glass and took a sip. “I want all the details. How did you two meet?”
Tristan shot her a cautionary look. “We met at work.”
“I thought you weren’t working. That was the last email I received from you. ‘Still haven’t found a job’. I wondered how you were paying for your travels. Unless mum and dad loaned you money.”
Richard scowled. “We didn’t loan him money.”
“You got an email?” I asked, feeling left out.
Georgia flicked her curly hair. “So, big brother, how can you afford such a lovely ring? Can I look at it again? It’s so big and shiny, it’s like it needs planets orbiting it.”
She didn’t wait for Mary to offer her finger. Georgia grabbed Mary’s hand and stroked the ring.
There were times when my daughter’s boldness could grate my nerves as thinly as dust, and then there were moments like this when her boldness was inspiring. The ring must have cost thousands of dollars. Tristan didn’t have thousands of dollars.
At last, Georgia let go of Mary’s hand. Mary returned to calmly sitting at the table, as if she had trained for this inquisition. Precisely what had Tristan told her about our family?
I topped up my glass. “How about we go around the table and catch up on what we’ve been up to. Who wants to start?”
“Well, Tristan’s already caught everyone up,” Georgia said. “So it must be my turn. I’ve been having a ball in Europe.” She took the bottle off me and topped up her glass. “It’s amazing how cheaply you can travel if the right people tell you where the non-touristy places are. I’ve tasted so much new food. I’ve picked grapes at vineyards and berries at orchards.” She set down the bottle and took a drink from her glass. “Not bad. I stayed at a villa in France recently where I learned to distinguish good wine from bad. This is not bad.”
“I thought you were in Finland,” I said.
“I’ve been all over Europe. You can get to most places by train. Or you can hitch a ride.”
“Who are you running away from this time?” Tristan said, giving her a wry smile.
Mary sat up. “Why would she run away?”
Tristan shrugged. “The moment a guy gets interested in my sister, she’s suddenly not interested in him.”
Richard tossed his napkin onto the empty plate. “Georgia, you will not hitch rides in foreign countries. We’ve taught you better than that.” He turned to me. “Haven’t we? We’ve told her not to hitch rides.”
“Of course we’ve told her not to.”
Georgia was giggling. “Relax, Dad. I was joking. Just waiting to see how long before you got all fired up.”
“You are so immature,” Tristan said. “And you should know better than to rile Dad up in his condition.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Richard snapped.
Tristan spoke to Mary: “Dad had a heart attack a few months ago.”
“A mild heart attack.” Richard leaned in close to Mary. “I’m as fit as I was when I was twenty-four.”
Good lord, was he flirting with her?
“He’s supposed to take things easy,” Tristan added.
Georgia groaned. “Can’t you take a hint, big brother? I’m trying to deflect the attention off you by lightening the mood. You’ve sprung this engagement on Mum and Dad, but fine, you still want the limelight. You’re up. Tell us everything.”
All heads swivelled to stare at Tristan, whose face was turning bright red. Obviously Georgia had hit a nerve.
Mary stood up and swept her polite smile around the table. “Perhaps I’ll go to the bathroom to freshen up. Excuse me.”
Tristan and Georgia glared at one another.
“That’s enough out of you two,” I said. “We are here for a holiday and I will not have you ruin it with your constant bickering.”
“Sorry,” they both said in unison.
Then Tristan lowered his voice and snuck a furtive look over his shoulder. “The thing is, Mary comes from a very wealthy family and her parents don’t approve of her job.”
“And what job is that?” I asked.
“She works with a large security firm. Her parents want her to return to the family business.”
Honestly, this holiday would be over by the time Tristan finished connecting the dots of this story, which was his way of saying he didn’t want to tell me anything; this had been his way of avoiding telling me about a bad grade or a fight he’d gotten into at school. Give only vague answers. Better than Georgia though, who had, between the age of fourteen and fifteen, chosen to grunt as her method of communication.
“They own a chain of jewellery stores,” he said.
“No, in Argentina.”
“What’s the issue about not wanting to work there?”
“She lives in Africa. The stores are in Argentina.”
“I don’t know exactly what the issue is. I haven’t met her family. Please don’t make a big deal out of this. We’re planning on visiting them after this holiday.”
My insides warmed that Tristan had wanted Mary to meet us before he met her family.
“What about siblings?” Georgia asked. “How many?”
“I don’t know. Shut up, will you. It’s not like you know anything about the men you date.”
Georgia’s sly grin deepened. “I’m not marrying any of the men I’ve dated.”
The conversation around the table halted abruptly when Mary appeared. She wore a confused look on her face.
“I didn’t get a chance to explain,” Tristan said with a sigh.
