Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Spotlight: Excerpt from The Golden Manuscripts: A Novel by Evy Journey


The Golden Manuscripts is inspired by the real-life theft of medieval manuscript illuminations during World War II.

Title: The Golden Manuscripts: A Novel

Author: Evy Journey

Pages: 360

Genre: Historical Fiction/Women's Fiction/Mystery

goodreads add to

A young woman of Asian/American parentage has lived in seven different countries and is anxious to find a place she could call home. An unusual sale of rare medieval manuscripts sends her and Nathan—an art journalist who moonlights as a doctor—on a quest into the dark world of stolen art.  For Clarissa, these ancient manuscripts elicit cherished memories of children’s picture books her mother read to her, nourishing a passion for art.  When their earnest search for clues whisper of old thieves and lead to the unexpected, they raise more questions about an esoteric sometimes unscrupulous art world that defy easy answers.   Will this quest reward Clarissa with the sense of home she longs for? This cross-genre literary tale of self-discovery, art mystery, travel, and love is based on the actual theft by an American soldier of illuminated manuscripts during World War II.
Buy Links:

Book Excerpt:

November 2000

Rare Manuscripts

I sometimes wish I was your girl next door. The pretty one who listens to you and sympathizes. Doesn’t ask questions you can’t or don’t want to answer. Comes when you need to talk. 

She’s sweet, gracious, respectful, and sincere. An open book. Everybody’s ideal American girl. 

At other times, I wish I was the beautiful girl with creamy skin, come-hither eyes, and curvy lines every guy drools over. The one you can’t have, unless you’re a hunk of an athlete, or the most popular hunk around. Or you have a hunk of money.

But I’m afraid the image I project is that of a brain with meager social skills. The one you believe can outsmart you in so many ways that you keep out of her way—you know the type. Or at least you think you do. Just as you think you know the other two.

I want to believe I’m smart, though I know I can be dumb. I’m not an expert on anything. So, please wait to pass judgement until you get to know us better—all three of us. 

Who am I then? 

I’m not quite sure yet. I’m the one who’s still searching for where she belongs. 

I’m not a typical American girl. Dad is Asian and Mom is white. I was born into two different cultures, neither of which dug their roots into me. But you’ll see my heritage imprinted all over me—on beige skin with an olive undertone; big grey eyes, double-lidded but not deep-set; a small nose with a pronounced narrow bridge; thick, dark straight hair like Dad’s that glints with bronze under the sun, courtesy of Mom’s genes. 

I have a family: Mom, Dad, Brother. Sadly, we’re no longer one unit. Mom and Dad are about ten thousand miles apart. And my brother and I are somewhere in between.

I have no one I call friend. Except myself, of course. That part of me who perceives my actions for what they are. My inner voice. My constant companion and occasional nemesis. Moving often and developing friendships lasting three years at most, I’ve learned to turn inward. 

And then there’s Arthur, my beautiful brother. Though we were raised apart, we’ve become close. Like me, he was born in the US. But he grew up in my father’s home city where his friends call him Tisoy, a diminutive for Mestizo that sometimes hints at admiration, sometimes at mockery. Locals use the label for anyone with an obvious mix of Asian and Caucasian features. We share a few features, but he’s inherited a little more from Mom. Arthur has brown wavy hair and green eyes that invite remarks from new acquaintances. 

Little Arthur, not so little anymore. Taller than me now, in fact, by two inches. We’ve always gotten along quite well. Except the few times we were together when we were children and he’d keep trailing me, like a puppy, mimicking what I did until I got annoyed. I’d scowl at him, run away so fast he couldn’t catch up. Then I’d close my bedroom door on him. Sometimes I wondered if he annoyed me on purpose so that later he could hug me and say, “I love you” to soften me up. It always worked.

I love Arthur not only because we have some genes in common. He has genuinely lovable qualities—and I’m sure people can’t always say that of their siblings. He’s caring and loyal, and I trust him to be there through thick and thin. I also believe he’s better put together than I am, he whom my parents were too busy to raise. 

I am certain of only one thing about myself: I occupy time and space like everyone. My tiny space no one else can claim on this planet, in this new century. But I still do not have a place where I would choose to spend and end my days. I’m a citizen of a country, though. The country where I was born. And yet I can’t call that country home. I don’t know it much. But worse than that, I do not have much of a history there. 

