Friday, May 15, 2015

And the winner is...



Congratulations to this week's giveaway winner!
 
PdxIrishGirl won a copy of A Pledge Of Better Times by Margaret Porter. PdxIrisGirl, please check your email for my notification and get back to me as soon as you can to claim your prize.
 
 
 
 
Many thanks to all the blog followers who were so gracious to stop by and enter the contest. Stay tuned for more reviews and giveaways.
 
Happy reading!


Monday, May 4, 2015

A PLEDGE OF BETTER TIMES by Margaret Porter (Spotlight & Giveaway)



A PLEDGE OF BETTER TIMES

by

Margaret Porter

 
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Gallica Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9907420-4-3
Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Fiction
 
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About the book

A sweeping tale of ambition, treachery, and passion... For generations Lady Diana de Vere’s family loyally served England’s crown. But after King Charles II’s untimely death, her father firmly opposes James II’s tyranny. Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans—the late king’s bastard son by actress Nell Gwyn—also rebels against his newly crowned uncle's manipulation. Secretly pledging to wed Diana, he departs for the Continent to become a soldier. Political and religious turmoil bring about revolution and yet another coronation before Charles returns to claim his promised bride. As companion to Queen Mary II, Diana has followed her de Vere forbears into royal service. She expects Charles to abandon his military career after marriage, but he proves unwilling to join the ranks of the courtiers he despises and mistrusts. In palace corridors and within their own household the young duke and duchess confront betrayals, scandals, and tragedies that threaten to divide them. And neither the privileges of birth nor proximity to the throne can ensure their security, their advancement—or their happiness.


GIVEAWAY (US only)

The author is offering a copy of A Pledge Of Better Times to a lucky reader of this blog. Please become a follower (via GFC, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Bloglovin), leave a comment in the section below, and include your email address. The contest is open to US residents only. Good luck!

 

Praise for A Pledge of Better Times

“Meticulously researched and offering an impressive cast of real life characters brought to vibrant life, A Pledge of Better Times expertly captures the drama, passions, politics and religious turmoil of England at the turn of the 18th century. Margaret Porter crafts her story with exquisite detail, transporting the reader into a world full of intrigue, scandal, and breathtaking danger . . . a masterful writer.” - Award-winning author M. Reed McCall

“With elegant prose and vivid detail, A Pledge of Better Times sweeps you into late Stuart England, transforming the lesser known adversities and triumphs of Lady Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk into a beautiful love story you won’t forget.” - Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris and Girl on the Golden Coin

“A portrait of Diana de Vere as rich as the portraits that grace British museums and palaces.” - Christy K Robinson, author of Mary Dyer Illuminated

“The sparkling, dangerous, enticing post-Restoration period comes to vivid life! Porter gives us a wonderful, complicated heroine in Diana, drawing us deep into her world . . . . I couldn’t stop reading!” - Amanda Carmack, author of Murder in the Queen’s Garden: An Elizabethan Mystery

 

Official Book Trailer



 

About the Author

 

 

Margaret Porter is an award-winning, bestselling novelist whose lifelong study of British history inspires her fiction and her travels. A former stage actress, she has also worked in film, television, and radio. For more information please visit Margaret Porter's website. You can also find her on Facebook here and here, and on Twitter.


A Pledge of Better Times Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 4
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Spotlight & Giveaway at Mina's Bookshelf
Tuesday, May 5
Wednesday, May 6
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, May 7
Review at Book Drunkard
Friday, May 8
Review at Books and Benches
Sunday, May 10
Review & Guest Post at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, May 11
Review at Reading the Past
Tuesday, May 12
Wednesday, May 13
Guest Post at Book Babe
Thursday, May 14
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Impressions in Ink
Friday, May 15
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession


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Saturday, April 25, 2015

And the winners are...



