A story that twists like the Rio Grande



Review of Place of Skulls by Caleb Pirtle III

One of the most satisfying literary discoveries is a truly unique story. This is particularly rare in the mystery-thriller genre. Many thrillers seem to be emulating another derivative book, trying to ride a bandwagon to market success. Far too many read as if the author were trying to write an episode of his or her favourite TV show.

So when I opened Place of Skulls by Caleb Pirtle III, I was prepared for disappointment. But what I found were realistic characters, solid writing and a satisfying, completely original story.

The plot twists and turns, but holds the road.

Place of Skulls is the fourth in Pirtle’s Ambrose Lincoln series, a spy-thriller set during the Second World War. A lot of authors give their main characters a huge character flaw—alcoholism, a history of abuse, a physical disability—and Lincoln has what seems to me to be the most debilitating for a spy: amnesia. Ambrose Lincoln has no memory of his past, and cannot remember why he knows the things he does and cannot account for certain skills he has, such as the ability to pick a lock with a hair pin.

But he does have ghosts—at least one. He’s followed by a dead man only he can see, and only at night, the ghost of a man he killed in a military engagement that he cannot remember.

A rich Dallas oilman named Eliot Bergner hires Lincoln to find whoever killed his brother, Danny. “Danny B.” is a DEA officer who was investigating the smuggling of drugs from Mexico into the U.S., carried by poor, desperate migrant workers. One night, his mutilated body arrives in Texas in an empty boxcar. But not before he sends a message to his brother, Eliot—an observant Jew—that he has found incontrovertible proof of Christ’s appearance in Mexico before the Spanish Conquest in 1492.

Drugs and religion: that would seem to be enough for one book, but then the author adds the idea that Nazi Germany is lacing the cocaine and heroine the migrants are smuggling with Thallium, a potent and undetectable poison. Their idea is to addict as many Americans as possible, and then kill them.

As if that’s not complex enough, shady U.S. government operatives are about to launch an invasion of Mexico to stop the influx of addictive poison, but because Mexico is a sovereign nation that, at the time the story is set, has not yet declared which side of the war it’s on (which would have to make it between December 7, 1941 and May 22, 1942, when Mexico declared war on Germany), they have to keep it secret, even from the President.

No, it’s not impossible to make this story plausible.

If any author had come to a publisher with an idea for a novel about a detective finding incontestable proof that Jesus Christ came to Mexico before 1492, and getting caught up in a US government plot to invade Mexico to throttle the drug trade, mixing in Nazi spies, he probably would have been advised to pick an easier mystery to pen. But Pirtle handles the challenge well, giving the readers just enough information as the plot builds to keep us readers turning pages.

There were a few places where I was afraid the novel would become excessively Christian, where a plot point could only be explained by a miracle or an answer to true faith, but thankfully, Pirtle avoided that. Everything made sense, and while there is a definite religious motif to this book, it makes sense.

The characters ring true.

Author Caleb Pirtle III

Pirtle gives us a wide range of believable characters, all with strengths, weaknesses and flaws. I loved some of them, and detested others, but I reacted to each one. All their actions and reactions logically proceeded from their situations and personalities, with no unbelievable transformations. Eliot Bergner’s agonized family relationships add some surprising depth to the story. I suspected the femme fatale at first, but Pirtle’s iron-tight plot made her completely believable.

The author  gives us a satisfying closing.

Pirtle also avoids a facile story arc. Lincoln struggles against drug cartels, traitors, cowards and ghosts, all of whom leave scars. At no point do we know for sure who’s going to survive the next battle, and it’s never certain who’s going to win.

Pirtle doesn’t cut corners. The book has been produced professionally, meeting or exceeding the standards of commercial fiction. In fact, this book was much better than the commercially published stuff I have read lately.

5*

Visit Caleb Pirtle III’s website for links to buy this and other books.

A mega-launch in the #LeiCrimeKW Kindle World



The day is finally here! My new #LeiCrimeKW Lei Crime Kindle World mystery is on Amazon’s e-shelves along with 11 other brand-new titles. We’re all very excited, and by all signs, so is the creator of Lei Texeira and the Lei Crime series, Toby Neal.

