Tag Archives: death

Gone Green: A Sci-Fi Mystery (Janey McCallister Mystery) by Beth Barany (Book Review)

L’Étoile’s lead investigator Janey McCallister faces her hardest case yet.

On the eve of the hotel space station’s twentieth anniversary celebration, criminals rob the casino’s vault and kill one security guard.

Janey teams up with Orlando Valdez, a sexy undercover cop for the Sol Unified Planets, to hunt down those responsible.

Since the casino has only a day’s worth of cash on hand, she must solve the complex plot behind the robbery before the theft creates a mass panic and puts L’Étoile out of business—and before the killer strikes again.

***

Gone Green is perfect for fans of J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas books, The Expanse, and Killjoys and CSI. It contains a slow-burn romance, enhanced humans, cool high-tech gadgets, a futuristic vision of the Earth, and a tough kick ass heroine with secrets.

 

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

 

If you loved Ocean’s Eleven or its sequels/spin-off, then you are going to love figuring out how the contents were stolen from a L’Étoile’s vault. Besides the how, you’ll be racking your brain with who was all in on the heist and why. Trust me, this is not a simple puzzle to put together.  

Sure, you might be able to piece some of it together, but I doubt you’ll have it all figured out with ease. In Gone Green, Beth Barany dropped one bombshell after another, which shocked me and had me rethinking suspects. When I thought she had nothing left up her sleeve, that Beth couldn’t surprise me anymore, she dropped the hammer on me once more. Again, I was left with my jaw hanging open. Wondering, like the characters in the book, WTF just happened and why. 

Beth shocked me, amazed me, and thoroughly entertained me. 

Gone Green is a book worth reading, again and again. 

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤1/2

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Books in the Janey McCallister Mystery series

Into The Black (Book 1)

Lured By Light (Book 2)

Gone Green (Book 3)

Red Running Deep (Book 4) (Coming Fall 2021)

 

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Gone Green: A Sci-Fi Mystery (Janey McCallister Mystery) by Beth Barany (Book Showcase)

L’Étoile’s lead investigator Janey McCallister faces her hardest case yet.

On the eve of the hotel space station’s twentieth anniversary celebration, criminals rob the casino’s vault and kill one security guard.

Janey teams up with Orlando Valdez, a sexy undercover cop for the Sol Unified Planets, to hunt down those responsible.

Since the casino has only a day’s worth of cash on hand, she must solve the complex plot behind the robbery before the theft creates a mass panic and puts L’Étoile out of business—and before the killer strikes again.

***

Gone Green is perfect for fans of J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas books, The Expanse, and Killjoys and CSI. It contains a slow-burn romance, enhanced humans, cool high-tech gadgets, a futuristic vision of the Earth, and a tough kick ass heroine with secrets.

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“What are you doing here?” The question just popped out of Janey’s mouth.

Orlando Valdez leaned against the wall of her boss’s office, obstructing the live feed of the space station’s massive docking bay. He watched her with a piercing gaze, cool and mysterious, giving nothing away.

Anger flared, ballooning hot and itchy all over, even though she’d known he might show up on L’Étoile unannounced.

Venus Hells.

Lead Investigator Janey McCallister faced her boss, Security Chief Daniel Milano, who was seated behind his desk, his rotund middle stretching his red Turkish coat. “What’s he doing here? Is this what you called me in for? I thought we had an urgent briefing.”

Thirty-five minutes ago, Milano had called an earlier-than-usual security briefing without an explanation, other than to hurry her ass to his office, stat, cutting short her morning plans. She’d been scheduled to talk to a medical researcher about her mom’s condition. If Janey could get her mom on a new experimental drug before the current medical trial ended in ten weeks… Those calls regarding her mom could wait but not for long.

Orlando Valdez, Sol Unified Planets special investigator, straightened from the wall and opened his mouth to speak, but the chief waved him off.

“Yes, that’s why I called you. And we do have a briefing,” the chief said to her. “But firstly, you should know that Special Investigator Orlando is here on a top-secret Sol case and has a job to do.”

“I can appreciate that, but so do I,” Janey said, prickles buzzing under her skin like a million hopped-up electrodes, urging her to storm out of the small office. She kept herself in place. “We’ll be at capacity soon, and we still have final prep for the gala.”

Milano knew all this. And so did Orlando. He heard all her news in their regular evening vid calls.

“I’m sorry, Janey,” Orlando said to her, a serious look on his face. Looked like he meant it. Micro tension tightened the corners of his lips.

