SHOWCASE: Cornered by Alan Brenham

Posted by Ryder Islington, Author of ULTIMATE JUSTICE, A Trey Fontaine Mystery


by Alan Brenham

on Tour September 2014

Cornered by Alan Brenham

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published by: Black Opal Books

Publication Date: July 19, 2014

Number of Pages: 320

ISBN: 9781626941380/9781626941373

Purchase Links:



He’s haunted by the memory of a kidnapping case gone wrong…

Not wanting history to repeat itself, Detective Matt Brady struggles to solve the disappearances of seven young women, but he quickly finds himself pitted against a criminal organization that knows as much about police procedure as he does—an organization that will do whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of him. His troubles are compounded when a young veterinarian injects herself into the investigation and is targeted to become victim number eight. When he tries to protect her, he finds himself in the crosshairs of a professional cop killer. Can Brady solve the case in time to save his new love, or will this investigation be the death of both of them?



“Alan Brenham’s Cornered is a taunt thriller filled with murderous twists and turns that will satisfy readers who love good crime fiction. As a cop and a lawyer, Brenham has been there and done that and in this, his second outing, the authenticity of his storytelling ability continues to shine through.”
– Michael McGarrity, New York Times Bestselling Author of Hard Country & Backlands

Read an excerpt:

Brady moved next to Killebrew. “So you find anything?”

“No prints. But we did find a nine millimeter shell casing outside.” He pointed at the door. “The witness said she used a key to open the door when Becker failed to answer the doorbell.”

Brady knelt down next to the body and peered at her head. One apparent gunshot wound above the right eye. Her half-opened dilated pupils stared straight up towards the ceiling.

Killebrew stepped close to the wall opposite the front door, pointing at a hole. Blood spatter was on the lower half of the wall. “We removed the bullet from here. The round appears to be a nine millimeter. Same as the shell casing.”

He stood up and surveyed the living room. The front window was covered with flowery-patterned drapes. A piano sat in the far corner by the front window. He was no expert on furniture but the furniture appeared to be fairly expensive pieces. He saw some mail lying on the coffee table. Using a pen, he sifted through it, checking the sender’s address, but nothing jumped out at him. A family portrait of her, an ordinary-looking man with narrow shoulders he assumed was Burt Smith, and twins—a girl and a boy—sat on the end of the table.


Author Bio:

Alan Behr served as a law enforcement officer and criminal investigator for seventeen years before earning a law degree from Baylor University. After obtaining his law license, he worked as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney for twenty-two years. His personal and official travels took him to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Alaska and almost every island in the Caribbean. He has lived in Berlin, Germany while working with US military forces. After retiring from government service, he has authored two crime novels – Price of Justice and Cornered – under the pen name of Alan Brenham. He is presently working on two more novels. Alan and his wife, Lillian, currently live in the Austin, Texas area.


Tour Participants:

1.  9/01 Review @ Buried Under Books


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Review by Ryder Islington, Author of ULTIMATE JUSTICE A Trey Fontaine Mystery

This book reminds us that sometimes it’s good to have nosey neighbors, like James Kirkwood, one of the point of view characters in DEVIL IN THE HOLE. Most of this story is told in the points of view of ancillary characters, with a chapter here and there in the point of view of the killer.

When nosey neighbor James Kirkwood notices that the people who live in the house across seem to have disappeared, he calls the police. They find the entire family dead, except for the husband/father John Hartman. As police question other neighbors, co-workers, friends and teachers, a picture of the family comes together like a puzzle. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book in this kind of format, where almost everything you learn about the victims and killer come from what other characters know and think.

I enjoyed this unusual read. It made me think, but not so hard that it became work. It’s a great read for those who enjoy crime/drama, mystery, suspense and social commentaries about our world and the people in it.

Below you’ll find more details about this book, and the author, Charles Salzberg, and also a list of other sites where you can find more reviews, interviews, guest posts by the author, and giveaways. Make sure to leave a comment so your name is put in the hat for a free copy of DEVIL IN THE HOLE.

