The Castle by Anne Montgomery ~ #Review ~ @amontgomery8

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

Blurb

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

Anne Montgomery

Biography

Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter. She finished her on‐camera broadcasting career with a two‐year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archaeological pieces. Her previous novels are A Light in the Desert, The Scent of Rain, and Wild Horses on the Salt. Montgomery taught journalism and communications at South Mountain High School in Phoenix for 20 years. She is a foster mom to three sons, and spent 40 years officiating amateur sports, including football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, musical theater, and playing her guitar.

Contact Information

602.275.6064

annemontgomeryauthor@gmail.com

Excerpt of The Castle

“Holy crap!” Maggie dropped the phone. Someone peered from outside the darkened window. A child. Big eyes in a bronze face. “Hey! You can’t….” But the boy—nine maybe ten—disappeared. She heard a laugh, a light tinkling sound like tiny brass bells on the breeze.

Maggie scrambled for the phone, punched in the number, and made her report. Then she grabbed a flashlight from under the counter and bolted out the back door of the Visitor Center.

A half-moon lit the concrete trail. There was no sign of the boy. The wind pushed through massive Arizona Sycamores, their star-shaped leaves fluttered, the sound mimicking a stream rushing over small river rocks. Maggie rushed down the path. Her Nikes would have served her better than the brown ankle boots that were part of her uniform.

The laughter came again, this time from the wild land amidst the rocks—huge slabs of fractured white limestone that over the centuries had tumbled down the escarpment. Striving to avoid the vicious prickly pear that dotted the slope and the jagged pieces of stone that could slice skin like a honed blade, Maggie left the safety of the trail and pushed past the mesquite and pungent creosote bushes toward the base of the cliff, boots crunching on the rocky rubble that littered the ground.

Her gaze drifted up the sheer stone wall to The Castle, a prehistoric edifice almost iridescent in the moonlight. She could make out the small windows and even ancient logs that jutted from the structure, all of which had been felled and carted up the cliff face many hundreds of years earlier.

Maggie gasped. To her horror, she saw the boy ascending the wall. She flashed on the day she’d scaled the precipice with archaeology students from New Mexico State University. A seasoned climber, she was comfortable in the harness and helmet, but the ladders were touchy. The feel of rock beneath her hands and feet provided a much more solid sense of security. But there were no ladders propped against the ragged limestone now, nor was the child dressed in any protective gear. In fact, he didn’t appear to be wearing clothes at all.

Frozen, she watched the boy mount the wall like an animal, arms and legs working with almost preternatural ease. Then Maggie saw the child hoist himself over the ledge before he disappeared into the cave that held The Castle in its belly.

At six-foot-three, Jess Sorenson towered over her friend. She folded the slim spiral notebook and tucked the pad into the back pocket of her uniform pants. Like Maggie, Jess sported a gray button-down short-sleeve shirt and forest green slacks. But Jess was a National Park Service Law Enforcement officer, so she also wore a sidearm.

“You don’t believe me.” Maggie slumped into a desk chair in the office at the Montezuma Castle Visitor Center.

“Look, sweetie…”

Maggie glared.

“I’m just saying that we’ve had a search team out here for,” Jess checked her watch, “five hours now. And they’ve found nothing. And you have to admit….”

“They think I’m still crazy, right?” Maggie jumped from the chair and paced the room, a palm pressed against her forehead.

“I didn’t say that, but….” Jess creased her brow. “You know I have to ask.”

“No, I’m no longer medicated, if that’s what you’re curious about.” Maggie turned toward the east-facing windows of the Visitor Center, where the morning sun had yet to offer even a hint of illumination.

Jess nodded and reached again for the notebook. She jotted the information in blue ink, stuck the pen in her breast pocket, and ran her fingers through short, shockingly white hair. “Maybe you need some more time off,” she said softly.

Maggie closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I know what I saw.”

Jess stared for a long time. “I believe you. But the other guys….” She spread her hands wide.

“I have to work, Jess. Sitting around is doing me no good. I just think too much when I’m alone. When I’m here, I feel better. I can’t go back to the house.”

“I know.” Jess perched on the corner of a nearby desk. “So, what do you want to do? Should we file a report with the local authorities? Ask if any young boys are missing?”

“They’ll send me home.”

“They might.”

“But what if a child is out there injured?” Maggie pointed toward The Castle, unable stop tears from spilling down her cheeks.

“Do you think the child was hurt?”

Maggie blew out a breath and closed her eyes. She pictured the boy scaling the wall like one of the ubiquitous brown lizards that scampered among the rocks, his tinkling laughter playing on the breeze. Suddenly the memory seemed wrong. How could the vision be real? She stared at Jess, frowned, and collapsed into a chair.

