"My Grandfather’s Eyes" by B. A. Spicer

My Grandfather’s Eyes
by B. A. Spicer
Alex Crane is a protagonist with a difference. Single-minded and, at times, glacial in her response to the people around her, she has learned to face the world in spite of her unusual appearance. Her story begins in the past, unfolding into a multilayered plot that weaves its way through a family history peppered with secrets, towards a devastating conclusion.
I have never been beautiful. And, of course, my appearance has deteriorated over time.  It is something I have become used to.  When I look in the mirror these days, and that is not very often, I am not surprised by what I see.  Nor am I disappointed, as I have given up hope of catching myself in a good light. 
Let me tell you what I see.  First, the shape of my head is noticeably irregular, with a medium-sized bump just in front of the crown.  Next, my forehead is lined.  It always has been, ever since I can remember. People used to say I must be a deep thinker.  Only some of them were being kind.   Now the lines are deeper, but the traces they follow date back to my school days, when they did not go unnoticed by bullies.  My eyes are large and green; some might say they are intelligent eyes, that they are insightful or sincere.  I have learned not to set much store by what other people say. 
I have meagre lashes, but it is usually boys who have the lavish kind.  My nose is straight and my mouth is full.  My hair is mousy, fine and thin.   I used to buy shampoo for flyaway hair, when I believed in such nonsense.  When I was young, I wanted thick, straight blond hair, like my friend Lizzy’s.  We all want what we can’t have. There is perhaps nothing so far to complain about very much, you might say.
And so I come to my moles: the unnatural, crawling growths that spread themselves over the side of my face and the underside of my jaw.  If you could see me now, you would probably recoil. I have noticed that even the most educated, the most sympathetic person has difficulty in hiding the innate disgust my moles excite in them.  Ah yes.  Disgust is not too harsh a word, I can assure you.  And the others? Those who make no attempt to hide their feelings towards me?  They cannot help themselves, but stare in horror at what they see, as they sit on the bus clutching their shiny, plastic bags full of new things or as they push their wholesome choices around the supermarket.   Young children are the worst.  I do not admire their ‘honesty’, as their obsequious parents do. 
My moles. My nevi.  How can I describe them?  I should say they are more or less dark brown in colour, although there are two above my left eye that are noticeably lighter.  My husband called them Castor and Pollux.  All have a rubbery, soft texture and, apart from one large mole near my ear, are hairless.  The one near my ear has short, thick hairs that bristle untidily.  My husband had a name for this one too.  He loved me too much.  He couldn’t help it.  None of us can choose whom we love.
What more can I tell you?   That I am ambivalent to my nevi? That Castor and Pollux are my favourites?  That I like them for being different?  You may think this kind of reasoning strange and I would not blame you.  I can only explain it as a truth, a principle that has grown inside me as my moles have swelled and spread; have become part of my life.   Now, I am not sure I could be separated from them. 
There was a time when I believed my mother loved me. A time when she called me beautiful and, because I was not yet self-aware, I let myself be preened and cosseted in exchange for the comfort I felt from the warm glow of her approval.  I did not notice how she suffered. I did not recognise the mortification that lay beneath her smile.
However, a story must start somewhere nearer its beginning, and so I will go back and show myself more clearly to you, before I reveal what I have done.  I expect that you will judge me.
But I do not care.
My favourite reads are the ones with distinctive characters. I hesitate to describe the characters in My Grandfather’s Eyes as flawed, because that might sound as if the author has failed to draw them well. The opposite is true, and Ms Spicer has drawn the characters extremely well, with all their glorious flaws picked out under the delightfully forgiving spotlight of the story.
About the Author
Bev Spicer is the author of five ebooks and two paperbacks. She also writes under the pen name B. A. Spicer.
Bev was born in a small market town in the Midlands, daughter to an observer for the Royal Air Force and her mother, a local beauty queen.
She was educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge and became a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University in 1997 moving to live in France with her husband and two of her children ten years later, where she writes full-time.
She is widely read and has travelled extensively, living in Crete, where she taught English and learned to speak Greek, and in the Seychelles, where she worked for the government and co-designed materials which were used to teach at secondary school level.
She is currently working on Stranded in the Seychelles, a humorous memoir and sequel to her best-selling Bunny on a Bike, of which One Summer in France is the prequel.


"The Reunion (Beneath the Trap Door Book 1)" by A. A. Pencil

The Reunion
(Beneath the Trap Door Book 1)
by A. A. Pencil
To celebrate the release of A. A. Pencil’s debut novel The Reunion, during the months of November and December, 1% of the gross sales of all novels with Lavish Publishing, LLC will be donated to the Lupus Foundation of America. The donation will be made in May 2014 in honor of A. A. Pencil and National Lupus Awareness Month. Visit the other stops on this book blitz brought to you by Reading Addiction Book Tours. Make sure you come back here on 22 December when the book tour stops here for my interview with the author.

C. Moore Catholic High School’s 10-year reunion was organized as many reunions are; to reminisce, to see who had made a success of their lives, and in truth, to gossip on who had not. But this party in the secluded, 1890’s mansion once owned by a long dead, paranoid WWII Veteran, was to become anything but typical.
