Thank you so much for having me at your blog to talk about my new release, the Penhallow Train Incident, Christina.
Griffin Tate, hero of my new mystery romance the Penhallow Train Incident, is a retired Middle Eastern history professor and becomes ensnared in the search for a fictional map to the Queen of Sheba’s tomb. Now, it’s uncertain whether the Queen of Sheba ever existed, or where the land of Sheba was, but according to the Bible, the Ethiopian Book of Kings, and many legends throughout the Middle East, she came from a nation in the south to meet with King Solomon. Some have identified her with Meroe, , whose queens were called Candace by the Greeks. That Nile civilization lasted from the ninth century BC to the fourth century AD, but if she did in fact visit Solomon, it would have been in the tenth century BC. In the Penhallow Train Incident, Meroe and its explorers play an intriguing role in the mystery. Included in the cluster of Sheba map pursuers is the inimitable George Hamdani, whom we meet in this excerpt.
Sweet Cravings Publishing (June 2, 2015)
Romantic Suspense/Mystery, M/F, 2 flames
In the sleepy coastal Maine town of Penhallow, a stranger dies on a train, drawing Rachel Tinker, director of the Penhallow Historical Society, and Griffin Tate, curmudgeonly retired professor, into a spider’s web of archaeological obsession and greed. The victim’s rival confesses that they were both after a map to the Queen of Sheba’s tomb, and with his help they set out to find it. Their plans are stymied, however, when a tug of war erupts between the sheriff and a state police detective who want to arrest the same man—one for murder and one for bank robbery. It falls to Rachel to solve both crimes…and two more murders, if she is to unlock the soft heart that beats under Griffin’s hard crust.
EXCERPT (G): WE MEET GEORGE
As she trudged up the cellar steps to her kitchen, she noticed light coming from under the cellar door and smelled something alien—cigar smoke? When the cat wasn’t at his usual post by the Friskies, Rachel felt a frisson of fear run up her spine. Too many deaths, too many conspiracies floating around. She didn’t need any more mystery. Her throat constricted, she croaked, “Who’s there?”
From the living room came a deep voice. “It’s me, Rachel. Didn’t you see my car?”
“Griffin!” She went in. “I came in the back way and—”
Sitting on the couch was her erstwhile lover, in a beautifully tailored navy suit that rendered her breathless. Next to him sat an enormously fat man, his olive brown face concealed by a magnificent moustache, his small, black eyes both cold and anxious. A large cheroot smoldered in a saucer on the coffee table.
One man jumped to his feet. The other, with much groaning and wheezing, pushed himself off the couch and extended a mammoth paw. Griffin said, “I’d like you to meet George Hamdani, of the Institut Français d’Archéologie. He’d like asylum.”
Hamdani looked from Rachel to Griffin, confusion writ large on his face. Griffin coughed in vexation. “You heard me, Rachel. You do know what asylum means, don’t you? If not, may I direct you to the dictionary?”
Rachel kept her own irritation on a tight leash. “Griffin Tate, I do not appreciate your tone. Nor do I appreciate being treated like some sort of…of church.”
“Church? What are you talking about?”
“You know, sanctuary.”
“Sanctuary is different from asylum.”
“In what way?”
“Well, for one thing…wait a minute. You’re just trying to distract me from the issue at hand. Are you or are you not going to take George here in?”
Rachel surveyed the mountain that was George Hamdani. Perspiration beaded his forehead and he seemed to be having trouble catching his breath. “No.”
Hamdani latched a pleading hand on Griffin’s arm and spoke with an unfamiliar accent. “My dear professor, cannot you be more agreeable? I am in great need of this beautiful lady’s help.”
“I’ll try.” Griffin made a herculean effort and produced something approaching cordiality. “Forgive me…Miss Tinker. I guess I wasn’t making myself very clear. I meant only that George here needs a place to stay for a bit. Until we sort things out.”
His forced smile did not fool Rachel. “Things?”
“Before we get into that, he hasn’t eaten in two days.” Griffin nodded toward the kitchen. “As you may have surmised, he’s not equipped to fast for very long.”
Really? I’ll bet he could go a year. “Certainly. Can I get you something to eat, Mister Hamdani?” With any luck the sarcasm dripping from her lips would puddle under Griffin’s feet and he’d slip in it.
Griffin deftly avoided the trap. “Thanks. I’ll have a sandwich. George? What can Rachel get you?”
Hamdani nodded enthusiastically. “You are very kind, Miss Tinker. I am devastated to be coming to you in this precipitate manner. When my circumstances improve, it will be my very great pleasure to make it up to you in any way you desire.”
Well, when you put it that way…”I may have some chicken salad. I’ll go check.” She opened the refrigerator and took out a Tupperware container, lettuce, and bread. Griffin came in and retrieved two plates from the dish rack. As he carried napkins and glasses from the cupboard, he whispered to Rachel, “Thanks for doing this. You’ll understand why it’s important in a minute.”
She punched him to hide the mushy smile that crowded out her aggravated scowl. “Beer?”
Rachel opened three bottles while Griffin took the sandwiches to the dining room table. One glance at the delicate Duncan Phyfe straight chair and another at Hamdani’s humongous behind and she pushed the ottoman toward him. “You’ll be safer on that.”
Hamdani nodded gravely and sat down.
She waited while the men wolfed down their food. “Okay, spill.”
Griffin wiped his mouth with a napkin. “George is from the Institut—”
“You told me that. He’s not French though, is he?”
The big man beamed. “No, no. Although French is my second language. English, alas, is only my third. No, I’m from the most beautiful country in the world, the land of the spreading cedar, of blue Mediterranean waters, of snow-frosted mountains.”
“And that would be…”
“Lebanon, of course.”
Not one to let a paean throw her, Rachel addressed Griffin. “And?”
“Oh right.” Griffin gulped down his sandwich. “I’ll cut to the chase. He witnessed the murder and is afraid if he comes forward he’ll be considered the prime suspect.”
His eyes popped. “Which…Oh right, I forgot about the woman. No, I mean Omar Masri. George saw him shot.”
“Does he know who did it?”
“No. He was watching Masri through the window and saw him fall.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five continents, the last 30 years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. She has two fabulous grown children, and currently divides her time between the Gulf coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
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OTHER BOOKS BY M. S. SPENCER
Romantic suspense and mystery, they are available in ebook and print from Secret Cravings Publishing and all fine on-line book stores. For more information, visit http://msspencertalespinner.blogspot.com/p/my-books.html