Monday, January 31, 2022

Spotlight of Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier




Cruel Intentions meets Ready or Not.


GOOD RICH PEOPLE is a can’t-miss read for fans of survival game thrillers and stories that feature incisive commentary on issues of wealth disparity and privilege.


Brazier weaves a gripping cat-and-mouse style thriller by taking us inside the minds of two women: Lyla, who is bored by the tremendous amount of her wealth, and Demi, who is ready to do nearly anything to make a better life for herself.


GOOD RICH PEOPLE by Eliza Jane Brazier

On sale: January 25, 2022


“Fiendish…Readers with a taste for the idiosyncratic and the macabre will find much to relish.”Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

"The rich live differently than the rest of us, and that's never more evident than this chilling account of one family that plays a sick and twisted game with their tenants."Good Housekeeping

“With writing that truly embodies the raw evil of greed, Brazier crafts cunning characters whom readers will be so excited to hate.

“A jaw-dropping twist right out of the gate.”—PopSugar
“Fizzy and hilarious, dangerous and outrageous. It’s like chugging a flute of champagne that’s been lit on fire. I loved the hell out of it.”
—Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author of There’s Someone Inside Your House

“Like a David Lynch film…”Booklist



Lyla has always believed that life is a game she is destined to win, but her husband, Graham, takes the game to dangerous levels. The wealthy couple invites self-made success stories to live in their guesthouse and then conspires to ruin their lives. After all, there is nothing worse than a bootstrapper.

Demi has always felt like the odds were stacked against her. At the end of her rope, she seizes a risky opportunity to take over another person’s life and unwittingly becomes the subject of the upstairs couple’s wicked entertainment. But Demi has been struggling all her life, and she’s not about to go down without a fight. 

In a twist that neither woman sees coming, the game quickly devolves into chaos and rockets toward an explosive conclusion. Because every good rich person knows: in money and in life, it’s winner take all. Even if you have to leave a few bodies behind.




