Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Inclined to Scandal by Zoë Mullins


Title: Inclined to Scandal
Author: Zoë Mullins
Genre: Historical, Erotica Romance
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Totally Bound
Summary:
A misfit in proper society, Lady Georgiana will risk her future for a night of pleasure with Captain Wrath.

Lady Georgiana Knolls is a misfit in proper society, only there because her brother insists she have a Season and learn what it means to be ‘a lady’. The rules and etiquette forced upon unmarried women of her class are stifling and she breaks them more often and more publicly than is wise.

Which is how she meets Captain Wrath. His arrogance and confidence are nearly a match for her own and for a chance of pleasure with him, she will risk the future she’s been waiting for.

After years at sea, Captain Wrath is ready to resume the mantle of the Earl of Rathbridge. His first good deed? To save his best friend’s sister from blackmail by offering her the protection of his name…as her fiancé. The faux betrothal turns real when he realizes she is the same beauty who’s been sharing his bed since his return.

The earl is ready to make things right, but to do that, he will have to unmask a blackmailer, convince his best friend that he is suitable marriage material for his beloved sister and prove to Georgie that becoming his wife won’t stifle the independence she craves.


Rath was surprised that Lisette recognized him when he presented himself at the private entrance to her personal rooms at Chez de Sauveterre. The last leg of the trip had been difficult, the storms seeming endless. He hadn’t shaved in weeks, his hair needed a good wash and his clothes, though still well-cut, were caked with dirt, saltwater and blood. He did not look the part of a peer of the realm, or a partner in Sinclair Knolls, one of the most prosperous shipping and import interests in England.

Lisette had taken one look at him, seen behind the filth and grime and flung herself into his arms. His former mistress was ten years his senior but nothing in her countenance betrayed her age. Though in her mid-forties now, she still looked fresh and carefree, with her white-blonde hair pulled back in a loose knot. Her blue eyes swam with tears at the sight of him.

It was always at Lisette’s home that he regained his land legs. His coachman followed behind him with a small trunk filled with the clothes and toiletries that would turn the feared Captain Wrath into the Rowan Grayson Sinclair, the Earl of Rathbridge or that devilish Lord Sin, as some still called him.

He assured her of his health and general well-being before being seen up to a private guest room. He was relieved to see Gisele and Richards awaiting him in his room. They must have received word that his ship had at last made port.

He wrapped an arm around Richards’ shoulders and kissed Gissy on the forehead. They had been his faithful servants for years and appreciating their company, he regretted that he saw so little of them.

He’d met Richards when he had been a footman in his parents’ employ, but the young man had shown potential. Upon setting up his own lodgings in Albany, Rath had asked him to become his personal valet. 

By then, Gisele went where Richards went, and had taken on the role of housekeeper, cook and maid.

Tonight, the two worked together, putting to rest the fearsome Lord Wrath and revealing the gentleman beneath. Richards stripped him out of the offensive rags, and Gisele ran to dispose of them. 

Richards was nothing if not serious about his work, and Rath knew by the look he gave the sodden clothing that Richards was planning to take them out back and burn them. Rath hid a grin. He would never see the ‘offensive garments’ again. Richards set them by the door and turned back to the trunk, pulling out Rath’s more fashionable London attire.

“Not the jacket, not tonight.”

Richards lifted his brow as if to admonish him. The world, however, would not end if he showed up downstairs in his waistcoat and shirtsleeves. He glared back at Richards, who frowned, but silently relented.

Gisele laughed at them both. “You two have the same argument each time you come home.”

“That was hardly an argument,” Richards grumbled. “It’s hard to argue with a man who looks like a naked caveman. We must do something about that hair and beard, my lord.”

“Of course, Richie.”

“Come on, caveman.” Gisele held out her hand. “I happen to like you naked and hairy. Though not so filthy as you are now.”



Author Bio:
A prolific writer, even in elementary school, she was jotting down poems and stories whenever she had the chance - usually during math class.

After many years of working in corporate communications, Zoë decided in 2015 it was time to focus her energy on the kind of writing she loved – hot romances with strong, alpha heroes and quirky, independent heroines.

Zoë’s husband of nearly 20 years threw his full support behind that dream and loves to tell people his wife is a romance author. They live in Atlantic Canada with their two crazy collies. When not at her computer, you will find Zoë chasing after her muddy dogs, working in the garden or helping to renovate their money-pit of a house.