“Oh.” Mary looked back toward the toilets. “Perhaps I should…”
“Our apologies, Mary,” Richard said. “It appears as if our children have returned to Australia without their manners. I’d have thought holidaying abroad would have matured them.”
“We’re not cheese,” Georgia said, slugging back the wine.
I’d lost count if this was her third or fourth glass. Not that I could criticise. I’d almost finished my bottle: it had done nothing to settle the shock of learning that my son was getting married and I wasn’t getting his emails.
As Mary took her seat, she appeared to be sending Tristan a silent message that I couldn’t interpret. Then the waiter arrived with a basket of warmed rolls and none of us got to hear any more about how Tristan and Mary met.
During the lulls in conversation, Tristan refused to fill in the gaps. Mary was polite, charming, she spoke of her life in a vague way, never giving specific details. She lived ‘near the coast’. She worked ‘in security’. Her family was ‘just like any other family’. How would the two of them even be able to open a joint bank account if neither of them could provide any real information?
Georgia tried her best to pry the finer points out of the two of them, but Tristan wasn’t talking and Mary wasn’t offering anything, and I realised it wasn’t them being vague. It was as if the two of them had an arrangement in place: no spoilers. Which meant there was something better to come.
My hand shook as I tore my bread roll in half. Good lord she was pregnant. It was the only explanation for this sudden engagement. Because now that a little of the shock had worn off, they didn’t look like a young couple in love. They looked like two scared teenagers.
To get things back on track, I tapped my glass with my fork and waited until all eyes were on me.
“I too have an announcement,” I said. “I’ve quit my job and your father and I are travelling for the next nine months.”
“It was meant to be twelve,” Richard said. “But we’ve spent the last three months getting things organised.”
“Anyway, I think we should have a birthday party for your father while we are here.”
“That’s a great idea,” Tristan said.
Richard’s eyes lit up. “I do like a party in my honour.”
“Mum and I can organise it,” Georgia said. “It’ll be fun, like old times.”
“Mum is on holidays,” I told her. “The resort must have an event planner. At the very least we can have a fancy dinner.”
“We could have a combined birthday and engagement party.” Georgia was giggling, so I knew it was a joke. Richard, however, could not see the funny side.
“I’m not having a combined party,” he said. “No offense to the happy couple, but I spent my childhood having a combined birthday with your Uncle Reggie. It’s not fun.”
All heads swung in the happy couples’ direction, and once again I was struck by how much they looked like frightened children.
They were a happy couple, weren’t they?
Excerpt from The Thief Catcher by Jonette Blake. Copyright 2021 by Jonette Blake. Reproduced with permission from Jonette Blake. All rights reserved.
My Book Review:
In The Thief Catcher, book two of the Delia Frost Mystery Series, author Jonette Blake transports the reader to the Windswept Resort on Majestic Island, in North Queensland, Australia, for an intriguing mystery story that will keep the reader turning the pages.
After dealing with a serial killer in The Widow Catcher, book one of the series, Delia is ready for a relaxing family holiday with husband Richard and her adult children, Georgia and Tristan. What starts out as a promising holiday at the tropical resort turns into a harrowing time when the resort has a murderous thief hiding among the vacationers. Delia's radar goes into overdrive when she catches wind of the thefts and murders that occur at the resort, and she finds herself caught up in the middle of the danger when her family's lives are threatened. Can Delia and her family escape the series of thefts, or will they find themselves in the murderous thief's crosshairs?
Author Jonette Blake weaves a suspenseful tale that follows Delia's latest ordeal with danger when a thief is among the vacationers at the tropical island resort. The reader will be easily drawn into this intriguing plot, as the author keeps the readers guessing the identity of the thief, and what items they were determined to steal. And if that isn't enough to put a wrinkle in Delia's need for a peaceful family holiday, she also has to deal with family dramas, secrets and shenanigans. As clues are uncovered, the reader will be drawn into the suspense, and surprising twists and turns that lead to the identity of the thief, while also learning more about the intricacy of Delia's family dynamic.
I look forward to reading more of Delia's future adventures in The Delia Frost Mystery Series.
RATING: 4 STARS
About The Author
Jonette Blake writes supernatural thrillers and suspense thrillers. She is the author of over ten books and dozens of short stories, writing as DL Richardson.
She was born in Ireland and grew up in Australia. She lived through the 80s and music is still a big part of her life. When she is not writing, she plays her piano and guitar, listens to music, reads, and enjoys the beach.
She has held jobs in administration, sales and marketing, has worked in HR, payroll, and as a bank teller. Her latest novel The Widow Catcher is based on the coastal town she lives in and her own bank teller experience.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchnage for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.
Playing on our universal fascination with reality TV, Emily C. Whitson’s Beneath the Marigolds is The Bachelor(ette) gone terribly wrong.