I get so bored sometimes, I think I will do anything to stop it. I decide to make Graham dinner. He blames me for what happened.
We don't have anything in the kitchen except Mo‘t-dozens and dozens of bottles that Graham's mother, Margo, keeps giving us, daring us to celebrate.
I decide to make spaghetti because it's European and I think I can manage it on my own. The housekeeper got spooked and left, so we've been ordering in. I need to hire someone before Margo does, but I like how our house looks with a little dust. It looks like people actually live here.
I go to my closet to choose an outfit for the market. Everything in my closet is shades of gray. I've always wanted a signature color. Margo's is white. Graham's is blue. He says it's a power color. All of my underwear is blue.
I select a gray cashmere top and gray cashmere bottoms. Not the same shade of gray, because I don't want to look like an insane person. I accessorize with the exact right amount of diamonds and the hot pink gator Kelly bag I won in a game with Margo.
I stop to check my reflection in the full-length mirror. Sometimes I am scared by how beautiful I am. Every inch of me is buffed and primed. My face hangs exactly right. My muscles are taut and organized. I am scared because I don't want to lose it: the shaped nails, the tip of my nose, the sapphire glow of my eyes. I am sad because I want everyone to see it, but I don't want to see them. I want them to know how lucky I am but I don't want them to have access to me. It's a real problem.
I pass through the living room on my way out. It's Monday and light is streaming through the wall of windows, onto the travertine dining table, the gold bar chairs, the carved silver accents. The house is decorated to Graham's taste because I don't have any. I acquired his taste the day we got married. It was easier that way. Marriages fail because people are different. I want to be the same. Look the same, feel the same, have the same appetites. I want to cross the stars for us.
I pass through the courtyard on my way toward the gate. The flowers stink. The fountain gurgles uselessly, like a body choking on its own blood.
Our house looks like a handful of glass tumbling down a hill. Our front facade is modern, stoic, but when you step inside, the house stretches, open-plan, back and back forever, until it reaches a wall of windows. What you can't see from inside is the structures, the plinths underneath that hold it up, allow for the illusion of those never-ending floors.
In the hills, people will build anywhere. The more perilous the precipice, the more insecure the foundation, the more they need to build something on it. It's a challenge, a victory of money over matter.
Our house is built on the edge of a cliff.
And underneath it, between those concrete plinths, is a hidden guesthouse. It was built to hold up the house above. Margo once used it to store her exotic shoe collection, but now we use it to store a person.
I exit the gate and lock the door behind me. I can see Margo's tower above, chiseled to a point. Margo's house is like a castle, with all the requisite wars and rumors of wars. Graham says one day we'll live there, when he inherits everything, but I have no doubt that Margo will live forever to spite me.
I sometimes wish we would move somewhere, start our own life with our own money. But there is a little-known fact about people with money: They are beholden to people with more money. So although Graham could afford his own house and his own life, his mother has more money. His mother has money that makes our money look poor.
When you're rich, you can control everything. Except the richer.
Graham is afraid of losing his mother's money. Maybe even losing his mother-who knows? So we live in a glass house beneath her fortress, in a tidy alcove in the hills above Los Angeles, the ugliest and most beautiful city in the world, depending on where you're standing.
There is a little village square with a market just three blocks away but I have to drive. The streets in the hills are narrow and uneven and there are no sidewalks. Only mad people walk in LA. For my birthday, Graham gave me a gray Phantom. It's terrible to drive in the hills. I've scraped the back end four or five times and cracked the rear lights but Graham won't fix them because he thinks it's funny.
It takes me ages to get it out of the garage and even longer to navigate the narrow streets of the hills because inevitably cars appear going the other way and I have to honk until they back up. People are such assholes.
I finally make it under the stone archway that signals the village. It's designed to look like a European enclave, all stone streets and storybook architecture. It really just looks like an abandoned fairy tale.
When Graham and I first moved in, we walked to the village market together at dusk to buy a bottle of red wine. The memory itself has very little to offer-it was dark and we were holding hands-but what I remember is not the night itself, but the promise of the future contained in it, how I thought that we would do this again, perpetually: walk beneath the arches in the semidark, kiss in the stone corner of the vintage boutique, pretend we were a couple out of time. I remember saying, This is so magical. It's like we're somewhere else. It's like Disneyland!
Now I drive beneath the arches and I think, We never came again. Not once. Graham works. We order everything in. If I ask him to go for a walk, he says, Are you kidding? Rich people don't walk. Their shoes aren't designed for it.
I get to the market and find handmade pasta, but the sauces are all wrong. There is a clerk beside me filling the shelves-a teenager with a constellation of zits from his ear to his throat.
"Excuse me?" I hold out the priciest pasta sauce. "Why is this so inexpensive? Is there something wrong with it?"
The attendant looks flummoxed, like he has never been asked such a question. "Uh . . . I'd have to ask."
"Do you have anything more expensive?"
He blinks. "Uh . . . you could buy two?"
"You should make it from scratch." A familiar woman approaches from farther down the aisle. I've probably seen her in the neighborhood. I turn to face her. She has three necklaces around her neck, so I know she's crazy. One is a star, one is a circle and one is a cactus. I've seen the star necklace before, but it's a popular design.
"Me?" I can't believe she's talking to me. Her under-eye area is clogged with mascara dust. She has wrinkles but she is probably younger than me. She just doesn't have a good doctor.
"It would be more expensive if you bought all the ingredients separately." She crosses her arms. She carries a shopping basket, but it's empty.
I set the pasta sauce back on the shelf, stamp my foot, throw up my hands. "I have no idea what's in pasta sauce!" I say, like nobody does.
"I can help you"-she shifts her hip-"if you want." She purses her chapped lips. Those three necklaces glitter with menace. But Graham would be so impressed if I made my own pasta sauce. Even more impressed if I had someone make it for me.
The corner of my Kelly bag is digging into my side, so I adjust it. "Oh, would you? I would so appreciate it." She nods eagerly. I indicate my cart. "Would you mind? It's so hard to carry a bag and push a cart." I frown.
She hesitates, face closing. She doesn't know what it's like having to carry a Kelly bag everywhere. It's not like I can just put it in the cart!
She sighs and swings her plastic basket into my cart. I follow her to the produce section. She finds me the priciest tomatoes, precut garlic, red onions. It's a good thing I'm there, because one of the onions looks dirty and I make sure she swaps it out. As she shops, she explains to me how to mix everything together. Of course, I don't pay attention. I hate listening to people when they talk.
"Got it?" she asks when all the ingredients are in my cart.
"No," I say blithely. She shifts from foot to foot. "I'll never get it! We used to have a housekeeper who did all this, but we had to let her go," I lie. "She was very religious." That part is true. She suggested we were all going to hell. I privately thought hell couldn't be worse than Margo. At least in hell you don't have hope.
"I could help you," the woman says, "if you want." She adjusts her empty basket. "I'm actually looking for work."
I find myself considering it. She seems to know her stuff, and I do need to hire someone before Margo does. It looks like I would be doing the woman a favor. Her hair is knotted. Her eyes lack sleep. Her nail beds are dirty and uneven. She'd be very lucky to work for us. There are far worse places to be.
Her necklaces remind me of something, but I can't remember what.
Maybe it's someone I used to know.
Or maybe it's me.


