It’s in the Eyes. Author Chalres Toftoy takes his readers into the heart and soul of Lars Neilson a college professor and part time sleuth and his trained alpha team. They are on the trail of a serial killer who kills college students. The one victim has touched Lars in a dark place. The day he saw her lifeless body he looked into her eyes – Now they haunt him. He hears her telling him to “Find Them”.
Charles Toftoy not only tells a good mystery story, he includes the flaws and human traits of his characters. Mr Toftoy is one indie author to pay attention to.
His book is a five star read.
By Julia Dudek
Reviewed by Fran Lewis Author
Angelique Mc Court feels isolated in her own world and her own life. She has no friends, her parents are too busy to be part of her life and her career choice is one that she is unsure of. Living alone in her new apartment she feels happy that she will no longer have to share it with another medical student. But, her life was about to change forever when she comes home one and finds someone in her apartment. Bernadette was a timid, shy and insecure young girl whose parents sent her to New York to attend Bernard Medical School and become a doctor. Staying with Angelique little does Bernadette know that things were about to change for her and not for the better.
Angelique has a photographic memory. She can read an entire manual, textbook, map of a city and streets and remember then word for word after one reading. She does not have trouble remembering anything and faces and figures and entire medical books are easier recorded in her brain. But, Bernadette has to study and she and Angelique are total opposites and yet become best friends. Therefore making what happens all the more difficult and horrifying for Angelique.
When Winter Break comes Angelique encourages Bernie as she called her to go to a club and celebrate. This would be her last one. Leaving the club, Bernadette is brutally raped and murdered and the assailant leaving her memory totally devoid of the incident knocks out Angelique. But, the worst has yet to come. Into the mix we have Detective Ben Marsden whose job it is to solve the case but she us the only witness, Not thinking if the consequences to herself or anyone else, she ventures out twice into the night to revisit the scene of the crime and both times is followed by an unknown person. In the first incident the man is trying to help her but the second time, she is carrying a knife and while he attacks her the knife in her bag kills him and she shows no remorse at all.
Getting closer to the detective could prove dangerous as she unfolds a plot so diabolical that the reader will have chills run through them and shudder at what she plans to do. Avenging Bernadette’s death is her goal and going after an unknown assailant is her plan. Trying to piece together the memory of that night, Angelique goes in search of men who she feels deserve death. Going out in the middle of the night she tries to recreate in her mind the murder, seeing Bernadette’s face as she does and listening to a voice within her controlling her every thought and move. Revenge is the answer and she will get it at all costs. But, one man might stand in her way. Seeking vengeance and revenge for the murder of the best friend, her life takes a downward fall and her mindset drastically changes. How does this beautiful and bright beauty queen, with a photographic memory seek out the truth and hunt down a bloodthirsty killer, demon and where does she find him? As the anger, ire, rage and danger she encounters fill the pages of this thriller, Angelique creates a dangerous and heartless plan to hunt the killer, who is on the hunt for her. Her goal is to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that are hiding deep in the recesses of her memory and hopefully come out in order to solve the murder of her friend. Trying to enter the mind of this deranged killer, she becomes no better than him.
How far will someone go to protect the person that they care about the most? How much farther will Angelique go to avenge the death of her best friend? What happens when she meets Ben’s partner? Will she pay for her sins? The ending has a major twist that you will never see coming? Will she stay in Medical school or will she take a different road? Some of these questions are answered and others will be when Julia Dudek writes the sequel. This is her first novel and I can’t wait to read and review the next one.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
The Last Ember by Daniel Levin
Reviewed by Fran Lewis, Author
Imagine what would happen if there was someone who had the power to obliterate all of the records, information and history of a group of people. What would happen if everything about these people and contribution to history, culture, economy and more were totally wiped out? What would happen if at the center of this were several different groups each with their own private agenda. One group wants to erase any information or trace of Judaism and Christianity. One group wants to find out that a specific artifact belongs: the Italian Government or a local antiquities dealer. Another group wants to discredit the expert witness for the Italian government and return the map to their client.
