Category Archives: Book Reviews

Chanticleer Books Reviews Greylock – 5 STARS

 

 

5 STAR review at Chanticleer Book Reviews

Greylock by Paula Cappa – Mystery/Thriller/Paranormal

Rating:
Title: Greylock
Author(s): Paula Cappa
Genre(s): Fiction, Ghosts, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Mystery, Occult, Paranormal Romanticism, Supernatural, Thriller/Suspense, Thriller/Suspense
Publisher: Crispin Books (2016)
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What’s in the music we create? When we say it lives – when we say it breathes – when, for one fleeting moment it seems to bridge the gap between one soul and another – what kind of existence does it assume? What does it feel? What does it think? What does it want? Such questions may reside in theory for most, but not for piano virtuoso Alexei Georg in Paula Cappa’s Greylock.

Hot off the release of what will surely be his magnum opus, October, Alexei has achieved the level of success found only in his wildest dreams. Hailing from a Russian family steeped in musical artistry, he has transcended all those before him and become something they never could: a legend. And that’s all thanks to October.

There’s only one problem: he didn’t compose it.

And that would have been fine for him, taking credit for pages found in an antique chest belonging to one of his ancestors, if it weren’t for the demons it conjured every time he plays those chords. If it weren’t for the shadowy figure haunting him, punishing him, coming for him. October may have surfaced through the Georg bloodline, but there is something far more sinister and mysterious hidden in each note that is threatening to break free from Alexei’s control.

Alexei wants nothing more than to move on, but the past will not let him. Add to his troubles the threat of fraud exposure from those he’s closest to and a string of grisly murders within the Boston music community that brings the police knocking on his door, he can only come to realize just how much October is at the center of it all. He’ll have to confront three generations worth of Georg family demons to overcome this evil before it claims everything he has and hopes to achieve.

Using music as a central motif and life force to drive the narrative, Paula Cappa defies the limitations of the written word and adds a new dimension in storytelling through the personification of music. The descriptions being so richly layered and animated, one might just imagine these nightmares dwelling in the punctuation, awaiting their chance to come alive themselves.

With just enough integral characters in place to create conflict, Cappa creates a compelling mystery that allows the reader to virtually hear the machinations of the plot grind away before they inevitably crank up to a satisfying crescendo.

By Tim MacAusland
March 2017

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Filed under Book Reviews, crime stories, fiction, ghost story blogs, horror blogs, literary horror, murder mystery, mysteries, paranormal, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, short story blogs, supernatural music, supernatural mysteries, supernatural thrillers

Smoke Is Fatal to Evil Spirits

March 13, 2017

Ancient wisdom tells us that smoke is fatal to evil spirits. Have you ever burned sage to drive away negative energies? Ever burned the blooms of a Smoke Tree?  The flame flies in wild circles. The scent, sweet and spicy. Christians burn incense to purify churches and altars; they scatter the smoke in all directions, hence the expression ‘holy smoke.’ Capnomancy is form of divination, a reading of the shapes of smoke as a sign of what will happen soon. I love candlelight and bonfires, watching the smoke curl into haunting shapes, light-winged, like an Icarian bird or …

 

Or like a firehawk …

 

Let’s get dreamy for a moment. Henry David Thoreau said “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”

Come with me. Move into sleep, as through a veil. Let the dream do its dreaming.

Enter into a night journey where airy Smoke Trees grow.

Sit down beneath the fluffy grayish puff-blooms. Rest on their vanishing shadows.

Are you breathing a bit of smoke yet? Inhale the alluring scent and let it take you into the beyond.

In the distance is a cemetery garden. Do you see it?

Curling grass, ferns and flowers, flights of hawks are soaring.

 

 

The weight of the air is suddenly cool and white.  A strange woman is walking the paths. Will you follow her through the Smoke Trees?

