by Kerry Peresta
May 8 - June 2, 2023 Virtual Book Tour
About the Book:
Mysterious fires. A haunting past. A secret file.
Three years ago, Olivia Callahan endured an assault that resulted in a devastating brain injury. She survived, but she couldn't remember anything about her life or who she was. Now, she's determined to build a bridge between the past she lost and the life she must reclaim.
When Olivia crosses paths with PI Tom Stark, she is drawn to the investigative field, and becomes his intern. She finds a heavily redacted, forty-five-year-old file locked in his desk drawer that mentions her mother as a young woman. Why had her mentor hidden the file from her, and why had he never mentioned a case involving her mother?
As Olivia moves forward with her fledgling career, a string of mysterious fires moves through the community, puzzling the Baltimore Arson Investigative Unit. One of the fires strikes Olivia's beloved farmhouse in rural Maryland. Now, in addition to uncovering the secrets bound within the redacted file, she becomes convinced that the fires happening around the area are disturbing calling cards…and they're meant for her.
Watch The Torching Trailer:
Genre: Traditional Mystery or Suspense
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 2023
Number of Pages: 323
Series: The Olivia Callahan Suspense series, 3 | Each is a Stand Alone Novel
Book Links: Amazon | Add to Goodreads
Read an Excerpt:
Smoke assailed us halfway up my long, winding, driveway. A dingy, gray film coated my windshield. I jabbed the brake to slow down, but my trembling foot slipped off the brake. Lilly gave me a look that broke my heart.
The surging, ballooning smoke hurled itself at us like angry fog. Visibility fell to near-zero the longer I drove. I slowed to a crawl. We inched along the lane until the strobing white-and-red lights cut through the smoke. I counted two fire engines and one black SUV on the lane as I approached. A couple of firefighters raced into my house. My door lay on the porch in three pieces, and an axe was propped against the wall. Each firefighter wore oxygen tanks attached to large, anteater-shaped masks. With their cumbersome, reflective-striped protective gear and masks, they looked more suited to step on the moon than inside my beloved Maryland farmhouse.
I brought my car to a shuddering halt.
We stepped out. I put my arm around Lilly.
Vaporous clouds of smoke cloaked my house. A couple of firefighters worked with giant, yellow firehoses. The men had divided themselves into teams, and the muted shouts told me some of them were behind the house. Flames leapt toward the sky from the backside of the roof. I counted six firefighters working on the house that I could see—plus the ones in the back. Tears trickled down my cheeks, and a terrifying thought struck—what about my cat?
“Lilly,” I said, my voice shaky, “Where was Riot when you last saw him?”
Lily’s face went white. “Mom…”
I grabbed her by the shoulders. “No, no…Riot’s smart. He will have found safety. I’ll find him. Stay here.”
I ran across the yard to a woman dressed in navy slacks and a white shirt with metal glinting on the front and official-looking patches on the arms. “I’m the owner,” I yelled over the whump of igniting flames, batting my way through smoke.
She shook my hand and identified herself as the public information officer. “Sorry to meet under these circumstances, but glad you were out of the home. We have it controlled. The team inside is checking to make sure it was contained. As far as we can tell, the seat of the fire is in the attic. Give us thirty minutes, okay? But ma’am, I’ll need you to stay back. Our investigator will be here soon. She’ll let you know when it’s safe to go inside.”
“My cat’s in there,” I yelled. “Can you have someone look for him?”
She spoke into a radio.
The smoke started to let up. Three hoses trained on the roof gushed out torrents of water. The huge flames stretching into the sky began to shrink. Radio chatter stuttered around the space. The firefighters stayed in constant contact, radios slung across their chests with a strap that held a mic.
These guys would not know where to look for Riot.
With an apologetic glance at Lilly, I skirted around the trucks, avoided the PIO, and dashed across the yard, up the front porch stairs, and into the house.
“MOM,” Lilly wailed through the billowy smoke.
Coughing, I ran inside. “Riot,” I screamed. “Riot, I’m here, buddy.”
I looked behind the couch. Underneath the dining room table. On top of his cat tree. Underneath the wingback chair. He wasn't in any of his favorite spots. I plowed through the murkiness and melting sheetrock.
A bullhorn blared, “Ma’am. We need you to exit the building.” “Now!”
My throat was closing. My eyes stung like crazy. I needed to find him and get the heck out.
I scrambled into the kitchen and opened the lower cupboards, then the uppers. Searched the seats of the barstools, underneath the kitchen table. My heart thrashed like a wrecking ball in my chest. “Riot? I’m here, boy. Come on out,” I begged. A timid sound reached my ears. I waited. I heard it again, louder.
A shaggy, orange head appeared on top of the cabinets. I climbed up, grabbed him, and raced out the back door. The backyard firefighter team made group gestures that I interpreted as ‘get the hell out of here and let us do our job, ma’am’.
I zigzagged through the first responder obstacle course to my car, blinded by the strobing lights. Lilly spurted fresh tears and held out her arms for Riot. We watched in silence as the flames soared into the sky.
Excerpt from The Torching by Kerry Peresta. Copyright 2023 by Kerry Peresta. Reproduced with permission from Kerry Peresta. All rights reserved.
Meet the Author:
Kerry Peresta is the author of the Olivia Callahan Suspense series. "The Torching," book three, releases March, 2023, and books four and five in 2024 and 2025. Her standalone suspense thriller, "Back Before Dawn," releases May, 2023. Additional writing credits include a popular newspaper and e-zine humor column, “The Lighter Side,” (2009—2011); the short story “The Day the Migraine Died,” published in Rock, Roll, and Ruin: A Triangle Sisters in Crime Anthology, articles published in Local Life Magazine, The Bluffton Breeze, Lady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, South Carolina Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Kerry is the mother of four adult children, and spent thirty years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, copywriter, and editor. When she's not writing, you'll find her working out, riding her bike or kayaking, enjoying the beaches of Hilton Head Island, or cuddling her two cats, Agnes and Felix. She and her husband moved to Hilton Head Island in 2015.
Catch Up With Kerry Peresta:
BookBub - @kerryperesta
Instagram - @kerryperesta
Twitter - @kerryperesta
Facebook - @klperesta
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