Friday, January 6, 2012

The Door at the Top of the Stairs by Alison Naomi Holt

The Door at the Top of the Stairs

Fiction – Drama - Suspense
Published December 2010

About the Book:

UNDERCOVER NARCOTICS OFFICER, Jesse Shaunessy, is kidnapped and tortured, then thrown away by her department as damaged goods. The mind is a powerful ally, and 26-year-old Jesse has no memory of the abduction or the subsequent torture. Inevitably, as Jesse drifts from one itinerant job to another, the protective walls carefully constructed by her subconscious are beginning to crumble. 

Fate lands her on a farm owned by Dr. Ryland Caldwell, a retired psychologist and her partner, Morgan Davis, the master of the Myrena Fox Hunt club. Ryland suspects there is more to Jesse’s foul temper than meets the eye. When Morgan and Ryland accidentally discover vicious scars on Jesse’s back, Ryland knows that without their help, Jesse’s descent into insanity will rapidly overwhelm them all.

About the Author:

 The Door at the Top of the StairsImage of Alison Holt

Passion is a funny thing. I inherited my greatest passion, the love of animals, from my grandmother, Naomi Holt. She was an incredibly strong woman who was the first female in her county to actually wear... heaven forbid...pants in public! She also understood animals better than anyone I've ever met, and she passed that love and devotion on to me. Like her, there has never been a time in my life where I didn't have some type of pet close by.

For me, growing up on a working cattle ranch in Arizona was nothing short of incredible. I learned to ride almost before I could walk. I loved racing after a stampeding herd of cattle over the desert floor on Smokey Jove, my coal black quarter horse. I hunted with raptors and played tackle football in the cow pens with the hired hands. My father taught me to shoot when I was six and I trained my first dog, well, when the dog was still bigger than me!

Joining the Tucson Police Department seemed like a natural transition after such a rough and tumble childhood. I had earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in writing at the University of Arizona and was looking for a career that could satisfy my other great passion in life - the need to know what "it" is like. What is just around the corner that I can't see? What haven't I done that I'd love to do?

A police officer is always waiting to see what will happen next. And the exciting part is, you have to meet the challenge head on. There is no choice. That's what I loved about police work.

While I was a cop, I worked every possible job I could, changing assignments every few years just because I could. I loved working as a patrol officer on the city's south side, but the idea of becoming a detective fascinated me. When I was a detective, I wanted to be a sergeant, and when a sergeant, I spent hundreds of hours studying to be a Lieutenant. I was a hostage negotiator, I commanded Undercover Units and Riot Control Squads, just because I could. Just because I wanted to know what "it" was like.

Then something strange happened. Again, passion is a funny thing. Someone asked me if I would have any regrets when I retired. I thought, "What have I missed?" The answer was easy. Shortly thereafter, the K9 sergeant position opened, and against the advice of all my fellow commanders - except one wonderful Deputy Chief of Police (she really is a saint in my book) - I took a voluntary demotion from the rank of Lieutenant and became the Sergeant/Supervisor for the 11 man K9 squad. That assignment was a rocky ride, but well worth it because now, I'll always know "What it's like".

When I retired after twenty exciting, extraordinary years on the police department, I went back to working with Raptors at a wonderfully unique program at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. I also learned to fox hunt (don't know why they call it hunting, the darn fox constantly thumbs his nose at the poor fox hounds) and most importantly, for now at least, I began to write. I love to write just as I loved to train animals and just as I loved being a cop. I hope that through my writing, you can share a little of my passions and my experiences and know what it's like to wonder what "it" is really like.

Alison can be found on Twitter at:

and on her website at:

Guest Post by Alison Holt:

     First, I’d like to thank Donna for giving me the opportunity to guest post on her wonderful blog “My life. One Story at a Time.” The time book reviewers spend reading books, reviewing them, posting them and blogging about them boggles the mind. Reviewers are people who genuinely love to read, but more importantly, they love to bring the joy of reading to as many people as they possibly can. For that, I am eternally grateful.

     Books and book reviewers have always been a part of my life. I remember as a six-year-old sitting with my mother on Sunday morning reading book reviews in the New York Times. Other people’s parents read their kids the comics…mine…well, we also did the crossword puzzles and discussed the editorials. There were so many times that I’d read a review of a book, and I had to run to the library to see if I could find it. The reviewers knew how to give just enough information to bring the stories to life without giving away the true meat of the story.

     It was this brief look into a book that also fueled my overactive imagination. The reviewer planted the bare bones of a story in my head, and while waiting for the book to hit the stacks, I’d spend hours filling in the rest of the story.  My version never compared to what the author actually wrote, but that wasn’t necessary. Many times, my imagination would create one scenario on Monday, then on Tuesday the entire story line would change and the hero would take another path to glory.

     Stay with me now as we move forward twenty years.  I had become a brand new police officer who also happened to be working towards a master’s degree in psychology. As part of my studies I did an internship with the police psychologist on our department who was very good at discussing various aspects of his job, one of the most difficult being the effects on survivor officers when one of their own is killed. Somehow, our conversation turned toward officers who are first kidnapped or taken hostage, and then killed.

