Islam is Complex

what would a muslim sayI was provided with a free copy of “What a Muslim Would Say Book 2”, and “Interfaith Dialogue and Debates” in exchange for an honest review.

Let me begin by verifying that I am not a Muslim. However, since writing a novel (Forbidden, by F. Stone) wherein the setting is the Middle East and most of the characters are Muslim, I have studied the religion of Islam, though I don’t consider myself an authority on the subject. Far from it!

During my studies, many Muslims have been overwhelming generous in their time, kindness, and eager to help me grasp not only the teachings of the prophet Mohammad, but to also understand the culture of Muslims – which varies depending upon many factors (history, country, government).

Understanding Islam can be challenging. Ahmed Lofty Rashed has been inspired to assist both Muslim and non-Muslims understanding of Islam by inviting the public to send questions to https://www.whyislam.org/. He responds to each question providing answers in clear language and refers to corresponding passages in the Koran. His answers are articulate, honest, non-confrontational, and comprehensive. What a Muslim Would Say Book 2 and Interfaith Dialogues and Debates (follow-up to Book 1) are a compilation of this email communication.

Ahmed Lofty Rashed’s intent is to encourage understanding of Islam’s fundamental goal – to promote peace. The difficulty in understanding Islam is due to, in part, criminals who promote themselves as Muslim even while committing terrorism and atrocities which are in contradiction to the teachings of the Koran. The challenge is compounded by the media and political agents’ desire to sway public opinion in a direction that promotes profit and votes – not peace.

After reading Ahmed Rashed’s three books, it occurred to me that to fully understand Islam, one needs to be almost immersed in the faith from birth AND to have a comprehensive knowledge of the historical events during the time of Mohammad. For non-Muslims, it can be a life long study. Scholars of all religions still debate on many of the nuances, the obscure meanings, and wonder at the sacred wisdom declared centuries ago. Much of the text in our holy books are directly connected to the historical events, and to the level of understanding of human behavior and other sciences. For example, the explanation for the Islam’s law against homosexuality was believed that behavior was a choice. We now finally understand it is not a choice. I wonder, would Mohammad receive the same ‘laws’ today from God given our greater understanding of biology, neuroscience, etc.?

For years, many of my friends, my husband, and others have lamented that Muslims seem to be overly passive in expressing outrage with the atrocities wielded by extremist so-called Muslims. In a way, I understood their quiet display, offering only peaceful reflection away from the crowds of frightened non-Muslims. It is with great relief the dialogue has begun between the scholars, between the followers of the religions, and within the faithful in each community. Thank you, Ahmed Lofty Rashed for being brave, wise, and dedicated to peace. Blessings.

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Book Review: The Former Assassin by Nikki Stern

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group – I’m back. For the last several months I’ve been reassessing, rebuilding, and paring down to what is important to me as a woman and as a writer. For a long while I had planned to drop the writing gig. A part of me was glad to be free of the pressures and commitments. It was good to just BE. Really good.

Now that I feel the earth back under my feet again, there is a niggly sort of feeling creeping into my thoughts and decision processes. I recognized the source. It was Bart. If you don’t remember him from my “Forbidden” years, hang on. The little green varmint will resume his colorful antics.

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For today, my offering to the IWSG is a book review. The  Former Assassin is an excellent read. The author Nikki Stern has the best talent for description that, instead of losing the reader in endless flowery text, she pulls you seductively into the depth of the plot and characters.

The Former Assassin

by Nikki Stern

on Tour August 1-31, 2018

Synopsis:

The Former Assassin by Nikki Stern

Susan Foster wants to retire. Her boss wants her dead.

After decades as Victor Kemp’s off-the books killer, Suzanne finally quits. Not until five years later does Kemp discover how thoroughly she’s deceived him. Determined to punish her, he tracks her to Wales to watch her die. Instead, he walks into a trap.

