Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bridge To A Distant Star by Carolyn Williford - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)

As a storm rages in the night, unwary drivers venture onto Tampa Bay's most renowned bridge. No one sees the jagged gap hidden by the darkness and rain. Yet when the bridge collapses, vehicles careen, one-by-one, into the churning waters below.

In that one catastrophic moment, three powerful stories converge: a family ravaged by their child's heartbreaking news, a marriage threatened by its own facade, and a college student burdened by self doubt. As each story unfolds, the characters move steadily closer to that fateful moment on the bridge. And while each character searches for grace, the storms in their lives loom as large as the storm that awaits them above the bay.

When these characters intersect in Carolyn Williford's gripping and moving story, they also collide with the transforming truth of Christ: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

My Thoughts:

“The star seems to disappear when you look straight at it, but if you avert your vision – when you look to one side or the other – then you’re able to see the star again. The anomaly happens because the faint light of the star reaches a more sensitive part of the retina, allowing you to detect it.” (p. 82)

Many times Christians don’t recognize God’s hand in their circumstances because they are looking directly at it. Perspective only comes when we allow God to adjust our “vision” and look at our circumstances from a different angle, so to speak, and it is then and only then that our hearts can receive His blessing and understanding. Bridge To A Distant Star is a beautiful picture of how God can and does work through every moment of our lives to bring our vision into clearer focus. Sometimes tragedy is the method exercised in our lives for just this purpose. Carolyn Williford used a real life incident, combined with a favorite piece of literature as a springboard for this amazing novel. You don’t want to miss it!!

Three families, many lives, all changing daily through both unexpected and typical occurrences – each of them appointed to be part of a tragic event that could be neither predicted or prevented. As the reader comes to know each set of characters, your heart alternately aches and rejoices with each change in circumstance. By the time everything culminates on the fateful night that the Sunshine Skyway collapses, every emotion is fully engaged and longing for resolution. When it comes, it is both miraculous, and fraught with a myriad of emotions. Truly, this is one novel that will linger in your heart long after the final page.

I think it should be a movie! Seriously!! But right now…I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it as a beautifully written novel! Don’t miss this miracle of a book!!

About the Author:

Carolyn Williford has authored seven books, including Jordan's Bend, Devotions for Families That Can't Sit Still, and Faith Tango, as well as numerous articles. She and her husband, Craig, live in Deerfield, Illinois, where he serves as president of Trinity International University. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso - REVIEWED

My Thoughts:

“Now he felt shadowed in darkness, lost in a cave, hearing Molly and Eva calling to him, beckoning him home, but unable to find a way out.” (p. 162)

The decent into darkness, whether spiritual, physical or emotional, usually happens in small degrees. Sometimes there is a tragic or traumatic beginning to this deepening darkness, and sometimes it is the culmination of a lifetime of every day tragedies. Darkness Follows incorporates all of these elements in the lives of the Travis family, and the reader is a spectator in an ever dizzying array of event that builds toward a dramatic and breathtaking ending. Mike Dellosso has really created a true thriller in his latest release, and readers will thoroughly enjoy the ride from beginning to end.

Dellosso incorporates an unlikely ray of hope in one of his characters, and the spiritual element is also included in a surprising and effective way. The Travis family is under an unusually stressful situation when introduced to the readers. However, as the story unfolds, the darkness that pursues them is something that has unknowingly shadowed them for years and has created an entryway for something more sinister than they realize. Add to this an evil character whose unwavering pursuit of his “target”, and the unfeeling heart that guides him on his quest, and the element of suspense is multiplied many times! Darkness Follows is a great ride, folks! Don’t miss it!!

About the Author:

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. In addition to his novels of supernatural suspense he writes a bi-weekly column for his local newspaper and is an adjunct professor of writing at Lancaster Bible College. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity.

This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

Go HERE to read my interview with Mike about this GREAT BOOK!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sue Ellen's Girl Ain't Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy - by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)

The bestselling author of Suck Your Stomach In & Put Some Color On! returns with more helpful how-to's and keen observations from Dixie.

