Read an Excerpt from HARMFUL INTENT ~ releasing this spring

I took this photo while I was doing research for a novel that is a bit of a departure from the 1940s historical mysteries I’ve been writing. I have a contemporary whodunit coming out this spring. HARMFUL INTENT is a detective story with realistic police procedure and tons of humor. There are more than enough quirky characters in this story. The conversations swirling around this stable prompted me to write the excerpt below.

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HARMFUL INTENT, Chapter 22, Scene 3

Buffalo Gap
Day Twelve, Late Morning
Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes

I waved Patti down, got a check, and paid with a credit card. After one last sip of coffee, I grinned at Ronnie over my cup. “It might interest you to know I’ve got somethin’ up my sleeve this mornin’. Today happens to be the day of the Buffalo Gap Cross-Country Trail Competition. It’s sort of an endurance test for horse and rider. If we hurry we’ll see a few of them cross the finish line.”

She grinned. “Wouldn’t want to miss this.”

I ushered her out and guided her toward my Ram. “Why don’t you leave that baby buggy here and ride with me, then I’ll bring you back later?”

“That would work.”

I drove down side streets, just beyond the edge of the village, and found parking in a field turned into a makeshift lot for the event. Then we walked an eighth of a mile down a dusty road to the Bar None Stable, a low whitewashed rectangular structure with a huge red and white sliding door in front. It was the starting and finish line for this competition.

Horse trailers pulled by SUVs and pickups dotted the parking area in front as well as the small knoll sloping down to paddocks where several horses grazed.

Desmond LeBlanc greeted us, looking every bit the surfer dude. Matthew McConaughey had nothing on him. LeBlanc’s baritone carried on the breeze. Todd and I went way back to Iraq with the man. Fifty something, but didn’t look a day over forty-five. After a distinguished military career, he grew out his dirty blond hair and spent some time in Hollywood as a stunt double, then transplanted to Texas and opened the stable.

He planted a hand on his hip. “Look who’s deemed to grace us and brought a fine young lady with him. You know something, Hughes, she’s way outta your league.” He slapped me on the back while a wicked grin ate his unlined face.

The thought struck me he might’ve gone under the knife when he was in tinsel town. Might’ve tinted his hair too. Not a speck of gray.

I made introductions. “Ronnie, when Todd and I first got over to Iraq, we had to take crap from this guy. He was a sergeant without mercy and hasn’t let up since.”

LeBlanc kicked a rock in the parking lot with the toe of his dusty boot. “Well, it’s been awhile since Iraq.”

I nodded. “Who won today?”

LeBlanc chuckled. “You know him pretty good too. Pete, the rodeo clown.”

Ronnie broke out into a smile. “Pete won?”

“Yes, ma’am. A lotta ladies rode in the competition today. It came down to Pete and Janie West, the champion barrel racer. They were neck ‘n neck when they came outta those trees ‘n into the clearing. Pete showed her no quarter and crossed that finish line in a break-neck gallop. That was something to see, all right. I got it on video. Show you later, if you want.”

A silver haired lady entered the clearing, spurred her mount and rode across the finish line at a trot. LeBlanc excused himself and helped the woman dismount.

I nudged Ronnie. “Let’s go into the stable and see if we can find Pete. They’ll have a farrier in there takin’ care of any shoe or hoof problems. Some’ll be hosin’ off their horses out back.”

Riders who rented stalls, carried pitchforks laden with fresh hay for their horses to nibble.

As we continued walking toward the back, we heard LeBlanc call out, “The last rider has crossed the line.”

A cowboy, with burnished tones in his brown hair, darted into the stable, took his Stetson off, and bowed as a woman rider entered. “Ava Chandler congratulations on finishin’ third from the bottom. ‘Course my wife finished right after you and right before that girl who fell off and her horse run away.” He slapped his hat on his thigh and cackled.

I wheeled around and Ronnie pivoted with me.

Ava Chandler dismounted an outstanding Arabian mare. “Gus, I suppose that passes for humor in your book?”

Gus balanced his hat on the back of his head and splayed both palms out, facing the Chandler woman. “Now, there were no insult intended.”

She stared him down. “None taken.” It seemed she hardly moved her lips.

The man’s shoulders slumped at her rebuke. He rocked from boot-to-boot as he made his way out of the stable.

“Deputy Hughes, are you followin’ me? That would be a violation of my rights and my husband won’t like that.” Her glare had not softened.

I approached her, Ronnie at my side. “Mrs. Chandler, good day. We came to see what Desmond LeBlanc had goin’ on here today. Had no idea you were competin’. This is a public place. There’s no expectation of privacy.”

