Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan #Crime #Thriller ‎@BookPubServices


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For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

 

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Pigeon-Blood Red, by Ed Duncan, is a fast-paced and suspenseful crime thriller.

  

“In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” – 4 Stars, Red City Review

Pigeon Blood Red at 238 pages, is not particularly long as books go, but Duncan packs a lot of story into those pages. Readers in search of a tight, well written, good guy versus bad guy, crime/action/adventure will find Pigeon Blood Red by Ed E. Duncan, an engrossing story that will keep them involved to the end. And like me, they will find themselves eagerly awaiting the next installment.”Mike Siedschlag

“This charming, classically-told crime thriller is a must for noir fans…refreshingly old-school pulp, inhabited by a familiar cast of gamblers, con men and hustlers found in Dennis Lehane and Elmore Leonard novels” – 5 Stars, Best Thrillers

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When Rico knocked on Jean’s door he was happy to hear the sound of footsteps. At least she was there. Maybe it was a good omen. Jean, a stunning redhead with a figure that made the heart leap, looked through the peephole, opened the door, and greeted him wrapped in a towel. She was even more tantalizing than she’d been in the car earlier that day. She wasn’t completely dry, and here and there tiny droplets of water glistened on her arms and shoulders. Rico inhaled the subtle fragrance of her shower gel, but before it could distract him, a voice in his head reminded him, “Point one percent.”

“I wasn’t expecting you back so soon,” she began, a playful, sultry smile on her face.

From the doorway Rico scanned the living room and saw nothing amiss. He walked in and closed the door behind him. Too bad. He only knew how to do this one way. “Jean, how long have you known me?” he asked stoically.

She was baffled. “You know as well as I do. What kind of a question is that?”

“I never tried to hide from you how I make my living, true?” They stood face to face, inches apart, before she took a few halting steps backward. “So you know what happens to people who don’t tell me what I want to know, don’t you?”

“Rico,” she stammered, her voice trembling, “you aren’t making any sense. What’s this all about? I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but I haven’t done anything, I swear.”

He took a straight razor from his coat pocket and opened it. As he walked toward her, she covered her face with her hands. He stepped behind her, thrust his left arm through the triangle formed by her hands pressing against her face, and grabbed her right shoulder. With his right hand he held the blunt side of the open razor against her right cheek.

“Where is it?”

“Please, Rico,” she sobbed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He pressed harder and tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Please, please!”

“I don’t believe you.” He turned the sharp side to her cheek.

“Rico, not my face, please! I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her tears puddled where the razor met her skin.

“Sorry, baby.”

As Jean cried out he let the razor fall from his hand and, in one uninterrupted motion, expertly muzzled her scream with the same hand before the razor hit the floor. She fainted.

When she came to, she was lying on the couch where Rico had carried her. He stood with his back to her, talking to Jerry on the phone. Jerry hadn’t been able to get past lobby security in Robert’s building.

“He palmed it, right?” Jerry asked.

Rico glanced over his shoulder at Jean. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He hung up. “I had to be sure,” he said unapologetically.

She shivered in her towel and glared at him, anger roiling in her eyes. He went to the bedroom and returned with a blanket, which she allowed him to drape around her shoulders.

“Sorry, baby. It was just business.”

Still too furious to speak, she defiantly turned her back to him and silently dared him to say anything about it. A small victory but it was something. Ignoring the gesture, Rico walked out and closed the door softly behind him.

She was enraged, as much at herself as at him, because she knew that the next time he called she would answer. She tried to justify her emotions by telling herself that he’d stopped short of actually harming her and that he never would have. But who was she kidding? She could hope but she could never know for sure.

When the cab pulled up in front of Robert’s building, Jerry was standing outside smoking a cigarette. It was an expensive high rise on the city’s Gold Coast along Lake Michigan’s north shore, with a security guard on duty twenty- four hours a day. There was no way around it; if they wanted to get into Robert’s apartment, one way or another they’d have to deal with him. This was admittedly a minor detail, more of an annoyance than anything else.

