Book Reviews – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Category: Book Reviews (Page 1 of 19)

coilhunter_cover_final_front_usat

Book Review: Coilhunter by Dean Wilson

For Book Review Wednesday, I’ve something a bit unusual. It’s a classic Western-style story (complete with runaway mine cart!), but with elements of steampunk thrown in. Definitely a book worth reading if you want to try something new.

Coilhunter

Welcome to the Wild North, a desolate wasteland where criminals go to hide—if they can outlast the drought and the dangers of the desert. Or the dangers of something else.

Meet Nox, the Coilhunter. A mechanic and toymaker by trade, a bounty hunter by circumstance. He isn’t in it for the money. He’s in it for justice, and there’s a lot of justice that needs to be paid.
coilhunter_cover_final_front_usat
Between each kill, he’s looking for someone who has kept out of his crosshairs for quite a while—the person who murdered his wife and children. The trail has long gone cold, but there are changes happening, the kind of changes that uncover footprints and spent bullet casings.

Plagued by nightmares, he’s made himself into a living one, the kind the criminals and conmen fear.

So, welcome, fair folk, to the Wild North. If the land doesn’t get you, the Coilhunter will.

My Review: 5 Stars

I didn’t know what to expect from this novel, as I’m not a huge fan of Westerns. But I LOVED this book from start to finish!

It had the gritty, grim feel of a classic spaghetti Western, but the addition of the steampunk elements made it truly fantastical. It was one of those books that kept me turning the pages—I literally read the entire book in two or three sittings.

Not only was it a lot of fun, but the character of the Coilhunter was very well-developed. I loved his way of speaking (again, classic spaghetti Western mannerisms and expressions), but it was the deeper character elements that made him a character I could truly sympathize with. I can’t wait to dive into Rustkiller, the second part in this series.

Here’s a Taste:

His boots made a rhythmic thud against the floor, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. His boots were the first thing you noticed. Then the eyes travelled up, saw the long, deep blue coat and the holstered pistols, and turned away swiftly again when they spotted the mask and tubes beneath that deep blue hat.

Thud.

The people who recognised him had a dozen different names for him, and all of them were grim. The Coilhunter. The Sandsweeper. The Masked Menance. The people who didn’t recognise him would come up with new names of their own very soon.

Thud.

He kept an even pace, slow and steady, the kind of pace that was at odds with the frantic heartbeats of the onlookers at the inn. One of his arms swung like a pendulum, and it reminded people of the fleeting pace of time. The other arm did not move at all; it stayed at his side, close to his gun.

Thud.

A little mechanical duck waddled along behind him, creaking and squeaking, its wide eyes matching those of the people who dared to look. It was a toy, a kind of wind-up device full of springs and cogs, and yet many knew that it was a dangerous toy.

Thud.

He scoured the room with his eyes, piercing everyone, almost piercing the walls as well. The mask accentuated his stare, as did the black lines around his eyes. The brim of his hat cast a shadow that made the whites of his eyes stand out even more.

The final thud seemed a little louder. He halted, then reached for his coat pocket, and people flinched. He held up a rolled-up poster, and let it unfurl noisily in his hand, revealing the mugshot of a criminal, Old Mad Jack, the ominous word Wanted, and the prize of one hundred coils beneath. Cold, hard coils, traded for the cold, hard dead.

“This man,” he said, his voice muffled by the mask, yet not muffled enough to hide the grit. “Ya seen ‘im?” He prodded the paper with his dust-covered finger, the kind of finger exposed almost constantly to the sand and the sun. The kind of finger that spent a lot of time on a trigger.

Most heads turned away. A few braver souls gave the slightest shake of their heads. There was no one brave enough to talk. The duck shuffled up to the Coilhunter’s foot and gave an ominous little quack.

A puff of dark smoke came from a vent on the left side of the Coilhunter’s mask. No one knew why. On the other side, pipes connected the mask to a cylinder on his back, where he also kept a strapped guitar and a four-barrel shotgun.

“Ya see,” he croaked, “I know this man came this way, and there ain’t no other rum-hole for miles. They say Old Mad Jack’s a drinker, and I say a drinker cannot pass a rum-hole without poppin’ in for a drink.”

The barmaid tensed up at the bar, polishing a dirty glass a little more vigorously than before.

“So,” the Coilhunter continued, “let me repeat this, and let me tell ya that I don’t like repeatin’ things: this man … any o’ you here fine fellows seen ‘im?”

Three men playing cards in the corner exchanged nervous glances. The Coilhunter caught them, and strolled over. The duck stayed where it was in the centre of the room, watching everyone.

“You boys,” the Coilhunter said, gesturing with the chin of his mask to them. “Good game, is it?”

“J-j-just a game o’ Don,” the oldest replied, the cards trembling in his hands.

“You wan’ in?” the youngest asked. The others scolded him with their eyes.

The Coilhunter drew real close, close enough that they could see the cracks in his weathered skin. “I want an answer to my question.” He hammered the poster onto the table, over the cards. Old Mad Jack stared up at them. “Get a real good look-see, and each o’ ya tell me one by one that you ain’t seen him ‘fore I put his ugly mug down on this table.”

The youngest looked like he was about to say something. Only the stares of his companions stopped him. The Coilhunter placed a hand on his shoulder and turned his chair around. The youth held up his cards before him like a shield.

“You look like a smart boy,” the Coilhunter said. “The kind o’ boy with a good memory and a good eye. Maybe a good eye for faces. Maybe a good mouth for speakin’ who those faces are.”

“I might have—” He cut himself short, silenced by the glances of the others.

“Where’s your manners, boy? You’re talkin’ to me. You look at me.” He gestured with his hand towards his own grim eyes. The exhaust in his mask let out another menacing puff of smoke.

The young man looked back, keeping his cards up. They wouldn’t help him.

“I ain’t got all day,” the Coilhunter told him. “You ain’t got all day either.”

“H-h-he’s out b-back.”

The Coilhunter smiled. He knew they could not see it behind his mask, but they could see it in his eyes.

“He ain’t out back,” a voice said from far across the room behind him. As the Coilhunter turned, he saw Old Mad Jack standing behind the bar, rifle in hand. “He’s right here.”

 

About the Author:

Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11.

He is the author of the Children of Telm epic fantasy trilogy, the Great Iron War steampunk series, the Coilhunter Chronicles science-fiction western series, the Hibernian Hollows urban fantasy series, and the Infinite Stars space opera series.

Dean previously worked as a journalist, primarily in the field of technology. He has written for TechEye, Thinq, V3, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer. He is also a USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author.

 

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N4OYM2L/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33977027/
Visit Dean’s website: http://www.deanfwilson.com

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deanfwilson

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/deanfwilson

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+DeanFWilson

 

Image

Book Review: Different, Not Damaged

As is my tradition for this Book Review Wednesday, I like to post reviews of MY books the week after they launch. Don’t worry, these aren’t reviews that I wrote—they’re all from people who actually read the book.