“There’s another matter,” Chief Milano said, weary.

“What’s your case?” Janey asked Orlando, ignoring her boss.

Orlando shook his head, his dark wavy locks falling over one eye.

Stars, he looked great in that fashionable, shimmery blue suit, with a pale pink pocket square, his creamy white silk shirt open at the throat. Yet he held himself with uncharacteristic rigidity in his shoulders, unlike the last time she’d seen him, been with him—a whole week together over three long months ago.

Now he was all business, secretive and tense. His missions for the Sol that took him all over the star system were more than top-secret and politically sensitive. He wouldn’t read her in unless he absolutely had to.

Would he this time?

“McCallister,” Chief Milano said and cleared his throat, breaking her focus on Orlando. “Per inter-Sol regulations, Agent Orlando is to report to you for all security matters. It’s up to your discretion on whether or not you need to clear any of his actions with me. Got that, Investigator?” Her boss gave her a hard stare over his faux antique eyeglasses no one used anymore.

As if he needed to remind her of the rules that governed the private corporate city-state of Bijoux de L’Étoile, this hotel-casino in space.

A jurisdictional dance, every time.

A former investigator himself for various companies and state governments, Milano was a stickler for the rules and spent more time behind his desk filing reports for the hotel owner than another else—other than gambling. Yet he treated her and everyone else fairly.

“Yes, Chief.” Even though she felt Orlando peering at her, willing her to look at him, she kept her gaze on her boss.

Orlando would officially be her direct report, and she’d be his boss. So, she had to keep things professional between them if she was to follow regs. Could she? She had to. This job was her mother’s only financial lifeline. All those expensive medical treatments for her mother’s hard-to-treat disease.

But Orlando didn’t often follow regs during his undercover work.

“I’m sure you two will work well together, as you have in the past. Yes?” Milano lifted an eyebrow at her. Orlando had helped her on two murder cases on L’Étoile.

“We will, sir.” Janey snapped to attention, chin up, shoulders back. Her Space Wing training second nature.

“Chief Milano, it would be my utmost pleasure to work under the investigator,” Orlando said in a silky warm tone.

Cheeky bugger. What happened in the bedroom between them was private.

Milano nodded at Orlando in acknowledgment and fussed with his dancing figurines that lined the edge of his desk, tiny models he created in his off-hours.

“Sir, a word,” Janey said. Had he received the ping about the unidentified vibration she’d felt on her way to his office?

“Just a moment. One more thing.” Milano lifted a finger to cut Janey off, then said in his comm, “Kim, send them in.” Kimani Iona was the station security operations manager, handling the department’s communications for Janey and her team. She was a tech and systems whiz and had become one of Janey’s closest friends at L’Étoile.

A moment later two women entered Milano’s office. Chief Milano stood.

“To start this special briefing, Investigator McCallister and Agent Orlando, I’d like you to meet Veronica Ladipo, a journalist with The Tell Papers, and her business partner, Monica Farmingham. They are here to cover next week’s gala.”

Veronica Ladipo reached out a hand to Janey. She was as tall as Janey was, with an open, friendly smile, striking green eyes, and dark brown hair, a halo around her head. “Investigator McCallister, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I appreciate you taking the time.”

Like Janey had a choice.

She shook the journalist’s hand, exchanging a firm grip. The business partner, Monica Farmingham, nodded in greeting to her and the two men. She was dressed in a grey suit jacket, a cream blouse buttoned at the throat, and a matching grey pencil skirt. In expensive strappy black spike heels out of place with the conservative suit, Monica wore no jewelry and carried a thin real-leather briefcase. Shorter than Janey by at least six inches, coming to Janey’s shoulder, the petite woman had sharp cheekbones, almond eyes outlined in kohl, reminiscent of an Egyptian princess, and had a quiet, powerful look about her. As if she could dominate any boardroom and get her way.

“I’ll stay out of your way as much as possible, though I would like an hour or so of your time soon to interview you and your team,” Veronica said, bringing Janey’s attention back to her.

“I don’t have time for media interviews, especially now,” Janey said. “And it’s abnormal to have a working journalist on board. L’Étoile’s owner, Frederick D. Schoeneman, is a well-known recluse and never grants interviews to the press.”

Veronica smiled, nodded, confidence oozing, and glanced at Monica. They shared a secret smile.

