Excerpt of ‘The Big Cinch’ by Kathy L. Brown

The Big Cinch, Chapter One: Goodwill


I tapped the Judge’s office door, once, then twice more. At his beck and call day and night, I was. “That must be him now,” Judge Dolan rumbled through the oak panel. “Come on in, Joye.” He was behind his desk, and a swell doll in a smart black dress sat across from him. He gave me a nod and a wink and said, “Mrs. Humphrey, please meet my assistant, Mr. Sean Joye.”

The lady stopped rooting through a beaded bag on her lap and looked up. Pale blue eyes behind a short net veil met mine. They gave me the once-over. A high-society doll and not a bad looker at that. She hadn’t bobbed her hair yet, like half the women in the city. It was all pinned up, mysterious-like, under her wide-brimmed purple hat. Whatever this job was, it couldn’t be all bad.

“Sean, this is Mrs. Taylor Humphrey,” said the Judge. “She brings me an interesting problem.”

“Mr. Joye,” she said, extending a small hand with long, slim fingers. “Please call me Violet.”

I didn’t think she meant it. I shook her sweaty palm, which smelled of Shalimar and jumpy nerves. “Mrs. Humphrey, an unexpected pleasure. This fine morning is now brighter, indeed.”

Her look told me, “Cut the blarney, paddy,” but she said, “The old woman in the lobby predicts snow. The ghost from the elevator shaft told her so.”

I didn’t know which old woman she meant but pretended I did, doubling down on the brogue. It seldom failed me. With American women, anyway. Gents? Not so much. “Pulling your leg was she?”

At that time, I didn’t know any better than old granny tales, that ghosts were merely folks carried off to Faerie, come to pay a bit of a visit to our mortal realm. Not that I’d ever seen any of the fae, including ghosts. At least, not in the courthouse lift. Other places perhaps? I’d just as soon not dwell on that.

Violet returned to the bag and fished out a photograph. The Judge took it, gave it a glance, and handed it back to her. “Why don’t you explain your problem to Mr. Joye?” He folded his hands across his tweed waistcoat, leaned back in the chair, and smiled. I’d never seen him more pleased with himself. “Of course.” She took a deep breath. “This is difficult.” I dumped my coat and fedora on the coat rack and pulled up a chair. “It’s about my sister, Lillian. Lillian Arwald.” She indicated the photograph in her hand and handed it to me.

A pretty young woman—a child, really—in a white, high-collared dress that hung near her ankles, smiled out of the sepia-toned picture while her eyes challenged the world. She looked about sixteen years old. Long blonde hair was pulled back from her face with a fancy comb and hung in loose curls down her back.

“We had a small family squabble, and now Lillian’s run off.” Violet looked down at her lap. She bit her lip, like she was about to cry or something.

I didn’t buy it. Something had spooked her, but it wasn’t the need to discuss her sister’s indiscretions with a circuit court judge. “Do you think she’s in danger?” I leaned in closer. “Sounds like a job for the cops.”

“No, no. Nothing like that. Her debut is this weekend at the Piasa Lodge Ball.”

“Debut?”

“A party. Where young ladies are presented to society.”

I nodded like I understood. I didn’t understand. “And it’s in a piazza? Somewhere on the Hill, I guess.” I tried with difficulty to picture which courtyard in the tidy Italian neighborhood, not far from where I stayed, could hold a fancy society party—in February, to boot.

“No. Piasa. Pie-uh-saw,” Violet said as she crossed her arms. “The American Indian mythological figure? The painting on the river bluffs discovered by the first French explorers?”

The Judge looked embarrassed at my ignorance. “At least a dozen businesses in St. Louis and even more across the river in Alton are named for it,” he said, smiling at her. “And, of course, the premier civic booster organization of the city.”

Well, la-de-da. “So, nothing else for her to hide from?”

“She’s been a bit wild.” Tapped the picture in my hand, Violet said, “That’s from a few years ago. Now her hair’s cut short. Skirts too.”

I liked the twinkle in Lillian’s eyes and something about the smile. The girl had a secret or two, just waiting for the right moment to bust loose.