Different, Not Damaged

Strength from Weakness

Disability becomes Power

Six stories, one powerful message:
– A voiceless child painting visions of death.
– A killer with a deadly message plagued by a burden of guilt.
– A priestess divinely empowered to absorb others’ pain.
– A soldier fighting for courage in the face of fear.
– A broken warrior-priest on a mission of vengeance.
– A thief desperate to escape the burden of his memories.
Betrayed by mind or body, these people struggle to survive in a grim world that takes no pity on the weak. Yet they will discover that they are simply different, not damaged.

Different Not Damaged Cover Small

Reviews:

This is one of those books that leaves you wanting more. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this unique book…You could feel the characters feelings, emotions, and most of all… their struggles. You could feel how courageous and brave they all were. After reading through the stories…I ended up focusing on the characters not the disability portrayed. – Stacy Stewart, 5 Stars

At first I found these stories painful to read; at least the first few were. But gradually as I let the stories flow over me, I realised that they were extremely well written; each bringing me, via fantasy, into another way of seeing reality. Each story opening up avenues into worlds I had little experience of. Each story testing me in a way. Testing my ability to accept what was different but not damaged. – R. Wheeler, 4 Stars

Set in his world of Voramis, the author has created an anthology which delves into the lives of people with a range of disabilities. Rather than take the easy route, they are portrayed as tragic heroes, who must deal with the cruel world (and Voramis is a cruel world) and well as the rough hand life has thrown them. There are no happy endings here (well, not in the traditional sense), so don’t read for a feelgood experience. However, if you like you fantasy pitch-dark, with no punches pulled, then check out “Different, Not Damaged.” – Al Burke, 5 Stars

 

Check it out on Amazon

Ashes Cover Promotion

Book Review: Ashes by Joshua Rutherford

It’s Book Review Wednesday! After a few weeks of break, I’m back with another review—this one for a dystopian short story written by Josh Rutherford, author of Sons of Chenia. This story may not be long, but it’s a gut-wrenching look at the true effects of war.

Ashes

In the not-too-distant future, conflict after conflict has ravaged what was once the United States. Fractured into confederacies, this once Promised Land is now the breeding ground for armies hell-bent on war. Among the soldiers of this landscape is Darren Avery, a decorated Army captain who comes across a handful of underground activists that preach a concept he has never before considered: peace.

Ashes Cover Promotion

My Review: 5 Stars

Absolutely fascinating! You start the story with one expectation, but by the end you walk away with a totally new perspective on one of the world’s oldest controversies: war vs. peace.

The character was fascinating—my only complaint about this story is that it’s too short—and the world rich, vivid, and well-built. I was truly not expecting the ending, and it left me very thoughtful. Definitely a short story worth reading!

Here’s a Taste:

Four days passed. No envelopes made it to his door. No messages or pictures followed in the wake of that night. Aside from his smoke breaks on the roof, Darren went out only twice during that time. Once for a bag of groceries. The other to watch a few hundred protestors as they passed his apartment building. Try as he might, Darren didn’t see Mike among them.

He wore the same clothes from that night as the week progressed. He slept in his shirt and jeans. His wallet and keys remained on him at all times. As did the phone Mike had given him.

Then on the fourth night Darren ran out of cigarettes.

The inclination to run to the store was absent. As was his craving. Yet his routine compelled him to throw on his jacket, so that he may at least go up on the roof.

When he opened the door, he found another envelope. He nearly went on, not wanting to deal with it.

Then he noticed a small difference. The envelope was manila. Not legal-sized.

He bent to pick it up. He peeked inside.

Gray powder. But not like that of the other envelopes. Darren took a pinch between his thumb and index finger. As he suspected, it was finer than the concrete granules of a cinderblock. It felt smoother, lighter.

Ashes.

His feet found the hallway outside by themselves. Then up the stairwell. Onto the roof. His mind, clear, directed none of his actions or movements. Save one.

On the roof, under the cover of fog once more, he pulled out not a pack of cigarettes but an encrypted phone.

“Hello?” Mike answered.

“The fuckers spoke English.”

“Darren?”

“You wanted to know what made Eventide so different.”

“You mean it? English?”

“Stupid, ain’t it? But it’s the damn truth. You have to understand, everywhere I’ve been deployed has been different. Different people in different cities speaking different languages. I heard Arabic in Yemen, Kituba in the Congo. The guerillas in Columbia had brown skin and black hair and spoke Spanish. Even in Nigeria, the extremists there who spoke English had accents. Everyone in every other country I fought was different from us. In one way or another. Then I was deployed to the Southwest . . .”

The steady hum of the city – around Darren, through the phone line – filled the otherwise silent soundscape.

“And they were like us,” Mike finished.

About the Author:

Joshua Rutherford has wanted to be a writer all his life. Through college and the more than dozen jobs that he has had, his passion for the written word has never ceased. After crafting several feature film screenplays and television pilots that were never produced, Joshua tried his hand at writing a novel. Sons of Chenia is the product of that effort. When Joshua is not writing – which isn’t often – he is spending quality time with his wife, Elisa, and their son, David. The three currently reside in San Diego, CA.

Find the book on Amazon: www.amazon.com/Ashes-Joshua-Rutherford-ebook/dp/B072HFL5J8/ 

Tweet at Joshua: www.twitter.com/AuthorJKR

Connect with him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SonsofChenia/

 

WOA2 cover

Book Review: Queens by Patrick Hodges

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I’ve (finally!) got a book to share that I believe you will enjoy as much as I did. It’s not my usual fare—Sci-Fan—but I loved the first book in the series so much that I had to share this one as well!

Queens

A cosmic game of chess is underway, and the planet Elystra is the board.

Earth pilot Maeve and her son Davin have joined the Ixtrayu, hoping to avert the destruction that their leader, Kelia, has foretold. But will Maeve’s burgeoning Wielding powers be enough to thwart the machinations of Elzor and his lightning-wielding sister, Elzaria, before everything the Ixtrayu have ever known is destroyed in Elzor’s quest for ultimate power?

WOA2 cover

My Review: 5 Stars

I enjoyed the Book 1 (Pawns) immensely, and I was hoping to get a repeat performance with Book 2. Patrick didn’t disappoint!

The book started off a bit too slow, and I struggled through the first few pages. The names of some of the (non-main) characters are unmemorable, so I had a hard time remembering who they were. The book took its time to get to the action.

However, once the ball got rolling, I had a bloody hard time putting the book down. I quickly remembered why I enjoyed the first book so much: beautifully descriptive visuals, fascinating and complex characters, an interesting magic/tech system, and that glorious blend of space travel and medieval life.