Her auburn hair sailed over her shoulder as she spun on her heel and stormed away, pulling her horse by the reins, none too gentle on the mare’s mouth.

I leaned over and whispered to Ronnie. “She’s just this side of a loose cannon. That woman bears watchin’. Winslow Chandler isn’t the type to make too many mistakes, but his lovely wife might make a few. Would be nice if we had eyes and ears there to catch her when she does.”

Top Edge RibbonAt his time I’m enthusiastically awaiting my cover. The talented Ellen Sallas (Ellen C. Maze) is presently working on it.  She’s a very talented gal.

BROKEN ALLEGIANCE by Mark Young ~ nobody gets out alive from a gang

Broken AllegianceAn accident that killed his son, shattered Detective Tom Kagan’s life. The offending driver, a gang-banger, ran from the scene and was never brought to justice. Now back from a temporary assignment with the FBI, he’s once again hunting down gang members in Santa Rosa, CA.

The author pulled me into the emotional turmoil that is Tom Kagan’s life. Although he deeply loves his wife Sara, since the accident, he has shut down all emotion and is often remote from her. We see Tom with all his warts. He drinks too much and is also a first class cheap skate who begrudges tips he gives to waitresses.

Having been called to the murder crime scene of Paco, a high ranking, seemingly untouchable, “all good” member of the Nuestra Familia (NF) street gang, he knows this could become a no holds barred fight within the gang with innocent people getting hurt along the way. What he doesn’t know is a gang leader named Ghost is calling the shots from his cell within Pelican Bay State Prison, CA.

Kagan has a history with the Hispanic gangs since the accident that killed his son — a bad one. His sergeant thinks he’s a loose cannon who should be retired back to patrol, but the chief wants Tom in gangs. The detective has been receiving photographs of himself, his wife, and his partner’s wife with the message: we’re watching you. His partner, grounded in the spirituality of his Christian religion, is a sharp contrast from Tom’s depression and rage. Kagan keeps knowledge of this surveillance from his supervisors out of fear he will be removed from working on gangs, which is where he gets intelligence with which to protect his wife.

When Kagan and Hector Garcia, a gang expert with the Special Services Unit (SSU), visit Ghost in Pelican Bay, the gang-banger taunts Tom. He says he was the one driving the car that killed Tom’s young son, years ago. Agent Garcia has to hold Tom back. Ghost screams, “You’re a dead man.”

After an assault on Ghost in the prison, he’s transferred from Pelican Bay to a community hospital from which he escapes. Now the gang-banger is hunting Tom Kagan and his partner Detective Bill Stevenson. There is an emotionally wrenching scene where Tom and his wife go to his partner’s home for dinner, unaware that Ghost lurks outside watching the house. Bill reads his young son a story and then he and Tom listens as the boy says his prayers before bed. They have no clue there is evil lurking outside.

It is obvious the author has personal, career experience in law enforcement with gangs. He is totally successful in getting across how senseless gang violence is, that nobody gets out alive from a gang. Regardless of the demand for loyalty by the gang, there is no loyalty within. Eventually every gang member is killed by a rival gang, or by a stronger member of his own gang who seeks power. This novel is well written and readers who are thrilled by a good detective novel will love this one’s authenticity.

Amazon/Kindle. http://amzn.to/1keJgBd

DEAD LIKE ME by Kelly Miller ~ a review, Scary Childhood Memories

Dead Like MeThe sexual abuse of a pedophile, in my opinion, is akin to premeditated, attempted murder. It destroys the core being of it’s victim(s).

Detective Kate Springer and her partner, Detective Patrick Jessup arrive at a murder investigation crime scene where a young teenager’s body is partly covered with leaves and twigs. When Kate gets a closer look at the girl’s face, her world is shaken. The face is a dead ringer for Kate’s own face at age thirteen, except that the victim has dyed black hair. The girl had been strangled with bare hands, indicating a perpetrator with some physical strength.

So, either the resemblance is a total coincidence, a product of an over active imagination, or the victim is somehow connected to Kate. This is not your ordinary detective, hunt ’em down, murder mystery. It only took a few pages for me to “get” who Kate is…to understand how the demons from her own childhood sexual abuse impact her ability to handle this case. Her emotional trauma causes her to withhold this identity-connection from her partner and her superiors. In the beginning she even wonders if she harbors such intense repressed feelings from her own abuse that she’s projected her own childhood image onto Kimberly Callahan, the dead teenager. Something, that in fact, is entirely possible.

However, when she interviews Kimberly Callahan’s tipsy mother, who reeks of alcohol, Kate examines a recent photograph of the girl and again notes how similar Kimberly is in appearance to her own childhood self.

