#BlogTour #Extract ~ A Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs @KathyReichs @SimonSchusterUK @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs.

A Conspiracy of Bones is published on 21st March 2020 by Simon and Schuster.

Kathy Reichs

It’s sweltering in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Temperance Brennan, still recovering from neurosurgery following an aneurysm, is battling nightmares, migraines, and what she thinks might be hallucinations when she receives a series of mysterious text messages, each containing a new picture of a corpse that is missing its face and hands. Immediately, she’s anxious to know who the dead man is, and why the images were sent to her.
 
An identified corpse soon turns up, only partly answering her questions.
 
To win answers to the others, including the man’s identity, she must go rogue. With help from a number of law enforcement associates including her Montreal beau Andrew Ryan and the always-ready-with-a-smart-quip, ex-homicide investigator Skinny Slidell, and utilizing new cutting-edge forensic methods, Tempe draws closer to the astonishing truth.
 
But the more she uncovers, the darker and more twisted the picture becomes …

* * * * * * * *

A big thank you to Anne Cater and the publisher for sending me with an extract to share with you today.

Friday, June 22

Reactions to pressure vary. Some people are ductile, able to stretch. Others are brittle, powerless to bend. Physicists talk of stress-strain curves. One thing is certain. If the burden is too great, or the loading too rapid, anyone can snap.

I know. I reached my breaking point the summer after my boss was murdered. Moi. The igneous rock of emotion. And I’m not talking about just the nightmares.

To be fair, Larabee’s death wasn’t the immediate or sole trigger. There was Andrew Ryan, my longtime lover and cop-partner in investigating homicides in Quebec. Succumbing to pressure, I’d agreed to cohabitate with Ryan on both the Montreal and Charlotte ends of our geographically complex relationship. There was Katy’s posting in Afghanistan. Mama’s cancer. Pete’s news about Boyd. My diagnosis, then surgery. The migraines. A world of stressors was chafing my personal curve.

Looking back, I admit I spun out of orbit. Perhaps going rogue was an attempt to steer unsteerable forces. A bird-flip to aging. To the renegade vessel threatening havoc in my brain. Perhaps it was a cry for Ryan’s attention. A subconscious effort to drive him away? Or maybe it was just the goddamn Carolina heat.

Who knows? I was holding my own until the faceless man sent me over the edge. His remains and the subsequent investigation punched a black hole in my smug little world.

My mother spotted the changes long before the enigmatic corpse turned up. The distractedness. The agitation. The short temper. She blamed it all on the aneurysm. From the moment of its discovery, Mama was convinced the little bubble would burst and my own blood would take me out. I scoffed at her critique of my behavior, knowing she was right. I was ignoring emails, the phone. Declining invitations in favor of solo bingeing on old Hollywood flicks. Hell, I’d watched my favorite, Annie Hall, four times.

I didn’t tell Mama about the nighttime visitations. Twisting montages filled with dark figures and vague dangers. Or frustrating tasks I couldn’t complete. Anxiety? Hormones? The headache meds I was forced to ingest? Irrelevant the root of my irritability. I was sleeping little, constantly restless, and exhausted.

It didn’t take Freud to recognize I was in a bad place.

So there I was, wide awake in the wee hours, talking myself down from a dream about a storm and snakes and Larabee sealed in a body bag. Ole Sigmund might have offered a comment on that.

I tried deep breathing. A relaxation exercise starting with my toes.

No sale.

Nerves on edge, I got up and crossed to the window. Two floors below, the grounds spread out around my townhouse, dark and still save for the lank twisting of a leaf in the occasional half-hearted breeze. I was turning away when my eyes caught a flicker of movement beside the pine on my neighbor’s front lawn.

Peering hard, I made out a silhouette. Bulky. Male?

On the grounds of Sharon Hall at midnight?

Heart pumping a bit faster, I blinked to refocus.

The silhouette had blended into the shadows.

Had someone actually been there?

Curious, I pulled on a pair of discarded shorts and my Nikes and went downstairs. I wasn’t planning to confront the guy, if there was a guy; I just wanted to determine his reason for being outside my home at that hour.

In the kitchen, I switched off the alarm and slipped out the back door onto my terrace. The weather was beyond Dixie summer-night warm, the air hot and muggy, the leaves as droopy and discouraged as they’d appeared from upstairs. Spotting no prowler, I circled the building. Still no one. I set off on one of the paths crisscrossing the estate.