Jerry knew Rico hated cigarette smoke. An icy stare from him whenever Jerry lit up was as effective a deterrent as a punch in the gut, so he put the fag out as Rico left the cab. Rico kept his body rock solid by lifting weights at a neighborhood gym, jogging regularly, and minimizing his intake of junk food. He didn’t like the idea of second-hand smoke undoing any of his hard work.

“So what happened?” Jerry asked.

“She didn’t have it.”

“I could’ve told you that. She’s good people.”

“Don’t start with me.”

“But—”

“But nothing. Anybody can cross the line.”

“Including me?” Jerry hoped Rico might exempt him

but didn’t expect it.

“Yeah, including you.” The two men stared at each

other for a long moment before Rico smiled. “No, not including you.” The smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared and his eyes narrowed. “You know better.”

The comment stung and Jerry hung his head a little, but it was true and he knew it. It wasn’t easy to get close to Rico and not many people did. He was loyal to a fault, yet distant and brooding. Deadly as a cobra but with a dry, sometimes biting sense of humor. Brutally honest, he lacked guile. Hated hypocrisy. Loathed arrogance. If you were in a fight for your life against hopeless odds and could pick just one person to help even them out, he would be your choice every time. But if you needed a shoulder to cry on or even a pat on the back, you’d have to think long and hard before you settled on Rico.

“Now, about this guy…” Rico said, ignoring Jerry’s reaction.

Jerry snapped out of it. “You have to tell the security guard who you want to see. He rings the apartment. If the person answers, the guard buzzes you in.”

“High-class joint.”

“No wonder he’s always out of money.”

“How much traffic in and out?”

“Not too bad so far.”

Taking in as many details as his eyes could process in one sweep of the area, Rico slowly turned in a circle, looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything that counseled against getting on with the business at hand. Outside, there were pedestrians and cars passing everywhere, but it was a busy street, so there was nothing unusual about that. Inside, the foyer was empty except for the security guard. Nothing looked menacing. Nothing looked out of place. He nodded. “Okay?” Jerry nodded back. “Let’s go and talk to the man.”

They walked briskly to the entrance, donning sunglasses almost in unison, then glanced behind them one last time before opening the door. Rico nodded to a spot inside. Jerry planted himself there. Without slowing, Rico continued toward an oak-paneled counter facing the door, behind which sat an unarmed security guard casually reading a newspaper. He was about forty, with a gaunt face and stringy hair reaching below his collar. He was the kind of guy who went through life trying to keep from stepping on anyone’s toes and hoping everyone would try to avoid stepping on his. He looked up in time to see Rico, advancing quickly in his direction, throw open his coat and jerk a .45 out of a powder-blue shoulder holster. He leaped to his feet and raised his hands above his head. Rico slammed the gun on the counter.

“Put ’em down,” Rico said. Eyes bulging and hands shaking, the guard complied and his face took on the look of a condemned man who had just received word of a reprieve. “That’s right. Relax,” Rico said. “Now buzz Robert McDuffie’s apartment.” There was no answer. “Try again.” Still no answer. “Get the key and take me up there,” he ordered, then nodded in the direction of the .45 resting on the counter under his hand. “This’ll be pointed at the back of your head on the way. Any questions?” The guard shook his head. “Then let’s go.”

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Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He is the original author of a highly regarded legal treatise entitled “Ohio Insurance Coverage,” for which he provided annual editions from 2008 through 2012.

Ed currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH. He is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to EDuncan.net.

Readers can connect with Ed on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview or appearance by Ed Duncan, please contact Kelsey McBride at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or 805.807.9027.

The Manhattan Puzzle by Laurence O’Bryan @LPOBryan #Excerpt @Literati_lit


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Title: The Manhattan Puzzle
Author: Laurence O’Bryan
Genre: Thriller
Publish Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 9781847562906

Synopsis

An international cover-up that could change the course of history…

Sean has been tracking a symbol from another age. It provides a clue to a barbaric conspiracy. A puzzle with an answer feared for millenia.

When Isabel wakes to find Sean hasn’t come home she doesn’t worry. At first. But when the police turn up on her doorstep wanting to interview him, she has to make a decision.