Announcing this week's giveaway winners. Congratulations!
One copy of Inspector Of The Dead by David Morrell goes to Angela Holland
***
One copy of Washington Lawyer by Allan Topol goes to Petite 
***
One copy of Sisters Of Shiloh by Kathy Hepinstall goes to KAS
***
One copy of SP Y, Interrupted by T. Dasu goes to cyn209

***


One copy of Wild Horses by B.J. Daniels goes to traveler

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS by M. J. Rose (A Review)


THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS
By M. J. Rose
Publication Date: March 17, 2015 Atria Books
Formats: Hardcover, Ebook
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical Mystery, Gothic, Fantasy, Paranormal 

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Review
Paris, 1894
 
"I did not cause the madness, the deaths, or the rest of the tragedies any more than I painted the paintings. I had help, her help. Or perhaps I should say she forced her help on me. And so this story - which began  with me fleeing my home in order to escape my husband and might very well end tomorrow, [...], is as much hers as mine. Or in fact more hers than mine. For she is the fountainhead. The fascination. She is La Lune. Woman of moon dreams. Of legends and nightmares. Who took me from the light  and into the darkness. Who imprisoned me and set me free."
 
Or is it the other way around?
The descendant of a line of celebrated courtesans, Sandrine Salome enjoyed a happy and sheltered childhood away from the scandalous conduct of her European lineage. Daughter of a wealthy banker and art collector, she grew up within the much more conventional upbringing of the New York good society: family mansion on Fifth Avenue, summer house in Newport, afternoon spent through the vast halls and endless exhibit rooms of the Metropolitan Museum. Versed in art, literature, and esoteric philosophies just like her open-minded father, she had bloomed into womanhood eschewing the idea of romantic love, - an inquisitive mind with a flair for arcane knowledge, oddly naïve and unsophisticated when it came to the matters of heart. Women of her social status were expected to marry well and raise a family in the calm oasis of their perfectly manicured homes, but if on one hand Sandrine could accept a loveless marriage to his father's protégé and junior business partner, on the other she could not endure an abusive marriage. After the death of her father, she flees New York to escape her husband's brutality and finds shelter in her grandmother's Parisian mansion.

Maison de la Lune is a  mid-eighteenth-century stone house loaded with mystical treasures and secrets. Once stage of lavish salons hosted by Sandrine's grandmother, a sensualist and courtesan herself, the four-story building is now closed for renovations, but its magical and elusive charm lures Sandrine to explore its niches and secret passages. Warm and responsive like a living entity, the ancestral home becomes the enclave of her sensual awakening, but it will slowly and irremediably lead her and her new lover Julien Duplessi, the architect in charge with the renovations, to a fatal discovery, one involving alchemy, occultism, and witchcraft. La maison, in fact, sits on the property of Lunette Lumiere, Sandrine's ancestor. A sixteenth-century courtesan who was said to be the lover of a famous painter, a painter herself, La Lune lived to be over one hundred and fifty years old. Always young. Always beautiful. Legend has it that she learned alchemy and that she had discovered what many before her had been searching for.

Spiraling through the opulence and the sensuality of a Belle Epoque Paris, The Witch Of Painted Sorrows is a flavorful historical mystery: a dash of paranormal, a dose of erotica, loads of suspense. Only, that suspense which I expected to be the dominant ingredient evenly spread throughout the pages was rather packed towards the end of the book. It took me a good half of the narrative, if not more, to really appreciate the intricacies of the plot. Good thing is that, by the final chapters, when I thought the novel had climaxed into a perfect adrenaline-spiking resolution, M.J. Rose managed to blow my mind with an unexpected twist. And all it took her was one sentence. While the action shifts into full gear only at the end, the most part of Sandrine's story is an exquisite, slow-simmering, and highly evocative portrait of the fin-de-siecle mood, with its  Bohemian cafes and cabarets, the literary alcoves and all the cultural contradictions of that era.

4 stars.

***Review copy graciously offered by the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased and honest opinion




About the book
Possession. Power. Passion. International bestselling novelist M.J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this erotic, gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris. Sandrine Salome runs away to her grandmother’s Parisian mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires. Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten – her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse. This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love and witchery.








Friday, April 17, 2015

SCENT OF TRIUMPH: Guest Post by Author Jan Moran & GIVEAWAY

Blog Post for SCENT OF TRIUMPH by Jan Moran

 


 



 


Thank you for allowing me to guest post on your blog today for the SCENT OF TRIUMPH blog tour. Besides writing, I love to talk about perfumery, so today I thought I’d share two of my favorite vintage perfumes. In SCENT OF TRIUMPH, the main character, Danielle Bretancourt, is a third generation French perfumer and couturier.  