Before today, I trudged around the globe for two decades. Cursed and blessed by having been born to a father who was a career diplomat sent on assignments to different countries, I’ve lived in different cities since I was born, usually for three to four years at a time. 

Those years of inhabiting different cities in Europe and Asia whizzed by. You could say I hardly noticed them because it was the way of life I was born into. But each of those cities must have left some lasting mark on me that goes into the sum of who I am. And yet, I’m still struggling to form a clear idea of the person that is Me. This Me can’t be whole until I single out a place to call home. 

Everyone has a home they’ve set roots in. We may not be aware of it, but a significant part of who we think we are—who others think we are—depends on where we’ve lived. The place we call home. A place I don’t have. Not yet. But I will.

I was three when I left this city. Having recently come back as an adult, I can’t tell whether, or for how long, I’m going to stay. You may wonder why, having lived in different places, I would choose to seek a home in this city—this country as alien to me as any other town or city I’ve passed through. 

By the end of my last school year at the Sorbonne, I was convinced that if I were to find a home, my birthplace might be my best choice. I was born here. In a country where I can claim citizenship. Where the primary language is English. My choice avoids language problems and pesky legal residency issues. Practical and logical reasons, I think.

About the Author

Evy Journey writes. Stories and blog posts. Novels that tend to cross genres. She’s also a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse. Evy studied psychology (M.A., University of Hawaii; Ph.D. University of Illinois). So her fiction spins tales about nuanced characters dealing with contemporary life issues and problems. She believes in love and its many faces. Her one ungranted wish: To live in Paris where art is everywhere and people have honed aimless roaming to an art form. She has visited and stayed a few months at a time.

Author Links  

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads


Evy Journey will giving away nine $25 Amazon Gift Cards & nine boxed sets of the last 3 books in the series, Between Two Worlds! This is the way it works. Evy is touring for 6 months. At the end of each 2 month period she will be giving away 3 $25 Amazon Gift Cards and 3 boxed sets of the last 3 books in the series, Between Two Worlds. You will have a chance to win 3 times during her tour!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Nine winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a boxed set of the last 3 books in the series, Between Two Worlds.
  • This giveaway starts February 5 and ends July 30.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on March 28, May 31 and July 30.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sponsored By:

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Spotlight: Excerpt from The Paris Widow by Kimberly Belle


Author: Kimberly Belle
Publication Date: June 11, 2024
ISBN: 9780778307976
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Harlequin Trade Publishing / Park Row Books
Price $18.99
From USA Today bestselling author Kimberly Belle comes a deliciously twisty new thriller following a married couple vacationing in Paris whose trip takes a dark turn when the husband goes missing, dredging up secrets from both of their pasts, perfect for fans of THE PARIS APARTMENT.
When Stella met Adam, she felt like she finally landed a nice, normal guy – a welcome change from her previous boyfriend and her precarious jetsetter lifestyle with him. She loves knowing she can always depend on Adam, which is why when he goes missing during a random explosion in Paris, she panics. Right after what is assumed to be a terrorist attack, she’s interviewed live on TV by reporters, begging anyone who knows anything about her husband’s whereabouts to come forward and is quickly dubbed “The Paris Widow.”

As the French police investigate, it’s revealed that Adam was on their radar as a dealer in the black market for priceless antiquities, making deals with very high-profile and dangerous clients. Reeling from this news and growing suspicions about her husband, Stella can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. And with Adam assumed dead, she realizes that whoever was responsible for the bombing will come after her next. Everything – and everyone -- that Stella has tried to keep in her duplicitous past might be her only means of survival and finding out what really happened to Adam.
An irresistible and fast-paced read set in some of Europe’s most inviting locales, THE PARIS WIDOW explores how sinister secrets of the past stay with us – no matter how far we travel.
Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble



Nice, France

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.

—Oscar Wilde

At Nice’s Côte d’Azur Airport, the pretty woman coming down the jetway looked like every other bleary-eyed traveler. Rum­pled T-shirt over jeans with an indeterminate stain on the right thigh, hair shoved into a messy ponytail mussed from the head­rest. A backpack was slung over her right shoulder, weighed down with items that weren’t technically hers but looked like they could be. She’d sorted through them on the seven-hour flight, just long enough to make the contents feel familiar.

“Don’t lose it,” the Turkish man said when he hung it on her arm, and she hadn’t.