After a horrible accident within the mansion, the alumni realize they are locked in and fighting for their lives. Instantly, tempers rise and fingers are pointed as the number of living alumni begins to rapidly decrease. Theories range from there being a murderer in the midst to the mansion possibly being haunted by the previous owner’s ghost.
Who or what is responsible and will anyone make it out alive?
Find out for yourself in this combination of a mystery and psychological thriller, with a twisted ending!
Book Trailer
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About the Author
A. A. Pencil works part time as a school nurse at an all-boys Catholic school in New York City. As a Lupus survivor, she uses writing as a significant part of her therapy and you will see influences from classical writers such as Agatha Christie and Edgar Alan Poe in her work.  When not working or writing, she enjoys cooking, shopping and walking. She has sponsored a child in Mexico for over three years with a children’s organization. She currently lives in a borough of New York City with her extended family who are her greatest supporters.

"Lethal Journey" by Kim Cresswell

ON SALE for $0.98
Lethal Journey
by Kim Cresswell
Kim Cresswell’s latest novel, Lethal Journey, is ON SALE for only $0.98 (save $3.00). You can also read my blog post about Kim’s first novel, Reflection, whose sequel will also be released later this year.
A killer lurks in the shadows of Hyde Park, New York … waiting.
Manhattan District Attorney, Lauren Taylor, is about to take on the most important case of her career, prosecuting Gino Valdina, acting mob boss of New York’s most influential crime syndicate.
For three decades, Gino Valdina has led New York’s Valdina crime family. Since his recent indictment for murder, the leadership of the family is in turmoil, appalled by the death of one of their own, Gino’s wife, Madelina. Without the support of the family behind him, Valdina will do anything to save himself.
But Lauren soon discovers, things aren’t always as they seem when she’s tossed into a mystery, a deadly conspiracy that reaches far beyond the criminal underworld and a journey into the past makes her a target … and anyone she’s ever loved.
September 1997
Rain pounded down.
Lauren Taylor squinted through the windshield, a backwash of water battered the glass. She flicked the wipers on high and tightened her hands around the steering wheel. With a quick glance in the rear-view mirror she noticed headlights behind her. The vehicle appeared to speed up, fall back, and then speed up again.
Her muscles tensed. “That driver behind us seems to be in a big hurry.”
Her father leaned forward in the seat and peered into the side mirror. “He’s all over the road. Might be drunk or something.”
“He’s crazy driving like that in this weather. I’m letting him go by.” She downshifted the Jaguar and steered onto the side of the road and rolled to a stop.
As the van raced by. A giant wave of water pelted the side of the car.
Her father watched out the window. “Christ, he’s flying”
Taillights flickered and quickly faded ahead into the blackened night.
With a quick glimpse in the mirror, Lauren steered the car back onto the road, her grip relaxed around the wheel. “That’s better.”
Her father repositioned himself in the leather seat and stretched his legs. “The Law Society’s dinner is next week. You going?”
God, the dinner. She’d bought an expensive navy and white designer dress for the occasion and even toyed with the idea of having her hair cut into something more sophisticated and polished for a New York district attorney.
“I’ll have to check my schedule.”
“Not good enough. I want you there, Lauren. My chance to show you off. Do some bragging, big time.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Okay, Dad. Okay.”
“And don’t forget to bring a date for protection. Don’t want a bunch of drunken seedy lawyers groping you on the dance floor. And by the way, I heard Eric was back in town.”
Her smile faded as she remembered the annual dinner years before. She’d never forgotten a single detail of that night—how Eric held her in his arms and how his mouth devoured her willing lips then pulled away and left her mouth burning for more…
“What else did you hear about him?” she blurted out.
“Not much. Can’t even remember where I heard the news. Thought you didn’t want to talk about Brennan?”
“I don’t. I just wondered when he got back.”
Her father’s jaw tightened. “Don’t know.” His voice turned hard. “Just heard he’s back.”
At one point in their relationship, Eric begged her to come with him and start a new life in Florida. She didn’t have the courage to leave her father and walk away from her job. Four years later, she was taking on the most important case of her career—prosecuting Gino Valdina, head of New York’s crime family, just like her father had done a decade before. But this time would be different. Gino Valdina wasn’t going to get away with murder.
The sky split and lightning lit the wet road. Lauren eyed the exit sign to Hyde Park.
The whining squeal of an engine roared from behind.
Lauren glanced over her shoulder. “God, that van is back.” She clicked on the turning signal and steered onto the off-ramp. Her eyes darted back to the side mirror.
Headlights swerved from side to side.
A shiver drove up her spine. She clutched the steering wheel.
“I’m calling the police.” Her father grabbed his cell phone out of the glove box and turned it on. “Damn it. I can’t get a signal.”
“Keep trying.”
The van’s driver gunned the engine.
The grill came into view, massive and powerful.
Close. Too close.
Metal connected and scraped against the bumper.
The van shoved the Jaguar ahead on the road.
High-beams from the other lane blinded her.
Lauren blinked and turned her head.
The van rammed the back of the car. Metal popped as the back window disintegrated into the back seat.
The seat belt snapped across her shoulder. Her head slammed back on the head rest then forward. “Oh my God!”
The cell phone flew from her father’s hand. “What the—”
Like a slingshot the Jaguar shot down the slick road.
Lauren slammed on the brakes.