Set in the 1940s, I had to imagine the cultural norms with regard to the era. For example, female perfumers were quite rare; young men usually became apprentices to a perfumer and devoted their lives to the trade. In this novel, Danielle learns her craft through an apprenticeship with her uncle, Philippe, a veteran of the Great War, and later draws on her craft to support her family.

Throughout SCENT OF TRIUMPH, readers will find references to actual vintage perfumes. At the time, perfumes were handcrafted, and none reached distribution on such a scale as we know today. However, a few remarkable perfumes from the era have survived, and indeed thrived, with modern marketing and manufacturing. Among those are fragrances from Guerlain and Dior. In fact, several Guerlain perfumes still sold today date from the nineteenth century.

Guerlain’s Shalimar was created just after World War I in 1925. It was heralded as the first “Oriental” perfume, so called because of its essential oils that originated in Asia. Miss Dior debuted in 1947, after the end of World War II. Though two decades apart, both perfume compositions reflect joy and jubilation in the return to peace, though in markedly different ways.

Shalimar reflects the expansive mood of post-war relief after World War I, and the shifting social mores of young “flapper girls,” who bobbed their hair, unlaced their corsets, and danced until dawn. On the other hand, Miss Dior embraces a return to femininity after World War II. Named after Christian Dior’s younger sister, it might have been inspired by a longing for a return to normalcy and hope for future generations, by those who’d experienced two massive wars in their homeland in a relatively short period of time.

Shalimar by Guerlain (1925) – Shalimar is an intoxicating, yet subtly sensuous blend that has endured for decades. With a long-lasting base of spices and aromatic woods, it became the archetype for Oriental blends. A highly distinctive and dramatic fragrance, it was designed for the woman who is sensual, sophisticated and uninhibited.


 



A 1925 composition, Shalimar is reflective of its period, of a cosmopolitan Paris in the midst of celebration after World War I, of the Roaring Twenties, of exhilaration and new life. This attitude is mirrored in the zesty citrus top notes. Heady florals flow into a spicy base that is particularly rich in vanilla, incense, and sandalwood.

In creating Shalimar, Jacques Guerlain was inspired by a love story told to him by a Maharajah visiting Paris. The Guerlain company shared the story with us:

More than 300 years ago, Shah Jahan succeeded to the throne of his father, Jahangir, and became the third Mogul Emperor of India.
Jahan loved only one woman. Her name was Mumtaz Mahal.

Some say he loved her unto madness, that she was not his wife but his fever. Victories, empires and riches were dust as compared to her…in his eyes, she alone was the balm that made life bearable.

When she died, Jahan’s hair turned white. He would burst into tears at the mention of her name. In her memory, he built one of the world’s greatest wonders–the Taj Mahal at Agra.

But the Taj Mahal is only an empty monument. While Mumtaz was alive, Jahan created a series of gardens for her at Lahore, gardens the like of which had never been seen before. He called them the gardens of Shalimar, the Sanskrit word meaning “abode of love.”

From every corner of the Earth, the most fragrant and delicate blossoms were brought. Deep pools were built with crystal fountains and terraces paved in marble. The rarest birds were summoned to sing here and lanterns were hung to rival the stars. In the gardens of Shalimar the lovers were truly happy, and Mumtaz bore fourteen children to her beloved Jahan.

Jacques Guerlain decided that the perfume should be called Shalimar, not Taj Mahal, because, you see, Taj Mahal marks the end of the story, and this love story can never end….

The flacon was designed by Raymond Guerlain and is also a reminder of the fountains in the gardens of Shalimar. The ornamental stopper in sapphire blue evokes the flow of the fountains’ water. Voluptuous and enveloping, Shalimar is a fragrance of eternal romance.


 



Miss Dior by Christian Dior (1947) – A classic, impeccable floral fragrance, Miss Dior was created by French couturier Christian Dior. Christian Dior once said, “Perfume is the indispensable complement to the feminine personality, and the finishing touch of a dress.”

Miss Dior was launched in 1947, the year Dior introduced his New Look. The New Look was actually a throwback to the pre-World War II years, full skirts, tiny waistlines, gloves, and bare shoulders, a far cry from the despondent styles of the war years.