“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Ladipo. Ms. Farmingham.” Orlando smiled with sparkling charisma and shook the journalist’s hand, nodded at the business partner, his body tension gone, replaced with languid fluid ease. He turned his full attention on the journalist. “I’m one of your most ardent fans. I read your column regularly.”

Janey frowned. He hadn’t greeted her with a smile like that, and they were dating.

“Call me Veronica, please.” The journalist offered Orlando a bright smile of pure joy and unnecessarily straightened the jacket of her bespoke black suit, primping under his gaze. Monica watched, seemingly unaffected by Orlando’s charm.

An angry, territorial beast roared in Janey’s heart. She rammed it down, then spoke, keeping her tone neutral.

“I’m surprised to see someone from The Tell Papers covering—” Janey swirled her hand to encompass the luxurious surroundings beyond the small security office.

“Social engagements and parties at high-end resorts?” Veronica said. “I know. Not my usual beat of exposés on despots, corporate greed, and industrial cover-ups.” She gave a tinkling laugh. “Monica thought it would be a good change of pace. I agreed, and so did my editor.” She shrugged. “Plus, I was curious to check out the Starry Jewel in the Sky, cover the gala prep and then the gala itself, and congratulate Mr. Schoeneman for his ten years of success. Bijoux de L’Étoile is quite something. Ten years of constructing in high-Earth orbit… Now this…” The awe in her voice sounded genuine.

“It is an impressive feat of engineering,” Janey said. “Schoeneman knows you’re here, I presume.”

“They’ve signed all the right paperwork,” Chief Milano gestured at his screen, gave the requisite commands, and the customs checklist ballooned to fill the wall screen beside him. “Her team was approved by Zurich. Schoeneman informed me personally that she and her camera crew were coming for the gala.”

Schoeneman was due to arrive any day now—another security task on her long list.

“You have a crew with you?” Janey asked Veronica. Great, more people to keep tabs on.

“Yes, they’re waiting in your conference room to meet you.” Veronica offered a smile, open and inviting.

“I don’t know when I will have the time.” Janey glanced at Milano.

“Yes, we need to organize ourselves, our work arrangements,” Orlando said and scrutinized Janey, his gaze intense as if he was trying to communicate a serious message to her.

“I understand,” the journalist said. “We’re here for the entire week. I look forward to speaking with you when you have the time.”

“We don’t have the time,” Janey said.

“We will make sure you get your interviews, Ms. Ladipo,” Milano said, as smooth as any diplomat.

Veronica addressed Milano, determined and peppy, seemingly unfazed by Janey’s refusals. “I’d love a tour of the lower levels for our B reel and then the out of way—”

Whatever else Veronica said and was about to say was drowned out by a deafening high-pitched alarm blaring from Janey and Milano’s wrist comms. The journalist slapped her hands over her ears, wide-eyed shock on her face. The business partner backed up against the wall, her face pale.

The high-pitched alarm shrieked off and on, like a wounded animal screaming in fear, jamming clear thought for a split second. Adrenaline flooded her system.

Orlando rushed to Janey’s side, a question in his eyes. Janey had the same questions he probably did.

What tripped the alarm?

Where?

How?

The red flashing code on her comm was unfamiliar at first. Then her ocular implant decoded it. The alarm was from a normally quiet and out-of-the-way section of the station.

Hells.

Janey waved over her comm, inputting the command to open a channel to the entire security department, and shouted above the horrible din. “We have to go. Now! All hands on this one.” She bolted for the office door that opened on approach.

She rushed into the corridor and raced toward the staff elevator, side-stepping the cleaning bots.

“What is it?” Orlando sprinted into the elevator beside her. “Where are we going?”

Fear tightened her ribcage. The elevator door closed, and she shut off the alarm. “The casino vault. It’s a 10-18. Officer down. Needs immediate assistance.”

 

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Books in the Janey McCallister Mystery series

Into The Black (Book 1)

Lured By Light (Book 2)

Gone Green (Book 3)

Red Running Deep (Book 4) (Coming Fall 2021)

 

Sign up here to be notified about once a month of book news and special events: http://bethb.net/lblnews.

 

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Death Perception by Lee Allen Howard (Book Review)

Kennet Singleton cremates the dead—and then they speak… “Avenge us!”
 
Nineteen-year-old Kennet Singleton lives with his invalid mother in a personal care facility, but he wants out. He operates the crematory at the local funeral home, where he discovers he can discern the cause of death of those he cremates—by toasting marshmallows over their ashes.

