Thursday, March 22, 2018



Leaving behind a failed career as a magazine editor and an embarrassing stint on a reality baking show, newly divorced lifestyle entrepreneur Hope Early thought things were finally on the upswing—until she comes face-to-face with a murderer . . .

Hope’s schedule is already jam packed with recipe testing and shameless plugs for her food blog as she rushes off to attend a spring garden tour in the charming town of Jefferson, Connecticut. Unfortunately, it isn’t the perfectly arranged potted plants that grab her attention—it’s the bloody body of reviled real estate agent Peaches McCoy . . .

One of the tour guests committed murder, and all eyes are on Hope’s older sister, Claire Dixon—who, at best, saw Peaches as a professional rival. And suspicions really heat up when another murder occurs the following night. Now, with two messy murders shaking Jefferson and all evidence pointing to Claire, Hope must set aside her burgeoning brand to prove her sister’s innocence. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer intent on making sure her life goes permanently out of style . . .

Includes Recipes from Hope’s Kitchen!

Book Details

Title: The Uninvited Corpse
Author’s name: Debra Sennefelder

Genre: Cozy mystery, 1st in series
Publisher: Kensington Publishers, March 27, 2018

Page count: 304 pages
On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours


A few of your favorite things:
Coffee, my treadmill and chocolate cake.
Things you need to throw out: My scale, my old iPod and old phones.

Things you need in order to write: Silence, my computer and an outline.
Things that hamper your writing: Noise, my computer and noise.

Things you love about writing: I love creating stories and I love the freedom I have as an author to create those stories.
Things you hate about writing: Having to wear so many hats because the job involves more than just writing. Taking care of all the other tasks means less time writing. But writing is the most important thing a writer can do.

Favorite foods: Pizza, chocolate anything and mashed potatoes.
Things that make you want to throw up: Seafood.

Favorite beverage: Coffee
Something that gives you a pickle face: Red wine.

Favorite smell: Cookies baking in the oven. Heaven.
Something that makes you hold your nose: Seafood cooking.

Something you’re really good at: Writing (I hope).

Something you’re really bad at: Photography

Last best thing you ate: I made a grilled chicken salad with a creamy dressing. Delish.
Last thing you regret eating: Vanilla ice cream. I was sick, and I had a small container to use for a recipe to post on my blog, but I decided to dive into the container. It was a brand I never bought before, and it was awful. I have no idea how anyone could make bad ice cream but they did.

Things you’d walk a mile for: My dogs. I have two adorable and precocious Shih-Tzus, Susie & Billy.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: My dogs. There are days I’m definitely outnumbered by the Shih-Tzus.

Things to say to an author: I couldn’t put your book down.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: You should write a book like Fifty Shades.

Things that make you happy: My dogs. 

Things that drive you crazy: My dogs.


Debra Sennefelder, author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series, is an avid reader who reads across a range of genres, but mystery fiction is her obsession. Her interest in people and relationships is channeled into her novels against a backdrop of crime and mystery. When she’s not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food. Yeah, she’s that person.

Born and raised in New York City, she now lives and writes in Connecticut with her family. She’s worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Her writing companions are her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Womens Fiction Writers Association and Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Debra:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018



Swiss-American police officer Agnes Lüthi is on leave in Lausanne, Switzerland, recovering from injuries she sustained in her last case, when an old colleague invites her to the world’s premier watch and jewelry trade show at the grand Messe Basel Exhibition Hall. Little does Agnes know, another friend of hers, Julien Vallotton, is at the same trade show—and he’s looking for Agnes. Julien Vallotton was friends with Guy Chavanon, a master of one of Switzerland’s oldest arts: watchmaking. Chavanon died a week ago, and his daughter doesn’t believe his death was accidental. Shortly before he died, Chavanon boasted that he’d discovered a new technique that would revolutionize the watchmaking industry, and she believes he may have been killed for it. Reluctantly, Agnes agrees to investigate his death. But the world of Swiss watchmaking is guarded and secretive, and before she realizes it, Agnes may be walking straight into the path of a killer.

Tracee de Hahn's next mystery, A Well-Timed Murder, is another magnetic mystery that will engross readers from the opening page to the stunning conclusion.

Book Details:

Title: A Well-Timed Murder

Author: Tracee de Hahn

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press /Minotaur Books (February 6, 2018)

Series: Agnes Luthi Mysteries #2

Page count: 340 pages

Touring with: Partners in Crime Book Tours


Tracee, what’s the story behind the title of your book?
It’s a play on words and ideas. Well-timed in how the murder occurred, and how it is investigated, and because it is a book about a dead watchmaker. Ultimately my protagonist, Agnes Lüthi, learns that timing is everything in the pursuit of criminals and love.

Tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
A Well-Timed Murder is the second in the Agnes Lüthi series, but it can absolutely be read as a standalone. In it, we pick Agnes up in the weeks following Swiss Vendetta. She is coming off sick leave and is not quite ready to go back to work when a friend asks that she investigate the death of a watchmaker. He died as the result of anaphylactic shock from peanut allergy and the authorities have ruled it death by natural causes. However, his adult daughter isn’t convinced. Once Agnes is involved she quickly learns that the world of Swiss watchmaking is secretive, but is it deadly?

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and lived most of my life in Kentucky. I was fortunate at various times to spend several years in Europe– in Switzerland where my husband is from, and in Venice and Paris. 

Awesome! I live in Kentucky. Who would you pick to write your biography?
Someone who would ultimately not write it. I haven’t influenced the world in a way that makes me a public figure and I wouldn’t want to expose others in my life – family, friends – to the scrutiny that goes into a biography.

What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
I don’t believe in a redo. I suppose that if I’d caused an accident that resulted in harm to someone, or something along those lines I would absolutely think if I could do it all over again I wouldn’t have left the house that day, or I’d have hit the brakes sooner, etc. However, if you are talking about other kinds of decisions, then I think that we don’t know the consequences. There is no way to predict ‘what if’s’ so I don’t try to with redos.

If you could only save one thing from your house, what would it be?
My dogs, first and absolutely foremost. After that, my computer since I never fully trust the cyber backup. After that the choice would be too hard, but possibly an icon from the Muscovite school that’s been in my husband’s family for centuries.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
If I could truly live anywhere I’d probably be peripatetic. Late Fall in India (preferably at the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel in Jodhpur), a winter month in an alpine ski village, then return to the States for a few months, followed by time in Switzerland – maybe a house on the square within the castle walls of Gruyères, near where my husband attended boarding school? Afterwards, late summer and fall in France, maybe a few weeks in Paris then six weeks in the countryside? Then back to the States before starting all over again.

How did you create the plot for this book?
There are so many interesting aspects of life in Switzerland, which is where my list starts. One of my husband’s childhood friends inherited his family’s watchmaking business, and I found that fascinating. From there it was a matter of saying when and where. (After all, this is a mystery so someone dies!) Baselworld is the annual trade show in Basel. Really the most prestigious watch, jewelry and gem show in the world, and that seemed a perfect setting to launch a watch-themed murder. After visiting the show and other watch-related places I developed the details of the plot, continued with research and it grew from there.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
The marquise Antoinette Vallotton de Tornay (Julien and Daniel Vallotton’s aunt) is a continuing character inspired by my mother-in-law. Both women were young during the Second World War and both were engaged in the war effort. My mother-in-law was the daughter of Swedish and Canadian diplomatic families and married a Baltic baron. These life experiences, I believe, contributed to her strong sense of duty and history. Ironically most people ask me about Agnes’s mother-in-law, usually in a whisper, afraid that SHE is based on my own mother-in-law. Thankfully, no.

