This morning I'm sharing a snippet from The Magician Murders, Book Three in The Art of Murder series. This book goes live March 27th, come hell or high water.
The book is still available at the preorder price on Kobo, iBooks and Barnes and Noble. If you follow this blog regularly you know Amazon is not currently permitting me to do preorders, which means no preorder price on Amazon. :-( Way to go, Zon!
So personally, I suggest you preorder from one of the other sites--it's not hard to send your Kindle an epub file. OR maybe the convenience of Amazon is worth paying a bit more?
Here's the Blurb:
Nothing up his sleeves. Nothing but murder...
Jason West, hot shot special agent with the FBI's Art Crime Team, is recuperating from a recent hit-and-run accident at the Wyoming home of BAU Chief Sam Kennedy when he's asked to consult on the theft of a priceless collection of vintage magic posters.
But before Jason can say "presto change-o," the owner of the art collection turns up murdered in a National Forest.
When the dead man is revealed to be the Kubla Khanjurer, a much-hated part-time magician accused of revealing the highly guarded secrets of professional illusionists, it seems clear this is a simple revenge killing--until Jason realizes an earlier suspicious death at the trendy magic club Top Hat White Rabbit might be part of the same larger and more sinister pattern.
And here's the Excerpt:
It was sort of soothing, and Jason had not had much sleep the night before, but he could not afford to drift off in the middle of a conference call with his boss.
“If the legendary West charm has failed to convince Ursula Martin to file charges against Fletcher-Durrand, maybe Uncle Sam should take a swing at her,” Karan Kapszukiewicz was saying.
Kapszukiewicz was chief of the Major Theft Unit of the Criminal Investigative Division. She oversaw the Art Crime Team agents from her Washington DC office, which was where she was calling Jason from. Jason was on his cell phone, lying on Sam’s sofa in Sam’s apartment in Stafford, Virginia. The apartment was not far from the training academy where Jason was attending routine in-service refresher training.
“Respectfully, I don’t think that’s the approach we want to take with Martin,” Jason replied. “I think there’s still a good chance she’ll ultimately come through for us, but not if we push her. Her situation is complicated.”
Jason waited politely.
Karan sighed. “I had a feeling you’d say that, so…okay. I’ll let you make the call. she’s your complainant. Or was.”
Jason winced. The collapse two months ago of charges against the Fletcher-Durrand art gallery was still painful. He had worked his ass off building a prosecutable case of fraud, grand larceny and forgery—only to have the rug yanked out from under him when his original complainants had agreed to settle out of court with the Durrands.
There had been a hell of a lot more to it than that, of course, but the bottom line was the US Attorney’s Office would not be filing charges against Fletcher-Durrand at this time. Especially since the Durrand most wanted by law enforcement and everyone else seemed to have vanished off the face of the planet.
Not that Jason was so naïve as to imagine hard work and determination alone ensured the successful prosecution of every case—luck always played a role, and his luck had definitely been out. At least as far as the Durrands were concerned. In other ways…
His gaze traveled to a large Granville Redmond painting of California poppies beneath stormy skies, hanging on the opposite wall.
In other ways, his luck had been very much in, which was how he came to be lying on BAU Chief Sam Kennedy’s sofa waiting for Sam to get home. Two months ago, he’d feared his relationship with Sam had run its blink-and-you-missed-it course, but against the odds, here he was.
“All right,” Karan said more briskly, her attention already moving on to bigger or more winnable cases. “Keep me posted.”
She was clearly about to ring off, but Jason being one of her protégés, Karan asked suddenly, “How’s training? You’re still at Quantico?”
“Yeah. I fly out tomorrow night. Training is…training.”
“Always,” Karan agreed gravely. “Okay. Have a good flight home.” She did hang up then. Her timing was perfect. Jason heard Sam’s key in the front door lock.
He clicked off his cell and rose as the front door swung open. The scent of April showers and faded, but still slightly jarring, aftershave wafted in.
Sam was a big man and he filled the door frame. Instantly, the quiet, slightly dusty rooms felt alive again. Occupied. The stale, centrally heated air seemed to break apart as though before a gust of pure, cold oxygen.
“Hi.” Sam looked tired. He always looked tired these days. His short blond hair was wet and dark, the broad shoulders of his tan trench coat splattered with rain drops. He was not exactly handsome—high cheekbones, long nose—hard mouth—but all the pieces fit perfectly in a face that exuded strength, intelligence, and yes, a certain amount of ruthlessness. His blue eyes looked gray—but they warmed at the sight of Jason coming towards him. He dropped his briefcase and took Jason into his arms, kissing him with full and flattering attention.
Sam even tasted tired—too many cups of coffee, too many breath mints, too many conversations about violent death. Jason kissed him back with all his heart, trying to compensate with a sincere welcome home for what had probably been a shitty day.
Not that Sam found a day of murder, rape and abduction as depressing as Jason would. Sam wouldn’t be so very good at his job, if he did.