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Release Blitz: To Love & Protect His Omega by Quinn Michaels

Title: To Love & Protect His Omega
Author: Quinn Michaels
Series: Justice Brothers #1
Genre: M/M Romance, MPreg, Mystery
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Publisher: Enticed by Books Press
Cover Artist: Pebbles Davis

Summary:
Gunnar swore to serve and protect, but he couldn't save the omega he loved. Will a sick kitten give him a second chance at love?

Police Detective and single dad, Gunnar Justice swore an oath to serve and protect, but he couldn't save the omega closest to him. Now he's raising his 8-year-old daughter alone. But when his daughter adopts a sick kitten, will a hot veterinarian with his own secrets offer a second chance at love?
Pursued by a relentless stalker, omega veterinarian, Liam Chandler, packs up his entire life and moves across the country to start over. He has lost faith in romance and instead devotes his time to saving his animal patients. But when a handsome alpha detective and his daughter come into Liam's exam room with a kitten who needs a miracle, will Liam give romance a second chance?

Can these two men overcome their pasts to make a family together? Even as a final threat from Liam's past threatens not only their relationship but their lives.

To Love and Protect His Omega is a single dad Omegaverse romance with mystery, action and all of the feels.

If you love Omegaverse m/m romance that keeps you turning pages into the wee hours of the morning, start reading To Love and Protect now!


Gunnar pulled the car into an empty parking space two cars back from the bus stop and unlocked the doors. "Get out on the curb and cross with me," he said.

Normally, Olivia would've grumbled about being told the rules again, but this time she just nodded, her lips tight and her face pale. "He sneezed," she said.

Gunnar nodded. If he was sneezing, at least that meant he was alive.

Gunnar took the carrier with one hand and Olivia's hand with his other as they crossed the street. It was 8:05, and a young guy, with blond hair and glasses bent down on the ground between the inside door and a partially opened gate as he picked up a white metal box with a red medical symbol on the side.

"Excuse me, sir, are you the vet?” Olivia asked, slipping inside the gap where the gate was partially opened. Gunnar grabbed OlivIa’s shoulder to keep her from bowling the guy over as the man looked up. His nose twitched, and his eyes widened as his gaze rested on Gunnar.

Gunnar smelled it too, the subtle sweetness of an omega mingling with his own alpha musk. Adam had been cinnamon chocolate. This man was more cream and mint, with a hint of... caramel? It was attractive, and Gunnar ruthlessly crushed the sudden desire to get closer and identify that third, underlying scent.

Gunnar didn’t want to be attracted to another omega. Adam had only been dead for a year. This slight stirring of interest – and it was barely interest - felt like a betrayal.

Olivia said, “Puff is very sick."

"Puff?" The doctor stood. Getting a better look at his face, Gunnar estimated his age upward. Late twenties, not mid, closer to Gunnar’s own age. Worse, the man was handsome, in a boyish way, his blue eyes bright and magnified a bit too large behind the lenses of his glasses as he ran a hand through his wavy blond hair. He wore a stethoscope around his neck, and thankfully his tone was warm and businesslike as he said, "I'm Dr. Chandler," looking only at Olivia.

"We adopted Puff from the shelter on Sunday," Gunnar explained, holding out the carrier over his daughter’s head so that the doctor could see.

Dr. Chandler looked into the carrier, and his lips tightened as the smile faded from his face. He held out his hand. "Come with me." He opened the inside door. "Carolyn, my tech, is running late, but if you two don't mind letting me take him into the back, Pam will get your paperwork started while I take a look at Puff."

“Whatever you have to do for him, do it,” Gunnar said.

Author Bio:
I love fantasy, werewolves and M/M omegaverse romance! My goal is to write action-packed adventures of romance, self-discovery and second chances, all served up with a hefty helping of sweet, sexy Omegas and hot, determined Alphas who will do anything to cherish, love, and protect them. It’s so exciting to be able to share my characters and worlds with you, and I hope you enjoy them (and the sexytimes!)


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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Cost of Repairs by AM Arthur Part 2


Acts of Faith #4
Summary:
Rey King is happily settled in the life he shares with his partner Samuel Briggs. They have a close circle of friends, established routines, and Rey is even expanding his fledging catering business by bringing on a new partner. But he’s still haunted by the heartbreaking loss of his daughter six years ago. When Faith's grandmother unexpectedly passes away a month before Christmas, Rey is shocked by an offer he never saw coming.

Samuel Briggs knew loving Rey wouldn't be easy—Samuel’s no walk in the park either—and for eighteen months they've thrived as a couple. He believes their love can overcome anything—until a new obstacle is thrust in their path in the form of a shy, seven-year-old girl. Settling Faith into their chaotic lives won't be easy, but Samuel will do anything for Rey—even put up with Rey's new, handsome, too-attentive business partner and the long hours they spend together.