Jess got up, walked over to Maggie, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m gonna call the guys off. Let’s get you to bed.”

Maggie lifted her head and peered from bleary eyes. “What about the report?”

“I think we need to err on the side of caution and tell the local folks, just in case. But maybe we can make it sound not so….”

“Crazy?” Maggie finished the sentence.

“Come on, now.”

Maggie allowed Jess to help her from the chair. Then she picked up the straw-colored hat with the flat brim and dark leather band that symbolized her profession. Her job was all that mattered now. By making the report Maggie was putting her employment at risk. But what if a child was lost or injured, and they stopped the search because she chose to say nothing? Maggie couldn’t live with that.

Maggie dragged herself from bed. After slipping on a pair of khaki shorts and an overly large navy-blue T-shirt bearing the words Plant Lady: I dig dirt, she made a cup of instant coffee, heavily laced with sugar and milk.

Maggie pushed through the screen door to the tiny porch that fronted her one-bedroom apartment, let the door snap shut behind her, and placed the steaming mug on a round wrought iron table. She’d slept until noon—not a surprise considering her run in with the boy/spirit/hallucination—so the sun was directly overhead. Birds chattered noisily in the surrounding bushes and trees. A speckled brown and white roadrunner, who sprinted about the grounds frequently and exhibited little fear of humans, tilted his head as she sat at the table, then went back to pecking among the rocks in a search for insects and lizards.

The apartment, one of several in a tidy row, sat on National Park land, just a short walk from The Castle. One of the benefits of being a National Park Ranger was the opportunity to live at work. Maggie had recently requested one of the simple flats—a bedroom, kitchenette, tiny living room, and bath—because the thought of returning to her house on Beaver Creek was overwhelming. Memories lingered there, once vibrant and joyful, now nothing but dust and shadow, thoughts that clawed at her gut like a small rodent anxious to eat its way out. She fingered the ragged scars that bisected her wrists—cuts that were partially concealed by a pair of colorful tattoos—then stared at the cerulean blue of the high desert sky.

Maggie, who’d grown up in the bulging metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona, had enjoyed the small-town feel of the Beaver Creek area, which encompassed the communities of Lake Montezuma, Rimrock, and McGuireville. On the way home from The Castle, she’d pass Vickie’s Grill—where a sign proclaimed you could get good home cooking—the Feed Store, and Candy’s Creek Side Cottage with its colorful kitschy décor that always made her smile. Further down the road stood the Montezuma-Rim Rock Fire Department, the town post office, and the most popular spot in town, Flora’s Bakery, where indescribably delicious confections came in pink boxes tied with twine. Then Maggie would turn onto the unpaved, dusty lane with the long row of metal mailboxes, mostly black and white and green, some with their red flags at attention, signaling mail within. Maggie’s was the fourth box from the right, turquoise with white flowers and a yellow butterfly that Charlie had insisted on.

Her tiny house was embraced by an ancient Arizona Sycamore, some of the tree’s branches having kissed the earth untold years earlier, after which they’d rebounded into the high desert sky, massive in their height and breadth. She’d felt connected to the tree with the mottled skin—pale green, brown, and white—cool to the touch, verdant star-shaped leaves. She couldn’t wrap her arms completely around the trunk, though she’d tried.

Charlie had loved the tree. Maggie stopped worrying as he’d grown older, no longer concerned that the boy might fall from the enormous limbs.

Bits of Charlie’s life assaulted her as she sipped her coffee. A hand-painted wooden frame clutching a picture of the two of them, smiling on a hike when he was six. A small pair of boots, laces untied, caked with dried red mud. The collection of minerals on the bedside table, including the strange geometrically-shaped white rocks called pseudomorphs, they’d found sifting through the sandy bottom of the open-pit salt mine in Camp Verde.

Maggie forced the thoughts away, not wanting to think about the house she still owned but dared not enter. For six months she’d stayed away. Jess periodically checked on the property and picked up the mail. Maggie continued to pay the mortgage, but the water and electricity had long since been turned off.

A half an hour and two cups of coffee later, Maggie stared at a Queen butterfly that rested on the wooden porch railing. The creature lazily opened and closed white-spotted orange and black wings, and flitted to a nearby patch of milkweed.

Maggie jumped, startled by the sound of a vehicle. A late model green Jeep Wrangler pulled to a stop in front of the last apartment in the complex. A tall man wearing a Colorado Rockies baseball cap unfolded himself from the driver’s seat and spoke into a cellphone as he slammed the door. He ended the call and slipped the phone into his back pocket. Then, he opened the rear of the vehicle and hoisted a large silver cylinder to his shoulder. His phone rang.