When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.
Ann quickly realizes there’s more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?
Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the “journey to true love” and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive.
Praise For Beneath The Marigolds:
“Cleverly plotted…Whitson’s debut novel is an intriguing new entry in the women’s suspense genre, driven by dual first-person narrators and tension-filled parallel timelines.”— Carmen Amato, Silver Falchion Award Finalist and author of The Detective Emilia Cruz Mystery Series
“Exhilarating twists and turns…a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl.” — Helen Power, author of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place
“A fun, propulsive read…this book cleverly combines the archetypes of “reality TV” and the “trapped-on-a-remote-island” mystery that will perpetually keep you guessing.” — Marcy McCreary, author of The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon
I knew too much. On that island, on that godforsaken singles’ retreat. I knew too much.
I ruminated on that thought, chewing it carefully, repeatedly, while Magda, the makeup artist, transformed me into a life-size nightmarish porcelain doll. Ghastly white face, penciled-in eyebrows, blood-red lips. I’d look beautiful from a distance, she had told me, leaving the other part of the sentence unspoken: up close, it’s frightening. She tsked as she dabbed my damp forehead for the fourth time, her Russian accent thickening with frustration.
“Vhy you sveating so much?”
I worried my voice would come out haggard, so I shrugged, a little too forcefully. Magda shook her head, her pink bob sashaying in the grand all-white bathroom as she muttered something foreign under her breath. My gaze danced across the various makeup brushes on the
vanity until it landed on one in particular. I shifted my weight in the silk- cushioned chair, toyed with my watch.
“Magda, what do you want out of this retreat?” No response.
Did she not hear me, or did she choose not to respond? In the silence, I was able to hear Christina’s high-heeled feet outside the bathroom.
Click, clack. Click, click.
When I first met the host of the singles’ retreat, I was in awe of her presence, her unflappable poise. Shoulders back, she walked with a purpose, one foot in front of another, and though she was a couple inches shorter than I was, she seemed larger than life. Her icy eyes, colored only the faintest shade of blue, seemed to hold the secrets of the world—secrets she intended to keep. But I had stumbled upon them just a few short hours before, and I was now afraid her gait represented something more sinister: the march of an executioner.
Click, clack. Click, clack.
Her stride matched the even tick of my watch, and a drop of sweat trickled down my back. Was I being ridiculous? Surely Christina wouldn’t hurt me. She had been reasonable with me earlier, hadn’t she? “One meenute,” Magda shouted at the retreat’s host. She doused
my fire-red curls in hairspray one last time before asking me if I was ready to go.
“I just need to use the bathroom.” I wheezed through shallow breaths. “I’ll be right out.”
Magda exaggerated her sigh before shuffling out of the white-marble immurement, closing the doors behind her with a huff. My last remnants of safety and rational thinking left with her.
I shoved the vanity chair underneath the door handle. I grabbed the makeup brush with the flattest head and hurried to the bathroom. I gingerly closed the lid of the toilet and slipped off my heels before tip-
toeing on top so I could face the window. After removing the beading, I inserted the head of the makeup brush between the frame and glass. The brush’s handle cracked under the pressure, but it was enough to lever the glass out of its mounting. I placed the glass on the floor as gently as I’ve ever handled any object, trying not to make even the slightest sound, before hoisting myself up and through the window. I jumped into the black night, only partially illuminated by the full moon and the artificial lights of the mansion. I allowed my eyes to adjust.
And then I ran.
The loose branches of the island forest whipped at my cheeks, my limbs, my mouth. The soles of my feet split open from fallen twigs and other debris, but the adrenaline kept the pain at bay. I tripped over something unseen, and my hands broke my fall. Just a few cuts, and a little blood. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it.
I jumped up, forcing myself to keep moving. The near darkness was blinding, so I held my bloody hands up, trying to block my face. The farther I ran, the more similar the trunks of the trees became. How long had I been running? I gauged about a mile. I slowed down to gather my bearings. Behind me, the lights of the mansion brightened the sky, but they were only the size of my palm from that distance.
I heard the hum of a moving car come and go. I must have been near the road. I was about to start moving again when I heard the snap of twigs. Footsteps. I stopped breathing. I swiveled to my left and right, but nothing. I exhaled. It was just my imagination. I continued away from the lights. Away from the retreat.
And then someone stepped toward me: Christina. Her face was partially obscured by darkness, but her pale eyes stood out like fireflies. “It doesn’t have to be like this,” she said. Her expression remained
a mystery in the darkness.
I turned around, but one of her handlers was blocking that path.
Christina took another step forward, and I jerked away, tripping over the gnarled roots of the forest in the process. My head broke the fall this time, and my ears rang from the pain.