It had rained as I’d eaten my microwave-pizza dinner at ten, and moisture still hung thick in the air. Puddles glistened black on the gravel, went yellow as my fuzzy shadow and I passed under quaint-as-hell carriage lights blurred by mist.

The tiny pond was a dark void, woolly where the water met the bank. Murky shapes glided its surface, silent, aware of their tenuous state. The homeowners’ association fights an endless, often creative battle. No matter the deterrent, the geese always return.

I was passing a black Lego form I knew to be a small gazebo when I sensed more than heard another presence. I stopped. Stared.

A man was standing in the smear of shadow within the gazebo. His face was down, his features obscured. Medium height and build. I could tell little else about him. Except two things.

First, I didn’t know him. He wasn’t a resident, and I’d never seen him visit.

Second, despite the stifling heat, the man was wearing a trench coat. When he raised an arm, perhaps to check a watch, the fabric flashed pale in the gloom enveloping him.

I glanced nervously over my shoulder.

Crap. Why hadn’t I brought my phone? Easy one there. Because the damn thing was dead. Again.

Fine. Why hadn’t I at least lit the porch light? Go home and call 311 to report a prowler? 911?

I turned back. The gazebo was empty. I checked in both directions along the path. To the right, the left. The man wasn’t on it.

The mist began to morph back into rain. Listless drops tested for foothold on my face and hair. Time to head in.

Suddenly, beyond the circle drive, I caught a wink of gray. There, then gone.

Shot of adrenaline. Was Trench Coat targeting me? Casing the layout of Sharon Hall? If not, what was he doing here in the rain in the middle of the night? And why so elusive?
Or was my wariness a product of paranoia, another gift from my overburdened stress-strain curve. Either way, I was glad I’d left pepper spray in my shorts pocket after my previous run.

Perhaps roused by the unsettling dream, images of Larabee’s last moments unspooled in my head. The gray-green pallor of his skin. The eerie glow of the surgical-trauma ICU. The impartial pinging of the monitors recording their bloodless peaks and valleys. The screaming silence when the pinging stopped. Later, in an interview room smelling of sweat and fear, the slouchy indifference of the brain-fried tweaker who’d sent the bullets into my longtime boss’s belly.

Stop!

Aloud? Or just in my mind?

I lengthened my stride, footfalls crunching softly in the stillness.

A full minute, then a trench-coated form, far up where the path emptied into a residents’ parking area. The man was walking with an odd swinging gait, his back to me.

Suddenly, noise seemed to ricochet from all around. Rustling leaves. Shifting branches. Snapping twigs. Night creatures? Trench Coat’s geeked-out pals looking to fund more meth?

I had no valuables—carried no money, wore no watch. Would that anger them?

Or were the sounds the invention of overwrought nerves?

I patted the pepper spray at my right hip. Felt the canister. Pink and nasty. A molecule of the price I’d paid had been donated toward breast-cancer research.

Momentary indecision.

Head home? Continue on the path and observe the man? Confront him in the parking lot? There were streetlamps there, overwhelmed but trying their best.

I slowed. Trench Coat was now just ten yards ahead.

My brain chose that moment to unreel a blockbuster tableau.

When I approached, the man would pull a knife and try to slit my throat.

Jesus!

Why was I letting this guy fluster me? In my line of work, I encounter far worse than a dude dressed like Bogie in Casablanca. Outlaw bikers who chainsaw the heads and hands from their murdered rivals. Macho pricks who stalk and strangle their terrified exes. Drunken bullies who wall-slam fussy infants. Those lowlifes don’t dissuade me from focusing on my job. Quite the reverse. They inspire me to work harder.

So why the drama over a man in a belted coat? Why the sense of threat? It was doubtful the guy was a psycho. More likely a harmless geezer overly sensitive to damp.

Either way, I owed it to my neighbors to find out. I’d use the hedge as cover and follow him for a while. If he acted suspicious, I’d go inside and dial the cops. Let them decide.

I wriggled through a gap in the bushes, moved along their far side a few yards, then paused to scan the parking lot.

The man was there, standing under one of the struggling lamps. His chin was raised, his features vaguely discernible as dark blotches on a smudgy white rectangle.

My breath froze.

The guy was staring straight at me.

Or was he?

