Book Burners Excerpt

An Excerpt from Bookburners Episode 1: Badge, Book, and Candle


He set his hand on the book’s cover. Sal hadn’t noticed before how the leather was discolored: most of it matched Perry’s skin, but a crimson bloom spread beneath his fingers. She heard a sound she couldn’t name: a footfall, maybe, or a whisper, very soft. Goose bumps chased goose bumps up her arms.

“Perry, who are the Bookburners? Do you think someone’s following you?”

“I thought you didn’t want to know.”

She leaned over the couch, over his shoulder, and checked through the blinds. Street still bare. Red Toyota pickup. Honda Civic. Garbage. E-Z Carpet Cleaner van.

“Please, Sal. They would have nabbed me on the way. They did not. Ergo, I wasn’t followed.”

“What the hell is going on?”

Someone knocked on her door.

“Shit,” Perry said.

“Jesus Christ, Perry.” She grabbed her phone off the living room table. “Who is that?”

“Aiden. Probably.”

“Mister Brooks?” The man on the other side of the door was unquestionably not Aiden—too old, too sure, too calm. An accent Sal couldn’t place twined through his words. “Mister Brooks, we’re not here to hurt you. We want to talk.”

“Shit,” Perry repeated, for emphasis.

Sal ran to her bedroom and returned with her gun. “Who are you?”

“I’m looking for Mister Brooks. I know he’s in there.”

“If he is, I doubt he’d want to see you.”

“I must talk with him.”

“Sir, I’m a police officer, and I’m armed. Please step away from the door.”

“Has he opened the book?”

“What?” She looked into the living room. Perry was standing now, holding the book, fingers clenched around the cover like she’d seen men at bay clutch the handles of knives. “Sir, please leave. I’m calling 9-1-1 now.” She pressed the autodial. The line clicked.

“Stop him from opening the book,” the man said. “Please. If he means anything to you, stop him.”

“Hello. This is Detective Sally Brooks,” and she rattled off her badge number and address. “I have a man outside my apartment who is refusing to leave—”

Something heavy struck the door. Doorjamb timbers splintered. Sally stumbled back, dropped the phone, both hands on the pistol. She took aim.

The door burst free of the jamb and struck the wall. A human wind blew through.

Later, Sal remembered slivers: a stinging blow to her wrist, her gun knocked back against the wall. A woman’s face—Chinese, she thought. Bob haircut. Her knee slammed into Sal’s solar plexus and she fell, gasping, to the splinter-strewn carpet. The woman turned, in slow-motion almost, to the living room where Perry stood.

He held the open book.

His eyes wept tears of blood, and his smile bared sharp teeth.

He spoke a word that was too big for her mind. She heard the woman roar, and glass break. Then darkness closed around her like a mouth.


© 2017 Max Gladstone, with permission from Saga Press

Book Excerpt/ Furious


The kids unlatched their seatbelts, jumped out of the car, and ran through the garage and into the house before the song ended. Faith sang along until the last verse, then sat there for a moment and soaked in a little peace and quiet.

Working full-time and raising two young kids tended to make moments like this rare.

Her cell phone buzzed. It was her sister. “Hey, what’sup?” Faith asked.

“I’ll tell you what’s up,” Jana said. “Steve is driving me nuts! I quit drinking, I stopped devouring cake and cookies, but now he won’t let me lift anything heavier than a milk carton. This baby is going to be born stressed out if he doesn’t chill.”

Faith smiled. Her sister was a drama queen. “What time will you be coming tomorrow?”

“Oh, my God, I forgot about the party.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Faith said. “You were supposed to make six dozen cupcakes. Do you know how much I still have to do before—”

Her sister’s laughter cut her off midsentence.

Faith sighed when she realized Jana had been joking about not making the cupcakes. “That’s not funny, Jana.”

“You’re such a dweeb. How could I possibly forget to make six dozen cupcakes when you’ve reminded me every single day for the past two weeks?”

“I don’t know, but I have to go.”

“Wait—Have you told Craig the news?”


“Why not?”

“He’s been busy with work—and, you know, bills stacking up, new tires for the car, busted water heater last month. I haven’t found the right moment to tell him about baby number three.”