When consumers flocked to update their wardrobes with the New Look, they also snapped up his new fragrance, Miss Dior. The fragrance represented the re-emergence of the feminine, elegant style of the Belle Époque.

Today, the perennial French debutante Miss Dior is enjoying a resurgence, or second debut. So who has worn Miss Dior? From today’s Natalie Portman, who serves as the current spokesmodel, to Princess Grace and Marlene Dietrich.

Reader’s Guide to Vintage Perfumes

In addition to these two perfumes, I’ve also developed a Reader’s Guide to vintage perfumes mentioned in SCENT OF TRIUMPH, as well as others that represent the era and story line. (I’ve heard several book clubs are doing a vintage perfume meeting to discuss the book. I’d love to see photos!)

As you might imagine, I could only include a small amount of historical detail without slowing down the saga, so I compiled some of this research into another book, VINTAGE PERFUMES. For a limited time, if you buy SCENT OF TRIUMPH, simply email a receipt or a take a selfie with the book or your ereader, and I’ll send you a free digital PDF edition of Vintage Perfumes as a thank-you.


 
 
I hope you enjoy reading SCENT OF TRIUMPH, and I’d love to hear about your favorite classic perfumes. Many people associate fragrances with the memory of loved ones, too. If you have perfumes you cherish, add your favorites in the comments. (I’ll start—Mitsouko is one of my all-time faves!)

 
******
 

 

Please join author Jan Moran as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for Scent of Triumph: A Novel of Perfume and Passion, from April 1-17, and enter to win an autographed copy!

 02_Scent of Triumph Cover

Publication Date: March 31, 2015
St. Martin's Griffin
Formats: eBook, Paperback
384 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
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When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for her the remains of her family, relying on the strength and support of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a young captain. Finally, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles. Through determination and talent, she rises high from meager jobs in her quest for success as a perfumer and fashion designer to Hollywood elite. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, Scent of Triumph is one woman's story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

Praise for Scent of Triumph

"SCENT OF TRIUMPH [is a] World War II epic." - Los Angeles Times

"Though romance figures importantly in [SCENT OF TRIUMPH], Danielle's professional life is most appealing, profiting from perfume expert Moran's (Fabulous Fragrances, 1994, etc.) authentic experience...The casual demeanor with which Danielle always notices scents in her environment helps establish her character and professional credibility in a charming way...Danielle makes for a strong, unusual heroine who doesn't always make wise decisions, although her resilience, style and knowledge remain admirable.... [A] historical fiction carried by a complex, resourceful heroine with a nose for business." - Kirkus Reviews

“Warm and well written, with characters who attract the reader’s sympathy and affection. A lovely story well-told, which will appeal to romantics, fashion and perfume devotees, and fans of historical fiction.” - Amy Edelman, founder of IndieReader.com

Buy Scent of Triumph

Amazon
Apple iBookstore
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
IndieBound Kobo


03_Jan MoranAbout the Author

Jan Moran is a Rizzoli bestselling and award winning author. She writes historical women's fiction for St. Martin's Press, contemporary women's fiction, and nonfiction books. Her stories are smart and stylish, and written with emotional depth. Jan often draws on her international travel and business experiences, infusing her books with realistic details. The Midwest Book Review and Kirkus have recommended her books, calling her heroines strong, complex, and resourceful. Jan has been featured in numerous publications and on television and radio, including CNN, Women's Wear Daily, Allure, InStyle, and O Magazine. As an editor and writer, she has covered fragrance, beauty, and spa travel for a variety of publications such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Costco Connection, and Porthole Cruise. A perfume and beauty industry expert, she is the creator of Scentsa, a touch screen fragrance finder in Sephora stores. From Jan: "I love smart and fierce female protagonists. I hope you enjoy these books, and if you'd like to Skype me into your book club meeting, simply send me a message!" For more information and to sign up for Jan Moran's newsletter visit her official website. Jan blogs at Jan Moran Writes. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.

Special Offer from Jan Moran!