Does she keep faith in him or does she believe the evidence?
The symbol Sean and Isabel have been chasing will finally be revealed in Manhattan as one of the greatest banks in the world totters. Can Isobel uncover the truth before time runs out…or will she too be murdered?

A thrilling, high-octane race to save civilization that will engross fans of Dan Brown, David Baldacci and James Patterson.
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The Manhattan Puzzle Excerpt

 

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‘Go for it. The rougher the better, girl.’ The man had a black silk blindfold tied around his head. He spoke slowly, his voice thick with desire.

Xena went to the door and unlocked it.

‘What’s that? Getting your toys out? Wow, this is even better than you promised.’

Lord Bidoner walked into the panic room. He closed the door behind him and pressed the button to turn on the air management system. The scrubber in the roof could remove the smoke from a blazing fire and turn the output into a vapour trail.

The man, spread-eagled and handcuffed to the stainless steel bed frame, had an expectant smile on his face.

‘Go on, do it,’ he said.

The navy Calvin Klein silk suit hanging from the stool beside the bed gave an indication of who he was. Lord Bidoner examined the man’s wallet. His bank ID card, a credit-card-sized piece of aluminium with an embedded proximity chip and his family name, Hare, embossed on it, confirmed what they already knew.

The head of global security at BXH, one of the world’s few truly global banks, was lying face-up and naked in front of him.

‘Don’t keep me waiting, girl.’

‘I won’t,’ purred Xena. She stroked his leg, then his inner thigh. He quivered in anticipation.

The man’s wife would surely appreciate photographs of this event, but Lord Bidoner had more pressing concerns.

He nodded at Xena.

She was dressed in a low-cut skin-tight black catsuit that fitted her thin frame perfectly. The man laid out in front of them was expecting something memorable from the woman he’d met in the champagne bar opposite Grand Central, two weeks before. Xena’s story, about being an Ethiopian diplomat’s daughter, and her eager smile, had captivated him.

She ran her finger down the man’s stomach. It trembled under her touch.

‘Don’t stop, honey. Don’t stop.’

With her other hand Xena clicked on the silver Turboflame blowtorch, the most expensive model in the world with its 1500C flame. She held the gently hissing blue, inch-long flame up and watched it glow brighter as her fingers moved slowly down his stomach.

‘What’s that?’ he said.

She didn’t reply.

Hare’s voice was still confident when he spoke. ‘Was that your sister who just came in? Is she gonna join us?’

‘We have a surprise for you,’ said Xena.

The man pulled on the handcuffs, which began to cut into his skin. It had taken a bit of persuasion, since this was their third meeting, for Xena to get him to go this far, but he trusted her now. And he’d made it clear that he wasn’t going to put up with any crap. He’d break the bed if she didn’t release him when he gave the password.

She’d smiled, hugged him and agreed.

They’d even laughed about making a written contract.

‘What’s the surprise?’ He shook the bed, testing its resilience and the strength of the handcuffs. He’d assumed they were easily breakable toys, like a previous pair she’d shown him. But he was wrong.

And he didn’t know that the bed was bolted to the reinforced slab of the panic room floor, either. Though he might have guessed that there was something wrong when it refused to move under him.

‘Just a friend of mine. We have a little question for you,’ said Xena.

‘Yeah?’ He was still curious, still expectant of further delights.

‘What is the password for the security system at BXH?’

The man didn’t reply verbally. He shook the bed from side to side, trying to break free. He didn’t know that his only hope was if his thrashing managed to separate his hands from his wrists, and his feet from his ankles. And very few people have strength enough to do that.

Xena waved the blue flame, raised it, as if offering it up. It flickered higher.

The odour of the burning butane gas filled the room like bad perfume. The sound of the blow torch was a threatening hissing now. Xena placed the tip of the flame against the top edge of the whiskey tumbler the man had been drinking from. The glass turned blue.

‘Wait until you feel this. Then you will tell me,’ said Xena. Her tone had changed. It was demanding now.

‘What? Fu . . .’ The end of that confident word was bitten off by the piercing scream that came from deep within his throat. Xena had touched the flame against the pale skin of his shoulder.