Beneath the Coliseum in Rome there are many who are excavating the ruins to find a specific artifact. One is a man so dangerous that he would do anything, including murder to get at these ruins and find what he is looking for. Another is a corrupt police officer or carbineer that is working with the investigating officer to supposedly find out who is doing these illegal excavations beneath the Coliseum and destroying what remains below. One group is very methodical and the other totally destructive. One is lead by a police office that wants answers. The other is lead by a man called Salah-al-din who will stop at nothing and answers to no one.
This brings me to my review of The Last Ember by Daniel Levin. Jonathan Marcus is an antiquities lawyer working for a major firm. He is called to Rome to present evidence to the contrary that the two pieces of a map that have been found belong to the client his firm is representing and not to the Italian Museum.
What are they looking for and what is the reason for the illegal excavations will certainly surprise you and illuminate the meaning of the words found on the artifact when Jonathan looked at the 2 fragments of the map more closely: Titus’s Error. It all started with 2 stone fragments that were supposedly one to the Capitoline Museum. The Italian Cultural Museum stated that they were stolen and need to be returned. In the mix a preservationist who is investigating an illegal excavation in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount.
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish general who defended Jerusalem and was caught by the Romans. He handed over information to help them get through Jerusalem’s city walls. The question is whether he was a political realist or a murderous traitor.
These two fragments of the Forma Urbis cover the area of the Colosseum. Bumping into an old friend who is an expert in the Kabala, he soon learns from him that the inscription is from the Hebrew is a riddle. What do the daughter of the kind of Judaea, Aliterius as Jewish state satirist, Epaphroditus a published author and others have in common? What do sacred trees have to do with the illustration that they found? The last drawings found referred to a pagan image. Worshipping trees was a pagan ritual but that was not what they were all searching and looking for. Early monotheists altered the image of clay trees to look like a lamp with seven branches. If you read the Book of Exodus you will learn that what they were looking for was a menorah. The relief under the Colosseum is a direct reference to the menorah of the Temple’s inner sanctuary called the Tabernacle. They are all looking for the Tabernacle Menorah, which is the sacred lamp itself, which was fashioned by King Herod in 8 feet of sold gold and remained lit in the inner sanctum of the Temple of Jerusalem.
Here is where it gets really interesting. The Roman historian Procopius reported that Romans carried the menorah shoulder high through the streets of Rome. Next, one of their generals presents the menorah to a court in Constantinople. However, every city that possessed this sacred lamp has been left in ruins. First Jerusalem, Rome then Carthage were burnt to the ground. What does Flavius Josephus have to do with all of this? The picture shows the menorah but the dimensions are wrong and what they realize is that Titus did not have the real one. The Romans stole a fake and the menorah on the Arch of Titus is a copy? But how? The menorah stolen from Jerusalem over 2000 years ago was not the original in the first place and that was Titus mistake as referred to on the 2 fragments that Jonathan carefully inspected and his firm told him to forget he ever saw.
Salah ad-Din is digging under the Temple Mount in to find this menorah and extinguish its light or flame. Flavius Josephus had the real menorah all along and he was able to escape with it through a hidden gate carrying the ember. The last flame on the menorah’s westernmost branch. This lamp needed to be relit continually and never to burn out. The flame was an eternal flame that had special significance. Josephus was after the fire. The flame of the menorah is a perpetual fire and part of our modern traditions in our synagogues, churches and many other houses of worship to keep the sanctuary’s ark lit at all times. If one destroys the menorah than you destroy a people whose lineage and is a symbol of the eternal promise that “ Abrahams’ descendants would number like the stars of heaven and sands on the seashore.” Their bloodline would be eternal like the flame.
In all of this is another faction called the Waqf Authority, which is a Muslim Organization, which has been in charge of the Temple Mount with the same goal, to find and get the menorah and then destroy it? Their goal: erase the ancient history of Israel and destroy the Jewish people.
The author even deals with the strife and conflicts between Israel and the Muslim authorities regarding the excavations in the Temple Mount area. If the past can be erased so can Israel’s claim the land and to existence be questioned and erased too.
Even more complex is a corpse that was found by the police in an abandoned warehouse. Along with the body they found some old manuscripts related to Flavius Josephus. Comandandte Profeta dealt with recovering stolen antiquities. As he looked through the documents or parchments he saw orange, luminescent coils from an old space heater in a dented steel box and realized that something was not right. The documents were doused with a heat source and would explode. Before leaving the warehouse he did manage to get a fingerprint of the hand and a lock of the hair in order to try and identify the body.