Guided by principles from the ancient Belle Doctrine, the host of radio and television's All Things Southern offers down-home advice on everything from health and fitness-managing thy caloric calculations without going Straight Running Crazy and surviving the Raging Inferno Syndrome (aka hot flashes)-to the Southern art of handling your man (Bubba Whispering). Whether giving business tips or debunking the Big Boned Theory, making political observations or celebrating the inevitable resurgence of big hair, Shellie is an adviser women can relate to and laugh with regardless of their age or which side of the Mason-Dixon they call home.

My Thoughts:

With chapter titles like, “She Got Those Heavy Legs from Her Mama’s Side,” and “Self-Cleaning Underwear, an Idea Whose Time Should Never Come” the reader knows right away that Shellie Rushing Tomlinson’s book is going to be slightly different from the average reading material. But when you find truly Southern recipes that are under the heading: “Main Dish Recipes to Make Him Sit Up and Beg” – well, you have something special indeed!

“Sue Ellen’s Girl…” was my first introduction you Tomlinson’s sense of humor, and as a Southern gal myself, I have to say it was pretty funny. I don’t know if I found it funny because I could relate to the situations, or if they were so crazy they just hit my funny bone. Either way, this is a very humorous look into a Southern Belle’s point of view, albeit a rather rambling sort of try-to-keep-up-with-my-train-of-thought kind of way.

The collection of vignettes do contain some pretty universal human conditions, and I think no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you find yourself, you will be able to relate to much of Tomlinson’s work. If you like to cook like I do, you’ll make sure you make copies of some of the recipes to cram into your family cook book! If you have a gal in your life who needs a humorous pick-me-up…pick up a copy of this book today!

About the Author:

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson and her husband Phil live and farm in the Louisiana Delta. Shellie is the author of Lessons Learned on Bull Run Road, Twas the Night Before the Very First Christmas, Southern Comfort with Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and the Penguin Group USA release, Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On, voted Nonfiction Finalist of 2009 by SIBA Independent Booksellers Alliance.

Tomlinson is owner and publisher of All Things Southern and the host of the weekly radio show All Things Southern as well as a weekly video segment by the same name. Listeners also hear Shellie in her All Things Southern Newsstar Lousiana Road Trips.

When Shellie isn't writing, speaking, taping her show, answering email or writing content for the next deadline, you can find her playing tennis with Dixie Belle, (the chocolate lab who thinks she is in
charge of running Shellie's life).

You can purchase a copy of this hilarious book HERE!!

To celebrate the Sue Ellen’s release, Shellie is having a Facebook Party!

Join Shellie and the gang on June 2nd at 5:00 PM PST (6 MST, 7 CST, 8 EST) for a Southern style shin-dig! She'll be dishing on Bubba Whispering, debunking the Big Boned Theory, and how to manage going Straight Running Crazy. If you don't know what any of that is, then be sure to pick up a copy of the book (Not necessary to join the fun! Who knows - you might win a copy!) and join us at 5:00 pm on June 2nd at Shellie's Facebook page. And tell your friends - she's giving away copies of her books and some great gift certificates.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Killer Among Us by Lynette Eason - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)

What happens when the hunter . . . becomes the hunted?

Kit Kenyon is a first-rate hostage negotiator. Noah Lambert is a good detective with excellent instincts. These new partners have hardly had time to get used to each other when they are thrown into a grisly murder case. As evidence mounts up and more victims are found, Kit and Noah realize they are on the hunt for a serial killer. The problem is, he may be hunting one of them too.

With nail-biting suspense, clever plot twists, and a hint of romance, A Killer Among Us is the latest thriller from Lynette Eason.