Misunderstandings, miscommunications, and unresolved tensions lead to one escalating fight after another, straining a relationship Rey always considered unbreakable. Rey knew getting his daughter back would change their lives—but he never imagined the best Christmas gift of his life could cost him the man he loves.

NOTE: This book was previously published under the same title. Cover art has been updated, and the content has been lightly edited, but no significant changes to the story or characters have been made. The story has also not been updated to reflect its pre-Marriage Equality setting.

BONUS CONTENT: “Party Favors,” a short story currently available for free on my website, which is set during the time period between the end of this book and the beginning of book five, Foundation of Trust. The story contains alcohol, a stripper, and bedroom fun.

Foundation of Trust #5
Summary:
David Weller thought he had it all—a loving partner who gave him a ring, a “stepson” he adored, a steady job he didn't hate, and so much hope for their future. But in the wake of a devastating diagnosis, everything came crashing down. Four years after Owen dumped him, David is still sifting through the rubble of his life. His catering partnership is the only thing keeping him afloat during the day, while his nights are filled with dangerous sexual hookups and very bad decisions. And then the last person he ever expected to see again walks back into his life and changes everything.

Owen Hart's single biggest regret is the way in which he and his son Michael were forced to leave David behind—no explanations, no chance to make it right. Until now. Finally free of eight years of fear and lies, Owen's back for the only man he's ever truly loved. Seeing David again is as joyful as it is heartbreaking, because David is wounded in both body and soul, and it's all Owen's fault.

An incendiary encounter in a club proves their connection hasn't diminished over the years, but David's wounds run deeper than Owen's deception. His inability to forgive Owen is fueled by a decade-old betrayal that David must first forgive if he ever hopes to have a second chance with Owen.

NOTE: This book was previously published under the same title. Cover art has been updated, and the content has been lightly edited, but no significant changes to the story or characters have been made. Updates have not been made to the pre-Marriage Equality time period of original release. 

Acts of Faith #4
Original Review January 2015:
I really enjoyed getting back to Samuel and Rey in Acts of Faith.  The addition of Rey's daughter, Faith was absolutely spectacular.  We get a bit of Schylur and Barrett as well as a cameo of Gavin and Jace too from books 2 & 3.  I had read the first 3 books in this series over a year ago but I got sidetracked and just recently came back to it.  It was like walking into a store and running into an old friend, time may have passed but it feels like only yesterday when you start talking.  That's exactly how this book made me feel.  Rey is in his element as he's trying to start up his business and in his relationship with Samuel and yet, he's thrown for a loop when he is given a chance at the one thing that has eluded him for the past 6 years.  But, with help from the man he loves and the friends that have become his family, Faith just may become the missing piece that puts this puzzle together.

RATING: 

Foundation of Trust #5
Original Review August 2015:
I'm not sure why I waited so long to read this installment of the Cost of Repairs series.  David and Owen are equal parts stubborn and loving which make them perfect for each other.  Don't get me wrong, the stubborn parts seem to outweigh the loving parts but truth is that without the stubborn there wouldn't be any loving.  Yes, I know that statement is a mouthful of repetition and redundancy but it's completely true and because of it, I wanted to reach in the book and give both men a firm shake, and sometimes slap to the back of the head, but I also wanted to dive in and just hug them until the pain of the past was gone.  They may not have touched my heart quite as deeply as Rey and Samuel did from Cost of Repairs(Book 1) and Acts of Faith(Book 4) but they definitely burrowed in and found a lasting place with me.

RATING: 




Author Bio:
No stranger to the writing world, A.M. Arthur has been creating stories in her head since she was a child, and scribbling them down nearly as long. When not writing, she can be found in her kitchen, pretending she's an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself with her cuisine experiments. A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone's throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland. She's been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop. She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn't been coined yet back then) and "The Young Riders" with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories. When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder. She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she's an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.

If you were to ask her what gave her the courage to finally publish, she’d tell you it was her amazing family and friends. Support is vital in all things and when you’re afraid of your dreams, it will be your cheering section that will lift you up.


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EMAIL: AM_Arthur@yahoo.com



Acts of Faith #4

Foundation of Trust #5

Release Blitz: Smoke in the Mirror by Aimee Nicole Walker

Title: Smoke in the Mirror
Author: Aimee Nicole Walker
Series: Road to Blissville #5
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: July 12, 2018
Cover Model: Travis
Photographer: Wander Aguiar
Cover Design: Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art
Summary:
Memphis Sullivan thought he was coming to Blissville to help his cousin out, but instead, he gained three meddlesome females, a tribe, and a permanent home. More than a year later, he owns a popular comic book and vinyl record store and doesn’t think his life could get any better. That all changes when the star of his favorite television show and bad-boy fantasies rides into town and spices up his vanilla world.

