Tag Archives: crime

The Sea Was A Fair Master by Calvin Demmer (Book Review)

The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.
 
The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.
 
For the sea was a fair master.
 
 

 

“Sea Ate Nine” Excerpt

(From The Sea Was a Fair Master collection)

By Calvin Demmer

 

For months, the nightmares of battling the sea would find him in the small hours. Fighting wave after wave, he struggled to keep afloat as the undertow pulled him away from land. In the deep ocean, he’d surrender and beneath the water, he went.

His lungs would flood.

He wouldn’t die.

Instead, he’d drift in currents as tranquil as clouds. A large shape would move in the distance. He could never see it clearly, but on occasion he heard the voice.

It didn’t really speak. It was more of a call and was unlike anything Grover Jenkins had heard. It boomed, and not even the ocean currents could stifle its magnificent force, which would send Grover reeling backward. It was so powerful that his vision distorted and his brain rattled so hard within his skull that he feared internal hemorrhaging. He was thankful that this behemoth only bellowed three words every time, for another word more and Grover feared either his head would explode or the bones in his body would shatter.

“Sea.”

“Ate.”

“Nine.”

Grover didn’t understand what it wanted from him from by way of the three random words, until one night at work they revealed themselves…

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

When I was reading the various stories in this collection, two words kept popping into my head regarding many characters — CREEPY and PSYCHO! 

Calvin Demmer let the craziness and horrific tales unfold in various places by a few unlikely whackjobs. Man, woman, child….. Calvin didn’t limit one specific gender or age bracket to the title of crazed. Calvin’s evildoers were also not always of this world. 

He tapped into our fears. He tapped into the unknown. He showed us evil lurks all around us and sometimes right before our very eyes. 

A few of my top scoring short tales: 

1.) “The Revenge of the Myth”: You’ll never look at Santa’s little helpers the same way again.

2.) “Voodoo Child”: Many people believe in the power of voodoo dolls, so I think this short tale will be a favorite of many readers. 

3.) “Letting the Dead Grow”: Move over Jason and Mike Myers, Rowan has hit the Halloween spook scene and he creeped me out more than you two.. combined. 

4.) “Hangman”: I’m a parent and fear of violence at school is always on my mind. However, with Calvin centering the disturbing tale around a childhood game, I found myself drawn in. When your life is on the line, you’ll play harder. Then again, when you are dealing with people with mental issues, sometimes playing your best isn’t good enough. 

 

Summation:

Calvin’s imagination took me to places where I didn’t want to go, kind of wished I didn’t go, but also impressed me on how well he constructed these dark and horrific tales. Good job on freaking me the hell out and for ruining Christmas for me.

 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤1/2

 

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Calvin Demmer is a dark fiction author. His debut collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master, was released in June 2018. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe. You can find him online at www.calvindemmer.com or follow him on Twitter @CalvinDemmer.

Honors

South African Horrorfest Bloody Parchment short story competition 2017: Finalist
Bards and Sages Reader’s Choice Awards: Author of the Year 2017
DarkFuse Tiny Terrors (November 2016 winner) “Ana Loves Red”

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County Vices by A.M. McKnight (Book Review)

Detective Olivia Winston and IRS Special Agent Maureen Jeffries have “tied the knot” and happily settled into married life. But crime in their home county of Goslyn hasn’t settled down—in fact, it’s at an all-time high. Drugs and corruption have found a foothole in the once small, quiet community, and Olivia and Maureen discover it’s a family affair that reaches from the street corner dealer right up to the County Board of Supervisors.

The love-hate drama between Supervisor Cleo Jacobs and her street-wise nephew, Chris Jacobs, has filled their pockets with plenty of cash but caused a dangerous rift between the two as both try to make their mark in the drug game. Driven by greed and ego, the Jacobs do their best to satisfy the growing demand for pills that “make you happy” and “numb the pain.” But their love of money comes with a callous disregard for others, including those close to Detective Winston and Special Agent Jeffries, who find themselves right in the middle of Goslyn’s biggest crime story.