Believing themselves safe at last, Suzanne and her family relocate to London, where she hopes to find the peace that has eluded her for so long. Her son is engaged to a nobleman’s daughter; her husband has a good job with British Intelligence. Yet she still struggles with restless dreams and the premonition that her nemesis has survived.

He has: Kemp, though severely injured, is rebuilding his empire and plotting revenge. He’s prepared to risk everything to end the former assassin. He may not be the only one.

Suzanne has no choice: to protect those she loves, she will be forced to kill again. Assassins, it seems, can never retire.

“An explosive page-turner which owes its momentum to it two well-drawn opponents and a conflict that goes beyond good-vs.-evil.” ~IndieReader, Four Star review

“Later turns in the smashing final act come at a searing pace.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“Keeps readers guessing the outcome right up to its conclusion.” ~D. Donovan Midwest Book Review

Book Review, by F. Stone

The first line of this book grabbed me. “Today is not a good day to die.”

The Former Assassin is suspenseful, well written, and has interesting characters. I particularly liked the author’s talent for description. Nikki Stern achieves the perfect balance of immersing the reader into the scene and the mind of the characters without losing the sense of suspense.

In my opinion, The Former Assassin is more character based than action. However, because the reader becomes intimately connected to the former assassin’s struggle with her terrible past, the reader is motivated to see if Suzanne can survive her profession of being a cold-blooded killer. Does she have the strength and courage to face how morally corrupt she has become? When she learns the people she dearly loves have been murdered, all seems lost. Suzanne’s heart, once on the verge of walking away from her life of crime, sizzles with hatred for her corrupt boss, Victor Kemp.

Kemp’s policy is to eliminate not just his enemies, but all traces of their connection. No one is allowed to leave his employment. When Suzanne declares retirement and goes into hiding, he desperately needs to destroy her. She knows every detail of his criminal activity. The hunt reaches fever pitch when his son is murdered.

Readers who enjoy interesting characters will love The Former Assassin. This book is a perfect blend of characters dealing with intense internal moral issues, working to perfect their skill as an unstoppable sharpshooter, and struggling to survive a no-win situation.

I give The Former Assassin 4.5 stars. Half a star is ‘knocked off’ as, in spite of her terrible family life, I couldn’t understand what drove Suzanne to be a heartless killer for many years . Other readers may find her motives realistic.

Message received from Nikki Stern:  Thanks so much for the review! Please let your readers know I’m offering specials to book clubbers as well.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Ruthenia Press
Publication Date: January 8, 2018
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 9780999548721
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

Today is not a good day to die.

No day is, not really. We humans are hard-wired to survive. By most standards, though, this morning is exceptional. The weather is balmy, even for May. The fierce winds that often pound the Welsh coastline have remained offshore. Purple heather blankets the emerald cliffs that encircle Bristol Bay. Small breakers gently lap the shoreline and wash the sand clean of debris. The water sparkles in the sunlight. Shades of azure and aquamarine yield to cyan and lapis further out. In the distance, the sea meets a cerulean sky just where the earth curves. No slate clouds gather at the horizon. All is calm.

Nothing suggested that today I would find myself on a bench in one of the most breathtaking spots in the world with a gun to my head, held by a predator who speaks just two words: “Don’t move.”

***

Excerpt from The Former Assassin by Nikki Stern. Copyright © 2018 by Nikki Stern. Reproduced with permission from Nikki Stern. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Nikki Stern

Nikki is the author of two works of non-fiction: HOPE IN SMALL DOSES, a 2015 Eric Hoffer finalist for books that provoke, inspire and redirect thought, and BECAUSE I SAY SO: MORAL AUTHORITY’S DANGEROUS APPEAL, as well as dozens of short stories. She is co-author on the Cafe Noir interactive murder mystery series, published by Samuel French. Nikki’s suspense novel, THE FORMER ASSASSIN has garnered strong reviews, including a four-star rating from Indie Reader. She’s working on a mystery/sci-fi series starring an unorthodox crime fighter named Samantha Tate. When she’s not writing about strong complex women, Nikki is working with several non-profits, taking Pilates classes, and attending to the needs of her dog, Molly.