Looking at the picture of the body and the warehouse he realizes that Professor Cianari was involved in some way and took the pictures. The location was the gladiator’s barracks, which was where the explosion had taken place.
This novel takes place in the course of one day and reverts back and forth between Emili and Jonathan and Chandler, to the police and of course Salah-ad-din and don’t forget the corrupt police officer who trying to them off the scent.
Illegal excavations, renovations in along the eastern wing of Saint Per’s in Chains church and this novel breathes intrigue, murder, suspense and a lot of history for the reader to understand and follow. What do the Maccabees have to do with this church and the Tabernacle Menorah and how does everything intertwine; you will have to read and find that out for yourself. Plus where does Josephus fit into the Maccabean heritage?
Beth and Alex Frey both leave their jobs in Michigan on a sabbatical to travel around the United States for an undetermined time. They try to pretend that they left their jobs for the fun of adventure but the underlying reason was that Beth had been stalked by a mad man and Alex wanted to get her away from the threat.
Leaving their jobs and family behind does not eliminate their problems or fears. The stalker seems to be following them on their travels. How does he know where they are? Why does he think he has to pursue his harassment of Beth now that she is no longer involved with his case?
Each time the couple thinks the past is behind them and they get involved in their travels, something happens to shake their peace of mind.
As if they didn’t have enough to worry about, their best friends, Joyce and Kevin, seem to be bringing their own problems into the Frey’s life. There is also an underlying secret that Alex and Joyce share that could rock the foundation of his and Beth’s relationship.
The threats start escalating and where there were just innuendoes before, now the threats are getting physical and deadly. Putting the pieces together it finally dawns on Alex that the stalker is not who they were so sure it was. By the time he figures this out he knows that Beth is alone in a remote place with the stalker who he now knows intends to be a killer. Can he get to her in time?
About the Author
Bobbie Altschul has published short stories in the past but Gypsy Escape is her first published novel. She has traveled extensively in order to research the locations in the novel. As well as all of the travel to give her book credibility she was also involved with the Michigan Circuit Courts for over fifteen years and was herself harassed by a mad man as was Beth in Gypsy Escape.
After experiencing the 2004 Hurricanes in Florida, Bobbie and her husband, Hank, have been living and traveling in their motor home with their animals: a dog, a cat and a parrot.
Bobbie is presently preparing a second novel, Delusional, for publication as well as being in the midst of writing the second novel in the Gypsy series.
Bobbie has dedicated this novel to her beloved Jacques Cousteau, the inspiration for the Hootmaan character. We love you and miss you.
Gypsy queen: Adventure everywhere for traveling
By Peg McNichol
Holland Sentinel contributor
Posted Aug 18, 2009 @ 08:58 PM
Bobbie Altschul sees stories everywhere
she looks. No surprise, given the adventures she’s had
over the last decade traveling to 41 states in a recreational
But Altschul, 60, did more than have experiences. She kept
journals and sent lively notes to friends. Some of those
notes went into Altschul’s first book, “Gypsy Escape.” The
new novelist is hoping to convince area book shops to host
events where she can read, sign, and most importantly, sell
her first book.
“Gypsy” tells the story of a couple, Beth and Alex Frey, who
embark on their own RV adventure — but they are running
away from trouble: Beth’s dangerous stalker. Altschul
thought of the story 10 years ago. She worked
intermittently to craft the tale, struggling over dialogue.
“They can’t talk like me,” she said. But the Freys visited
many of the RV campgrounds the Altschuls did.
A voracious reader (at 14, she devoured “Gone with the
Wind”), Altschul tried her hand at writing decades ago,
when she wasn’t busy raising her three daughters.
“In high school, whenever there was a contest, I entered,”
she said, smiling and shaking her head.
In 1986, the Christian teen magazine “Alive!” published her
first short story. In 2001, she had a second short story
published in “True Love” magazine.
Her then-husband wasn’t impressed. The couple divorced.
She married second husband Hank Altschul nearly 20
years ago. He’s a former truck driver, and beams when he talks about his wife’s foray into the publishing world.
