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Murder at the Mill by MB Shaw: Excerpt and US Giveaway

Description:

Iris Grey rents a quaint cottage in a picture-perfect Hampshire village, looking to escape from her crumbling marriage. She is drawn to the neighboring Wetherby family, and is commissioned to paint a portrait of Dominic Wetherby, a celebrated crime writer.

At the Wetherby’s Christmas Eve party, the mulled wine is in full flow – but so are tensions and rivalries among the guests. On Christmas Day, the youngest member of the Wetherby family, Lorcan, finds a body in the water. A tragic accident? Or a deadly crime?


Prologue

Christmas Day 2017

The sound of the water was deafening. This stretch of the River Itchen was narrow, little more than a stream in places, but it was deep, and the current was fast, causing the ancient waterwheel to churn and splash and creak with unexpected ferocity, like a battlefield’s roar. Somewhere in the distance, church bells were pealing, fighting theirway through the din. Five o’clock. As good a time to die as any.

Tying on the stone was easy, despite the darkness and the noise and the cold that numbed one’s fingers. Everything had been easy, in fact. All that fear, the stomach-souring anticipation of the act, had been for nothing in the end. Everything had gone exactly according to plan. So far, anyway. There was a symmetry to that, at least, the satisfaction of a job well done. One could even call it a pleasure of sorts.

Across the bitterly cold water, the lights of Mill House glowed warm and inviting. Through the sash windows of the Wetherbys’ grand draw- ing room, a Christmas tree twinkled. Gaudy and colourful, rising out of a shiny sea of discarded wrapping paper, torn from joyously opened gifts, it had clearly been decorated by children, as all Christmas trees should be.Few things in life were sadder than an ‘adult’ Christmas tree, tastefully decked out in themed colours. Where was the magic in that?

Not that it mattered anymore. Nothing mattered anymore.

The water was as cold as stone, cold enough to make one flinch. But only momentarily. It was time to let go. The river opened up eagerly to receive its Christmas gift, pulling it down into the familiar black depths with the cloying, greedy embrace of a lover.

Feet first. Then legs. Torso. Head.

Gone.

On the opposite bank of the river, a torchlight danced.
Lorcan Wetherby, youngest son of the celebrated author Dom Wetherby and his wife, Ariadne, had ventured outside to play with his Christmas presents: a Scooby-Doo flashlight and a motorised toy boat, his pride and joy. Lorcan could still feel the excitement of the afternoon, when his oldest brother Marcus had pulled the big parcel wrapped in holly-sprigged paper out from under the tree. Handing out Christmas presents one by one under the tree after lunch was a family tradition, prolonging both the agony and the ecstasy for generations of Wetherby children.

‘ “To Lorcan”,’ Marcus read aloud. ‘ “Merry Christmas and all our love, Mummy and Daddy.’”

Lorcan had torn at the paper like a puppy, emitting a squeal of pure delight when he saw it. Exactly like the one on TV.

‘Remoke control!’ He beamed at his mother. ‘It’s remoke control!’ Ariadne beamed back. She adored her son. ‘That’s right, darling.’ Waiting for his father to put the batteries in and set the boat up had been torture. But after inhaling two slices of Ariadne’s homemade Christmas cake so quickly Marcus could have sworn he saw marzipan chunks coming out of his little brother’s nose, the boat was finally ready and Lorcan had raced down the sloping lawn to the banks of the Itchen to play with it.

Dark had long since fallen. Recently Lorcan had felt afraid of the dark, and particularly of ‘ghosts’, which he saw constantly, hovering around every tree or lichen-covered wall. His father, Dom, blamed it on Scooby-Doo, a new obsession. His mother wasn’t so sure.

‘I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it. Maybe he’s really seeing something.’

‘Like what?’ Dom Wetherby frowned. ‘Things that go “bump” in the night?’

Ariadne smiled patiently. For a writer, Dominic could be terribly unimaginative at times. ‘This house is over four hundred years old, darling,’ she reminded him. ‘There may well be ghosts here. Children like Lorcan often see things other people don’t, or can’t. Maybe he’s just more attuned to the supernatural than we are.’