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?
If Agnes Lüthi found out I was going to kill her off she might talk her mother-in-law into asking me over for dinner. Then Agnes could slip a poison mushroom into my soup . . . possibly hoping her mother-in-law would be accused.

What book are you currently reading and in what format?
Currently I’m re-reading a few Charles Todd books (mainly from the Ian Rutledge series). I like to re-read portions of a series to look at the overarching arc of the story and see any changes in style, etc. I recently finished She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper, in hardcover and can’t say enough about this great book. On my nightstand in hardcover, The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes and The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. In paperback, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen, By Gaslight by Steven Price, and Harpoon by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel M Katz.

Wow! That's a list! Do you have a routine for writing?
Panic, then get to it.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
The State Library at Potsdammer Platz in Berlin is my favorite public library – partly because of the beautiful space created by architect Hans Scharoun, and partly because of the role it played in the film Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders. The library that I would most like to call my own personal library is the 18th century Biblioteca Joanina in the historic center of the University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal. Today it houses a portion of their collection and is such a perfect ‘vault’ that the antique books are safe there, helped by the dense oak construction and the resident bats, who every night eat any insects that appear.

What would your dream office look like?
Pretty much like my office now. Great windows to one side with a chair in front for reading, bookcases facing my desk with some favorite pieces of art above, and a fireplace behind me. The majority of my books are on utilitarian shelves in the attic (which is a full finished floor, not a garret!). That is also my annex office– a door used as a desk, plenty of wall space to hang notes, all too far from the ground to be disturbed (plus, great windows and natural light!)

Sounds like my dream office! What are you working on now?
Agnes’s next adventure takes her from Switzerland to Paris tracking the killer of a famous chef.


There was a crowd but none of them mattered. Agnes Lüthi had eyes for only one man, the one she’d nicknamed the Roach. The one she’d only dreamt of finding in Switzerland.

She moved quickly despite her injured leg, focused on her destination, closing her umbrella when she reached the high canopy. A chain of busses discharged passengers in front of the Messe Basel Exhibition Halles, and they flowed past her toward the doors as if the world’s premier watch and jewelry show might sell out of goods if they dallied. She had never before been to Baselworld, but from the look of the well-dressed crowd judged it was a fitting place to find this particular man.

She was within grasping distance of a door handle when Marcel Aubry appeared from behind a kiosk. He was cloaked in a long, belted raincoat and had a finger pressed to his ear, listening. Before she could speak, he grasped her wrist with his free hand, and pulled her behind the advertising stand, out of sight of the glass front of the lobby.

“Slight change of plan,” Aubry said, his voice low and hurried. “The Roach is headed this way.” He frowned, listening to the voices in his earpiece.

Agnes moved closer to Aubry; it felt like stepping into a shadow. He was a big man, not exactly fat, but big enough to make her feel slim. She could hear the scratch of a voice broadcast from his earpiece, but not the words. Her pulse quickened. They’d worked together for years in financial crimes. Despite that, she’d never seen him run a field operation. This was an important arrest for him, one he’d not leave to others. She was thrilled to be included.

“Did you ever think you’d see us catch him?” Aubry said to her, still focused on the chatter in his ear.
“No, and I don’t believe it yet today.” She’d had the Roach in her grasp three times, only to have him scurry back into a crack at the last moment. All of Europe and half of Asia was looking for him. In addition to Swiss francs, he’d stolen millions of euros, yen, dollars, and pounds—all electronically. Despite his methods, she’d always believed that he occasionally appeared in person at a place he’d targeted. Now it looked as if her suspicions were proving true.

“This time he’s definitely here,” said Aubry. “Problem is, the place is littered with exits and there’s a record crowd. Feels like half the world’s come to Baselworld. Good for the economy, bad for us, since on-site security doesn’t want a fuss disturbing their clientele.” He nodded. “Anyway, I’m glad you’re here to see it.”

“I was nearby when you called. I left my mother-in-law at the Beyeler Museum like a bride at the altar. She may not forgive me.” Agnes watched the crowd stream into the building, oblivious of the police operation. Aubry had orchestrated a smooth intervention despite having to move quickly.

“Your call was the best news I’ve had in weeks,” she added. “A few days ago one of my kids accused me of missing the criminals.”

Vincent – her oldest – had phrased it more bluntly: that she liked spending time with the bad guys more than with them. Before she could protest, her youngest son had added that at least she wasn’t a criminal herself. They’d all laughed. It was true, she did miss work. Surely that wasn’t a bad message for the boys? Their father had had a strong work ethic.

Aubry pulled his wrist up and spoke into a microphone, asking a question. He looked at her. “When are you officially back on the job?”

“Three days. Monday.” She gave her wool jacket a downward tug and straightened the matching skirt. Her stint in hospital had melted a few kilos away. Nearly being killed wasn’t the easiest diet, but it was no doubt effective. A few more kilos and she would consider thanking the man who had knifed her.

Aubry held up his hand, listening to chatter in his earpiece. “Any minute now,” he whispered, as if they could be overheard. “He’s heading to the lobby. It’s perfect. Fewer civilians and more space gives us an advantage.”

“He’ll run.” Agnes shifted weight off her bad leg. Critically, she eyed the long bank of doors. The building’s sleek overhang soared across the street, sheltering trams, taxis, a restaurant, and a flower stall. She hoped Aubry really did have all exits covered. She had a vague notion that the five or six halls of the Messe Basel facility were connected by upper corridors and enclosed walkways. It was a large complex.

Aubry tapped his thigh impatiently. His gaze strayed to her leg. “How’s life in violent crimes?”

A voice sputtered in his ear and Aubry listened, sparing her the need to answer. “He’s on the move,” Aubry said quietly.

Agnes tensed.

“Now,” Aubry shouted, running to the doors and yanking one open.

Two men in suits moved from another angle and Agnes spotted their earpieces. The men broke into a half run, and a few bystanders gasped while others pulled out mobile phones set to record video. The officers pushed ahead toward the turnstiles leading to the show, and Agnes followed. Aubry put a hand to his earpiece and stopped her. He angled his head down and she could hear voices talking on top of one another. Someone yelled and Aubry flinched.

Suddenly, in the distance, car tires screeched. There was a loud thump and a scream, followed seconds later by other shouts. Agnes turned toward the noise and Aubry followed. They ran to the right side of the building, ignoring the drizzle. The side street was closed to all but exhibitors’ vehicles and Agnes pushed her way through the gathered crowd. What she saw stopped her in her tracks. Aubry, close behind, collided with her.

The street was dedicated to instruments of luxury and speed, and in the middle of the road a gleaming red Ferrari had struck a man. He lay in a shallow pool of rainwater a meter from the front bumper. Both car and man were broken. The hood of the car was dented and smeared with blood. The man’s leg was angled midcalf, and the fabric of his pants was split by a bone. Blood spilled from the back of his head, pooling around his hair, missing with rain and running in rivulets to the curb. Agnes recognized the man immediately. She put a hand to her mouth. A second glance at the unique shape of his ears confirmed it: the Roach.


Excerpt from A Well-Timed Murder by Tracee de Hahn. Copyright © 2018 by Tracee de Hahn. Reproduced with permission from Tracee de Hahn. All rights reserved.


Tracee de Hahn is author of the Agnes Lüthi mysteries, which were inspired by her years living in Switzerland. Prior to writing full time she practiced architecture and was head of university alumni relations at a major west coast university. She and her Swiss-architect husband live in southwest Virginia with their Jack Russell Terriers.

Connect with Tracee:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  iTunes  |  Indiebound  |

Tuesday, March 20, 2018



Death is the closest thing to omnipotence we will experience in our brief time on this planet. It is an all-encompassing power, binding everything, and providing a cold certainty to an otherwise uncertain existence. The firm grip of this assurance reaches much further than the extinguishment of life; it greedily claims the hope and happiness of those who remain. It is a definite ending, but is it also a provable beginning?