He thinks his ability is no big deal since his customers are already dead. But when his perception differs from what’s on the death certificate, he finds himself in the midst of murderers. To save the residents and avenge the dead, Kennet must bring the killers to justice.

 

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

 

The gift of knowing a cause of death without insider information would come in handy for specific jobs — coroner and law enforcement. However, it’s more of a parlor trick for non-detective related occupations—unless you work in a crematory and the dead seek your help for vengeance. Then, it’s absolutely a welcomed gift. 

Kennet’s super power, gift, or whatever you want to call it, really came into play during the last 100 or so pages of the story. During this portion, things started to heat up. 😀

The dead wanted vengeance. Kennet wanted vengeance. 

Spirits communicated with the living to carry out their plan, and not all the angry souls were rooting for the good guy (Kennet). 

While the cover screams horror, in my opinion, I didn’t find Death Perception scary at all. I’m pretty sure I’d be singing a different turn if spirits wanted me dead and if one (or two or more) appeared before me. 

Was Death Perception weird? YES. 

Was it creepy? Yes! 

Seriously, roasting marshmallows over ashes and then eating them is WEIRD and CREEPY!

I only wish we would’ve seen more interactions between the spirits and the living. I wanted more creepiness. More horror. More suspense.

I was pleased by the ending, though. If anyone deserved a HEA, it was Kennet.

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤❤1/2

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About the author

I write dark fiction: horror, erotic horror, dark fantasy, dark crime, psychological thrillers and suspense. And technical manuals. All terribly horrifying.

Lee Allen Howard has been a technical writer in the software industry since 1985. (Why do fiction writers pretend like they don’t have day jobs? I like to eat just like everyone else!) I also edit fiction and non-fiction projects. I’ve done book layout and publishing consultancy.

A long time ago I earned a BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I also received an MA in Biblical Studies from CI School of Theology and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.Pride Flag

My publications include, but are not limited to:

I’m also the founder, editor, and publisher at Dark Cloud Press (http://www.darkcloudpress.com), publisher of horror, dark crime, and psychological thrillers.

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Death Perception by Lee Allen Howard (Book Showcase)

Kennet Singleton cremates the dead—and then they speak… “Avenge us!”
 
Nineteen-year-old Kennet Singleton lives with his invalid mother in a personal care facility, but he wants out. He operates the crematory at the local funeral home, where he discovers he can discern the cause of death of those he cremates—by toasting marshmallows over their ashes.
 
He thinks his ability is no big deal since his customers are already dead. But when his perception differs from what’s on the death certificate, he finds himself in the midst of murderers. To save the residents and avenge the dead, Kennet must bring the killers to justice.

 

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Read the first chapter here.

 

 

 

Lori S.
⭐⭐     Death Perception full of clever twists
 
Kennet Singleton is a young man with one of the worst part-time jobs I can imagine – he works in the local funeral home, operating the crematorium. Being a teenager, his mind is capable of dark humor adults might not understand and Kennet decides to try toasting some marshmallows over the remains of the corpses he burns in the oven.

Okay, he’s a little strange. Then he realizes that eating those marshmallows gives him the knowledge of how the deceased died. And that’s not so bad, until he realizes that the message he gets doesn’t match the information from the death certificate. Someone is murdering people and Kennet thinks his own mother might have been one of the victims. Kennet, with the help of a couple friends, investigates the murders, leading to all kinds of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing.

Lee Allen Howard is a fine writer, with a knack for creating characters you’ll both love and hate. Everyone in the book comes to life under Howard’s skillful hands. Although the topic is a bit of a gross-out, this isn’t a disgusting book nor is it overly graphic. It’s a good book and I’d highly recommend it.

 
 
A Reader in the Mitten
⭐⭐     Death Perception full of clever twists

I’ve read a few of Lee Allen Howard’s other books, and I believe this is his best. They’re all gritty, realistic and chilling — not in a blood-and-guts way (although some details in Death Perception do spill out), but what I loved is Howard’s more-than-heroic hero. Kennet Singleton has had a rough life, and things just get worse due to some creepy people in the town – his greedy funeral director boss, the cold-hearted owner of the home care place where Kennet’s mother lives, and the half-stoned orderly who targets Kennet whenever possible. Howard does a masterful job peeling the layers in this deeply moving novel, revealing Kennet’s unusual gift of perception, plus the evil surrounding him. I cheered for Kennet every step of the way. A great, satisfying read.
 
