It’s here and it’s early!
I’m pleased to tell you that The Maidstone Conspiracy is now available for download from Amazon. This is my third book this year. It will be the last for a while… it’s time now to spread the word, (a.k.a., marketing). The paperback edition is scheduled to be available for sale on Nov. 6 from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
This novel was great fun to write. That might surprise those familiar with the work involved. What gave such pleasure was the nature of the story line. Yes, The Maidstone Conspiracy is a murder mystery. But the story is blended with a love story. Who can resist a love story? In that way, I hope readers with find the novel both engaging and entertaining… light but compelling… full of surprises and yet satisfying.
And you’ll find a surprise waiting for you at the end of this post:
The story is set in two locations, on opposite sides of the globe. It opens in the magnificent mountain city of Colorado Springs, CO, then moves to Maidstone, a gracious city in garden-like Kent County of southeastern England. And then the story unfolds simultaneously in both locations, coming to a surprise ending.
Intriguing? Hope so. Here’s the link: http://amzn.com/B016OUM81S.
Here’s the blurb from the back cover:
Paul and Anne Winston are drawn together in a storybook romance… but they’ll soon be fighting for their lives… and battling to protect the massive business empire they’ve created.
“The Maidstone Conspiracy” is a gripping murder mystery artfully blended with a tantalizing love story.
Woven into the twists and turns of this action-packed adventure are generous portions of betrayal and international intrigue… leading to a surprising climax.
Hey, I’m enthused enough about this story that the first three chapters are posted below. Enjoy.
Comments? Love to hear from you!
THE MAIDSTONE CONSPIRACY
Colorado Springs, CO
April 12, 2010
“I’m heading home,” Paul Winston said. “Promised the kids some baseball after school.”
“See ya tomorrow,” replied Bill Daniels, his senior vice-president.
Paul walked down three flights to street level. He strolled casually toward his pickup parked at the curb nearby, caught up in the sights and sounds and smells of early summer.
A few steps from the truck the wealthy entrepreneur felt himself hit from behind, forcing his body against a parking meter. Paul reached out to keep from falling. He couldn’t hold on, landing on his back. Paul looked up. A disheveled-looking man stood over him. An old revolver was clutched in his right hand.
Good God! he thought. That son-of-a-bitch just shot me!
“What the hell?” Paul tried to challenge his young assailant. The words were a garbled wheeze. The unshaven face above him was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.
Paul watched helplessly as the shabbily dressed man raised the old weapon. His mind was shouting at him to flee but his body wouldn’t respond. The gun jumped, and then jumped a second time. Paul heard loud bangs as two bullets slammed into his chest with enormous force. He couldn’t breathe.
“Right! That’ll fix you, ya greedy bugger,” he heard the man say. “Bloody well serves you right!”
‘Why?’ Paul tried to ask, noticing the British accent. Only his mind could form the words.
20 Years Earlier
Paul Winston was studying hard for the last of his MBA final exams at Duke University’s business school when his cell phone rang.
“Hello?” he said. There was no response. He sensed a presence at the other end, but no sound. “Hello?” he said again. “Who’s there? What’s going on?” There was a muted cry of anguish.
“Oh, Paul!” He heard Emily’s voice cry out, convulsed with grief.
“What is it, Emily?” he said. “What’s going on? Are you all right? Do you need help?”
“It’s Mom!” his sister cried. “It’s Mom and Dad!” she corrected herself. “They’re gone,” she sobbed. “They’re both gone! A crash! Dad’s plane! They were killed, Paul. They’re dead. Oh my God, Paul!”
“What?” Paul said. He struggled to grasp what he’d just heard. “What… what happened? How?”
“The plane, Paul,” Emily said. “It crashed and exploded. Dad was landing at the ranch… on the airstrip. Mom was with him. George said the plane blew up while landing. He says Mom and Dad must have died instantly. Oh my God, Paul! Can you come right away, please? There’s something not right about this. I just know! I need you, now!”
Paul tried to console his sister while she struggled to share with him the few details she knew about the tragedy. They sat in silence on the phone for a few moments then exchanged words of comfort, knowing nothing they could possibly say would bring them solace.
Finally, Paul said, “I’m on my way, Emily. I’ll see how soon I can get a charter and let you know. Are the police there?”
“Yes, they’re here,” she said. “But something’s wrong. I’ll explain when you get here. Hurry, Paul!”
“I’m on my way, Emily,” he repeated, too shocked to think of anything else to say.