Linda Granger did not see death coming.

Sleep shielded her from the unfolding horror. The looming headlights and the panicked screams of her husband were beyond her conscious state. When her head shattered the windshield, the dream about her son ended, sending her into what’s next. Linda was gone before the car rolled seven times and wrapped around a large oak tree. Her husband, Stephen, was not as fortunate. He died two minutes later. Linda had fallen asleep from emotional exhaustion. She died with regrets.

Book Details:

Title: Death Theory

Author’s name: John D Mimms

Genre: mystery, thriller, paranormal

Publisher: Draft 2 Digital
Publication (January 30, 2018)

Paperback: 320 pages

Touring with: Partners in Crime Book Tours


Things you need in order to write:  Quiet and coffee.
Things that hamper your writing: Interruptions and football season

Things you love about writing: Creating a whole world to play around in, also touching people emotionally.
Things you hate about writing: Editing.

Hardest thing about being a writer: Finding the time to write without interruptions.

Easiest thing about being a writer: Coming up with stories. I have a hundred of them swimming about in my head

Things you love about where you live: I live on a mountain with lots of privacy and a beautiful view.
Things that make you want to move:  When it snows, I can’t leave.

Things you never want to run out of: Iced tea, coffee, and books.
Things you wish you’d never bought: An above ground swimming pool. It is a money pit

Favorite foods: Mexican, Seafood, and steak.
Things that make you want to throw up: Anchovies.

Favorite smell: Apple cinnamon
Something that makes you hold your nose: The list is long and obvious.

Something you’re really good at: Writing.

Something you’re really bad at: Singing.

Something you wish you could do: Travel to Europe.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: Change a diaper.

Things you always put in your books: Trains
Things you never put in your books:  Graphic sex.

Favorite places you’ve been: Disneyworld and Virginia.
Places you never want to go to again: Green Bay.

Favorite genre: Science fiction, thriller, historic.

Books you would ban: Bodice ripper novels (sorry ladies). I do like Nicholas Sparks, though.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: Scuba diving.

Something you chickened out from doing: Bungee jumping.


Death is the closest thing to omnipotence we will experience in our brief time on this planet. It is an all-encompassing power, binding everything, and providing a cold certainty to an otherwise uncertain existence. The firm grip of this assurance reaches much further than the extinguishment of life; it greedily claims the hope and happiness of those who remain. It is a definite ending, but is it also a provable beginning?


Linda Granger did not see death coming.

Sleep shielded her from the unfolding horror. The looming headlights and the panicked screams of her husband were beyond her conscious state. When her head shattered the windshield, the dream about her son ended, sending her into what’s next. Linda was gone before the car rolled seven times and wrapped around a large oak tree. Her husband, Stephen, was not as fortunate. He died two minutes later. Linda had fallen asleep from emotional exhaustion. She died with regrets.

Chapter 1

Jeff’s sheets were drenched in sweat. He strained to hear because he wanted to continue the conversation he had been having. The bass drum of his pulse throbbed in his ears, making hearing impossible. He sat up and glanced about frantically. Where had she gone?

As sleep gave way to the waking world, dread filled him. He remembered the terrible truth. These muddled conversations with his mother had become nightly occurrences since his parents’ accident. The last words he shared with his mother were over the phone, and they were harsh. The next time he picked up the phone, mere hours later, it was the Missouri State Police asking him to come to the hospital. It has been over a year since the terrible night, yet the pain had not gone away. In some ways, it grew worse.

Jeff rolled on his side as tears streamed down his cheeks. In his dream, he told his mother he loved her. He wondered if she could hear him. Somehow, he believed it might be possible. His grieving heart longed for a way to communicate with his late parents.

Jeff rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. It was impossible. He eventually got up and opened the blinds. It rained last night and a steamy mist shielded the street from view. This was the perfect morning to stay in bed and he almost did if not for two things. His sheets were soaked and he was excited about today. Even though he needed extra sleep, since he would be staying up all night, he just couldn’t hold back the excitement of investigating with his fourth paranormal group in as many months. Missouri Spirit Seekers claim to do purely scientific investigations, but the three previous groups he joined did as well. He hoped this time would be different.

They would be investigating Pythian Castle tonight, the most ‘haunted’ location in Springfield, not too far from Jeff’s alma mater, Missouri State. The castle was a very cool historical site, but to Jeff, it was another opportunity to find answers for life’s greatest mystery -death.

Although the investigation was still twelve hours away, nervous anticipation consumed him. He hoped this was not another séance based, sage burning, ghost hunt like most of the others. His previous groups were as far away from science as one could get.

Jeff brewed a pot of coffee and microwaved a bowl of instant oatmeal, before sitting down to watch his recording of the show which started him on the path to paranormal investigation. He viewed it often, but it had become a ritual to watch on the day of an investigation. If Jeff were counting, this would be his eighty-third time to watch.

The show starred two men, who were electricians by trade, investigating haunted places using the scientific method. They gathered measurable scientific evidence in their investigations. In this particular episode, they were investigating the catacombs underneath an old church in Baltimore.

What peaked Jeff’s interest were the Electronic Voice Phenomenon the men captured on their digital recorders. He wondered if EVP’s are actually the voices of the dead. The guys on the show didn’t commit one way or the other, they just presented the recordings.

“You up above,” a disembodied voice said.

“The way through,” another one whispered.

The most eerie utterance of them all said, “Come down here among us.”

Jeff’s reaction was the same every time he watched; chills intermingled with hope and fear ran up his spine.

Jeff reached into a box under the coffee table and retrieved his digital recorder. He held it in his hands as if it were an object of holy veneration. Jeff recorded his own EVP one night several months earlier at the scene of his parent’s accident. Short, incredible, and heart-breaking; his mother seemed to call his name from beyond. The EVP was still on his recorder, even though he had backed it up to a dozen sources. He would never delete it from any device. Never.

A loud thud rattled the blinds on the front door. Jeff jumped, almost dropping the recorder. His alarm lasted only a moment when he recognized the sound of the newspaper carrier’s rattle-trap station wagon puttering up the street. He peeled back the blinds in time to see the tail lights disappear into the mist. Jeff was still in his underwear with a gaping fly, but he figured his rural setting, coupled with the fog, would spare him any indecent exposure charges.

Jeff scooped up the paper, almost losing his balance on the wet concrete, and then backed through the door. He plopped down on the sofa and began to unfold the massive log of news. He was heading straight for the sports section when an article caught his eye. The title read:

Springfield … the Most Haunted City in Missouri?

The Kansas City Royals box scores could wait. Jeff dove right into the article. The ghosts of Phelps Grove Park, Bass Country Inn, Drury University, Landers Theater, Springfield National Cemetery, University Plaza Hotel, and Pythian Castle were all mentioned prominently by the author. Jeff had investigated Phelps Grove Park with one of his previous groups. One of the members claimed he saw the infamous spectral bride near the bridge, but Jeff had no such luck. He never had success when it came to firsthand experiences. Either everyone else is lying or perhaps Jeff is walking ghost repellent. He didn’t think they were lying, at least not everyone who made a paranormal claim. His recording of his mother was enough to keep faith in the paranormal.

He read the claims of Drury University with great interest. There were allegedly several ghosts, in a few buildings, which had taken residence there since the school’s founding in 1873. The saddest one was a little girl who died in a fire. Her phantom laughter could be heard from time to time in one of the women’s dorms.

Jeff enjoyed a good ghost story since he was a kid, but these were more than merely a spectral yarn. Each story offered a small glimmer of hope.