     I began to wonder what it would be like for an officer to be kidnapped, tortured, and somehow returned to “normal” police work. I had the bare bones of a story, and once again, my imagination began to work overtime. Believe it or not, throughout the next twenty years, the story that was to become The Door at the Top of the Stairs, took shape. I wrote it and re-wrote it in my mind until I knew each character intimately. I knew what the people looked like, how they thought and what they sounded like. My experiences as an officer, detective, sergeant, and eventually lieutenant added realism to the story. When I was a hostage negotiator, I began to intimately understand Jesse, the undercover narcotics officer who has to come to grips with the nightmares of her past. I knew how she would feel, how she’d react, and how her strength could possibly pull her through.

     When I finally decided to write the story that had begun with a simple conversation twenty years earlier, the story flowed. From the second I began to type, the characters fought to be heard. I would awaken in the middle of the night with whole chapters already written in my head. I’d have to grab my computer and feverishly type until everything was down on paper. Only then could I get back to sleep. My other books had taken six to nine months to write. The Door at the Top of the Stairs took three months from start to finish. As you read this book, I hope that somehow these characters come to life for you, that you begin to feel as though you’d like to know them, that you care about their loss, and their pain and that you embrace their strength as though it were your own.

Meet Lt. Alison Holt, a cop for more than twenty years. She has arrested everything from homicide suspects to emus, the latter earning her a spot on America's Funniest Home Videos. She taught police procedures to officers, and now teaches writers how to write realistic police scenes and characters.
To read more about Alison Holt, go to

Book Quotes:

Andy came out from behind the bar and righted a chair, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he spoke. “Well, Hank accuse Tom of cheating so they got into a fight. Jimbo decided Tom couldn’t handle Hank alone.” The room broke into laughter since Tom was twice the size of Hank. “Once she saw the fight was unfair…” He looked around and then pointed toward Jesse.  “That lady there jumped in to even things up. She did too.” There were general nods of agreement around the room.

Morgan grabbed the back of Jesse’s shirt and pulled her up short.

Richard pointed to the fire starter. “That is one of my training devices.” He held up a cattle prod. “And this is my other. I will be total, absolute control of you when we’re done today.”

Morgan took her cue from Ryland and projected calmness and control at the same time she was trying to catch her breath.

Jesse looked up…”Richard was sitting in a chair, and the fire starter went from red to orange.”

My Review:

            This book was amazing! All else in my world came to a halt as I became deeper and deeper engrossed in the book. I could not put it down. I truly did not know what to expect from the book when I read the preface. I wasn’t sure how gory the book would be and I was worried that I would not be able to complete the book.

            The book drew me in and I was unable to put it down. It was full of emotion and suspense and it was next to impossible to figure out what the next page held in store. I fell in love with characters. They were honest and raw.

            Jesse, a young undercover cop, is a sassy young woman with bad attitude and news written all over her when she shows up looking for work at Morgan’s farm.

            Morgan, sporting her own emotional scars from years gone by meets her match in the saucy young girl, seeing herself in Jesse.

            Ry, Morgan’s life partner and retired psychologist, sees through Jesse’s smart mouth and attitude and is determined to help her face her demons.

            Three women, hanging on for the ride of a life-time, manage to make it through tumultuous days on the farm where Morgan fights to keep her temper in check while all the while wanting to either throttle Jesse, or fire her. Jesse, unconsciously feeling the security that Morgan doesn’t realize she gives, tests Morgan at every turn. In the security of these two women, Jesse’s hidden memories of the abduction and torture begin to surface, and Morgan and Ry are determine to save her tortured soul.

            The book has a powerful message contained within its covers. It is a story of courage, of betrayal, of learning to trust again, and in its own way, a coming of age. The descriptive text used throughout the story leaves you spellbound; the plot well written.

            Alison captures the essence of the tortured mind of a young undercover cop who subconscious buries a time of abduction and torture by a drug Lord. This book is one of those books that beg to be read.

Alison’s books can be purchased on Amazon

You can also enter to win a copy of The Door at the Top of the Stairs by
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Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation - monetary or in kind - has been obtained for this post. Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm. 

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  1. Thanks for a very interesting review and bio. I agree. I was captivated by this story and the authentic relationship of the three women. I was touched deeply by the rawness and riveted by the way it unfolded.
    Top notch read!

  2. What an interesting set of experiences you draw on! I can see how it inspired you to write. Thanks for the post.

  3. Thank you, ladies, for the wonderful comments. I truly enjoyed writing this book and am always pleased to hear that other people liked the characters as much as I did.

  4. Darn it! Another must have book. I've got to quit reading your reviews! Seriously, tho, this book is on my 'I want it now.' Sure sounds like a great read.

  5. The book sounds exceptional. Great guest post. Thanks, Donna!


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