“What!” He walked up the wooden steps to the apartment. “I’ll call you back.” He put the cylinder on the porch floor and fumbled with a key.

Maggie recognized the object, strangely incongruous in the desert. It was a scuba tank.

Our Review

The author has dedicated The Castle to all survivors of sexual violence, which has to be the worst abuse every woman fears.

Maggie is back at work as a Park Ranger, trying to lead a normal life after a rape ordeal. That’s if life and her memories will let her.

She meets many men in her job, and they all make her feel uncomfortable. How can she know who to trust?

Like Brett Collins, a serious scuba diver that she is assigned to assist. He seems decent enough and doesn’t even flirt with her. Her boss Glen, Jim Casey the baker and Dave the good looking, dark haired waiter, they all seem harmless, but try as she might, the thought that she could be in danger again will not leave her be.

I loved the way I learned more about the rapist as the story developed, all while I was trying to guess who he was. It was as if once I knew, then he would be caught and punished before anything bad happened!

The author tried hard with the sympathy card, but I couldn’t feel sorry for the serial rapist, sorry.

I also loved the history of the ancient ruins and the thread of mystery throughout the story, which did help to balance the pervading evil.

I cannot say I enjoyed reading this story, due to the subject matter, but it is brilliantly written and plotted, and I didn’t manage to guess who the rapist was until the very end!

Before Sin… #Poetry

Before I am born, I am forgotten
I carry sins for the world.
I share them out like sweets
As a mother would for her children.
Each must have his own portion
Without sin, the world turns to ash.
There must be crimes, murders
Catastrophes to swipe man away.
Space on your world is not infinite
I do not choose who receives the larger sin.
Like the scattering of seeds or rain
I let them fall where they may.
I am not here to judge man
Only to see evil done by his hand.
Nature has her own way
Of sending evil to keep numbers down.
Pandora will tell you hope remains
That morning light will confirm.
There are no saints among you
Each has been given their own kind of sin.
Whether in thought or deed
I am sorry to say is the way of life.
Good and bad, yin and yang
Decided from the very first spark…

© Anita Dawes 2021

Throwback Thursday ~ Eventide by Mae Clair ~ #SuspenseThriller @MaeClair1

 

Eventide (A Hode's Hill Novel Book 3) Kindle Edition

 

The old house near Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania is a place for Madison Hewitt to start over—to put the trauma of her husband’s murder, and her subsequent breakdown, behind her.

She isn’t bothered by a burial plot on the property, or the mysterious, sealed cistern in the basement. Not at first. Even the presence of cold spots and strange odors could be fabrications of her still troubled mind. But how to explain her slashed tires, or the ominous messages that grow ever more threatening?
 Convinced the answer lies in the past, Madison delves into the history of the home’s original owners, only to discover the origin of a powerful evil.

An entity that may be connected to a series of gruesome attacks that have left police baffled. No matter where she turns—past or present—terror lingers just a step away, spurred on by a twisted obsession that can only be satisfied through death…

my-thoughts-divider2.png

 

Eventide, the last story in Mae Clair’s terrifying trilogy reminded me of a Victorian melodrama, all dark and very mysterious.

The dual timeline ramped up the tension and stretched my nerves so thin, I thought they would break. But I loved the way the past seemed to mirror the present and that they combined at the end in one breathtaking chapter…

Perfectly written and calculated to give anyone nightmares, these books should probably come with a health warning for all those of a nervous disposition!

I loved the part when Madison tackled the weeds in the flowerbeds of her new house, something I love to do to relax my mind. Mae Clair described it all so well too, but the peace wasn’t to last. The tension returns as Madison feels she is being watched, and things begin to happen…

The ghosts start coming out of the woodwork and in no time at all this story becomes icy with terrifying chills coming in quick succession.

Eventide is one of the best ghost stories I have ever read!

Jaye’s Week… Stop the World…

Stop the World – I want to get Off!

Life simply isn’t getting any better, and in some respects, it’s getting worse.

Tensions are running very high in our house, very much due, I’m afraid, to the slow-moving mechanism that drives the NHS these days. And before anyone jumps all over me, I will add that I think they have done an outstanding job coping with Covid. The rest of the system may never recover, however.

It has been a year since Anita’s devastating heart attack. A year of delays, lost results and what can only be described as apathy. So busy saving the world, some patients are falling by the wayside.