The jetway dumped her into the terminal, and she trailed behind a family of five, past gates stretched out like spider legs, along the wall of windows offering a blinding view of the sparkling Mediterranean, a turquoise so bright it burned her eyes. The backpack bounced against her shoulder bone, and her heart gave a quiet, little jingle.

She made it through passport control without issue, thanks to her careful selection of the agent behind the glass. A man, first and foremost. Not too old or too young, not too hand­some. A five to her solid eight—or so she’d been told by more than one man. This one must have agreed because he stamped her passport with an appreciative nod. French men were like that. One smile from a woman out of their league, and they melted like a cream-filled bonbon.

She thanked him and slid her passport into her pocket.

In it were stamps to every country in Europe and the Americas, from her crisscrosses over every continent in­cluding Antarctica, from her detours to bask on the famous beaches of Asia, Australia, the South Seas. More than once, she’d had to renew the booklet long before it expired because she’d run out of empty spots for customs agents to stamp. She was particularly proud of that, and of how she could look any way you wanted her to look, be anyone you needed her to be. Today she was playing the role of American Tourist On A Budget.

At baggage claim, she slid the backpack down an aching shoulder and checked the time on her cell. Just under six hours for this little errand, plenty of time assuming she didn’t hit any unexpected roadblocks. If she didn’t get held up at customs, if the taxi line wasn’t too long, if traffic on the A8 wasn’t too awful, which it would be because getting in and out of Monte Carlo was always a nightmare at this time of year. If if if. If she missed the flight to London, she was screwed.

A buzzer sounded, and the baggage carousel rumbled to a slow spin.

At least she didn’t look any more miserable than the people milling around her, their faces long with jet lag. She caught snippets of conversation in foreign tongues, German, Ital­ian, Arabic, French, and she didn’t need a translator to know they were bitching about the wait. The French were never in a hurry, and they were always striking about something. She wondered what it could be this time.

Thirty-eight eternal minutes later, the carousel spit out her suitcase. She hauled it from the band with a grunt, plopped the heavy backpack on top and followed the stream of tour­ists to the exit.

Walk with purpose. Look the customs agent in the eye. Smile, the fleeting kind with your lips closed, not too big or too cocky. Act breezy like you’ve got nothing to prove or to hide. By now she knew all the tricks.

The customs agent she was paired with was much too young for her liking, his limbs still lanky with the leftovers of pu­berty, which meant he had something to prove to the clus­ter of more senior agents lingering behind him. She ignored their watchful gazes, taking in his shiny forehead, the way it was dotted with pimples, and dammit, he was going to be a problem.

He held up a hand, the universal sign for halt. “Avez-vous quelque chose à déclarer?”

Her fingers curled around the suitcase handle, clamping down. She gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry, but I don’t speak French.”

That part was the truth, at least. She didn’t speak it, at least not well and not unless she absolutely had to. And her rudi­mentary French wasn’t necessary just yet.

But she understood him well enough, and she definitely knew that last word. He was asking if she had something to declare.

The agent gestured to her suitcase. “Please, may I take a look in your luggage?” His English was heavy with accent, his lips slick with spit, but at least he was polite about it.

She gave a pointed look at the exit a few feet away. On the other side of the motion-activated doors, a line of people leaned against a glass-and-steel railing, fists full of balloons and colorful bouquets. With her free hand, she wriggled her fingers in a wave, even though she didn’t know a single one of them.

She looked back at the agent with another smile. “Is that really necessary? My flight was delayed, and I’m kind of in a hurry. My friends out there have been waiting for hours.”

Calm. Reasonable. Not breaking the slightest sweat.

The skin of his forehead creased in a frown. “This means you have nothing to declare?”

“Only that a saleslady lied to my face about a dress I bought being wrinkle resistant.”

She laughed, but the agent’s face remained as stony as ever.

He beckoned her toward an area behind him, a short hall­way lined with metal tables. “S’il vous plait. The second table.”

Still, she didn’t move. The doors slid open, and she flung an­other glance at the people lined up outside. So close yet so far.

As if he could read her mind, the agent took a calculated step to his left, standing between her and the exit. He swept an insistent arm through the air, giving her little choice. The cluster of agents were paying more attention now.

She huffed a sigh. Straightened her shoulders and gave her bag a hard tug. “Okay, but fair warning. I’m on the tail end of a three-week vacation here, which means everything in my suitcase is basically a giant pile of dirty laundry.”