Catch Up With Nikki Stern On:
Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

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ENTER GIVEAWAY:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Nikki Stern. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2018 and runs through September 1, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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Romance Under Fire – Returning to Blaze a New Trail

There are mega plans coming up. I could give you some hints, but you really don’t want me to ruin the surprise, do you?

One of activities I have missed doing is reading novels about to be launched, and posting my review. The first novel on my schedule (September 1st, 2018) is the Former Assassin by Nikki Stern, introduced by Partners in Crime Tour.

The Former Assassin by Nikki Stern

The next project about to be finalized, then launched, is top secret. But I am so excited, it is going to be painful to keep it quiet. From time to time, I’ll drop in a clue, just to torture you. It’s going to be so much fun.

Ciao, Baby.

Partners in Crime Book Reveal: A Face to Die For, by Andrea Kane

A Face to Die For

by Andrea Kane

on Tour September 18th – October 20th, 2017

Review by Feather Stone:

A Face to Die For is a fun read with a little added drama. The plot revealed mysteries and twists throughout the story. I enjoyed all of the characters. The story is written with clarity and a smooth flowing plot. The author, Andrea Kane, has a lovely writing style. In particular the ending and conclusion of the mystery was completely unexpected – a must in books I read.

If there is any criticism I might note is that the group hired to solve the mystery was just a bit too perfect. Though there were several scenes of emotional drama, I didn’t feel a sense of lethal danger.

However, this is a wonderful story and recommend it to readers who love a soft mystery and delightful characters.

Synopsis:

A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane

Urban legend says that everyone has a double, or exact look-alike. Would you search for yours? And if you found them, would you risk your life for theirs?

When a chance encounter outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan results in mistaken identity, wedding planner Gia Russo is curious to find the person whose cell phone picture has been shown her—veterinarian Dr. Danielle Murano, her exact look-alike. A Facebook private message blossoms into a budding, long-distance friendship, and the two women agree to meet in New York and see the truth for their own eyes.

Shocked at the sight of one another, they quickly bond over drinks, childhood pictures and an uncanny feeling that they share more than just a visual resemblance. Together they decide to end the speculation and undergo DNA testing for siblingship. But when the tests confirm they’re identical twins, more questions are raised than answered.

And with good reason. The same mysterious forces that separated the sisters years ago are still at large, frantic to keep the two women apart. Their attempts to do so become more violent once it becomes clear that the two sisters have found each other. But when the danger escalates and the sisters fear for their lives, Gia turns to a former client of her wedding planning company, Marc Devereraux of Forensic Instincts, for help.

Despite being embroiled in another case, Forensic Instincts agrees to help Gia and Danielle discover who has been threatening them. And when Forensic Instincts discovers that this case is linked to the [Mafia, Organized Crime], they must dig up skeletons better left buried, and get at the frightening truth without destroying the sisters and the families they have grown to love.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published by: Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 1682320103 (ISBN13: 9781682320105)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York
March 1990

Anthony slid behind the wheel of his Ford Taurus and started it up, cranking up the heat the instant the engine turned over. It was friggin’ freezing outside. Even in the five minutes it had taken him to walk the babysitter to her front door, the temperature outside felt like it had dropped ten degrees, and his car was an icebox.

Shivering, he zipped his parka up as far as it would go and gripped the steering wheel, maneuvering the car away from the curb. He’d finally shared an evening out with his wife. It should have eased the knot in his gut. After all, it had been the first time that he and Carla had left their infants with a sitter since the babies had been born a month ago. And Judy was the perfect babysitter—a good girl from a good family, one who studied rather than doing drugs and screwing horny guys.

Still, dinner had been strained.

Anthony had only picked at his manicotti, his favorite dish at Raimo’s. His mind was far away, and acid kept building up in his stomach.

Carla couldn’t stop worrying and talking about the babies. She’d checked her watch a dozen times, intermittently giving Anthony puzzled looks and asking if he was okay.