Her handler reached for my left hand, and for a moment, I thought he was going to help me stand. Instead, he twisted my ring finger into an unnatural position. As my bone cracked, my screams reverberated through the woods.
It was showtime.
Excerpt from Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson. Copyright 2021 by Emily C. Whitson. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.
My Book Review:
In her debut novel, Beneath The Marigolds, author Emily C. Whitson transports the reader to Phaux Island, a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, for an intriguing thriller that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.
The story centers around Reese Marigold, who disappeared after spending a month at Last Chance Retreat, an exclusive singles retreat on Phaux Island, off the coast of Hawaii. When Reese had been missing for thirty-one days, her friend Ann Stone, a corporate attorney, knows something terrible has happened to her friend, and she is determined to go to the island and find out what happened to Reese. After checking into Last Chance, Ann soon discovers that the resort is more than what it claims to be, it has the feel of a reality dating show like the Bachelor / Bachelorette. Can Ann keep a low profile and go along with the retreat's program while searching for the truth of what happened to Reese, or is there something more sinister happening on the island that could put her in danger as well?
In her debut novel, author Emily C. Whitson weaves a slow-building and suspenseful tale written in alternating first person narratives that follows both Reese's and Ann's stay at the retreat. Reese's storyline follows her stay on the island leading up to her disappearance. Ann's storyline follows her investigation into Reese's disappearance, as well as discovering that the strange retreat program has taken on an appearance of a reality dating show. As the reader follows both Reese and Ann's time on the remote island, incidents at the retreat and the flashbacks to Ann's past reveals an interconnection that has a lot of drama, tension, and a threat of danger around every corner, and where everyone is considered a suspect.
The reader is easily drawn into this well written story with its richly descriptive plot and setting. It is filled with enough family drama and secrets, motives, possible suspects, action, a touch of unexpected romance ala reality dating show style, and intriguing twists and turns that definitely keeps the reader guessing until the surprising conclusion.
This was a really interesting story to read! The author does a wonderful job of providing enough clues to engage the reader, and I found myself so caught up on trying to figure out who is behind Reese's disappearance, and why there was so much drama and intrigue surrounding the retreat's program. I loved how Ann used her expertise as an attorney to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I was absolutely stunned by the conclusion, I never saw it coming! I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I also loved reading about Reese and Ann's backstories, both are broken people who had to overcome their traumatic pasts in order to move forward with their lives.
Beneath The Marigolds will definitely take the readers on one heck of a thrilling roller coaster ride.
RATING: 4 STARS
About The Author
Emily Whitson received a B.A. in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as a marketing copywriter for six years before pursuing a career in fiction and education. She is currently getting her M.Ed. at Vanderbilt University, where she writes between classes. She is particularly passionate about women’s education and female stories. This interest stems from her time at Harpeth Hall, an all-girls college preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee. When she isn’t volunteering, writing, or in the classroom, Emily can usually be found with her dog, Hoss, in one of Nashville’s various parks. Beneath the Marigolds is her debut novel.
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Emily C. Whitson & CatCam Books. There will be 1 winner of one (1) print edition of Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson (US, Canada, and UK Only). The giveaway runs October 1 through November 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.
From New York Times bestselling author Joanne DeMaio comes an enchanting novel about a beautiful old house and the love story it opens its doors to.
New England in December is a special world. Wreath-topped lampposts shine, balsam garland drapes across picket fences, and fresh snow dusts the land. Then there are the decorated houses: saltboxes, Victorians, farmhouses, Tudors. Tiny lights shimmer on front porches; candles glow in paned windows. But one imposing stone colonial towers dark in the night.
Since moving to town, Millie Ives has heard hushed whisperings of that house -- and of the mysterious man who lives and works there. A chance happening leads Millie to this Mr. Winter's spellbinding shop just past the bell tower. Surprisingly, he's not who she thought he'd be.
As the month unfolds, both find themselves on each other's minds and in each other's hearts. Yet when Millie tries to bridge a gap in his life, she risks losing him. Unless the spirit of the season can bring them back together at the Winter House.
Click on the link to read an excerpt from Winter House:
In Winter House, author Joanne DeMaio transports the reader to the quaint small New England lakeside town of Addison, Connecticut for another heartwarming holiday tale of family, friendship, new beginnings, and finding a chance at unexpected love.
Winter Houseis a wonderful holiday story that will tug at the heartstrings and fill the reader with seasonal joy. Author Joanne DeMaio weaves a spellbinding tale set in the quaint New England town of Addison, Connecticut, that captivates the reader's attention with the latest heartwarming holiday romance from her Winter Novels collection.