Again, the truth. Miami to Atlanta to LA to Tokyo to Dubai to Nice, a blur of endless hours with crummy movies and soggy airplane food, of loud, smelly men who drank vodka for breakfast, of kids marching up and down the aisles while everybody else was trying to sleep. What she was wearing was the cleanest thing she had left, and she was still thousands of miles from home.

She let go of the handle, and the suitcase spun and wobbled, whacking the metal leg of the table with a hard clang. Let him lug the heavy thing onto the inspection table himself.

She stood with crossed arms and watched him spread her suitcase open on the table. She wasn’t lying about the laundry or that stupid dress, which currently looked like a crumpled paper bag. He picked through her dirty jeans and rumpled T-shirts, rifled through blouses and skirts. When he got to the wad of dirty underwear, he clapped the suitcase shut.

“See?” she said. “Just a bunch of dirty clothes.”

“And your other bag?”

The backpack dangling from her shoulder, an ugly Tumi knockoff. Her stomach dropped, but she made sure to hold his gaze.

“Nothing in here, either. No meat, no cheese, no forgot­ten fruit. I promise.”

She’d done that once, let an old apple sink to the bottom of her bag for a hyped-up beagle to sniff out, and she paid for it with a forty-five minute wait at a scorching Chilean airport. It was a mistake she wouldn’t make again.

“Madame, please. Do not make me ask you again.”

The little shit really said it. He really called her madame. This kid who was barely out of high school was making her feel old and decrepit, while in the same breath speaking to her like she was a child. His words were as infuriating as they were alarming. She hooked a thumb under the backpack’s strap, but she didn’t let it go.

And yet what choice did she have? She couldn’t run, not with those senior agents watching. Not with this pubescent kid and his long, grasshopper limbs. He’d catch her in a hot second.

She told herself there was nothing to find. That’s what the Turkish man had promised her with a wink and a smile, that nobody would ever know. He swore she’d cruise right on through customs. And she had, many, many times.

As she slid the backpack from her arm with another dra­matic sigh, she hoped like hell he wasn’t lying. “Please hurry.”

The agent took the bag from her fingers and emptied it out on the table. He took out the paperback and crinkled maga­zines, the half-eaten bag of nuts with the Japanese label, the wallet and the zippered pouch stuffed with well-used cosmet­ics that had never once touched her face. He lined the items up, one after the other, until the contents formed a long, neat row on the shiny metal surface. The backpack hung in his hand, deflated and empty.

She lifted a brow: See?

But then he did something she wasn’t expecting. He turned the backpack upside down, just…upended the thing in the air. Crumbs rained onto the table. A faded receipt fluttered to the ground.

And there it was, a dull but discernible scraping sound, a sudden weight tugging at the muscles in his arm, like some­thing inside the backpack shifted.

But nothing else fell out. There were no internal pockets.

“What was that?”

“What was what?” With a clanging heart, she pointed to the stuff on the table. “Can I put that back now? I really have to go.”

The agent stared at her through a long, weighted silence, like a held breath.


He slapped the backpack to the table, and she cringed when he shoved a hand in deep, all the way up to his elbow. He felt around the sides and the bottom, sweeping his fingers around the cheap polyester lining. She saw when he made contact with the source of the noise by the way his face changed.

The muscles in her stomach tightened. “Excuse me, this is ridiculous. Give it back.”

The agent didn’t let go of the backpack. He reached in his other hand, and now there was another terrifying sound—of fabric, being ripped apart at the seams.

“Hey,” she said, lunging for the backpack.

He twisted, blocking her with his body.

A few breathless seconds later he pulled it out, a small, flat object that had been sewn into the backpack lining. Small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. Almost like he’d been looking for it.

“What is this?” he said, holding it in the air between them.

“That’s a book.” It was the only thing she could think of to say, and it wasn’t just any book. It was a gold-illuminated manu­script by a revered fourteenth-century Persian poet, one of the earliest copies from the estate of an Islamic art collector who died in Germany last year. Like most of the items in his collec­tion, this one did not technically belong to him.

“I can see it’s a book. Where did you get it?”

Her face went hot, and she had to steady herself on the metal table—the same one he was settling the book gently on top of. He turned the gold-leafed paper with careful fin­gers, and her mind whirled. Should she plead jet lag? Cry or pretend to faint?

“I’ve never seen it before in my life.”