“She’s just in a phase,” Violet continued. “She’s engaged to be married to a respectable attorney.”

“Trouble with the boyfriend?”

“Perhaps.” But from the look on her face, the boyfriend had nothing to do with it.

Kathy L. Brown’s The Big Cinch is a Dashiell-Hammett-style supernatural noir mystery novel featuring wizards and Mississippian mythology, available now from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Every Book I have read in 2021 Pt2

And we’re back for the second part of every book I have read in 2021 and this time I have 22 books to share and recommend! What a ride this year has been and made all the better for the wonderful reads you shall find below…

‘Spook City, U.S.A.: A Shadybrook Community Patrol Novella’ by Drew Purcell

Fun, unconventional easy-to-read comedy that never takes itself too seriously while delivering a good story with plenty of laughs…

4 Stars Full Review

‘Wonder Rush’ by Dan McKeon

An immersive and suspenseful teen spy thriller with some darker edges, a positive message, originality and depth…

5 Stars Full Review

‘Fear Farm No Trespassers’ by S.J. Krandall

‘Immersive page-turning horror stories full of thrills and chills…’

5 Stars Full Review

‘Nevada Noir : A Trilogy of Short Stories’ by David Arrowsmith

A brief but deeply descriptive brush with the dark…

4 Stars Full Review

‘A Few of My Favourite Things’ by A.J. Ross-Etheridge

Fun, honest, thought-provoking poetry guaranteed to put a smile on your face…

5 Stars Full Review

‘Sleeping Beauty and The Cursed Code’ by Emma Jean

Fairy tale and STEM combine for a fun story with an important message…

5 Stars Full Review

‘Evil Eye: A Slasher Story’ by April A. Taylor

An unpredictable fast-paced slasher with plenty of twists and tension as the storm unfolds…

4 Stars Full Review

‘Home’ by Thomas Overlook 

Unique and intriguing. A page-turning tale that’ll take readers down the rabbit hole of what’s there and what isn’t…

4 Stars Full Review

‘The Genius’ Guide to Bad Writing’ by R.T. Slaywood and R.C. Martinez

A refreshing outlook on writing and publishing that’ll make you smile…

5,000 Stars Full Review

‘Everything, Except You’ by Emma Jordan

A feel-good cosy romance story about two passionate souls

5 Stars Full Review

‘We Watch You’ By N.S. Ford 

Cleverly plotted British mystery thriller with darker psychological tones and twists…

5 Stars Full Review

‘Deceit of the Earth – Heavy Metal’ by Henry Cox

A thrilling jet-setting tale of deception stretching further than anyone can imagine…

5 Stars Full Review

‘The Right Thing’ by Kelsey Kupitz

‘An easy-to-read mystery full of intrigue, atmosphere and chills…’

5 Stars Full Review

‘Stars Never Die: A Movie To Die For’ by Walrus

‘Quick, fun and easy to read race against time story with murder mystery vibes…’

3 Stars Full Review

‘How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market’ by Ricardo Faye

A comprehensive and valuable guide for any author looking to make a career out of their writing…

5 Stars Full Review

‘Beginner’s Luck’ by M.J. Furtek

‘A breezy action-packed and unpredictable page-turning spy thriller that could go anywhere next…

4 Stars Full Review

‘Fear and Fury’ by Jamie Jackson 

An unconventional and enjoyable superhero tale told with buckets of unique personality…

4 Stars Full Review

‘Dust & Lightning’ by Rebecca Crunden

Page-turning sci-fi action with a revolutionary theme…

5 Stars Full Review

‘The Bad Part of Time’ By Joshua Ingle

A thought provoking time travel caper exploring the themes of life, age and politics…

5 Stars Full Review

Star Child by D.K. Johnson – Review

The truth is out there among the stars and so is the journey to thought-provoking enlightenment

4 Stars Full Review

‘Body In The Waves’ by Kristina Gallo

Heavy themes and issues make for a dark but thrilling tale…

4 Stars Full Review

‘No Rest For The Wicked : Detective Stories’ by Megan Hinde

A collection of intriguing short noir crime stories

4 Stars Full Review

And so that wraps up an incredible year of indie and self published books. Thanks for reading and thank you to these awesome authors for their wonderful words! You can expect another post very soon highlighting my favorite books of 2021. Stay tuned!