Each time she asked, he’d assure her that he was fine, just exhausted from work and midnight feedings.
As if to contradict his words, some new waiter had dropped a tray of dishes on the floor, and Anthony had nearly jumped out of his skin at the crash.

Carla rose, asking him to order her another drink and to get one for himself to calm his nerves. Giving in to her new-mother concerns, she went to the pay phone in the back to call Judy for an update. So far, so good, Judy had reported. But that didn’t totally erase Carla’s fretting. She tried her best to be bright and chatty, but the truth was that, as this point, she was ready to go. She’d fiddled with her napkin and sipped at her drink, making small talk and glancing at the door.

Getting the hell out of there had worked for Anthony. He was more than ready to be home with his family and not out in the open. He’d use his fatigue as an excuse. He had to continue keeping the inevitable from Carla, until he had no choice but to tell her. He’d soften the blow as best he could. But the important thing was that his family would be protected at all costs.

Now, the heat in his car roared to life, warming his body but doing nothing to extinguish his inner chill. He knew the rules. No transgression went unpunished.

Why the hell had he been so preoccupied with new fatherhood that he’d forgotten to make his collections from the designated list of construction foremen these past two weeks? That in itself was a huge black mark against him—one he’d be punished for. But the outcome of his stupidity opened the door to a far more lethal punishment. Someone else had been sent to handle his route, and his money. They would have collected and turned over twice the amount he’d been handing over. And that meant he’d better be able to explain the discrepancy—assuming he’d even be asked before he was killed.

Please God, let him have that chance. He was just on the verge of buying that gas station he’d been single-mindedly building his bank account for, just about to provide for his family’s future.

And now this.

With shaking hands, Anthony switched on the radio, gritting his teeth as Madonna’s voice blasted off the windows, followed by Michael Jackson’s. He turned the dial until finally the soothing tones of Frank Sinatra’s voice filled the car. Sinatra. Perfect. The Chairman of the Board’s crooning was just the right medicine to ease his clawing anxiety.

He reached his street and turned down the line of small brick row houses, all identical in their flat lines, gated fronts, and tiny gardens. There was a certain comfort and peace about the sameness of it all; it made it feel like a neighborhood.

Would he ever feel that sense of comfort and peace again?

He pulled into his narrow driveway and spotted Carla standing at the front door with a broad smile, giving him a thumbs-up. That meant the infants had come through their first babysitting experience with flying colors.

He forced himself to smile back, but even as he did, his gaze swept the area around the house to see if he was alone. It appeared so. Quickly, he turned off the car and then made the frigid dash to his house.

He couldn’t shut and lock the door behind him fast enough.

The soothing warmth from the heating system enveloped him when he stepped inside. Comfort in yet another form. He was home. Carla and the babies were safe. And for the moment, so was he.

With a wave of relief—however temporary—he let the tension in his body ease. He shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the coatrack.

“You look happy,” he teased Carla. “What’s the final report?”

Carla’s eyes twinkled. “They were perfect. Judy said they’d only woken up once for their bottles and a diaper change. Now they’re sleeping like little angels.”

“Good.” Anthony looped an arm around his wife’s shoulders and led her toward the living room. “How about a nightcap before bed—to celebrate the success of our first night out?”

“That sounds wonderful.” Carla walked beside him, making a left into their comfortable living room.

They’d barely taken half a dozen steps when a tall masked man dressed in black rose from behind the large armchair, his .22 caliber pistol raised.

“Hello, Anthony.”

Anthony knew that voice only too well, and it elicited the chilling knowledge that there was no way out. No threats. Just death. “Welcome home.”

The man’s finger tightened around the trigger.

“No!” Carla screamed.

She threw herself in front of her husband just as the pistol fired.

The bullet pierced her skull, and with a shattering cry, she crumpled to the floor.

“Carla… no… Carla!” Anthony shouted. He dropped to his knees beside his wife’s lifeless body, grabbing her into his arms and openly weeping. “God forgive me. Oh, God forgive me.”