 

 

Kip Livingston carried a jar of sea lavender through the cemetery paths high above the sea. Raymond Kera followed but kept several paces behind. Some of the headstones were scoured white from salt winds. Smoke trees interrupted the skyline with their frothy grey plumes and deep purple leaves—must have been twenty of them among the graves. Raymond remembered smoke trees from childhood when he was sent to stay with his aunt in upstate New York for a month. He had been permitted to pluck one bloom and spent the morning blowing away the seed heads one at a time. As they floated off, he saw them as little angel ghosts with glowing heads. He had chased the smokey ghosts all the way to the street, giving his aunt the scare of her life.

Just at that moment, he desired to yank down a plume and do the same. Ridiculous, but tempting.

He watched Kip approach a headstone and place the lavender on the grass right under the engraved name  of her grandfather Achab David Ze’leim. She stood there all soft and flowing in her summer dress with the dull sun at her back. Her lips moved slowly; she fingered her necklace, cast her eyes down to the earth, tucked her head as if listening. Then suddenly her hand swung down like a broken paw.

Giving her plenty of privacy, Raymond sat on a nearby bench. He let the puffs of the smoke trees soothe him. He might have closed his eyes, if only to escape all of what happened that morning. That claw. Did she dismember the demon? Or was it another illusion? Or another dream of her evil firehawk?  Are her dreams so powerful that when she opens her eyes, when she becomes awake, the images are realized?

Kip waved him over. “I was thinking of Aunt Agatha, just now.”

“Is she buried here too?”

“Her ashes are buried in the garden at Abasteron House. Aunt Agatha was the sweetest woman. She wanted to tell me the secret. But she said it would frighten me. So, she took it with her to her grave.”

“A family secret?”

“I don’t know. Admitting you even have a secret half reveals it, don’t you think?”

Kip slipped her hand into the crux of Ray’s arm and hung on to rest her face on his shoulder. “Grandfather died bravely, you know. He walked the beach every day at noon, even up to the last week he died. He especially loved the winter sun.”

Raymond gave a nod to be polite. Achab David Ze’leim’s headstone was a massive hewn square rock with a lion claw as a mounting at each corner. Simple lettering. Name, dates, and the old man’s last words: Every word emanating from God creates an angel.

“You think that’s true, Kip?”

“What?”

He pointed to the epitaph.

“Why not? It’s from the Talmud. You believe in angels, don’t you, Ray?”

“I do.”

“And demons?”

“You mean your demon?”

“It’s not my demon, Ray.”

“Well, it’s your dream.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Then whose dream is it?”

She looked away. “The dream is dreaming itself.”

“Why would you think that?” Thunder rolled over the smoke trees. The puffs on the trees didn’t look so angelic just then—more like dried up cobwebs about to crack.

Kip answered after a moment. “Grandfather.”

 

 

Come into the Night Sea Journey with Kip and Raymond. Walk among the cemetery smoke trees. Angels. Demons. Be awake in the dream as it dreams itself into reality.

An Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner, 2015.

Amazon.com

Amazon UK 

Barnes & Noble.com

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U.S. REVIEW OF BOOKS  “Stunning and absorbing plot on par with, if not better than, a Dan Brown novel.”

SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW ★★★★★ “NIGHT SEA JOURNEY is like reading a Dan Brown book with a wicked twist: it has real demons. Readers will be taken on a continual thrill ride, impossible to put down, a fast-paced thriller.”

READERS’ FAVORITE REVIEWS ★★★★★ “Marvelous, atmospheric and, oh, so very, very good. Profound, vibrant, and intensely moving. Highly recommended. Brava!”

Published by Crispin Books

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Greylock, Review at Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

‘Greylock’: Thriller With Local Ties

For my Massachusetts fans, in case you missed this in the Berkshire Eagle. I just discovered this review this week. I’m planning a trip to Pittsfield, MA for a book reading and signing in June 2017.  This review by Colin Harrington, The Bookstore in Lenox, Mass.

 

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‘Greylock’: Thriller with local ties perfect for Halloween reading

By Colin Harrington, Special to The Eagle, October 2016.

Suspense, romance, classical music, and the supernatural all converge at the summit of Mount Greylock in Paula Cappa’s thrilling new novel of murder and the occult, “Greylock.”