My Thoughts:

“This case just keeps getting weirder by the second.” (p. 288)

By the time Detective Kit Kenyon makes this statement, the reader will be vigorously nodding their head in agreement! Lynette Eason’s latest novel, A Killer Among Us, follow a very disturbing series of murders that are occurring among law students at a local university. The similarities between the deaths are bizarre, and it isn’t long before a task force forms in an effort to quickly put a stop to this terrifying crime spree.

Kit Kenyan and her newly assigned partner, Noah Lamburt are the primary detectives involved in the case, and each death seems to draw them further into the killer’s tangled web. Indeed, it is only a short while until the two detectives find themselves in the crosshairs of the killer’s gun. They soon discover that they are being targeted for far different, even more disturbing reasons. As the story unwinds, the reader has cause to wonder which one, if either detectives, will survive until the end of the tale!!

Underneath the story line of the serial killer and the exciting police investigation, there are far more personal stories occurring in the lives of the characters. Kit is trying to sort through a shocking truth revealed to her by her father just before his death, and Noah is trying to understand his growing emotional attraction to his new partner. Since Noah still considers the death of his last partner to be his fault, this attraction to Kit becomes particularly troublesome. These personal viewpoints bring the reader into the hearts and minds of the main characters, and it isn’t long before the reader cares a great deal about both of them. Becoming genuinely invested emotionally in the lives of Kit and Noah makes their survival even more important!!

Lynette Eason’s Women of Justice series grows better and more compelling with each installment. A Killer Among Us is a terrific, fast-paced story that will keep readers glued to the pages! I highly recommend this book – this entire series – to anyone who enjoys a high-octane police thriller!!

About the Author:
Lynette Eason is the author of Too Close to Home, Don't Look Back, and three other romantic suspense novels. She is a member of American Fiction Christian Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A view from Michelle Griep's Window - Undercurrent

It is indeed a treat to welcome Michelle Griep to my Window to discuss her latest novel, Undercurrent. If you enjoy time travel, interesting places in ancient history, and stories that challenge your faith, please check out Michelle's novels! They are fabulous!

Please, give Michelle a warm welcome to my Window!

Tenth Century Norway! Vikings! Another world entirely – intended snarkiness – from the life of a twenty-first century professor! Where on earth did you get the idea?

My family tree’s roots are in Norway. I’d love to go there but whoa baby—have you seen airfare lately? Not to mention you have to pay for checked baggage. To top it off, you don’t even get peanuts! So I took the trip in my mind. And just to spice it up a bit, I visited in a different century.

Explain the significance of the pin that Cassie purchases at the beginning of the story. I know it plays a more important role in the past than the future, but I’m not sure I understood exactly what the connection was.

Brooches were an indispensable part of a Viking woman’s dress. It held the darn thing up at the straps. But you’re right…Cassie’s pin is an important symbol for a tenth century Scandinavian. The wolf head represents Fenrir, a character in Viking mythology. It is said that when Fenrir is finally loosed at Ragnarok (the end of the world), time will stop and begin anew.

I LOVED the insight into early Christianity, especially when place side by side in a culture that was primarily pagan! Ragnar was a real inspiration/challenge to me as he lived out his faith. Where did you gain inspiration for his character? Was is realistic to that time period – in terms of what early Christians would have faced in society?

Peter is my favorite character in the New Testament. Gritty. Real. And though flawed, faithful to the best of his ability. That’s Ragnar.

I stuck as true to the period as possible, though I did make Ragnar a little larger than life. During the late 10th century, Christianity came to the shores of Norway through the king, Olaf Trygvasson. Unfortunately, he brought it on the edge of a battleaxe. Basically you either converted or had your skull cleaved. Most converted, though kept their Viking gods as well, making for an interesting mix.

Alarik was a terrific contrast to Ragnar – in every way – from his physical relationship with his fiancĂ© to his skepticism about any aspect of Ragnar faith! How was his character created?

In contemporary terms, Alarik is your garden variety Joe Schmo, a happy-go-lucky kind of fella who lives in the moment. You can meet him today. He’s the dude with a beer can in one hand watching Monday night football, except for on weekends when he’s hanging out with his buddies.