Attuned or not, Lorcan wasn’t afraid tonight. He had seen a ghost as it happened, less than an hour ago, moving through the woods, white and tall and looming. But the ghost hadn’t seen him. He was too busy with whatever he had in his hands. Besides, Lorcan had his Scooby-Doo torch, it was Christmas, and he was at home at the Mill with Mummy and Daddy. He was safe. Cocooned. It was like Mummy said: ‘Ghosts are only people, Lorcan. Ordinary people. It’s just that you’re seeing them in an extraordinary way.’ Lorcan wasn’t sure what that meant exactly, but it made him feel better.

Ghosts were people.
People, in Lorcan’s experience, were nice.
He played with his boat till his hands were so cold they hurt. The church bells rang. He counted them. One, two, three, four, five . . . six. Time to go in.

Crossing at the bridge safely, where his father had shown him, he reached down gingerly to pull his boat out of the reeds. Behind him, he could hear the waterwheel turning, the familiar sound of rushing water that was the soundtrack to his life. Lorcan Wetherby loved the river. He loved it like a person. He loved the waterwheel and the Mill. He loved his home. His family.

The boat was stuck. The spiky part at the bottom – the ‘keel’, Marcus had called it – had become entangled in something, some part of the cold, watery underworld of the Itchen. Lorcan tugged harder, but still it wouldn’t budge. Carefully setting down the remote-control handset next to him on the bridge to get a better grip, he tried again, with both hands this time, plunging his arms into the frigid water right up to the elbows. Leaning back, he pulled as hard as he could, his muscles burning with exertion as he yanked and twisted the precious boat, willing it to break free.

Beneath the surface, something snapped.

A small movement at first, then a bigger one, then in one great rush up came the boat, rising out of the water like the kraken. It was still heavy, still caught up in something, but Lorcan had hold of it now, the whole, beautiful vessel safe in his two strong hands. He sat back tri- umphant and exhausted. After a few deep breaths, he began to try to unwind the slimy strands still coiled round the boat’s bottom.

And then he saw it.
It wasn’t reeds that had wrapped themselves, vise-like, round the keel. It was hair.
Human hair.
Lorcan stared down in horror into the face of the corpse, its skin stretched tight and ghoulish from being pulled by the scalp. White, sightless eyes stared back at him.

Not even the sound of the river could drown out Lorcan’s screams.


About the author:

M.B Shaw is the pen-name of New York Times bestselling writer Tilly Bagshawe. A teenage single mother at 17, Tilly won a place at Cambridge University and took her baby daughter with her. She went on to enjoy a successful career before becoming a writer. As a journalist, Tilly contributed regularly to the Sunday Times, Daily Mail, and Evening Standard, before turning her hand to novels.

Tilly’s first book, ADORED, was a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic, becoming an instant New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller. She now divides her time between the UK and America, writing her own books and the new series of Sidney Sheldon novels.



Advanced Praise for MURDER AT THE MILL and M.B. Shaw

“A rich, mystery debut… Tilly Bagshawe… makes a smooth transition to the world of puzzlers.”

—Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“The principled, smart, and courageous Iris is bound to garner enthusiastic fans.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A most enjoyable and energetic cozy.”

—Booklist

“Complicated relationships create a strong backdrop for a complex mystery, and one hopes, the foundation for more books to come.”

—Library Journal

“Murder at the Mill by M. B. Shaw is a great sweeping adventure.

Ideal for holiday reading.”

—M. C. Beaton, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“M.B. Shaw has penned a wonderfully layered mystery with a multifaceted amateur sleuth, artist Iris Grey. Ms. Shaw’s English village setting made me feel like I was right there, and kept me reading until late into the night. I can’t wait to see where Iris Grey’s next artistic commission takes us.”

—Paige Shelton, New York Times bestselling author

“Be sure to start reading M.B. Shaw’s evocatively written mystery early in the day, or else you’ll be up late into the night—it’s that unputdownable.”

—Ellen Crosby, author of The Vineyard Victims

“A festering box of secrets, providing a Christmas cocktail of family lies and deliciously conceived murder.”

—Mandy Morton, author of The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series

“A snowy Christmas in a country village, intriguing characters and a twisty-turny plot…I loved this book and couldn’t put it down. Fabulous!”