Unnerved, I pivoted to search for the opening in the shrubbery at my back. Couldn’t find it. Dived in where the darkness seemed less dense. The tunnel was narrow, barely there, or not there at all. Twigs and leaves snagged my arms and hair, skeletal fingers clawing me back.

My breathing sounded louder, more desperate, as though fighting entrapment by the thick vegetation. The air was heavy with the scent of wet bark, damp earth, and my own perspiration.

A few feet, then I was free and hurrying back toward the pond. Not the way I’d come, a new route. More shadowed. Less open.

Imperceptibly, a new odor entered the olfactory mix. A familiar odor. An odor that triggered a fresh wave of adrenaline.

I was catching whiffs of decomposing flesh.

Impossible.

Yet there it was. Stark and cold as the images haunting my dreams.

A minute of scrambling around a stand of azaleas and philodendron, then I detected a thawing in one slice of the darkness ahead. Within the slice, angles and planes of shadow shifting and tilting out on the lawn.

Trench Coat’s minions lying in wait?

I was almost to the edge of the garden when a rip-your-face-off snarl brought me up short. As my mind struggled to form a rational explanation, a high-pitched scream sent every hair on my arms and neck upright.

Hand shaking, I pulled the pepper spray from my pocket and inched forward.

Beyond the shrubs, out where the lawn met the eastern wall of the property, two dogs were locked in winner-take-all combat. The larger, the scraggy consequence of some Lab–pit bull affair, was all hackles, bared teeth, and gleaming white sclera. The smaller, probably a terrier, cowered, tense and timorous, blood and spit matting the fur on one haunch. Neither animal was familiar to me.

Unaware of my presence, or not caring, the Lab-pit braced, then lunged for another attack. The terrier yelped and tried to flatten itself even more to the ground, desperate to reduce the amount of mass it presented to the world.

The Lab-pit held a moment, then, confident that rank had been established, pivoted and trotted toward a dark mound lying at the base of the wall. As the terrier slunk off, tail curled to its belly, the Lab-pit sniffed the air, scanned its surroundings, then lowered its head.

I watched, spellbound, curious about the cause of the fight.

A flurry of thrashing and tugging, then the victor’s snout rose.

Clamped in the dog’s jaw was the severed head of a goose, ravaged neck glistening black, cheek swath winking white like the smile of an evil clown.

I watched rain fall on the bird’s sightless eye.

 

To follow the rest of the tour…

Conspiracy of Bones BT Poster

 

About the Author

Kathy Reichs Author Pic

From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains, to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as one of only seventy-seven forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, Dr Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her mesmerising forensic thrillers. For years she consulted to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina, and continues to do so for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec. 

Kathy Reichs has travelled to Rwanda to testify at the UN Tribunal on Genocide, and helped exhume a mass grave in Guatemala. As part of her work at JPAC she aided in the identification of war dead from World War II, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Kathy Reichs has served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and is currently a member of the National Police Services Advisory Board in Canada. She is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

A native of Chicago, she now divides her time between Charlotte and Montreal. Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller, a Sunday Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. All eleven of her novels have been international bestsellers. She is also a producer of the chilling hit TV series Bones. 206 Bones is her twelth novel featuring Dr Temperance Brennan.

#BlogTour ~ The School of Starting Over by Lisa Swift @LisaSwiftAuthor @HeraBooks@RaRaResources

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The School of Starting Over by Lisa Swift.

The School of Starting Over was published on 11th March 2020 by Hera Books.


Nell’s going back to school… but now she’s learning lessons of the heart

Reception class teacher Nell Shackleton has a plan. At least, she had until she arrived at her new home of Humblebee Farm, a dilapidated farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors. But so what if the roof’s full of holes, the back door’s hanging off and there’s a sheep in the front room? Because sometimes a new beginning means starting at the bottom… right?

Xander Scott is one of the youngest headteachers Leyholme Primary School has ever had. But managing over-zealous parents and their semi-feral kids proves a tricky task for shy Xander – as does keeping his mind on the job when his feelings for the new Reception teacher become more than strictly professional…

At 43, Nell’s new friend Stevie Madeleine has given up on love. After losing her wife, Stevie’s decided that her four-year-old daughter Milly and cocker spaniel Red are the only girls she needs in her life. That is, until larger-than-life dog-walker Deb arrives on the scene. But will the secrets of Stevie’s past stop her new romance dead in its tracks?