PHOTO CREDIT:  Beverly Brooks 2019

Eliza Jane Brazier is an author, screenwriter and journalist. She currently lives in California where she is developing If I Disappear for television. 

Follow Eliza on Twitter @EJaneBrazier, Instagram @elizajanebrazier, and Facebook @ElizaJaneBrazier.


Saturday, January 29, 2022

Start With "E"

It is 1939 - We meet Eli Rosen and his wife Esther who were hard workers, but then the German occupation happened and changed everything...REVIEW HERE.
Malfunctioning, crashing-to-the-ground elevators two days in a row, a third elevator crash the following day...REVIEW HERE

Ms. Kline has done impeccable research and enlightened us about this time in history…REVIEW HERE.

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

WOW!!  WOW!!  WOW!!

A remote farmhouse, a snow storm, an overnight guest, a mother and daughter imprisoned in a basement, a kidnapping of a young girl, and a murder.

We find all of these as we move from present day to the year 2000.

How are they all connected? 

You will wonder that as you begin to read because there are three story lines and many characters, but Ms. Gudenkauf as always brilliantly pulls it all together in this tense thriller.

Wylie is an author writing her final draft in a remote farmhouse where a brutal murder and kidnapping occurred, the overnight guest appears out of nowhere during the storm, and we learn of the brutal murder and the guest's story.

You will be on the edge of your seat as you read THE OVERNIGHT GUEST.

Ms. Gudenkauf never disappoints with her books.

Don’t miss this one if you are a fan. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.




Heather Gudenkauf is the critically acclaimed author of several novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Weight of Silence


She lives in Iowa with her husband and children.


Buy Links:


Barnes & Noble




Social Links:

Author Website

Instagram: @heathergudenkauf

Twitter: @hgudenkauf

Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor


Thursday, January 27, 2022



If you are a fan of WWII, authors, lovely, isolated islands, hidden spaces, long-kept secrets, and Ms. Blackwell’s books, do not miss OFF THE WILD COAST OF BRITTANY.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

Lillian, known as Angelica in the art world, was beside herself after her mother died and was running out of jobs and money.

Her landlord was hounding her to pay rent when he murdered his wife, and the police found a note from her that was a bit compromising.  They thought Lillian was in on the murder so they could be together.

Lillian escaped out the fire escape when the police arrived, slept on a bench in Central Park for the night, and accidentally was drawn into the Frick Mansion for a job she hadn't applied for but got hired.

Lillian worked for Miss Helen the daughter of Fricks. She was a task master, and Lillian became involved in all the good and bad things happening in that household.

Then in 1966 we meet Veronica a model and Joshua a museum curator.

Veronica was in the Frick Museum for a photo shoot when she was sent out of the room and then became lost in the mansion. When all the models and crew left, she was locked in the museum. That's where she met Joshua and where they worked together on a scavenger hunt that was decades old and was a hunt devised by Helen Frick for her suitor.
Veronica had stumbled upon the clues as she was fumbling her way around in the dark, slipped, and saw pages sticking out of organ pipes.  The pages revealed something similar to a game of clue. The clues mention the Magnolia Diamond.

What could the Magnolia Diamond be?
Did Helen hide it in this museum all those years ago when it was the residence of the Frick family?
Would Veronica find it?

What was its significance to the Frick family?

Since Veronica was stuck in the museum, she figured she would have to let Joshua in on this game and solve the clues together. Why not try to find the Magnolia Diamond. They had nothing else to do. It could be very valuable and get Veronica out of debt.

The hunt lead to solving mysteries that were fifty years old.

The blending of the two time lines and the intriguing story line is signature Fiona Davis as she again gives us another wonderful history lesson.

THE MAGNOLIA PALACE is a gem with a mystery, a murder, a famous family, and memorable characters you will connect with and a book you will not want to miss. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Last Seen Alive by Joanna Schaffhausen

WOW!!  Heart pounding!!

Ellery, Reed, and Coben are together again and not for anything good.

Ellery is the only victim of serial killer Francis Coben who survived because Reed found her locked in a closet on the Coben family's farm.

Ellery was 14 when Coben abducted and tortured her, and she was not his first victim. 

Coben has been in prison for 17 years, but when a similar-style murder is discovered while he is in prison, someone else must have been in touch with Coben, but who could that be?

Ellery and Reed meet with Coben in prison because he said he would tell where one of his victims is if Ellery visits him.

Ellery reluctantly agrees, and it doesn't go well. Coben wants her since he couldn’t finish what he started all those years ago.

We follow Ellery and Reed as they reconnect and as they work together to find another victim's body so the family has closure.

During their search something major happens elsewhere.

You will be glued to the pages and thinking about the book even when you aren’t reading it.

