LV48 (Cassie Tam Files #3) by Matt Doyle #bookreview #scifi #LGBT

New Hopeland City may be the birthplace of Tech Shifter gear, but it isn’t the only place that likes to blend technology with folklore. Now, a new nightmare is stalking the streets…

When PI Cassie Tam is attacked on the way home one night, she expects the police to get involved. What she doesn’t expect is to be forced into acting as bait to lure out a lunatic in a tech-suit that’s literally out for blood. But past actions have consequences, and doing so may be the only way she can get a clean slate from the city’s law makers.

If only that didn’t mean having to face down a wannabe vampire.

This is my third Cassie Tam book, and the author’s imagination continues to amaze me.

Although each novel introduces new futuristic technology, the descriptions are detailed and so well done that it’s easy to visualize.  The drawings near the end of the book help explain the tech even more.  This time around Cassie faces a “light vampire” – which explains the title.  I love me some vamps, but these aren’t the traditional vampires seen in most novels and and movies – no spoilers here.  Cassie is wrangled into working with the police department on the case and, although not crazy about the idea, she makes the best of it and and dives in head first – which is a trait I admire.  That and her snark – I always appreciate witty snark.

Bert, her gargoyle familiar, has to be one of my favorite characters.  He’s protective and kind of moody, but you gotta love him.  Cassie and Lori also have some nice scenes together in their new-ish relationship, but I wouldn’t have minded more.  Some new characters are also introduced, and I hope to see more of them in future books.

While there are action-filled scenes, the pacing waned a bit for me in the middle.  I guessed who the villain was early on, but it took longer for it to click with Cassie and friends than expected.  Still, I’m a fan of this thrilling sci-fi series, and it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston #bookreview #LGBT #romance

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

If you’re a regular at my blog, you may be thinking you’re in the wrong place because I don’t read romances.  And you’re right – I usually don’t.  But with so many friends recommending this book, its outstanding reviews and amusing premise, I succumbed to peer pressure.  As a bonus, it fulfilled a book club requirement!

There’s nothing I can say about this novel that hasn’t already been said.  It’s an immensely enjoyable rom-com, and I totally want to join this family.  I listened to the audiobook and the narrator (Ramon de Ocampo) does a fabulous job.  Every character is so well done and adds to the depth of the story.  You’ll cheer for Alex and Henry and laugh at their nerdy Star Wars references and witty banter.  Ellen Claremont, Alex’s mom and the President, now holds the title of my favorite fictional mom.  Yes, she’s POTUS, but when everything hits the fan, she’s a mother first, and I loved that about her.  The strong themes of family, sibling relationships, and friendship are felt on every page.

No, I don’t often read romances, but Red, White, and Royal Blue was worth every minute and earns an easy five stars from me.

 

Far From You by Tess Sharpe #bookreview #YA #mystery #LGBT

Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared. 

I read this for my book club.  For that month’s selection, we had to read books recommended by other members – which is scary for me.  I’m always afraid I’ll wind up with a romance.  This one contains some romance, but it’s not the primary focus.  And I’m okay with that.

My heart went out to Sophie.  No one believes she’s still clean, and her parents force her back into rehab.  All the while, she’s grieving deeply for her nearly lifelong best friend and counting the days until she’s released so she can find the killer.  Her frustration is palpable, and she has few friends to lean on for help.

Most chapters rotate between the present and earlier in Sophie’s life, but it wasn’t difficult to keep up – and I listened to the audiobook (which is narrated by the author, who does a wonderful job).  The shifts allow the gradual reveal of backstory and secrets that bring to light multiple suspects.  I guessed who the culprit was, but there’s another component to the story that came as a suprise.

This isn’t my usual genre, but it’s a gripping read and emotional at times.  If you’re looking for a YA mystery, this is one I recommend.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee #bookreview #YA #LGBT

In this funny and frothy novella that picks up where the New York Times bestselling The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue leaves off, freshly minted couple Monty and Percy fumble through their first time together.