Lyric Willows’ decision to visit an old friend in Blissville will change his life in ways he never dreamed possible. The paranormal investigator is immediately drawn to the mysterious disappearance of the town’s founder in 1850 and rumors that his former home is haunted. More alluring to Lyric than the history of Bliss House is the immediate connection he feels to the adorably geeky owner of Vinyl and Villains, who also happens to be his friend’s cousin.

Lyric becomes Memphis’s houseguest when he decides to stay in town to conduct a paranormal investigation. Tight spaces lead to sexy encounters, and before long, ghosts aren’t the only things that go bump in the night. The more they unravel about Anthony Bliss’s disappearance, the more tangled in one another they become. How is it possible for two virtual strangers to feel like they’ve known each other for their entire lives? Was their love written in the stars, or is it nothing more than an illusion?

Smoke in the Mirror is the fifth book in the Road to Blissville series. Each book can be read as a standalone book or part of the series. This book contains sexually explicit material and is intended for adults 18 and older.


“Any ideas where I should start?” I asked Maegan.

“The attic,” they all responded.

Aiming a crooked smile at Memphis, I said, “Sounds like we have a date with an attic.”

All I could think about was being alone with Memphis long enough to claim the kiss I’d planned to give him in his office. The rest could wait until we were alone at his house, but no living or dead person was going to keep me from kissing Memphis up in that attic. Regardless of his blasé comments earlier, we needed to have a conversation before I got him naked. Lust made you bolder, but it also made you the ultimate rationalizer. I didn’t want Memphis to compromise anything to be with me, because I wouldn’t change my mind. No matter how good sex would be between us, I wouldn’t wake up the morning after wanting to live a happily ever after with him.

“I’m ready,” Memphis said as he rose to his feet.

“We’ll hang back here,” Maegan said.

“Yeah, we don’t want to get in the way,” Milo added.

“Unless you want someone to hold the video camera on you…I mean, for you,” Andy offered. I looked over in time to see Milo jab him a good one with his elbow, making all the air in Andy’s lungs whoosh out of him. “Never mind,” he squeaked.

I exchanged a smile with Memphis. “We’ll be back in a bit,” I told them.

“Don’t rush on our account,” Elijah said.

“You guys have serious issues,” Memphis said then left me standing there by myself. It felt like I was standing in front of the firing squad, which wasn’t too far off the mark if Memphis wasn’t being honest with me and ended up hurt by my inability to give him more than sex.

“Um…yeah,” I said then hurried after him, only stopping long enough to grab my bag of equipment before heading up the grand staircase. I caught up with Memphis just as he reached the top. I set my bag down and he spun around and faced me. I backed him up until I had him pinned between me and the wall then lowered my head until my lips hovered above his. “I don’t think I can wait.”

“So don’t,” Memphis challenged.

I fucking knew it was a mistake to give in to temptation, but I’d never wanted anyone as much as I wanted him. I couldn’t live the rest of my life without knowing if his lips were as soft as they looked. I would never kiss another man without wondering if Memphis tasted better. Kissing him might ruin me for everyone else, but it was a risk I was willing to take. Correction: had to take.



Author Bio:
I am a wife and mother to three kids, three dogs, and a cat. When I’m not dreaming up stories, I like to lose myself in a good book, cook or bake. I'm a girly tomboy who paints her fingernails while watching sports and yelling at the referees.

I will always choose the book over the movie. I believe in happily-ever-after. Love inspires everything that I do. Music keeps me sane.


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Smoke in the Mirror #5
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Friday, July 13, 2018

📘🎥Friday's Film Adaptation🎥📘: The Kennel Murder Case by SS Van Dine


Summary:
When Archer Coe, a collector of Chinese ceramics, is found dead in his bedroom with the door bolted on the inside, everybody from the district attorney to the medical examiner regards it as suicide. But detective Philo Vance suspects a sinister and carefully crafted murder. Although the circumstances surrounding the death of Archer Coe are so mysterious and contradictory that for a time no solution seems possible, the brilliant Philo Vance brings the case to an unexpected but satisfying conclusion in the end.

The Kennel Murder Case, first published in 1933, moves swiftly with one mystery following another until the clever resolution. It is considered one of the best of Philo Vance novels in the series for its interesting characterization and gripping action and suspense.