‘We Watch You’ By N.S. Ford – Review

Cleverly plotted British mystery thriller with darker psychological tones and twists…

N.S. Ford has cleverly put together a mystery thriller that feels like a multi-layered puzzle which twists and turns as the story unfolds. We are firstly introduced to three friends who all have their own secrets while they try to deal another friend being missing – the circumstances and how it effects them slowly unfolds with a story told mainly from ‘Lauren’s’ point of view but there is some good variety here in the execution of how its delivered. We get snippets of the missing ‘Tina’ by way of her blog entries which map out potential clues and really engulf the reader into this mystery although only by so much as everyone appears to give key information at key unfolding moments adding to the layers of this puzzle. It’s modern and gritty in places while much deeper in the background something is watching – a revelation that comes much later.

These three friends all succumb to different events of misfortune and we get this sense that perhaps a greater power is controlling things from afar, as I said watching. Just what did they do and how does it effect the missing person? Who is this mysterious man seemingly following ‘Lauren’ around? Questions of course lead to revelations and answers which you’ll eventually find here with a plot that unfolds throughout.

The essence of small town England is captured well along with the underworld crime element that you could easily imagine being the next modern crime-thriller show one could binge in a weekend. The darker moments carry impact and overall there is some real power in this story that continually goes to unexpected places and even strange places. As the title suggests, there is a speculative twist that some will probably use as a point of contention but for how the story unfolds it makes sense and I enjoyed it. For anyone looking to read a dark psychological mystery with unpredictable elements this is definitely the read for you. Although there were dark moments there were never any dull moments and I found myself turning pages quickly.

5 Stars – An interesting end to a great read.

You can read an exclusive excerpt of ‘We Watch You’ here.

‘Home’ by Thomas Overlook – Review

Unique and intriguing. A page-turning tale that’ll take readers down the rabbit hole of what’s there and what isn’t…

Its quite difficult to pin point what this story is really about and how deep it goes, but for the majority I was addicted and kept reading to see where it went. To me, that’s a job done well and driven by that immersive intrigue, Thomas Overlook tells the story of a young couple who decide to start again away from the hustle and bustle of city life with their infant child. Then events start to turn strange.

There’s a multitude of different themes and things going on here, some are more obvious and on the surface while others go deeper. Much of the book is taken up by the inner workings of ‘Joel’ and ‘Aubrey’ or their memories but we are only shown and told so much to the point where everything seems to have a kind of surreal feel – this is a complex but imaginative set up for a book because the events that do happen gradually unfold while we find out only limited information about these two characters. The concept of what’s on the surface and what’s beneath starts to blend and uniquely the organisation which ‘Joel’ works for is deliberately omitted, something some readers may frown upon but an original concept and there is a heap of originality here. ‘Aubrey’ seems to have this kind of lustful subconsciousness while also perhaps hiding something. These characters aren’t fully revealed to the reader which only increases that intrigue.

Soon after moving into their new and remote house weird things begin to unfold. Is this an elaborate prankster or perhaps even a haunting? this is after ‘Joel’ may have unleashed something or at least stirred it. What ‘it’ is, we never really get an answer but it points towards something that lurks beneath the surface literally and psychologically. Is what ‘Joel’ appears to be seeing actually there or not? Could we actually be in the company of something that has always been there but is only awakened if disturbed? Rational thought begins to blend with the irrational as he tries to investigate what really is going on. Has ‘Joel’ really unleashed something that feels like its hunting him and his family?

“He was terrified but not mortally. It was a queer feeling, deep fear tinged with a silken sadness…”

Cause and effect comes into play here as these events put a strain on the couple. This has all the makings to suggest there is another lifeform amongst us but that is only really suggested – that’s what this book made me feel anyway and I am intrigued to see where it goes as this appears to only be part 1 of a wider series. You might not get any answers this time but the reading experience was entertaining overall and full of enough mysterious intrigue to at least entertain more of this immersive deep writing style and story. For those looking to have a lighter reading escape or even those who don’t enjoy deep thought this might not be the one for you, but those who enjoy complex stories that are open to wider interpretation then this is the one for you. It’s definitely one of the most unique reads I have come across in recent times.