He looked up in dazed anguish, just as a second shot was fired.

The bullet struck Anthony between the eyes. His head jerked backward, and he fell over his wife, dead.
Upstairs, the babies started to cry.

The gunman shoved his pistol back in his waistband. He knew the mob code like he knew his own name. No women. No children. Omertà.

A woman lay dead before him, the taunting evidence of a fuckup.

He took the steps two at a time.

Tucked in their cribs, the babies were still crying as their parents’ killer entered the nursery and hovered over them.

Not even the nightlight could eradicate the darkness.

***

Excerpt from A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane. Copyright © 2017 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Andrea Kane

Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including fourteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles. With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully-researched stories, pushing them to the edge—and keeping her readers up all night.

Kane’s first contemporary suspense thriller, Run for Your Life, became an instant New York Times bestseller. She followed with a string of bestselling psychological thrillers including No Way Out, Twisted, and Drawn in Blood.

Her latest storytelling triumph, A Face To Die For, extends the Forensic Instincts legacy where a dynamic, eclectic team of maverick investigators continue to solve seemingly impossible cases while walking a fine line between assisting and enraging law enforcement. The first showcase of their talents came with the New York Times bestseller, The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, followed by The Line Between Here and Gone, The Stranger You Know, The Silence that Speaks and The Murder That Never Was.

Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include My Heart’s Desire, Samantha, The Last Duke, and Wishes in the Wind.

With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages.

Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She’s an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, she’s either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.

Catch Up With Andrea Kane On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

 

Tour Participants:

Visit the other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Andrea Kane. There will be one (1) winner of an Amazon.com Gift card AND five (5) winners of one (1) eBook edition of A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane! The giveaway begins on September 18th and runs through October 22, 2017.

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The Good Daughter, by Karin Slaughter

The Good Daughter

by Karin Slaughter

on Tour August 7 – September 8, 2017

Synopsis:

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

The stunning new novel from the international #1 bestselling author — a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.

Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…

Packed with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and heart, The Good Daughter is fiction at its most thrilling.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Published by: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Number of Pages: 528
ISBN: 0062430262 (ISBN13: 9780062430267)
Series: Good Daughter 1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Charlie Quinn walked through the darkened halls of Pikeville middle school with a gnawing sense of trepidation. This wasn’t an early morning walk of shame. This was a walk of deeply held regret. Fitting, since the first time she’d had sex with a boy she shouldn’t have had sex with was inside this very building. The gymnasium, to be exact, which just went to show that her father had been right about the perils of a late curfew.

She gripped the cell phone in her hand as she turned a corner. The wrong boy. The wrong man. The wrong phone. The wrong way because she didn’t know where the hell she was going. Charlie turned around and retraced her steps. Everything in this stupid building looked familiar, but nothing was where she remembered it was supposed to be.

She took a left and found herself standing outside the front office. Empty chairs were waiting for the bad students who would be sent to the principal. The plastic seats looked similar to the ones in which Charlie had whiled away her early years. Talking back. Mouthing off. Arguing with teachers, fellow students, inanimate objects. Her adult self would’ve slapped her teenage self for being such a pain in the ass.

She cupped her hand to the window and peered inside the dark office. Finally, something that looked how it was supposed to look. The high counter where Mrs. Jenkins, the school secretary, had held court. Pennants drooping from the water-stained ceiling. Student artwork taped to the walls. A lone light was on in the back. Charlie wasn’t about to ask Principal Pinkman for directions to her booty call. Not that this was a booty call. It was more of a “Hey, girl, you picked up the wrong iPhone after I nailed you in my truck at Shady Ray’s last night” call.

There was no point in Charlie asking herself what she had been thinking, because you didn’t go to a bar named Shady Ray’s to think.

The phone in her hand rang. Charlie saw the unfamiliar screen saver of a German shepherd with a Kong toy in its mouth. The caller ID read SCHOOL.

She answered, “Yes?”