Jan Moran is running a special incentive on her website for a free digital ebook of her new non-fiction book, Vintage Perfumes, to everyone who purchases Scent of Triumph from March 31 to April 30! All you have to do is email your receipt to Jan Moran at janmoranbooks@gmail.com, along with a photo of yourself with the Scent of Triumph book, eBook, or your tablet.
 
Vintage Perfumes Cover

 

Scent of Triumph Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, April 1
Interview & Excerpt at Passages to the Past
Thursday, April 2
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Spotlight & Excerpt at Genre Queen
Friday, April 3
Review & Excerpt at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Interview at Let Them Read Books
Monday, April 6
Guest Post at The Maiden's Court
Tuesday, April 7
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Wednesday, April 8
Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book
Thursday, April 9
Review at The Eclectic Reader
Tuesday, April 14
Interview at A Literary Vacation
Thursday, April 16
Guest Post at Book Nerd
Friday, April 17
Review at The Lit Bitch
Guest Post at Mina's Bookshelf
Interview at Reading Lark

 

Giveaway

To enter to win a signed copy of Scent of Triumph, please complete the giveaway form below. RULES Giveaway starts on April 1st at 12:01am EST and ends at 11:59pm EST on April 17th. Giveaway is open to residents in the US only and you must be 18 or older to enter. Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 18th and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions. Scent of Triumph

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

THE PATRIOT THREAT by Steve Berry (Excerpt)


THE PATRIOT THREAT

(Cotton Malone #10)
by
Steve Berry
Minotaur Books; March 31, 2015
Hardcover, e-book, 400 pages
Mystery, Thriller
 
 

About the book


The 16th Amendment to the Constitution is why Americans pay income taxes. But what if there were problems associated with that amendment? Secrets that call into question decades of tax collecting? In fact, there is a surprising truth to this hidden possibility.Cotton Malone, once a member of an elite intelligence division within the Justice Department known as the Magellan Billet, is now retired and owns an old bookshop in Denmark. But when his former-boss, Stephanie Nelle, asks him to track a rogue North Korean who may have acquired some top secret Treasury Department files—the kind that could bring the United States to its knees—Malone is vaulted into a harrowing twenty-four hour chase that begins on the canals in Venice and ends in the remote highlands of Croatia.

With appearances by Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Mellon, a curious painting that still hangs in the National Gallery of Art, and some eye-opening revelations from the $1 bill, this riveting, non-stop adventure is trademark Steve Berry—90% historical fact, 10% exciting speculation—a provocative thriller posing a dangerous question: What if the Federal income tax is illegal?
  





About the author 


Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Lincoln Myth, The King's Deception, The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor's Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with 19,000,000 copies in 51 countries. They consistently appear in the top echelon of The New York Times, USA Today, and Indie bestseller lists.

Steve was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was a trial lawyer for 30 years and held elective office for 14 of those years. He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers—a group of more than 2,600 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president. 


Excerpt


Venice, Italy

Monday, November 10

10:40 p.m.


 
Cotton Malone dove to the floor as bullets peppered the glass wall. Thankfully the transparent panel, which separated one space from another oor-to-ceiling, did not shatter. He risked a look into the expansive secretarial area and spotted flashes of light through the semi- darkness, each burst emitted from the end of a short-barreled  weapon. The glass between him and the assailant was obviously extra-resistant, and he silently thanked someones foresight.

His options were limited.

He knew little about the geography of the buildings eighth floorafter all, this was his rst visit. Hed come expecting to covertly observe a massive nancial transaction—$20 million U.S. being stuffed into two large sacks destined for North  Korea. Instead the exchange had turned into a bloodbath, four men dead in an office not far away, their killeran Asian man with short, dark hair and dressed as a security guardnow homing in on him.

He needed to take cover.

At least he was armed, toting his Magellan Billetissued Beretta and two spare magazines. The ability to travel with a gun was one advantage that came with again carrying a badge for the United States Justice De- partment. Hed agreed to the temporary assignment as a way to take his mind off things in Copenhagen, and to earn some money since nowa- days spy work paid well.

Think.

He was outgunned, but not outsmarted.

Control whats around you and you control the outcome.

He darted left down the corridor, across gritty terrazzo, just as an- other volley nally obliterated the glass wall. He passed a nook with a restroom door on either side and kept going. Farther on a maids cart sat unattended. He caught sight of a propped-open  door to a nearby ofce and spied a uniformed woman cowering in the dark interior.