CHAPTER I
THE BOLTED BEDROOM
(Thursday, October 11; 8.45 a. m.)
It was exactly three months after the startling termination of the Scarab murder case that Philo Vance was drawn into the subtlest and the most perplexing of all the criminal problems that came his way during the four years of John F.-X. Markham's incumbency as District Attorney of New York County.

Indeed, so mystifying was this case, so apparently inexplicable were its conflicting elements, that the police were for adding it to their list of unsolved murder mysteries. And they would have been justified in their decision; for rarely in the annals of modern crime has there been a case that seemed to reverse so completely the rational laws by which humanity lives and reasons. In the words of the doughty and practical Sergeant Ernest Heath of the Homicide Bureau, the case "didn't make sense." On the surface it smacked of strange and terrifying magic, of witch-doctors and miracle-workers; and every line of investigation ran into a blank wall.

In fact, the case had every outward appearance of being what arm-chair criminologists delight in calling the perfect crime. And, to make the plotting of the murderer even more mystifying, a diabolical concatenation of circumstances was superimposed upon the events by some whimsical and perverse god, which tended to strengthen every weak link in the culprit's chain of ratiocination, and to turn the entire bloody affair into a maze of incomprehensibility.

Curiously enough, however, it was the very excess of ardor on the part of the murderer when attempting to divert suspicion, that created a minute hole in the wall of mystery, through which Vance was able to see a glimmer of light. In the process of following that light to the truth, Vance did what I believe was the shrewdest and profoundest detective work of his career. It was his peculiar knowledge of special and out-of-the-way facts, combined with his almost uncanny perception of human nature, that made it possible for him to seize upon apparently unimportant clues and resolve them into a devastating syllogism.

Vance for years had been a breeder of Scottish terriers. His kennels were in New Jersey, an hour's ride from New York, and he spent much of his time there studying pedigrees, breeding for certain characteristics which he believed essential to the ideal terrier, and watching the results of his theories. Sometimes I think he manifested a greater enthusiasm in his dogs than in any other recreative phase of his life; and the only time I have seen evidences of a thrill in his eyes comparable to that when he had unearthed and acquired a magnificent Cézanne water-color or discovered a rare piece of Chinese ceremonial jade in a mass of opaque modern recuttings, was when one of his dogs went up to Winners.

I mention this fact--or idiosyncrasy, if you prefer--because it so happened that Vance's ability to look at a certain stray Scottish terrier and recognize its blood-lines and show qualities, was what led him to one phase of the truth in the remarkable case which I am now recording.

That which led Vance to another important phase of the truth was his knowledge of Chinese ceramics. He possessed, in his home in East 38th Street, a small but remarkable collection of Chinese antiquities--museum pieces he had acquired in his extensive travels--and had written various articles for Oriental and art journals on the subject of Sung and Ming monochrome porcelains.

Scotties and Chinese ceramics! A truly unusual combination. And yet, without a knowledge of these two antipodal interests, the mysterious murder of Archer Coe, in his old brownstone house in West 71st Street, would have remained a closed book for all time.

The opening of the case was rather tame: it promised little in the line of sensationalism. But within an hour of the telephone call Markham received from the Coe butler, the District Attorney's office and the New York Police Department were plunged into one of the most astounding and baffling murder mysteries of our day.

It was shortly after half-past eight on the morning of October 11, that Vance's door-bell rang; and Currie, his old English valet and majordomo, ushered Markham into the library. I was temporarily installed in Vance's duplex roof-garden apartment at the time. There was much legal and financial work to be done--an accumulation of months, for Vance had insisted that I accompany him on the Mediterranean cruise he took immediately after the solving of the Scarab murder. For years, almost since our Harvard days, I had been Vance's legal adviser and monetary steward (a post which included as much of friendship as of business) and his affairs kept me fairly busy--so busy, in fact, that a two months' interregnum meant much overtime labor afterwards.

On this particular autumn morning I had risen at seven and was busily engaged with a mass of cancelled checks and bank statements when Markham arrived.

"Go ahead with your chores, Van Dine," he said, with a perfunctory nod. "I'll rout out the sybarite myself." He seemed a trifle perturbed as he disappeared into Vance's bedroom, which was just off the library.

I heard him call Vance a bit peremptorily, and I heard Vance give a dramatic groan.

"A murder, I presume," Vance complained through a yawn. "Nothing less than gore would have led your footsteps to my boudoir at this ungodly hour."

"Not a murder--" Markham began.