The car slid a half circle and spun out of control. A massive tidal wave of water washed over the roof.
Her father clutched the dashboard with both hands. “The tree!”
She yanked the steering wheel hard to the left.
Wood splintered. Metal buckled, squealed and cracked. The air bag struck her body like a fist, and smacked her head against the side window. She pushed at it, viciously. With every move, fiery pain shot through her face and down her neck. The sickening sweet stench of gasoline and smoke filled her nostrils. Her head clouded.
Lauren heard her own voice, pinched and muffled, cry out. “Dad!” until her words drifted into silence.
High tension, high intrigue, and an angry mob boss put young District Attorney Lauren Taylor on the defensive as she prepares for the biggest courtroom case of her life. All she has to do is stay alive long enough to put the head of one of New York’s biggest crime families behind bars, and the jury is out on whether she can pull that off. Her greatest ally is a man she knew and loved long ago, who shredded her heart as his own demons of guilt tried to drown him in an alcohol induced haze. Lethal Journey by Kim Cresswell hits the ground running and does not stop! Are people as they seem or is there more to them? As the attempts on her life escalate and people close to her go missing, Lauren doesn’t have many options on who to trust. Enter the one man who broke her heart, Eric, a homicide detective who has also felt the burn of getting too close to the mob. Can Lauren trust him? Does she have a choice? It would be so much easier if her heart would stay out of it, wouldn’t it?
Kim Cresswell’s talent shines through again! With a talent for setting the stage, bringing in the characters and cuing the action, she held me from page one. She is not afraid to write a tale that is real, where the good guys do not go unscathed and they are not perfect. There is grit in her style, and when she says you are in a warehouse with a stench, you smell it. The romantic tension runs high, and using character flashbacks to the past not only builds on the development of each character as a flesh and blood entity, but serve to eventually bring everything full circle with an ending that you will NOT see coming!
About the Author
Kim Cresswell resides in Ontario, Canada. Trained as a legal assistant, Kim has been a story-teller all her life but took many detours including working for a private investigator, running a graphic design business, and teaching computer classes at a local business school. After becoming disabled with Fibromyalgia and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, Kim returned to her first love, writing. For her, writing suspense fiction is an incredible adventure and she’s surprised where the journey takes her. She’s also an avid reader who enjoys playing computer games, ghost hunting and loves anything paranormal.
Her debut romantic suspense, Reflection, has won numerous awards including; UP Authors Fiction Challenge Winner (2013), Silicon Valley’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gotcha!” Romantic Suspense Winner! (2004) and an Honourable Mention in CARWA’s The Writer’s Voice Contest (2006).
Kim has a few new books in the works including the sequel to Reflection which will be released in late 2013.

"Bad Reputation (North Shore Book 1)" by P. W. Creighton

Bad Reputation
(North Shore Book 1)
by P. W. Creighton
Bad Reputation by P. W. Creighton is on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. Make sure you visit all the other stopson the tour.
The North Shore Sheriff’s Department has a bit of a problem. Someone contacted the local radio station last night and left an alarming confession.
Logan and his friends may be gossiping about it but their only concern is getting through the last day of school before summer vacation. After all, tonight is the party of the year. No one wants to miss it.
But the weight of secrets will have a costly price…
Through the trees I could just barely make out the practice field ahead of me. Another little secret Sara had let me in on. The truant officer tended to make his rounds on the half-hour and kept a close eye on the path through the woods to the parking lot. If I came in from the practice field, no one would bat an eye.
“Then again,” I said aloud.
I thought about grabbing my jacket, but it really wasn’t cold enough. My phone on the other hand, I needed. Checking the screen, it was only a little after nine. Tardy, but not something that would stand out.
There was still a chance to ditch the entire day. My phone gave a brief buzz of notification. I checked it to find a text waiting. It was Hailey again.
“Where R U?”
I groaned. She was pissed at me. If I bailed, not only would Sara and Mom freak on me, Hailey would jump down my throat. I could avoid them, but I needed to take Hailey to the party tonight. I could just stand her up. I let out a heavy breath. I wanted to go though, and if I didn’t take her, she would still find a way to get there. It was just better to deal with her now than to put it off till the end of the day. Maybe she wouldn’t be too pissed.
“5 Min” I texted back and started walking towards the practice field. Old leaves and branches crunched underfoot, keeping my mind off the fact that Hailey was going to rip me a new one, and I had no clue what she was going to want.
The girl could hold a grudge better than anyone I’ve ever known.
I emerged into the open near one of the maintenance sheds. Why was I still with Hailey? She was constantly pissing me off, and she didn’t even hear me most of the time. I turned right to follow the maintenance path. I dumped Jamie for less than what I was putting up with now. I opened the texts from Hailey to scroll back. There had to be some reason.
A few days back through the texts was all I needed as a reminder. It was a ‘selfie’ shot from Hailey angled down at her. She was giving me a playful smile. Straight, platinum blonde hair, a tight low-cut top and a teasing attitude, she was hot. Knowing how she felt silenced any objections my brain could come up with at the moment.
I smiled to myself.
Tucking the phone in my front pocket, I crossed into the parking lot. I couldn’t see anyone over the cars but I didn’t need to push it. I quickened my pace towards the end of the science building.