Dean Winter's life is upturned when his father Hank gives him a proposition / ultimatum ... leave his Southern California life of flipping houses and return home to Addison, Connecticut, and buy the family home and lighting shop, or he'll put it up for sale. One year later, Dean is very busy running the shop, Lighting Lodge, but he neglects the Christmas decorating tradition of the Winter House, and has a rocky relationship with his father.
Millie Ives just broke up with her longtime boyfriend and lost her job working at their woodworking company. On a whim Millie is ready for a new beginning, and she takes a job as an image scout for Perfect Puzzles, and buys a beautiful small cabin named Finch Farmhouse in the Snowflake Lake cabin community of Addison, Connecticut.
Millie meets Dean when she takes her favorite painted mason jar lamp to get repaired. Millie is unaware that Dean is the abrupt, cold as ice, distant Mr. Winter that the townsfolk warned her about. Millie is enjoying everything that the picturesque town of Addison offers, even the unexpected chance meetings with Dean that slowly develops into something more. But there is just one thing that hampers their happiness, Dean's rocky relationship with his dad, especially when Hank offers to help Dean with the shop and decorating the neglected family home. Can Millie thaw Dean's frosty heart, and help him re-establish his relationship with his dad, and bring the holiday tradition back to the Winter House?
Winter Houseis a wonderful story that has a rich description of the breathtaking holiday decorated small town setting filled with holiday traditions. Dean and Millie find an unexpected chance at love as their story unfolds in a magical way that will make the reader believe in the power of love, family, friendship, new beginnings, and the joy of the holiday season.
There are not enough words that I can express about the simplicity and beauty in which author Joanne DeMaio weaves her heartwarming and multi-layered stories filled with a mixture of love, friendship, family, life's changes, and unexpected special moments, it is simply breathtaking. As the reader follows Dean and Millie's story, the author cleverly interweaves characters and events from the previous books in the collection that provides a seamless continuation of their stories from winter to winter.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how the richly vivid description of the town of Addison is phenomenal, you'll yearn to visit the area and experience the quaint lakeside town's holiday tradition and friendly townspeople. Ms. DeMaio has a special gift for transporting the readers into every story that she weaves while leaving them yearning for more!
Winter Houseis an enchanting holiday story full of warmth and comfort that will remind the reader of the magic, joy, cheer, and spirit of Christmas. It is a lovely story that will resonate with the reader for a very long time.
Winter House is the latest installment in The Winter Novels collection, each book is a stand alone read, but each book does have intertwining snippets from the previous books, so you'll want to read the whole collection!
RATING: 5 STARS
About The Author
Joanne DeMaio is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She enjoys writing about friendship, family, love, and choices while setting her stories in New England towns or by the sea. Winter Houseis her newest novel. Currently at work on her next book, Joanne lives with her family in Connecticut.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.
Whenever Terry Mangel’s body acceptance revival meeting rolls into town, local diet execs and “fat shamers” turn up dead, often in grotesque, ironic ways. All single murders in small suburbs, no one’s noticed a pattern, until rookie investigative reporter Camarin Torres takes a closer look.
Torres is a crusader against discrimination. She reluctantly accepts a job offered by handsome publisher Lyle Fletcher, a man with a vendetta, who sees the recent college grad as salvation for Trend, his fledgling fashion magazine. Torres, however, detests everything the publication stands for, and joins solely to transform its judgmental, objectifying content.
As an unexpected romance blossoms, the overconfident, justice-hungry reporter defies orders and infiltrates Mangel’s world, only to find herself in the crosshairs of a vigilante group targeting the $60 billion diet industry. To this vindictive mob, murder is definitely worth the weight. But as Torres soon learns, unmasking the killer may save her life but shatter her heart: every clue seems to implicate Fletcher, her mercurial mentor and lover, as the group’s mastermind.
Previously published as Slashing Mona Lisa
CAMARIN TORRES PEERED down the tracks again, as if repeated checking would cause her delayed train to magically appear. It was a warm April afternoon, but the unexpected heat did little to lift her spirits. She was heading back to her apartment after yet another unsuccessful interview. If this kept up, she’d be the only one of her NYU friends graduating next month without a job lined up. How ironic not to be able to afford the food she wouldn’t allow herself to eat anyway. She checked her watch a third time. The 5:03 from White Plains to Grand Central was already ten minutes late.
Camarin heard a voice a few feet behind her softly exclaim, “Dammit!” Curiosity aroused, she spied a girl in her late teens standing by the vending machine, fervently searching through her handbag.