Love, violence, and betrayal combine to make the perfect, poisonous pill.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

Housed within the pages of County Vices are strong and resourceful female characters.

Maureen and Olivia, a married couple, are on the case of who’s harassing old man Rufus Bennett. As they put their detective skills to work, they discovery Rufus’ drama is only one small piece in a very large puzzle. Drugs, corruption, and greed are running amuck in Goslyn County. Honestly, it’s an epidemic all over the world. Like in real life, it takes a team to combat the distribution of narcotics. It takes many people to stop corruption plaguing the political world and/or cooperations, too. 

A.M. McKnight created a dream team to bring justice to most of the guilty parties. However, what about Stuart and Big Smit? Maybe their story will continue on in a future book. It must because there were loose ends that needed cleaned up. 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

 

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OTHER AVAILABLE TITLES

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A mostly black community with its roots in farming, Goslyn, Virginia lay just south of the State’s Capital. The once small, close-knit county had grown rapidly in the past two decades and boasted a population of just over fifty thousand. But the county’s crime stats had grown as well, and the latest offenses included several break-ins and rumors of a meth lab. Time had brought many changes, and many of the longtime folks of Goslyn no longer recognized their community and longed for days gone by. 
 
Goslyn PD Detective Olivia “Ollie” Winston loves her family and friends and shows it through her sense of humor. Just like her neighbors, she too worries about the recent events, and it’s her job to find out who’s behind the crime spree.

While investigating three burglaries, Olivia meets IRS Special Agent Maureen Jeffries who is pursuing a tax fraud suspect. Their cases are connected, and both soon discover they have much in common, personally and professionally.

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Sweet is the moment when you know you’re in love again. And who better to be in love with than someone who wants you as much as you want them. That’s the feeling shared between Olivia and Maureen, two women who have experienced love’s hardest lessons—pain and disappointment. But so much has changed in just two years—two years in which both women realize that letting go of the past can open one’s heart. For Olivia and Maureen, what they have together, could be their best love ever.

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I’m a longtime Virginian and practice law as a first profession.  I decided to try my hand at writing after getting hooked on lesbian crime and romance novels. As a lover of fast crime action and black lesbian romance, I combined the two and wrote my first book, Goslyn County–self published. My future works include a short story romance and a second self-published novel–both based on the characters of Goslyn.

Twitter: @wordmc46

Website: ammcknight.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ammcknightbooks

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Seashells, Spells and Caramels by Erin Johnson (Book Review)

Murder at a magical baking contest off the coast of France.

Imogen’s spent her twenties in Seattle, saving every penny and missing every party, to follow her dream of opening her own bakery.

When that dream goes up in flames, she accepts a spot in a mysterious baking contest—one she doesn’t remember entering. She travels to a bustling, medieval village off the coast of France and discovers an enchanting world of magic and mystery, and learns that she, too, possesses powers.

Unable to so much as cast a spell, Imogen struggles to keep up with the other witches and wizards who have come from all over the magical world to the Water Kingdom’s big competition. She juggles relationships with a sweet new friend, a snarky baking fire, and a brooding, handsome baker. As Imogen falls for this bewitching world, she fears she won’t master her magic in time to win the job of Royal Head Baker, and will be forced to return to the shambles of her non magical life.

It only gets worse, when a competitor drops dead in the middle of the big white baking tent, and Imogen’s the prime suspect. Now, she’ll not only have to survive the vampire and psychic judges, but also clear her name by finding the real murderer, before they strike again.

With a killer on the loose, a missing prince, and the Summer Solstice Festival fast approaching, Imogen will have to bake like her life depends on it- because it just might.

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EXCERPT

The string quartet, persuaded into playing the conga, churned out the familiar song as a middle-aged man sat next to them, an upended ice bucket between his knees, playing the “drum.” The line of rehearsal dinner guests snaked between tables. I peeled my eyes away from the conga line as a beautiful guest sauntered toward me.

She smiled, her teeth bright against her dark skin. Her hair, tightly curled and piled atop her head in an enormous bun, bounced as she swayed her hips to the music, her snow-white gown catching the candlelight from the tables.