Devil in the Hole

by Charles Salzberg

on Tour September 1 – October 31, 2013

Book Details:

Genre: Literary psychological crime fiction
Published by: Five Star/Cengage
Publication Date: July 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 253
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2696-3
Purchase Links:


Devil in the Hole is based on a true crime that occurred over 40 years ago in New Jersey, wherein a man murdered his entire family, wife, three children, mother and the family dog, and disappeared. My novel uses that event and takes off from there, following the murderer on his escape route. Using the voices of people he meets along the way, and people who are affected by his crime, the reader starts to build a portrait of the man and why he did what he did, in addition to following those who are searching for him.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 5-17-2013
This title publishes JULY 2013

“In this smartly constructed crime novel, Salzberg uses multiple viewpoints to portray an unlikely killer who methodically slaughters his family . . . an intriguing collage of impressions and personal perspectives for the reader to ponder.”
Devil in the Hole by Charles Salzberg. Five Star, $25.95 (254p) ISBN 978-1-4328-2696-3
In this smartly constructed crime novel, Salzberg (Swann Dives In) uses multiple viewpoints to portray an unlikely killer who methodically slaughters his family. When James Kirkland, a neighbor, notices something odd going on at the Sedgewick, Conn., home of the Hartmans, he calls the police. Inside the Georgian-style mansion, police find the neatly executed bodies of Adele Hartman, her three teenage children, and her mother-in-law. John Hartman, Adele’s husband, is missing. Salzberg adroitly creates the voices of Hartman as he tries to establish a new life for himself; Charles Floyd, a senior police investigator who becomes obsessed with finding Hartman; and Kirkland, whose discovery changes his life. A slew of other characters who knew Hartman or who encounter him as he moves around provide snippets of information. The result is not a finished portrait but an intriguing collage of impressions and personal perspectives for the reader to ponder. Agent, Alex Glass, Trident Media Group. (July)
Reviewed on 05/17/2013 | Details & Permalink (July)