12newLeiCrimeKWbooksMay17

Don’t forget to join the whole #LeiCrimeKW gang on Facebook today, May 12, 2017 at 3:30 Eastern Time, where we’ll be happy to share facts and ideas about our books, answer any reader’s questions, and give away some prizes.

Speaking of prizes, I ran a contest until today, challenging anyone who read an excerpt of Echoes to deduce which two old rock’n’roll songs it was based on. Only one person was able to figure out one of the songs, so I’ll reveal it on Facebook today, between 7:30 and 8:00 ET. In the meantime, I’m putting out a bunch of clues on my Facebook Author page. Think you know your old songs? Try to figure it out by downloading the free sample chapters, or you can just try the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.

My new #LeiCrimeKW book: Echoes

Echoes - 529x800 V3Echoes is my fourth #LeiCrimeKW title, and the fourth featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. What’s it about, you ask?

In 1999, the Kahuna was The Man on Oahu’s west coast. The coolest guy at the wildest parties, with the coolest posse, the best weed and the most beautiful girlfriend.

Then he disappeared.

Fifteen years later, that girlfriend is no longer a high school senior. She is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, and she sees through every lie the Kahuna spins when he shows up again to beg her help.

How can she say no when the Kahuna wants her help not for himself, but to protect his little brother. Young Cole ‘Aukai is ready to set fire to the whole Oahu illegal drug trade—for revenge.

“I am hopelessly in love with a memory. An echo from another time, another place.” — Michel Foucault 

What is the Lei Crime Kindle World?

Kindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Lei Crime Kindle World is based on the Lei Crime series, created by bestselling author Toby Neal.

The books are great fun to read, so check out the new titles and come to the party—and invite your friends!

 

 

Preview of Rescue in Reno: A new #LeiCrimeKW novella coming May 12



LeiCrime-50titles

May 12 is the launch date for 11 new titles in the Lei Crime Kindle World—new stories by professional authors in the fictional universe of Lei Crime, the creation of bestselling author Toby Neal.

One of those titles is mine: Echoes, featuring my Lei Crime character, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. You will find it on Amazon as of May 12.

Over the next several days, you can keep coming back to Written Words for sneak peeks of other titles. Today we have Julie Gilbert’s Rescue in Reno, featuring another favourite Lei Crime character, FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott.

Rescue in Reno

By Julie Gilbert

“Did the doctor say you’re well enough to leave yet?” asked Marcella.

“This is a city hospital, honey. Spotting a doctor is like winning the lottery,” said Angela. “Sadly, it comes down to ‘he who makes the biggest stink gets helped first around here.’ I was drugged most of the morning, so I’m behind on my stink-making.”

“I can help with that,” Marcella promised. “If you’re truly well enough.” She leaned down and gave her friend an awkward half-hug then handed over the teddy bear wearing a Get Well Soon T-shirt. Angela looked like she needed to cuddle something.

“The bandage is on the wrong leg,” Angela teased, smiling her thanks. She turned the bear around and folded her arms around it, so that the thing stared up at Marcella with big, glassy black eyes. The bear’s right leg was swaddled in white bandages, and it had a soft, plushy crutch tucked up under its right arm.

“Sorry, they were out of left-leg bandages,” said Marcella.

“At least you got the flowers right,” Angela noted with a wink. “I’m touched you remembered I love irises.”

“Anybody who’s ever stepped foot in your office would remember you like them,” Marcella commented. “I think—”

Two sharp raps at the door interrupted her. Something slid across the floor.

Marcella dashed around the bed to get a better look at the thing.

It was a cell phone.

About Rescue in Reno

RescueInReno-Gilbert

The Biggest Little City might be the death of her …

FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott is still officially on vacation in Las Vegas, but the previous night’s violence has made her aware of the crimes against humanity going on in the tunnels. Before she can investigate too hard, the bad guys get proactive. They kidnap Anthony Pierce, the husband of Marcella’s good friend, and warn her to back off.

