A Day in the Life ~ Cassandra Raines by Tracy Clark [New Book Release]

What-you-dont-seeLet’s double up, he said. The gig pays $5,000 for the week, he said. Where else can you make that kind of money for just standing around looking intimidating? That’s what my ex-partner, Detective Ben Mickerson, told me when he friend-guilted me into helping him bodyguard Vonda Allen. Personal security work was his side hustle, a lot of cops had one. In Ben’s case, he offered big cop buffer to a lot of Chicago biggies–sports stars, CEOs, TV personalities–he even guarded Bozo once. Bozo!

Me? I don’t normally do side hustle. My regular hustle is hustle enough. I’m a PI. The name’s Cassandra Raines, Cass. I head up Raines Investigations where I’m the sole operator. I’m not exactly a titan of industry, but I do all right. Anyway, Ben came to me yesterday, Sunday, with this dog of a job. Security. Five thousand for the week. He has his eye on a sweet little leisure boat and this job was how he was going to help pay for it. Whatever. I know Ben. I know Ben well. I had a feeling the Allen gig wasn’t going to be as easy as he led me to believe, but he’s a pal and I had the time, so I signed on.

First, Vonda Allen, the publisher of her own magazine, a magazine, by the way, normal people can’t get three pages into before their eyes glaze over, was known to be a stone-cold diva, a pill. She was haughty, high-handed, difficult and devoid of even the slightest hint of humility. The kind of woman who needed to get over herself real quick. Strike one.

Oh, and I forgot this little gem. Ms. Vonda Allen needs this very visible security presence because someone is sending her anonymous flowers and threatening letters scribbled in blood-red ink. Now most people faced with blood letters would run straight to the police and ask them to find the numbskull sending them, wouldn’t they? Queen Vonda was choosing to ignore the whole thing, aside from securing personal protection, not wanting the publicity, not giving her stalker, as she put it, “the satisfaction” of a response. Can you believe that?

Anyway, yesterday, I’m in her office with Ben getting introduced to the Great Lady, and I’m there less than five minutes before she starts getting all queeny. She begins asking all kinds of personal questions, like why I choose to work alone and why I left the police department. She really tried to dig deep, hoping to intimidate me and knock me off my game, I guess? HAHAHAHA. It didn’t go the way she expected it to go. But, again, Ben, pal, free time.

We didn’t exactly hit it off, but still I’m in there trying to help the woman, urging her to take the threats seriously, to involve the police, to at least lay low until they find the guy harassing her. Allen won’t go for it. Then, as I’m sitting there, I’m thinking, the woman’s rich. She’s got resources up the wazoo. Why is she hiring a moonlighting cop and a female PI as security when she could easily hire the swankiest security outfit in town? Smelled fishy to me. Strike two.

Now I’m lying here at five a.m., Tuesday, just twenty-four hours into this weeklong gig from Hades, staring up at my bedroom ceiling, knowing full well that I’ve got to get up and shadow fake Anna Wintour around her glitzy health club while she rich-lady sweats it on overpriced ellipticals. Allen told me to wear workout togs. Togs. What human being uses the word togs? If somebody comes after her, does she really expect me to chase after them in neon Spandex and a crop top? Where does she think I’d stow my gun, in my sock? Look, I’m wearing bodyguard togs—jeans, blazer, flats I can run in. If she doesn’t like it, she can go fish.

I should get up. I’m supposed to be at Allen’s by six. SIX. Strike friggin’ three.

Hopefully, nobody tries to off Allen at the club. Those letters really were bone-chilling. The writer addressed them DEAR BITCH. Not good. I joked to Ben that it sounded like the writer was someone who knew Allen, but it really isn’t funny. Stalkers are erratic, unpredictable, unhinged most times, dangerous always. Allen made it clear, however, that she was paying for protection, not investigation. I’m not completely sure I can offer the first without at least taking a stab at the second. My life is on the line too, right, and Ben’s? If someone comes gunning for her, we’re the ones standing in front of her.

I need to get up.

If I were to investigate I would imagine the list of suspects would be as long as my arm. Vonda Allen doesn’t exactly flit through life with little fairy wings. Prima donnas. I don’t deal with them well. Ben knows this about me, so if I can’t hold it together, I’m blaming him. Togs. Seriously?