This, finally, was the truth. Today was the first time she’d seen the book with her own eyes.

The agent looked up from the Arabic symbols on the page, and she didn’t miss the gotcha gleam in his eyes. The way his shiny forehead had gone even shinier now, a million new pin­pricks of satisfied sweat. His gaze flitted over her shoulder, and she understood the gesture perfectly.

He was summoning backup.

She was wondering about French prison conditions.

His smile was like ice water on her skin. “Madame, I must insist you come with me.”


Excerpted from THE PARIS WIDOW by Kimberly Belle. Copyright © 2024 by Kimberly Belle. Published by Park Row Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.


Author Bio:
Photo Credit:
Sara Hannah Photography

Kimberly Belle worked in marketing and nonprofit fundraising before turning to writing fiction. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and currently divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. She is the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie, Three Days Missing, Dear Wife, as well as The Last Breath, The Ones We Trust, Stranger in the Lake, My Darling Husband, and The Personal Assistant.
Social Links:
Author website 

Monday, June 10, 2024

Review: The Dare by Natalie Preston

Author: Natasha Preston
Publisher: Delacourte Press
Publication Date: May 2024

 I triple dog dare you . . .

As senior year comes to an end, senior pranks are just beginning. It all starts innocently enough. Marley and her friends—Atlas, Lucia, and Jesse—egg houses, set chickens free on the quad, and fill the principal’s office with glitter-filled balloons.

But when Jesse accepts a dare to drive danger alley, a ten-mile stretch of winding road that’s notorious for car wrecks, with no headlights, things take a turn for the worst.

Now, the four friends are bound by a tragic accident—and a dark secret that threatens their bright futures

The Dare is told through Marley's perspective as she takes part in the end of senior year pranks at her school.  In her high school, the senior pranks are a big deal and the ultimate way to end their high school career.  This year, the dares seem dangerous and when Marley and her friends have a dare go wrong, their futures might be in jeopardy.

I really didn't like this one.   Especially as I got to know the characters, I didn't like any of them.  This is only through Marley's perspective, however, I'm not sure I would like any of the other characters any more had I been in their heads.  The entire premise of the accident and the aftermath was very far-fetched.  There is a little twist and some "justice" in the end.  I didn't like that part. It left a bad taste in my mouth.  Without giving anything ways, I especially didn't care for Marley got away with. Maybe if I had liked her more, but I just didn't. 

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Review: Cold Fury by Toni Anderson

Author: Toni Anderson
Publisher: Toni Anderson
Publication Date: May 2024

Seven years ago, Hope Harper was a star defense attorney with a great life and a beautiful family—until she got the wrong defendant released, and he turned around and viciously slaughtered her husband and child. Since then, the only thing Hope cares about is locking bad guys behind bars where they can’t hurt anyone else. When the killer escapes from a maximum security prison during a winter storm, Hope refuses to run and hide.

The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team is called in to protect the handful of public figures the notorious serial killer threatened. Operator Aaron Nash draws the short straw—he’ll be heading up Assistant District Attorney Hope Harper’s close protection detail.

Much to Aaron’s frustration, the cool blonde refuses to go into protective custody. As the hours and days wear on, Aaron and Hope manage a fragile truce. He begins to understand and admire the tenacious prosecutor, and the two of them begin to work together.

As the escaped serial killer’s rampage spins on, Hope knows it’s just a matter of time until he comes for her. Except something’s changed. For the first time since losing her family, she has something to live for. But is history doomed to repeat itself?

Cold Fury is the fourth book in the Cold Justice - Most Wanted series.  This one is Aaron and Hope's story. The book works very well as a stand alone book.  Characters from previous books show up here, but they only enhance to story.  Seven years before, her husband and daughter were brutally murdered after she got the wrong person off.  Now, the killer has escaped prison and Hope needs to be protected.  Aaron is the only person who can do it.

This was a great addition to the series.  I loved the chemistry between Hope and Aaron.  They both actually bring baggage to the relationship, but that really only made them stronger.  I thought Hope's grief over her loss was realistic.  The story is fast paced and kept me on my toes.  I definitely didn't see that ending coming.  I highly recommend this one.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Spotlight: Excerpt from One Deadly Eye by Randy Wayne White


Author: Randy Wayne White
ISBN: 9781335013606
Publication Date: June 4, 2024
Publisher: Hanover Press

From New York Times bestselling author Randy Wayne White, after the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida’s Gulf Coast in a century, Doc Ford must stop a gang of thieves—and worse—during the twelve hours of chaos that follow the passing of a storm’s eye.