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One
James KirklandI knew something was out of whack, only I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Just something, you know. And it wasn’t only that I hadn’t seen any of them for some time. I mean, they’d been living there for what, three, three and a half years, and I don’t think I ever had more than a two- or three-minute conversation with any of them. And God knows, it wasn’t as if I didn’t try.
All things considered, they were pretty good neighbors. Mostly, I guess, because they kept to themselves. Which is certainly better than having neighbors who are always minding your business, or who don’t mow their lawn, or who drop in uninvited, or who throw wild parties and play loud music all night long. They weren’t like that. Just the opposite, in fact. Why, with that great big front lawn and two teenage boys you’d think they’d be out there tossing a football or a Frisbee around, or something. But no. It was so quiet sometimes it was as if no one lived there at all. Though I did hear rumors that the boys had a reputation of being hell-raisers. Maybe that’s why they kept such a tight lid on them when they were home. Because I can honestly say there wasn’t any hell-raising going on in that house that I could see. As a matter of fact, the only way you’d know the house was occupied was when you’d see the kids going to school, or him going off to work, or her and the mother going out to shop. Or at night, when the lights were on.
Which brings me back to the house itself. And those lights. It was the middle of November, a week or so before Thanksgiving, when I first noticed it. I was coming home from work and when I glanced over there I noticed the place was lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s a Georgian-style mansion, one of the nicest in the neighborhood, by the way, with something like twenty rooms, and I think the lights were on in every single one of them. But the downstairs shades were drawn tight, so all you could see was the faint outline of light around the edges of the windows, which gave it this really eerie look. Maybe they’ve got people over, was my first thought. But that would have been so out of character because in all the time they’d lived there I’d never seen anyone go in or out other than them. And anyway, it was absolutely quiet and there were no cars in the driveway or parked out on the street.
Just before I turned in, I looked out the window and noticed the house was still lit up, which was odd, since it was nearly midnight and, as a rule, they seemed to turn in kind of early over there.
The next night when I came home from work and I looked across the street the lights were still on. And that night, before I went to bed, after midnight, I looked out and the lights were still blazing.
After that, I made a kind of game of it. Under the pretense of getting some fresh air, I walked close to the house, as close as I could get without looking conspicuous, and listened to see if there were any sounds coming from inside. A couple of times, when I thought I heard something, I stopped to listen more carefully. But I never picked up anything that might indicate that someone was inside. And each night, when I came home from work, I made it a point to check out the house and make a note of how many lights were still burning and in which windows. I even began to search for silhouettes, shadows, anything I might interpret as a sign of life. And it wasn’t long before I whipped out the old binoculars to take a look, thinking maybe I could see something, anything, that would give me a hint as to what was going on. But when my wife accused me of being a peeping Tom, I put them away, at least while she was around.
There weren’t always the same number of rooms lit, but I noticed there were always fewer, never more. It was as if someone was going around that house each day turning off one light in one room, but in no discernible pattern. I began to think of that damn house during the day, while I was at work, or on the train coming home. It became a real thing with me. I even kept a notebook with a sketch of the house and notations next to each window that had a light on.
At night, I played a game. I began to think of that house as my own personal shooting gallery and, sitting on the window sill in my pajamas, while my wife was either in the bathroom or asleep, I’d choose one of the rooms and aim my imaginary rifle and pop! pop!, I’d shoot out one of the light bulbs. And, if the next night that particular room was dark, I’d get a tremendous rush of self-satisfaction that carried me through the whole next day. It was kind of like one of those video games my kids play. Pretty sick, huh?
I mentioned it to my wife—not my silly game, but the fact that those lights were going out one by one. She thought I was nuts. “Can’t you find anything better to do with your time?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “I’m entertaining myself. Leave me alone.” Then I asked whether she’d seen the Hartmans lately, because I was beginning to have this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if something was seriously wrong. That it wasn’t a game anymore.
“No,” she said. “I haven’t. But that’s not unusual. Besides, it’s not as if I’m looking for them. If you ask me, they’re creepy. The whole bunch of them.”
“I know. But maybe . . . maybe there’s something wrong.”
“Go to bed,” she said. So I did, lulling myself to sleep with my imaginary rifle cradled in my arms, as if it would actually afford me some protection just in case something was wrong.
A few nights later, I set the alarm for three-thirty and slipped the clock under my pillow. When the vibration woke me, I got up quietly, so as not to wake my wife, looked out the window and sure enough the same number of lights was burning in the house as the night before. I was puzzled and frustrated because I was dying to know what was going on. I even thought of making up some kind of lame excuse to ring the Hartmans’ bell. But I didn’t have the nerve.
Two weeks later, only three rooms in the house were still lit. Down from eight the week before, fourteen the week before that, the week I began to keep count. I asked my son, David, whether he’d seen the Hartman kid in school, the one in his class.
“We’re not exactly best buds, Dad,” he said. “He keeps to himself. He’s weird. Maybe he’s queer or something.”
“I just asked if you’d seen any of them lately.”
“Not that I can remember. But I don’t go out of my way looking for any of them. They’re a bunch of weirdoes.”
I went back up to my room and stared out the window for maybe fifteen minutes, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I wondered if I should do something.
“Come to bed,” my wife said.
“I’m worried,” I said without taking my eyes off the Hartman house. “There’s definitely something wrong over there.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” she said. “Besides, it’s none of our business.”
“No, I can feel it. Something’s . . .”
She sighed, got out of bed and handed me the phone. “Well, rather than having to spend the rest of my life with a man who insists on staring out the window at the neighbors’ house all night like an idiot, I’d just as soon you called the police and let them put your mind at ease. At least maybe they can get them to turn out all the lights. Maybe then we can get some sleep over here.”
So, that’s how I called the cops.

