Monday, 16 January 2012
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
I've a new ebook out. It'[s a medical chiller called The Egg Factory. It's totally different from my Rafferty and Casey and Catt mystery series. Here's the blurb:
Just back from a long work stint abroad followed by a short holiday, Virginia Casey is unprepared for the whirlwind that is about to engulf her.
Her younger sister has just died. There is something strange about her death, but it is only after the post mortem that Ginnie finds out her sister has aborted a baby. What comes next has her engulfed in the infertility industry and organized crime with guilt a constant traveller as she tries to get to the bottom of her sister’s lonely death.
Infertility expert Dr Sam French insists he wants to help her find out the truth of what happened to Karen, so why is it that he seems to be hindering her?
A new millennium suspense novel set in the infertility industry, The Egg Factory shows what happens when desperation turns deadly.
And here's a short extract:
Eager to get out of the bitingly chilly February wind that blew off the River Thames by way of Siberia, Ginnie didn't notice the fresh-faced policeman hovering near the entrance to her Docklands apartments. Shivering, she paid the cabbie, picked up the small case and hurried towards the main door.
She had landed at London's City Airport less than an hour ago on the flight from Dublin, her writer's mind was still wrestling with what selection of words would best describe the magical image Tower Bridge made from the air. Wearing its night-time illumination and cloaked in a cobweb mist from the River Thames, it had shimmered in an unearthly, ethereal way, its bulk, looking as insubstantial as thistledown, had seemed to float, unsupported, above the water.
It was the first time she had used the City Airport, the first time she had seen the famous landmark from the air, and it had given her an idea for a series of original travel articles.
On the theme Tourism for the Rich and Bone Idle, it would promote the idea of seeing major cities and tourist sites from the air, with in-flight 3-D videos providing close-ups and interior views. Instead of getting sweaty and footsore, their tourism would be done in the air-conditioned champagne-quaffing comfort of private planes.
Ginnie grinned and tucked her fine, red-gold hair behind her ears. All she had to do was persuade assorted private-plane-owning millionaires to allow her to hitch free rides in order to research it. Should be a cinch.
The wind was now at her back. It blew her hair over her face. Half-blinded by her flying hair, she jumped as a figure stepped out of the shadows and spoke to her.
'Excuse me. Are you Ms Casey? Ms Virginia Casey?'
As soon as she took in the familiar police uniform and the anxious-looking young face Ginnie's mind emptied of everything but the word Karen.
'I'm Virginia Casey,' she quickly confirmed. Her gaze swept his face. 'What is it? What's happened? Is it Karen? Is it my sister?'
The feeling of dread was as familiar and weighed as heavily as the sense of responsibility she had felt since their adoptive parents' death. Always headstrong, always in scrapes of one sort or another, Karen, nineteen and living with a boyfriend, had barely matured from the fourteen she had been when their parents had died.
The youthful officer was joined by an older, woman sergeant who had been sheltering from the elements under the apartments' concrete canopy. After introducing herself and her colleague, the sergeant told her gently that Karen had been found dead in her south London flat earlier that evening.
Ten miles south of the City of London, Croydon was the other side of the river. Since Karen had moved there with Terry, her boyfriend, Ginnie had come to know it well and often shopped there.
'We've been trying to get in touch with you for most of the evening,' the sergeant told her.
Numb, all Ginnie was able to say was, 'I've been away.' Between the writing assignment in the Far East for Womanhood magazine and her brief break in Ireland, she had been away for weeks. Consumed by guilt, it took a few moments for her to ask what had happened. When she did, suspicion flared as she thought of Terry, Karen's boyfriend. He had a nasty temper and she had often wondered if he had caused the bruises Karen had so often sported. 'Did Terry–?'
'I don't know anything about a Terry, Ms Casey.' Her brown gaze compassionate, the sergeant told Ginnie, 'A neighbour,' she consulted her notebook, 'a Mrs Belle Watson, contacted us. The police surgeon thinks it probable your sister committed suicide.'
Suicide. The word reverberated inside Ginnie's skull. Through lips suddenly bloodless, she asked, 'Where is she? I want to see her.'
'Of course. She’s at a mortuary south of the river. We'll drive you.'