 
Jennifer
⭐⭐ 

I’ve always enjoyed a good underdog story and Lee Allen Howard delivers just that with Death Perception. Our protagonist, Kennet, has had a hard life so why shouldn’t he enjoy some of the sweeter things? His boss may not like him roasting marshmallows on the job at the crematory but the dead don’t seem to mind. In fact, Kennet isn’t your average teen and that momentary pleasure brings him more than just a sugar rush. He soon finds he’s able to make contact with the deceased, giving him knowledge no one else is aware of. Part ghost story and part murder mystery Howard’s clean prose and spot-on timing make for a compelling read. The story is told with compassion for the less fortunate and insight into the way the world often torments the weak. But it also contains some truly laugh-out-loud scenes at the expense of the evil-doers and the ultimate triumph of the underdog. If you enjoy ghosts, revenge tales and mysteries this book is for you.
 
 
 
 

 

About the author

I write dark fiction: horror, erotic horror, dark fantasy, dark crime, psychological thrillers and suspense. And technical manuals. All terribly horrifying.

Lee Allen Howard has been a technical writer in the software industry since 1985. (Why do fiction writers pretend like they don’t have day jobs? I like to eat just like everyone else!) I also edit fiction and non-fiction projects. I’ve done book layout and publishing consultancy.

A long time ago I earned a BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I also received an MA in Biblical Studies from CI School of Theology and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.Pride Flag

My publications include, but are not limited to:

I’m also the founder, editor, and publisher at Dark Cloud Press (http://www.darkcloudpress.com), publisher of horror, dark crime, and psychological thrillers.

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Pivot: Jack Harper Trilogy, Book 1 by L. C. Barlow (Book Showcase)

From the age of seven, Jack Harper is raised by the leader of a mystical cult, Cyrus Harper. Through Cyrus, Jack receives a full education in all usual subjects―economics, literature, mathematics, history―as well as one unique skill useful to a person in Cyrus’s position: assassination. With the help of Roland James, a man incapable of dying, Cyrus hones Jack into the perfect weapon to use against all who oppose him.

It is not long, however, before Jack discovers that Cyrus and Roland are not the only ones living in Cyrus’s mansion. There, too, exists a mysterious creature in the depths of the house with supposed immortal magic. According to Roland, this creature is responsible for all the miraculous things Jack has witnessed throughout her childhood, including Roland’s resurrection. The creature, potent and powerful, only weakens in the presence of Cyrus’s red velvet box―a dark, enchanted tool that grants Cyrus his invincibility and ensures his reign.

Lonely and terrified by her life in the cult, under Cyrus’s neverending watch, Jack desperately pursues the mysterious being. When they finally meet, her world is turned upside down, as he offers her more than she could have ever expected―the possibility of escape and her own secret, magical power.

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Excerpt:

“The repetition of these particular lessons helped me—the time and effort I devoted to them. Winning a fight had nothing to do with an instantaneous surge of power and awareness but was about maintaining a sense of normality in the moment. It was about what I could forget. I got used to the sensation of a body against my body, of someone coming at me, the foreign twisting, pulling, and driving. When it became the norm, then it all fell away, much like a common denominator. Only the crosshairs, the target, the wind, the heart, the head, the veins were left. Training meant learning what one should remember and, more importantly, what one should forget. The winner is the one for whom the fight feels most like home.” – Jack Harper, PIVOT

 

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L.C. Barlow is a writer and professor working primarily in the field of speculative fiction.  She has an MA in English from the University of Texas at Arlington and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.  She has studied with popular writers, including Nancy Holder, Elizabeth Hand, Ted Deppe, James Patrick Kelly, Elizabeth Searle, David Anthony Durham, and Theodora Goss.  Her work has been published in Oak Bend Review, Flash Fiction World, Linguistic Erosion, Flashes in the Dark, Separate Worlds, Every Day Fiction, and Popular Culture Review.  Her fiction has reached over sixty-five thousand readers and garnered praise, including a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Awards, a winner of the IndieReader Discovery Awards, a winner of the eLit Awards, and IndieReader’s Best Books of 2014.  On Quora, her posts have received over 1.4 million content views. Barlow’s horror trilogy – PivotPerish, and Peak – was picked up in 2018 by California Coldblood Books, an imprint of Rare Bird Books.  The first of the trilogy, Pivot, was released in October of 2019.  Perish will be released in October of 2020.  Peak will be released in October of 2021. Barlow lives in Dallas, TX with her two cats, Smaug and Dusty.

 

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