Kate uses sarcasm as a means of communication, no doubt because her emotions have been shut down for a long time. She has just finished therapy with the department psychologist after a two week mandatory leave, and this case sends her running back for additional therapy. She is tough and is a survivor, but her past clouds her judgement and she makes more than one questionable professional decision. Of course, that only adds to the novels twists and turns.

The investigation leads Kate and Patrick from the victim’s mother who is falling apart, to a group of alienated students who dress in black, to a junior high school teacher who supplements his income by selling kiddie porn.

We are introduced to a villain who is beyond creepy. As the novel nears its end, there are a few graphic details where Kate recalls her own sexual abuse. Graphic, yes. Exploitative or gratuitous, not at all. These details are organic to the story as Kate comes to grips with her abuse at the hands of a virulent and murderous pedophile.

Amazon/Kindle  http://amzn.to/1mppB35

Just The Facts Ma’am ~ Life Before Technology and Miranda

Police Car, 1950s 2

Fingerprints were the de rigueur means of positive identification from the 1920s to the 1950s. In 1903 the New York State Prison system began the first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States for criminals. By 1904 Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas and the St. Louis Police Department had begun using finger printing. They were assisted by a Scotland Yard sergeant who had been on duty at the St. Louis World’s Fair Exposition guarding the British exhibition. In 1908 the first official finger print card was in devised.

In my Sanctuary Point series, set on the south shore of Long Island after World War II, stalwart detective Ian Daltry brings in suspects, gets out the marble slab, the ink, and the cards to finger print suspects. He then sends them to the lavatory where they endeavor to wash the mess off their hands with Lava soap.

At that time, every state and the FBI maintained voluminous, manually compiled, classified, and sorted finger print files. It would’ve been nigh a miracle to make a cold hit. There was nearly no way a latent print from a crime scene could be searched against all the various data bases country-wide as it can be done today with the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). The data bases were just too spread out for that type of search. However, once a suspect was developed through investigation, comparison of latent prints from the crime scene to the fingerprints of the suspect cleared lots of cases.

In those days, cases were solved the good old fashion way, going door-to-door looking for witnesses and asking questions. Developing strong investigative skills was a must. And circumstantial cases that would stand up in court were built by detectives, who had no computers to rely upon. Blood typing was available, but not conclusive. Still it would be compelling circumstantial evidence if the suspect had blood of the same type as the victim’s on his clothing.

Driver’s license and automobile license plate information was stored state-by-state in large, hand written ledger books. It took a phone call from local law enforcement to the state police or to the state’s motor vehicle department to get a look up. There was no NCIC computer system until 1967. Prior to that, the only way to find out if a car was stolen was by a telephone check of local police department hot sheets that were published daily in most cities. Police cars were radio equipped but there were no portable walkie-talkies. Most cities had call boxes scattered around town where police officers could periodically check in with headquarters. Every officer carried at least one dime with him in case he had to use a public phone booth. And it was a he. There were no female police officers.

There were also no tazers or pepper spray, so an out-of-control criminal would get a not so gentle tap of a black jack, sometimes called a sap or night stick. In my series the Sanctuary Point Police Department had a black jack hanging on the wall near the holding cells. In my Christmas whodunit, GOODBYE NOEL, it was used to threaten two mobsters who were getting out of hand during the booking process. There was also no Miranda warning during the detainment or arrest process. Detective Daltry simply pointed his revolver into the face of the bigger of the two and then marched them to the station. There was no doubt if they made a physical move on him that he would shoot.

Goodbye Noel, Amazon

 

 

 

The first body is found under a trimmed Christmas tree, the second as they ring in the New Year (1947), the third goes head long out a window. Will a young pediatric nurse determined to make it on her own be able to care for an infant whose mother was murdered and escape the killer who has struck again? Can she trust the stalwart village detective with her life and her heart as he works to catch this killer before somebody else dies?

Pediatric nurse, Katrina Lenart, grew up strong willed and independent minded, while sharing her mother’s flair for high fashion. When the police chief gives her an orphaned baby to care for, her maternal instincts take over and she’s willing to fight anyone who might not have the infant’s best interests at heart, even the man she’s growing to love. After an attempt is made to kidnap the baby, she and the resolute village detective team up and do some sleuthing, undercover at a cult as well as at a fancy ball.