“…the God I serve is sovereign. Whatever the future holds, He has already ordained.” (p. 189)

This is one of my favorite quotes from the novel, first of all, because it is so true, but also because it seems to be the dominant theme that is brought to the forefront in a variety of situations. Briefly tell your readers why you chose this as the bedrock of the events in this story.

I see and hear so much anxiety and fear in the people around me, even in the Christian community, which made me wonder what’s the deal? So I’m doing my little part to remind everyone that if you believe in the God of the Bible, then relax. This is His gig, not yours. He is worthy of our trust.

How difficult is it to figure out ways to “transport” people from one time period to another? Why is this your chosen vehicle for story telling?

Piece of cake easy. I just make it up. The transporting part, that is. I don’t get bogged down in technicalities because the actual time traveling part of the story isn’t really that crucial. I choose visiting the past, though, because I love history and truth is timeless.

I think “time travel” is particularly effective in this story, because readers are able to grasp the timelessness of human depravity. Whether it takes place in the primitive culture of a tenth century Viking village or in the classroom of a twenty-first century professor, many trials are virtually the same. What message do you hope readers will gain through this very unlikely comparison?

I hope that it gives readers a broader view in the sense that hey, maybe the smelly homeless guy begging at the busy intersection isn’t really all that different than me on the inside. At our core, we’re all sinful humans in need of a Savior, no matter what costume we wear on a day-to-day basis.

Now that you have visited tenth century Norway, what is next from you imagination?

Want a sequel? I’ve got one brewing. Oh yeah, that and I do have a straight historical manuscript already finished and looking for a home…an 18th century opium addict and a fella who’s going mad.

What was your favorite scene from this story? Mine was – I think – the scene where Alaerik wrestles with his own heart. (don’t want to give anything away here!)

Aww. That was a touching scene, eh? My personal favorite is when Ragnar is leading Cassie through the deep, dark woods in the middle of the night. She freaks out about a wolf and he says to her, “Fear not. Think you I would lead you into danger? Even so, I am well armed.” When I wrote that, I stopped for a few minutes, blown away by the picture it made in my mind of how Jesus leads me.

Do you have any words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?

Just a reminder….Last time I checked, God was still on the throne. He’s the author of your life story. Trust His capabilities. Nothing personal, but He’s way more capable than you are.

Undercurrent by Michelle Griep - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)

Professor Cassie Larson leads a life her undergrad students hope to attain, until she tumbles into the North Sea and is sucked down into a swirling vortex…and a different century.

Alarik, son of a Viking chieftain, is blamed for a murder he didn’t commit—or did he? He can’t remember. On the run, saving a half-drowned foreign woman wasn’t in his plan.

Ragnar is a converted pagan shunned by many but determined to prove his Cousin Alarik’s innocence. He didn’t count on falling in love with Cassie or the deadly presence of evil that threatens his village in Alarik’s absence.

My Thoughts:

“Love requires no return, Alarik. It gives even when forsaken.” (p. 232)

The late tenth century is Michelle Griep’s chosen time period for her latest novel, Undercurrent. Once again, Griep has used the fantasy element of time travel to give the reader an unforgettable look into human nature through the lens of Viking warriors, early Christianity and one very misplaced twenty-first century professor.

Cassie, Alarik, Ragnar and Magnus are only a few of the well developed characters used to flesh out this very interesting story line. Alarik and Ragnar, although related as cousins, are far distant in the element of faith. Ragnar has such a stalwart, abiding faith in Jesu’s atoning death that no matter the circumstance, his faith is as close as his next breath. By far, in my opinion at least, he is the strongest, most moving character in the story. It seems as though everyone else’s life is touched in an eternal way by Ragnar’s constancy. He is certainly Alarik’s reminder of his innocence, Cassie’s reminder of all that she has sacrificed on the altar of self-promotion, and a stark contrast to the evil that is invading his pagan homeland.