—Jill Mansell, International Bestselling Author

“A contemporary-set cosy crime novel that harks back to The Golden Age of detective fiction. Author Tilly Bagshawe writing under a pseudonym, introduces us to society portraitist Iris Grey whose Christmas country retreat is anything but when a body is found floating by the mill on Christmas Day, instead of tucking into turkey and all the trimmings, Iris finds herself caught up in all manner of sleuthing and intrigue.”

—Red Magazine

“A nice little slice of festive who dunnit – just right for cosy winter afternoons”

—Katherine Woodfine, author of The Sinclair’s Mysteries


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Excerpt/US Giveaway: Naughty on Ice by Maia Chance

Naughty On Ice by Maia Chance

Minotaur Books; on sale November 13, 2018; $26.99

Description:

When an anonymous Christmas card from Maple Hill, Vermont beckons the Discreet Retrieval Agency to recover an antique ring at a family gathering, of course Lola and Berta jump at the chance – after all, holiday business hasn’t been such exhilarating work, and their sweethearts Ralph and Jimmy have been on the back burner.

But no sooner do they find the ring on Great-Aunt Daphne Goddard’s arthritic finger than Mrs. Goddard drops dead from a poisoned glass of Negroni on ice – and the police show up to find the two red-handed with the ring. It’s clear that Lola and Berta were set up to be framed for the murder, and now the duo must uncover the secrets of Maple Hill in order to clear their name… or be thrown in the slammer. (publisher)


About the author:

MAIA CHANCE was a finalist for the 2004 Romance Writers of America
Golden Heart Award and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of
Washington. She is writing her dissertation on nineteenth-century American literature. She is also the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal mystery series.

Photo credit: Fedora of Spectrum House Seattle


 

Excerpt:

Maple Hill, Vermont December 19, 1923

 

The circumstances, I do realize, were ghastly. A chunk was missing from the molasses layer cake on the kitchen table. A corpse lay, probably still warmish, out on the living room carpet. And I was aware that, having been caught in the act of removing a ruby ring from an elderly lady’s finger, my detecting partner, Berta Lundgren, and I looked as guilty as masked bandits in Tiffany’s.

The policeman, who had announced himself as Sergeant Peletier, stood over the kitchen table, wearing an Oho, what have we here? expression. “You’re the uninvited guests, I reckon,” he said. “Mrs. Lundgren and Mrs. Woodby?”

“We were invited,” Berta said coldly.

“That’s not what I was told,” Peletier said. He surveyed drunken Aunt Daphne, the ring, and the cake. “Having a bit of dessert with a side of jewel thieving, I see. Mighty funny thing to do right after your hostess has expired.”

“Aghamee do eshplain,” I said.

“I beg your pardon?” Peletier said.

I swallowed cake. “Allow me to explain,” I repeated.

This wasn’t the plan. The plan had been to retrieve the ring, pop it in the breadbox, slink out of the house, and skip town on the next train out.

“Yes,” Peletier said. “Please explain. Mrs. Goddard lies dead in the other room, and you’re here in the kitchen shimmying a ring off Mrs. Lyle’s finger?”

At the mention of her name, Aunt Daphne raised her champagne glass. “Cheers,” she crowed.

“I will explain,” Berta butted in. She was a rosy, gray-bunned lady of sixty-odd years who spoke with a faint Swedish accent and resembled a garden gnome. “What you see before you is a tried-and-true method for removing stuck rings from fingers—fingers, you understand, that have . . . expanded.”

We all regarded Aunt Daphne’s fingers, which, short and plump and swollen, resembled a litter of Dachshund puppies. The too-small ring had been maneuvered to just below the knuckle with Berta’s trick of looping embroidery thread under the ring, winding the thread tightly around the finger, and then unwinding the thread from the bottom. With each loop that was unwound, the ring edged up another millimeter. The downside was that it looked rather painful. However, Aunt Daphne, drinking champagne and shoveling cake with her free hand, had yet to complain. There really are no better painkillers than cake and booze.

“My mother always used butter to remove stuck rings,” Peletier said.