Monty’s epic grand tour may be over, but now that he and Percy are finally a couple, he realizes there is something more nerve-wracking than being chased across Europe: getting together with the person you love.

Will the romantic allure of Santorini make his first time with Percy magical, or will all the anticipation and build-up completely spoil the mood? 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was one of my favorite reads (listens?) last year.  Monty, in all his narcisscistic glory, stole my heart, and Percy is just adorable.  How I’ve missed these boys.  And what a treat it was to read this novella.  The whole situation is awkward, comedic, sweet, and utterly perfect for the tone of their relationship.  I laughed so many times – such a pleasure to read.  This will hold me over  until the release of The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks.

#BadMoonRising: Demon’s Life by Shari Sakurai #horror #LGBT #paranormal

During Bad Moon Rising, we’ve had a lot of discussion about being vampires and werewolves – pros, cons, hair, no hair, sparkling, etc.  In the featured book (scheduled for release November 4th) by today’s author, vampires are an endangered species.  Wonder why?  Welcome Shari Sakurai!

Would you rather walk through a haunted graveyard at midnight or spend the night in a haunted, abandoned house?

I’d say definitely a haunted graveyard. Abandoned houses tend to be home to massive spiders and I’m way more scared of them than ghosts!

Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf? 

Vampire! Of all the supernatural species, they are the ones that hold most fascination for me so I would be interested in experiencing for myself what it would be like to actually become one.

Would you rather be part of the X-Files team or Ghostbusters?

I grew up watching X-Files so I’d love to be a part of the team!

If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in the same setting, where would you choose?

Nagasaki, Japan. The prequel to my novel Demon’s Blood is set in Nagasaki so it would be amazing to be able to write it whilst living in the city!

What is your favorite cover of all your books?  Why?

It’s so difficult to choose, but I would say Demon’s Blood. When I had all the covers for my novels re-designed I was especially pleased with how that one turned out. It just really illustrates the plot of the novel so well.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Too many! Mostly unfinished ones though. They are all stored in folders and I hope to be able to finish them all one day, in particular my fantasy novel which has been sitting in drafts for over ten years!

Out of respect for the relationship we once had I will spare your life. However, if you try to obstruct me again then I will kill you.

Vampires are now an endangered species. Possessed by the demon Kurai, Kokawa Taku has sworn to eradicate all those whom he deems inferior.

Determined to free Taku from the demon’s corruption Thane seeks help from Taku’s sire, Takata Koji. Thane’s search for answers takes him to Hong Kong where he learns the devastating truth. That in order to save Taku, Thane may have to kill him.

Refusing to accept this, Thane makes a decision that places the fate of all vampires in the balance. However Thane is unaware of the betrayal around him and that his actions will either save Taku or destroy him.

Pre-Order Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XQ7BZ4P

Bio

Shari Sakurai is a British author of paranormal, horror, science fiction and fantasy novels that almost always feature a LGBT protagonist and/or antagonist. She has always loved to write and it is her escape from the sometimes stressful modern life!

Aside from writing, Shari enjoys reading, watching movies, listening to (loud!) music, going to rock concerts and learning more about other societies and cultures. Japanese culture is of particular interest to her and she often incorporates Japanese themes and influences into her work.

Shari loves a challenge and has taken part and won the National Novel Writing Month challenge ten times!

Social Media:

Website: http://www.sharisakurai.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sharisakurai
Twitter: @ShariSakurai

#BadMoonRising: LV48 (Cassie Tam Files #3) by Matt Doyle #thriller #LGBT #paranormal

Welcome to the first day of Bad Moon Rising!  If you love reading creepy, spine-tingling tales that make your heart race and have you looking over your shoulder, you’ve come to the right place.  A different indie author will be featured here every day throughout the month of October, so make sure to check back daily – sharing is appreciated!