Okay. I’m up. Let’s do this.


What You Don’t See is the third book in the “Chicago” traditional mystery series, coming May 26, 2020.

Former cop Cass Raines knows the streets of Chicago all too well. Now she’s a private investigator and getting an exclusive glimpse into how the other half lives—and how they die . . .

Wealth. Power. Celebrity. Vonda Allen’s glossy vanity magazine has taken the Windy City by storm, and she’s well on her way to building a one-woman media empire. Everybody adores her. Except the people who work for her. And the person who’s sending her flowers with death threats . . .

As Vonda’s bodyguard, off-duty cop Ben Mickerson knows he could use some back-up—and no one fits the bill better than his ex-partner on the police force, Cass Raines. Now a full-time private eye, Cass is reluctant to take the job. She isn’t keen on playing babysitter to a celebrity who’s rumored to be a heartless diva. But as a favor to Ben, she signs on. But when Vonda refuses to say why someone might be after her, and two of her staff turn up dead, Ben and Cass must battle an unknown assailant bent on getting to the great lady herself, before someone else dies.

Cass finds out the hard way just how persistent a threat they face during the first stop on Vonda’s book tour. As fans clamour for her autograph, things take an ugly turn when a mysterious fan shows up with flowers and slashes Ben with a knife. While her ex-partner’s life hangs in the balance, Cass is left to find out what secrets Vonda is keeping, who might want her dead, and how she can bring Ben’s attacker to justice before enemies in the Chicago Police Department try to stop her in her tracks . . .

Purchase Link
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About the author
Tracy Clark, a native Chicagoan, is the author of the Cass Raines Chicago Mystery series, featuring ex-cop turned PI Cassandra Raines, a hard-driving African American gumshoe working the mean streets of the Windy City dodging cops, cons, killers and thugs. Her debut, Broken Places, made Library Journal’s list of the Best Crime Fiction of 2018 and was short listed in the mystery category on the American Library Association’s 2019 Reading List. CrimeReads also named Cass Raines Best New PI of 2018. The novel was nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, an Anthony Award for Best Debut Novel and a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel. Her second Raines novel, Borrowed Time, has been nominated for the 2020 Lefty Award for Best Mystery Novel and shortlisted for the 2020 G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award. Visit her website at TracyClarkBooks.com.

All comments are welcomed.

As previously posted on Dru’s Book Musings

Born a Crime_

“Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah [Book Review]

born-a-crimeIf you only read one book this summer, it should be “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah. Most of my life I thought being born “illegitimate” was the worst state in which one could be born. Being born illegitimate means your parents weren’t married.

I was born illegitimate. My mother and father never married. And it was an embarrassment. It was one of those things I didn’t want my friends, or anyone else for that matter, to know.

Well, Trevor Noah’s birth trumps mine. He was born a crime. In South Africa during Apartheid, it was against the law for a Black person and a White person to have sex. The penalty–time in prison if they were caught or somehow found out.

Trevor is the product of a White man and a Black (African) woman, conceived and born during Apartheid. Trevor tells the story of his life in an unvarnished, unpretentious, bare-it-all kind of way. He shares the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet he does so with eloquence and humor.

Trevor’s story is like none I’ve ever read before. His life is a paradox. A contradiction. There are numerous occasions in his childhood where he’s met with circumstances that force him to make difficult choices because he’s “not black enough” or he’s “not white enough”; or conversely he’s “too black” or “too white.” It was those difficult circumstances his mother used to teach him never to pity himself and to look at life’s setbacks and challenges with humor.

When you look at this bright-face, handsome, intelligent young man, chosen by Jon Stewart to replace him on The Daily Show, you would not have guessed he rose from extreme poverty. Nor would you have thought he had to be hidden by his parents and couldn’t play outside with the other children for fear his secret, or rather his parents’ secret would be found out.