“She’s always on the computer,” said Hank Altschul, grinning. “I wake up and hear the ticking of her computer keys.”
She kept the novel under wraps at first, but let him read the final draft. He encouraged her to find a publisher, so
Bobbie mailed the manuscript out, again and again. Sometimes the rejection arrived within weeks; others took as
much as six months.
“Hank got more upset about it than I did,” Bobbie Altschul said. “He’s the one who said I should publish it myself.”
They paid “around $1,000,” Bobbie said, to AuthorHouse, an online publishing company. That basic package did not
include editing or marketing.
“All the typos are mine,” Bobbie said, laughing.
She has worked hard promoting “Gypsy Escape,” its sequel, and “Delusional,” which Bobbie Altschul wrote while
working on “Gypsy.”
The Altschuls understand business and printing. They co-owned Litho-Tech Printing in Holland, but sold it 10 years
ago. They’d planned on boating through the river systems to the Atlantic ocean, then to the inlet separating Port
Charlotte and Punta Gorda in Florida. They planned to live on the boat for about two years, buy a business and
eventually buy a home. Some plans didn’t work out.
The boat sold just days after they put it on the market. The Altschuls quickly bought a home and a shop specializing
in interior design and silk flowers.
In 2004, just after they’d expanded the shop inventory, along came three major storms: Hurricane Charley, which
destroyed their shop; then Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne.
The Altschuls bought a used Winnebago, sold their house and moved what furniture they wanted to keep to Bobbie’s
parents’ Florida home. In 2005, the couple hit the road with a talking Quaker parrot named Chickadee Charlie for
company and a red 2004 Saturn in tow. Along the way, they rescued a small dog, named Scuba; domesticated a feral
cat, which may be part bobcat, named Snorkel. The Altschuls visited 54 national monuments in 41 states. Bobbie
wrote her observations about each one.
“Every campground has its own personality. You meet a lot of interesting people at an RV campground,” she said. “I
wish we could have done this with the kids, when they were little.”
She jotted down some memories of her 15 years as a deputy Friend of the Court in three West Michigan counties,
Branch, Ottawa and Allegan. She saw the best and worst in human behavior while helping sort out divorce and
custody issues. From time to time, she’ll get a phone call or note from someone who wants to thank her. One
unhappy client, however, expressed his displeasure by stalking and threatening her. He landed in jail. Altschul said
some of her court experiences helped add authentic drama to “Gypsy” but the story is not based on any specific
people or situations.
“The character in the book is not that person. No. Some of the minor things have happened,” she said. “Obviously it’s
But every spot the Freys stop is a place the Altschuls visited.
For the next two or three weeks, the Altschuls will be camping in West Michigan, hoping to sell a few more books —
the Winnebago sports a poster-sized version of the “Gypsy” book cover. When they return to the road, taking turns at
the wheel, they’ll head west. Maybe Utah. Maybe Oklahoma. Bonnie Altschul can’t wait to write about wherever she
goes, weaving each location into her characters’ adventures.
“Gypsy Escape” is available in electronic, paperback and hardcover versions from Authorhouse, Amazon, Barnes and
Noble and other booksellers, or can be purchased directly from the Altschuls by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or
by calling (941) 286-1203. Prices range from $3.95 to $13.70.
An excerpt from “Gypsy Escape” in which
Beth and her dog, Hootmaan, confront a stranger
The rustling in the trees sounded closer with each passing minute. Sweat broke out on
Beth’s brow as she rounded a bend that she thought was not too far from the
campground but was closer to the tree line. Her heart skipped several beats when from
around a huge tree a shadow emerged and a large deer leaped in front of her and
plunged into the river and began to swim across. Beth had to laugh out loud as she put
her hands on her knees and tried to catch her breath.
She had calmed herself, slipped (her gun) back into her waistband and her heart rate
was back to normal when she felt a huge rough hand on her shoulder. Hootmaan let
out a yelp as she spun around to be face to face with the largest man she had ever
seen. He was taller than Alex so he was over six feet tall. She looked into the
menacing grey eyes and the thick beard and seemed to be frozen in place. She had
forgotten for a moment that she had the gun behind her back and she spun around
and away from the hand that rested on her shoulder, her hand searching for the
Almost tripping on Hootmaan’s leash she brought the gun up and pointed it at the
man. “Back off,” she yelled.