He didn’t read about Pythian Castle; there was no need. He had spent so much time researching it the last couple of weeks, he could recite the history word for word. The shadow spirits who allegedly resided in the basement intrigued him the most. They had been reported so often over the years, there was little doubt that something unusual was occurring in the depths of the castle.

Jeff finally checked the box scores, lamenting another loss by his favorite team. He scanned the comics before tossing the paper on the floor. He trudged to the bathroom and took a long, hot shower. Afterward, he put on a fresh pair of boxers and a T-shirt before stretching out on the couch. He fell asleep watching Netflix. If he dreamed of his parents again, he did not remember.

Jeff arrived at Pythian Castle an hour before dusk. The rainy morning had given way to a perfectly clear early evening. The ghostly apparition of the full moon glowed in the eastern sky as the sun began to dip. The large tower on front of the castle cast a long shadow over his truck as he pulled in and parked. He ascended the stone steps onto an expansive porch where a very large woman with a mystical fashion sense met him at the front door.

“Hello … Jack?” she said.

“Jeff,” he corrected. “You must be Swoosie.”

Swoosie half-nodded and half-bowed. She reminded him of a fortune teller he visited one time, just for kicks.

“Would you like a charm for protection tonight?” Swoosie asked, reaching into a velvet bag and retrieving what appeared to be a tiny silk pillow.

“No, thanks … I’m good,” Jeff said. He couldn’t help smirking a little.

Swoosie noticed.

“Suit yourself,” she huffed. “Spirits can pick up on those less experienced in this field. They tend to prey more on them.”

“Good,” Jeff said. “Maybe I will get some good evidence.”

Swoosie narrowed her pudgy eyelids and motioned for a man who was milling about awkwardly, studying old pictures on the wall. 
“Preston,” she called with a snap of her fingers.

He was a middle-aged man with a greasy ring of dark hair circling a large bald spot. His clothing was a mish mash of suit pants and a Molly Hatchett T-shirt. The shirt and pin stripe pants were riddled with stains.

“How are you?” Preston asked breathlessly. It seemed his pot belly was a strain for him to carry.

“Fine, Preston,” Jeff said. “Nice to meet you.”

“Oh … I think Mr. Leach is preferable,” Preston said. “I could be your daddy.”

“Not likely,” Jeff thought.

“I’m putting the two of you together tonight since you are both new to this,” Swoosie said. “You know … strength in numbers.”

Both men’s puzzled expressions testified their bewilderment of Swoosie’s logic as if to point out that it would make more sense to put them with an experienced investigator.

“I’m a fairly experienced investigator,” Jeff said. “Tonight, makes my twentieth investigation.”

Swoosie’s condescending smile let him know she still considered him a novice. She turned and then waddled over to a sofa in the foyer where her daughter and a couple of other men waited. Their familiar banter showed them to be a clique.

“Okay, Mr. Leach,” Jeff said. “Where should we start?”

This group didn’t set up night vision cameras or environmental equipment as he hoped. Each member was only armed with a flashlight, digital recorder, and maybe a camera. Jeff was sure most of them carried a silk charm pillow in their pocket.

“I think they want us to go the basement,” Mr. Leach said impatiently. “Didn’t you hear what Swoosie said?”

Swoosie was much larger than Mr. Leach, yet she seemed a bit more agile as he watched his partner shuffle down the corridor.

“Okay,” Jeff mumbled before following him down the stone stairs to the basement.

They picked a far corner in the dark, dingy basement, and then set their digital recorders on a wooden table. The musty smell of old buildings had become synonymous with ghosts in Jeff’s mind. Even though he knew better, he sometimes entertained the idea of it being a ‘ghost odor’.

The sun was beginning to set through one of the basement windows, so they agreed to wait until full dark before beginning their session.

“Hey … you know this used to hold POWs during World War Two?” Jeff said, nodding at the old cells across the room. The iron doors had been removed many years ago on all but one.

“It was an orphanage at one time, built by the Knights of Pythias,” Mr. Leach countered.

“Really?” Jeff said, a little confused at why an orphanage would be more interesting than a POW prison.

“Yeah, can you imagine how many kids died here?” Mr. Leach mused.

Jeff’s stomach twisted. His partner seemed a little too gleeful about dead children.

“Yeah,” Jeff said distantly. He watched the last rays of the sun disappear behind the shrubbery outside. When it was completely dark, he said, “Well, shall we get started?”

Jeff jumped when a flashlight beam flared in his eyes.

“Can I ask you something, Jeff?” Mr. Leach asked, lowering his flashlight.


“How did you get into paranormal stuff?” Mr. Leach asked.

“Curiosity,” Jeff began and then anger began to simmer. He didn’t know why the question upset him so, it was benign and practical. Perhaps it was his partner’s tone. “It’s really nobody’s business,” Jeff snapped.

“Fair enough,” Mr. Leach said. “What did your fiancée say about it?”

Jeff glared at Mr. Leach in the darkness. How did he know he had a fiancée?

“What makes you think I had a fiancée?” Jeff asked, pointedly.

“I know things,” Mr. Leach replied. His coy response echoing from the darkness sounded like the prelude to a horror movie.

Jeff was angry. Mr. Leach seemed to have no boundaries. Jeff’s fiancée was a sore spot. She had been a former fiancée for almost a year.

“Why don’t you tell me her name?” Jeff said, a little too loud. Shushes hissed from deep in the darkness as his voice echoed off the stone walls. It seemed the whole building heard his question.

There was a very long pause. Jeff almost thought he was alone until the answer startled him.

“I can’t see that,” Mr. Leach answered. “Only events and feelings.”

“What are you … some kinda Jedi Master?” Jeff asked.

“I’m psychic,” Mr. Leach wheezed. His last word echoed about the basement, bringing more shushes from around the building.

“Oh,” Jeff whispered. He had encountered these people before; every paranormal group seemed to have them. Out of the dozen or so self-proclaimed psychics Jeff had known in his life, there was only one he believed legitimate. An old shut-in, who he delivered prescriptions to while in college, told him some interesting things about his life that came to pass a short time later.

“So, where is my fiancée?” Jeff asked.

There was a long silence before Mr. Leach replied flatly. “With another man, I’m afraid.”

Jeff didn’t say anything. He knew she was with another man now. Lurid images filled his head as to what they may be doing right now. Acid boiled in his guts and his heart began to pound. He didn’t expect this answer; he was looking for more of a geographical location. She had been with this schmuck for six months, two weeks, and three days, but he wasn’t counting.

“Does that shock you?” Mr. Leach whispered.

“You’re the psychic … you tell me,” Jeff barked. “Look, I just want to focus on the investigation, can we do that now?”

More shushes ensued followed by a booming female voice asking them to be quiet. Swoosie had some lungs.

They were so engrossed in their argument, neither man noticed the single cell door slowly swing open and a black shadow dart down the passageway. The air grew thick and uncomfortable, but both men thought it was from their awkward conversation.

Mr. Leach didn’t answer. A moment later, Jeff heard the beep of a digital recorder turning on. The small red recording light resembled a one-eyed demon in the complete darkness. Jeff knew he hurt the guy’s feelings, but he didn’t care. Mr. Leach had trodden on areas of Jeff’s life where he wasn’t welcome. In fact, no one was welcome. His fiancée had been the last living member of anything resembling family for Jeff. She had tried to get him to see a shrink to cope with his parent’s death, but he refused. Thus, the wedge between them was forged.

On the surface, Jeff seemed to recover. He tried to move on with his life. His preacher once told him that time is a river, washing away all pains and transgressions. Yet, for those who grieve, time is often an ocean. It ebbs and flows, sometimes exposing the pain lurking beneath the surface of our consciousness with each experience.