Camarin stared, mesmerized by what could have been a mirror image of her late twin sister Monaeka. Long, dark hair partially obscured her tanned, pretty face, and despite the temperature, she’d draped her two-hundred-plus pound body in an oversized raincoat. But as Camarin well knew, yards of fabric didn’t really fool anyone. The girl hunched over slightly, a stance her sister Monaeka had perfected, a sign of deference to a world demanding an apology for violating their arbitrary standards.
Camarin felt a familiar tug of compassion as the girl plunked a few coins into the machine and then searched for more. Looking on, she debated the merits of acquiescing to her own desire for a late-afternoon sweet. What’s really the harm? Cam reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out three quarters, which she held out toward the stranger as she walked toward her.
“Want to share something?”
The girl tensed and gave her a quizzical look, but after a moment her shoulders relaxed. “That’s so nice of you. Thanks.”
Camarin winked and pushed the quarters into the machine. One click and clunk later, she retrieved their prize—a Kit Kat bar. One of Monaeka’s favorites. As she held it out to the girl, a slim, stylish woman clad in black came out of nowhere and snatched the chocolate bar right out of her hand.
“You don’t need it,” she said. “You’ll thank me later.”
The girl’s face turned bright red, but she said nothing, just watched in shock as the thief continued down the platform.
Camarin felt the blood rush to her temples. No matter how many years and miles she’d put between herself and her past, the critical voices kept seeking her out, today in the form of this interloper. Enough, she decided. She set down the briefcase containing her resume and clips and tore after the woman, grabbing her arm and pulling her around so they stood face-to-face.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Camarin yelled.
Heads turned. Conversations ceased.
“What’s it to you?” the offender shot back.
Camarin pointed at the girl, whose eyes were wide in disbelief. “That girl happens to be a friend of mine, so I’m asking a second time… what are you doing?”
“Saving her from herself, that’s what. Your friend is huge, and it’s unhealthy. If she can’t control herself, she needs others to do it for her.”
“Well, Miss High-and-Mighty, since you know everything about everyone, did you ever consider that my friend…Sabrina’s…size might have nothing to do with self-control? Could it be the result of…the lithium she takes to control her bipolar disorder? Are you a psychiatrist who has a better suggestion for more appropriate meds that don’t put on weight?”
“Well, no… no,” the woman stammered, as if the rush of passion suddenly drained from her, leaving her feeling exposed.
“You know what I think?”
The fat shamer glared back but remained silent, so Camarin summoned her courage and repeated herself, a few decibels louder. “I said, do you know what I think?”
“No. What?” The woman sneered.
“I think you should go over to Sabrina and apologize.”
“Apologize for helping her get thin?” Her voice dripped with indignation.
“No, apologize for sticking your big nose where it doesn’t belong,” interjected a young, beer-bellied man in overalls a few feet away. A Joe’s Plumbing patch was embroidered on his chest pocket.
“What exactly do we have to do to be accepted by you people? Why can’t you just leave us alone?” screamed a plump, older woman with perfectly coiffed hair and a fitted suit.
“Give her back the Kit Kat bar,” hollered a man clad in military garb, who then started chanting, “Kit Kat, Kit Kat, Kit Kat…” Others joined in, and the cacophony grew stronger.
“You may have grabbed a Kit Kat, but you ended up with Snickers,” said Cam with a smirk. “Maybe you want to just hand over the candy, so we can forget this whole ugly incident?”
The woman spat at the ground in front of Camarin and defiantly threw the chocolate bar on the tracks, eliciting loud boos from the small but agitated crowd. Then she ran down the platform, heading for the stairs that led to the parking lot.
“Good riddance,” the plumber called after her.
Camarin stood for a moment, shaking from the encounter. Then she returned to the now teary-eyed girl. “Sorry I made you bipolar,” she whispered. “I needed to make a point, and it was all I could come up with on the spur of the moment. Hi, I’m Camarin.”
“I’m Lexie,” the girl said. “No one has ever stood up for me before. Thank you.”
“Hey, I know what it’s like. I used to deal with jerks like that all the time.”
The plumber pushed a run of quarters into the vending machine and took out two Kit Kat bars, handing one to each of the women. Others on the platform clapped and cheered. The sound was slowly drowned out by the roar of the oncoming 5:03 PM train.
As the doors opened, Camarin noticed Lexie and the plumber now chatting animatedly. Not wishing to intrude, she entered the next car over. It was practically empty, not unusual considering most people were traveling in the opposite direction at this hour. A perfect opportunity to relax after an upsetting confrontation. Perhaps savor that chocolate bar. She could always purge later.
Given the plethora of unoccupied seats, she was surprised when a handsome man in an expensive-looking suit asked if the spot beside her was taken. She guessed he was in his early forties, since his face was too young for the silver in his hair and beard. He spoke with a confidence so lacking in her gawky college-boy contemporaries. She felt a shiver as the silk of his sleeve touched her bare arm as he settled in.