At the far end of the concrete and faux wood building I walked around the corner to the concrete steps and black railing. I took one last breath of the free air before climbing the stairs to the heavy fire-door. It was always left unlocked so teachers could duck out to the parking lot or students could get to the athletic fields. The cold handle slipped from my grasp as I tried to open the door. I finally noticed the grease and dirt on my hands.
“Ugh,” I groaned.
Bad Reputation is P.W. Creighton best yet! Bad Reputation will make this author a “Great Reputation”! The characters are down to earth, witty, and the events hold your interest from the beginning to the end of the story with plenty of twists and surprises! Don’t miss this book! Another great series and I look forward to the next book in this sequel!
From the Author
Born in California, I have spent most of my life traveling throughout the US. I draw inspiration from my many adventures, turning my strange reality into fiction.
Over the years, I’ve found myself in many unusual situations, ranging from hanging off an 80 foot cliff-face in New York, to sailing off the coast of Salem, Massachusetts. I have had an opportunity to work at an archaeological excavation, and have even reported from the middle of a police stand-off.
When a teacher asked me in the second grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t have an answer. To be honest, I still don’t know. I let my characters make that decision for me.

"The Tulip Eaters" by Antoinette van Heugten

The Tulip Eaters
by Antoinette van Heugten
The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten has just been released. Read an excerpt below and make sure you enter the giveaway for your chance to win a paperback copy of the book (US/Canada only).
In a riveting exploration of the power the past wields over the present, critically acclaimed author Antoinette van Heugten writes the story of a woman whose child’s life hangs in the balance, forcing her to confront the roots of her family’s troubled history in the dark days of World War II…
It’s the stuff of nightmares: Nora de Jong returns home from work one ordinary day to find her mother has been murdered. Her infant daughter is missing. And the only clue is the body of an unknown man on the living-room floor, clutching a Luger in his cold, dead hand.
Frantic to find Rose, Nora puts aside her grief and frustration to start her own search. But the contents of a locked metal box she finds in her parents’ attic leave her with as many questions as answers – and suggest the killer was not a stranger. Saving her daughter means delving deeper into her family’s darkest history, leading Nora half a world away to Amsterdam, where her own unsettled past and memories of painful heartbreak rush back to haunt her.
As Nora feverishly pieces together the truth from an old family diary, she’s drawn back to a city under Nazi occupation, where her mother’s alliances may have long ago sealed her own – and Rose’s – fate.
“Mom! Oh, Mom!” Gasping, she saw nothing but the hideous remains of her mother’s head and the slippery blood and brain matter on her own hands. The monstrous sight gripped her. She struggled up onto all fours and heaved waves of green bile onto the white carpet. Then she knelt, taking huge breaths, trying not to pass out. The silence felt endless. She heard only the ticking of the grandfather clock across the room, a relentless metronome to the macabre scene before her.
She roused herself. Her next thought was an iron spike into her brain. “Rose!” she cried. “Where are you?” Adrenaline shot through her as she jumped up and ran to the bassinet. No Rose! She raced into the nursery. The room was dark, the crib empty. “No!” Panic surged within her.
She rushed back into the living room and ran past her mother, desperate to search the other rooms. Running toward her bedroom, her heel caught on the rug and she fell. Pain seared through her right ankle.
Sobbing, she rolled over and found herself face-to-face with a total stranger. A man lay on his stomach, his right arm outstretched. His head was twisted toward her, right cheek pressed into the carpet. She screamed and tried to move away, but her ankle felt on fire. His face was so close that she could have felt his breath on hers – if he were alive. His black eyes looked as dead and cold as her mother’s. Then she saw the gun, dark and sinister, inches away from his outstretched arm and gloved fingers. Nora gasped, her heart in her throat. Who was he? And where, oh God, where was Rose?
She got to her feet, wincing at the pain in her ankle, and rushed into each of the other rooms. “Rose!” she cried. “Rose!” She limped back and knelt by her mother, sobbing. “Where is Rose, Mom? Where is the baby?” She appealed to Anneke as if she could still give Nora an answer. Anneke’s blank, unholy stare never moved from the ceiling. What in God’s name had happened? She rose unsteadily, favoring her ankle. Her body still shook. Who was the dead man? Why had he killed her mother? And Rose? Why would anyone kidnap her baby?
Ignoring the pain in her ankle, she ran to the front door and flung it open. She saw no one in the street, no one in the neatly groomed front yards. “Rose!” she screamed, as if her darling could answer her. She slammed the door and went back inside. Something on the carpet now caught her eye. As she knelt down and picked it up, she moaned. It was Rose’s tiny yellow hair band. Its cheerful flower had been ripped off and lay a few feet away. Then she knew. Rose was really gone. She clutched the flower to her breast and sobbed. One thought now pierced her mind. Was Rose still alive?
Text Copyright © 2013 by Antoinette van Heugten
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
Antoinette van Heugten writes in such a way that it makes you feel like you are following a bread crumb trail through the story…. little bits of the secrets revealed at a time, luring you through the pages with suspense, a rich and compelling story, thick history and intriguing characters. I adored van Heugten’s ability to suck you in, grab tight and take you on an emotional ride. She is brilliant, original and interesting. Such a great story told honestly, with integrity and truth. A must read this fall/winter and a 5 star read!