“A pound of butter wouldn’t get this thing off me,” Aunt Daphne said. “Believe me, I’ve tried it! This darned thing’s been stuck on my finger since the summer of 1919.”

“When you stole it,” I prompted.

“Stole it?” Aunt Daphne snickered, and with her free hand she lifted the glass of champagne to her lips and polished it off. “I never said that!”

“Yes, you did.” Panic zinged through me. I turned to look up at Peletier. “She stole it. She told us she did. In the summer of 1919. We have merely been, um, asked to remove it.”

“By Mrs. Lyle, here?” “Well, no. . . .”

“Sounds like thievery to me. And now, coincidentally, Mrs. Goddard is dead.”

My cheeks were growing hot. “As I said, Aunt Daphne stole the ring, and we are merely attempting to restore it to its rightful— Hold it. What are you suggesting? ‘Coincidentally’? Mrs. Goddard died of a heart attack, didn’t she? That’s what it appeared to—”

“Oh, no, no, no,” Peletier said. “It was poison.”

“Poison!”

“I smelled it on her breath. Cyanide. Likely in the cocktail she’d been drinking at the time of her death.”

“Are you certain?” I said. “I happened to notice she was drinking a Negroni. Those are made with Campari, you know, which itself is as bitter as poison—”

“‘Happened to notice,’ eh? Any chance you fixed it for her?” “No!”

Phooey. It had been Berta’s idea to carry on with the ring-retrieval job even after Judith Goddard had kicked the bucket about an hour earlier. Having nothing else to do while waiting for the authorities to turn up, we had conferred in the butler’s pantry amid the family silver. I had whispered that it was unseemly to filch a ring under the circumstances. Berta had whispered, “Oh no, we did not come all the way up here to the snowy wilds of Vermont for nothing, we are finishing the job.” I had conceded. Our train tickets had been costly.

Now I gave Berta a bug-eyed I told you so look.

She ignored it and busied herself with completing the ring removal.

“Oh, all right,” I said to Peletier with a sigh. “The jig is up. We’re private detectives—”

“Go along!” Peletier said. “Truly.”

“Ha-ha-ha!” Peletier slapped his thigh.

“Did you bring a card, Mrs. Woodby?” Berta asked. “No. You?”

Berta flicked Peletier a frosty look. “I did not expect to be asked to provide my credentials this evening. Ah! There. The ring is—” She wiggled it from Aunt Daphne’s fingertip. “—off.”

“You’re an angel of mercy,” Aunt Daphne said to Berta. “Thank you. My! Just look at the divot it left behind.” She massaged her finger, and then helped herself to more champagne.

“Buying that’s against the law, you know,” Peletier said, pointing to the champagne bottle.

“Oh, to Hell with your Eighteenth Amendment,” Aunt Daphne said. “It’s for the dogs. And politicians and church ladies.”

“Would you mind if I placed the ring in the breadbox?” Berta asked Aunt Daphne.

“Not at all. I never want to see that thing again.”

Berta went to put the ring in the metal breadbox on the counter—plink—and then sat back down.

Peletier pulled out one of the ladder-back chairs, sat, and extracted a notebook and pencil from inside his coat. He was small and wiry, with a flushed face, beady eyes, and tufting gray hair and eyebrows. He called to mind a disgruntled North Pole elf. His embroidered badge read Maple Hill, VT Police and featured a deer and a pine tree.

Cute.

“Start at the beginning,” he said.

In a tumbling back-and-forth, Berta and I explained to Peletier that we were private detectives with our own small agency in New York City.  How, last week, we’d received an invitation from an anonymous sender asking us to dinner at Goddard Farm, requesting that we retrieve a stolen ring, place it in the breadbox, and to subsequently expect payment in the mail. That we’d only arrived in Maple Hill earlier that afternoon, having taken the night train, and that we had rooms at the Old Mill Inn only for that evening. How Anonymous had not revealed him- or herself to us upon our arrival at Goddard Farm (really a mansion on a ridge above the village).

How we’d been gobsmacked when Judith Goddard went toes-up only fifteen minutes after our arrival.

“I understand that this was a family gathering to celebrate Mrs. Goddard’s recent engagement,” Peletier said. “How did you explain your appearance at a family affair?”

