Today I am delighted to bring you an excerpt from Jeff Russell’s novel, The Dream Shelf, a thrilling mystery about family secrets.
About the Book
No pictures, no past and yet his dreams were left on the shelf. A book, a toy, a framed quote and a plaster bust represented the places Sam’s father wanted to see and things he wanted to do. But Robert Archer refused to discuss his background and when he died unexpectedly Sam was left with the bitter regret of a lost opportunity to learn more about his dad. Things change with the discovery of a hidden yearbook, a list of names and a government document. Sam’s interest in his father’s life becomes a surreptitious tale that ignites a passion to know what happened to him and why his secrets could not be shared. He embarks on a quest for ‘his story’, one with both the promise of closure and the threat of learning more than he wants to know. The trail leads to Gus, a WWII veteran whose cryptic ramblings suggest a horrific plan to end the war in Germany, and his daughter Karen, who is torn between helping Sam and protecting her father. Together they learn the dark secret behind the Dream Shelf, the high cost of integrity and the lessons a father left behind for his son.
Excerpt from The Dream Shelf
“You’re early,” Karen said as they walked through the house toward the kitchen. “Dad isn’t even awake yet. How about some coffee.”
Sam saw that she was dressed for work and, based on the way she hurried about, presumed she’d be leaving soon. The suit gave her a professional appearance but it also made her look sheltered, as if to shield her from the psychological burden of other people’s problems. He tried to smile but it didn’t show in his eyes. “I have to head back. There’s coursework to submit for next semester and I’ve already missed that deadline, plus I have to meet with the lawyers about my father’s house.” He wanted to keep going, lumping reason upon reason to make his abrupt departure sound justified but he knew what she was thinking … He didn’t find what he came for so he’s leaving, simple as that. Kiss the girl and make her cry.
“My flight leaves in a couple hours.”
Karen swallowed hard but kept her composure. She nodded, handed him his coffee and sat down beside him at the table but didn’t look at him. “Well, I hope you found something you can use,” she said.
There were a dozen ways Sam could respond, all jumbled on the tip of his tongue but he did not know where to begin and fell back on the obvious. “You told me earlier that whatever happened to my father was history, that I should accept it and let it go. You were right.”
He waited for her to turn in his direction, for a chance to look in her eyes again, but she stared straight-faced into the distance. “It was wrong of me to come,” he confessed, looking down into his coffee. “I had this fantasy about getting some answers, about finally figuring out who my father was … who I am. I ignored the consequences. Guess I’m not supposed to know.” He turned back to her again. “You told me I should let it go…I’m letting it go.”
Giving up on his father hurt, but he’d hurt that way before and learned to move on. It was different this time. Walking away now meant walking away from Karen. Despite everything he’d told himself the night before about time, meaningful relationships and the line between delight and delusion the thought of walking away from her hurt even more. There was nothing left to say yet so much he felt needed to be said. He was struggling for the words when a voice called out from behind them.
“Look at the book you took, kid.”
They spun around together just as Gus dropped the Manhattan Project book on the table between them. It landed with a thud that Sam felt in his stomach.
Gus pointed to the book and glared down at Sam. “Look at the book you took and remove the common denominator. Come back when you figure it out.” Ignoring their confused looks he then went out on the porch, lit a cigarette, took a long drag and swore under his breath.
It was one more cryptic message that Sam didn’t understand but he’d already chosen not to take anything Gus said seriously. He realized he wasn’t being fair, that it was disappointment talking and that he was shutting Gus out because he was frustrated with the game, yet out of spite he remained silent until Gus left the room. Then he turned to Karen. “Was that another riddle?”
She had gone to the door and was staring down the length of the porch to where her father leaned against the railing. There was no confusion on her face, only the sadness of someone watching everything they hold dear slip away. “Yes,” she replied, “another riddle.” Her voice trailed off. “But never ignore the riddles … they always mean something.”
About the Author
Jeff: I am a tale-spinner. My childhood heroes were Jules Verne and Victor Appleton II, architects of fantastic adventures. Hemingway stepped in when I discovered that the trials and triumphs of real people – those with limited physical and financial resources – were even more intriguing than science fiction. Today I try to follow that example with my own characters. They are the ‘you and me’ of the world, ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances, beaten down perhaps and yet determined to succeed. Invariably they find adventure, romance and self-fulfilment, as should we all. When not absorbed in the pages of some new author or hammering away at my latest manuscript I can be found living and running in Stowe, VT. Visit my website at www.CabsLantern.com and feel free to drop me a line at JeffRussell@CabsLantern.com. Happy reading!
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