Although I haven’t gotten to this book yet (in spite of having a copy for several months), I’ve read the first two books in the Cassie Tam Files series, and Cassie is one intelligent, confident, and snarky protagonist.  Trust me when I say she finds herself in some life-threatening situations.  Welcome Matt Doyle!

Would you rather be abducted by aliens or a serial killer?

Hmm…as much as I’d love to see what alien life entails and view the universe from a different angle, I think I’d have to go with serial killer. The thing is, aliens are an unknown quantity, while serial killers are humans. If it’s a choice of a species that’s capable of interstellar travel and abduction or a human, which one are you most likely to be able to escape? So, yeah. I’ll go with serial killer because I’m fairly confident that I’d have a shot at getting out of it alive, if not entirely unscathed.

Would you rather be locked in a haunted insane asylum or lost in the woods with a killer on the loose?

Haunted insane asylum definitely, especially if the person locking me in is supplying some equipment. I have a big interest in hauntings, and would love to have the opportunity to investigate one. Again, there’s a degree of survival probability comparisons here too. Ghosts, on a whole, don’t kill you. Figuring out whether a haunted asylum is actually haunted would be fun, and if it was, it’d be scary but cool.

Would you rather be part of the X-Files team or Ghostbusters?

It’s terrible, but I picked this question because it’s so hard. I loved both the X-Files and Ghostbusters growing up. The more time I spent thinking about it, the harder I found it to choose too. Then, I found the solution…in 2014, IDW Publishing ran a comic series called The X-Files: Conspiracy: Ghostbusters. It followed the Lone Gunmen as they investigated the Ghostbusters. So, it’s a cop out, but I choose both! I’ll be an active Ghostbuster that acts a liaison with the X-Files team.

What is your favorite cover of all your books?  Why?

Crikey, that’s a tough one. I’m going to say LV48, because of all the covers for The Cassie Tam Files, that has been my favourite so far. Natasha Snow does the covers for NineStar Press, and she’s so good. The figure on the front is spot on for the Light Vampire outfit in the book, and the colour effect fits really well with the LV tech abilities. It fits thematically with the other books in the series too, which is a real bonus as it creates some consistency. Outside that, I do want to mention the cover for The Spark Form Chronicles: Collected Edition too. The cover was done by a very talented artist called ValyceNegative, and it captures the feel of the card game in the story really well.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A different type of writing. When I’m not writing/researching for books, I basically spend my time working on my website. The site is a hub for my creative work, and mostly runs as a pop culture blog. I do a lot of anime, comic, and video game reviews. I have a few companies that I work with who supply me review copies of releases too, so they always take priority. Which means spending great deals of time binge watching Blu-rays and DVDs while making copious notes. Then, once the posts are written, edited and queued up, I have to work on SEO and timed social media posts. There’s a lot to get done. Outside that, I love working on cosplay, and I’ll be branching out into video content soon too. Because, you know, who needs rest, right? If I manage to get a break between all that, then I enjoy drinking tea. And sometimes sleeping.

What are you working on now?

The fourth Cassie Tam book is currently going through editing with NineStar Press, and the fifth and final book is with them to review as well. So, those are kinda in the home stretch at the moment, and will bring the series to a close. With those now there, I’ve got another project on the go.

I’m currently working on a sci-fi horror novel. I’ve been so focused on The Cassie Tam Files for the last few years, that I haven’t had the opportunity to write anything else. So, this one is a standalone rather than a series. I’m basically at the stage of doing a lot of research for different things and trying to get the creature design to the best it can be. Basically though, expect space, death, and a sense of building tension. I may well work on both the screenplay and video game adaption at the same time too, as I’ve done both before (for different projects, obviously), and would love to get back into the swing of them.

 

LV48 [The Cassie Tam Files 3]

Sci-Fi / Mystery / Lesbian

New Hopeland City may be the birthplace of Tech Shifter gear, but it isn’t the only place that likes to blend technology with folklore. Now, a new nightmare is stalking the streets…

When PI Cassie Tam is attacked on the way home one night, she expects the police to get involved. What she doesn’t expect is to be forced into acting as bait to lure out a lunatic in a tech-suit that’s literally out for blood. But past actions have consequences, and doing so may be the only way she can get a clean slate from the city’s law makers.