Tense, tense, tense and excellent as all of Joanna’s books.

Fans don’t want to miss this one.

This book was given to me by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Spotlight and Giveaway of The Prisoner of Paradise by Rob Samborn

The Prisoner of Paradise by Rob Samborn Banner

The Prisoner of Paradise

by Rob Samborn

January 24 - February 18, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


The Prisoner of Paradise by Rob Samborn

The world's largest oil painting. A 400-year-old murder. A disembodied whisper: "Amore mio." My love.

Nick and Julia O'Connor's dream trip to Venice collapses when a haunting voice reaches out to Nick from Tintoretto's Paradise, a monumental depiction of Heaven. Convinced his delusions are the result of a concussion, Julia insists her husband see a doctor, though Nick is adamant the voice was real.

Blacking out in the museum, Nick flashes back to a life as a 16th century Venetian peasant swordsman. He recalls precisely who the voice belongs to: Isabella Scalfini, a married aristocrat he was tasked to seduce but with whom he instead found true love. A love stolen from them hundreds of years prior.

She implores Nick to liberate her from a powerful order of religious vigilantes who judge and sentence souls to the canvas for eternity. Releasing Isabella also means unleashing thousands of other imprisoned souls, all of which the order claims are evil.

As infatuation with a possible hallucination clouds his commitment to a present-day wife, Nick's past self takes over. Wracked with guilt, he can no longer allow Isabella to remain tormented, despite the consequences. He must right an age-old wrong - destroy the painting and free his soul mate. But the order will eradicate anyone who threatens their ethereal prison and their control over Venice.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: TouchPoint Press
Publication Date: November 30th 2021
Number of Pages: 333
ISBN: 1952816890 (ISBN-13: 9781952816895)
Series: The Paradise Series, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The flood of questions never left Nick’s lips. Large hands wrenched him up by his armpits.

A hushed voice spoke in his ear. “Come with us. Quietly.”

The grip tightened.

Nick twisted his head to his sides. Bernardo led him away, staring straight ahead. Another security guard in a navy-blue suit flanked him. The man was about Nick’s age, with a close-cropped beard and light brown hair pulled into a tight ponytail—and considerably heftier than Bernardo.

“Dante,” said Bernardo to the guard, “please notify—”

Nick whipped his arms from Bernardo’s hold. Twisting, he whacked Dante’s earpiece, jamming the device into the large man’s head. Then he shouldered him into the nearest wall. Appalled gasps rose from the remaining tourists.

Bernardo grabbed Nick from behind. Nick’s elbow blasted backward, landing with a shattering blow in the man’s ribs. Dante dug his finger into his ear and pulled the piece out. He flicked it at Nick, poised to attack.

Confident he was quicker, Nick ducked, popped up, and discharged a quick snap of his fist.

Blood from the brawny guard’s nose sprayed across the polished marble wall.

Museum patrons, many holding cell phones, cameras, and tablets, backed up, giving the fight a wide berth. Nick clocked Bernardo. His wide tungsten wedding ring connected with the man’s jaw.

Bernardo stumbled, falling to the floor.

Nick sprinted for the exit and down the hall, tossing the hat and scarf as he ran.

Bursting through the Palazzo doors, he descended the Giants’ Staircase three steps at a time but slipped on the courtyard’s stone surface and crashed on his back. A jolt to his tailbone rang up his spine. He rolled onto his side and checked the staircase.

Bernardo and Dante loomed at the top. The two men hustled down, their dark jackets flowing behind them.

Tiny gravel pebbles burrowed into Nick’s palms as he scrambled up. He darted for the main entrance, disregarding what felt like a sledgehammer pounding his lower back with every step.

“Arrestatelo!” Bernardo called out.

Two uniformed guards rushed to block the front gate.

Nick stormed ahead.

The guards braced themselves. Nick plowed into the larger one, his speed and weight bowling the man over.

The smaller guard dove for Nick, wrapping a firm hold around his ankle. He pitched forward and fell to the ground.

“Fuck.” Nick kicked his free foot out. It hit the man’s cheek with a sickening crunch. A bloody tooth flew out and skipped across the ground. The guard’s grip loosened.

Nick clambered to his feet and bolted for the entrance. He dodged a college-aged tourist, jumped the turnstile, and sprinted for St. Mark’s Square.

A large woman in a neon pink shirt with a matching visor shouted at him. She pulled her young daughter to her as Nick ran by, almost knocking them down. He regretted the bedlam he was causing, but what choice did he have?

Pigeons flew upward in alarm as he made his way through the golden, late afternoon light of the square. He glanced over his shoulder.