He whispered in Italian, Crawl under the desk and stay quiet.She did as he commanded.

This civilian could be a problem. Collateral damage was the term used for them in Magellan Billet reports. He hated the description. More ac- curately they were somebodys father, mother, brother, sister. Innocents, caught in the crossre.

It would be only a few moments before the Asian appeared.

He  noticed another  office door and rushed inside the dark space. The usual furniture lay scattered. A second doorway led to an adjacent room, light spilling in through its half-open door. A quick glance inside that other space confirmed that the second room opened back to the hall.

That would work.

His nostrils detected the odor of cleaning solution, an open metal canister holding several gallons resting a few feet away. He also spotted a pack of cigarettes and a lighter on the maids cart.

Control whats around you.

He grabbed both, then tipped over the metal container.

Clear uid gurgled onto the hall floor, spreading across the tile in a river that owed in the direction from which the Asian would come.

He waited.

Five seconds later his attacker, leading with the automatic rifle, peered around a corner, surely wondering where his prey might be.

Malone lingered another few seconds so as to be seen. The rie appeared.

He darted into the ofce. Bullets peppered the maids cart in deafening bursts. He icked the lighter and ignited the cigarette pack. Paper, cellophane, and tobacco began to burn. One. Two. He tossed the burn- ing bundle out the door and into the clear lm that sheathed the hall oor.

A swoosh and the cleaning liquid caught re.

Movement in the second room confirmed what hed thought would happen. The Asian had taken refuge there from the burning oor. Be- fore his enemy could fully appreciate his dilemma Malone  plunged through the doorway, tackling the man to the ground.

The rifle clattered away.

His right hand clamped onto the mans throat. But his opponent was strong.

And nimble.

They rolled, twice, colliding with a desk.

He told himself to keep his grip. But the Asian pivoted off the oor and catapulted him feetfirst into the air. His body hinged across his op- ponents head. He was thrust aside and the Asian sprang to his feet. He readied himself for a ght, but the guard ed the room.

He found his gun and approached the door, heart pounding, lungs heaving. Remnants of the liquid still smoldered on the floor. The hall was clear and wet footprints led away. He followed them. At a corner, he stopped and glanced around, seeing no one. He advanced toward the elevators and studied the transom, noticing that the position-indicator displays for both cars were lit 8this oor. He pressed the up button and jumped back ready to re.

The doors opened.

The right car was empty. The left held a bloodied corpse, dressed only in his underwear. The real guard, he assumed. He stared at the con- torted face, obscured by two gaping wounds. Surely part of the plan was not only to eliminate all of the participants, but to leave no witnesses behind. He glanced inside the car and spotted a destroyed control panel. He checked the other car and found that it had also been disabled. The only way out now was the stairs.

He entered the stairwell and listened. Someone was climbing the ris- ers toward the roof. He vaulted up as fast as caution advised, keeping an eye ahead for trouble.
A door opened, then closed.

At the top he found an exit and heard the distinct churn of a helicop- ter turbine starting from the other side.

He cracked open the door.

A chopper faced away, tail boom and n close, its cabin pointing out to the night. The rotors began to wind fast and the Asian quickly loaded on the two large sacks of cash, then jumped inside.

Blades spun faster and the skids lifted from the roof. He pushed open the door.

A chilly wind buffeted him.

Should he re? No. Let it y away? Hed been sent only to observe, but things had gone wrong, so now he needed to earn his keep. He stuffed the pistol into his back pocket, buttoned  it shut, and ran. One leap and he grabbed hold of the rising skid.

The chopper powered out into the dark sky.

What a strange sensation, ying unprotected through the night. He clung tightly to the metal skid with both hands, the choppers airspeed making it increasingly difcult to hang on.

He stared down.

They were headed east, away from the mainland, toward the water and the islands. The location where the murders had occurred was on the Italian shore, a few hundred yards inland, a nondescript office build- ing near Marco Polo International Airport. The lagoon itself was en- closed by thin strips of lighted coast joined in a wide arc to the mainland, Venice lying at the center.

The chopper banked right and increased speed.