Not to mention the song and dance every time we attend the hospital on those rare occasions. At the moment, we are waiting for an appointment for a possible stent to be fitted, as although Anita is coping brilliantly with her reduced mobility and general fitness, she could be a lot better.

I wasn’t expecting to throw my own hat into the ring too, and tried very hard to wait until a shred of normality looked like returning.

It was probably due to the extra workload, and definitely caused by all the stress, but my arthritis has been severely showing off, crippling my knees, and reducing me to a shambling wreck.

When I damaged my knee once before, pre covid, I went to my local A & E, had an Xray and an amazing injection that enabled me to walk without pain.

Yesterday I had reached the end of my rope, and thinking we were as close to normal as we were ever likely to get, I turned up at A&E again, only to be sent packing. Well, advised to attend a Minor Injuries Unit which was miles away!

Apparently, our Accident & Emergency Department are only accepting Life threatening emergencies.

Time to have a word with our GP. Not that you can actually have a face-to-face appointment anymore. You must wait weeks for a telephone conversation and so on. I think I will write a letter and see what happens.

In the meantime, the housework and gardening can go take a running jump!

Help with Self-Hosting?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I have been avoiding tackling this problem for a while now, but the time has come… as the walrus once said. I know it must be now, for I have started blitzing the house, cleaning things that haven’t been touched in months, and that is never a good sign.

For someone who wages war with technology daily, we are actually contemplating the nightmare job of changing our blog/website.

We have been here on WP for 9 years and reasonably content, but our media usage is running at 84% and soon we will be forced to upgrade to Business.

But we don’t really want to.

WP has been good for us but there are some annoying shortcomings. The lack of Google Analytics and better SEO, for a start. Then being unable to use any plug ins and restricted to our choice of themes.

Thing is, I’m not sure if my ageing brain will cope with the mandatory hassle to transfer to a self-hosted WP. I have heard it can be a nightmare and I have enough brain melts (hissy fits) every time we are plagued with the upgrading tinkering going on, and a change of this magnitude might just be the straw that breaks this camel’s back! Surely, it can’t be too difficult?

I mean, just how complicated is it?

And what happens to this blog and the content?  Does it all transfer, or will I have to start from scratch?

Is there a way I can tell if someone has self-hosted, so I can have a look?

And most important of all, would you recommend doing it?

As I have been thinking about this for a while now, I have come up with a possible solution. I am sure that some of our followers have already made this transition and could share a few dos and don’ts with us.

All feedback regarding this ambitious or very stupid plan will be VERY welcome…

The Scarlet Ribbon ~ #UrbanFantasy

Wordle by Jaye Marie

I hear a voice telling me to run
A hollow sound here in the darkness
Held by a disembodied voice
Telling me there is no touching where you are going
No interfering
You will not be calling any place you see, home
That is the place you left behind
You will be given a chance to earn your way back
You will take nothing from this place
The darkness pulsed around me like a living entity
I thought of those waiting for me to come home
Jack, my husband
What have I done, why must I run?
I feel the rain on my skin, a memory
Jack’s whispered voice, here in the darkness
Maggie, you must come back, I miss you
A new voice nagged at the back of my mind
You liar
I am being pushed into the light
It’s not a place I remember
Strange faces, a woman tries to wave me away
Telling me I don’t belong here
Tears on the face of a small child pull me forward
She needs my help, her home is filthy
Her tear-streaked face a charcoal smudge
Her tiny hand clutching a red ribbon…

© Anita Dawes 2021

Excerpt from Out of Time… Jaye Marie #MysteryThriller

This is book two in my DI Snow Series, and having just received an amazing review for CrossFire from Colleen Chesebro, HERE I thought you might like to know a little more about Out of Time…

 Kate Devereau wakes up in a hospital, unable to speak or move. Her brain has shut down, refusing to acknowledge her dark and disturbing past, concealing a web of painful secrets.

Michael Barratt brought her to the hospital, insisting that her ex-husband had tried to kill her. And from the state of him, had tried to kill him too. He had been searching for Kate for years, ever since their doomed love affair, only to discover someone else had been hunting her too.

With the help of the DI David Snow, Kate will gradually piece her life back together, only to discover the nightmare is far from over.

Her first instinct is to run, but David Snow convinces her to stay and help him put an end to the nightmare. A nightmare that will get progressively worse before it gets better.

Haunted by his own demons, will the Snowman manage to catch the twisted killer?

Evil lurks in this story and people die, but amidst the tears and heartache, a lost love struggles to survive…

Excerpt from Out of Time

Kate sat at the table in the Vestry with her head in her hands. She couldn’t believe Jack had found her again, despite all the Snowman’s security. She kept seeing the ivory roses, blood dripping from the petals, laid on the altar like an offering. Only Jack could have thought of something that macabre.