“Cake or a cupcake?” I asked for the umpteenth time. I smiled and held up one of each.

She tapped a slender finger against her lips as her dark eyes darted from one to the other. The diamond bracelets she wore slid up toward her elbows as she threw her hands in the air. “Oh, ow about zem both, eh?”

I grinned and handed over the plates. I loved French accents. Not that I’d ever been to France, or anywhere really. Before I’d moved from St. Louis, I’d never even been out of state.

“Are you ze baker?”

I nodded.

“I’ve been earing all night about ze desserts.” She stepped closer and lowered her voice. She smelled like jasmine. “I eear they’re just bearsting weeth mageeck.” She winked, then held the cupcake up to her mouth, gingerly taking a bite around the wrapper. She moaned and bent her knees, sinking halfway to the ground. “Incredible. Just incredible. You should enter ze contest, you reeally should. And I don’t do false flattery, believe me.”

I raised a brow. “The contest?”

She looked me up and down. “You reeally don’t know? Ze Water Kingdom’s holding a contest for ze new royal baker. Last one died recently.” She looked around and leaned closer, her voice hushed. “Ze official word is she died of a ‘art attack, but if you ask me, eet was dark mageeck. Somezing underhanded, you know? Murder.” She leaned back and straightened. How much had this woman had to drink? “Zat shouldn’t scare you zough. I reeally zink you should enteer, zhere’s steel time. I probably ’ave a flyer somewhere.” She set the plates down and fished around in her sparkly white clutch.

“Zey’ve been distributing zem all over ze kingdoms. Anyone can apply, anyone at all… well almost, no shifters, ze usual, but ze’ll take emigrants like you.” She poked around some more in the tiny clutch.

Pretty sure if you haven’t found it by now, it’s not going to suddenly appear. The bag looked like it could barely hold a credit card… maybe.

She looked at me and shrugged her slender shoulders. “Can’t find one.” She glanced around and then winked. “Don’t usually break ze rules when traveling on visa, you know.

But I am here as ze date of ze retired ambassador, so if I geet in a beet of trouble, he’ll just geet me out.”

I scanned the conga line. Did she mean Ben’s grandpa?

A small sound, a zap, like snuffing a candle out with wet fingers, made me turn toward her again. In her hand she held a large, brown sheet of paper. “We’ll just keep zat between us, eh?”

Goose bumps prickled up the back of my neck and arms. I looked between the paper and her face. Where had it come from? It was too large to fit in her bag without folding, yet it was completely smooth and crisp. She handed it to me. The oddly thick paper seemed to be coated in wax. I sniffed it and smelled honey.

“Well, I’m off.” She lifted the plates. “Thank you for ze delicious treats. So good to have met you.”

I nodded, not sure how I felt about this strange and beautiful woman. “You too.”

“Think about eet.” She lifted her chin toward the flyer in my hand and danced her way back to the party.

I held the waxy paper up to my face and read, “The Magnificent Contest for the Water Kingdom’s Next Royal Baker.”

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

I absolutely adore watching cooking competition shows so reading a story where competitors are magical, paranormal beings sounded too good to pass up.  Much like  Master Chef and Top Chef, in Seashells, Spells and Caramels, readers will be treated to theme challenges where contestants will be voted off until a winner is crowned. As with the other popular shows, there are baking mishaps, rivalries and tears.

However, Seashells, Spells and Caramels had a few things you’d NEVER see on any primetime competition show.

1.) You’ll never see a REAL vampire judging the sugary concoctions.

2.) You’ll never witness a flame speaking to you. 

3.) A murder mystery probably won’t pop up when watching Hell’s Kitchen.

 

Seashells, Spells and Caramels had humor, mystery, and a hint of romance. A truly magical, delicious read…..one I’m sure will be a bestseller for the talented Erin Johnson. 

 

Heart Rating System 

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

 Score: ❤❤❤❤1/2

 

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ALSO AVAILABLE

Book 2

A dark carnival and a dire prophecy lead to murder and mayhem.