The twist at the end of Book 1 caught me totally off guard, and the reveal at the end of this Book 2 hit me just as hard. I never saw it coming!

All in all, an excellent book, one well worth the read!

Here’s a Taste:

Minutes stretched on interminably as the rain soaked the huntresses’ tunics to their very skins. Kelia’s robe became so heavy that she had no choice but to remove it, shivering in the chill wind.

She cast a glance westward, straining her eyes, hoping to see the magnificent outline of the Talon streaking toward them, but saw only the vague shimmer of the sun hiding behind the dense bank of clouds covering the horizon.

A game. The most important game in all of Creation will be decided here, on this remote patch of landThe fate of Elystra, of Earth, of countless others depends on us.

A tiny flame engulfed the palms of her hands, which was quickly extinguished as she clenched them into fists.

To her right, Yarji pointed and screamed, “I see something!”

Through the drizzling rain, a half-mile distant, they came. Twenty men, riding their merychs like every demon in the Fire Realms was giving chase, thundered into view. Their chests and heads were covered in armor, and each man wielded a fearsome-looking longsword.

It had begun.

Arantha protect us.

“Zarina!” Kelia called, drawing the young Wielder’s gaze. “You know what to do.”

The chava-keeper faced the oncoming horde of merychs. She placed her hands against her temples, staring unblinking as she reached out with her mind.

The merychs’ reactions were nearly instantaneous. Several of them stopped dead, causing many of their riders to pitch forward and topple to the ground. Others stood on their hind legs, bucking the soldiers from their backs, while the remainder veered off in different directions, ignoring the riders’ commands and kicks.

Twelve men, momentarily dazed from their fall, recovered both their wits and their swords. Grim-faced and determined, they resumed their advance on the Plateau; a brisk stride at first, then a full-on sprint, screaming battle cries as they brandished their blades above their heads.

“Yarji!” Kelia yelled. “Send our guests a greeting.”

The fair-haired water-Wielder smirked and held her hands out in front of her. Her arms moved with practiced ease, her palms surgical instruments as she manifested her powers.

Kelia mimicked Yarji’s gestures, and together, a large mass of water lifted from the River Ix. With a thrust of their hands, the two women transformed the hovering liquid into superhot steam. In unison, they panned their hands to the right, wrapping the mist like a deadly blanket over the charging soldiers, who were now only fifty yards distant.

The riders’ armor, which covered their chests, torsos and arms, were designed to protect them from conventional things like arrows or even bladed weapons. However, they proved a detriment in the face of the Wielders’ fury; not only did the scalding-hot steam burn the exposed skin of their faces, forearms and shins, but it heated the machinite armor to a temperature that would sear the cloth of their tunics underneath it, as well as the skin beneath that.

Several fell to the ground, their legs thrashing and twitching as they covered their faces with their hands. A few others, strong enough to endure the pain and remain standing, tugged at the clasps that held their armor together. Through sheer force of will, they managed to shed the armor, letting it fall to the muddy earth.

By this time, the steam had dissipated into the atmosphere. Kelia and Yarji were unable to maintain it against the pelting rain and the wind. But it had done its job. Within moments of the soldiers sloughing off their armor, Ebina gave the huntresses the order to fire. Several dozen arrows ripped through the air as they flew en masse toward their targets. The merych-less riders, still reeling from the previous attack, fell to the muddy ground. Within seconds, the only movements displayed were spasmodic twitches from the few still drawing in their final breaths.

The remaining attackers, having regained control of their mounts, rode away to report their comrades’ fates to whomever commanded them. “Shall I stop them, Protectress?” Zarina called.

“Save your energy, Zarina,” Kelia said. “The night is young.”

A great cheer arose from the huntresses below. Yarji, Zarina, and even Nyla sported relieved smiles as well. They’d managed to stop the first wave with zero Ixtrayu casualties. In fact, the enemy hadn’t even come close.

Kelia, however, remained reserved. For the first time in their long history, lives had ended by Ixtrayu hands.

And it was only beginning.

About the Author:

Patrick Hodges currently lives in Arizona with his wife, Vaneza. After years of writing for several different entertainment-related blogs, he found new life and vitality by writing fictional stories about young teens and preteens that are entertaining for ALL ages.

Find Queens on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com//dp/B075FWF6FN

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36234607-queens

Connect with Patrick on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patrickhodgesauthor/

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/Shrykespeare

Read his thoughts on his website: patrickhodgesauthor.com

 

Lucifers Star (Small)

Book Review: Lucifer’s Star by C.T. Phipps

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’m going to step out of my favorite genre (fantasy), but not too far. It’s just a short skip and a hop to the OTHER speculative fiction genre: Science Fiction. And trust me, it was totally worth it to read this fast-paced, intriguing novel!

Lucifer’s Star

Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he’d been fighting for was the wrong one.

Lucifers Star (Small)

Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

My Review: 5 Stars

This book definitely read more like space opera than most sci-fi books I’ve read, but I loved every minute of it. A page-turner, with each scene packed with detail, flavor, and life.

The characters were fascinating and unique, yet absolutely real and true to life at the same time. It had the “dark fiction” flavor I love—neither “good” nor “bad”, just people doing what they need to  do to survive—and the story was wonderfully gripping.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book to delve into the next adventure of the Butcher of Kolthas!

Here’s a Taste:

The sight of the burning starships around me was like a galaxy of new stars lighting up the emptiness of space. Their fuel and energy cells burned without oxygen long after the crews had suffocated in the vacuum of space. Hundreds of dreadnoughts, battleships, carriers, and starfighters exchanged fire in the largest battle of the war.

The Revengeance was taking point in the assault on the enemy flagship Earth’s Successor. We had managed to take out its support craft and casualty ratings were still well within acceptable parameters. Acceptable as long as I didn’t think of Black Squadron-3 as Daniel, Skull Squadron-6 as Rebecca, or Dagger-Squadron-7 as Lisa. They were men and women I’d trained with and called friends, now just particles and gas.

“Focus,” I commanded myself, then spoke into my helmet’s comm. I was sitting in the middle of my tight Engel-fighter cockpit moving at speeds which boggled the mind. While space was largely empty, the tightness of the battle formations meant I needed to fly like I’d never flown before. The slightest misstep would mean not only my death but my entire squadron’s destruction. “Dagger Leader, I need you to bring up your teammates to thin out the ranks of those Crosshairs.”

“Yes, your Excellency,” Dagger Leader, a woman named Arianna Stonebridge, said, referring to me by my noble title rather than rank.

I hated that.