In 2007, Alexei Georg as sonar technician aboard the USS Los Angeles submarine, pinged beluga whales in the White Sea off Russia and was transported in time and space through their whale song from half a world away. Returning to Boston and his life as a concert pianist, he receives a mysterious newspaper clipping about the same whales gathering and singing seven years earlier on the same date, Sept. 9.

It becomes the perfect, even destined theme for writing a symphony, a whale symphony. His career had already risen to notice when he performed his October sonata, a piece he claimed to have written, when in fact he had discovered it, albeit unsigned, in the sea chest of his Russian father, Aleksandr Georg.

The story had always been hazy but the music of the October sonata was sensational and he was frequently asked to perform it at major venues. Encouraged by his mentor, Dr. Leed Mensah of Wheatley College, Alexei becomes a candidate for a prestigious and lucrative Essex Institute Endowment award to write his whale symphony at the Greylock Music Hall at the top of Mount Greylock. Alexei manages to get back to the White Sea by Sept. 9, 2014, to commune again with his whales from aboard the Belyy Ved’ma with the shadowy but intuitive captain Gleb and the powerful shaman/translator Shemiossa. Alexei has his most intense telepathic encounter with the Beluga whales this time and is more determined than ever to write his symphony on Greylock. Trouble brews however, when his wife, Carole Ann, whom he has just left because she does not support his composing dreams, is murdered, and he becomes the prime suspect for her murder and three other related “slasher” murders. He soon realizes too that the October sonata is cursed and he finds that he cannot rid himself of the Russian river demon, Varlok, who demands a terrible payment for ownership of the music.

Pursued relentlessly by Boston Homicide’s Detective Violet Rufft, Alexei is by turns supported and betrayed by his friends and his cousin, Josef, with whom he grew up in Plymouth, and with whom he has a bitter rivalry in the concert hall.

Strengthened by his love for TV meteorologist Lia Marrs, and wizened to the soul-shattering seductions of great music, Alexei confronts Varlok in mortal combat on Mount Greylock after a visitation from Shemiossa on the trails that lead him to musical triumph. When he believes he is freed of evil, Alexei composes the greatest music of his life, by his own talent.

This novel is terrific and a perfect book to curl up with on Halloween.

Colin Harrington is the Events Manager at The Bookstore* and Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox, Mass. 

 

Read the review at the Berkshire Eagle News, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

 

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Chanticleer Book Award Winner, 2015

 
 “I’ve not seen anything like it since Hitchcock and duMaurier

gave us The Birds. Greylock is a stunning masterpiece.”

Five Stars from Veteran Book Reviewer Don Sloan.

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Print editions available at the following:

Bascom Lodge, Summit of Mt. Greylock, Lanesboro, MA

The Bookstore,* Lenox, MA

Red Lion Inn Gift Shop, Stockbridge, MA

The BookLoft, Great Barrington, MA

Ebook and trade paperback:  Amazon.com    Barnes&Noble.com  itunes.apple.com

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Review of Greylock – Five Stars from Don Sloan

Five Stars from Veteran Book Reviewer Don Sloan:

“I’ve not seen anything like it since Hitchcock and duMaurier gave us The Birds. Greylock is a stunning masterpiece of innovative horror. Award-winning author Paula Cappa delivers a virtuoso performance in fiction, with characters you’ll care deeply about and sinister evil that will trouble your sleep for a long time to come.

Composer and classical concert pianist Alexei Georg has a dream: to put the music of the beluga whales off Russia’s coast into a musical composition for piano and symphony orchestra. Only two things are stopping him: a shrewish wife and a black apparition that haunts his recent performances. His lover, radio meteorologist Lia Marrs, wants very much to believe that Alexei will be successful in his bid to divorce the diabolical Carole Anne, but his soon-to-be ex-wife has a secret she’s holding over his head — the revelation that his signature composition “October” was, in fact, written over a hundred years earlier by someone else.