Detective Ian Daltry is a widower with a child and is not interested in a new love. Hunting a killer who stops at nothing has placed him in the position where he must protect a beautiful young woman he’s drawn to. Is there’s something he’s overlooked in analyzing the case? Will he find out what that is before this ruthless murderer kills someone he loves?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon/Kindle.  http://amzn.to/12nzi3j

Barnes & Noble/Nook. http://bit.ly/11L7quZ

Holding Out For A Significant Crime Fiction Hero ~ Heroine

Detective, In Morgue

One of the best things about crime fiction is getting into the head and heart of an incredible hero/heroine. Does he have to be the nice and honorable guy next door who morphs into a superheo? No, he doesn’t! Not for me!

She could be that stalwart homicide detective, a beleaguered single mom with a defiant kid, and she’s fighting crime against all odds. He could be highly flawed. Perhaps a heavy drinker or former alcoholic fighting his own demons as he labors on to catch a heinous killer. I want the hero or heroine to arouse my emotions. I want to feel their distress, root for them when the odds against them seem astronomical, and fear for them when they encounter danger  as they run their course.

Antisocial is perfectly fine for a crime fiction hero/heroine — as long as the character gets their hooks in me. They “gotta have heart” to get me to recommend the book. No matter how jaded they’ve become (and I love jaded heroes), on some level they have to believe they’re there to protect and serve. They have to seek justice for innocent victims of crime. And when the victim is not so innocent, even if it’s their um-teenth homicide, they can’t be indifferent to murder’s pain and suffering…even if they want to be.

I also go for a heroine/hero who is aware of the inherent injustice within society where there are always haves and have nots. I can appreciate a detective who gives a basically good bloke who’s made a few mistakes a break. The ghettos are populated with mostly ordinary citizens who are trying to provide for their families and have a good life. My type of hero/heroine would be angered by predators who commit atrocious acts, even if they hail from the underclass. My type of heroine/hero would relentless pursue the killer no matter if she/he were from society’s A-list, the boardroom, or the hood.

Above all else, I have to believe the hero/heroine is a cop. If you’ve taken, or know someone who’s taken a criminal justice course in college, then you might be familiar with the proverbial lecture on “the police officer’s psychological profile.” Police officers take psych tests when they apply for their jobs. So, it could be argued that the police force choses a certain personality for the job. Be that as it may, there is a “cop personality.” Police departments tend to be looking for officers who are efficient, pragmatic, conservative, cynical, suspicious, and action oriented. Even sleepy little villages who have never experienced a homicide want this type of police officer. In today’s law enforcement environment the smallest of police forces are incredibly professional. The local yokel who makes it onto the force is, for the most part, a thing of the past. Barney Fife is no more. Of course we write fiction…and if the story is a cozy, a Barney Fife might be just what the author desires.

For those writing detective stories, suspense, and/or thrillers that more realistic “cop personality” might give the main character traits that garner acclaim for him on the job. However, they can wreak havoc in a marriage and as a parent (cynical, suspicious). So our crime fiction hero/heroine might be doing well in the police department carving out a distinguished career while her/his private life is falling apart. This makes for interesting, multi-dimensional reading.

Graphic courtesy of Microsoft online images

DARKEST HOUR ~ a seaside mystery ~ on the Grace Awards 2013 Launch

Darkest Hour, Lg

Team Launching is a whole lot of fun…and summer is the time to do it. What a whirlwind and now DARKEST HOUR is showcased on the tour.

*****

I thought to myself, self, what can I say about DARKEST HOUR that’s new and different. Everyone knows it’s filled with suspense, intrigue, and treachery….not to mention romance. They know it’s set in the mid-1940s and that I’m crazy about the post World War II era.

Ah, but what they might not know is that I’m also in love with the sea…the ocean, particularly the Atlantic Ocean. I love it’s history and lore and love to visit cities and villages on the America’s eastern seaboard. I’m in love with Cape Cod, Key Largo and St. Augustine, Florida, and Montauk, NY (it’s the end.) Stories from the 1800s before the mast, of whaling, or of sea captains who went down with their ships thrill me.

That’s a big part of why I set the Sanctuary Point series on the south shore of Long Island. I created a tiny village first settled by missionaries. Then during prohibition day, a local shipping family made their fortune bootlegging illegal whiskey. This family employs a good many of the residents and thinks it can call the shots.  DARKEST HOUR is the fourth novel in the series and the ocean is so integral to the story, it’s almost a character.

*****

A petite widow, medical secretary and sole support of her young son and grandparents, is framed for the murder of her boss. Wealthy village residents conspire with the DA to indicte her and stop further investigation. The medical examiner thinks the shooter was a tall individual. When his report is shoved aside, he starts his own side-investigation trying to clear her and in the process he falls in love with her.

Lucinda Byrne lost her husband and parents at sea. When she discovers the body of her boss, his A-List society finacee, backed up by her powerful family and a corrupt DA, acuses Lucinda of murder.  She struggles on shielding her five-year-old son, her feisty grandfather and arthritic grandmother from the ugliness of her situation. She mistrusts the dapper ME, thinking he’s a ladies’ man, but soon realizes he may be the only one in her corner.