Bernardo and Dante closed in, thirty feet away.

Nick’s throbbing back screamed for attention, but he upped his speed and crossed into an alley in the corner of the piazza. He reached the other side, raced through the passageway between buildings, and entered a narrow street. He shuffled into a group of revelers who had overflowed from a crowded wine bar. Shimmying through the people, he spotted a small bridge over the next canal. Nick dashed across it and made another right, which led him to yet another alley.

Stagnant, rank air engulfed him.

“Son of a bitch.”

A dead-end. Illegible graffiti covered the walls. Even in the moment, the vandalism pissed Nick off.

A steel door was the only possible exit. The rusty knob didn’t budge. Nick pivoted back toward the alley entrance.

His pursuers cast long shadows that extended to Nick’s sneakers. Despite their broken posture as they fought to catch their breath, their expressions championed triumph. Dante wiped the blood from his nose with a grin.

“You were warned more than once.” Bernardo’s voice echoed off the walls.

Unsure how he’d escape, Nick retreated until he bumped against the door.

The men advanced. Each pulled a silver short sword from a concealed holster beneath their suit jackets.

Fear and desperation caused Nick’s heart to pound so violently, he thought he heard it. But the blood churning through him generated a stronger urge: revenge. And he could only do right by Isabella if he survived this mess.

Bernardo lunged. Though burly and one-armed, his movements were lithe.

Nick dropped low as the sword whizzed over his head.

Dante positioned his weapon high and brought it down, slicing through Nick’s shirt and into his forearm.

Nick hollered as the pain seared through him.

He charged Dante, who raised his sword again. Nick caught his hand and body-checked him into the brick wall. Nick sensed Bernardo behind him and rotated, barely avoiding the blade slicing for his back.

Planting his foot, Nick went for the sword. His hands clenched around Bernardo’s, and they struggled for control of the hilt. Nick spat in his eyes and wrested the weapon away. With the last of his wavering strength, he slipped behind Bernardo and brought the sword to the man’s armpit under his one arm.

“Drop it,” he said to Dante, who had his back to the alley’s end.

Dante scowled but let his weapon fall with an echoing clang.

“Now kick it over here and lay down. On your stomach. Arms out.”

Dante did as instructed.

“Get next to him,” Nick ordered Bernardo with a shove. “Flat.”

Bernardo followed suit.

Retrieving Dante’s weapon, Nick kept watch on their forms. His opponents counterbalanced the stare, studying his every move. Nick wrapped his fingers around the hilts. Holding swords felt good. Natural. He flourished them simultaneously and grinned, unaware he had that skill.

Nick had a peculiar sensation, not that of anger but distinct determination. His mind played through potential outcomes, and one came into focus: he imagined rushing the men, and with raised blades, he hacked their bodies—first their faces, then their necks and torsos. Their warm blood drenched his skin.

The scene gave him a surge of foul power. He teetered from the unfamiliarity of it and shook his head to clear the image.

No. Nick wasn’t a murderer.

Instead, he turned and raced for the alley entrance, tossing the swords away in disgust. His heart sank as he heard the two men getting to their feet. Rounding the corner, Nick ran under an archway connecting two buildings. He angled for the building wall, stepped on a brick edge, and jumped up, catching an exposed pipe ten feet up.

As footsteps approached, he swung and kicked, striking a direct hit into Bernardo’s face. Bernardo toppled into Dante, the two landing hard on the ground. Nick dropped from the pipe and sprinted in the other direction, his torn shirtsleeve flapping off his bloodied arm. 


Excerpt from The Prisoner of Paradise by Rob Samborn. Copyright 2021 by Rob Samborn. Reproduced with permission from Rob Samborn. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Rob Samborn

In addition to being a novelist, Rob Samborn is a screenwriter, entrepreneur and avid traveler. He’s been to forty countries, lived in five of them (including Italy) and studied nine languages. As a restless spirit who can’t remember the last time he was bored, Rob is on a quest to explore the intricacies of our world and try his hand at a multitude of crafts; he’s also an accomplished artist and musician, as well as a budding furniture maker. A native New Yorker who lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, he now makes his home in Denver with his wife, daughter and dog.

Catch Up With Rob Samborn:
BookBub - @rsamborn
Instagram - @robsamborn
Twitter - @RobSamborn
Facebook - @RobSambornAuthor
TikTok - @robsamborn

Tour Participants:

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Sunday, January 23, 2022

This Week At Silver's Reviews

Reviews of three FAB thrillers...don't miss reading them.

Other excellent books featured as well.

Saturday, January 22, 2022


Thanks to these Litsy folks for today’s prompt:



A Book That Begins With




Today’s Prompt:  DAY

Some FAVORITES…any you have read?