Predictably, she doesn’t react well to the threat. Marcella has several problems, including the fact that she’s being watched in Vegas while she really needs to be up in Reno if she wants to help Anthony.

Much as she likes her independence, Marcella’s going to need some high tech and highly skilled allies if she wants to pull off a rescue in Reno. 

*Note: the events in this story follow Violence in Vegas. It’s highly recommended that you start your journey there.

About the author

Julie Gilbert 2013 (5 of 25)Julie is a high school chemistry teacher who writes in several genres. She enjoys warm weather, hot tea, sweet coffee, reading, writing, teaching, and audiobooks.

If you love audiobooks, join Audiobook Edge for the chance at meeting a ton of great indie writers and narrators.

Visit juliecgilbert.com for info on getting a free sci-fi or mystery book.

Over Her Head: preview of a new #LeiCrimeKW novella



LeiCrime-50titles

May 12 is the launch date for 11 new titles in the Lei Crime Kindle World—new stories by professional authors in the fictional universe of Lei Crime, the creation of bestselling author Toby Neal.

One of those titles is mine: Echoes, featuring my Lei Crime character, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. You will find it on Amazon as of May 12.

To get you excited about the new books, I will preview a bunch of them over the next several days. Today we have Shawn McGuire’s third Lei Crime Kindle World title, Over Her Head, which happens to feature the main character, Lei Texeira

Let Shawn know what you think of her preview in the Comments. 

“I know I’ve been tough on you these last couple of weeks,” she said.

Lieutenant Lani Kaapana was Gemi’s second FTO. The first had been an officer who was close to retirement and not interested in working all that hard anymore. He taught Gemi some things, but most of what she had learned in the month with him she had either figured out on her own or learned by asking other officers. Now that she thought about it, maybe that hadn’t been so bad.

“You have been tough on me,” Gemi agreed, “but I appreciate your approach. I think you know that I’m not one to take the easy route.”

“You’re going to be a fine officer,” the lieutenant said. “I’ve seen plenty of trainees come through this department over the years, only a handful of them have truly impressed me with their potential. You’re at the very top of that list.” She held out her hand to Gemi. “Don’t let me down.”

For a heartbeat, Gemi was moved by these words, but she knew showing emotion would negate everything the officer had just said. Instead, she shook her hand and thanked her once again.

“Your formal training is done,” Lieutenant Kaapana announced, “but don’t hesitate to come to me if you have questions or need help.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Crossing the parking lot, Gemi smiled, feeling a sense of pride at a job well done. She glanced at the spot where a lightbar would go as she climbed into her Renegade and started for her townhouse southwest of Kahului. Today was a big deal, she really should celebrate. There were only two people she would consider partying with, her friend Consuelo or her sister Ashlyn. Consuelo was finishing her senior year with a couple of summer classes at Kahului College and had a big test tomorrow. She couldn’t bother her. Ashlyn? That was touch and go. Ashlyn hadn’t been happy when Gemi dropped out of nursing school. She’d been even less happy about Gemi’s decision to enter the police academy.

Gemi had to admit, if only to herself, that writing traffic tickets and chasing down car part thieves wasn’t the exciting life she’d hoped it would be. On the positive side, she knew her actions were making the streets of Kahului safer. She would put in her time, however much time that meant, and be the best patrol officer she could possibly be, until she could move up the ranks. Her sights were set on becoming a detective.

Her cell phone rang, and Detective Lei Texeira’s number displayed on the screen. Gemi pulled into the nearest parking lot.

“I hear you’re officially done being a trainee,” Lei said.

“You heard right,” Gemi said. “Not a bad day, either. Busted Ozzie Lee on vandalism and drug charges, then said thank you and goodbye to my FTO. Now, I’m on the way home and will probably celebrate with a long run and maybe a big piece of chocolate cake.”

“You really know how to live the high life. Since you have no other plans, how about you meet me for dinner? We’ll celebrate together.”

The women had known each other for more than a year. Gemi considered the detective to be a friend and mentor. But they had never once socialized together.

“Why do I think you don’t really want to take me out to celebrate?” Gemi asked. “What’s going on, Lei?”