She wondered what clever icebreaker she could use to engage her attractive new neighbor in conversation. Nice weather, huh? would be too lame. Seconds passed. Other passengers shuffled by. Soon, the moment would be lost.
Then, to her delight, he leaned in covertly, as if sharing a private confidence. “Nice going. You’d never seen that girl before in your life, had you?”
She pulled back and studied his expression. Affable or accusatory? His smile assured her of his friendly intentions.
“What gave me away?”
“Nothing. Just a hunch. One you just confirmed.”
Camarin twisted her mouth, irked at having been so easily played.
“Do you always go around tricking strangers into confessing their secrets?” she asked.
“Probably as often as you go around defending the underdog.” The man winked. “Nothing to be ashamed of though. Quite the opposite. As I think you’ve already figured out, life is just a series of bluffs.”
Camarin considered the comment as the train rumbled along the tracks toward Scarsdale.
“And do you bluff much?”
“Funny you should ask. These days, it’s all I do.”
Grateful for such a provocative opening, she pressed forward. “That sounds intriguing. Care to elaborate?”
“Thought you’d never ask,” he said with a smile. “Up until a few years ago, I’d spent my entire career practicing law. Then my circumstances and interests changed, and I decided to become a redeemer of lost causes. I just purchased a failing magazine, which I intend to make profitable again. If that’s not the bluff of the century, I don’t know what is.”
Elegant and he owns a magazine? Camarin’s heart skipped a beat.
“That’s such a coincidence. I’m just coming from an interview with a magazine.”
“Some might call it a coincidence. I call it kismet,” the man said as he held out his hand. “Lyle Fletcher, fledgling publisher.”
AS THE TRAIN rolled down the tracks toward Manhattan, Camarin sensed her future suddenly lurching ahead as well. “Camarin Torres, journalism and prelaw major. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
She reached out to shake his hand, eager to see if his grip would be as firm as she imagined, but the conductor interrupted, asking to punch their tickets. There was no way to try again without looking awkward, so she swallowed her disappointment and returned her hand to her side.
Fletcher broke the pregnant pause. “So, there must be many professions out there for someone as bold and beautiful as you. Why journalism and law?”
Camarin’s face grew warm. Had anyone else handed her that line, she would have regarded it as a come-on. But he seemed sincere, so she felt comfortable opening up. “All my life I’ve seen bullying and discrimination. As a child, I felt helpless to stop it. But as an adult, I can make a difference.”
“Bullying because of your ethnicity? You’re… ”
“My mother’s side of the family comes from Guam. But no, fortunately, I’ve encountered very little bias because of my roots. Maybe it’s because we live just outside Los Angeles, where I’m part of a large Chamorro community who share an intense sense of cultural pride. In fact, I think my background may have worked in my favor, that push for diversity in colleges and all.”
“So, discriminated against as a woman?”
“No again,” she said, reluctant to share too much of her past with a stranger, no matter how charming. “Let’s just say I’ve seen how cruel people can be to those who don’t quite fit in, no matter how hard they try. I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again.”
“You’re going to personally end intolerance?” Fletcher seemed both dubious and amused.
“Well, at least make a sizeable dent in it,” she said with a smile. It wasn’t the first time that people had appeared incredulous at her idealism. “You’re speaking to the world’s first female Chamorro anti-discrimination crusader. After graduation anyway. And eventually law school, when I can afford it.”
“Lofty ambitions. You’ll need them in a world that doesn’t always cooperate with people’s dreams. Again, I’m impressed.”
“Thank you,” she said, her face growing even hotter. A charismatic publisher thought she was impressive. A once-disappointing day was rapidly metamorphosing into something magical, like a child’s giant, colorful carnival balloon.
“Have you interviewed at my magazine, Trend?”
Pop! Camarin did her best not to cringe with contempt. Trend represented everything in the world she’d come to hate: the brainwashing of women to fit into narrow, permissible roles dictated by fashion designers and greedy advertisers. And this man, appealing or not, was one of their leaders. Camarin paused, trying to formulate a polite and diplomatic response.
“You have heard of it, right?”
“Yes, of course. But no, I didn’t interview there. No offense, but as you said, it’s failing. As a matter of fact, I turned down an unsolicited offer from one of your competitors, Drift. I’m just interested in more…serious publications.”
“No offense taken,” he said with a grin. “I realize that up to now Trend has just covered style and gossip—total fluff. That’s what I’m planning to change. In your words, go in a more serious direction.”
She wondered if the comment was authentic or if he was just another jerk and this was an excuse that allowed him to live with himself. They remained quiet for a bit, and then curiosity got the better of her.
“I didn’t realize Trend is based in Westchester.”
Fletcher’s face clouded over. “No, it’s in Manhattan. I was out here today because…my late wife owned a condo in White Plains that we’d been renting out. I was just meeting with the real estate agent I might hire to sell it for me.”
Cam looked down at her pumps, annoyed at herself for bringing up such a sensitive subject. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Of my wife or the condo?”
She glanced back, astonished. He started to laugh, and she felt the earlier harshness of her judgment soften by a smidgen. He really was quite charming—for a body shamer.
“Are you ever serious?” she asked.
“Oh, when I am, you’ll definitely know it. Like now. How many years of college do you have left?”
His tone switched from whimsical to all business, and something about the way he commanded control sent a shiver up her spine. Hot as hell. Dammit. “About a month. Then I’m done.”
The conductor announced that they would soon be arriving at Grand Central Station, their final destination, and the windows grew dark as they entered the tunnel.
He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a business card. It read Trend Magazine, with a fashionable NoHo address, close to her own apartment.
She held up her hand. “That’s kind of you, but I really don’t think—”
“Hey, I can see you’re not enamored with our current format. Nevertheless, I’d still like you to come in, show us your work. Allow us to describe the magazine’s revamped editorial direction. I think it may surprise you. I can use someone with your guts and ambition to develop our investigative-reporting beat. That is, if you have any interest.”
She took the card, slipping it into her jacket pocket. “If you’re really serious about moving away from your current focus, I’ll try to keep an open mind.” After all, a job was a job, and up to now, no one else but Drift had made an offer.
“Call tomorrow and speak to Rachel. She’ll set everything up. You’re going to be a superstar. Of that, I’m already certain.” He reached out to shake her hand. It felt as forceful as Camarin had imagined earlier. She didn’t try to read anything into the almost imperceptible squeeze he added at the end. Until proven otherwise, he was still the enemy.
As he rose and headed for the exit, she waited a few beats longer before also joining the crowd jostling toward the platform. By the stairs a newsstand featured the latest issue of Trend. Hating herself, she slapped down her $3.50 for a copy. Magazines like this were part of what had driven her sister over the edge, but she needed to see if there was anything redeemable within its pages. The jury was still out until Lyle Fletcher had proven himself a reformer, and not an enabler.
Excerpt from Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr. Copyright 2021 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.
My Book Review:
In Murder Worth The Weight, author D.M. Barr weaves an intriguing romantic suspense tale that follows a young woman's determination to use her investigative reporter position, and as a passionate crusader against discrimination especially body shaming, to solve a pattern of weight-loss industry murders.
Camarin Torres is a recent NYU graduate with a degree in journalism and prelaw. After Camarin stopped a fat-shamer on a train platform, she met Lyle Fletcher, an ex-lawyer turned new owner/publisher of Trend fashion magazine on the train. Lyle was intrigued by her passion to make a difference as a anti-discrimination body acceptance crusader. He tells her that the magazine is going in a different editorial direction, and he offers her the position as an investigative reporter. When Camarin starts to research a recent weight-loss clinic owner's murder in Chicago, she discovers a pattern of gruesome weight-loss and body-shamer murders that occur in the cities that weight-loss evangelist Terry Mangel's Feel Good About Yourself revival events were held. As Camarin delves into Mangel's world against Lyle's orders, she puts herself in danger trying to identify the killer when she discovers that Lyle, who she's becoming romantically involved with may also be connected to a weight-loss vigilante group. Camarin is determined to figure out the killer at all costs, especially before it's too late.
Murder Worth The Weightis an intriguing romantic suspense tale that easily captivates the reader's attention, and draws them into Camarin's investigation. Camarin's determination to find the weight-loss industry killer is interwoven with her unexpected steamy romance with Trend Magazine owner Lyle Fletcher, who has his own vendetta that he's determined to see completed. As the dual storyline unfolds, it is told in a clever way, and is interwoven with enough raw emotions, chilling suspense, secrets, treachery, surprising twists and turns, and thought provoking intrigue, that easily keeps the reader engaged and guessing until the surprising conclusion.
Murder Worth The Weightis a cleverly written romantic suspense tale that takes the reader on one heck of a rollercoaster ride.
RATING: 4 STARS
About The Author
By day, author D.M. Barr is a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire.
My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy.
The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings. As a yo-yo dieter, I’ve never offed anyone at my local diet clinic. While I’m a bit paranoid, I’ve never suspected my husband of wanting to murder me for my inheritance. Well, that’s not entirely true, but let’s go with that for now. And while I’ve volunteered at senior centers, I’ve never mastered the hula hoop. But that’s not to say I haven’t wanted to…
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for D.M. Barr. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 13 through October 10, 2021. Void where prohibited.