Book Title: Sting in the Tail: Carnival of Mysteries
Author: TA Moore
Publisher: Rogue Firebird Press
Cover Artist: Diane Theis
Release Date: October 4, 2023
Genre: MM Paranormal Romance
Tropes: Unfinished Business, First Times, Ticking Clock
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 87 000 words/ 130 pages
It is a standalone book and part of a linked series by 19 other authors.
It does not end on a cliffhanger.
The Carnival of Mysteries just arrived in Sutton County. They say if you cross the fortune teller’s palm with silver she can read your future like a map. Right now all Ledger Conroy wants to know is if he has a future.
Back in Sutton after over a decade, Ledger’s plan had been to bury his father--recently deceased convicted serial killer and less-well known warlock, Bell Conroy--clear the property, and then finally wash his hands of being a Conroy. Instead there’s a cured human heart in the larder, a pissed off pretty boy who is definitely not human at the door, and a debt to the devil that Ledger’s just inherited.
Devil. Monster. Something like that. He’d not asked for its pedigree
Whatever it was, it's given Ledger a week to fulfill the terms of his father’s contract. Or else he’s never going to leave Sutton again. With pretty-boy Wren at his heels, more to make sure Ledger doesn’t skip town than to provide assistance, Ledger tries to track his father’s sins across Sutton. The problem is there’s so many of them.
Ledger is faced with old grudges, a Sheriff that thinks Ledger knows more about his father’s crimes than he’s ever said (and isn’t wrong), and a dead man with a book shop. Not to mention the on-going distraction of Wren, who can't decide whether to be a hindrance, a help, or just hot.
Luckily Ledger has a nose for this sort of work. Sting in the Tail is part of the multi-author Carnival of Mysteries Series. Each book stands alone, but each one includes at least one visit to Errante Ame's Carnival of Mysteries, a magical, multiverse traveling show full of unusual acts, games, and rides. The Carnival changes to suit the world it's on, so each visit is unique and special. This book contains a dealer in dark collectibles, a man who's NOT people, and a monster with a debt it expects to be paid.
Available in #KindleUnlimited
BELL CONROY HAD died alone and unmourned.
There was no one to write an obituary, but he was Sutton County, Ohio’s most famous son. His passing couldn’t go unmentioned, even if it was a “just the facts” death notice in the Sutton Herald.
He’d been fifty-six.
He’d been released from prison on compassionate grounds when he was diagnosed with cancer.
Cause of death: suicide.
The families of his eighteen victims would probably never get the bodies back.
Not famous. Infamous.
Ledger took the second turn after the red barn. The road was technically paved, but one of the downsides of being a well-known serial killer was that the county didn’t spend a lot of money on the upkeep of your properties. The rental car—the only one available on short notice—creaked and rattled as it jounced along the rutted, potholed road.
A half-hearted scarecrow had been strung up on the property line. It hung from a scrubby tree and stared at the road with Sharpie-cross eyes. A shock of red yarn hair had been stitched onto the burlap sack head. That was from the twenty-year-old mug shot. Between age, prison, and cancer, the hair had left this mortal plane years before Conroy had.
Ledger hit the brakes as he reached the gates and let the car roll over the cattle grid. He pulled onto the patchy grass outside the house, turned off the engine, and got out of the car. There was a white van parked in front of the house. Ledger rolled his sleeves down over his forearms and buttoned the cuffs as he stared at the vehicle.
He’d booked the flight the moment he heard the news about Conroy and driven straight here from the airport. It looked like that hadn’t been quick enough.
The vultures had beaten him to it.
Ledger snorted to himself.
One vulture, anyhow.
He started toward the house. The driver’s side door opened as he passed the van, and Benjy Hark scrambled out. The lanky gray-haired man fell into step next to him.
“You’re too late,” Hark said. “I’ve already spoken to the son and made an offer on it as a job lot.”
“A fair offer?” Ledger asked.
Hark took a beat. “Fair enough,” he said, pulling his glasses out of his top pocket. “As far as the son knows, anyhow. It’s not like this lot is worth anything to him. I’m doing him a favor, really.”
“Well, him and your wallet.”
Hark snorted. He lifted his glasses and breathed on them to mist the glass, then polished the lenses with the end of his tie.
“And what?” he said. “You’re going to walk in there and offer him the black market value on his inheritance? Don’t try and kid a kidder, Ledger. You’re not any fucking better than the rest of us.”
Ledger smirked briefly in response. He couldn’t argue with that. In their line of work—sourcing dark Americana for the sort of people that weren’t really people—it was hard to pretend otherwise. They were in this for the dirty money. Their only excuse was that the heirs had no way to capitalize on their dead relative’s collection. As a moral justification, it was thin.
To say the least.
Not that there was moral justification for much in their business. The Catholic Church had a monopoly on the bones of saints and the effects of the blessed. On the other hand, the trade in sinners and their leavings was an open market… and a profitable one. Who wanted to pray—and pay—for a miracle when they could wring a demon’s price from the junk that had soaked in a monster’s misdeeds for years.
And for the low, low price of cold, hard cash, Ledger would find it for them.
“I never said I was,” Ledger said. They reached the porch and climbed the three sagging steps to the door. Something had been scrawled on the wood in red paint, but it had been mostly scoured away. Killer? Murderer? It could have been either, Ledger supposed. Both were true. “But I know that Conroy’s heir isn’t going to take your offer.”
Hark slid his glasses on and squinted at Ledger through the lenses. Despite his best efforts, there was still a fingerprint on the glass. There always was. It was surprisingly easy to pick up minor curses in their line of work.
“You’ve already spoken to him?”
Ledger reached into his pocket. “You could say that,” he said as he pulled out the keys the lawyer had left for him. “I am him.”
He unlocked the door, stepped inside, and closed it behind him in Hark’s face.
Look at that. It was like having your abusive, cultist dad drop dead was just all bright side and no downside at all.
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TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide.
Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.