Thirty minutes later, after visiting the south London mortuary and identifying her sister's body, Ginnie sat in one of the interview rooms of Croydon police station.
Shock had left her exhausted. Dazed, feeling more like sixty-eight than twenty-eight, she was glad to sink on to the hard plastic chair Detective Inspector Rawlings pulled out for her.
The inspector's words seemed to be coming at her through a thick fog. Ginnie shook her head, forced the tiredness back and tried to concentrate. 'I'm sorry. But I don't quite understand. You said my sister Karen killed herself.'
Inspector Rawlings nodded. The movement set his grey-stubbly jowls quivering. 'Yes. There's little doubt of that. Her neighbour confirms she was very depressed lately.'
Since Karen and her latest boyfriend had moved into the next-door flat in the small, privately-owned block, Belle Watson and Karen had become quite close. Ginnie had met the elderly Belle several times and had taken to her straight away. If anyone was likely to know the current state of Karen's emotions it was Belle. 'Then why the post-mortem?' Ginnie frowned. 'I thought they were only carried out when there were suspicious circumstances.'
'Yes. Usually. That is–' Inspector Rawlings broke off, gazed round the interview room as if he'd never seen it before.
Middle-aged, overweight, and no doubt counting the days till his retirement, the inspector appeared to find the interview room's grubby, off-white walls and sparse, utilitarian furniture absorbing. Worryingly, he seemed to be having trouble finding the words to explain what he meant.
Ginnie wished he would try a bit harder. It had been enough of a shock to learn of her sister's death, but at least she had thought the suicide itself was clear-cut. Even Inspector Rawlings had confirmed there was little doubt that Kaz had killed herself. Yet now he seemed set on muddying the waters.
Irritated by his failure to provide her with an answer, Ginnie broke into his reverie. 'Inspector.'
He dragged his attention back and became suddenly voluble. 'Sorry. It's just that the police surgeon wasn't entirely happy about the condition of the – of your sister's body. Neither was I for that matter. It was swollen, when we found her, you see. Naturally, I thought at first she might have been pregnant, but her neighbour discounted that possibility.'
Ginnie, finding his verbose explanation as bewildering as she had his less-wordy efforts, could only stare at him.
The inspector tried again. 'Your sister had only been dead a short time,' he explained, 'and given that she wasn't pregnant, the swelling was odd. It wasn't as if there had been enough time for– ' He broke off, cleared his throat again and then plunged on resolutely. 'Not enough time for any swelling to be natural.'
Ginnie frowned as she tried to figure out whether the inspector was talking in riddles or whether she had suddenly developed terminal stupidity. The inspector had just said Karen hadn't been pregnant. ‘So what had she been?’ she asked.
He shifted about on his chair as if her continuing questions and his inability to answer them to the satisfaction of either party made him uncomfortable. Finally, he admitted, 'We don't know. We're still waiting for the results of the post-mortem. All I can tell you is that her abdomen was swollen. I don't know why. Neither did the police surgeon. At least– '
As a frown creased his brow, he corrected himself. 'He wouldn't commit himself to an opinion as to why.' He shrugged. 'Beyond that, I can't really tell you anything. Really it would be best for you to wait for the inquest.'
'Was there a suicide note?'
'No. But that's not unusual.' The inspector didn't give her a chance to question him further. After assuring her that the police had finished in the flat and that she was free to go there to pack up her sister's belongings, he had little more to say. Handing her the keys to Karen's flat with a terse smile, he said again, 'That's really all I can tell you,' and made for the door. 'I'll let you know when the inquest date is set.' Pausing only to order a passing fresh-faced junior officer to organise a car to drive her home, he vanished.
Ginnie allowed herself to be shepherded out of the building and into the rear seat of a police car. She felt she was in the middle of a nightmare, but, dazed as she felt, she knew that this was one nightmare from which she wouldn't waken.
Grimly, she registered that she had been spared one trauma. Any suicide note left by her sister would certainly have been painfully accusatory. Still it was odd that Karen hadn't written one. Karen had always been emotional and had never held back from expressing her feelings. It seemed unlikely that, in planning her death, she would have so gone against the character that had been hers in life.