“Well, at first it was a bit awkward,” I said. Only Judith Goddard, her brother Roy, her aunt Daphne, Judith’s three adult children, her brand-new fiancé, and two servant women had been present in the house. “You know how it i—”

“We had no choice but to fabricate an explanation,” Berta interrupted. She was serenely sawing the molasses cake.

“They said that I invited them,” Aunt Daphne said. “That we’d met at a ladies’ poetry luncheon at the country club in Cleveland. I can’t remember much any more, of course, and poetry knocks me out cold, so I didn’t realize that they were lying—”

“Mrs. Woodby and I are innocent of any wrongdoing,” Berta said. “We were merely doing our job. Surely, Sergeant Peletier, you are able to understand that.”

Peletier snorted and stood. “Come down to the station tomorrow morning, and if you can show me this anonymous invitation of yours, maybe I’ll let you off the hook. Until then, don’t even think about leaving town. Good evening.” He left the kitchen, Aunt Daphne drifting after him with the champagne bottle.

Berta and I looked at each other across the collapsing cake. “Would it be absolutely unconscionable to leave right now?” I whispered.

“There has been a death in the family, Mrs. Woodby, and we are strangers. We should leave them to their grief.”

“Maybe there is something we could do to help—”

“There is nothing worse than having to speak with strangers when one’s heart is breaking.”

Honestly, I hadn’t gotten the impression that Judith Goddard’s demise was cracking anyone’s heart in two. Not even the heart of her fiancé-to-be. “They aren’t an especially happy family,” I said, “but I suppose none are. Happy families are a myth.”

“Nonsense. You must simply know one when you see it. They sometimes come in unusual forms. Now, come along. After we show the invitation to Sergeant Peletier in the morning, our hands will be washed clean of this terrible affair.”

I felt like an absolute gink as we sneaked to the entry hall to fetch our coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. We didn’t encounter any of the family or the servants, although voices rose and fell in distant rooms. We stepped out the front door into the night. Our breath billowed in the icy air. Berta bent her head into the wind and toddled toward our rented pickup truck, an REO Speedwagon with a boxy cab and wooden rails around the bed. She winched herself up into the passenger seat.

I followed, mincing like Comet or Cupid through the crunchy snow in my high heels. I took the hand crank from the cab floor, resuscitated the engine, climbed behind the wheel, flicked on the headlamps, and we were off.

“Oh, it is so very cold,” Berta said with a shiver. “As cold as I remember Sweden being when I was a girl, but I am no longer young.” I inched the truck down a steep, snow-packed road. Bristling black forest encroached from beyond the headlamp beams. I was accustomed to the glitter and hum of Manhattan. Nighttime in the countryside was giving me the jumps.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” I said.

“If you slip, steer into the slide. That is the only way to avoid a tailspin.”

“Not that. The murder.

“We will be on our way home tomorrow.” How I wished I could believe it.


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Go To My Grave by Catriona McPherson

Go To My Grave by Catriona McPherson

October 2018 – Minotaur Books

Review copy courtesy of Minotaur and NetGalley

Description:

Donna Weaver has put everything she has into restoring The Breakers, an old bed and breakfast on a remote stretch of beach in Galloway. Now it sits waiting—freshly painted, richly furnished, filled with flowers—for the first guests to arrive.

But Donna’s guests, a contentious group of estranged cousins, soon realize that they’ve been here before, years ago. Decades have passed, but that night still haunts them: a sixteenth birthday party that started with peach schnapps and ended with a girl walking into the sea.

Each of them had made a vow of silence: “lock it in a box, stitch my lips, and go to my grave.”

But now someone has broken the pact. Amid the home-baked scones and lavish rooms, someone is playing games, locking boxes, stitching lips. And before the weekend is over, at least one of them will go to their grave. (publisher)

My take:  When her B&B is rented for a weekend Donna is very excited. She’s worked so hard to get the old place in shape. Now its ready for the first guests. The guests who arrive are related by marriage or blood and don’t seem overly fond of each other or the guests of honor – a sibling and his wife celebrating a special anniversary. As soon as the house is full odd things begin to happen. The reactions of everyone involved could be deemed telling – to someone who knows what’s going on. At times I was reminded of an Agatha Christie mystery. There’s the beautiful Inn, loosely related guests, and things that disappear or appear at unexpected times. But then something big happens and the smaller incidents don’t seem that minor anymore. I found the reveal interesting but, honestly, I almost gave up on this book a couple of times. Most of the characters were self-involved boors who acted horribly at one time or another, if not most of the time. The novel is mostly set in the present time but occasionally moves to the early 90s – one night in particular when unspeakable things happened. This group thought they’d go to their graves with the secrets from that night. But will they?