Author Bio:

Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, New York magazine, Elle, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times, GQ and other periodicals. He is the author of over 20 non-fiction books and several novels, including Swann’s Last Song, which was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel, and the sequel, Swann Dives In. He also has taught been a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, the Writer’s Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants

1.    09/02 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Ginas Library
2.    09/03 ~ Showcase & Interview @ CMash Reads
3.    09/04 ~ Review @ Views from the Countryside
4.    09/05 ~ Guest Post @ Lauries Thoughts and Reviews
5.    09/06 ~ Review @ Mommabears Book Blog
6.    09/09 ~ Interview & Review @ The Wormhole
7.    09/10 ~ Review @ Savingfor6
8.    09/11 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Gabina49s Blog
9.    09/12 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Deco My Heart
10.  09/13 ~ Showcase @ The Stuff of Success
11.  09/16 ~ Guest Post @ Omnimystery, A Family of Mystery Websites
12.  09/17 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Words by Webb
13.  09/18 ~ Showcase @ Read 2 Review
14.  09/19 ~ Showcase @ J. C. Martin, Fighter Writer
15.  09/20 ~ Guest Post & Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
16.  09/23 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Keenly Kristin
17.  09/27 ~ Review & Giveaway @ bless their hearts mom
18.  10/03 ~ Interview, Review & Giveaway @ The Nook Users Book Club
19.  10/07 ~ Review & Giveaway @ The Top Shelf
20.  10/08 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Bookalicious Traveladdict
21.  10/14 ~ Review @ Celtic Ladys Reviews
22.  10/15 ~ Review @ My Cozie Corner
23.  10/16 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Ryder Islingtons Blog
24.  10/17 ~ Guest Post @ Writers and Authors
25.  10/21 ~ Showcase @ Hotchpotch
26.  10/22 ~ Showcase, Review & Giveaway @ Deal Sharing Aunt
27.  10/29 ~ Showcase @ Rose & Beps Blog
28.  10/30 ~ Review & Giveaway @ THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK
29.  10/31 ~ Review & Giveaway @ An Adventure in Reading
30.  10/31 ~ Review @ An Adventure in Reading

GUEST POST: Jon Land, Author of the Caitlin Strong Series


            When I conceived Caitlin Strong, the female Texas Ranger who graces the pages of STRONG RAIN FALLING and four other books, I wanted to create a classic American hero from our country’s frontier heritage.  I wanted to make her flawed and a bit ambiguous, but ultimately I know she’d always end up shooting straight and doing the right thing.  To me great heroes are what make great books, particularly in the thriller genre.  Good guys (and gals!) we can relate to and root for.  In my mind that’s what it’s all about, in fact and fiction.

So why do we find ourselves so fascinated by dark heroes, anti-heroes and basically bad guys in both fiction and fact too.  I started thinking about this right around the time I heard somewhere that Jahar Tsnarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bombing brother, has something like 180,000 followers and friends on some fan site.  Then Rolling Stone magazine arrived in the mail with Jahar on the cover looking like a rock star because, well, maybe he is.

            And he’s not alone.

“Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do, watcha gonna do when they come for you?”

When he wrote that, Bob Marley might well have been thinking of our society’s endless fascination with, and attraction to, bad guys.  We turn them into folk heroes, pop culture icons.  I was already thinking about this in the wake of the tragic passing of James Gandolfini.  His portrayal of Tony Soprano is one for the ages and will be with us forever.  Tony will be admired, envied, looked up to and even deified, in spite of the fact that he’s a brutal, two-timing, wife-cheating thug.  Even before Rolling Stone turned Jahar Tsarnaev into a rock star, he had already become a virtual (literally and figuratively) fan fave of those tween girls who are no more discerning, and perhaps strangely even less so, than their adult counterparts.  Our culture’s love of bad boys dates back to Jimmie Cagney movies advancing to Humphrey Bogart and, finally, the gangster era spawned by the Coreleone family in The Godfather, perhaps the greatest film ever made.

            The problem is how we extend the mythology from fiction into fact, seeing real life bad boys as saintly robin hoods or tortured souls instead of the brutal and irredeemable punks they usually are, ugly to the core.  Such a proclivity stems first from our almost inbred nature to worship the kind of power that mobsters possess.  They write their own rules, never wait in line in restaurants, never have to worry about how they’re going to pay the bills, can have the crap kicked out of anyone who crosses them.  We might not want to do what they do, but we still want to be as they are.  From that twisted perspective, they solve other people’s problems and never have any of their own.  The Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, for example, recently convicted for no less than nineteen murders, was known for distributing free turkeys to the poor on Thanksgiving and for fighting to keep drugs out of his native South Boston.  Yet neither of those was true.