“He’ll be thrilled. Don’t wait too long, OK?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t.” Faith disconnected the call and was about to head off for the store when she remembered the grocery list hanging on the refrigerator. She left her purse in the car and climbed out. Weaving around toys and bikes, she headed through the garage door into the kitchen, where it looked as if a tornado had swept through the house. Kitchen drawers had been left open.

Papers and broken dishes were scattered across the floor.

Her heart raced. What is going on?

Just as she was about to call out her husband’s name, she stepped into the family room and saw Craig on the floor, bound and gagged.

A man she didn’t recognize hovered over him.

The scene before her made no sense.

Her heart pounded in her chest, making it difficult to breathe as her gaze darted around the room.

And then she spotted them.

Lara and Hudson sat together on the couch. Their hands had been duct-taped behind their backs. More duct tape covered their mouths. Another man stood close by, watching over them.

Time stopped as she tried to figure out what to do.

Craig always said they should buy a gun, but she didn’t want to keep one in the house. Eyes wide, she looked at the knife drawer. Grab a knife? Or run and alert the neighbors?

The two men exchanged a glance. Their eyes said it all.

She turned and ran.

If she could get inside the car and lock the doors, she could honk the horn or drive the car right through the wall and into the house if she had to. That might get one of the neighbors’ attention.

She flew through the back door leading to the garage and screamed at the top of her lungs before someone grabbed her from behind, twisted her around, and brought her face up close to his.

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said as she struggled to get free.

He sneered. His eyes were bloodshot, filled with desperation.

He smelled of stale tobacco. Strong arms held her in place. She thought of every show she’d ever seen on getting away from an assailant, but fighting him was useless. “Let us go!” she cried.

He shook her hard enough to make her teeth rattle.

“You have five seconds to tell me where it is!”

This time when she screamed, she dug her heel into his foot and tried to twist out of his grasp.

He slammed her to the ground. Her head hit the cement floor, and her world turned black.


Text Copyright © Theresa Ragan, Published by Thomas and Mercer

Book Excerpt/ The Big Dogs



Two months to the day after Thanksgiving, Miss Grace Yunqué, of East Elmhurst, Queens, rose late on her day off, fixed herself brunch, then boarded the westbound M60 bus at 23rd Avenue.

She preferred taking the bus whenever she could. The subways saved time, but were fraught with risk. Despite a heavy police presence underground at key times and terminals, the cop coverage tended to thin out to nothingness towards the outer boroughs, and unless there was someone with a badge and gun on the platform with her, she simply didn’t feel safe on the subways any more.

Besides, the bus was fast, thanks to the Mayor’s enforcement of bus-only lanes across major bridges. And it was comfortable. Miss Grace Yunqué had no idea which kind of bus she rode along the M60 route (a slightly older Orion VII Next Generation semi-low floor hybrid electric built by Daimler Commercial Buses), but it was quite good. She had seen much, much worse in her day.

As usual, the bus looped north through LaGuardia International Airport, meandering by the Marine Air Terminal on Bowery Bay, before settling down for its long westward cruise along Astoria Boulevard. As the bus arced out across the Robert Kennedy Bridge spanning the Hell Gate section of the East River, she looked down upon Wards and Randalls Islands far below, dusted with snow. She was mentally planning her own route. While her main business of the day was routine (a followup visit to Dr. Lazar regarding her condition), the stop she planned to make afterwards was anything but.

Miss Grace Yunqué was a homely, portly Latina of Peruvian descent in her late fifties who was starting to feel gravity’s pull more acutely. Her arches were falling, her heels ached at night, and her ass seemed to spread wider with each passing year. Her husband was dead, her children grown and struggling with families of their own. What little brightness there was in her life came from her grand-nephew José, and her Pomeranian, Hector.

Still, it wasn’t all bad. She had worked for years keeping the books of a small firm that made spare parts for servicing city buses. The benefits were good, and she had her late husband’s small pension coming in as well, which she diligently invested in TIPS, inflation-protected bonds that had been adjusted for the extended period of low rates following the crash. Miss Grace Yunqué did not know when the city’s fortunes would take a turn for the better, but she intended to have a toe in the water when they did. She believed the city would rise again—someday, perhaps not even in her lifetime, but someday—and she wanted to have something to bequeath to her darling little niňo José.

Which was why she was heading into Manhattan this morning, to report the goings-on she’d been seeing in the company’s financial statements for months now. She knew fraud when she saw it, and she intended to cash in by reporting it.