“Where are you?” He sounded tense, and she thought of all the hidden dangers that came from screwing a stranger she’d met in a bar: incurable venereal diseases, a jealous wife, a murderous baby mama, an obnoxious Alabama affiliation.

She said, “I’m in front of Pink’s office.”

“Turn around and take your second right.”

“Yep.” Charlie ended the call. She felt herself wanting to puzzle out his tone of voice, but then she told herself that it didn’t matter because she was never going to see him again.

She walked back the way she’d come, her sneakers squeaking on the waxed floor as she made her way down the dark hallway. She heard a snap behind her. The lights had come on in the front office. A hunched old woman who looked suspiciously like the ghost of Mrs. Jenkins shuffled her way behind the counter. Somewhere in the distance, heavy metal doors opened and closed. The beep-whir of the metal detectors swirled into her ears. Someone jangled a set of keys.

The air seemed to contract with each new sound, as if the school was bracing itself for the morning onslaught. Charlie looked at the large clock on the wall. If the schedule was still the same, the first homeroom bell would ring soon, and the kids who had been dropped off early and warehoused in the cafeteria would flood the building.

Charlie had been one of those kids. For a long time, whenever she thought of her father, her mind conjured up the scene of his arm leaning out of the Chevette’s window, freshly lit cigarette between his fingers, as he pulled out of the school parking lot.

She stopped walking.

The room numbers finally caught her attention, and she knew immediately where she was. Charlie touched her fingers to a closed wooden door. Room three, her safe haven. Ms. Beavers had retired eons ago, but the old woman’s voice echoed in Charlie’s ears: “They’ll only get your goat if you show them where you keep your hay.”

Charlie still didn’t know what that meant, exactly. You could extrapolate that it had something to do with the extended Culpepper clan, who had bullied Charlie relentlessly when she’d finally returned to school.

Or, you could take it that, as a girls’ basketball coach named Etta Beavers, the teacher knew what it felt like to be taunted. There was no one who could give Charlie advice on how to handle the present situation. For the first time since college, she’d had a one-night stand. Or a one-night sit, if it boiled down to the exact position. Charlie wasn’t the type of person who did that sort of thing. She didn’t go to bars. She didn’t drink to excess. She didn’t really make hugely regrettable mistakes. At least not until recently.

Her life had started to unspool back in August of last year. Charlie had spent almost every waking hour since then raveling out mistake after mistake. Apparently, the new month of May was not going to see any improvement. The blunders were now starting before she even got out of bed. This morning, she’d been wide awake on her back, staring up at the ceiling, trying to convince herself that what had happened last night had not happened at all when an unfamiliar ringtone had come from her purse.

She had answered because wrapping the phone in aluminum foil, throwing it into the dumpster behind her office and buying a new phone that would restore from her old phone backup did not occur to her until after she had said hello.

The short conversation that followed was of the kind you would expect between two total strangers: Hello, person whose name I must have asked for but now can’t recall. I believe I have your phone.

Charlie had offered to meet the man at his work because she didn’t want him to know where she lived. Or worked. Or what kind of car she drove. Between his pickup truck and his admittedly exquisite body, she’d thought he’d tell her he was a mechanic or a farmer. Then he’d said that he was a teacher and she’d instantly flashed up a Dead Poets Society kind of thing. Then he’d said he taught middle school and she’d jumped to the unfounded conclusion that he was a pedophile.

“Here.” He stood outside an open door at the far end of the hall.

As if on cue, the overhead fluorescents popped on, bathing Charlie in the most unflattering light possible. She instantly regretted her choice of ratty jeans and a faded, long-sleeved Duke Blue Devils basketball T-shirt.

“Good Lord God,” Charlie muttered. No such problems at the end of the hall.

Mr. I-Can’t-Remember-Your-Name was even more attractive than she remembered. The standard button-down-with-khakis uniform of a middle-school teacher couldn’t hide the fact that he had muscles in places that men in their forties had generally replaced with beer and fried meat. His scraggly beard was more of a five o’clock shadow. The gray at his temples gave him a wizened air of mystery. He had one of those dimples in his chin that you could use to open a bottle.