If only that didn’t mean having to face down a wannabe vampire.

NineStar Press – Amazon – Kobo – iTunesSmashwords – Barnes & Noble

Author Bio

Matt Doyle is a UK based author, cosplayer and pop culture blogger. Matt identifies as pansexual / genderfluid, and specialises in hybrid genre stories with a sci-fi grounding and diverse characters. Over the years, Matt has worked in a number of industries, including spending ten years as a professional wrestler, and appearing in multiple national print magazines for various cosplay projects.

 

Website – Twitter – Instagram – Pinterest – Facebook – LinkedIn

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee #bookreview #YA #LGBT

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

I’ve had this book in my TBR for a while, and when I had to be in the car for an extended period, I took advantage of the audio book.  And I wonder why I waited so long to get to this fabulous novel.

Christian Coulson is an outstanding narrator and a perfect voice for Monty.  Monty himself is a mess – narcissistic, oblivious, and generally a danger to himself and others with his actions, but he does it in such a charming way, you can’t help but go along with him.  And Percy – such a sweet, gentle soul who deserves some sort of award for sticking by Monty for so long.  Their Grand Tour is one dangerous situation after another, mostly due to Monty’s poor decisions, but an exciting, nerve-wracking adventure for the reader.  He has so many quotable lines, I could fill a notebook with them.

This is an easy five stars for me, and I only regret it took me this long to read the novel.  If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a heavy dose of humor and adventure, and brash, self-destructive MCs with a good heart, here it is.  It’s a wildly entertaining ride.

 

What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera #bookreview #YA #LGBT

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is? 

The category for one of my book clubs was to choose a book from a genre I don’t usually read.  For me, that’s a YA romance.

I’d read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and adored Simon’s voice, so another Albertalli book was an easy selection for me.  Ben and Arthur are just as charismatic and super nerdy in their own ways.  After their meet cute, they finally locate each other in an amusing way.  I laughed over some of their conversations and first dates – yes, plural – that were awkward and disastrous.  The friendships are done so well, and one of my favorite things about the book, as are the characters’ relationships with their parents.

Yes, it was a bit predictable, but I was so pleased with the ending.  No spoilers here.  What If It’s Us is heartwarming and amusing with characters you’ll fall in love with, and a pleasure to read.

 

 

The Fox, the Dog, and the King (Cassie Tam Files #2) by Matt Doyle #bookreview #LBGT #thriller

New Hopeland City may have been built to be the centerpiece of the technological age, but some remnants of the old world still linger. The tools of the trade have changed, but the corruption remains the same, even in the criminal underworld …

When PI Cassie Tam and her girlfriend Lori try to make up for their recent busy schedules with a night out at the theatre to watch the Tech Shift performer Kitsune, the last thing they expected was for Cassie to get a job offer. But some people are never off the clock, and by the end of the evening, Cassie has been drawn into a mundane but highly paid missing pet case. Unfortunately, in New Hopeland City, even something as simple as little lost dog can lead you down some dark paths.

Until now, Cassie wasn’t aware that there even was a rabbit hole, let alone how far down it goes. 

I read the first book in this series earlier this year, and immediately became a fan of Cassie Tam.  She’s a confident, successful woman in her PI business, but when it comes to romantic relationships – that’s where she’s challenged.

In this book, Cassie is struggling to find her footing with new girlfriend, Lori, and  balance their relationship with her workload.  She’s still charmingly awkward, and while she may not say exactly the right things, she honestly means well.  With encouragement from Lori, she’s also learning to be friends with her ex-girlfriend.

Upon realizing Cassie’s new case involves dog fighting, as an animal lover, I was a bit leery of how much detail would be given and wondered if I might have to skip some pages.  No worries – the fighting happens ‘off-screen’, and my heart was spared.