This was a last-ditch assault which Prince Germanicus had planned to blunt the offensive into our territory. The Commonwealth had reclaimed thousands of worlds in their quest to reunite humanity, but they were stretched thin and the Archduchy’s resistance was fierce. If we’d had more allies, we could have repelled them, but the Archduchy of Crius had few friends. In my more reflective moments, I had to wonder how badly we’d abused our neighbors that many had cheered the arrival of the Commonwealth.

The interior of the Engel’s cockpit was a mixture of levers, pedals, and sensor equipment which projected countless images into my cybernetically enhanced mind. I saw close-ups of the sword-shaped Crius destroyers moving to cut off the escape of the massive Earth’s Successor even as enemy reinforcements arrived from jumpspace. The saucer-shaped Commonwealth ships launched several thousand more starfighters to whittle down the shields of our ships, but it made no difference to our battle plan. We had to score a decisive victory here, even if it meant decimating our ranks.

Archangel Squadron’s part in the mission was critical. We had to weaken the Earth’s Successor enough for the Revengeance to blast away at its engines and allow the rest of the fleet to destroy it.

About the Author:

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on “The United Federation of Charles” (http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/).

He’s the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer’s Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lucifers-Star-C-T-Phipps-ebook/dp/B01MDM9MCT/

Read Charles’ thoughts on his website: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

Read Charles’ book reviews: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/

Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/charles.phipps.946

 

Backfire1 print

Book Review: Backfire by Philipp Kessler

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’m stepping outside my fantasy/sci-fi comfort zone and reviewing something a bit unusual: a story of pagan magick in modern society!

Backfire

It was a simple protection spell, what could possibly go wrong? Everything and then some!

Sandra Blackwell wants to help her friend find peace and protection after a nasty break up. Little did she know that Elaine’s home was already under protection – if you call flickering lights and depression protection. After the bulbs begin to blow and they realize something has backfired, they battle their own mental and emotional demons to fix what Sandra did. Two Egyptian Gods play with Sandra’s understanding of who she is and Elaine is floating in her own personal limbo after the blow up of her relationship and the backfire of a well intentioned spell. Can they fix things without it all blow up in their faces?

The first in a series of stories following Sandra and Elaine, Backfire introduces the characters and establishes their life together. Friends since middle school, the two are now getting established in their careers. Magick, love, and unexpected happenings follow them all over the place.

My Review: 4 Stars

I found this an utterly fascinating book! While many other novels skirt the issue of spell-casting and magick, this felt more like a how-to primer on the concepts. I walked away from the reading knowing a lot bit more about paganism, the pagan lifestyle, belief system, and practices. It had me curious and wanting to find out what else I can learn. Definitely going to keep reading the next books to delve more into pagan practices!

There’s not a whole lot in the way of action or suspense—just two women trying to find out what went wrong with the spell. There was a lot of interesting concepts presented through the pages of the novel, offering information without cramming the belief system or practices down a reader’s throat. Well-presented, thoughtfully laid out, and set in an interesting (if slow-moving) story.

100% worth the read for anyone interested in learning more about paganism!

Here’s a Taste:

Sandra opened the window a crack to let a bit of fresh air into the room. The incense smoke swirled in the breeze as it was sucked out the window. As the air cleared she blinked the smoke from her own eyes.

“Well that sucked,” she muttered under her breath. “Back to square one.” She pushed her hair away from her forehead, brushing the sweat away from her brow.

She looked about the now smoke free room and sighed. Picking up the athame she began to put her ritual and spell tools away. Sandra put each tool into its place in the box she pulled out from under the altar table. The wand, the incense burner, and the athame each had a special compartment in the ornately carved oak box. As she put the pentacle plate and the bowl into their pouches she gazed into her own reflection in the blade of the boline.

The curved blade, shaped like a crescent, was affixed to a piece of deer antler. The antler was hand carved with delicate Celtic knot work and the blade itself had been hand forged by her grandfather. Her eyes were captured in the blade’s surface, reflecting back her own frustration at the failed spell. Her hand shook a little and she broke her own personal staring match.

“Oh, stop it!” she admonished herself. “No sense in crying over spilt milk.”

She tucked the boline away into its pouch and picked up the simple silver chalice she preferred to use for her personal workings. Her gaze went to her reflection in the curved metal and she paused. What she saw in that reflection was different from the narrow bladed reflection of the boline. She could see more than just her eyes. She could see the frown of her lips and the smudge of soot on her nose where she had touched her face after snuffing out the candles with her dampened fingertips. The smudge made her grin a little and as she watched her lips twist in the curve of the chalice she couldn’t help but giggle at the image. The giggle soon turned into a laugh.

She took up a small terry towel and wiped out the chalice before placing it into the box as well. All the while laughing to herself.

“Hmm. Wonder what I did wrong this time.” She shook her head and made sure that she had placed all the tools in the box before closing it and putting it back under the altar. “Too much sandalwood in the incense? Or what is it the wrong color for the candles?” She wrinkled her brow with thought and picked up the remains of the failed spell materials. A bit of burnt twine, blackened parchment, and a small cracked quartz. She brushed it all into her hand and got up from the pillow on the floor.

As she left the small room she used for rituals, spell work, and meditation it was as if she walked from one world into another. Her bearing and attitude changed as soon as she stepped over the threshold. She hurried off to the kitchen and dumped the remains of the spell materials into the trash before washing her hands at the sink. She wiped the smudge from her nose with the dampened towel and filled a glass with water from the tap.

Her phone made a beep. Picking it up she saw that her best friend Elaine was texting her.
U AVAIL?

YES. WHAT UP?

WEIRDNESS AROUND HERE. WAT U DID?

WAT U MEAN?

THINGS WEIRD HERE. SAW U IN CORNER OF EYE & THINGS WENT WEIRD.

??? SAW ME?

YES. IN CORNER OF EYE. WEIRD!

VOICE?!
Sandra’s phone rang in reply to her last text. “What do you mean you saw me? I’ve been here all afternoon.”

“I saw you out of the corner of my eye. I did. And then everything started to go weird.”

“What do you mean weird?”

“The light in the bathroom blew as I saw you out of the corner of my eye. It was like catching a glimpse of you in the mirror and then boom! The light bulb blew. Scared the shit of me, I tell you!”

“Wow, I imagine. You said things went weird. More than just the blown bulb?”

“Oh, yeah! A lot more. I ran out of the bathroom, scared the shit of me. Almost literally. The lights were flickering in the whole apartment. What did you do?!”

“I, uh…” she hesitated. Elaine knew she was a witch, but trying to explain magick to her was not always easy. “I just tried to cast a spell. It didn’t work.”

“Didn’t work? Elaine asked. “What on Earth were you trying to do?” Her tone of voice was enough to convince Sandra that she wasn’t going to have to explain much about magick. At least not just yet.

“I was trying to bring you peace,” she replied flatly.

“You call this peace?” her tone was almost accusatory.