The blood reminded her of what had happened to her beloved Dylan, her silver tabby. Jack had ripped him apart in her kitchen, strewing blood and fur all over the floor for her to find. At least this time, she wouldn’t have to clean up the mess.

Why had Michael gone outside?

She knew he was having trouble coming to terms with the fact that their relationship was over. After all this time it must have been a bitter pill to swallow. But going against David Snow’s specific orders was foolish and irresponsible. Maybe his depression had grown bad enough to warrant taking such a risk. Or had he wanted to die?

The voice disapproved. ‘I did ask you to try and be kind to him, Kate. Even though you couldn’t love him, you, of all people, should have treated him better than that…’

It was true; she remembered feeling that bad. Jack had that effect on most people. Just knowing he was out there somewhere had made her suicidal in the past, and the feeling wasn’t too far away now.

The Snowman should have let her see Michael; her imagination couldn’t be worse than the real thing. Right then, it didn’t seem real, and she kept expecting to see him come through the door at any minute. She wished with all her heart that she had run away the first time she suspected Jack was back on the scene. Michael’s sudden reappearance had reawakened all her old desires and dreams, rendering her incapable of thinking straight.

Fate was too cruel. Why had it conspired to bring Jack back into her life at that time? If he hadn’t arrived when he did, her brother would not have died, and the chain of destruction would have broken.

She wanted to run away but suspected there was no point. Jack would find her wherever she went. The knowledge sunk in that none of them were safe anymore if they ever were. What would it take to be rid of Jack for good?

Kate heard the door open but realised the noise had come from the wrong side of the room. As she raised her head to investigate, a damp, sweet-smelling cloth covered her face. She struggled against it, but he was too strong. The room went dark and then faded away…


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ABOUT US: For those new to our website and blog, we would like to thank you for visiting. Between us, we write in several different genres, so there should be something for everyone to enjoy. Anita cannot abide computers, so I (Jaye) do all the technical (oily rag) stuff! Our books tend to be varied, from horror to supernatural romance and coming of age, and mystery thrillers.  We try to keep our website interesting with guest posts, bloggers, poetry, and reviews for all the books we read. Our books are shown in the right-hand sidebar and clicking on the images should take you straight to Amazon. If you enjoyed your visit, we would love you to leave a comment… Hoping to see you again!

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There is nothing to fear, but fear itself…

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

The demon inside the machine…

It’s official, I hate my laptop. I would go so far as to say that I hate all computers. The laptop is one of those touch screen ones, and apparently, I have the wrong kind of finger. And it’s not just the one, I have tried them all. The slightest touch has things flying about all over the place, and then there are those other times when I can stab at the screen like a maniac and absolutely nothing happens.

The demon that inhabited the main computer that has now gone to the PC heaven in the sky seems to have moved into the laptop, doing all kinds of things that are totally out of my control. If anything finally kills my dream of being a reasonably successful author, it will be a computer of some sort. My ageing brain is no longer capable of the kind of mindless patience (or insane tolerance) that is needed to use them.

I am convinced they are here to drive us all insane, starting with me. And as for using it in the garden, which was the plan, no such luck!

I thought this would be such a brilliant idea, combining two of the things I love most in this world, writing, and gardening, but when I tried it the screen faded so badly, I couldn’t see a thing!

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any worse…

It has occurred to me that it is quite possible, or more than likely probable, that the weird things my PC has been doing of late, might just mean something is dying inside that metal box. And if I am right, this could mean it will be giving up the ghost just when it is most inconvenient. With this thought firmly lodged in my by now worrying itself into a coma brain, I toddled off to Amazon to see how much a replacement would cost. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I can get a certified refurbished Dell for literally peanuts. Windows 10, 64 bit and all the basics.

Panic over, I could handle it, whenever ‘it’ decided to reveal itself.

Now if I could just get my head around all these new improvements that are taking place at most of the sites I regularly use, there might be some danger of progress being made around here…

Once more with feeling…

For some reason that I haven’t managed to figure out yet, the muse has wandered off again. I haven’t added to the word count on WIP, or written any blog posts either for what seems like a long time, but is probably only a day or two. I keep getting these blank moments and I’m trying not to equate them to my old age or the dreaded D word. It crossed my mind that whatever is wrong with the PC might just be contagious, as I also get long periods of quiet in my head, a bit like being becalmed at sea in a boat. Not that I mind any of this weirdness, as it sure makes a change from depression…