“Truth,” Jeff thought.

He finally turned on his digital recorder and began to alternate questions with Mr. Leach.

Is anyone with us?”

“Are you angry?”

“What is your name?”

“How old are you?”

“Why are you here?”

“When did you die?”

They repeated this process several times in different areas of the building. They never heard anything. Hopefully, there would be some evidence on the recording.

Jeff found it difficult to focus. Of course, he was tired, yet it was much more than fatigue. Mr. Leach had upset him, there was no denying it. The thing bothering him the most was the image running through his head; His fiancée and some faceless man with a Chippendale’s body were in bed together. He tried to push it aside and focus on the reason he was here. When he turned his thoughts to his parents, it did not help. He kept seeing the make-shift white cross memorial at the site of his parents’ crash. The same cross where he had recorded his mother’s voice. It wasn’t only the mental image distracting him. His mother’s one-word response echoed in his head after every EVP question – “Jeff”. A few times he thought he heard her voice coming from the darkness – “Jeff”.

Jeff knew it was fatigue, it had to be. If not, Mr. Leach would have heard something.

Jeff left Sunday morning frustrated. He sat in his truck and watched the last act unfold in what had been an all-night circus. Swoosie, her daughter, Mr. Leach, and a few other men sat in folding chairs arranged in a circle on the front lawn. They had asked Jeff to join them, but he respectfully declined. They burned sage while performing a cleansing ritual.

“We can’t have any spirits following us home,” Swoosie’s daughter proclaimed. “This’ll keep ‘em put.”

The obese Swoosie sat with her back to him. Her butt dangled on either side of the stressed chair as the legs sank into the soft and dewy sod. She swung a burning leaf around her head, making her resemble an elephant trying to douse the flames of a burning tree.

Jeff realized the only way he would get anywhere is starting his own team. He turned the ignition, causing his lights to fall on the group. They turned and glowered as if he farted and belched in church. He smiled and waved as he shifted the truck into gear.

Missouri Spirit Seekers,” Jeff muttered as he left the gate, “seems more like shit seekers.”


Excerpt from Death Theory by John D. Mimms. Copyright © 2017 by John D. Mimms. Reproduced with permission from John D. Mimms. All rights reserved.

Read an in-depth interview with John Mimms.


John D. Mimms is a business owner, paranormal researcher and author. John served as the Technical Director for a TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) family paranormal research group in Central Arkansas. During his four-year tenure with the organization, he helped supervise over 100 investigations and wrote more than sixteen technical articles. Paul Bradford, of Ghost Hunters International fame, read one of John's articles titled A Christmas Carol Debunked live on the air of the Parazona Radio program on Christmas Day 2009. John also wrote a definitive technical/training manual, which is a comprehensive guide on equipment usage, investigation protocol and scientific theory for paranormal research.

In 2009 John decided to couple his knowledge of paranormal phenomena with his lifelong love of literary fiction. John's first published work, The Tesla Gate, is the first installment of a three-part, heart-wrenching, sci-fi/paranormal drama. 
Book 1 of this unique, ground-breaking story released July 2014 through Open Road Media. In January 2016, Open Road Media released The Tesla Gate Book 2: The Myriad Resistance. Book 3: The Eye of Madness is slated for release September 27, 2016. Though fictional, the trilogy is based on scientific, paranormal theory.

Publishers Weekly declared about The Tesla Gate in the March 3, 2014 issue 
"...touching sci-fi story that takes the reader on an unlikely road-trip adventure . . . a fast read with some entertaining ideas and a real emotional core in the relationship between father and son."

The Examiner proclaimed in June 2014
"Entertaining as well as poignant, this book is extremely imaginative in its basic premise as well as the many colorful and emotionally compelling events that take place."

John resides and writes on a mountaintop in central Arkansas with his wife and two sons.

Connect with John:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Goodreads

Buy the book: 
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble 

Sunday, March 18, 2018



From the bestselling author of The Devil’s Necktie and Blond Cargo comes the latest title in the Jack Bertolino series.

Retired inspector Jack Bertolino straddles two perilous worlds. Known for his impeccable police work, Jack has also done a priceless favor for an infamous Mafia Don: he saved the gangster’s kidnapped daughter from being sold into the sex trade and brought her safely home.

In Jack’s line of work, he can’t help but have friends—and enemies—on both sides of the law.

So when FBI agent Luke Hunter goes missing after a deep undercover assignment with that same mob boss, the FBI calls Jack in looking for a favor. With his connections and skills, Jack’s the only man for the job: find Luke Hunter, dead or alive.

The mobster operates an illegal gambling yacht in international waters off of Southern California, and when Luke went missing, so did half a million dollars of the mob’s money. As Jack dives into the case, he’ll learn the true mystery isn’t the agent’s disappearance, but something far more ominous . . .

The Fourth Gunman is a sizzling action-packed thriller that will keep you turning pages until the explosive finale.


Title: The Fourth Gunman

Author: John Lansing

Genre: Crime/thriller

Series: Jack Bertolino

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 6, 2018)

Page count: 352 pages

Touring with: Partners in Crime Book Tours


A few of your favorite things: My art collection. I’ve been collecting for years, and many of my favorite pieces were created by friends.
Things you need to throw out:
Old tapes from my acting days that I’m never going to transfer to digital or view again.

Things you need in order to write: I need a great pen, a clean yellow pad, a computer, a good story idea, and my dog, Lucky, at my feet.
Things that hamper your writing: A cluttered office. I need things to be clean and orderly to relax into my process.

Things you love about writing: Getting caught up in the moment. Being in the groove. Getting to a place where the words are flowing and my characters are leading the way.
Things you hate about writing: There’s nothing I really hate about writing. But, I do hate being interrupted by telemarketer’s phone calls when I’m in the zone.

Hardest thing about being a writer: Handling the business side of the publishing industry. So much of the marketing of your book lands directly at the writer’s feet. You have to get serious about growing your social media sites or you’ll be left behind.
Easiest thing about being a writer: Walking the dog, pouring a cup of coffee, sitting down at my desk, and diving back into my story.

Things you love about where you live: I can park my car and not drive out of the garage again for three days. All necessities are within walking distance of my loft.
Things that make you want to move: Living in a community where I’m not in total control of decisions made about my building.

Things you never want to run out of: Red Wine.
Things you wish you’d never bought: Frozen pizza.

Words that describe you: Tenacious. Loyal.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: Controlling. I really like to fix things and people. It’s a trait that’s not always appreciated.

Favorite foods: I cook Italian, and my meatballs and marinara sauce are a cut above. I learned my cooking skills at the elbow of my Aunt Marie and Uncle Chip, on the Italian side of my family.
Things that make you want to throw up: Ratatouille. Stewed zucchini makes me ill.

Last best thing you ate: Shrimp Scampi with a side of Spaghetti Aglio E Olio at La Vecchia, on Main Street, in Santa Monica.
Last thing you regret eating: Way, too many Victor Benes butter cookies after a big Thanksgiving, turkey meal.

Things you’d walk a mile for: My girlfriend.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: Being cornered at a party and barraged with small talk.

Things you always put in your books: My heart and soul.
Things you never put in your books: Anything but my best effort.



Luke Hunter sat hunched over a tight built-in desk in the cabin of a weathered thirty-six-foot catamaran docked in Marina del Rey. His fingers flew over the keyboard of a MacBook Pro. There had been one amber sconce illuminating the cabin before he broke in to the vessel, but now the laptop computer was throwing more light than he was comfortable with. At two a.m., all was quiet on the dock, but Luke was running late and still had another stop to make before he could call it a night.