His early childhood was filled with the normal hijinks of most little boys. By his own admission, he was “naughty as sh…” Trevor’s mother, however, was a strong Christian woman and a stern disciplinarian. She disciplined Trevor out of love. She didn’t give him an easy pass because he was her son — knowing the world wouldn’t either — a world that would often judge him because of his skin color or treat him with hostility.

Trevor’s story will make you laugh. It might make you cry. But it will certainly entertain and educate you about the harsh realities of a cruel and unjust society that values people based upon their skin color. But most of all, it will fill you with joy and hope as you read about the resilience of this young boy, and the steel-will of his mother determined to expose him to things beyond their grasp to give him the ability to dream and to soar.

This is a story of love, hope, and the power of unquenchable faith. It’s the story of a modern-day miracle. If you don’t believe me, read his story for yourself. Then drop me a line and tell me what you think.

As always, thanks for stopping by!



“Wild Seed” by Octavia E. Butler [Book Review]

Compelling, raw, poignant, evocative, unexpected.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading “Wild Seed.” It’s the first novel I’ve read by this esteemed author called “the grand dame of science fiction.” The story begins with the unveiling of an interesting world created by Ms. Butler. It’s set in an African village in the late sixteen hundreds.
wild-seed In fluid prose, she introduces the two main characters, Doro and Anyanwu. I was instantly drawn into their world and the unusual makeup of these two individuals. Doro has unique powers, and those powers draws him to Anyanwu. It is her unusual powers that drew him to her after finding his village destroyed and all of his people killed.

Doro who’s lived for thousands of years, stealing the lives of other people, is totally fascinated by Anyanwu’s extraordinary abilities — the ability to take different forms –animal and human, and the ability to heal herself and others.

Taking Anyanwu as his bride, he coaxes her to leave her village where she’d lived for 300 years to travel to his colony in the new world.

Anyanwu, who’s equally fascinated by Doro, grows to love him. She later discovers there are many sides to him, some of them downright frightened. Once they reached his village in America, Anyanwu is not only surprised by all the new customs she has to learn, but she’s shocked by the plan Doro has for her.

Ms. Butler’s writing is smooth and effortless. It is so well written, while I knew the story was fiction, I easily slipped between the pages becoming totally invested in the lives of these two unforgettable characters. “Wild Seed” touches on many interesting themes — love, loyalty, trust, betrayal, power, immortality. It is a great read. I highly recommend it!

“Hugo and Nebula award–winning author Octavia E. Butler’s sweeping cross-century epic places her “among the best of contemporary SF writers” (Houston Chronicle).

If you’ve read “Wild Seed” drop me a line or two and let me know what you think.

Chat with you later!


book review-schemers

“Schemers” by Victor McGlothin [Book Review]

book review-schemersTake overworked, under-sexed Dr. Lena Harmon and introduce her to Aries DuPree, “six-foot two tower of chocolate with a chiseled jaw line and dreamy eyes” who appears out of nowhere and only has eyes for the married lady doctor.

You already know this is the formula for an explosive situation!

But what Lena Harmon doesn’t know as she fights to maintain vertical equilibrium, is that Aries DuPree, the bronze buffed Adonis is one of the handsome men of M.O.E.T.

M.O.E.T. is a finely tuned extortion operation that targets ultra rich females, taking them on the sexual ride of their lives, fulfilling their every fantasy, all the while capturing them on film.

The embarrassing pictures and videos later to be used to extort money from their shocked and unsuspecting spouses.

As Lena struggles with the emptiness of her marriage and the seductive charms of Aries, she finds herself drawn into an intoxicating but forbidden world.

With so much to lose and so much to gain (or so she believes), Lena becomes trapped in the high stakes game of “pay-to-play” that could cost her everything.

Schemers” by Victor McGlothin is a fast-paced, sexy thrill ride!

It will keep you on the edge of your seat, totally captivated and furiously turning pages, wondering how this wicked tale is going to end.

The -samsara-effect

“The Samsara Effect” by Paul Black [Book Review]

the-samsara-effectIf you like sci-fi mysteries, you’re going to love this page-turner by Paul Black!

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Black at the DFW Writers Conference back in April.

I attended a workshop he presented, and I told him I wanted to read The Samsara Effect so I could steal some of his ideas for my newest novel, The Nebula, because our stories were similar. Wink. Wink.