This was not the type of man Charlie dated. This was the exact type of man that she studiously avoided. He felt too coiled, too strong, too unknowable. It was like playing with a loaded gun.

“This is me.” He pointed to the bulletin board outside his room. Small handprints were traced onto white butcher paper. Purple cut-out letters read MR. HUCKLEBERRY.

“Huckleberry?” Charlie asked.

“It’s Huckabee, actually.” He held out his hand. “Huck.”

Charlie shook his hand, too late realizing that he was asking for his iPhone. “Sorry.” She handed him the phone.

He gave her a crooked smile that had probably sent many a young girl into puberty. “Yours is in here.”

Charlie followed him into the classroom. The walls were adorned with maps, which made sense because he was apparently a history teacher. At least if you believed the sign that said MR. HUCKLEBERRY LOVES WORLD HISTORY.

She said, “I may be a little sketchy on last night, but I thought you said you were a Marine?”

“Not anymore, but it sounds sexier than middle-school teacher.”He gave a self-deprecating laugh. “Joined up when I was seventeen, took my retirement six years ago.” He leaned against his desk. “I was looking for a way to keep serving, so I got my master’s on a GI bill and here we are.”

“I bet you get a lot of tear-stained cards on Valentine’s Day.” Charlie would’ve failed history every single day of her life if her teacher had looked like Mr. Huckleberry.

He asked, “Do you have kids?”

“Not that I know of.” Charlie didn’t return the question. She assumed that someone with kids wouldn’t use a photo of his dog as his screen saver. “You married?”

He shook his head. “Didn’t suit me.”

“It suited me.” She explained, “We’ve been officially separated for nine months.”

“Did you cheat on him?”

“You’d think so, but no.” Charlie ran her finger along the books on the shelf by his desk. Homer. Euripides. Voltaire. Bronte. “You don’t strike me as the Wuthering Heights type.”

He grinned. “Not much talking in the truck.”

Charlie started to return the grin, but regret pulled down the corners of her mouth. In some ways, this easy, flirty banter felt like more of a transgression than the physical act of sex. She bantered with her husband. She asked inane questions of her husband.

And last night, for the first time in her married life, she had cheated on her husband.

Huck seemed to sense her mood shift. “It’s obviously none of my business, but he’s nuts for letting you go.”

“I’m a lot of work.” Charlie studied one of the maps. There were blue pins in most of Europe and some of the Middle East. “You go to all of these places?”

He nodded, but didn’t elaborate.

“Marines,” she said. “Were you a Navy SEAL?”

“Marines can be SEALs but not all SEALs are Marines.”

Charlie was about to tell him that he hadn’t answered the question, but Huck spoke first.

“Your phone started ringing at o’dark thirty.”

Her heart flipped in her chest. “You didn’t answer?”

“Nah, it’s much more fun trying to figure you out from your caller ID.” He pushed himself up on the desk. “B2 called around five this morning. I’m assuming that’s your hook-up at the vitamin shop.”

Charlie’s heart flipped again. “That’s Riboflavin, my spin-class instructor.”

He narrowed his eyes, but he didn’t push her. “The next call came at approximately five fifteen, someone who showed up as Daddy, who I deduce by the lack of the word sugar in front of the name is your father.”

She nodded, even as her mother’s voice silently stressed that it was whom. “Any other clues?” He pretended to stroke a long beard. “Beginning around five thirty, you got a series of calls from the county jail. At least six, spaced out about five minutes apart.”

“You got me, Nancy Drew.” Charlie held up her hands in surrender. “I’m a drug trafficker. Some of my mules got picked up over the weekend.”

He laughed. “I’m halfway believing you.”

“I’m a defense lawyer,” she admitted. “Usually people are more receptive to drug trafficker.”