He wrapped his right arm around the skid for a better hold.

Ahead he spied Venice, its towers and spires lit to the night. Beyond on all sides was blackness, signaling open water. Farther east was Lido, which fronted the Adriatic. His mind ticked off what lay below. To the north, ground lights betrayed the presence of Murano, then Burano and, farther on, Torcello. The islands lay embedded in the lagoon like spar- kling trinkets. He curled himself around the skid and for the rst time stared up into the cabin.

The guard eyed him.

The chopper veered left, apparently to see if the unwanted passenger could be dislodged. His body flew out, then whipped back, but he held tight and stared up once more into icy eyes. He saw the Asian slide open the hatch with his left hand, the rie in his right. In the instant before rounds rained down at the skids, he swung across the undercarriage to- ward the other skid and jerked himself over.

Bullets smacked the left skid, disappearing down through the dark. He was now safe on the right side, but his hands ached from gravitys pull. The chopper again rocked back and forth, tapping his last bits of strength. He hooked his left leg onto the skid, hugging the metal. The brisk air dried his throat, making breathing difcult. He worked hard to build up saliva and relieve the parching.

He needed to do something and fast.

He studied the whirling rotors, blades beating the air, the staccato of the turbine deafening. On  the roof hed hesitated, but now there ap- peared to be no choice. He held on tight with his legs and left arm, then reached back and unbuttoned  his pant pocket. He stuffed in his right hand and removed the Beretta.

Only one way left to force the chopper down.

He red three shots into the screaming turbine just below the rotors hub.

The engine sputtered.

Flames poured out of the air intake and exhaust pipe. Airspeed di- minished. The nose went up in an effort to stay airborne.

He glanced down.

They were still a thousand feet up but rapidly losing altitude in some- thing of a controlled descent.

He could see an island ahead of them. Scattered glows dened its rectangular shape just north of Venice. He knew the place. Isola di San Michele. Nothing  there but a couple of churches and a huge cemetery where the dead had been buried since the time of Napoleon.

More sputtering.

A sudden backre.

Thick smoke billowed from the exhaust, the scent of sulfur and burning oil sickening. The pilot was apparently trying to stabilize the descent, the craft jerking up and down, its control planes working hard.

They overtook the island flying close to the dome of its main church.
At twenty feet off the ground success seemed at hand. The chopper lev- eled, then hovered. Its turbine smoothed. Below was a dark spot, but he wondered how many stone markers might be waiting. Hard to see any- thing in the darkness. The choppers occupants surely knew they still had company. So why land? Just head back up and ditch their passenger from the air.

He should have shot the turbine a few times more. Now he had no choice.

So he let go of the skid.

He seemed to fall for the longest time, though if memory served him right a free-falling object fell at the rate of thirty-two feet per second, per second. Twenty feet equaled less than one second. He hoped that the ground was soft and he avoided stone.

He pounded legs-rst, his knees collapsing to absorb the shock, then rebounding, sending him rolling. His left thigh instantly ached. Some- how he managed to hold on to the gun. He came to a stop and looked back up. The pilot had regained full control. The helicopter pitched up and maneuvered closer. A swing to the right and his attacker now had a clear view below. He  could probably limp off, but  he saw no good ground cover. He was in the open, amid the graves. The Asian saw his predicament, hovering less than  a hundred  feet away, the downwash from the blades stirring up loose topsoil. The helicopters hatch slid open and his attacker one-handedly took aim with the automatic rie.

Malone propped himself up and aimed the pistol using both hands. There couldnt be more than four rounds left in the magazine.

Make em count.

So he aimed at the engine.

The Asian gestured to the pilot for a retreat.

But not before Malone red. One, two, three, four shots.

Hard to tell which bullet actually did the trick, but the turbine ex- ploded, a brilliant reball lighting the sky, aming chunks cascading to the ground in a searing shower fty yards away. In the sudden light he spotted hundreds of grave markers in tightly packed rows. He hugged the earth and shielded his head as the explosions continued, a heaping mass of twisted metal, esh, and burning fuel erupting before him.
He stared at the carnage.
A crackle of ames consumed the helicopter, its occupants, and $20 million U.S. in cash.

Somebody was going to be pissed.