“Meet me at the Paia Fish Market,” Lei said. “I’ll tell you there.”

“You can’t even give me a hint?”

“Fine. You’re going to like it.”

Over Her HeadAbout Over Her Head

When women go missing in Maui, the island’s newest rookie cop is on the job.

One year ago, after rescuing her abducted sister, Gemi Kittredge turned in her college textbooks for a Maui County Police Department uniform. Now, the last thing Gemi expects is a phone call from her friend and mentor, Detective Lei Texeira.

Young women are disappearing and they suspect the Yakuza are involved. Lei doesn’t have to ask twice if Gemi is willing to go undercover to find them; taking down the organized crime group is the reason Gemi became a cop, after all. But when Gemi ends up in the Yakuza’s clutches, she’ll need her entire arsenal—badge, instincts, and mixed martial arts training—to get everyone out safe.

Over Her Head takes place after Dark Lava, book 7 in the Lei Crime series.

About the author

Fantasy and suspense author Shawn McGuire started writing after seeing the first Star Wars movie (that’s episode IV) as a kid. She couldn’t wait for the next installment to come out so wrote her own. Sadly, those notebooks are long lost, but her desire to tell a tale is as strong now as it was then.

She grew up in the beautiful Mississippi River town of Winona, Minnesota, called the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin (Go Pack Go!) home for many years, and now lives in Colorado where she loves to read, craft, cook and bake, and spend time in the spectacular Rocky Mountains. You can learn more about Shawn’s work on her website, www.Shawn-McGuire.com.

Previews: A new crop of #LeiCrimeKW titles



LeiCrime-50titlesMay 12 is the launch date for 11 new titles in the Lei Crime Kindle World—new stories by professional authors in the fictional universe of Lei Crime, the creation of bestselling author Toby Neal.

One of those titles is mine: Echoes, featuring my Lei Crime character, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. You will find it on Amazon as of May 12.

But I want to whet your appetite for the whole crop, starting with Meg Amor’s new book. It features one of my favourite Lei Crime World characters, Pono Kaihale. 

And here’s a little extra titbit just for you: Meg Amor shows up as a character in Echoes. Check it out.

Without further ado, here’s your sneak peek: 

Pele’s Revenge

By Meg Amor

I don’t appreciate Madam Pele’s e komo mai—welcome home present to me.

She and I have always had an adversarial relationship.

Pono Kaihale and I are looking at a cordoned off section in a fresh lava flow area. The park rangers look green around the gills, and it’s creeping me out too. There are some things you never get used to.

Stuck in the lava flow is what’s left of a body with a grim expression on his face.

Despite what they say—death doesn’t always take us peacefully. People often look startled or surprised, not relaxed, when they cut the cord and depart this earth.

The lava is still cooling and will be for days. But it has cooled enough to embed the body from the waist down, like he’s just sitting there, enjoying the view of the turquoise waters beyond the lava beds. Poor bastard.

One of the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park rangers, Alex Melelina found him this morning as sunrise touched the East Coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i. We took this one because the Pahoa cops have their hands full with a local situation that needs all hands on deck.

Did he fall in and couldn’t get up? Drunk? High? Incapacitated in some way? I shut my mind down to cope with the grisly scenario it’s playing out, and until we had more facts it’s anyone’s guess.

The lava cooling around him is not very deep and it’s pahoehoe, the ropey slower kind that meanders and looks like pulled taffy or congealing black blood—depending on your point of view. The sharp, fast moving flows and the stuff that exploded from volcanoes with discontinuous layers of clinkers tended to be a’a. So named by Hawaiians because when you walk over it barefoot, you go ah, ah. It’s sharp, crunchy looking, and unpleasant.

“Something doesn’t feel right,” I say to Pono.

“Agreed,” he says, his face grimly set.

“Let’s treat this like a crime scene, just in case. How fast was she moving last night?” I ask Alex Melelina.

“A team was working down here until 11:45 p.m. taking samples because she was moving in a channel and at a reasonably fast clip. Covering at least 1500 feet an hour.”