Luke’s hair was short, brown, and unruly, his Italian eyes smoky, his beard dark and in need of a shave. His angular face was set with determination as he slipped a flash drive into the computer, tapped a few keys, and hit Copy, hoping to make short work of his theft.

The cabin was teak, and brass, and well worn. Rolled navigational charts littered the cramped workspace but didn’t intrude on the comfortable living quarters and the bunk that occupied the bow of the catamaran.

Luke spun in the chair, unraveled specific charts on the bed, snapped photos with his iPhone, and stowed the maps back where he’d found them. He had a theory as to why so many of the charts were focused on the waters in and around the Farallon Islands, off the coast of San Francisco, and hoped the computer files would corroborate his suspicions.

He took pictures of the scuba tanks, masks, flippers, speargun, and weight belts that were stowed aft. The galley was diminutive but efficient. A few potted succulents and fresh herbs on a shelf above the sink lent a feminine touch to the nautical surroundings. Nothing of interest there.

Luke heard the screech of the rusted security gate that led from the parking lot to the yachts and immediately shut down the computer, pocketed the flash drive, and closed the lid, tamping out the light.

He hoped it was just another liveaboard moored at the same dock, returning home after a night on the town. But he spun in place, laced his hands behind his head, and stretched out his legs, facing the teak steps that led from the stern into the cabin, ready to talk his way out of a dicey spot if necessary. It would be uncomfortable but doable. He set his face into a gotcha grin, ready to go on the offensive. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

The boat rocked slightly, the slippered footfalls nearly silent as a woman made her descent into the body of the vessel. Silk drawstring pants hugged her willowy frame as she stepped off the wooden stairway and seemed to suck all the air out of the cabin.

Roxy Donnelly had straight red hair that kissed her collarbone and parted in the middle, and a light feathering of freckles on her cheeks and chest. Her hazel eyes bore in to Luke’s, assessing the situation. She came to a conclusion and—without speaking—told him everything a man wanted to hear from a woman.

Roxy was backlit, her figure silhouetted in a diaphanous white blouse. Luke could see she was braless, and his heart quickened. Her nipples rippled the fabric, and sparks spread to Luke’s chest and down to his groin. As he became aroused, he found himself at a loss for words. No mafioso cracking wise, only deep breathing trying to hide his visceral reaction to the danger of her unexpected arrival. The cabin seemed to become tighter still, if that was possible, until Roxy broke the silence.

“I knew you were smarter than you looked.” If she was aware that Luke had raided her computer, she gave no indication or surprise at his presence. “You saw the schedule, Trent’s on call.”

She stepped closer and Luke found himself on his feet. “I made the schedule,” he said.

Roxy stepped so close their noses touched. He could feel her breath. The light scent of perfume was intoxicating. She reached down and touched his erection, stoking the fire. “I know what you drink, but I don’t know how you like it.”

“Any way you serve it,” Luke said, his voice deep, throaty, and bedroom. He knew he should hit the road but stood transfixed.

Roxy took his hand, squeezed it, and led him to the queen-size bunk in the rear of the cabin. “Get comfortable.”

She stepped into the galley, poured two glasses of Scotch, neat, kicked off her slipper shoes, and glided barefoot to the bed, handing Luke his drink. They clinked and each took a deep sip, never breaking eye contact.

Roxy set her glass down, slowly unbuttoned her blouse, and shrugged out of it, revealing sheer perfection. A dancer’s body. Compact upright breasts, a narrow sculpted waist, and a sapphire-pierced belly button. She tossed the blouse onto the chair Luke had been sitting in, leaned over him, and unbuckled his belt more roughly than he would have expected.

Luke might have received a reality check, but by the time his cell phone buzzed in his pants pocket, they were hanging over the chair.

“You’re not upset?” he said, a statement of fact.

“You should’ve called first, but it was inevitable. It was perfect the first time. We work too hard for no pleasure. Roll over, I’m good with my hands.”

No argument from Luke, who pulled off his gray crewneck and tossed it on the chair. He eased onto his stomach carefully because he was sporting a blazing hard-on.

Roxy was fully engaged. She lit a candle, then raked his back with her fingernails, the brief contact from her nipples as she leaned over him burning a trail from his neck down to his waist. As she straddled Luke, he felt her heat and let out a husky groan.

Roxy started on his lower back and slowly worked her way up his spine, compressing with thumbs and forefingers every third vertebrae until she reached his neck.

“You are good,” he murmured.

By the time Luke realized cold steel was pressed against the back of his head and not her thumbs, he was dead.

The explosion of the hammer striking the .22 round in her derringer created a blinding electric flash behind Luke’s eyes. The bullet rattled around his skull, tearing up brain matter, until his world turned pitch-black.

Roxy jumped off the bed, grabbed a plastic garbage bag out of the galley, pulled it over Luke’s head, and cinched it around his neck to catch any blood evidence. She picked up her cell and hit Speed Dial.

“Trent. We’ve got a situation,” and Roxy gave him the rapid-fire shorthand version while she rifled through Luke’s pants and billfold, her voice devoid of emotion. Her body vibrated uncontrollably as adrenaline coursed through her nervous system. She dropped Luke’s keys and willed her hands to stop shaking as she placed his cell phone and the flash drive next to her laptop. “I’ll clean things up on the home front, you keep your ears open and get a feel for the play at your end. Stay on shift—Shut the fuck up and let me talk!” And then in a tight whisper, “I killed a man, okay? I’ve had better nights. Okay, okay, but only text if you sense movement in our direction.” Roxy was unraveling. “You won’t hear from me again until, until, shit, Trent, until I call you.”

Roxy snapped out the light and walked over to the door and tried to still her breathing as she sucked in the thick sea air and listened for any movement on the dock. Water lapping against hulls and nylon lines clanking on aluminum masts were the only early-morning sounds. If not for the dead body lying on her bunk, it would almost be peaceful.

Roxy got down on her hands and knees and scrabbled around until she came up with the keys she’d dropped. She sat on the edge of the bed and made a mental list of what she had to accomplish. Sucked in a breath, nodded, and went into action.

Roxy pulled the duvet cover over Luke’s body and changed into jeans and black T-shirt and black running shoes. She grabbed a pair of thin cotton gloves and shrugged into Trent’s oversize black hoodie.

She rifled through the junk drawer and pulled out a roll of blue painter’s tape, took a credit card and the cash out of Luke’s wallet and added it to her own, and ran out of the catamaran, locking the door behind her.


Roxy pulled the hood over her red hair and slipped on the gloves as she ran up the dock and out through the chain-link security gate.

There was a smattering of cars in the lot, and Roxy started hitting the button on the remote-entry key for Luke’s car but got no response. She knew Luke drove a black Camaro but was at a loss. She spun in place and felt like she was going to explode. She turned off the emotion, knowing that if she didn’t fly right, she was as good as dead.

She jogged over to the next lot that was half full and tried the key again. Nothing. Roxy fought to suck down the bile and panic that threatened to overwhelm her. She ran up and down three rows of cars. Still nothing. She pounded toward the apartment complex across the street.

Roxy heard the ding before she found the car.

Luke had parked in the open lot that serviced the channel on the other side of the road. Mercury-vapor security lamps provided ambient light. Roxy checked the license plate and went to work.

She pulled out the tape and ripped off a small strip, turning a 1 into a 7. She tore off two smaller strips and changed a second 1 to a 4. She repeated the task on the front plate and dove, flattening herself on the rocky macadam surface, as a car drove up the street.

A black-and-white rolled onto the lot, its tires crackling over the uneven surface. The cop car did a silent drive past her aisle, slowed, then moved up to the far end of the lot, turned left, and back out onto the street.