While the first book in this series focuses more on the fascinating tech and world-building, I felt like I got to know Cassie better in this new novel, and her snark is still one of my favorite qualities.  Action, mystery, twists, and a touch of romance make The Fox the Dog, and the King another intriguing addition to this light sci-fi series.  I wouldn’t saying reading the books in order is a necessity, but it would help with understanding more about the world-building and Cassie’s backstory.

I received a digital copy of this book from the author.

#BadMoonRising: The Fox, the Dog, and the King by Matt Doyle #LGBT #crimethriller #noir

I’ll be at a book event all day and into the evening, so I probably won’t be able to get to comments until tomorrow – happy Friday!

If you haven’t read this author’s Cassie Tam series, I’m strongly recommending you correct that.  Cassie is an intelligent, snarky, and confident protagonist, yet charmingly awkward when dealing with an attractive women.  I also quite like this author’s approach in dealing with werewolves.  Welcome Matt Doyle!

Vampires, ghosts, werewolves, or zombies – which would you least want to meet in a dark alley?

Zombies. Of all of them, they’re the least conversational. Vampires and ghosts? Plenty of opportunity for discussion there. Post-transformation werewolf? Okay, so talking to them is probably out, but tummy rubs and a game of fetch is in. Zombies though? All you can really do is shrug and slowly walk away.

Creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Back when I worked in an office, there was a lot of talk about the place being haunted. I actually ended up writing a massive article on it for the work magazine, because some of the staff that had been there since it opened had a bunch of stories about the building. It was actually one incident that sparked my interest though.

We were open late to take in some last minute paperwork from customers, and three of us had volunteered to work the door. We were taking it in turns to transport deliveries up to the storage room, and in this instance, it was my turn.

So, I loaded this trolley up with a couple of boxes, got into the lift, and headed up to the top floor. About halfway down the hallway, I realized that my shoelace was undone, and squat down to tie it. While I’m doing that, I heard what sounded like footsteps come up from behind me. The weird thing was, I’d shut the door and I definitely didn’t hear it open again, so I figured that someone was just in the break area on the left and had come out of there. I looked back, the footsteps stopped, and there was no one there. When I got up, the light started flashing in the doorway to the storage room too.

Now, I waited for a moment, and didn’t start moving again until I’d checked in the break area and the light had stopped flashing. Realising there was no one there, I just kinda shrugged it off and (quickly) moved the boxes into the designated area. When I passed back up the hallways though, I noticed a really cold spot on the wall towards the end of the storage room.

Later, when I started researching for the article, I found out that the building was built on the grounds of an old theatre. The story was that an actor locked himself in during a seasonal break in performances and hung himself. The rafters where they found him were supposed to be around where the top floor of the office was, potentially in the area that we had the storage room.

If you were paid to spend the night in a haunted house, would you do it?

It would depend on the house. I’m a believer in ghosts, demons etc., and I’ve been in a few haunted places before. The thing is, some of it can be explained relatively easily – I actually touch on that a little in the third Cassie Tam book – but there are always things that can’t easily be explained away. I’m fairly confident that I would be safe in most places, but I’d definitely want to know what had been happening first. And how much I was getting paid, of course.

What’s your work schedule like when you’re writing?

It basically comes down to writing when I can. If that means working on a roadmap for a title, then I’ll be trying to get as much down on paper as possible ready for working on the actual book. When it comes to writing the books, I’ll usually try to write at least one scene in a sitting, sometimes more if things are flowing well. I can’t write in silence though, so I tend to put some music on I the background.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Oh, it really depends what I have in the pipeline. If I’m not working on a book, I still have to write for my website, so not writing at all is rare. Outside that though … I try to complete at least one cosplay project a year. My last one was earlier this year, which was of Tangle the Lemur from IDW’s new Sonic the Hedgehog comics. The comic actually published a picture of it, which was cool. I’m planning to try experimenting with an LED display inside a mask too, so that’ll be fun. I watch a lot of anime when I can too, sometimes off my own back, sometimes because I’ve been sent review discs from distributors, so I’m rarely short of Japanese animation to enjoy. Oh, and I game too. Retro gaming is a constant, with Sonic still holding a special place in my heart. We recently upgraded our PC too though, so I’ve finally started playing Overwatch. That’s been a blast!