“No. I said the spell failed. Nothing seemed to happen on my end.” Sandra was grasping for an explanation in her own mind. She cast a spell for peace in Elaine’s life and nothing seemed to happen.

“Girl! Something happened here on my end!” Elaine’s voice rose in pitch a notch and her volume was increasing. “What the hell were you doing!?”

“I did what I always do. I made my Circle, laid out my tools and worked the spell. Other than a lot of choking incense smoke, nothing happened. Nothing,” she was really at a loss here.  She couldn’t fathom that a simple spell for something positive would cause anything to go wrong, let alone on the other side of town.

“Okay. Let’s take a breath.” She could hear her friend take a deep breath and exhale loudly over the cell’s speaker. Instinctively she did the same thing. “Now, tell me exactly what you did.”

“But you don’t believe in magick.”

About the Author

Philipp Kessler is a man of many hats.  An accomplished High Priest in the Covenant of Kernunnos Tradition, Phil has been an active practitioner for 25 years and has followed his passion for knowledge by climbing the ivory tower of the written word, from some of the oldest available works to modern, in the moment writings.

This desire for knowledge has led him to change his hat to pursue another passion, which is broadcasting.  He has been co-host of the longest-running pagan radio show, Murphy’s Magic Mess, for 8 and a half years and has been co-host of Pagan Musings on Blog Talk Radio for 8 years and Pagan Weekly News, also available on Blog Talk Radio, for 5 years and co-host of Lavender Hill, a weekly LGBTQIA news show on KZUM public radio for 6 years.

Phil donned his reviewers cap and became a regular contributor to Green Egg magazine and his leadership cap led him to being published in Pagan Leadership Anthology: An Exploration of Leadership and Community in Paganism and Polytheism edit by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor Ellwood.
Phil changes his hat again and is an editor and the founder of Saturn Returns Publishing.

He turns around again, changing his hat as he does, and he is an author of pagan fiction & poetry, with many stories in different genres (from horror to speculative historical fiction) in the works. His first title in the Dark of the Moon, New Beginnings series, Backfire, came out on April 1, 2017, quickly followed by volume two in that series, Waterfall, on May 1.

But most of all, he wears the hat of butler to his 3 feline rulers, tending to their every need with utmost devotion.

Find Backfire on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XTSBM9W/

Connect with Philipp on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RevKessPMPC/

Tweet at him: www.twitter.com/RevKess

Check out his Patreon: www.patreon.com

Sign up for his Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cNqARz

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00060]

Book Review: Thief of the Night Guild by Andy Peloquin

As is my tradition with each new book launch, I like to share some of the reviews posted for the book. These reviews aren’t written by me (that would be cheating!), but they’re written by independent, third-party, unbiased reviewers.

Thief of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 2)

“I am Ilanna, Journeyman of House Hawk. I do the impossible.”

A cunning thief of unrivaled ingenuity, Ilanna is determined to secure her freedom. Nothing will prevent her escape from the Night Guild’s callous cruelty, not even the most powerful man in Praamis, Duke Phonnis.

Thief of the Night Guild Cover

Commanding a crew of pickpockets, bounty hunters, poisoners, and assassins, Ilanna schemes to disgrace the Duke. She must survive blackmail, a bloodthirsty rival syndicate, and enemies within her own House to claim her spoils: vengeance for the deaths of her friends and gold to buy independence.

But all Ilanna’s skill may not suffice to protect the one person who matters most: her son.

Reviews:

5 Stars: “Peloquin shifts gears with this book. While the last one was more biopic, following GiRL from the age of seven until her early twenties as she has her ups and downs dealing with her rival, the brutal Sabot, this book is a heist thriller through and through. And with all the grimdark fantasy elements Peloquin is so skilled at balancing.

Thief of the Night Guild is a riveting read, keeping you following the intricacies of Ilanna plan as she has to overcome new obstacles, deal with dubious allies, and race against the clock to get everything ready for her window. Because if she doesn’t, more than she will pay the price.” – RJ Reviews on Amazon

4 Stars: “If you thought the little one was a bada$$ before you have NOT seen anything yet. This author says he wanted to show that women can be strong and powerful and resourceful and he surely does. Wonderful read, imagery that puts you in the midst of all the action.” – Teri on Amazon

5 Stars: “Rarely have I come across a book, a series, written so eloquently, full of passion, joy, trauma, adventure, determination, and a will to succeed above anything else. What does one write after reading such perfection? Thief of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves #2) is a perfect rendition of the exact manner in which one should write a fantasy novel.” – Tiffany Landers Have You Heard on Goodreads

5 Stars: “OMG. My head is still spinning. This book is totally unpredictable and had me on a rollercoaster of emotions.” – Lesia Connelly Vargas on Goodreads

 

I’m thrilled by the positive reception so far, and I can’t WAIT until the 2 and 3-star reviews come rolling in so I can learn how I can make the next book (Queen of the Night Guild) even better!

Find Thief of the Night Guild on Amazon

 

final_front - Copy

Book Review: Amaskan’s Blood by Raven Oak

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’ve got a treat: an award-winning novel by the amazing Raven Oak. This book had some fascinating themes, some of which we covered in our Fantasy Fiends Podcast Episode #003: What is Family, Really? This is a book I’m very certain you will enjoy!

Amaskan’s Blood

Her name was Adelei.

She was a master in her field, one of the feared Order of Amaska. Those who were a danger to the Little Dozen Kingdoms wound up dead by her hand. The Order sends her deep into the Kingdom of Alexander, away from her home in Sadai, and into the hands of the Order’s enemy.

The job is nothing short of a suicide mission, one serving no king, no god, and certainly not Justice. With no holy order to protect her, she tumbles dagger-first into the Boahim Senate’s political schemes and finds that magic is very much alive and well in the Little Dozen Kingdoms.final_front

While fighting to unravel the betrayal surrounding the royal family of Alexander, she finds her entire past is a lie, right down to those she called family. They say the truth depends on which side of the sword one stands, but they never said what to do when all the swords are pointing at you.

Amidst her enemies, in a land from the darkest reaches of her past, she must decide if she is to be more than another brainwashed puppet. No matter her choice, she must fight to do what is just and right to save the people of the Little Dozen.

My Review: 5 Stars

A very well-crafted story, one that explored some very emotionally intense and intricate issues. From the first page, I was drawn to the story of Adelei and her journey from the only home she’s ever known (that of an assassin) to the city and country that should actually BE her home. A fascinating look at the truth of what makes someone family—blood, loyalty, love, emotional ties, duty, respect, and more.

There were parts that I had a hard time reading (slowed down a bit), but once I got through them, I enjoyed the story immensely. Highly recommended!