Praise for Go To My Grave:

“GO TO MY GRAVE is both a classic ‘country house mystery’ and a thriller. Atmospheric, with mind-bending twists, a narrator who may or may not be reliable, and an ending that will take your breath away and leave you astonished.” – Louise Penny

“A Gothic feast of a novel, this is a country house book with a difference: contemporary, punchy and disturbing, but using the tricks and twists of the best of Christie.” – Ann Cleeves

“GO TO MY GRAVE is a terrific mystery—sharp, devious, and suspenseful. Catriona McPherson has written another winner.” – Meg Gardiner


 

Spotlight and US/Canada Giveaway: Murder on Millionaires’ Row by Erin Lindsey

Murder on Millionaires’ Row by Erin Lindsey

On sale:  Oct. 2, 2018 – Minotaur Books

Description:

In Murder on Millionaires’ Row, Erin Lindsey’s debut historical mystery, a daring housemaid searches Gilded Age Manhattan for her missing employer and finds a hidden world of magic, ghosts, romance, and Pinkerton detectives.

Rose Gallagher might dream of bigger things, but she’s content enough with her life as a housemaid. After all, it’s not every girl from Five Points who gets to spend her days in a posh Fifth Avenue brownstone, even if only to sweep its floors. But all that changes on the day her boss, Mr. Thomas Wiltshire, disappears. Rose is certain Mr. Wiltshire is in trouble, but the police treat his disappearance as nothing more than the whims of a rich young man behaving badly. Meanwhile, the friend who reported him missing is suspiciously unhelpful. With nowhere left to turn, Rose takes it upon herself to find her handsome young employer.

The investigation takes her from the marble palaces of Fifth Avenue to the sordid streets of Five Points. When a ghostly apparition accosts her on the street, Rose begins to realize that the world around her isn’t at all as it seems—and her place in it is about to change forever.


About the author:

Erin Lindsey has lived and worked in dozens of countries around the world, but has only ever called two places home: her native city of Calgary and her adopted hometown of New York. She is the author of the Bloodbound series of fantasy novels from Ace and the Nicolas Lenoir series of paranormal detective novels from Roc. MURDER ON MILLIONAIRES’ ROW is her debut mystery. She divides her time between Calgary and Brooklyn with her husband and a pair of half-domesticated cats.


 

Praise for MURDER ON MILLIONAIRES’ ROW:

“This should win fans with its plucky protagonist, who defies expectations of her class and gender; genre-blending plot; brisk pace; and potential for romance.” – Booklist

“Lindsey kicks off her new series with a spooky paranormal mystery/thriller filled with historical tidbits, a touch of romance, and a talented and delightfully gritty sleuth.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Rose’s sparkling perpective and an appealing supporting cast shine throughout. Lindsey’s quirky mix of supernatural shenanigans and well-drawn historical detail augurs well for future installments.” – Publishers Weekly

“MURDER ON MILLIONAIRES’ ROW is utterly charming, scrupulously researched, and beautifully felt. I enjoyed every page and cannot wait for Rose to stick her fingers into ever more perilous pies.” – Lyndsay Faye, bestselling author of Gods of Gotham and Jane Steele

“Sharp, insightful, and more than a little sassy, Rose Gallagher is a heroine to cheer for. Lovers of historical mysteries and all things supernatural will devour MURDER ON MILLIONAIRES’ ROW and clamor for more.” – Tasha Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of Death in St. Petersburg

“A charming mystery of manners. Ghosts, murder, magic, and a heroine who’s impulsive but also refreshinglysmart about her choices. What’s not to love?” – Mary Robinette Kowall, Hugo-award winning author of Shades of Milk and Honey


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