4 Stars – An encapsulating and page turning read. This review first premiered on Reedsy Discovery.

‘ARIA: Book 1 of the Scintillance Theory’ by Gyorgy Henyei Neto – Review

Immersive science fiction with some mystery and time travel elements…

‘Dia’ sets out to recall lost memories while trying to decipher what is real and what is dream in an immersive and partly surreal story that puts readers in the very centre of her dilemma. To begin with everything is shrouded in a level of mystery as our main character tries to put her memory together while also being unsure who to trust and that is while she recovers from the recent past. This is a future world where the ‘ARIA foundation’ seem to control and see everything and after an event known as ‘The Scintillance’ we gradually find out what happened and how ‘Dia’ was involved.

To begin with I did struggle to get into the story but it picks up and figures itself out as events unfolds and it gets better throughout. The stakes emerge and as ‘Dia’ learns about her past the twists, turns and drama emerges into an enjoyable story. Some of the concepts were original and overall I was immersed into a world that has only just been introduced as this is the first of a wider series. For those who enjoy science fiction with mystery and time travel elements, this is the one for you.

4 Stars – Thank you to the author who provided an advanced copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

Spooky Season Book Recommendations

It’s the season of spooky and what better way to celebrate the nights drawing in and those leaves falling than to read a Hallow-tastic book. Here at the Hall of Information we love a thrilling and chilling reading experience so here’s a run down of some recommendations perfect for the season…

‘In space, not all things were certain… not even death’

Space and horror, simultaneously they are right up my alley and back in 2018 Christina Engela made history by being the first ever author to approach the Hall of Information for a book review. Of course we obliged and the journey of discovery began.

Imagine ‘Alien’ and ‘Event Horizon’ combined with Engela’s immersive writing style and you have the tale of the I.S.S. Mordrake; a ship seemingly stranded and damaged beyond repair in the furthest reaches of space and then it begins… They run into another ship that appears abandoned and just floating there. What unfolds is a tale of mystery and suspense. Check out my full review here and this book is part of the wider ‘Galaxii’ series which I plan on reading more of soon!

‘While some monsters are born, others are created..’

Who doesn’t love a slasher story this time of year? And branding this book only that would most probably be an insult because ‘the Four Before Me’ is so much more. Author E.H. Night blends nostalgia of the 80’s with a twisting initially slow burning story that becomes unputdownable. I even said in my review that this one reads like an early Stephen King with all the sights, sounds and senses captured that make for a chilling read!

Chilling, immersive and full of tension. Everything you want from a crime thriller…

Clowns and horror go hand in hand and Mallory Kelly has put together a chilling tale of shorts that I spent the first half of this year slowly delving into. Each book follows a separate story while the wider plot follows a pair of investigators trying to chase down a murderous clown which is part of this network or shall we say conspiracy. It’s part X-Files meets the irrational fear of clowns and these stories make for perfect Halloween reading. You can read my review of book 1 ‘Dead End’ here.

An enjoyable yet sinister tale of the macabre that’ll keep you turning pages…

Bruce Knapp has managed to pack in the many pillars of horror into one book with Noxious which I found through my Reedsy Discovery endeavors. Having enjoyed his ‘Night Audit’ series of shorts I jumped at the opportunity to take on a book about one town with a dark cloud hanging over it. From gruesome murder, witchcraft, possessions to even something monstrous lurking in the local river this one has it all and will certainly itch that horrific Halloween scratch. Check out my review here

An entirely unique and original page-turning journey of variety on the open road…

It probably doesn’t get any more unique or out there than ‘How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal’ which is a fun road trip story full of variety. Like many awesome authors I’ve become friends with S.D. McKinley reached out to the Hall of Information for a review and I was not disappointed. The supernatural element makes for some great spooky season reading and there’s even zombies! Here’s my review.

And so that wraps up my spooky season book recomendations but some of you probably know by now that I love a sequel so you can expect a part 2 quite soon.

Do you have any spooky season book rec’s? Send them my way via the comments!