‘Victor stepped into the elevator shaft and looked up. “This should make a good shot,” he said motioning to the video tech. The elevator light gleamed on his distinguished sweep of dark hair touched with gray. The cameraman, standing just outside the shaft for a better angle, pointed his camcorder up. Ellen moved closer and craned her neck.’
‘The Emperor Augustus hurtled down, crashing against the side of the shaft as he went. Victor, Susan, and Ellen vanished in the maelstrom of smashed plaster. There was a bone-jarring thud… then an awful silence.’
‘Victor’s crumpled upper body was partially hidden under the wreck of the cable car and chunks of plaster. One dead museum director.’
Lisa Donahue is the Senior Curator at Wigglesworth Hall. The museum is in the process of being moved to a new facility and with the death of Museum Director Victor Fitzgerald she now finds herself in complete charge of the move. But, what Lisa and police Sergeant Bruce McEwan want to know, ‘was the breaking of the cable used to lower the statue of Augustus through the elevator shaft an accident or murder?’
Lisa’s problems with the move are increased when a former boss Valerie Albrecht is hired to replace Victor. Valerie is a vicious woman who steps on anyone and everyone to make herself look good. She enjoys inflicting fear in her employees and is known by those who have dealt with her in the past, to make last minute changes to exhibits knowing it will be almost impossible to accomplished. And she is happiest when she can belittle those who failed her orders, especially if there is an audience present to hear her raving.
But Valerie isn’t the end of Lisa’s problems. Artifacts are starting to disappear and Lisa believes they are being taken by someone in-house. But who and how are they getting them out of the museum?
I’ve enjoyed following Lisa as she solves the mystery of Victor’s death and as she discovers the identity of the museum thief. The Fall of Augustus turned out to be a real page turner that I very much enjoyed.
And oh yeah, did I mention that Lisa is also faced with determining who has been taking bodies and attempting to turn them into mummies?
To Hell in a Handbasket – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat
What will a wife do to protect her husband? In A Real Basket Case Claire sets out to prove that she didn’t sleep with her physical trainer and her husband didn’t kill him when he found him straddling her in bed. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to prove her and his innocence.
What will a mother do to protect her only daughter? In To Hell in a Handbasket Claire again refuses to let anything nor anyone stand in her way to prevent her daughter Judy from being , or worse… murdered.
Claire, Rodger and Judy Hanover are on a much needed ski vacation in Breckenridge, CO. Judy’s boyfriend, Nick Contino, his mother, father and sister Stephanie have joined them. What was supposed to be a relaxing couple of weeks went sour quickly when Stephanie has a skiing accident that takes her life. Was it really an accident? Claire believes not. And to prove her theory she tracks down the only person that actually saw what really happened. The information given to her by this young man not only puts herself into danger, it also makes Judy the killer’s next target.
I stayed on the edge of my seat as I followed Claire and Detective Owen Silverstone as they uncover the mystery of Stephanie’s death. As they uncover what really goes on behind closed doors in the Contino’s study. As they fit the puzzle pieces together after finding that the Russian mob is heavily involved with everything that has taken place, which includes a plan to kidnap Judy.
I loved Beth Groundwater’s style of writing when I read A Real Basket Case. After reading To Hell in a Handbasket I can have to say that “what I thought couldn’t get better did.” For a real mystery teaser, I recommend both books, in the order they were written… A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket.
Dispel The Mist – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat
‘Her next dream was a nightmare. Tempe knew she was on the reservation, but it was different looking as familiar places often are in dreams. The buildings all seemed dilapidated and badly in need of repair through she couldn’t see them clearly because of a swirling grayish-yellow mist surrounded everything. Jagged black mountain peaks poked through the clouds. Though she was alone a feeling of menace was so prevalent, she could almost smell it.
Without warning, a large man who resembled Cruz Murphy stepped out of the fog. He held up a hand, palm out. “Stop. Danger ahead.”‘
Lilia Quintera is a Tulare County Supervisor who won her election due to her being a descendant of both Mexican and Native American. She was a big help in bringing a casino to the reservation, allowing jobs and a better life for those living on the reservation as well as the city. But when she is put into a position to support the proposal of a new hotel with a golf course and all the amenities that go with it, she refuses to conform to their plans without more research on it’s effect on the community. So when Lilia Quintera dies from what seems to be natural causes, Tempe Crabtree is brought in to help gather clues and evidence pending the autopsy.