“Okay. At least that might give us a time frame.”

Another vehicle pulls up and a man and woman who look like tourists jump out, both carrying backpacks. Or they could be reporters. I inwardly sigh. She strides up the gravel trail wearing a long aloha wear dress, covered in large green and hot pink hibiscus, pink slippahs, and a fresh, neon pink plumeria pinned behind her ear. The tall, thin part-Japanese man sports a hefty, professional looking camera. How the hell did they get through?

Her curves catch my eye, and long, fiery red hair blows in the wind coming off the ocean. Although I appreciate the change of view, they shouldn’t be down here.

I go down to ward them off.

Holding up my shiny, new gold badge, I say, “You can’t come up here. Police business.”

She high fives my badge like she’s toasting me with a drink. “Cheers! Hib O’Neal, acting ME.” And steps around me.

Pono snorts with suppressed laughter beside me.

About Pele’s Revenge

Pele's Revenge FINAL coverA world of drugs, deceit, and death awaits in paradise…

After a near-death experience, and burned out from working undercover vice, Detective Reef Kahili returns home to the Big Island of Hawai’i to mend his heart, and heal. But the first day on the job, he has to investigate the charred remains of the partially buried body in Madame Pele’s lava flow. He’s instantly thrust back into the world he tried to leave behind.

When he meets Hibby O’Neal, the mysterious assistant ME, he’s intrigued by her. But is there any truth in the rumors flying around the department about her and her late husband?

The closer they come to the truth, the more things heat up on the island as deeper, more sinister layers of deceit are uncovered. Four generations of an influential Big Island family are caught up in a tightening web of honor and dishonor.

Caught between solving a crime and his attraction for the enigmatic M.E., Reef wonders who to trust. He’s driven by integrity and honesty, it’s why he became a cop, but now that’s also in question.

Have his instincts let him down over Hibby?

Cover Art by Lucee Lovett

About the author

MegAmorMeg is a multi-published, award-winning, contemporary author, and has always believed in love and romance. She writes deep, sensual, romance stories about heartfelt connections and deep soul relationships.

Meg hand-wrote and “published” her first book when she was eleven about her parent’s separation. Constantly told as a child she had a vivid and (over) active imagination, the dawn of the computer era meant she could now take dictation at speed from the interesting characters galloping around her head.

She grew up in New Zealand, and temporarily lives in California with her American fur child: Leo Ray Jr., the Ginger Ninja. Her heart and soul are split between her American home state of Hawai’i in Kona on the Big Island, and the sultry, steamy Southern city of New Orleans. Nearly all her books are set in Hawai’i or New Orleans, along with snatches of New Zealand for good luck.

Sneak peek: Echoes launches May 12



Echoes, my new #LeiCrimeKW Kindle World novel, launches along with 8 other new novelettes and novellas on May 12. Don’t forget to go to Facebook on that day—there’s going to be a launch party and a lot of prizes to be won.

But to whet your appetite, here’s a taste of Echoes.

Out of the past

2014

The first time that the Kahuna was able to sneak up on Vanessa was the first time she met him, when she was 16 and he was 19. He wasn’t able to do it again for sixteen years, until a bright morning in Honolulu as impossibly picturesque clouds floated across the impossibly blue sky. Vanessa was walking along Beretania Street, taking an iced coffee to start her day in the FBI Honolulu field office.

One second, she was walking by herself, trying to time her steps so that she would arrive at the corner of Punchbowl Street just as the light turned green. The next second, a tall, muscular Hawaiian man with graying hair tied in a pony tail was in step at her right shoulder. She noticed him and stopped, her mouth open.

Honolulu Hale—the municipal building of Honolulu, HI. Photo: Wikipedia.

“Come here often, Nani?” he said, using the pidgin term for “beautiful.”

Vanessa’s coffee sloshed over the rim of the cup. It took her several seconds to find her voice. “Dylan ‘Aukai?”

He turned on that smile that she remembered had made her knees weak when she was a teenager. “Long time, Babe.”

“What are you doing here? And where have you been for so long?”

“I could ask you the same thing, Nani. But why don’t we get a cuppa coffee and catch up?”