            So what does it say about our collective psyche that we look up to and admire men like Tony Soprano in fiction and fact?  Well, basically we all need to believe in something—that we’re not powerless and that someday we’ll get the rewards we truly deserve.  We emulate the qualities in mobsters we see lacking in ourselves, even though this means overlooking the bad that comes with them.  Tween girls want to date Jahar because he’s hot and somebody that cute can’t possibly be guilty of murder; they can’t get past this bad boy’s looks any more than adults can get past the ability of bad men to command respect and have their rings kissed.  I don’t know what’s more chilling: that his fandom wants to save Jahar or the fact that they believe he can be saved.  The kid, dark brooding and gorgeous or not, put a backpack stuffed with a bomb in front of an eight-year-old boy, remember?  Juxtaposed against his outward beauty, the ugliness that lies within this kid becomes strangely, and sadly, ironic.

In the same courtroom where Jahar may himself appear, for weeks we couldn’t take our eyes off Whitey Bulger because he kicked the ass of anyone who opposed him even as he hoodwinked the FBI.  He was lots of things, but most of all he had the kind of power all of us inwardly crave.  Michael Corleone didn’t really want to become the Don, only wanted to do right for his family.  Tony Soprano could strangle an informant and meet up with his daughter an hour later to finish her college tour.  And you don’t want to mess with either, just like we don’t want anyone to mess with us.  We want to make people offers they can’t refuse, even if that means we have to be a little bit bad or ugly inside too, our reasoning just as skewed as those young girls wasting printer ink on love letters to a psychopath.

Would Rolling Stone have put Jahar Tsarnaev on the cover if he didn’t look like a Backstreet Boy?  Of course not, because that would’ve upset the paradigm of the brooding James Dean/Marlon Brando character recast as a Shakespearean Richard III type.  Jahar looks like he’s ready to be saved just like Tony Soprano always looks ready to kick somebody’s ass.

We want to believe there’s hope amid all the ugliness.  It’s in our natures to be optimistic and sometimes to idealize our moral lessers because they have the power to get away with not giving a damn.  But we shouldn’t look down for our heroes, we should look up to the likes of Caitlin Strong, James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux or Lee Child’s wonderful Jack Reacher.  They actually care and at heart just want to make the world a better place.  We are richer for reading them or meeting those in real life who embody the same qualities that make them heroes.  There are plenty of them out there, in fact as well as fiction.


A Grand Murder by Stacy Verdick Case

Review by Ryder Islington

This is not your typical police procedural, nor your typical mystery. With two female lead detectives, A Grand Murder introduces The Odd Couple meet Columbo. In this Who’s Sleeping With Whom? tale of murder,  Detectives Catherine O’Brien and Louise Montgomery have an abundance of suspects, help from unusual sources, and very few real clues.

But never fear. These two women have a way of getting information out of people like blood out of stones. Wait…that doesn’t work. Which is exactly the problem. Catherine and Louise are good cops. One is neat, the other a slob. One is tall, the other short. One is patient, the other hot-tempered. Fortunately, they are a great team. So when a friend of the Police Chief is murdered on the steps of his fancy mansion, these two detectives get busy.

The victim was a partner in a multi-million dollar business, married to a woman who seems to be a little ditsy. The office assistant is helpful, but strange, showing signs of grief as well as worry. And then another body turns up and the clues are  mystifying.  But give Catherine a cup of caffeine and Louise a notepad, and the dynamic duo make the rounds, interviewing adulterers  and adulterees, swappers and swindlers, and butting heads with the occasional high-powered attorney.

I enjoyed this read. It’s witty and cute, but with real punch. I’d recommend it for the typical cozy reader, as well as for mystery buffs.