All are reviewed on this blog.


Friday, January 21, 2022


Booking passage on the Lusitania or any ship during WWI would not seem like a good idea to me, but...REVIEW HERE.

Southern families and families with secrets...REVIEW HERE.

A conscience - we all have one, but do we know what may be on another person's conscience or even on ours that may bother us?..REVIEW HERE.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi

The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi Banner

The Burden of Innocence

by John Nardizzi

December 6, 2021 - January 31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi

Private investigators Ray Infantino and Tania Kong take on the case of Sam Langford, framed for a murder committed by a crime boss at the height of his powers.

But a decade later, Boston has changed. The old ethnic tribes have weakened. As the PIs range across the city, witnesses remember the past in dangerous ways. The gangsters know that, in the new Boston, vulnerable witnesses they manipulated years ago are shaky. Old bones will not stay buried forever.

As the gang sabotages the investigation, will Ray and Tania solve the case in time to save an innocent man?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Crime Noir
Published by: Weathertop Media Co.
Publication Date: December 5, 2021
Number of Pages: 290
ISBN: 978-1-7376876-0-3
Series: PI Ray Infantino Series, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Kobo | Google Play | iBooks

Read an excerpt:

Part 1

Boston Massachusetts
Chapter 1

Two burly guards from the sheriff's department walked Sam Langford to the van. He noticed a newspaper wedged in a railing—his name jumped off the page in bold print: Jury to Decide Langford’s Fate In Waterfront Slaying. The presumption of innocence was a joke. You took the guilt shower no matter what the jury decided. He thought of his mother then, and the old ladies like her, reading the headline as they sipped their morning coffee across the city. He was innocent. But they would hate him forever.

A guard shoved Langford’s head below the roofline. He sat down in the cargo section, the only prisoner today. The guard secured him to a bar that ran the length of the floor, the chain rattling an icy tune. The van squealed off.

Langford's head felt so light it could drift right off his shoulders. The van lurched, and he slid on the cold metal bench. The driver bumped the van into some potholes. Langford dug his heels into the floor. This was a guard-approved amusement ride, bouncing felon maggots off good 'ol American steel. Sam had observed this man that morning. Something about his face was troubling. Sheriffs, guards, cops—most of them were okay. They didn't bother him because he didn't bother them. But cop work attracted certain men who hid their true selves. Men with a vicious streak that could turn an average day into a private torture chamber. These men were cancers to be avoided. Average days were what he wanted in jail. No violent breaks in the tedium.

The van careened on and stopped at a loading dock of the hulking courthouse, which jutted in the sky like a pale granite finger accusing the heavens. The last day of trial. Outside, Langford saw TV news vans and raised satellite dishes, the reporters being primped and padded for the live shot. The rear doors opened and the guard's shaved skull appeared in silhouette. He tensed as the guard grabbed his arm and pulled him out. The guard wore a thin smile. “We'll take the smooth road back. Just for you,” he muttered.

A clutch of photographers hovered behind a wall above the dock. Langford looked up at the blue sky, as he always did, focusing on breathing deeply. He would never assist, not for a minute, in his own degradation. He was innocent. He would not cooperate. Let them run their little circus, the cameras, the shouted questions, boom microphones drooped over his head to pick up a stray utterance. He leveled his jaw and looked past them. He knew he had no chance with them.

The guards walked him inside the courthouse and to an elevator. The chains clanked as they swung with his movement. They took the elevator to the eight floor where a court officer escorted the group into a hallway. Langford pulled his body erect toward the ceiling, as high as he could get. He intended to walk in the courtroom like some ancient Indian chieftain, unbowed. He was innocent and that sheer fact gave him some steel, yes it did.

The door opened and he stepped inside the courtroom. The gallery looked packed full, as usual. Cameras clicked. Low voices in the crowd hissed venom. “Death sentence is too good for you, asshole,” whispered one. He whispered a bit too loudly. A court officer wasted no time, hustling over and guiding the man to the exit.

Langford walked ahead, keeping his dark eyes focused. His family might watch this someday. Some ragged old news clip showing their son's dark history. He struggled to keep the light burning behind his eyes. Something true, something eternal might show through. At least he hoped so. He had told his lawyer there would be no last-minute plea deal; he was innocent, and that was it.

As he walked, he felt the eyes of the crowd pick over him, watching for some involuntary tic that would betray his thoughts. But fear roiled his belly. He was afraid, no doubt. He knew the old saying that convicted murderers sat at the head table in the twisted hierarchy of a prison. But the fact remained—every prisoner walked next to a specter of sudden violence. He desperately wanted to avoid prison.