A Russian diplomat disappears while Doc is tagging great white sharks in South Africa, and members of a criminal brotherhood, Bratva, don’t think it’s a coincidence. They track the biologist to Dinkin’s Bay Marina on the west coast of Florida, where Brotherhood mercenaries have already deployed, prepared to pillage and kill in the wake of an approaching hurricane.
No one, however, is prepared for a cataclysmic event that will forever change the island and leaves Doc to deal with escapees from Russia’s most dangerous prison, including a serial killer—the Vulture Monk—who has a taste for blood. His only ally is an enigmatic British inventor whose decision to ride out the storm might have more to do with revenge than protecting a priceless art collection.

Doc has a lot at stake—the lives of his fiancée, Hannah Smith, and their son, plus the fate of his hipster pal, Tomlinson, whose sailboat has disappeared in the Gulf of Mexico. The greatest threat of all, though, is a force that cannot be escaped—a Category Five hurricane that, minute by minute, melds sins of the past with Florida's precarious future.

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble

I returned an arcane Station Six pistol to the US Consulate in Cape Town, South Africa, unaware a storm that would forever change Florida had gathered to the north, fueled by a mirror that is the Sahara Desert. 

In a world of electronic intrusions, I’m too often deafened to the silence of atmospheric tides, saltwater and sunlight—dynamics that can ignite a cataclysm six thousand miles away. 

“Has this weapon been fired?” the consulate armorer asked. 

The strange bolt action pistol lay on a table. Its bulbous barrel (an integrated sound suppressor) had the utilitarian aspect of a ball-peen hammer. 

“At the range a few days ago. Five rounds,” I said. 

“But not in the field.” 


“A few practice rounds. That’s all?” He sounded disappointed. 

“With a bolt action single-shot, five rounds was four too many.” 

A Cold War assassin’s tool was an ironic weapon to issue me, a marine biologist in Africa under the guise of tagging great white sharks.

He noticed the bandage on my knuckles. Blood had wicked through the gauze.

“Tough on your shooting hand. Too bad, Dr. Ford.”

“Tougher to explain if I’d been stopped at the border,” I said. “Shouldn’t I get some sort of receipt?”

When I was at the door, the armorer spoke again. “Afrikaners call the stretch of water off Dyers Island ‘Shark Alley.’ I heard a Russian diplomat went missing there yesterday.” There was a pause. “Or defected. Depends, I guess, on who you ask.”

It was a question without a question mark.

Dyers Island, one hundred twenty kilometers southeast. It brought back the stench of thousands of fur seals and penguins fighting, breeding, dying, birthing pups on a rock the size of a parking lot. Blood, the ammonia stink of urine, verified that monster great whites cruised the island’s rim.

I replied, “Can’t say I’ve been there before. Maybe next visit.”

“After your wedding, perhaps. An interesting honeymoon that would make. A few weeks away, isn’t it?”

In state department/intel circles, there are no personal secrets, only classified obligations.

“Maybe,” I said again. I tapped my wrist. “The COS wants a word before I take off.”

He buzzed me out.

The US Consulate in Cape Town is a geometry of white concrete on acres of landscaped grounds. Tiers of bulletproof windows, three stories high, are dwarfed by the enormity of Table Mountain, a slower geologic cataclysm eight kilometers north.

Across the commons, marines in BDUs were getting in a morning run. Kids with tattoos, jarhead buzz cuts, rocking to a navy cadence call.

Let ’em blow, let ’em blow,

Let those trade winds blow,

From the east, from the west…

Let those nukes, the new kids glow… 

A foreboding message cheerfully voiced this spring morning in September, half a globe away from my lab and home at Dinkin’s Bay Marina, west coast Florida.

Building A, through security, up three flights of granite steps. The Chief of Station slid an envelope across her desk, an encrypted IronKey memory drive inside.

After some distancing pleasantries, she said, “Don’t download the files until you’re over international waters. Are you familiar with Black Dolphin Prison on the Kazakhstan border?”

I might have smiled if I didn’t know the place was real. Russia sends its twisted worst to Black Dolphin—terrorists, pedophiles, serial killers, the criminally insane. Cannibals.