Well, as it turns out our stories are only slightly similar, but I sure am glad I read his novel all the same.

This story grabs you from the very first page and doesn’t let you go until the very last sentence. The story opens with a small boy crying in the night. His mother races down stairs to find him pointing a loaded shotgun at her and demanding, “Get your hands up!” — in German, a language he’s never learned or spoken.

The father, who’s special forces trained, hears the commotion and charges downstairs, leveling his handgun at his own son ordering him to drop his weapon or he’ll drop him. What??? I was all in at this point!

What an engaging start to what weaves into the fascinating story of brilliant scientist, Dr. William Kanter, who has made an amazing discovery, a machine that can capture memories. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

As Dr. Kanter turns to professional colleagues to find funding to continue his research and validate his discovery, he soon finds himself trapped between greedy corporate opportunists and secret governmental agencies who don’t care about the betterment of humanity, only filling their own coffers with millions of dollars or using the machine to advance their own malicious causes.

Dr. Kanter enlists the help of Dr. Trenna Anderson, a child psychologist, as they work together to further the research on his invention and to save the life of a little boy. But forces on both side close in and terror ensues as Dr. Kanter and Dr. Anderson try to preserve the last hope for the little boy and present a discovery to the world that may help all mankind.

This story is very well written with a tight plot line, having numerous unexpected twists and turns. The characters are diverse and well representative of their cultures. The technology is fascinating and makes you think, “Hmmm, what if…?” The story had the right combination of sci-fi, technology, espionage, sexuality, and humor — all the essential elements that make a story great.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was a great read. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi adventures, or just a well told story!

Paul Black is the international award-winning author of The Tels Trilogy and The Presence. His books have won numerous awards including The Writer’s Digest Book Award for genre fiction, along with the Independent Publisher’s Book Award for science fiction and the London Book Festival for general fiction. Mr. Black lives and works in Dallas, Texas. Learn more about The Samsara Effect and his other books at www.paulblackbooks.com.


Book Review: “The Outcasts” by Kathleen Kent

the-outcasts-coverThe Outcasts” is an audacious captivating story of two people from very different walks of life in search of a better future in the harsh reality of living in the American West during the 1870’s.

The story opens with Lucinda Carter stealing away in the early morning hours from the Texas brothel where she’s worked for several years as a prostitute under prison-like conditions for a ruthless overbearing Madame. Lucinda doesn’t leave empty-handed however. In fact, she leaves with a pouch filled with silver coins she’s stolen from the Madame, using the money to finance her new-found freedom.

With the horrific upbringing of being an epileptic child banished to an insane asylum by her father, Lucinda escapes yet another horror, heading to Middle Bayou where she plans to meet her lover and begin a new life with the riches of pirate’s gold he tells her is hidden near the town.

Meanwhile, Nate Cannon, a newly installed member of the Texas State Police, is commissioned to meet up with two long-time partners in the Texas Rangers, Captain George Deerling and Dr. Tom Goddard to inform them that the ruthless killer of men, women, and children, Bill McGill, whom they’ve tracked for years has killed again.

Neither Deerling nor Dr. Tom is exactly thrilled the young inexperience law man will be tagging along with them to find the killer. But with honesty and an abiding sense of justice, Nate eventually wins them over by standing on conviction and performing an unexpected act of bravery.

The paths of Lucinda and Nate eventually intersect in the bustling city of New Orleans, Louisiana where promises are kept, secrets are revealed, and lives are changed forever.

“The Outcasts” is the first western novel I’ve read, and it left me longing for more! Kathleen Kent has done a superb job of capturing the essence of a time when life was difficult and the choices people made were even more so.

The detailed descriptions of Lucinda’s clothing, the terrain, the torrential downpours, the brothels, the hotels, the guns, the steam ship, the harsh cold nights all added authenticity and believability to the story.

The characters are well-developed, flawed, and imperfect. The plot is tightly woven and well-paced with unexpected twists and turns, and every loose end is neatly tied by the story’s conclusion. I absolutely love this story!

PS – If you’ve read “The Outcasts” drop me a line or two and tell me what you think about it.