Keys rattled in the high-ceilinged courtroom as the officers unchained him. He rubbed his wrists and then sat down at the defense table. His defense lawyer, George Sterling, took the seat next to him. He was dressed in a dark blue suit with a bright orange-yellow tie. The color seemed garish for the occasion.

“How you doing, Sam?”

“Hopeful. But ready for the worst.”

Sterling grabbed his hand and shook it firmly. But his eyes betrayed him. Langford got a sense even his lawyer felt a catastrophe was coming.

The mother of the dead woman sat one row away from his own mother. Even here, mothers bore the greatest pain. Both women stared at him. Langford nodded to his mother as she mouthed the words, "I love you". He smiled briefly. He glanced at the mother of the dead girl but looked away. Her eyes blazed with hatred and pain. He wanted to say something. But the odds were impossible. The reporters would misconstrue any gesture; the court officers might claim he threatened her. He saw no way out. Even a basic act of human kindness became muddled in a courtroom.

A court officer yelled, “All rise.” The whispers died down, and the gallery rose. The judge came in from chambers in a black-robed flurry. The lawyers went to sidebar, that curious phenomenon where they gather and whisper at the judge's bench like kids in detention. Then the judge signaled the sidebar was over and told the court officer to bring in the jury. The jurors walked to the jury box, every one of them fixed with a blank look on their faces. None of them met his eyes. One juror eventually looked over at him. He tried to gauge his fate in her flat eyes, the set of her face. But there was nothing to see.

As the judge and lawyers spoke, the lightheadedness left him. Everything came into focus. Langford watched the foreperson hand a slip of paper to a court officer. She took a few steps and handed the paper to the judge. The judge pushed gray hairs off her forehead, examined the paper and placed it on her desk. A silence descended. Shuffles of feet, small muted coughs. People waited for a meteor to hit the earth. The clerk read the docket number into the record and the judge looked over to the foreperson, a woman with long dark hair and glasses. “On indictment 2001183 charging the defendant Samuel Langford with murder, what say you madame foreperson, is the defendant not guilty or guilty of murder in the first degree?”

“We find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree.”

To Langford, the words seemed unreal, from a world away. A mist slid over his eyes. Gasps of joy, cries of surprise. A few spectators began clapping. The judge banged the gavel. Someone sobbed behind him, and this sound he knew; his mother was crying now openly. His body petrified. He couldn't turn around.

Sterling put one hand on his shoulder, which snapped him back. The gesture irritated him. He didn't want to be touched. Sterling’s junior assistant cupped his hand over his mouth. Sterling said something about the evidence, they would file an appeal. Langford stared at him. The reality of his new life began to emerge.

The process moved quickly, the ending like all good endings—neat, nothing overdone, but nothing left to wonder about either. Court officers shackled him again and stood clasping his arms. The judge thanked the jury for their service. Langford felt overwhelmed by absurdity—they were being thanked for sending an innocent man to prison. The gulf between the truth and what was happening made him feel sick; they believed he had killed the poor woman. The judge told the lawyers to prepare for sentencing in a week. A guard pushed him through a door to the right and he could hear muffled sounds, people calling his name, as if the voices came through a dense fog over a distance. His head, floating, floating beyond the real.

It was over.

Down the long corridor they moved him, toward the rear lot and the prisoner's dock. A flock of reporters circled the van. “Any comment, Mr. Langford?” “Mr. Langford, will you appeal this verdict?” “Do you want to say something to the family of the victim?” Then a hand pushed down on the back of his head and he stooped inside the van. The guard chained him to the floor. There was that slight smile on his lips.

The engine shot to life. Langford waited for the door to close. Sludge ran through his veins. He closed his eyes and let despair surge through his heart.

Chapter 2
15 years later

In a corner at the Sanchez Boxing Gym in the South End, Ray Infantino braced his lean frame, fired a jab, threw a left hook off the jab and smashed an overhand right. The heavy bag jerked on the chain like a drunken tourist caught out late in the wrong part of town. He moved around the heavy bag, feet sliding, not hopping. He threw another right cross and then switched stances, the right foot in the lead. He hooked a low right followed by an overhead left. His father showed him that move when he was a kid. He stopped once the bell rang for the end of the round. Sweat poured off his toned physique.

He pulled off the gloves to tighten his hand wraps. He wrapped his hands the way his father had taught: loop the thumb and then through the fingers, making the fist a steel ball. It pissed him off when he saw other fighters not wrapping between the fingers, a lack of finesse he found appalling.

There was action all over the gym—sparring in the three rings, prospects putting in their bag work, trainers barking out instructions. Two young men gathered nearby and watched him. They were new. Ray had never seen them before. After he finished his workout, one of them ventured toward him.