“Named for a stone dolphin carved by inmates,” I said. “No prisoner has ever left there alive from what I’ve heard.”

Chief of Station indicated the envelope. “Until two years ago. There was an earthquake, the facility flooded. Guards evacuated and left seven hundred prisoners behind. We don’t know how many drowned, but at least six escaped according to the few villagers they didn’t murder.” Again, a glance at the envelope. “It’s all in there.”

I started to explain, respectfully, that I was a poor choice to send to Russia.

Chief of Station surprised me by agreeing. “Of course. Not at your age, Dr. Ford.” She was bemused. “And your skill set isn’t up to…well. Let me ask you something. This morning, were you aware of the van shadowing you?”

I answered, “Until it missed the curve at Killig Bay. Was anyone hurt?”

Her flat gaze told me the subject was not to be discussed. “Our concern is, they know who you are. Don’t worry, we’ll look into the matter. Besides, you’re getting married in a few weeks, aren’t you?”

Not if a certain agency didn’t stop leveraging me with extradition threats.

I responded, “That’s the plan.”

As I went out the door, she said something about the weather—“Keep an eye on it,” possibly, which I took as a reference to my flight. Or marriage. Or both.

At Wingfield Airbase, a chill breeze was siphoning toward the Sahara—another silent dynamic. At 36,000 feet, I opened the IronKey while our pilots rode the North Equatorial Jetstream across the Atlantic.

I read. I summarized. Four, maybe six of Russia’s most violent criminals had left a blood trail crossing to the Caspian Sea and might have entered the US via Venezuela or Mexico.

Might. But it made sense. Bratva, a Russian criminal brotherhood, and Wagner mercenaries had established crime syndicates in major US cities, including Miami.

Thus the courtesy of briefing me, a biologist whose skill set was doubted, but who could at least pick up a phone and dial for help.

So why bother with the second, unopened folder on my laptop screen?

Why, indeed.

Sixteen hours in the air. I dozed, awoke when the pilot warned of turbulence. Somewhere off Brazil, the plane pitched, banged down hard into thermal clouds that mimicked tentacles. We landed and took off again at sunset. Below revolved a familiar green mosaic of seaward borders. South America. The coastline tracked my past and the passage of time.

To port, a monoxide haze flagged Caracas. The largest tarpon in the Americas had been landed there long before Lake Maracaibo became a swill of petroleum, plastics, and industrial offal.

After that, there were only small pockets of light: jungle villages, fires burning, night islands of humanity linked by darkness, aglow like pearls, bright and solitary from four miles high.

We crossed the flight corridor of Western Cuba, Pinar Del Rio. More solitary lights. Somewhere down there was a farm town, Vinales, a baseball diamond, wooden bleachers, fields where oxen grazed.

I winced away fun memories of villagers and playing ball with barnstorming friends.

Nostalgia is a waste of time. The present is our only tenuous reality. It’s all a rational person has. But there was something grating about the Chief of Station’s smirk regarding my skills and age. And her reference to the impending wedding had the ring of sterile dismissal.

My betrothed—Hannah Summerlin Smith. Captain Hannah to fly-fishing aficionados from Ketchum to Key West. And the mother of our toddler son, Izaak.

In the Everglades, in the middle of nowhere, is a jet port that never got off the ground for environmental reasons. But its ten-thousand-foot runway is still used clandestinely and for commercial touch-and-goes.

Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport is the official name.

They dropped me off in the wee hours of the morning, the air heat-laden, wet, ripe with sulfur. By 4:00 a.m. I was in my new truck, a gray Ford, crossing the Causeway bridges a few miles from the marina and home.

I reminded myself, If you don’t stop lying to Hannah, there won’t be a wedding.

Most of us have a nagging, destructive voice that second-guesses even the best of decisions.

Is that such a bad thing? mine argued.

Excerpted from One Deadly Eye by Randy Wayne White. Copyright © 2024 by Randy Wayne White. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.


Author Bio: 
Randy Wayne White is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Doc Ford series. In 2011, White was named a Florida Literary Legend by the Florida Heritage Society. A fishing and nature enthusiast, he has also written extensively for National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal, Playboy and Men's Health. He lives on Sanibel Island, Florida, where he was a light-tackle fishing guide for many years, and spends much of his free time windsurfing, playing baseball, and hanging out at Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille. Sharks Incorporated is his middle grade series, including Fins and Stingers.