Here’s a Taste:

The sleeping woman in his arms shifted, her heel connecting with his shin. The jagged scar to the right of her eye bunched together with worry lines. One of her hands flitted to the scar tissue along her throat, and she whimpered in rhythm to the twitching of the facial muscles around her eyes.

“Shhhhh,” King Leon murmured, running his thumb down her jawline. Through the deep blue bed curtains, tiny hints of light streamed in from one of four windows which left most of the room dark in the early dawn.

Even with the lack of light, the scar running parallel to her jaw stood out in contrast to the others along her body. The puffy and angry line stretched the full width of her neck, from ear to ear. Ten years together, and still she never spoke of it, never talked of the wound that walked in and out of her nightmares.

She thought she’d kept her past from him, but a few paid informants gained a king whatever information he wished. That and the fact that she talked in her sleep. A smile lifted the corners of his thin lips as he stared at the woman wrapped beneath the heavy winter blankets.

His thumb froze at the shift in her breathing, and he peered down to find blue eyes staring up at him. Instead of their usual humor, the deep, blue pools were haunted by shadows, and the smile fell from his lips. “What is it, Ida? What’s bothering you so? Was it something in Sadai?”

“I begged you not to send me.” The scar across her throat jumped when she spoke, and her voice resembled gravel.

“Since when has my sepier been afraid of anything?” The former captain of the royal guard didn’t answer as another tear slid down a cheek more gaunt than it had been a few months before. “Ida, love, I know you hate Sadai, but we all must make sacrifices for duty.”

Her body stilled while long pale fingers gripped the bed sheets. “You know nothin’.”

Leon didn’t know what shocked him more, that she was angry with him or that she was afraid.

“‘Twas a mistake to return to Sadai,” she whispered.

“I sent a woman I trust into that country, a tenacious spy who feared nothing, and she’s returned to me broken. I was going to wait until the sun rose before asking for your report, but considering your tears, I have to ask. What happened? What brought you back early and afraid?”

Ida rose from the bed, her bare feet picking their way across clothing strewn haphazardly on the floor from a few hours before when she’d returned.

The look on her face had led him to ask no questions, but as she stood in the sprinkling of sunlight the morning brought, dread seeped into Leon’s bones. Her fifty years did little to mar her body, but a decade of leading battles had left scars aplenty across her frame, and Leon frowned to see a fresh mark across her thigh, its scab already sloughing off and healing.

“I’ve failed you, Your Majesty.”

“Were you not successful then in finding the location of the Order of Amaska?”

Her lips trembled. “I—I was successful, Your Majesty.”

King Leon sucked air through clenched teeth much too fast, and the ever-present congestion in his lungs leapt forth. Another coughing spasm whipped through him.

Stars danced before his eyes, and Ida’s footsteps sounded nearby. Shortly after, she pressed the mug into his waiting hands. Some of the medicine sloshed out of the cup before it found his lips, and several swallows later, the spasm passed, leaving hope in its wake. “Where is the Order located?”

“Sire, there’s more—”

“Where are they?”

“They’re near the coast, near the town of Haif—”

He was two feet out of bed and halfway to the door before he remembered the need for clothing, and despite his bruised lungs, he quickly dug through his clothes chest. Leon seized the first clothes his fingers touched: an old pair of breeches a touch too loose at the waist, and an undershirt that bore a hole from a moth.

He didn’t care what he looked like. After thirteen years, he had finally found the men who had massacred his family. His giddy footsteps carried him across the room where he rang for a page. When the boy appeared, Leon said, ”I need Captain Fenton brought to my sitting room immediately.”

When the door shut behind the young page, Leon haphazardly dug through a box of letters. “Once Michael arrives, you’ll tell us both about their location. We have plans to make.”

“There’s more, and you must hear it alone.”

When he faced her again, she knelt on the stone floor, and her shoulder length hair spilled limply across her face. “What more is there? After thirteen years, I finally have the location of the bastards. Today is a good day, Ida. Today I will have my revenge.”

“Will ya march across Sadai’s borders to take it?”

“If necessary.”

“You’d bring the wrath of the Boahim Senate down upon us? Would you rip this land apart again for ‘nother pointless war?”

King Leon took her hands into his own as he knelt down beside her. “I thought you would understand this. Those bastards killed my wife. My daughter. What else would you have me do? The Boahim Senate has done nothing to stop the Amaskans. If they won’t seek justice, then I will.”

About the Author

Award-winning and bestselling speculative fiction author Raven Oak is best known for Amaskan’s Blood (2016 Ozma Fantasy Award Winner and Epic Awards Finalist)Class-M Exileand the collection Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays (Foreword Reviews 2016 Book of the Year Finalist). Raven spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet.

When she’s not writing, she’s getting her game on with tabletop games, indulging in cartography, or staring at the ocean. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Amaskans-Blood-Boahim-Series-Volume/dp/0990815706

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32722359-amaskan-s-blood
Visit Raven’s website: www.ravenoak.net
Tweet at her: http://twitter.com/raven_oak

Connect on Facebook: http://facebook.com/authorroak

And Google+: https://www.google.com/+RavenOak

 

14375239_166780353765931_1034178480_o

Book Review: Rosinanti by Kevin Kessler

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I’m thrilled to bring you the review of a book by a great new author—and a great guy, Kevin Kessler! If you like dragons, wuxia-style martial arts, and elemental magic, you’ll dig this series.

Rosinanti

The Rosinanti Dragons are no more. Since their extinction nearly one thousand years ago these primal powerhouses have fallen into the obscurity of history’s forgotten lore. In that time, humans have come to dominate the world of Terra, peacefully ignorant to one horrifying truth: ancient evil stirs around them, waiting to reclaim its lost world.

For Valentean Burai, animus warrior of the kingdom of Kackritta, the details surrounding humanity’s victory over the Rosinanti are more than just a history lesson. The long-buried mysteries of this archaic conflict may hold the answers that he has so desperately sought regarding his own past.

Rosinanti Audiobook Cover

As the awful truth of the Rosinanti’s supposed demise comes to light, Valentean must stand together with Seraphina, a magically gifted princess, to embark upon a mission to maintain order and light throughout Terra. Only together can these two lifelong friends face down the resurgence of the Rosinanti legacy, and combat the greatest threat their world has ever known.

My Review: 5 Stars

This felt like one of those classic high fantasy novels that were popular around the time of Dragonlance or Icewind Dale, with that same old school feel that brings back so many happy memories. At the same time, it delved into deeper themes like “the dark and light in all of us”. All in all, one heck of a fun read.

I blasted through about 400+ pages in one sitting. The beginning was most enjoyable for me, though I felt it lagged a little as it approached the climax. However, there were a couple of plot twists in the book that totally caught me by surprise—always something I enjoy.

Aside from a couple of “first book mistakes”, it found this to be one of the best books I’ve read this year. Can’t wait to dive into Book 2 and beyond.