What are you working on now?

Quite a bit, actually. LV-48, the third book in my sci-fi/mystery series The Cassie Tam Files is currently going through editing with NineStar Press, so there’s that. I’m also working on the first draft of the fourth book in the series which, all being well, should be the penultimate title in the story arc. Outside that, I’m putting the finishing touches on Mott, the fourth and final book in my sci-fi/game lit series The Spark Form Chronicles. The key with that one is to make it as tight as possible, then get the collected edition put together as an accompaniment. I’m also be working on some rewrites for Teller Tales, which is a four-part YA horror series. I got the rights back for the original novel in September and want to rework the series. It was one of those things where the original publisher just turned out not to be the right home for the work, so once the work is done, I’ll be shipping that around a little.

Title: The Fox, The Dog, and The King (The Cassie Tam Files #2)
Author: Matt Doyle
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 23 July 2018
Genre: Sci-Fi, Crime Noir, Lesbian
Length: 58,000 approximately
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40719106-the-fox-the-dog-and-the-king

When PI Cassie Tam and her girlfriend Lori try to make up for their recent busy schedules with a night out at the theatre to watch the Tech Shift performer Kitsune, the last thing they expected was for Cassie to get a job offer. But some people are never off the clock, and by the end of the evening, Cassie has been drawn into a mundane but highly paid missing pet case. Unfortunately, in New Hopeland City, even something as simple as little lost dog can lead you down some dark paths.

Until now, Cassie wasn’t aware that there even was a rabbit hole, let alone how far down it goes.