Sunk into a reverie, it was only when the woman sergeant touched her shoulder her that she realized they had crossed the river and arrived back at her Docklands apartment.
After thanking the police officers for driving her home, and telling them again there was no one she wanted them to ring for her, she let herself into her second-floor apartment. She didn't bother to put on a light, but just dropped her bags and sat in the dark of her studio flat, watching the traffic on the river while she tried to make sense of the evening's events.
Her sister was dead. Suicide suspected. And in circumstances which, while not suspicious, were, if she had understood the inspector correctly, unnatural. She still hadn't made any sense of it by the time a subdued grey dawn floated across the river towards her windows. Exhausted, she was unable to think any more. After promising herself she would return to Croydon later today and speak to Karen's neighbour, Belle Watson, to see if she could throw any more light on the circumstances of Karen's death than the inspector had managed, she fell into a fitful doze.
Here's the amazon links:
Hope you enjoy it.
Thursday, 15 December 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gets off to a fast pace. The characters are engaging and believeable. It is cleverly-plotted and thoroughly recommended. Well done, Debbi Mack. A fine novel.
I understand the cover art is still undecided.
I understand the cover art is still undecided.
Saturday, 3 December 2011
Bad Blood is the seventh in my Rafferty and Llewellyn mystery series. It should be up on amazon on 4 December 2011. Here's the blurb:
Investigating the murder of wealthy widow Clara Mortimer, estranged from her family and living alone in an upmarket sheltered apartment, Rafferty t fears his own family estrangement. Because when Abra, his girlfriend, said she might be pregnant, his reaction wasn’t exactly New Man…
Between the grudges of Clara’s estranged family and those of her adoptive ‘family’ – the other apartment residents – Rafferty has suspects and questions in plenty. Why had the sensible Clara Mortimer chosen to open her door to a burglar, for instance? When he considers the awful lies her family tells, how can he not conclude they have something to hide?
It's priced at $3.99 / £2.44 (roughly!). If you buy it I hope you enjoy it. If you can post a (good) review on amazon I'd be grateful. Many thanks.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
Friday, 7 October 2011
My guest today is American writer William S Shepard. William, a career diplomat, seems to have lived a fascinating life and experienced life in an assortment of gorgeous places. Lucky man! His work covers the areas of fiction and non-fiction. He's a wine buff, too, as you are about to discover. His diplomat protagonist in his novels is Robbie Cutler and Murder on the Danube, his second in The Diplomatic Mysteries series, is due for publication by mid-October 2011. Stay on for the ride!
William S. Shepard
I was an American career diplomat, and always greatly enjoyed the mystery novel genre. From Edgar Allen Poe through the great Victorian writers, and then to the mannered interwar writers, Christie and Sayers, each had something new to add. So, for that matter, did Georges Simenon, with his Gallic twist of criminal motivation – not for him crime detection as a strictly cerebral exercise! And then, of course, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler added greatly to the development of the detective story, although I never did find out who murdered the chauffeur in “The Big Sleep!”
It seemed to me that the amateur sleuth categories had broadened, greatly expanding what was possible. We have now seen sleuths from every imaginable profession, not to exclude the clergy, Indians (both the Wild West and the subcontinent), and retrospective Roman and medieval sleuths, predating the actual invention of the detective story by centuries! The only constant was that the sleuth’s actual profession had to be interesting. Why not, therefore, have a sleuth who was a diplomat? And then, set the crimes in a diplomatic setting, the Embassy world with its receptions, glitter, and betrayals?
The thought occurred to me several times, and probably I was goaded to action one dull evening in the American Department of State, when I was Duty Officer for the Secretary of State. The Secretary was at a meeting outside the building, and so the hours passed, as I scanned various documents, deciding which would be worth his attention. Suddenly it came to me – a diplomat sees all sorts of material, from diplomatic and intelligence reports, to political documents and police reports. He would surely have an advantage over those who did not have access to such material.
Upon retiring from the State Department, I decided to try my hand at the new genre, which I have called the diplomatic mystery. The first novel in the series, “Vintage Murder,” now on Kindle, takes place in Bordeaux and Paris. Since I had served at the Consulate General in Bordeaux, I knew the territory and its politics – including the terrorist Basque ETA group – quite thoroughly.