Each character displays some timeless characteristic of human nature and the need that all people have for the atoning work of Christ. Griep effortlessly weaves a strong faith message into her story in a way that is both effective and believable. She recreates a tenth-century Nordic culture that contains accurate details of every day life challenges and activities. The overall effect is a very exciting and entertaining tale that really showcases God’s mercy and grace in every situation. I am more than happy to recommend this story to you!!

About the Author: (from the author)

I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: slug back massive amounts of prozac or write fiction. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write--except for that graffiti phase I went through as teenager.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Over the Edge
B&H Books (May 1, 2011)
Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is an award-winning and best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e..."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). She is now working on her 20th book.

In addition, Brandilyn’s other latest release is Final Touch, third in The Rayne Tour series—young adult suspense co-written with her daughter, Amberly. The Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star, who just may have it all—until murder crashes her world.


Torn from the front lines of medical debate and the author's own experience with Lyme Disease, Over the Edge is riveting fiction, full of twists and turns—and powerful truths about today's medical field.

Janessa McNeil’s husband, Dr. Brock McNeil, a researcher and professor at Stanford University's Department of Medicine, specializes in tick-borne diseases—especially Lyme. For years he has insisted that Chronic Lyme Disease doesn't exist. Even as patients across the country are getting sicker, the committee Brock chairs is about to announce its latest findings—which will further seal the door shut for Lyme treatment.

One embittered man sets out to prove Dr. McNeil wrong by giving him a close-up view of the very disease he denies. The man infects Janessa with Lyme, then states his demand: convince her husband to publicly reverse his stand on Lyme—or their young daughter will be next.

But Janessa's marriage is already rocky. She's so sick she can hardly move or think. And her husband denies she has Lyme at all.

Welcome to the Lyme wars, Janessa.

My Thoughts:

“Still no lightning. No warm healing through my body. Just a quiet though that this was right. That God would help. Regardless of my nightmare, He was worthy to be trusted.” (p. 185)

Brandilyn Collins has written her most chilling novel yet! Over the Edge is particularly chilling, because it deals with a very real war raging within the medical community today – Lyme Wars. Lyme disease is an infection carried by the deer tick, an the disease, if misdiagnosed and left untreated, can quickly annihilate and end a human life. What does this have to do with Brandilyn’s book? Only Brandilyn can take a deadly disease and create a motive, a scenario and a means to tie them together and write a believable, spine-tingling thriller that you will not be able to put down! The twists and turns will grab your heart-strings and never let go!!

I have followed Collins’ real-life drama of her battle with Lyme Disease, and I have simultaneously watched close relatives fight this same insidious battle. Misdiagnosis has almost cost my relatives their lives, and they have just recently found a doctor who recognizes the danger and has begun treatment. The Lyme Wars are real folks, and the scenario in Collins’ book is not as fictional as you might think. Doctors are risking their medical license every day to do battle against this very treatable disease in order to save lives.

Over the Edge is a terrific read, and I fully believe that lives will be forever changed by the information contained within this story! Talk about God using every circumstance in the believer’s life for their good and His glory! Over the Edge is the ultimate “A-Men!”

“A taut, heartbreaking thriller. Collins is a fine writer who knows how to both horrify readers and keep them turning pages.”

--Publishers Weekly

“Tense and dramatic. Holds its tension while following the protagonist in a withering battle.” –NY Journal of Books

“A frightening and all-too-real scenario. Very timely and meaningful book.” –RT Reviews

“If you know someone who suffers from Lyme, you need to read this compelling novel.” –Lydia Niederwerfer, founder of Lyme-Aware

If you would like to read the Prologue of Over the Edge, go HERE

Watch the book video:

Monday, May 23, 2011

False Witness by Randy Singer - REVIEWED

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

False Witness

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned 10 legal thrillers, including his award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.

Visit the author's website.


Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife's life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor's church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.