Huck stopped laughing. His eyes narrowed again, but the playfulness had evaporated. “What’s your name?”

“Charlie Quinn.”

She could’ve sworn he flinched.

She asked, “Is there a problem?”

His jaw was clenched so hard the bone jutted out. “That’s not the name on your credit card.”

Charlie paused, because there was a lot wrong with that statement. “That’s my married name. Why were you looking at my credit card?”

“I wasn’t looking. I glanced at it when you put it down on the bar.” He stood up from the desk. “I should get ready for school.”

“Was it something I said?” She was trying to make a joke out of it, because of course it was something she’d said. “Look everybody hates lawyers until they need one.”

“I grew up in Pikeville.”

“You’re saying that like it’s an explanation.”

He opened and closed the desk drawers. “Homeroom’s about to start. I need to do my first-period prep.”

Charlie crossed her arms. This wasn’t the first time she’d had this conversation with longtime Pikeville residents. “There’s two reasons for you to be acting like you’re acting.”

He ignored her, opening and closing another drawer.

She counted out the possibilities on her fingers. “Either you hate my father, which is okay, because a lot of people hate him, or—” She held up her finger for the more likely excuse, the one that had put a target on Charlie’s back twenty-eight years ago when she’d returned to school, the one that still got her nasty looks in town from the people who supported the extended, inbred Culpepper clan. “You think I’m a spoiled little bitch who helped frame Zachariah Culpepper and his innocent baby brother so my dad could get his hands on some pissant life insurance policy and their shitty little trailer. Which he never did, by the way. He could’ve sued them for the twenty grand they owed in legal bills, but he didn’t. Not to mention I could pick those fuckers out of a lineup with my eyes closed.”

He was shaking his head before she even finished. “None of those things.”

“Really?” She had pegged him for a Culpepper truther when he’d told her that he’d grown up in Pikeville.

On the other hand, Charlie could see a career-Marine hating Rusty’s kind of lawyering right up until that Marine got caught with a little too much Oxy or a lot too much hooker. As her father always said, a Democrat is a Republican who’s been through the criminal justice system.

She told Huck, “Look, I love my dad, but I don’t practice the same kind of law that he does. Half my caseload is in juvenile court, the other half is in drug court. I work with stupid people who do stupid things, who need a lawyer to keep the prosecutor from overcharging them.” She held out her hands in a shrug. “I just level the playing field.”

Huck glared at her. His initial anger had escalated to furious in the blink of an eye. “I want you to leave my room. Right now.” His hard tone made Charlie take a step back. For the first time, it occurred to her that no one knew she was at the school and that Mr. Huckleberry could probably break her neck with one hand.

“Fine.” She snatched her phone off his desk and started toward the door. Even as Charlie was telling herself she should shut up and go, she swung back around. “What did my father ever do to you?”

Huck didn’t answer. He was sitting at his desk, head bent over a stack of papers, red ink pen in hand.

Charlie waited.

He tapped the pen on his desk, a drumbeat of a dismissal.

She was about to tell him where to stick the pen when she heard a loud crack echo down the hallway.

Three more cracks followed in quick succession.

Not a car backfiring.

Not fireworks.

A person who has been up close when a gun is fired into another human being never mistakes the sound of a gunshot for something else.

Charlie was yanked down to the floor. Huck threw her behind a filing cabinet, shielding her body with his own.

He said something—she saw his mouth move—but the only sound she could hear was the gunshots echoing inside her head. Four shots, each a distinctive, terrifying echo to the past. Just like before, her mouth went dry. Just like before, her heart stopped beating. Her throat closed. Her vision tunneled. Everything looked small, narrowed to a single, tiny point.

Excerpt from The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. Copyright © 2017 by Karin Slaughter. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

 

Karin Slaughter

Author Bio:

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 36 languages, with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her sixteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant New York Times bestselling novel Pretty Girls. A native of Georgia, Karin currently lives in Atlanta. Her Will Trent series, Grant County series, and standalone novel Cop Town are all in development for film and television.

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