Who would want Lilia dead? Her husband Wade, who is several years younger as well as a ladies man and may gain from her death through inheritance is a suspect. Her sister Connie, who’s daughter Suzy at the advice of Lilia, will be moving to a residential facility called Shadow Hills, Shadow Hills will house young ladies who are mentally challenged. Plus, feelings of jealousy for all of the decisions as to the welfare of Suzy might make Connie want to see Lilia dead, making her a suspect. There is Duane Whitney who lives in the neighborhood where Shadow Hill will open. He feels it will bring down the value of his property, so with Lilia publicly supporting the facility may make him want her dead, making him another suspect. And then there are the Native Americans who feel that Lilia should support the building of the Hotel, feeling it will bring more opportunities for the reservation. Many of them can be considered suspects.
Follow Tempe as she sorts through the facts and gossip, as she encounters the hostility of those on her on her list of suspects, as she sorts through the clues hidden in her own dreams and as she tries to understand the role that Hairy Man plays into it all . Is he real or just a fable?
I’ve enjoyed this book so much, with it’s mystery as well as history, that I find myself wanting to learn even more about the myths and fables of the American Indians.
Winds of Gold by Jessa Lee Scott (pseudonym) synopsis: Kyndra Bailey inherits Faircliffe Plantation and is caught in an intricate web of secrets and deception when her brother disappears and her uncle spends her inheritance. With the loss of Faircliffe looming, Kyndra is forced to ask for help from handsome and mysterious Tyler Andrews. From antebellum Richmond to the Santa Fe Trail, Kyndra and Tyler are entangled in danger, adventure, and passion as they search for Kyndra’s brother and a fortune in gold, silver, and jewels. Knowing that Tyler must return to Texas and Kyndra will return to her beloved Faircliffe, their love seems doomed from the start. Yet as the clues draw them ever deeper into the mystery of Beale’s Treasure, their passion cannot be denied. The treasure may be lost forever but will Kyndra and Tyler be lost to each other forever or is their love strong enough to keep them together? According to legend, Thomas Jefferson Beale and twenty-nine Virginians left Lynchburg, VA, in 1817 to hunt on the Western plains. They found gold and silver north of Santa Fe, and two loads were taken back to Virginia to be buried in Bedford County. Each shipment was to be hidden until all of the treasure was transported and could be divided among the men in the party. During his second trip to Lynchburg in 1822, Beale left a letter and three coded messages with Robert Morris, an innkeeper in Lynchburg, with instructions that Morris should read the papers and act accordingly if Beale didn’t return within ten years. When Beale failed to reappear, Morris and others subsequently attempted to break the codes. One message has been deciphered and it lists the contents of the buried treasure, which would be worth millions of dollars in today’s market. The second and third messages supposedly give the names of those in Beale’s party, and the precise location of the treasure in Bedford County, Virginia. These unbroken messages have stumped both experts and amateurs; even the most sophisticated computers have failed to produce the key. Much has been written about Beale’s Treasure. For more than a hundred years people from far and wide have descended upon Bedford County to search for a lost fortune of gold, silver and jewels. Believers can find ample evidence to support the story while skeptics can find discrepancies that convince them it is a hoax. There is a national organization of people who are working on those two coded messages.
Self Defense for Survival: The Road to Empowerment by Leslie Bowman Synopsis Women have all sorts of excuses for not learning to defend themselves. Among them are not having enough time, not being in good shape physically, having various medical conditions, not wanting to learn martial arts, and the worst of all-IT CAN’T HAPPEN TO ME. This book includes statistics that show how easily violence can and does happen and it also teaches awareness in order to prevent violence. Sometimes people become victims of violent acts no matter how careful or aware of potential danger they may be. In cases like this, self-defense survival strategies can save a life. The prevention strategies and self-defense survival techniques in this book are suitable for women and children of all ages. With education and awareness, you can increase your self-confidence and learn to prevent and avoid potential violence attacks.