Paul called Jerry Appleby, the head of the charter aircraft company at Raleigh-Durham International Airport that Paul’s father had helped finance years earlier. Paul explained what had happened. Once his Dad’s friend managed to get past his shock, he told Paul a Learjet was due to land soon from a one-way trip. He would have the plane prepared immediately for Paul’s flight west across the country. Paul’s next call was to a friend at the Colorado State Patrol.
“I’m so very, very sorry, Paul,” Josh Schroeder said. He and Paul had been buddies through high school. “For what it’s worth, Paul, I will personally see we do everything we can to find out what happened. Right now, all we have are a lot of questions and not many answers. We both know your Dad was an excellent pilot. This doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Paul was at the top of his MBA graduating class at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, NC. He’d enrolled at the request of his father, Ted Winston, a successful Colorado entrepreneur and rancher, after being asked to take over the family’s rapidly growing business interests. At 28, he was the eldest of three children. Both of his sisters were married and pursuing their own careers.
During the 17-mile taxi ride to Raleigh-Durham airport, Paul tried to shake off the fog of grief clouding his mind. He needed to think clearly. He knew that as the eldest of the three, his sisters would look to him for leadership through this horrendous calamity that had befallen their family.
Colorado Springs Airport
“This is terrible… horrendous, Paul. I’m so very sorry,” George Underhill said as they met at the Colorado Springs airport. The ranch foreman’s eyes were red. He grasped Paul’s hand and then put a muscular arm around his shoulder. They walked together into the executive flight terminal building.
“What in the world happened, George?” Paul asked, struggling to hold his composure. “How could this happen? Dad had thousands of hours on that plane. He’s landed hundreds of times at the ranch. This makes no sense, George! What went wrong?”
“We don’t know yet,” George said. “People from the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) have just arrived. Maybe they can give us some answers. The Sheriff’s Department has the site cordoned off.”
“Where are Mom and Dad?” Paul said. “Where did they take them… their bodies?”
“Colorado Springs,” George said. “The coroner took them, and the sheriff has ordered autopsies. It’s normal in accident cases.”
He turned quickly when he heard Emily’s voice calling out. His diminutive sister was running across the small reception area. She collapsed in his arms. Her cries of grief drew everyone’s attention.
“Oh, Paul,” she said after a few moments, tears streaming down her face. “Thank God you’re here! Let’s go home!”
“Where’s Roberta?” Paul said.
“She’s out at the ranch,” she said. “She drove out with Stephen and their kids.”
He wasn’t looking forward to seeing Roberta. There’d been a strain between him and their youngest sister since they’d been teenagers. Paul didn’t understand why, and Roberta steadfastly refused to discuss it. He’d finally decided to just let it go. That wouldn’t be quite so easy now, he thought.
Emily grabbed Paul’s arm and began pulling him toward the entrance.
Paul glanced back at George. The big ranch foreman raised an eyebrow and tilted his head sideways sympathetically.
While Paul’s chartered jet was landing in Colorado Springs, Lord Percival Winston, the 11th Earl of Prescott, was dying. His frail body lay in a huge four-poster bed dominating the master suite at Earnscliffe, a 500-year-old manor house nestled among the picturesque hills of Kent, southeast of London.
“Willard,” he whispered to his cousin, “It’s time.”
Lord Percival’s breathing had become shallow but he still managed to whisper a few words from time to time, despite the cancer ravaging his internal organs. He’d just ordered all life support disconnected.
“Don’t talk like that, Percy,” Willard said, mostly for the benefit of the few family and staff gathered at his bedside. “You’ll be up and about again before you know it. This is just a setback. It’ll pass.”
Percival managed a weak smile. At 83, he was the eldest of five children. His only surviving sibling, Ted, was the youngest. Their other brother and two sisters had been small children when they were killed in the Blitz during the Second World War. Percy regretted that he and his late wife Mary had been unable to have children. He missed her terribly, the love of his life. She’d died 17 years earlier.
I wonder if Willard has any idea what comes next? Percival thought.
He was aware Willard expected a large inheritance. That wasn’t going to happen. Percival had seen to it. He’d told his second cousin many times that for 25 years he’d been living off the inheritance he might have hoped to receive. He’d grown tired of giving Willard handouts. In Lord Winston’s mind, that amounted to more than the inheritance Willard had any right to expect. So, in the absence of a direct heir, Percival had bequeathed the bulk of his considerable wealth and his title to his only sibling, Ted Winston, in America.
Willard refused to believe he was not the natural heir, even though being a second cousin put him some distance from the usual lines of succession. He wasn’t about to let matters rest. Secretly, he’d made plans to challenge the will after Percival’s death. Willard knew he wouldn’t have long to wait.