"Oh, I say! What time might it be, then?"

"Eight forty-five," Markham told him.

"So early--and not a murder!" (I could hear Vance's feet hit the floor.) "You interest me strangely. . . . Your wedding morn perhaps?"

"Archer Coe has committed suicide," Markham announced, not without irritation.

"My word!" Vance was now moving about. "That's even stranger than a murder. I crave elucidation. . . . Come, let's sit down while I sip my coffee."

Markham re-entered the library, followed by Vance clad in sandals and an elaborate Mandarin robe. Vance rang for Currie and ordered Turkish coffee, at the same time settling himself in a large Queen Anne chair and lighting one of his favorite Régie cigarettes.

Markham did not sit down. He stood near the mantelpiece, regarding his host with narrowed, inquisitive eyes.

"What did you mean, Vance," he asked, "by Coe's suicide being stranger than murder?"

"Nothing esoteric, old thing," Vance drawled languidly. "Simply that there would be nothing particularly remarkable in any one's pushing old Archer into the Beyond. He's been inviting violence all his life. Not a sweet and love-inspiring chappie, don't y' know. But there's something deuced remarkable in the fact that he should push himself over the border. He's not the suicidal type--far too egocentric."

"I think you're right. And that idea was probably in the back of my head when I told the butler to hold everything till I got there."

Currie entered with the coffee, and Vance sipped the black, cloudy liquid for a moment. At length he said:

"Do tell me more. Why should you be notified at all? And what did the butler pour into your ear over the phone? And why are you here curtailing my slumbers? Why everything? Why anything? Just why? Can't you see I'm bursting with uncontrollable curiosity?" And Vance yawned and closed his eyes.

"I'm on my way to Coe's house." Markham was annoyed at the other's attitude of indifference. "Thought maybe you'd like to--what's your favorite word?--'toddle' along." This was said with sarcasm.

"Toddle," Vance repeated. "Quite. But why toddle blindly? Do be magnanimous and enlighten me. The corpse won't run away, even if we are a bit latish."

Markham hesitated, and shrugged. Obviously he was uneasy, and obviously he wanted Vance to accompany him. As he had admitted, something was in the back of his head.

"Very well," he acquiesced. "Shortly after eight this morning Coe's butler--the obsequious Gamble--phoned me at my home. He was in a state of nerves, and his voice was husky with fear. He informed me, with many hems and haws, that Archer Coe had shot himself, and asked me if I would come to the house at once. My first instinct was to tell him to notify the police; but, for some reason, I checked myself and asked him why he had called me. He said that Mr. Raymond Wrede had so advised him--"

"Ah!"

"It seems he had first called Wrede--who, as you know, is an intimate family friend--and that Wrede had immediately come to the house."

"And Wrede said 'get Mr. Markham.'" Vance drew deep on his cigarette. "Something dodging about in the recesses of Wrede's brain, too, no doubt. . . . Well, any more?"

"Only that the body was bolted in Coe's bedroom."

"Bolted on the inside?"

"Exactly."

"Amazin'!"

"Gamble brought up Coe's breakfast at eight as usual, but received no answer to his knocking. . . ."

"So he peeped through the keyhole--yes, yes, butlers always do. Some day, Markham, I shall, in a moment of leisure, invent a keyhole that can't be seen through by butlers. Have you ever stopped to think how much of the world's disturbance is caused by butlers being able to see through keyholes?"

"No, Vance, I never have," returned Markham wearily. "My brain is inadequate--I'll leave that speculation to you. . . . Nevertheless, because of your dalliance in the matter of inventing opaque keyholes, Gamble saw Coe seated in his armchair, a revolver in his hand, and a bullet wound in his right temple. . . ."

"And, I'll warrant, Gamble added that his master's face was deathly pale--eh, what?"

"He did."

"But what about Brisbane Coe? Why did Gamble call Wrede when Archer's brother was in the house?"

"Brisbane Coe didn't happen to be in the house. He's at present in Chicago."

"Ah! Most convenient. . . . So when Wrede arrived he advised Gamble to phone direct to you, knowing that you knew Coe. Is that it?"

"As far as I can make out."

"And you, knowing that I had visited Coe on various occasions, thought you'd pick me up and make it a conclave of acquaintances."

"Do you want to come?" demanded Markham, with a trace of anger.