He travels to the icy waters where the whales are known to sing their eerie songs, and encounters a female Russian shaman who alternately intrigues him and terrifies him with her enigmatic interpretations.Then, Carole Anne’s murder throws things into turmoil as Alexei, suspected of the crime, flees to remote Mount Greylock, still pursued by the dark phantom.

This inspired story of the creative process, and the lengths to which a composer might go to realize his dream, is at once cautionary and revealing. Who can say what dark muses we all might entreat to achieve our artistic aims and aspirations?

Five well-earned stars to Greylock.”

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Print Edition published by Crispin Books.  

Kindle and print editions available on Amazon.com.

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Author in Progress, a No-holds-Barred Guide to Getting Published

Author in Progress, a No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published

by Therese Walsh, Editor & the Writer Unboxed Community

Book Review and Commentary     November 20, 2016

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Unbox your thinking. Unbox  your writing. If you are a reader of  the award-winning blog Writer Unboxed, then you know about this book on the skills of writing and the skills of getting published. Author in Progress has over 50 essays by some of the best writers, novelists, editors, and agents from the Writer Unboxed  community.

I’ve spent the last two weeks reading the essays. Lots to digest here, and I think it’s likely that this is one of those books that you will reach for during your writing journey and during your publishing journey.

In Part 1, literary agent Donald Maass tells us that “writing well doesn’t guarantee success,” so you can expect realistic perspectives. What should you do about literary trends? Maass makes a handy point about chasing trends. He also has some valuable thinking  about (Part 4)  “How much Craft Do you Need?”  I have about 30 writing craft books listed on this blog site (Reviews of Writing Craft Books) and more than that on my shelf. Enough? Have I read and explored enough of the craft?Maass says the “most important piece of craft is the one  you don’t know.” So, I keep reading and reviewing craft books, and I’m often finding tips and techniques I didn’t know. “The best writers never stop learning.”

Do you plot out your novels first in a sturdy organized fashion? Or, do you use your intuition and write organically and freely like Elmore Leonard, Tess Gerritsen, Stephen King, JRR Tolkien? Ray  Rhamey sorts it out in “Plot It, Or Pants It?”

The legendary “Muse” is a constant struggle for a lot of writers. Dave King will help you to recognize and search beyond ordinary inspirations. I loved this chapter because he names the ‘false muses.’

There are lots more in Author in Progress: diving into that first draft, harnessing revisions, creating authentic characters, how to handle critiques, beta readers, writing by ear, psychological struggles of a writing career, writing tribes, and the very helpful essay by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware–“How Vulnerability Can Increase Over Time, and What You Can do About it.”

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You can purchase it here on Amazon for Kindle or soft cover.

 Visit WriterUnboxed.com for daily posts on writing and publishing.

 

My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.


How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career 
by James Scott Bell (book review here)

Creating Characters, The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction, by the Editors of Writer’s Digest
(book review here) 
Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, & Screen, by Robert McKee  (book review here)
The Annotated Dracula (Bram Stoker), Annotated by Mort Castle (book review here) (Also The Annotated Jane        Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Annotated by K.M. Weiland)
How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration,
Editor Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek  (book review here)
Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

 

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

Comments are welcome, please!

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How to Write Short Stories & Use Them to Further Your Writing Career by James Scott Bell

How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career

by James Scott Bell

Book Review and Commentary   November 15, 2016

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“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”

Edgar Allan Poe

I love short stories and have been reading at least one a week for the past 4 years for this blog and for years before that. A short story is a great lunch companion, especially if you are reading some of the great flash fiction that’s out there these days. Did you ever wonder who wrote the first short story? Scheherazade and The Canterbury Tales come to mind, right? I suppose some might say the Bible were the first stories. Others claim Sir Walter Scott’s  The Two Drovers published in Chronicles of the Canongate in 1827 was the official  first short story published.

But what are the elements of a good short story?  I’ve been writing short stories and novels for some 20 years, and creatively speaking they demand the same skills and practice for storytelling and characterization.  A short story traditionally focuses on one incident,  a single plot, a single setting, often limited to a few characters, and proceeds over a short period of time. At its core, it produces a single narrative effect and that’s why it works so well with an afternoon pot of  tea and a tuna sandwich.