He began thrashing. Like a fish flailing. He moved from side to side, squirming away from the skin-blistering heat. But he couldn’t move fast enough. And his legs and arms were stretched out tight.

Easy targets.

The smell in the room changed and the atmosphere with it. Pain and whimpering, sizzling and guttural roars filled the air.

The man had become a dog.

Then Xena asked him again.

‘The password, please.’ She spoke softly, as if they were still playing a game.

‘If you give it up, I will release you. You can explain these little burns to your wife. But the ones I will inflict next will require hospital treatment. Or the services of a morgue.’ She clicked the flame off, then pressed the hot tip hard and fast into the biggest blister she had inflicted, near his ankle.

‘What do you say, Mr Hare?’

The man answered with a defiant, animal roar. He shook the bed under him. The last vestige of his pride in working at BXH bellowed out of him.

Xena lit the flame again. She reached forward, touched it to his chest, and ran it fast down the middle until smoke from his burning body hair filled the room with a sickly odour.

‘Stop, stop!’ he screamed. His body squirmed to escape the heat.

‘It’s #89*99,’ he shouted. ‘Please! Stop!’

Bidoner keyed the password into his phone and pressed send.

‘I hope you’re not lying,’ said Xena. ‘I want all this to have a happy ending.’

She squeezed his thigh with her hand, then stroked it.

Tears streamed from under his blindfold. His cheeks were red. It was good he couldn’t see the weals on his body, because he would know immediately that he wouldn’t be able to explain any of them to his wife.

‘Please, let me go. I promise not to tell anyone. I swear, on my children’s lives.’

Lord Bidoner’s mobile beeped as an incoming message came in. He nodded at Xena. The code had worked.

‘I believe you,’ she said. ‘But there is one more thing I must do for you.’

She put the Turboflame down and went to the fridge. She took out a six-inch-long serrated knife, honed with care to a perfect blade, from the freezer section.

She held it in the air, admiring its cold edge.

‘Now you will find release,’ she said.

The man’s body went still. His toes, which had scrunched up, half straightened. The only sound was his pain-filled whimpering.

The panic room in the apartment on Fifth Avenue, overlooking the skyscrapers of Manhattan, was soundproof. It was why they used the room.

Xena flicked the blade across the man’s pale skin, once, then twice, fascinated by how quickly blood gushed, how fast it flowed from a few simple cuts.

‘This is for my brothers,’ she said.

‘Don’t,’ he whimpered. Fear trembled in his voice. ‘I have two children, a wife.’

She growled, psyching herself up.

‘Prima quattuor invocare unum,’ she said, as she grabbed him, jerking him upwards and castrating him with one swinging motion.

She held the bloody remains up in the air.

His screams of terror and pain vibrated through the room as blood spurted two feet high. A foul smell followed and the man’s words became a babbling.

Lord Bidoner held his nose. He’d seen enough. He went out to the main room of the apartment, with its view towards the glittering Jazz-era spire of the Empire State Building.

‘You did good, my dear. The first offering has been done correctly,’ he said, when Xena joined him.

She was panting.

‘Come here.’

He pushed her up against the inch-thick glass of the window, as Manhattan glittered behind them.

Afterwards, he handed her a balloon glass containing a large shot of Asbach 21. She sipped the brandy, then downed it in one gulp.

Then she lay down on the sleek oak coffee table that dominated the room. The canyon of lights stretching into the velvet Manhattan night reflected all the way along the length of the table and onto her ebony skin.

He reached down and stroked her shoulder. It was trembling.

‘Three more before the moon rises again. That is what the book says. That is what we will do.’

She smiled up at him. Her white teeth shone as she leaned her head back and stretched.

 

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About the Author

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Laurence was born in Dublin. He studied business, then IT at Oxford University.After going to England he paid for his own courses and began rising at 4AM so he could study and work at the same time. One early job was as a kitchen porter near the Bank of England cleaning the plates of the well connected. Laurence was first published by a school newspaper when he was ten, for a short story about aliens getting lost. Thirty-five years later, he attended an authonomy workshop and not long after was offered a publishing contract for three books. The Manhattan Puzzle is his third novel.

 

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