Time seemed to stand still, but the pounding of Roxy’s heart reminded her that the clock was ticking and daylight would be her enemy. She grabbed a handful of dirt from the ground and wiped it onto the license plate with one eye peeled for the cop car. She did the same with the rear plate, obscuring some of her handiwork. After the cop car made his final pass down the street and disappeared onto the main drag, Roxy jumped behind the wheel of the Camaro, adjusted the seat and mirror, put on a pair of dark glasses, and rumbled out of the parking lot.


It took sixteen minutes to get from the marina to long-term parking at LAX. The black Camaro had black-tinted windows, and when Roxy pulled into the lot, hit the button, grabbed a ticket, and waited for the electronic arm to rise, she had her hood pulled tight, her dark sunglasses in place, and her head tilted down. If there had been a security camera at play, all it would’ve recorded was the top of a dark hoodie.

The lot was huge. Roxy motored to the far end and parked between two large SUVs that all but swallowed Luke’s low-slung muscle car. She checked the glove compartment to see if there was anything worth taking, or revealing as to Luke’s true purpose, snooping in the wrong place at the wrong time. She found the car’s registration and proof of insurance and pocketed the documents in the hope that it might slow the inquiry sure to follow. She hit the button that opened the trunk, readjusted the driver’s seat, locked the doors, and exited the vehicle.

A salmon glow pulsed above the horizon, a warm-up for the main event. The adrenaline had worn off, and Roxy was so tired she could have slept standing up. What she saw when she looked in the trunk got her heart pounding and her head spinning again. A large leather satchel on wheels, filled with cash. More cash than Roxy had ever seen in her twenty-seven years on God’s planet. It was Mafia money. The weekend’s take from the illegal gambling yacht where she bartended. She zippered the bag and slammed the trunk shut. She didn’t need any more heat than she’d already generated.

Roxy took a few steps away, spun back, opened the trunk, grabbed the satchel, and started wheeling it down the long row of cars toward the shuttle that arrived every fifteen minutes. She’d take the short ride to Tom Bradley International Terminal, where she planned on using Luke’s credit card at a McDonald’s to create a paper trail.

Inherent problems were created by taking the Mafia’s money, but leaving it would have been a major fuckup. A man on the run would never leave without the cash.


Two black stretch limos roared into the parking lot at Long Beach Shoreline Marina, adjacent to the Bella Fortuna. Doors flew open, and eight men exited the vehicles, ran across the lot, and pounded up the yacht’s gangplank, disappearing into the body of the luxury craft.

A somber Tony-the-Man stood at the railing on the main deck and looked down as Vincent Cardona stepped out of the lead car and walked slowly up the gangplank. The two men locked eyes for what seemed to Tony like an eternity before Cardona boarded the ship.

Heads would roll, and Tony instinctively rubbed his neck— his was at the top of the list.


The yellow cab let Roxy off at the Admiralty Club in Marina del Rey. She paid the driver with cash and waited until he was gone before walking next door to the Killer Shrimp Diner, where she was a regular and knew the kitchen was open twenty-four/seven. She peeled off her sunglasses, pulled the hood back, and shook out her startling red hair.

Roxy forced herself to eat scrambled eggs, bacon, and buttered toast, generating an alibi with her own credit card receipt. She paid up and rolled the satchel, laden with cash, down the sidewalk and the half-mile trek to her catamaran as the sun breached the Santa Monica Mountains behind her.


Twenty-four hours had passed since the death of Luke Hunter, and the weather had turned nasty. The sea was whitecapped, the crescent moon blanketed by a thick marine layer. A perfect night for what Roxy and Trent had to accomplish.

A perfect night to dump a body.

Trent was piloting the catamaran, heading south toward the San Pedro Channel and powered by the auxiliary engine. He knew the depth of the basin was good for at least 2,250 feet. He’d studied the charts, set the GPS, and they were just a few minutes from their destination.

Trent looked right at home, almost regal, standing behind the wheel of the craft that bucked, rolled, and cut through the waves, never veering off course. He was a Saudi national and a U.S. citizen, raised in the States from the age of eight, so he had no discernible accent. He was twenty-eight years old, with a boyish open face, a buffed physique, a swarthy complexion, buzz-cut brown hair, and gray eyes that could set Roxy’s heart thrumming. A finely inked tiger ran the length of one muscled forearm, the tattooed claws drawing red blood.

Roxy stepped out of the cabin and carefully made her way behind him, wrapped her arms around his six-pack, and leaned her cheek against his back, trying to still the beating of her heart.

Trent gave her hand a firm squeeze before grabbing the wheel with both hands. “You’re a brave woman, Roxy,” he shouted over his shoulder, fighting the howling wind. “A warrior.”

The moment he announced they were approaching their destination, the GPS system gave off a shrill cry. The night was black; there were no other boats in the area, no container ships navigating the channel. It was time to get to work. He shut off the engine, locked the wheel, and lowered himself into the cabin, followed by Roxy.

Luke, head still covered with the plastic garbage bag, was dressed in nothing but his briefs. He’d been rolled onto the cabin floor; his body lay on top of the duvet cover.

Trent grabbed two fifty-pound diving belts from their scuba gear and carried them up to the main deck. Roxy handed a twenty-five-pounder through the hatch. Trent ran back down, wrapped Luke’s body tightly in the blanket, and, with Roxy’s help, dragged his deadweight up the stairs and onto the aft deck behind the wheelhouse.

Trent pulled back the duvet and fastened one belt, cinched it tight around Luke’s waist, and then made short work of the second. He grabbed the twenty-five-pound belt, wrapped it twice around Luke’s neck, and secured it. Postmortem lividity had turned Luke’s back, buttocks, and legs a blackish-purple where the blood had settled.

Trent pulled the duvet taut, rolling Luke’s body over, and ripped a cut from top to bottom on the garbage bag so it would disengage after splashdown and be dragged out to sea. He worried it might fill with air as the corpse decomposed, and drag the body to the surface.

Roxy steeled herself as she looked down at Luke. His face was bone-white, his eyes devoid of color, just a thick opaque film. If there was one life lesson she had learned from her father, it was to meet trouble head-on. Never roll over, never look back, and never run. She swallowed her rising bile and choked, “Do it.”

Trent grabbed both ends of the blanket and muscled Luke’s body with 125 pounds of lead weights off the stern of the catamaran, tossing the duvet into the chop behind him.

Roxy and Trent stood shoulder to shoulder as they watched Luke float for a second and then slip below the water’s surface; they were confident he was permanently buried at sea and they could move forward with their plan.


Day One

Retired Inspector Jack Bertolino was sitting in the nosebleed seats at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond, Stanford University’s baseball stadium, in Northern California. The sun was blinding, the sky ultra-blue, the wisp of cirrus clouds as white as cotton. The old-growth pepper trees surrounding the field swayed in the light breeze carrying the scent of eucalyptus and fresh-mowed grass, taking some of the heat off the early-September afternoon.

Jack had his eyes closed behind his Ray-Bans, taking in the sounds of the college baseball game, now in the eighth inning, being played in the stadium below. His hair was dark brown verging on black, with strands of silver feathering the temples, and worn long enough to threaten his collar. His angular face was weathered from years doing undercover narcotics work on the streets of NYC, and his tan only served to accentuate the scars from hard-fought battles. A bump on his otherwise straight Roman nose, a gift from a crack dealer, buffered some of Jack’s innate intensity. At six-two and big-boned, Jack had a tight fit in the stadium seating, but the sound of the hard ball slamming into leather, the crack of the bat, the umpire’s barked calls, and the emotion of the crowd made it a perfect day. Took him back to his youth playing the game on Staten Island, where he had raised his son, Chris.