For readers,  we want drama, suspense, a unified impression, vivid sensations, action, climax, thrilling characters, and a satisfactory resolution. And we want it in one sitting and in less than 6000 words. This is not a small achievement! How does a writer do it? Lots of hard work and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.

Author Kurt Vonnegut offers eight essential tips on how to write a short story:

  • Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  • Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

But this really doesn’t give you enough if you are a  new to writing short fiction or struggling to be a successful short story writer out there in the highly competitive publishing market.  And I can tell you from experience, becoming a short story writer has just as many challenges and obstacles as becoming a novelist. These days, writing the story is one side of the work; then there’s the “getting it published” or marketing it yourself.

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Fortunately, James Scott Bell has written a book that addresses both writing and marketing. This book will grow your writing skills on voice and POV, give you the keys to make your reader feel the characters in your story, and the discover the best structure for short fiction.  How do you find your story? Need a road map? Bell has got it for you. And once you get your story written, Bell gives you tips on getting it edited, into a professional electronic format, with book cover. And he identifies publications submission options as well as advice on getting it up on Amazon.com if you choose to self-publish. The beauty of this book is that it gives you the full distance, from start-up to writing down the bones and to getting it to readers.

Bell uses examples from the best writers (Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Ray Bradbury, John Cheever, Stephen King, and many others) and gives you 5 excellent short stories to read to set the bar for you. One big disappointment, though, in this book is that Bell didn’t spot a single female author in all his examples and writing samples.  Our literary world is loaded with talented and smart women writers. Why was there no mention of Shirley Jackson, Elizabeth Bowen, Ruth Rendell, Daphne du Maurier,  Joyce Carol Oates, Kate Chopin, Kelly Link, Mary Shelley, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf (some of whose short stories can be found here on this blog site via the index).

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James Scott Bell is an award-winning (Christy Award) best-selling author of seven thrillers, and several writing craft books: Voice, the Power of Great Writing; Super Structure; Just Write; The Mental Game of Writing; and more.

 

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My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.

Creating Characters, The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction, by the Editors of Writer’s Digest
(book review here) 
Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, & Screen, by Robert McKee  (book review here)
The Annotated Dracula (Bram Stoker), Annotated by Mort Castle (book review here) (Also The Annotated Jane        Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Annotated by K.M. Weiland)
How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration,
Editor Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek  (book review here)

Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

Comments are welcome, please!

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Greylock is Featured November Read at Goodreads

Greylock is the featured November read at Goodreads, Writers and Readers Group. Join in!

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/37092-writers-and-readers

Greylock is a Chanticleer Book Award Winner, 2015.

U.S. Review of Books: “Cappa’s latest is nothing less than a mind-boggling mystery … always keeping an elusive edge to her characters’ personas—a plot replete with all the wonderful trappings of a romance-laced mystery with unexpected twists and turns.”

Murder, lies, romance, betrayal. When pianist Alexei Georg plays an old Russian sonata, a dark musical power invades his life, haunting him from Boston’s music society to Russia to the summit of Mt. Greylock, where he must find a way to halt the dark force within his music or become prisoner to its phantasmagoric power. From Boston’s music society to the White Sea in Russia to Mt. Greylock. Murder. Music. Mystery.

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On Amazon: US http://amzn.to/1OxPF9B UK: http://amzn.to/1Wp3Flr

Semi-finalist in Kindle Book Review Awards

 “A dark masterpiece. Rare and beautiful piece of writing by an author with an unpredictable and exceptional command of language and mood.” John J. Staughton, Amazon TOP Reviewer, FIVE stars.

“Echoing notes of Phantom of the Opera, mixed with Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe, and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, Greylock is a thrilling musical tragedy steeped in lore, mythology, and the madness of composition, leading to a crescendo of epic proportions. Paula Cappa is a gifted author, and this book will have you swooning in the aisles.” —Richard Thomas, author of Disintegration.

 

Have you met Alexei and Lia?

 

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