How could this form the basis for a novel? And if it could, just why would a national police force cooperate with a foreigner, and a diplomat at that?
The first problem turned out to be no problem at all. My sleuth, a thirtyish career officer named Robbie Cutler, is assigned to Bordeaux, and is a wine fancier. The first murder occurs in Washington, at a Bordeaux Vintage Dinner, and Robbie is present. Returning to Bordeaux, he is interviewed by a French newspaperwoman Sylvie Marceau about the murder. Soon their mutual attraction and interest in solving the initial murder and those that follow lead them to join forces.
The second problem was a bit harder. I finally solved it by having the French wine estate owner who was being blackmailed contact Cutler, in the belief that it is an American who is the blackmailer. A search of the official visa records yields important information towards solving the case, and the problem of police cooperation vanished.
I became quite taken with Robbie and Sylvie and their love story. In the second novel in the series, “Murder On The Danube,” Robbie has been reassigned to the American Embassy in Budapest. To his sister Evalyn’s disapproval he flirts with the wife of a married colleague, but soon comes to his senses and is in contact with Sylvie. They meet in Prague, where she is covering the visit of President Sarkozy for her television chain, and at a famous spa, become engaged to be married. She turns out to have a better understanding of people than does her cerebral husband, and from now on, the sleuthing will be a joint avocation.
I wanted Robbie Cutler to have access to high-level information that a midcareer diplomat would simply not be able to access. Enter Great Uncle Seth Cutler, formerly an intelligence officer, and then a nationally respected school headmaster. Uncle Seth has many contacts still, and shares what he finds out with Robbie on occasion. (Somewhat to my surprise, several people who have read the series so far have told me that their favorite character is Uncle Seth!) His past becomes stage front in the third novel, “Murder In Dordogne,” when the Cutlers, now on their honeymoon, have the past thrust on them – the remains of a young woman, an SOE agent who parachuted into the Dordogne in 1943, are found. Around her neck is the silver necklace that her fiancé, young Seth Cutler, had given to her just prior to the mission from which she did not return.
Other characters round out the plots and the series. The British Consul General in Bordeaux is a colleague in the first and third novels, even lending Cutler some wine one weekend when the stores are closed (which the real British Consul General did for me many years ago). And after this thorough diplomatic grounding, at postings in Singapore (alluded to but not yet spelled out), Bordeaux and Budapest, Robbie becomes Special Assistant to the Secretary of State. In “The Saladin Affair,” Robbie helps plan the new Secretary’s initial trip to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Moscow and Riga. Too bad about that murder of the American Ambassador to Dublin at her official Phoenix Park residence! But at least, Al Qaeda’s plans to assassinate the entire diplomatic party on British soil are foiled, rather at the last minute.
And so here are several of my present Kindle books. “Vintage Murder,” first in the diplomatic mystery series, is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004X7F00Q. (“Murder On The Danube” should be available in mid-October on Kindle, with the other two novels to follow.)
My survey of the detective story, “The Great Detectives, from Vidocq to Sam Spade,” is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00564HLHU. My thoughts on where the name “Sherlock” came from stem from a course I took at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge.
While in Bordeaux, I developed a lifelong interest in wines and wine writing. I have now published a 2011 Kindle edition of my 2003 book, “Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines,” which is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005CRQ69A. Take a look at the free sample chapters. I hope it will lead you to explore the world of French wines and develop your own preferences – all for less than the cost of a single glass of wine!
Here's William's website and facebook page: www.diplomaticmysteries.com
Thank you William for a great and very interesting post. It's not every day I host a diplomat! I like the sound of the Cutlers. I must get straight on to amazon and do some ordering.
Monday, 3 October 2011
I've just recorded a podcast radio interview with the delightful Kghia Gherardi and Simeon Beresford for their book programme, Off the Shelf. It's a fairly extensive interview and covers my embrace of epublishing as well as what I'm doing now and planning for the future. Why not click the link and tune in?
I also just recently did an interview with the thriller author Jack Everett for Acclaimed Books. Have a read and see what you think.
Here's the link for the interview I just did with Jack Everett at Acclaimed Books