Now they're on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

An adrenaline-laced thrill ride, this retelling of one of Randy Singer's most critically acclaimed novels takes readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and the legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.

My Thoughts:

“I’ve got some advice for you…Until this thing is over, don’t trust anybody.” (p. 263)

This advice is true for both the character in the story – Jamie – and the reader who is following the suspenseful tale in Randy Singer’s latest legal thriller, False Witness! What an awesome thrill ride, indeed! A Chinese mob called the Manchurian Triad, a fast-talking con-man who makes one too many deals, an algorithm that unlocks the encryption code for the entire internet, brilliant lawyers and savvy law students – this book has something for everyone! There are even irresistible pets, strong family ties, persecuted church members and a story so fascinating tying everything together you will not be able to put it down!

I’ve read all of Randy Singer’s novels, and I don’t know but that False Witness may just be my favorite!! Singer has so skillfully blended so many elements that readers will find themselves not only entertained, but challenged to live more aware of the price that many in the world must pay in order to practice their faith. Singer also includes a scene where one character finally realizes his need for a Savior, and I thought it was one of the most natural, realistic and moving scenes of a spiritual re-birth I have ever read! Truly, this is one of Singer’s best works, and I am thrilled to recommend it to you!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414335695
ISBN-13: 978-1414335698



THE LONGEST THREE DAYS of Clark Shealy’s life began with an expired registration sticker.

That was Clark’s first clue, the reason he followed the jet-black Cadillac Escalade ESV yesterday. The reason he phoned his wife, his partner in both marriage and crime . . . well, not really crime but certainly the dark edge of legality. They were the Bonnie and Clyde of bounty hunters, of repo artists, of anything requiring sham credentials and bold-faced lies. Jessica’s quick search of DMV records, which led to a phone call to the title holder, a Los Angeles credit union, confirmed what Clark had already guessed. The owner wasn’t making payments. The credit union wanted to repo the vehicle but couldn’t find it. They were willing to pay.

“How much?” Clark asked Jessica.

“It’s not worth it,” she replied. “That’s not why you’re there.”
“Sure, honey. But just for grins, how much are we passing up?”
Jessica murmured something.

“You’re breaking up,” Clark said.

“They’d pay a third of Blue Book.”

“Which is?”

“About forty-eight four,” Jessica said softly.

“Love you, babe,” Clark replied, doing the math. Sixteen thousand dollars!
He ended the call. She called back. He hit Ignore.

Sixteen thousand dollars! Sure, it wasn’t the main reason he had come to Vegas. But a little bonus couldn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, the vehicle came equipped with the latest in theft protection devices, an electronically coded key supplied to the owner. The engine transmitted an electronic message that had to match the code programmed into the key, or the car wouldn’t turn over.

Clark learned this the hard way during the dead hours of the desert night, at about two thirty. He had broken into the Cadillac, disabled the standard alarm system, removed the cover of the steering column, and hot-wired the vehicle. But without the right key, the car wouldn’t start. Clark knew immediately that he had triggered a remote alarm. Using his hacksaw, he quickly sawed deep into the steering column, disabling the vehicle, and then sprinted down the drive and across the road


He heard a stream of cursing from the front steps of a nearby condo followed by the blast of a gun. To Clark’s trained ears, it sounded like a .350 Magnum, though he didn’t stay around long enough to confirm the make, model, and ATF serial number.


Six hours later, Clark came back.

He bluffed his way past the security guard at the entrance of the gated community and drove his borrowed tow truck into the elegant brick parking lot rimmed by manicured hedges. He parked sideways, immediately behind the Cadillac. These condos, some of Vegas’s finest, probably went for more than a million bucks each.

The Caddy fit right in, screaming elegance and privilege—custom twenty-inch rims, beautiful leather interior, enough leg room for the Lakers’ starting five, digital readouts on the dash, and an onboard computer that allowed its owner to customize all power functions in the vehicle. The surround-sound system, of course, could rattle the windows on a car three blocks away. Cadillac had pimped this ride out fresh from the factory, making it the vehicle of choice for men like Mortavius Johnson, men who lived on the west side of Vegas and supplied “escorts” for the city’s biggest gamblers.