About the Author
A former international trial lawyer, Antoinette van Heugten spent 15 years practicing all over the world, primarily in Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as in Houston, her hometown. She’s a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, where she earned her undergraduate and law degrees.
The Tulip Eaters is van Heugten’s second novel. Her debut novel, Saving Max, was a USA Today bestseller, translated into six languages and received much critical acclaim. Inspired by her real-life experience as the mother of two autistic children, Saving Max follows a single mother whose teenage son has Asperger’s syndrome and becomes the primary suspect in a gruesome murder case.
In her latest book, The Tulip Eaters, van Heugten follows Nora de Jong as she returns home from work to find her mother brutally murdered and infant daughter missing. The only clue is the body of a dead stranger, clutching a Luger in his hand. Launching a frantic search for her missing daughter, de Jong is forced to confront the roots of her family’s secret past in World War II, leading her to Amsterdam, where her own haunting memories flood back.
When not thinking up new ways to kill off her characters, van Heugten enjoys long hikes with her dog, gardening and traveling. She is currently working on her next novel, Finding Marianne, the sequel to Saving Max. She lives in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband, a former prominent oil and gas trial lawyer.
Enter the giveaway for your chance to win a paperback copy of The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten (US/Canada only).
Amazon UK Kindle – not currently available

"Empty Places" by Martin Roy Hill

Empty Places
by Martin Roy Hill
This is the second of my two-part feature on Martin Roy Hill. Today I feature the author’s newest release, Empty Places. You can also read about The Killing Depths in my earlier blog post.
The year is 1987. America is clawing its way out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Washington pursues illegal and unpopular wars in Central America. In the wealthy desert playground of Palm Springs, storefronts that once catered to the rich sit empty and shuttered. Crowds of bored rich teenagers in designer clothing entertain themselves with expensive cars and cheap drugs, while those less fortunate haunt darkened street corners, offering themselves for sale.
This is the country to which war correspondent Peter Brandt returns. Physically and mentally scarred by the horrors he’s covered, Peter comes home to bury his ex-wife, TV reporter Robin Anderson, only to discover she had been brutally murdered. With the local police unwilling to investigate her death, Peter sets out with retired cop Matt Banyon to expose Robin’s killer. They uncover a shadowy world of anti-communists, drug smugglers, and corrupt politicians, and lay bare old wounds – including Peter’s deep guilt over his failed marriage. In a final, cliff-hanging struggle, Peter faces his own fears – and death in a dark and empty place.
Coachella Valley, California
July 1987
A three-quarter moon bathed the dunes with a blue white light. It shimmered through ghostly rays that rose like apparitions from the still warm desert floor and gave the desolate landscape a spectral quality. Shadows moved in the haunting light, and the warm soft breeze gave rise to disembodied voices wheezing through dry, brittle creosote bushes. She turned at every sound, each crack of a broken twig, saw monsters in the movement of each rolling tumbleweed, and shivered in the warm desert night from the chill of her imagination.
Occasionally a car raced down the unlit two lane road, its headlights slicing slivers of light out of the black night. She watched each one approach, wondering if this was the one. Then, as the red tail lights faded into the dark distance, she scanned the road again for the right one, the one that would slow and turn into the narrow dirt access road. Somewhere in the distance, a coyote wailed.
“Never meet a contact in an out of the way place,” Peter once told her. “Always meet them somewhere where there’re a lot of people. People die in lonely and empty places.”
She could almost hear his voice telling her that. After all the years, Peter’s voice still came to her in small phrases. Short fragments of sentences, spoken in his quiet, halting manner, explaining what she should do, warning what she shouldn’t. “Never meet in out of the way places.”
She hadn’t much choice in choosing the rendezvous. The man she was meeting was very explicit: here or nowhere. And there were other conditions. No camera crew. No sound crew. No one but her. If he spotted a van or truck other than her own car, the meet was off. If he saw a helicopter flying over and a video transmission could be beamed to it, she could just color him gone.
In all honesty, she appreciated his precautions. The little she had told him of her findings had obviously convinced him that no one could be trusted. No one, not even those who worked for him. She was certain if anyone knew of the information she had, her life wouldn’t be worth the dirt she was standing on.
She thought of Peter again. Maybe he was right. Maybe the two of them should have left this place together. Maybe it would have been better for her career. Better for her and Peter. Maybe.
The young woman shook her head, and fingered the small tape recorder in her hand. The thought of the recorder’s contents made her mouth twist with distaste. She still felt unclean, but what else could she have done? She was desperate. She needed this story badly and it was the only way she could get the confirmation she needed. She shook the images the recorder conjured from her head and tried to look forward, into the future. This would be the story that lands her a job in a bigger market, she told herself. Maybe Los Angeles. Maybe a network. The indignity would be worth it.
“I just can’t take this place any longer,” she said aloud to no one, not certain whether she meant the patchwork of small communities she lived and worked in, or the empty desert surrounding them where she now stood alone.
Automobile lights appeared at the crest of a hill, then rolled down the incline and raced along the two lane road. The car slowed and turned into the access road, its headlights flaring momentarily as it bounced over a rut. It was a large vehicle, a four door model and, by the way it bounded over the dip, sturdily built. That, and the heavy roar of its powerful, supercharged engine, indicated it was well suited to both speed and the tortuous going of desert driving. It didn’t slow as it approached. Its headlights glared directly at the young woman, growing brighter as it streaked forward, blinding her to all. For a frightful moment she thought she had been betrayed, that the driver was aiming for her with no intention of stopping. She thought of jumping out of the way, but she could not move. In the heat of the desert night, she was frozen stiff with fear.