Excerpt

The Fox, The Dog, and The King
Matt Doyle © 2018
All Rights Reserved

“I’m sorry, but did you want to get changed before we speak? We’d be happy to leave the room while you get ready. It must be hard work performing in both the TS gear and a kimono thick enough to house projectors without them moving out of line with each other, even if they are the smaller, lightweight models.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Kitsune sighs. “There’s a wireless motion detection system in each hand too,” they add, waving two metallic, clawed paws. “You’ll note that my tails are missing. They don’t yet make multi-tailed suits, you see, and the number is important within the folklore, so we had to find other solutions. The projector tucked under the obi sash keeps the back open nicely, and it allows movement, both in animation and in the actual device, but it’s a bit stronger than the main ones.”
“Meaning that it’s heavier,” I reply.
“Indeed. The way the system works is identical to the tail guidance in regular suits though.”
I frown and Lori clarifies, “Regular Tech Shift gear uses two small wireless touchpads to control tails, one for the bottom half, and one for the top half. They’re embedded in the hand rest of Ink’s front legs. For hybrid-style gear, they usually sit inside the thumb of each hand. It’s the same concept in each one, but animal-style gear allows for bigger movements, while hybrid gear measures micro movements.”
“Which would be rather fiddly, given the level of movement that I require. These are built into the paw pads and are set to register larger movements so that the tails can move in time with the different dance routines and my more flamboyant gestures,” Kitsune explains, demonstrating one of the hand flourishes from the show. They pause then and chuckle. “Ah, but I’m rambling. I am afraid that changing is, contractually speaking, impossible. Will my appearance be a problem?”
“No, I’m used to Tech Shifters…”
Lori laughs and cuts in with, “You are so not used to us yet.”
I laugh quietly, despite myself. The miserable old loner that still lives in my head says I should be angry about that; I’m working after all. But the part of me that was enjoying the evening is far more prominent and reminds me that this was supposed to be Lori’s evening too. I can allow her a small jab or two on that basis. “My early experiences with Tech Shifters were not positive,” I say, addressing Kitsune. “I’m getting better, though. What do you mean by ‘contractually speaking,’ if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Not at all. It is essentially as it sounds. The Kitsune brand is a joint venture between myself and Kevin, and there is a lot of paperwork involved dealing with how the whole thing is to be played out in every mundane situation that you could imagine. What it means is that I can boss Kevin about and make him my dogsbody as much as is required, but at the same time, I must respect his rather brilliant marketing strategies. Part of that means that the mystery of the Kitsune’s true identity is to be protected at all times. As such, I do not meet with anyone without my professional face on. It seems a little strange, I know, but he was previously a historian of certain old-world sporting brands by trade and thought that applying a degree of what he called kayfabe would help give the whole thing a new edge. I can’t say that he was wrong.”
“So, are you Kitsune when you’re around family too?” Lori asks. “Or partners?”
“Oh, I have no time for partners, not with my touring schedule. With family, I can be myself, though Kevin did insist upon them signing a gagging order to prevent them from revealing my identity to anyone who hadn’t signed a similar contract. You should have seen my mother’s face when he brought that up. I honestly thought that the rolling pin she was holding was going to be put to nefarious use. Outside Kevin, even my oldest friends do not know who resides beneath the mask.”
“That must be hard to maintain,” I say.
“Oh yes, I have cover stories and everything. It’s somewhat akin to witness protection if television is to be believed. As far as most know, I am simply a touring stagehand for the great performing fox spirit.”
I nod. “Kitsune, as pleasant as this is, I assume there was a reason that you wanted to see me?”
“Oh yes, of course. I saw the news coverage of your recent success with that Gary Locke character,” they say, and Lori flinches slightly. “As far as local detectives go, there are plenty of them about, but you are certainly the most well regarded. I have actually been in town for a week now, and I am due to remain here for a further two. I am afraid that, over that initial period, I was subject to a crime of the nature I am led to believe the police do not take overly seriously.”
“The police wouldn’t be happy about not knowing your identity, regardless of the crime. If it’s one that they won’t usually touch, that doesn’t leave many possibilities. What are we talking about?”
“It is rather lonely on the road,” they sigh wistfully. “A few months ago, we stopped in Toledo, and I was awoken from a post-performance nap by a clattering outside the tour bus. I wandered out, expecting to find a fan or two hunting autographs, and instead found this charming little thing skulking around the bins. I named him Fish.”
Kitsune produces a phone from their kimono, loads up a photo, and passes it over. It shows a snow white American Shepherd dog sitting on one of the tour bus seats and giving the camera a suspicious look. It’s too big to be a puppy, but certainly not big enough to be fully grown.
“You named your dog Fish?”
“It seems strange, doesn’t it?” Kitsune laughs. “There’s a reason, though.” They take the phone back and enlarge the picture, revealing that the dog’s tail is about half the length it should be. It was easy to miss at normal size because the single colouring made it seem like it was tucked under its legs.
“When I was young, my parents had some rosetail betta fish. One of them was pure white, and it had a habit of nibbling through its tail fin. When we took Fish to the vet, they said that the tail damage, judging by the angle of the marks, was likely self-inflicted. I couldn’t remember what my parents called the fish, so I just stuck with Fish.”
I nod. “And I assume that Fish is now missing?”
“I am afraid so. It happened yesterday, during the early hours. I was woken by a loud bang and found that Fish was gone, and the tour bus door was open.”
“Could Fish have run away?”
“It would have been difficult for him to open the door, but not impossible. I don’t think that he would have run, though. We were lifelines for each other, you see. He kept me company during the day, and when he had nightmares, I comforted him. If he was spooked, he would usually run and hide near my bed. I heard something else too, a van door being slammed shut maybe? And then an engine.”
“So you’re thinking that he was stolen.”
“Honestly? I don’t know. Do you think that you could take the case? How much would it cost?”

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Author Bio

Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.

These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, running his pop culture website, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.

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