Clark speed-dialed 1 before he stepped out of the tow truck.
“This is stupid, Clark.”

“Good morning to you, too. Are you ready?”

“All right. Let’s do it.” He slid the still-connected phone into a pocket of his coveralls. They were noticeably short, pulling at the crotch. He had bought the outfit on the spot from a mechanic at North Vegas Auto, the same garage where he borrowed the tow truck from the owner, a friend who had helped Clark in some prior repo schemes. A hundred and fifty bucks for the coveralls, complete with oil and grease stains. Clark had ripped off the name tag and rolled up the sleeves. It felt like junior high all over again, growing so fast the clothes couldn’t keep up with the boy.

He popped open the hood of the wrecker, smeared his fingers on some blackened oil grime, and rubbed a little grease on his forearms, with a dab to his face. He closed the hood and walked confidently to the front door of the condo, checking the paper in his hand as if looking for an address. He rang the bell.

Silence. . . . He rang it again.

Eventually, he heard heavy footsteps inside and then the clicking of a lock before the door slowly opened. Mortavius Johnson, looking like he had barely survived a rough night, filled the doorway. Clark was tall and slender—six-three, about one-ninety. But Mortavius was tall and bulky—a brooding presence who dwarfed Clark. He wore jeans and no shirt, exposing rock-solid pecs but also a good-size gut. He didn’t have a gun.
Clark glanced down at his paper while Mortavius surveyed him with bloodshot eyes.

“Are you Mortavius Johnson?”

“You call for a tow?”

Mortavius’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. The big man glanced at the pocket of Clark’s coveralls—no insignia—then around him at the tow truck. Clark had quickly spray-painted over the logo and wondered if Mortavius could tell.

Clark held his breath and considered his options. If the big man caught on, Clark would have to surprise Mortavius, Pearl Harbor–style, with a knee to the groin or a fist to the solar plexus. Even those blows would probably just stun the big man momentarily. Clark would sprint like a bandit to the tow truck, hoping Mortavius’s gun was more than arm’s length away. Clark might be able to outrun Mortavius, but not the man’s bullet.

“I left a message last night with the Cadillac dealer,” Mortavius said.
The Cadillac dealer. Clark was hoping for something a little more specific. “And the Cadillac dealer called me,” Clark said, loudly enough to be heard on the cell phone in his pocket. “You think they’ve got their own tow trucks at that place? It’s not like Caddies break down very often. If everybody could afford a Caddie, I’d go out of business.”
Clark smiled. Mortavius did not.

“What company you with?” he asked.

“Highway Auto Service,” Clark responded, louder still. He pulled out the cell phone, surreptitiously hit the End button with a thumb, then held it out to Mortavius. “You want to call my office? Speed dial 1.”
Mortavius frowned. He still looked groggy. “I’ll get the keys,” he said.
He disappeared from the doorway, and Clark let out a breath. He speed-dialed Jessica again and put the phone back in his pocket. He glanced over his shoulder, then did a double take.

Give me a break!

Another tow truck was pulling past the security guard and heading toward Mortavius’s condo. Things were getting a little dicey.

“I left some papers in the truck you’ll need to sign,” Clark called into the condo. But as soon as the words left Clark’s mouth, Mortavius reappeared in the doorway, keys in hand.

Unfortunately, he glanced past Clark, and his eyes locked on the other tow truck. A glint of understanding sparked, followed by a flash of anger. “Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

“I told you . . . the Cadillac place.”

“The Cadillac place,” Mortavius repeated sarcastically. “What Cadillac place?”

“Don’t remember. The name’s on the papers in my truck.”
Mortavius took a menacing step forward, and Clark felt the fear crawl up his neck. His fake sheriff’s ID was in the tow truck along with his gun. He was running out of options.

“Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

Clark stiffened, ready to dodge the big man’s blows. In that instant, Clark thought about the dental work the last incident like this had required. Jessica would shoot him—it wasn’t in the budget.
A hand shot out, and Clark ducked. He lunged forward and brought his knee up with all his might. But the other man was quick, and the knee hit rock-solid thigh, not groin. Clark felt himself being jerked by his collar into the foyer, the way a dog might be yanked inside by an angry owner. Before he could land a blow, Clark was up against the wall, Mortavius in his face, a knife poised against Clark’s stomach.

Where did that come from?

Mortavius kicked the door shut. “Talk fast, con man,” he hissed. “Intruders break into my home, I slice ’em up in self-defense.”
“I’m a deputy sheriff for Orange County, California,” Clark gasped. He tried to sound official, hoping that even Mortavius might think twice before killing a law enforcement officer. “In off hours, I repo vehicles.” He felt the point of the knife pressing against his gut, just below his navel, the perfect spot to start a vivisection.
“But you can keep yours,” Clark continued, talking fast. “I’m only authorized to repo if there’s no breach of the peace. Looks like this situation might not qualify.”

Mortavius inched closer. He shifted his grip from Clark’s collar to his neck, pinning Clark against the wall. “You try to gank my ride at night, then show up the next morning to tow it?”

“Something like that,” Clark admitted. The words came out whispered for lack of air.

“That takes guts,” Mortavius responded. A look that might have passed for admiration flashed across the dark eyes. “But no brains.”
“I’ve got a deal,” Clark whispered, frantic now for breath. His world was starting to cave in, stars and pyrotechnics clouding his vision.
The doorbell rang.

“Let’s hear it,” Mortavius said quietly, relaxing his stranglehold just enough so Clark could breathe.

“They’re paying me six Gs for the car,” Clark explained rapidly. He was thinking just clearly enough to fudge the numbers. “They know where you are now because I called them yesterday. Even if you kill me—” saying the words made Clark shudder a little, especially since Mortavius didn’t flinch—“they’re going to find the car. You let me tow it today and get it fixed. I’ll wire four thousand bucks into your bank account before I leave the Cadillac place. I make two thousand, and you’ve got four thousand for a down payment on your next set of wheels.”
The doorbell rang again, and Mortavius furrowed his brow. “Five Gs,” he said, scowling.

“Forty-five hundred,” Clark countered, “I’ve got a wife and—”
Ughh . . . Clark felt the wind flee his lungs as Mortavius slammed him against the wall. Pain shot from the back of his skull where it bounced off the drywall, probably leaving a dent.

“Five,” Mortavius snarled.

Clark nodded quickly.

The big man released Clark, answered the door, and chased away the other tow truck driver, explaining that there had been a mistake. As Mortavius and Clark finished negotiating deal points, Clark had another brilliant idea.

“Have you got any friends who aren’t making their payments?” he asked. “I could cut them in on the same type of deal. Say . . . fifty-fifty on the repo reward—they could use their cuts as down payments to trade up.”

“Get out of here before I hurt you,” Mortavius said.


Clark glanced at his watch as he left the parking lot. He had less than two hours to return the tow truck and make it to the plastic surgeon’s office. He speed-dialed Jessica.

“Highway Auto Service,” she responded.

“It didn’t work,” Clark said. “I got busted.”
“You okay?”

He loved hearing the concern in her voice. He hesitated a second, then, “Not a scratch on me.”

“I told you it was a dumb idea,” Jessica said, though she sounded more relieved than upset. “You never listen. Clark Shealy knows it all.”
And he wasn’t listening now. Instead, he was doing the math again in his head. Sixteen thousand, minus Mortavius’s cut and the repair bill, would leave about ten. He thought about the logistics of making the wire transfers into accounts that Jessica wouldn’t know about.
Pulling a con on pimps like Mortavius was one thing. Getting one by Jessica was quite another.