The car braked and came to a screeching, dust swirling halt just yards from the woman, the headlights still washing her in a blaze of white light. The glare revealed the features of a blonde in her late twenties, attractive but not beautiful, not even strikingly pretty. Her face was a shade too wide in the jaw, the nose too flat to be truly pretty, and her pale skin – bleached colorless by the headlights – was slightly pocked by a severe adolescent bout with acne. Her figure was tomboyish from years of high school and college athletics, but appealing in its slender firmness. Her looks were her nemesis; she could easily attract men, but producers didn’t believe she could attract viewers. So she was relegated to being a reporter, a couple minutes a night face on the local evening news, deprived of the anchor spot she wanted so badly.
Raising her arm against the glare, the young woman tried to see beyond the headlights. It was like trying to see beyond the sun. The car stood motionless for what seemed minutes, then the driver’s door opened. The woman tried to see inside the car, but the interior light failed to go on. The door closed with a loud crump, and a large, dark figure strode forward. At first he was only a dark shadow against the darker night, then a silhouette against the edge of the headlight’s glare. Then he walked into the light, and she recognized the man.
“Miss Anderson?”
“You,” she answered. “Good.”
“You were expecting someone else?” the man asked.
“No, but -” She turned and looked back at the empty road. “But out here there’s no telling what you could run into.”
Her contact turned and studied the road, nodding as if he admired the desolate location. “That’s true. You never know, do you?” He turned to face her. In the light his eyes looked hard, threatening. She had seen him angry before, but his eyes never struck her as they did now. Cold, dead. The eyes, she thought, of a killer.
“You have the tape you told me about?” he asked.
“I have an excerpt.”
His eyes seemed to grow meaner, angrier. “An excerpt? What do you mean an excerpt?”
She turned slightly on her heel and cleared her throat. “Some of what I recorded was of a – a personal nature,” she said. “I brought you an edited version with the pertinent conversation.”
She showed him the tape recorder, then turned it on. The machine came alive with the voices of two people, a man and a woman. The woman’s voice was her own. It was coy and teasing, the voice of intimacy, the words of a lover. The male voice responded in the guttural tones of male intimacy, yet with the bravado of a small boy bragging of his deeds. The young woman looked away as the tape played, afraid the flush she felt in her face would reveal her embarrassment. The man’s eyes slowly dropped from the recorder to the ground, his mouth turned down in disgust. Then the tape died out, and there was a long moment of silence.
“That’s a very interesting recording, Miss Anderson,” the man finally said. “You have an interesting way getting information.”
“I use whatever means are available to me,” she answered defiantly. She made a production of stopping the tape and rewinding it. “As you can see – or heard, I should say – my methods work.”
“And very well, too.” The man looked back at the car and nodded, then turned back to the woman. “Very well, indeed.”
The young woman’s eyes followed the man’s to the car. The passenger door opened with a creak, and another figure climbed out. She heard the crunch of footsteps in sand, then the figure emerged from the dark. The glare of the headlights revealed his identity.
“My God.” She half choked on the words. “What are you -“
The second man raised his right arm and pointed a large revolved at her. Her mouth formed in an attempt to scream, but the pistol shot cut her off. It was followed by another, each sounding like the roar of a cannon in the quiet of the desert night.
The double punch of the bullets threw the woman backwards. Two dark wounds appeared on her chest. The one nearest the heart spurted bright red blood. The second, farther to the right, oozed darker red. Twin exit wounds burst through her back, disgorging blood, muscle, flesh, and bone. She was thrown four feet before hitting the ground on her back. Then she tumbled several more feet, finally coming to rest against a thick, spiny creosote bush, one arm twisted behind her back, the other cocked under head. Her legs were entwined at odd angles.
His pistol still extended like a shield, the gunman walked up to the body and bent over, examining his handiwork. After a moment he stood straight and turned to his companion. “She’s gone.”
“She’d better be.” The first man stooped and picked up the tape recorder where it had fallen, then switched it on. Disgust twisted his features again as he listened. When it finished, he looked at his partner. The shooter dropped his head sheepishly, like a school boy caught red handed in some misdeed. “Brush this area down, then let’s go,” the first man ordered.
The gunman looked around and found a broken piece of desert brush that he used to sweep away their footprints. The first pocketed the recorder and climbed into the car, backing it slowly down the dirt road as the other man swept away both the tire tracks and his own retreating footsteps. When they reached the asphalt road, the gunman threw away the limb and climbed back into the car. Within seconds, the car disappeared into the darkness.
Robin Anderson, the young reporter, lay in the dirt unable to move. For what seemed a long time she laid there stunned and without a thought. Then she sensed someone near. She tried opening her eyes, but they were as lifeless as her arms and legs. She heard voices and tried to speak, but her mouth was frozen.