Meeting Xander and Stevie brings joy back into Nell’s life – but when old secrets start to surface, there may be some hard lessons to learn for them all…

* * * * * * * * *

A big thank you to Rachel at RaRaResources and the publisher for issuing me with my review copy of the book and for inviting to take part on the blog tour.

Ohhh! The cover of The School of Starting Over is perfect and suits this book perfectly!

I really liked how there are quite a few main characters in this story and Lisa Swift really takes her time with them so that you get to know them and lovely they are. Not perfect but enjoyable to read about, we follow Xander, the new head of the Leyholme Primary School. Convinced he isn’t good enough for the job, we follow him as he starts off timid and unsure of himself to someone who begins to make a big difference to the school and the people around him. If only the Ryan the School Governor would push off and leave him alone.

Nell is a new teacher at the school having moved (almost on a whim but not quite…) and bought a ramshackle farmhouse with a resident goat, Colin. Obviously. Although, we get a slight hint that all is not what is seems.

Stevie is the mum of Millie a 4 year old and Red, the mischievous dog and becomes friends with Nell. Following the loss of her wife, Stevie is determined to avoid any emotional entanglements but obviously fate has other plans when Deb, the dog walker comes into her life.

This is such a lovely book that I read it in a day. Not your standard women’s book, it deals with some heavy issues that are explored brilliantly and keep you completely invested in the characters that have almost come to feel like friends.

Definitely recommended.

To follow the blog tour…

About the Author


Lisa Swift is a romance author from West Yorkshire in the UK. She is represented by Laura Longrigg at MBA Literary Agents. Her first book was published by Hera Books in August 2019.

As Mary Jayne Baker, Lisa also writes romantic comedies for Aria Fiction.

Lisa is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Social Media Links

https://twitter.com/LisaSwiftAuthor

http://www.lisaswiftauthor.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/LisaSwiftWrites

#BlogTour ~ Deep State by Chris Hauty @ChrisHauty @AnneCater @simonschusterUK

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Deep State by Chris Hauty.

Deep State was published on 23rd January 2020 by Simon and Schuster.

Deep State Cover

THE DEEP STATE – noun 

A covert state hidden within a government;
a secret organisation of high-level operatives;  
exerts control through manipulation and a culture of pain and fear.
It is entrenched.
It is hidden.
It is deadly.

Who can you trust?

The White House Chief of Staff is dead, discovered collapsed in his home. Paramedics say it was a heart attack, but something’s not right – and only his intern, Hayley Chill, can see it. 

After her fears are dismissed by police, Hayley uncovers an organisation buried in the furthest reaches of government. Now she has no way of knowing who she can trust. 

Then things get really dangerous.

There is a plot to assassinate the president, one they are ruthless about hiding. They know that someone is on to them, and soon they will know that it’s her. So Hayley must work like the Deep State:

Infiltrate.
Trust no one.
Kill – or be killed.

* * * * * * * 

A big thank you to Anne Cater and the publisher for issuing me with my review copy of the book and for inviting to take part on the blog tour.

I’ve read quite a few political thrillers recently and this has got be one of the best!

Hayley Chill is one hell of a character, an ex-Army Boxing champion turned White House intern, she is an incredibly likeable character in an environment not known for its likeable people and I couldn’t help rooting for her. Slightly older than the other interns, she deals with their over privileged attitudes brilliantly and just keeps herself to herself.

When the White House Chief of Staff is found dead at his home from a supposed heart attack, little things just don’t add up for Hayley. Her attention to detail to detail is second to none and despite not wanting to rock the boat and also not really trusting anyone, she tries to look into matters herself.

Deep State is fast paced action packed thriller that I raced through. With superbly described events, you are right alongside Hayley with the action and feel the tension along with her. Despite only being an intern, her army experience is invaluable as she tries to get to the bottom of who is really involved with the plot to overthrow the White House.

Brilliantly plotted and very believable, the last chapter had my jaw dropping to the floor. Absolutely superb!

I really hope there is more to come from Hayley Chill as she has just become one of my favourite characters.

To follow the rest of the blog tour…

Deep State BT Poster

About the Author

Chris Hauty Author Pic

Chris Hauty is a screenwriter who has worked at all the major movie studios, in nearly every genre of film.

He currently lives in Venice, California, in the company of a classic Triumph motorcycle and a feral cat. 

Deep State is his first novel.