With the Summer Sea Carnival visiting the enchanted island of Bijou Mer, Imogen jumps at the chance to help run the royal bakery booth. It’ll get her out of the palace and allow her to continue avoiding her feelings for a certain engaged prince.

Imogen’s plans to lay low are shattered when the world-famous necromancer, Madame Zerna, is found dead, sawed in half on the dark magician’s table and Imogen’s friend Rhonda is caught red-handed. With incriminating evidence piling up against Rhonda, Zerna’s rival, Imogen promises to help clear her name by finding the real murderer. 

But between running the booth, encouraging Maple as she struggles to lead as head baker, and taking spell lessons from the friendly strong man, Imogen’s got her hands full. And it’s no easier getting information from the evasive dark magician or Madame Zerna’s secretive assistant. Even Rhonda’s hiding something. 

With the Night of the Dead fast approaching, and Rhonda headed for a maximum security witch prison, Imogen races to unearth the real killer in time to save her friend. But in a mysterious carnival where nothing’s as it seems, will Imogen have the magical powers to keep from being on the chopping block herself?

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Book 3

Murder at a Mermaid Nightclub

The enchanted village of Bijou Mer’s on high alert, with the villainous Horace on the loose. Imogen’s excited to escape the tension with a trip to the underwater Mermaid Kingdom to bake for the young mermaid queen’s engagement to the pirate king.

But when the mermaids turn out to be less French Riviera and more Jersey shore, the bakers are wrapped up in their world of clubbing in sea caves and fighting off seals for the best tanning spots, and are embroiled in a pirate smuggling scandal. It gets worse when a member of the mermaid court is found dead in a fishing net, and one of Imogen and Maple’s baked goods seems to be the murder weapon.

Imogen tries to fish out the real murderer to clear their names, while struggling with her romantic feelings for Hank. At the same time, she’s working with him to learn to control her magic and investigate Horace’s riddle and her own mysterious past.

As the mermaid court’s freewheeling lifestyle rubs off on the bakers, the gang lets loose and passions rise to the surface. But with a giant octopus crawling the ocean floor, the mermaid court filled with simmering secrets and scandals, and the ever present threat of the Badlands Army, Imogen must solve the murder before she ends up fish food herself.

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A native of Tempe, Arizona, Erin spends her time crafting mysterious, magical, romance-filled stories that’ll hopefully make you laugh. In between, she’s traveling, napping with her dogs, eating with her friends and family, and teaching Pilates (to allow her to eat more).
 

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Ghosts by Chip Scarinzi (Book Review)

When you’ve lost it all, how far would you go to get it back?

Bennett Covington has a good life. The support of a loving, growing family. A satisfying job. A roof over his head. Not perfect, but close enough.

Nothing lasts forever, of course. After stumbling into the middle of a back-alley murder, Bennett becomes entangled in a web of violence set in motion by members of a shadowy criminal organization.

Subjected to psychological torment, Bennett struggles to understand the depth of their evil intentions – intentions that threaten to take much more than just his life.

Through it all, one question endures: why have they taken such a keen interest in him? When he runs, they catch him. When he hides, they find him.

The only way out is to fight back.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)  

A good mystery novel shouldn’t be easily figured out. It should be orchestrated where each chapter gives you another piece of the puzzle but the whole picture eludes you. Sometimes the piece will fit snugly against a neighboring partner and sometimes you know it has to go there, but no matter how you turn it, it just won’t click into place.

While I was reading Ghosts and presented with the puzzle pieces, I couldn’t get the bigger picture to unveil itself. Was I mad? HELL TO THE NO! I didn’t want a few clicks and boom the show was over. I wanted my brain challenged and Chip definitely made me think. He made me doubt almost everyone, questioning even the good guy’s motives and presented an evil – unsavory – vile character (Poe) who took a licking and kept on ticking… much like Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) and  Michael Myers (Halloween). Those two psychopaths wouldn’t stay dead either.