Nothing would work, nothing would move. She could feel her wounds, feel the life oozing from them. “My God!” she screamed, but there was no sound save her own thoughts and a deep throated rumble followed by a strange sweeping noise. The reddish light she seemed to sense rather than see faded away, as did the two strange noises she heard. Then there was quiet, pure silence like she’d never experienced before. Even the voice of her own thoughts seemed to be drifting inexorably away, as if falling into some deep canyon.
She realized suddenly her worst fear was coming true. She was dying, alone and without anyone she could call out to, anyone who would hold her, who could save her.
Alone in a dark and empty place.
I was given this book by the author for review and enjoyed it.
Within the darkened world we follow Peter Brandt, already weary of the human condition, who must investigate his ex-wife’s death, he the only one its seems that takes it seriously.
I don’t give spoilers so will say that this story is fast-paced, gritty (if somewhat despondent about the lives we lead and the powers that take advantage) and well written.
Worth reading if you enjoy crime novels with extra dimension.
About the Author
Martin Roy Hill is the author of the military mystery thriller, The Killing Depths, and the award-winning short story collection, Duty.
Martin spent more than 20 years as a staff reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines, before becoming a military analyst specializing in battlefield medical operations for the Navy. His freelance credits include Reader’s Digest, LIFE, Newsweek, Omni, American History, Coast Guard Magazine, Retired Officer Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion Section, and many more.
Much of Martin’s freelance work involves historical topics, especially military history. He was a lead contributor to the 1995 WWII anthology, From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki: America at War, published by the Retired Officer Association (now called the Military Officer Association).
Martin’s short stories have appeared in such publications as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Plan B Mystery Anthology, San Diego Magazine, and San Diego Writer’s Monthly. His first book, Duty, was named the Best Short Story Anthology/Collection during the 2013 San Diego Book Awards (SDBA). The Killing Depths was also named a finalist in the Mystery section of the SDBA.
Martin’s new novel, Empty Places, a murder mystery, has just been released.

"The Killing Depths" by Martin Roy Hill

The Killing Depths
by Martin Roy Hill
This is the first of my two-part feature on Martin Roy Hill. Today I talk to the author about his earlier book, The Killing Depths, which was a finalist in the Mystery section of the San Diego Book Awards. Coming soon, a post on his latest book, Empty Places, which has just been released.
A killer lurks beneath the waves of the western Pacific Ocean. The USS Encinitas, the first attack submarine crewed by both men and women, stalks the Crescent Moon, a renegade Iranian sub armed with nuclear-tipped missiles. But another predator hides aboard the American sub, a murderer who has already left a trail of dead women behind on shore. While the crew of the Encinitas plays a deadly game of hide-and-seek with the Crescent Moon, NCIS investigator Linus Schag must discover the killer’s identity before his – or her – blood lust leads to the submarine’s total destruction.
Commander Johnson paced the small amount of open floor space in his stateroom. As he walked back and forth, he studied Schag’s face. His own was like a slag of lava.
“Okay,” Johnson said. “I want to know what the hell you’re doing here, and what you’re doing wearing those clusters.”
Schag took a deep breath and glanced at Culver before answering.
“Captain, I am a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service,” he finally said. “I am currently serving as an agent-afloat aboard the USS Halsey, investigating crimes that occur within her carrier task force while deployed. The USS Encinitas is attached to that task force.”
Johnson stiffened in mid-stride. He looked quickly at his exec, whose gaze was frozen on Schag. Culver’s mouth was agape. The skipper composed himself and stepped close enough so Schag could feel his breath.
“And just why the hell do you seem to know so much about my mission?”
“I know only what I’ve been able to deduce, sir,” Schag said. “From the course laid out on your plot table, it’s obvious the Encinitas has been conducting covert operations inside North Korean waters. North Korea is known to have developed nuclear weapons and attached them to long-range cruise missiles. It’s also known that the North Koreans have refurbished a handful of old Charlie-class guided missile subs the Russians had sold to them as scrap. Those subs have also been modified to carry the North Korean cruise missiles.”
Schag cleared his throat and continued.
“North Korea has a long history of selling weapons to terrorist nations for hard currency,” he said. “Recently it’s offered one of its Charlie-class boats — missiles and all — to Iran. The Iranians have been scouring the international black market for nukes since their own homegrown nuclear program foundered. I suspect the Encinitas has been detailed to keep an eye on North Korean submarine activities to spot and track the Iranian sub if the deal goes through.”
Johnson eyes narrowed to thin slits.
“You deduced all that just from looking at my plot table?”
“That and the fact the Halsey’s planes have been on alert for the same sub for the past week, sir.”
A grin played at the corners of Schag’s mouth. The captain was not amused.
“NCIS agents are normally civilians, are they not, Mr. Schag?” The agent nodded. “And the last time I saw you, you were on your way to becoming a civilian again, am I right?”
Schag felt the muscles tighten throughout his body. He returned the captain’s glower with an equal intensity. He nodded but said nothing.
“Then why are you wearing an officer’s insignia?”
“Captain, as an agent-afloat, I hold the honorary rank of lieutenant commander,” Schag said.
“That, Mr. Schag, does not answer my question.”
“I felt appearing aboard the Encinitas in uniform might make my investigation easier for the crew.”
“Your investigation?” The captain’s voice took on an edge of irritability. “What investigation, Mr. Schag? Please stop beating around the bush and tell me.”
Schag glanced at Culver, then at the skipper before answering.