As always, the softness of Sam’s lips came as surprise. For a guy who was rumored to have a heart of stone, he sure knew his way around a kiss.
They parted lips reluctantly. Sam studied him. “Good day?”
“It is now.”
Sam smiled faintly, glancing around the room, noting Jason’s coffee cup and the files and photos scattered across the coffee table. “This looks industrious.” His pale brows drew together. “It’s hot as hell in here.”
Jason grimaced. “Sorry. I turned the heat up. I was freezing when I got in.”
Sam snorted, nodding at Jason’s jeans and red MOMA t-shirt. “You could always try putting on a sweatshirt. Or even a pair of socks.”
“True, I guess.”
Sam grinned. “You California boys.”
“Known a lot of us, have you?” Jason was rueful. At forty-six, Sam had twelve years and a whole hell of a lot of experience on him.
“Only one worth remembering.” Sam pulled him back in for another, though briefer, kiss.
Jason smiled beneath the pressure of Sam’s firm mouth.
When Sam let Jason go, he said, “Sorry I’m late. Any idea where you want to eat tonight?” He absently tugged at his tie, probably a good indicator of what he’d prefer. Jason too, for that matter.
“We don’t have to go out. Why don’t we eat in?”
Sam considered him. “You’ve only got another day here.”
“I didn’t come for the night life. Well.” Jason winked, but that was just in play. He suspected it was going to be a low-key night. Sam pushed himself too hard. There wasn’t any good reason for it because the world was never going to run out of homicidal maniacs. There was no finish line in this race. “Anyway, it’s not like I don’t get to eat out enough.”
The corner of Sam’s mouth tugged in acknowledgment. “Yeah. But you must’ve noticed there’s nothing to eat in this place.”
Jason shrugged. Sam’s fridge reflected the state of his own—the state of anyone whose job kept them on the road most of the time.
“I did notice. Not a problem. I’ll run out and pick us something up.”
Sam opened his mouth, presumably to object, and Jason said, “You look beat, Sam. Let me take care of dinner.”
“Why, thank you.” There was the faintest edge to Sam’s tone.
He didn’t like being reminded he wasn’t Superman. Jason had learned that over the past ten months. Sam worked hard and played—when he did play, which was rarely—harder. He had the energy and focus of guys half his age, but part of that was sheer willpower.
“You know what I mean.”
Sam grimaced. “I do, unfortunately.”
“So? You must have a favorite Chinese restaurant.” Jason was smiling because he didn’t take Sam’s flickers of irritation all that seriously—and because the first meal they’d shared had been Chinese food.
Ah, memories. They’d pretty much detested each other back then. Which had made the sexual tension that flared instantly between them all the more—and mutually—exasperating.
Sam didn’t finish the thought. Weariness vying with his sense of obligation. Their relationship was such—the nature of their jobs was such—that there was not a lot of time for dating as most of the world understood it.
Jason got it. Anyone in law enforcement got it. But Sam still suffered these occasional bouts of guilt. Or whatever. Sam’s obsession with the job was always going to be a challenge to their relationship. Initially, Jason had figured it had to do with losing Ethan, but for all he knew, Sam had always been like this.
And maybe that single-minded drive had been an issue between Sam and Ethan too. Ethan had been Sam’s boyhood love. They’d grown up together, planned to spend their lives together, but Ethan had been murdered while they were still in college. That was about all Jason knew because Sam was not informative on the topic of Ethan.
“Take out and staying in is actually what I’d prefer,” Jason said.
“Yeah?” Sam scanned his face, then relaxed. “Well, if that’s the case. The China King restaurant on Hope Road is pretty good. Tell me what you want—”
“Nope. You tell me what you want. I’ve been sitting around here for a couple of hours. I need to stretch my legs anyway.”
Sam hesitated. “You sure you don’t mind?”
Jason half closed his eyes, consulting his memory of that first night in Kingsfield. “Hot and sour soup, shrimp with lobster sauce…what else? Steamed rice or fried?”
“Steamed. Good memory,”
“You need it in my line of work.” Jason wiggled his eyebrows, as though he was involved in some nefarious occupation and not just another cop with a fancy title. He hunted around for his shoes, locating them beneath the coffee table. His leather jacket was draped over the autumn colored accent chair in the corner of the room.
He was pretty sure Sam had taken this “apartment home” furnished, because the décor had a definite Overstock.com vibe. Comfortable, attractive, generic. Other than the four paintings by Granville Redmond that decorated his living room, office and bedroom walls, the place could have doubled as a very nice hotel suite.
“Hope Road, you said?” He checked his wallet.
“Go north on US-1. It’s less than a mile.” Sam was shrugging out of his raincoat, preparing to get comfortable, and Jason smiled inwardly.
“Got it. I’ll be back in a few.”
Jason glanced back. “Mm?”
Sam grinned. “Don’t forget the fortune cookies.”
“Roger that.” Jason touched a finger to his temple in mock salute and stepped outside.