“I already have a coffee, Dylan.”

He tilted his head and turned on the high-beam smile again. “C’mon. You gotta couple minutes, doncha?” He nodded down the street. “You’re right. I don’t actually wanna sit in one of these fancy coffee places that don’t even serve Hawaiian coffee.  Let’s sit in the park, in the shade. I hafta tell you somethin’.”

Vanessa looked at her watch. She’d arrive at the office a few minutes late, but knew it would not be a problem. She found herself walking fast to keep up with Dylan’s strides to the park across the boulevard from the Honolulu City Hall.

Dylan led her to a bench under a koa tree and stretched his long legs out in front of him as she sat beside him, careful not to spill more of her drink. “What do you want to tell me, Dylan? No, wait. Before that: where have you been for the past 15 years, and why did you take off that night without a word of why? What happened?”

He turned and smiled again. “Let’s not dwell on the past, Nani. Let’s look to the future.”

“Knock off the cheesy lines, Dylan. You abandoned me at a very critical moment for a young woman—probably the most vulnerable moment in my life to that point. You know what I’m talking about. What happened?”

Dylan sighed, looking around the park, from the massive and impressive city hall, to the arching koa trees, the carefully watered and maintained grass at his feet, the nannies pushing strollers through the park. He took another deep breath and held it for a moment before looking at Vanessa again. “You’re right. I knew it was a very special time for you. And I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t have to. Truth is, the cops were after me. They framed me. For all I know, they’re still after me.”

“That sounds like bullshit, Dylan.”

“It’s not bullshit. But it’s the past. Look, I came to you for help, not for me, but for my brother, Cole.”

Watch for it on Amazon on May 12.

What’s Echoes about?

In 1999, the Kahuna was The Man on Oahu’s west coast. The coolest guy at the wildest parties, with the coolest posse, the best weed and the most beautiful girlfriend.

Then he disappeared.

Fifteen years later, that girlfriend is no longer a high school senior. She is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, and she sees through every lie the Kahuna spins when he shows up again to beg her help.

How can she say no when the Kahuna wants her help not for himself, but to protect his little brother. Young Cole ‘Aukai is ready to set fire to the whole Oahu illegal drug trade—for revenge.

Echoes will be live on Amazon on May 12, 2017. Visit here to find it and all the new releases.

What is the Lei Crime Kindle World?

Echoes is the fourth book I’ve written in the Lei Crime Kindle World. It joins Torn Roots (July 2015), Palm Trees & Snowflakes (December 2015) and Dead Man Lying (2016).

Kindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Lei Crime Kindle World is based on the Lei Crime series, created by bestselling author Toby Neal.

Cover reveal: Echoes, a new #LeiCrimeKW mystery



May 12 is launch day for a new crop of thrillers and mysteries in the Lei Crime Kindle World. And I have a book that will be part of it: Echoes. Since that’s one month from today, it’s time for a cover reveal. Once again, it’s designed by the unequalled David C. Cassidy.

Echoes - 529x800 V3

What’s Echoes about?

In 1999, the Kahuna was The Man on Oahu’s west coast. The coolest guy at the wildest parties, with the coolest posse, the best weed and the most beautiful girlfriend.

Then he disappeared.

Fifteen years later, that girlfriend is no longer a high school senior. She is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, and she sees through every lie the Kahuna spins when he shows up again to beg her help.

How can she say no when the Kahuna wants her help not for himself, but to protect his little brother. Young Cole ‘Aukai is ready to set fire to the whole Oahu illegal drug trade—for revenge.

Echoes will be live on Amazon on May 12, 2017. Visit here to find it and all the new releases.

Book reviewers: If you’d like an advanced review copy, please email contact@writtenword.ca.

What is the Lei Crime Kindle World?

Echoes is the fourth book I’ve written in the Lei Crime Kindle World. It joins Torn Roots (July 2015), Palm Trees & Snowflakes (December 2015) and Dead Man Lying (2016).

Kindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Lei Crime Kindle World is based on the Lei Crime series, created by bestselling author Toby Neal.