“Sir,” he finally said, “I’m here to investigate the murder of Machinist’s Mate Jenny Muller.”
Book Trailer
Ever wonder what it would be like to crew a nuclear sub – the cramped, stifling atmosphere – the silence – the chilling knowledge that the smallest mistake could bury you under a million of tons of seawater?
Hill’s painstaking attention to detail and vivid descriptions, not only of the nuclear sub’s high-tech hardware but of the emotions of the men and women trapped inside, answer that question brilliantly. Toss in a raging sea battle and a cunning, deranged serial killer, and you’ve got a riveting thriller that you’ll have a hard time putting down.
Interview With the Author
Hi, Martin, thanks for joining me today to discuss your book, The Killing Depths.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
When I was young, I consumed the works of the Lost Generation writers – Hemingway, Dos Passos, Remarque. I was also influenced by early sci-fi writers like H. G. Wells. In terms of mystery and suspense, I think Raymond Chandler had a big impact, as well as the British writer Alistair MacLean. I was also influenced by my late father-in-law Bob Wade who, with his writing partner H. Billy Miller, wrote something like 30 mysteries suspense novels under the pen names Wade Miller and Whit Masterson. Have you ever watched Orson Welles’ film noir classic, Touch of Evil? That was one of Bob’s books.
No, I haven’t seen that one. What age group do you recommend your book for?
It’s aimed at adults, but I only say that because it has some violence and cussing. It has one bizarre sex scene, too, which explains how the antagonist became a serial killer.
What sparked the idea for this book?
Until recently, submarines were the last vestige of men-only nautical traditions. Women are now reporting aboard ballistic subs, but those things are huge. They’re not allowed yet on the smaller attack submarines like the one in my book. So I started to think, well, what if…
Which comes first? The character’s story or the idea for the novel?
Well, in this case, the protagonist came first. NCIS agent Linus Schag was featured in my short story, “Destroyer Turns,” published by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 1995. “Destroyer Turns” also appears in my first book, Duty: Suspense and Mystery Stories from the Cold War and Beyond.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The research. I have 16 years of active and reserve service in the U.S Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, but I was surface sailor – what submariners would call a “target”. I was lucky to get some advice from active and former submariners, including input from a retired submariner who read an early draft of the book. I also was privileged to get a tour of a Los Angeles-class sub. But that all took a lot of time and a lot of asking. Submariners aren’t called the Silent Service for nothing.
How to you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope it enthralls and entertains them.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Years. I was mobilized for my Coast Guard unit for a few months after 9/11. Then I switched careers from a journalist to an analyst in combat medical capabilities for the Navy. That was in 2003, just before we invaded Iraq, and I was so busy I didn’t have time to write much.
What is your writing routine?
I’d like to say I have one, but I really don’t. I used to write for an hour every morning. Now I just grab whatever time I can. My office is our living room couch where I write on my laptop with my legs stretched out on the couch.
How did you get your book published?
I’m an indie author. I had gone through – I think it was three lit agencies, and had a bad experience with each one. One agent said she was too busy on her own novel to sell mine. Another went out of business after signing me as a client. The third was just useless. When I stumbled upon some articles about indie authors, I thought, “Why not?”
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Believe in yourself.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I don’t have a lot of free time. I’m still in the reserves – though I’m a soldier now – and I am also a disaster medical responder. When I’m not busy with those activities, I’m with my wife and son and cats, or reading.
What does your family think of your writing?
They are very supportive. It’s a family affair. My wife, Winke, is a highly experienced magazine editor, and she edits everything I write.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I’m a Southern California boy, grew up in Redondo Beach, and, no, I do not surf. Everyone asks that.
Did you enjoy school?
Does anyone? High school, in particular, is a very lonely time. But I did get involved in the dramatic arts, made friends, and starred in the junior and senior plays. That I enjoyed.
Did you like reading?
I’ve been an avid reader as long as I can remember. My favorite days in elementary school were when the Book Mobile came by.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
High school, for certain. Maybe before.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Not as much as my adult experiences. Most of what I write has a military slant to it. I’ve been in the military or law enforcement reserves a good part of my adult life, and I draw on that knowledgebase for ideas.
Thanks so much for dropping in for a chat today, Martin. It’s been very enlightening. Best of luck with your future writing projects.
About the Author
Martin Roy Hill is the author of the military mystery thriller, The Killing Depths, and the award-winning short story collection, Duty.
Martin spent more than 20 years as a staff reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines, before becoming a military analyst specializing in battlefield medical operations for the Navy. His freelance credits include Reader’s Digest, LIFE, Newsweek, Omni, American History, Coast Guard Magazine, Retired Officer Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion Section, and many more.
Much of Martin’s freelance work involves historical topics, especially military history. He was a lead contributor to the 1995 WWII anthology, From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki: America at War, published by the Retired Officer Association (now called the Military Officer Association).
Martin’s short stories have appeared in such publications as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Plan B Mystery Anthology, San Diego Magazine, and San Diego Writer’s Monthly. His first book, Duty, was named the Best Short Story Anthology/Collection during the 2013 San Diego Book Awards (SDBA). The Killing Depths was also named a finalist in the Mystery section of the SDBA.
Martin’s new novel, Empty Places, a murder mystery, has just been released.