"Oh, by all means," Vance replied dulcetly. "But, really, y' know, I can't go in these togs." He rose and started towards the bedroom. "I'll hop into appropriate integuments." As he reached the door he stopped. "And I'll tell you why your invitation enthralls me. I had an appointment with Archer Coe for three this afternoon to look at a pair of peach-bloom vases fourteen inches high he had recently acquired. And, Markham, a collector who has just acquired a pair of peach-bloom vases of that size doesn't commit suicide the next day."

With this remark Vance disappeared, and Markham stood, his hands behind him, looking at the bedroom door with a deep frown. Presently he lighted a cigar and began pacing back and forth.

"I shouldn't wonder if Vance were right," he mumbled, as if to himself. "He's put my subconscious thought into words."

A few minutes later Vance emerged, dressed for the street.

"Awfully thoughtful of you, and all that, to pick me up," he said, smiling jauntily at Markham. "There's something positively fascinatin' about the possibilities of this affair. . . . And by the by, Markham, it might be convenient to have the pugnacious Sergeant on hand."

"So it might," agreed Markham drily, putting on his hat. "Thanks for the suggestion. But I've already notified him. He's on his way uptown now."

Vance's eyebrows went up whimsically.

"Oh, pardon! . . . Well, let's grope our way hence."

We entered Markham's car, which was waiting outside, and were driven rapidly up Madison Avenue. We cut through Central Park to the West Side, came out at the 72nd-Street entrance, and went for a block against traffic on Central Park West. Turning into 71st Street, we drew up at No. 98.

The Coe house was an old brownstone mansion of double frontage occupying two city lots, built in a day when dignity and comfort were among the ideals of New York architects. The house was uniform with the other residences in the block, with the exception that most of the houses were single structures with only a twenty-foot frontage. The basements were three or four feet below the street level and opened on a sunken, paved areaway. Flights of stone stairs, with wide stone balustrades, led to the first floors, each house being entered through a conventional vestibule.

As we ascended the steps of the Coe house the door was opened for us before we had time to pull the old-fashioned brass bell-knob; and the flushed face of Gamble looked out at us cringingly. The butler made a series of suave bows as he pulled the heavy oak door ajar for us to enter.

"Thank you for coming, Mr. Markham." His voice reeked of oily subservience. "It's very terrible, sir. And I really didn't know just what I should do--"

Markham brushed the man aside and we stepped into the dimly lighted hallway. A heavy deep-napped carpet covered the entire hall, and several dingy oil paintings made enormous black squares against the dark tapestry on the walls. Ahead of us a broad flight of carpeted stairs led upward into a vault of darkness. On the right hung a pair of deep maroon portières evidently veiling double sliding doors. To the left were other portières; but these were drawn back, and we could look through the open doors into a stuffy drawing-room, filled with all manner of heavy ancient furniture.

Two men came forward from this room to greet us. The one in advance I recognized immediately as Raymond Wrede. I had met him several times at the Coe home when I had accompanied Vance there to inspect some particular "find" in Chinese pottery or bronzes, which Archer Coe had made. Wrede, I knew, was a close friend of the Coe family, and particularly of Hilda Lake, Archer Coe's niece. He was a studious man in his late thirties, slightly gray, with an ascetic, calm face of the chevaline type. He was mildly interested in Oriental ceramics--probably as a result of his long association with Coe--though his particular fancy was ancient oil lamps; and he owned a collection of rare specimens for which (I have been told) the Metropolitan Museum of Art had offered him a small fortune.

As he greeted us this morning, there was a look bordering on bewilderment in his wide-set, gray eyes.

He bowed formally to Markham, whom he knew slightly; nodded perfunctorily to me; and extended his hand to Vance. Then, as if suddenly remembering something, he turned toward the man behind him, and made a brief presentation, which in reality was an explanation.

"Signor Grassi. . . . Mr. Grassi has been a house guest of Mr. Coe's for several days. He represents an Italian museum of Oriental antiquities at Milan."

Grassi bowed very low, but said nothing. He was considerably shorter than Wrede, slim, immaculately dressed, with shiny black hair brushed straight back from his forehead, and a complexion whose unusual pallor was accentuated by large luminous eyes. His features were regular, and his lips full and shapely. His manicured hands moved with an almost feline grace. My first impression was that he was effeminate, but before many days had passed I radically changed my opinion.

Markham wasted no time on ceremony. He turned abruptly to Gamble.

"Just what is the situation? A police sergeant and the Medical Examiner will be here any moment."