Hank Jansen, the county ME who’s had his share of pain and loss, doesn’t know if this little widow was in on the murder, but he knows by the trajectory of the bullet she’s too short to have pulled the trigger. His professional opinion ignored, he begins his own investigation and at least one cop accuses him of an ethics violation. He certainly can’t deny he’s fallen head over heals for the accused, and also is crazy about her son. A huge problem is there’s a leak inside the investigation and the murderer is always one step ahead of them.

Excerpt:

Lucinda leaned forward and took his hands in hers. “The ocean has taken so much from both of us. I used to love the beach, the sand, the waves. Now I hate it.”

Concern flashed across his eyes. “Maybe it was a mistake coming to Long Beach. Would you like to go?”

“No, I live in a waterside village. Sanctuary Point is on the bay. Long Beach is on the ocean. There’s not much difference. I’m used to having my enemy near.” She hadn’t meant to get so maudlin. Her mind raced for something uplifting to say, but failed. “Boy, I’m hungry now.” It was the best she could do.

The waitress brought two glasses of ice water and took their order. They both took huge gulps.

“Say, you didn’t tell me how your appointment went with your attorney.”

Lucinda placed her half empty glass on the table. “It went well. He’s going to use your report as the basis for my defense. I told him about your new lead, and he said that sounds promising indeed.” She giggled. “Those were his words, ‘promising indeed’.”

“I’m glad my report is useful to somebody. The angle of trajectory points to a much taller shooter. But do they take that into consideration? No.”

“Maybe when it’s presented to the jury…”

Purchase Links:

Amazon/Kindle.  amzn.to/154FCnq

Barnes and Noble/Nook.  bit.ly/17Kh6mg

*****

Nike. Pix

Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (penciled might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 and 2012 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. BURNING HEARTS, the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, finaled in the Grace Awards 2011 in the Romance/Historical Romance category. GOODBYE NOEL, the second book in the series released in December, 2011 won the Grace Award 2011 in the Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller category. PERILOUS SHADOWS, third in the series released July, 2012, and DARKEST HOUR, the fourth in the series released in February, 2013.  She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). https://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/

ENTANGLED by Barbara Ellen Brink ~ a review

Entangled

 

Author Barbara Ellen Brink has been connected to the Grace Awards for a couple of years. Her supernatural thriller SPLIT SENSE won the Grace Award 2011 in the Speculative Fiction category. She was also a judge in the Young Adult category in 2011. So, it’s an honor and a pleasure to let everyone know how much I enjoyed the first book in her California winery mystery series.

 

*****

Sometimes long past memories are like ghosts coming back to haunt us.

Minneapolis divorce attorney, Wilhelmina “Billie” Fredrickson, inherits her adventurer uncle’s Californian winery. She’s determined not to leave her present life by moving to the left coast. She’s merely going to attend to all the legal details and then put the winery on the market. She soon begins having the reoccurring nightmares she used to have as a girl after a boy in her high school attempted to rape her at a drunken party. He didn’t get too far, as she broke his nose with a wine bottle, giving him a concussion. This is no helpless heroine, yet she is plagued by buried and conflicting emotions from her past she’s rather duck than deal with.

Arriving in California, Billie is immediately attracted to attorney Handle Parker, who was her Uncle Jack’s legal eagle. However, she can’t shake the feeling that he seems to resent her inheriting the Fredrickson Winery. One of the lines I most enjoyed in the novel is…I knew he questioned the validity of my receiving my uncle’s holdings, as though I’d conspired to put a voodoo curse on Jack before he died, which was preposterous since I was raised Lutheran.

Author Barbara Ellen Brink has crafted complex characters. Billie has many secrets, most of them hidden from herself. She’s got a complex relationship with Sabrina, her protective mother. And Billie has a tendency to run away from her problems. She’s definitely pushing down disturbing memories of a long lost summer at the winery twenty-years ago when as a girl she first met Handle as well as the many not so subtle hints that her mother has quite a few secrets of her own.

A break-in at the winery and the discovery of troubling photographs forces Billie to face her past. Then there’s vandalism which is a serious setback to her plan for putting the winery on a local winery tour. And let’s not forget the attempt upon her life. All these add up to one enticing mystery read. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself yearning for an aromatic glass of California wine and perhaps a slice or two of good cheddar.

wine grapes

Amazon/Kindle: http://amzn.to/14iCFIC

Barnes and Noble/Nook. http://bit.ly/14y0NuT