There was a chance Chris was going to pitch for the first time since the attempt on his life that had shattered his throwing arm nine months earlier. Jack wouldn’t have missed seeing his son in action again for the world. It hadn’t been an easy recovery for the young man, physically or mentally, and Jack tried to keep his own emotions in check. He didn’t want his heavy feelings to pull Chris down.

Jack was jolted out of his reverie as a trim man wearing a light-weight gray suit and dark aviator sunglasses, with zero body fat and white brush-cut hair, banged against his knees as he moved down the aisle, finally dropping into the seat directly to Jack’s right.

An attractive, serious woman wearing an equally professional gray pantsuit, with a jacket cut large enough to accommodate her shoulder rig and 9mm, made her way up his aisle. There was something about a woman and a gun that was a turn-on for Jack. Or maybe it was her shoulder-length auburn hair that shone as bright as her mirrored sunglasses. She head-tossed her hair off her face as she took the seat to Jack’s left, feigning interest in the game.

Jack wasn’t surprised by the untimely visit; he had made the feds on his flight from LAX and been waiting for them to play their hand.

“To what do I deserve the honor?” he said, his eyes lasered on the game as the Ohio State Buckeyes headed for the bench and the Stanford Cardinals ran onto the field. Chris had been in the bullpen warming up for the past twenty minutes but remained sidelined; the game was tied three to three at the top of the ninth, and it seemed unlikely he’d be called to play.

“I couldn’t do it,” the female FBI agent said, her eyes never leaving the field. Jack didn’t respond, so she continued, “Come to the game if it were my kid. Too much pressure.” Her voice carried an easy strength, and she wasn’t going to be deterred by his silence. “Especially with all your boy has been through,” letting Jack know he had no secrets from the FBI.

Ohio pounded a ball toward the left-field fence. The batter shot by first and was held up on second by the third-base coach.

It never surprised Jack how much the government knew about civilians’ lives, but his son was sacrosanct. And he knew if he spoke right away, he might not be able to control his growing anger at the personal violation.

The male agent, picking up on Jack’s energy, took off his glasses and proffered his hand. “Special Agent Ted Flannery.” He looked to be pushing fifty but had the body and vigor of a thirty-year-old. “Sorry for the intrusion, Jack, but we’ve come to ask for your help.” Flannery’s hand hung in midair until it became clear Jack wasn’t going to respond. Undaunted, the agent went on, “You’ve had a good relationship with the FBI throughout your career, Jack, and beyond. It’s been duly noted and appreciated, and because of your recent history, you’re in a unique position to be of service.”

“What do you need?” Jack asked, giving away nothing.

“Vincent Cardona,” the female agent said, answering his question. “You visited his home in Beverly Hills on the seventh of May. You were on Cardona’s payroll, hired to find his daughter, Angelica Marie, who’d been kidnapped. An altercation occurred. You slammed Cardona up against the wall, Peter Maniacci drew down on you, and Cardona’s cousin Frankie, with two other gunmen on his heels, ran out of the kitchen, ready to shoot you dead if ordered.”

“You wired the house?” Jack asked.

“Cardona’s too smart for that. He does a sweep once a week. No . . .” She paused for effect. “The fourth gunman was an FBI agent.”

The level of intensity in her tone wasn’t lost on Jack. She had referred to her agent in the past tense, but there was something more. Something unspoken, Jack thought.

Ohio thundered a ball over the fence for a two-run homer. Jack’s body tensed as the coach walked onto the field, huddled with the pitcher and catcher, and signaled toward the sidelines.

Chris Bertolino, number 11, ran out onto the mound and tossed a few back and forth with the catcher as the field was cleared and the game resumed. At six-two, Chris was as tall as Jack, but lean and rangy with sandy brown hair, a gift from his mother’s side of the family.

Jack raised his hand to his lips, and the feds let him concentrate on the game. They knew Bertolino wasn’t a man who could be pressured, and understood the personal significance of this moment.

Chris sucked in a deep breath, nodded to the catcher, and unloaded. His first pitch flew high on the outside. Ball one.

His second pitch went wide. Ball two.

The third pitch was hit. A sizzling line drive caught by the shortstop. First out.

The catcher walked out to the mound, whispered a few words to Chris, and resumed his position behind home plate.

Chris nodded, his game face on. If nerves were at play, he showed nothing to his opponent. He wound up and fired a fast-ball. Strike one. He denied the first two signals from the catcher and threw a second blistering pitch. Strike two. The crowd in the stands started to get loud. Chris tossed a slider, wide. The batter reached, fanned for the ball, and came up empty. Strike three.

The stadium erupted as the second batter stepped into the dugout and tossed his helmet in disgust.

The crowd started chanting and Jack’s stomach tightened. The lanky Buckeye leadoff batter made a big show of whipping his bat to loosen up before flashing a dead eye toward Chris, hocking a loogie onto the red clay, and stepping up to the plate.

Chris smoked a fastball.

The batter swung and made contact. The ball took a short hop and was plucked up by the second baseman, who threw Ohio out at first.

The crowd leaped to its feet as Chris led the team off the field, having stopped the flow of blood.

Jack let out a long, even breath, trying to slow his beating heart.

Chris never made it to bat. The first three Stanford starters were struck out in succession.

Stanford lost the game five to three, but it was a personal triumph for Chris, and Jack wished he were alone to savor the moment.

“I’ve got to get down to my boy,” he said to the female agent, who seemed to be in charge.

“Our agent disappeared three weeks ago,” she said, clearly un-willing to relinquish the moment. “He was deep undercover, and we believe he was on to something major. He never checked in, never filed a final report.”

“You should call in the cops.”

“We won’t jeopardize the case we’ve built against Vincent Cardona.”

“I’ve been down that rabbit hole,” Jack said, ending their impromptu meeting. “Don’t want anything to do with the man.” He stepped past the woman.

“Jack,” she said. The undercurrent in her voice, a sadness, struck a chord and turned him in place. She reached out with her card and looked up to lock eyes with him. “Liz Hunter. Think about it, Jack, and call me. Any time.” And then, “We could use your help.”
Agent Hunter wore light makeup on her clear tanned skin. She couldn’t have been over thirty, but her wide forehead was etched with fine worry lines. The hazards of the job, Jack decided. Her cheekbones were high and strong, her figure athletic, her slender, elegant neck tilted slightly to make her point. Jack found himself wondering what her eyes looked like.

“Why should I get involved?”

“The missing agent is my brother.”

Jack nodded, took the card, turned, and made his way down the steep concrete steps toward the Cardinals locker room.


Excerpt from The Fourth Gunman by John Lansing.  Copyright © 2017 by John Lansing. Reproduced with permission from John Lansing. All rights reserved.


Best-selling author John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre performing the lead in the Broadway production of Grease before putting together a rock ‘n’ roll band and playing the iconic club CBGB.

Lansing closed up his Tribeca loft and headed for the West Coast where he landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ More American Graffiti, and guest-starred on numerous television shows.

During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced Walker Texas Ranger, co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and co-executive produced the ABC series Scoundrels.

John’s first book was Good Cop Bad Money, a true crime tome he co-wrote with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano.

The Devil’s Necktie, his first Jack Bertolino novel, became a best seller on Barnes & Noble and hit #1 in Amazon’s Kindle store in the Crime Fiction genre.

Jack Bertolino returns in John’s fourth novel, The Fourth Gunman.

A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

Connect with John:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | IndieBound | iTunes | Kobo | Simon & Schuster


The Devil’s Necktie (Jack Bertolino, Book 1)
Blond Cargo (Jack Bertolino, Book 2)
Dead Is Dead (Jack Bertolino, Book 3)

The Test

Good Cop, Bad Money