"Only what I told you on the telephone, sir." The man, beneath his obsequious manner, was patently frightened. "When I saw the master through the keyhole I knew he was dead--it was quite unnerving, sir--and my first impulse was to break in the door. But I thought it best to seek advice before taking such a responsibility. And, as Mr. Brisbane Coe was in Chicago, I phoned to Mr. Wrede and begged him to come over immediately. Mr. Wrede was good enough to come, and after looking at the master he suggested that I call you, sir, before doing anything else--"

"It was obvious"--Wrede took up the story--"that poor Coe was dead, and I thought it best to leave everything intact for the authorities. I didn't want to insist on having the door broken in."

Vance was watching the man closely.

"But what harm could that have done?" he asked mildly. "Since the door was bolted on the inside, suicide was rather plainly indicated--eh, what?"

"Perhaps you are right, Mr. Vance." Wrede appeared ill at ease. "But--somehow--my instinct told me that it might be best--"

"Quite--quite." Vance took out his cigarette-case. "You, too, were sceptical--despite the appearances."

Wrede gave a start, and stared fixedly at Vance.

"Coe," Vance continued, "wasn't exactly the suicidal type--was he?"

"No-o." Wrede's eyes did not shift.

Vance lighted a cigarette.

"My own feeling is you acted quite wisely."

"Come!" Markham turned toward the stairs and made a peremptory gesture to Gamble. "Lead the way."

The butler turned and mounted the stairs. Markham, Vance and I followed, but Wrede and Grassi remained below. At the head of the stairs Gamble fumbled along the wall and pressed an electric switch-button. A light flooded the upper hallway. Directly ahead of us was a wide door, ivory enamelled. Gamble stood by the switch and, without a word, indicated the door.

Markham came forward, tried the knob, and shook it. Then he knelt down and looked through the keyhole. When he rose his face was grim.

"It looks as if our suspicions were unfounded," he said in a low voice. "Coe is sitting in his chair, a black hole in his right temple, and his hand is still clutching a revolver. The electric lights are on. . . . Look, Vance."

Vance was gazing at an etching on the wall at the head of the stairs.

"I'll take your word for it, Markham," he drawled. "Really, y' know, it doesn't sound like a pretty sight. And I'll see it infinitely better when we've forced an entry. . . . I say! Here's an early Marin. Rather sensitive. Same feeling for delicate composition we find in his later water-colors. . . ."

At this moment the front door bell rang violently, and Gamble hastened down the stairs. As he drew the door back, Sergeant Ernest Heath and Detective Hennessey burst into the lower hallway.

"This way, Sergeant," Markham called.

Heath and Hennessey came noisily up the stairs.

"Good morning, sir." The Sergeant waved a friendly hand to Markham. Then he cocked an eye at Vance. "I mighta known you'd be here. The world's champeen trouble-shooter!" He grinned good-naturedly, and there was genuine affection in his tone.

"Come, Sergeant," Markham ordered. "There's a dead man in this room, and the door's bolted on the inside. Break it open."

Heath, without a word, hurled himself against the crosspiece of the door just above the knob, but without result. A second time his shoulder crashed against the crosspiece.

"Give me a hand, Hennessey," he said. "That's a bolt--no foolin'. Hard wood."

The two men threw their combined weight against the door, and now there was a sound of tearing wood as the bolt's screws were loosened.

During the process of battering in the door, Wrede and Grassi mounted the stairs, followed by Gamble, and stood directly behind Markham and Vance.

Two more terrific thrusts by Heath and Hennessey, and the heavy door swung inward, revealing the death chamber.


Society sleuth Philo Vance tangles with foreign agents when he investigates the murder of an aircraft manufacturer.

Release Date: February 3, 1940
Release Time: 62 minutes

Cast:
James Stephenson as Philo Vance
Margot Stevenson as Hilda Lake
Henry O'Neill as J.P. Markham
Edward Brophy as Ryan
Sheila Bromley as Doris Delafield
Ralph Forbes as Tom McDonald
Don Douglas as Philip Wrede
Martin Kosleck as Gamble
Jimmy Conlin as Dr. Doremus
Edward Raquello as Eduardo Grassi
Creighton Hale as Du Bois
Harry Strang as Markham's assistant
Richard Kipling as Archer Coe
Wedgwood Nowell as Brisbane Coe
Bo Ling as Ling Toy
Terry as McTavish the Dog






Author Bio:
S. S. Van Dine is the pseudonym used by American art critic Willard Huntington Wright (October 15, 1888 – April 11, 1939) when he wrote detective novels. Wright was an important figure in avant-garde cultural circles in pre-World War I New York, and under the pseudonym (which he originally used to conceal his identity) he created the once immensely popular fictional detective Philo Vance, a sleuth and aesthete who first appeared in books in the 1920s, then in movies and on the radio.


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