“You fight pretty good.”

“Hope I’m good as you when I’m that old.”
Ray whipped a fist toward the guy and stopped an inch from his face. The guy's mouth gaped. His friend broke out laughing. Ray walked away and pointed at the man. “Show some respect when you come in here,” he said. “Forty ain't old.”

He laughed and headed to the showers. The last few days were a rare respite from the grind. When his case involving a missing woman in the San Francisco underworld hit the news, his business boomed. He was a name now. That’s how it worked in the legal business. When you were newsworthy, clients deemed it safe to pay large retainers up front, and he could decline work he didn’t want. He still kept his black hair long in back and kept lean and fit, preserving illusions of youth, but he knew his time in this business was closer to the end than the beginning. By the end of the case in San Francisco, he had come to accept what happened. His old life was gone forever. His relationship with Dominique did not seem like it would survive. But the haunted rims below his eyes faded and he felt reinvigorated, ready for new challenges.

He headed out for a coffee at a cafe across the street. Last year, his doctor advised him he should cut down, but he felt it was a minor vice. Not healthy to deny the small things that make life worth living. He took a seat in the window. He appreciated his new place in the South End. Long a home to Latino and black families, the 1990s brought an influx of new residents like him to the old brownstones—downtown office workers, architects, gay couples—looking for the rich canvas of city living. Block by block, cafes and restaurants were renovated, old wood paneling stripped and refurbished, the construction boom rolling out toward Massachusetts Avenue. He enjoyed walking the uneven brick sidewalks and coming upon vestiges of the old neighborhood: a bookstore packed with two floors of hardcovers in an old brownstone, the painted letters on a brick wall of the long closed Sahara restaurant, hollyhocks that bloomed from a tucked away corner.

His cell phone rang and he saw the call forwarded from his office. He remembered that his receptionist Sheri had taken the day off.

“Ray Infantino Agency, how can I help you?”

“Hi, this is Dan Stone. I'm a defense lawyer here in Boston. I got your name from a lawyer I met at a bar event—you came highly recommended. Wondering if you might be able to help me on an old murder case. I'm going to see a new client, Sam Langford. Not sure if you heard about the case, it began over fifteen years ago.”

“I don't remember it.”

“Langford's case was high profile at the time. A violent rape-murder on the waterfront. The trial brought out the worst: witnesses with serious drug addictions, rogue cops. People thought Langford looked like the cleanest guy in the courthouse. But the jury still convicted. There was a dead girl. Someone needed to pay. Langford was easy. Not necessarily the right guy, but he was the available target.”

Ray was used to this nonsense from defense lawyers. No one was guilty in their world. Still, he recalled now that he had heard something of Stone: bright guy, a plugger in the courtroom, well prepared rather than depending on flashy trial antics.

“I'm going to see him this week and want to reach out to see if you would come with me. Schedule permitting. We have learned a few things, and he says he wants to talk over the next steps. I believe he is innocent, Ray. He's been trying for close to fifteen years to prove it. You know the standard in these cases. Very high bar.”

“Cops are allowed a lot of leeway to be wrong.”

“Right. We have to show intent, or at least recklessness, when it comes to police misconduct. If we can uncover new evidence, I would plan on filing a motion for a new trial within a year.”

Stone went blabbing on about the legal issues. “So what do you think?

He had time to take it on. “Is this a private case?”

Stone hesitated. “No. I'm appointed by the public defender's office.”

“Impossible odds and crappy pay. How can I resist?”

Stone laughed. “Okay then. I know this is real short notice, but any chance you're free this afternoon?”

Ray checked his schedule. “That's fine. Where’s he held?”

“Walpole. There was an incident at the max so they moved him there.”

“I'll meet you in the lobby at 1:00 PM.”

Ray hung up the phone and stood up, gazing out the window at the copper rooftops. The odds were terrible in such cases. He thought back to his father Leo and how they had destroyed him. He decided that the next time there was an uneven fight, he would ensure the little guy had a weapon.


Excerpt from The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi. Copyright 2021 by John Nardizzi. Reproduced with permission from John Nardizzi. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

John Nardizzi

John Nardizzi is writer and investigator. His work on innocence cases led to the exoneration Gary Cifizzari and James Watson, as well as million dollar settlements for clients Dennis Maher and the estate of Kenneth Waters, whose story was featured in the film Conviction.
His crime novels won praise for crackling dialogue and pithy observations of detective work. He speaks and writes about investigations in numerous settings, including World Association of Detectives, Lawyers Weekly, Pursuit Magazine and PI Magazine. Prior to his PI career, he failed to hold any restaurant job for longer than a week. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

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