Here’s a Taste:

Pain seared through his faded consciousness, reminding him to breathe. He would have fallen to death’s embrace had it not been for the searing grip of agony. Still, however barely, he clung to life. It took considerable effort to open his heavy-lidded eyes, their weight monumental to bear in wake of the thrashing he had endured. Through the haze of blood and dizziness, the boy, barely old enough to call himself a man, took in what remained of his surroundings. What had once been a beautiful crystalline cave now laid in fiery ruin. What had once been an enclosed structure, safeguarding its occupants against the powerful wind and snow that raged across the white landscape, now lay bare before the might of the elements.

The cold did little to cool the angry burns scattered across the boy’s flesh, now beginning to crack, ooze and blacken. A cough ripped its way from his lungs as a slow birth of blood wound red rivulets down his arms and legs. The morbid flow pooled around him, warm and sticky against his skin as it spread along the snow and ice.

The boy stared blankly at the frosted sky, resigned beneath a thickening blanket of falling snow. He turned and saw a tattered man clad in long black robes lying mutually prone to the stinging of the bitter wind. The boy’s eyelids narrowed approvingly. The body showed no signs of life. At least I managed to do something properly before things got out of hand. His ego stirred as he examined the lifeless figure. It inspired the boy to move, but pain ripped through him with renewed intensity and a gurgled howl leaped from his throat. He turned his head slowly to stare at his ruined right arm, now fallen listlessly at his side. He gazed at it with a grimace of dread; it more resembled that of an abused corkscrew than an arm, having snapped grossly at the elbow joint.

Just beyond his outstretched hand laid a girl clad in a blue dress that danced around the contrast of her silent body. While the lifelessness of the first figure filled him with accomplishment, this visage in blue startled his heart. How had he failed her so? The boy desperately tried to extend his ruined arm toward his companion with tears spilling from his eyes, turning blood and grime to mud on his cheeks. His initial flutter of valiance was now gone. How had it come to this?

Then, as if an answer to his silent angst, a low growl filled the air like the rumble of shifting rubble. Tearing his eyes from the girl, he struggled to lift his head, just enough to stare at the vision of death that hovered before him. The creature was inconceivably massive, with every bit of its body, from tip to tail covered in red rock-like scales. A pair of impressive wings extended outward, framing its enormity. Through the glowing miasma of snow, the boy could still see the creature’s most defining feature: a pair of flame-red eyes. These were eyes the boy had known all too well and for far too long, eyes that haunted his waking and unconscious hours alike since childhood. Now here he was, finally faced with them one more time—the last time.

The beast reared back, its head whipping the air. As familiar as it was, the boy still could scarcely believe what he was to face: an actual dragon, the most ancient of enemies, believed to have been extinct since times only known by popular fable.

The crimson monstrosity slowly opened its massive mouth, rows of razor sharp white teeth glinting in luminescence as a red glow began to gather at the back of its throat. Now would come the fire. Now would come the end. He had hoped, should this moment ever come, he would face death bravely; however, the gentle quaking of his intact limbs coupled with sharp frenzied intakes of breath betrayed him. A medley of stark emotions accompanied his growing dread: anger, disbelief, denial. The purveying emotion, however, despite his defiant wish was sheer terror. He gritted his teeth, determined not to allow the fear to continue playing out on his face—those murderous red orbs would not have the satisfaction of consuming his panic. Then, as the fiery glow flared from the dragon’s massive maw, the boy heard his name, spoken so softly he was almost sure his desperate mind had imagined it.

“Val…?”

His head snapped to the side, seeing his companion slowly stir. She was alive after all, and now they were going to die together.

The dragon’s head darted forward, filling the air with stifling humidity before flames would burst forth to burn its victims to ash. Her weak fingers reached for him with agonizing slowness. Their hands crept closer until he could feel the warmth of her skin against the pads of his fingertips. So tantalizingly close. If he could only touch her for one final moment, he could face his death a more complete person. But they were out of time.

In this, his final moment, fear mocked him from the shadows of his mind, as it always had these many years.

Everything dies, Valentean. No flame can burn forever. 

About the Author

Kevin J. Kessler lives in Orlando Florida, where he owns the White Dragon Podcast Network, which puts out weekly podcasts on a variety of topics from Walt Disney World, to movies, television, comic books, video games and more.

A lifelong geek, Kessler can often be found at the many theme parks and local attractions in Orlando. He developed the story for Rosinanti as a sophomore in high school, sixteen years before the book’s release.

Since an early age, Kessler has been an avid reader, often found lost within the magical worlds found within the pages of fantasy novels.

Find the book on Amazon: mybook.to/rosinanti

 

Connect with Kevin on Facebook: facebook.com/kevinjkesslerauthor

Tweet at him: twitter.com/kevinjkessler

Join the Rosinanti Facebook Group: facebook.com/groups/rosinanti

 

ROGUE 2

Book Review: Rogue by Martyn Halm

I’m happy to once again bring you a book from the Katla Sieltjes series, one of my favorite modern-day series about the bad-ass assassin Katla! I reviewed both Book 1 and Book 2 in the series, and this new one is an amazing continuation in a great series.

Rogue

Freelance assassin and corporate troubleshooter Katla Sieltjes runs her business of disguising homicide below the radar of law enforcement, but when her latest target is a judas goat intended to draw her out into the open, the hunter becomes the hunted.

Fooling local law enforcement can be challenging, but hiding from intelligence communities aiming to enlist Katla for their dirty work might prove impossible.

ROGUE 2

With Homeland Security, DEA, and the German BKA joining forces with Dutch Intelligence in an effort to track down Loki Enterprises, not only Katla’s future is threatened, but also the lives of her lover and his friends.

My Review: 5 Stars

I breezed through this book in a couple of days—I just couldn’t put it down! From the first page, the rich descriptions of Amsterdam (and other cities the characters visit) drew me in, and it was a true pleasure to return to the world of Katla, Bram, and the other awesome characters created by the author.

The story was fast-paced, with not a dull moment. I can’t wait until I get to read the next book in the series!

Here’s a Taste:

Unlike his girlfriend, Bram Merleyn seemed unperturbed by the situation. Or maybe it was the VIP lounge instead of an interrogation room. He had taken off his shoes, and sat cross-legged on a leather sofa, hands resting on his knees. Together with the half-smile on his face, the blind man exuded a Zen-like calm, as if he was detained by the police on a regular basis. Polak planted the tripod and switched on the camera while the Chief Inspector sighed and took a seat opposite Merleyn.

“I’m sorry,” Basalt said. “This must be quite a blow for you.”

“This?” Merleyn tilted his head. “You have to be more specific.”

“Your girlfriend being questioned for killing someone.” The Chief Inspector paused, then said, “How long have you known her?”