You want a good mystery, then look no further. Ghosts will challenge your mind and keep you hooked until the very end. 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score:❤❤❤1/2

 

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Dark Deeds: Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery, Book 4 by Sandra Nikolai (Book Showcase)

~~ CAN BE READ AS A STANDALONE ~~ 

 

“Where evil lurks, no one is safe.”

The suspicious fire that destroyed the shed exposes a surprise corpse—not what ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott expected when they reserved a cabin at their friends’ lakeside resort in rural Ontario.

Fear overshadows their visit like a looming storm. Their friends are receiving anonymous threatening letters. An elderly resident is reported missing. Locals are wary. They aren’t used to outsiders snooping around town, asking questions.

When Michael makes a connection to a cold case, evidence points to an ex-convict looking for revenge. He’s had reconstructive surgery. He could be anyone.

Terror blankets the town as the body count mounts. The killer is playing dangerous mind games with everyone—especially with Megan. If she doesn’t find him first, she could well become his next victim.

 

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Excerpt from Dark Deeds by Sandra Nikolai

 

Madame Ora stood five feet tall and wore a red polka dot wrap dress that resembled something I’d once seen in a 1940s movie. Her wispy white hair stood on end and looked as if it had gone through dozens of perms. She beckoned me into a tiny room at the rear. A thick curtain separated it from the rest of the shop. Without a word, she motioned for me to sit down at a round café table and took a seat opposite me.

“Please do not ask me any questions until I have completed my reading.” Her voice was thick with a foreign accent—maybe Polish. She closed her eyes and mumbled words I couldn’t understand, then opened her eyes. “Please show me your hands.”

I extended both hands as requested.

Madame Ora peered at my palms, squinting as if she were trying to decipher coded messages. “My dear, you have suffered a deep loss, but things will change for the better.”

It was a pretty general statement.

“Your loss had to do with a man—a man who shared a deep bond with you.”

My late husband. Good guess.

“This man died suddenly and tragically.”

Okay, this was getting creepy.

“You have since moved on. Another man has entered your life. He is a very brave man.”

I swallowed hard.

Madame Ora continued. “On this particular journey, you are in grave danger, but you are surrounded by protection.”

Grave danger? Protection?

She looked up at me, her eyes staring at the space above my head. “The white feather will protect you. Keep it with you at all times.”

Goose bumps rose along my arms. While she closed her eyes and mumbled the same incoherent words as before, I reached into my handbag and rubbed the tiny white feather between my thumb and forefinger. It seemed beyond coincidental.

Madame Ora opened her eyes. “You may now ask me two questions.”

My practical side told me the simple white feather in my handbag would never protect me from any kind of danger. Regardless, the fact she had mentioned it intrigued me. “Can you be more specific about the grave danger you mentioned?”

She closed her eyes. “You are involved in matters concerning death. I see three dead spirits around you—spirits that have met with unexpected death. Take caution. Not everyone is to be trusted.” She opened her eyes. “Next question.”

Was she kidding? A dozen questions had popped into my head.

I thought of Michael. “Will the man in my life be safe too?”

“He has tempted fate many times and succeeded.”

“What you mean?”

Madame Ora pushed back her chair and rose. “I’m sorry, I have already answered your two questions.”

 

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CLICK ON THE BOOK TITLES TO BE REDIRECTED TO AMAZON!

FYI –> THESE CAN BE READ AS  STANDALONE. 😀 

 

BOOK ONE: FALSE IMPRESSIONS

BOOK TWO: FATAL WHISPERS

(Short Story): TIMELY ESCAPE

BOOK THREE: ICY SILENCE

 

 

Sandra Nikolai is the author of the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series. In addition to her novels, Sandra has published a string of short crime stories, garnering awards along the way.

Sandra held jobs in sales, finance, and high tech before leaving the corporate world to pursue a career in writing. She likes to think that plotting a whodunit reveals the lighter—yet more mysterious—side of her persona.

Visit Sandra’s website and sign up to receive her latest book news. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraNikolai or connect with her on Goodreads or Facebook .

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