“Long enough.” Merleyn rolled his head like a boxer. “Long enough to know you’re wrong.”

“You’re sure?”

“Absolutely. Business is war, but she’s only shrewd and ruthless within the confines of a boardroom.”

“Strange. I look at your girlfriend and I see a headstrong young woman. Not the type to cuddle babies or pet puppies, but the cool executive type.”

“With the emphasis on executive, right?” Merleyn gave him a smug smile. “She works in a male-dominated environment, where femininity equals subservience. To command respect she projects a tough image. Apparently convincing enough to fool you.”

“You’re saying her attitude is an affectation? I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that. I saw her stab a man to death.”

“Stab?” Merleyn leaned forward. “With a knife?”

“Yes.”

Merleyn flashed the Chief Inspector a wry smile. “Quite an achievement for someone who cannot stand the sight of blood.”

“What do you mean?”

“She can’t even look at a rare steak without going woozy.”

“We recorded her every move.” The Chief Inspector’s soft voice grew apologetic. “She killed someone in front of a security camera.”

Merleyn sat up straight again. “Seeing is believing.”

“You don’t believe me?”

“If you have her on tape, what are you talking to me for?”

“Background information.”

“Meaning, she wouldn’t tell you anything.” Merleyn snorted. “Maybe she made the correct assessment and I should follow her lead.”

“You paint a different picture than what I’ve seen so far,” Basalt said. “You sound convincing, but can you prove she’s like you say she is?”

“Prove?” Merleyn titled his head. “You’ve seen her limp?”

“Yes.”

“Did she tell you how she got it?”

Basalt shrugged. “I didn’t ask.”

“Last summer she spent a week in England for business meetings. I wasn’t able to accompany her, I had other commitments.”

“What is it you do?”

“I’m a musician. Anyway, she rented a motorcycle to ride around the countryside. Her way of unwinding. Despite her considerable experience riding motorcycles she ran off the road into a fence and skewered her thigh.” Merleyn paused to let it sink in. “You know what caused that accident? She nearly killed herself swerving to avoid running over a hedgehog. She might not look the type to pet puppies, but appearances might be deceiving.”

The Chief Inspector fell silent. Polak was still translating the last words and the blind man cocked his head. His English was impeccable. “Do I have an audience?”

“A small one,” Polak said. “I’m also with Amsterdam Municipal Police, and translating for a colleague from the United States, Ms. Cohn.”

Laure automatically inclined her head, sighed at her own stupidity, and said, “Hello.”

“What agency are you from, Ms. Cohn?”

“What makes you think I’m from an agency, Mr. Merlin?”

“It’s Merleyn. You’re too far from home for local or state police. What are you? FBI? CIA?”

“Mr. Merleyn,” Basalt interrupted. “You implied that your girlfriend affected a tough attitude.”

“I didn’t imply anything.” Merleyn turned back slowly to the Chief Inspector and spoke in measured tones. “I know she affects a tough attitude and I told you the reasons why to save you confusion on the issue.”

“Could you be wrong about this?”

Merleyn didn’t hesitate. “No.”

“Are you telling me you’re infallible?”

“Can I have some water?” Merleyn held out his hand with the commanding presence of someone used to having his wishes fulfilled. Basalt nodded at Polak, who went to the water fountain in the corner and filled a plastic cup. His free hand touched Merleyn’s wrist before he lowered the cup in the blind man’s grip. Merleyn drank the water and licked his lips. “Thanks.”

“So,” Basalt said. “How do you—”

“How long have we known each other?” Merleyn smiled in the Chief Inspector’s direction with an easy familiarity. “You and me?”

Basalt steepled his fingers. “I don’t think we met before today.”

“Right.” Merleyn put his hands together, as if unconsciously mirroring the Chief Inspector, then pointed at Basalt with his fingertips. “How do I know you are fifty‑plus years old, smoke cigars, don’t pay much attention to trends or fashion, are overweight, Protestant, and recently divorced?”

Basalt moved back imperceptibly, as if Merleyn had pushed him back in his chair.

Merleyn placed his hands on his knees again. “Am I right?”

“Yes. Yes, you are. How did you guess?”

“I didn’t ‘guess’, Chief Inspector. I pay attention.”

“Neat trick.”

“Don’t try to reduce my deduction to a parlour trick. You’re easy to read. You refer to my girlfriend as a ‘young woman’, so you’re obviously twenty or more years older. The cigars wasn’t difficult, nor the trends and fashion bit. The atrocious scent you doused yourself in to mask the smell of your unwashed body can’t have set you back more than a few euro. The floor vibrated as you entered the lounge, you wheezed when you sat and the chair complained under your weight. And like most married Protestants, you used to wear a wedding band on your right hand, long enough to form the indentation I noticed when I shook your hand.”

Basalt folded his arms. “I could’ve been a widower.”

“Doubtful,” Merleyn said. “If your wife had died, you would’ve worn both your wedding bands to honour her.”

“Not my wife,” Basalt said, drawing a chuckle from Polak.

Merleyn didn’t crack a smile. “You’re too bitter to have lost your wife. So she left you.”

“Listen, we’re not here to—”

“You missed the point, Basalt. I don’t care about you. Now, if I know this much about you after,” Merleyn ran his finger over his watch, “seventeen minutes, imagine how much I know about the woman I live with and actually care about. You arrested the wrong person. I’d know if my lover has homicidal tendencies.”

The Chief Inspector held up his hands. “Ms. Sieltjes is being questioned, not arrested.”

“You saw her kill someone and you didn’t arrest her?” Merleyn wrinkled his nose. “You ought to be ashamed, lying to the blind. Your evidence is virtually non‑existent, isn’t it?”

“We have a recording of your girlfriend committing a murder, Merleyn.”

“Something that would hold up in court? That would unmistakably show my lover, a respectable and successful businesswoman, without a criminal record or even a parking ticket to her name, stab someone to death despite having an aversion to blood?”

The silence in the room became oppressive. Merleyn leaned forward and said, “You know what I’d do? I’d swallow my pride and apologise to her before she’ll make you eat your mistake in court.”

About the Author:

Martyn V. Halm lives in Amsterdam with two children, two cats, two rats, and countless imaginary characters vying for attention.

Writing realistic crime fiction is hard work, especially when you’re a stickler for verisimilitude. When your protagonist is a seasoned killer, research can take you right up to Nietzsche’s abyss. Luckily, things get easier after the first few killings…

Apart from being an accomplished prevaricator, Martyn already possessed an eclectic variety of skills that qualified him to write the Amsterdam Assassin Series. Skills he shares with his deadly fictional characters…

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GO6VQ8O/

Read Martyn’s thoughts on his blog: http://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.com/

And his website http://tao-of-violence.weebly.com/

 

Page 1 of 19

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén