WORKS OF DARKNESS by VB Tenery ~ a review

Works of DarknessPolice Chief Matt Foley’s beloved, deceased wife Mary was best friends with Sara Bradford, but Matt doesn’t like Sara or trust her. In fact, deep down, he thinks she’s guilty of having murdered her own husband. He just hasn’t been able to prove it…yet.
Sara is very attractive, smart, capable, and loving.

 

She adopts two orphan children who were involved in her church’s bus program bringing under privileged kids to Sunday school. Yet, she’s by no means invincible. She has fears and makes mistakes. She comes off like a real living, breathing person.
Then a small child’s body is found on the grounds of what used to be a Christian camp grounds. This missing persons cold-case is twenty-five years old. The little girl who is now known to have been murdered was Sara’s childhood neighbor and best friend. In fact Sara was the last person to have seen little Penny Pryor alive. Could Sara have a valuable memory locked away the police can use to solve this heinous crime? That’s what Chief Foley wonders. This heart wrenching cold case opens terrible old wounds for the child’s parents and those who knew the family, including Sara’s aunt.

 

There are no shortage of plot twists and turns and they’re done in a seamless and believable way. Sara is buffeted by brutal corporate maneuvering at her job. Then she becomes a target and her physical safety is in jeopardy. She’s on a roll…a downward roll. Matt Foley begins to have sympathy for her plight but can’t let go of his conviction that she’s a murderess.

 

Local town politic and corporate politics is portrayed in a knowing way. The way upwardly mobile characters jockey for position and advantage is convincing. They definitely make a direct hit below the belt when somebody suggests Matt married his somewhat older wife for her money. Matt is hurt and angered when he hears of this ugly rumor, not for himself, but because he thinks these allegations might mar Mary’s memory and legacy.
The author supplies credible red herrings. In fact, she had me believing a certain character I liked a great deal was viable as the child’s murderer and the one behind Sara’s physical danger. Then the author pulls in the other loose end, Sara’s husband’s murder, in a manner I was not expecting.

 

While Chief Foley has nothing but mistrust for Sara, a lop-sided romantic triangle of sorts is unfolding. The cantankerous female medical examiner has her eyes on Matt (or should we say, her hooks out), but Matt is still grieving his wife’s death from cancer. Meanwhile, Matt’s friend, the county sheriff has a hankering for the lady ME.

 

The author brings the novel to a close with a crescendo. But it appears as if the villain might be victorious. Then in a most unexpected way, he is defeated.

 

PURCHASE LINK: Amazon.  http://amzn.to/1t78bpX

 

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

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

Must Read Blogs For The Crime Fiction Writers ~ Researching

Mark Young’s Hook ’em and Book ’em blog is one of my personal favorites. It’s a blog that’s always interesting and topical.


Hook ’em and Book ’em. http://hookembookem.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

I took a Romance Writers of America (RWA) course on the History of Forensics given by Doug Lyle and it was fantastic…just as his The Writer’s Forensic Blog is.

 

The Writer’s Forensic Blog.  http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

On Lee Lofland’s blog The Graveyard Shift, a writer can learn to cook with cops and also find out about a myriad of things law enforcement officers face every day.


The Graveyard Shift. http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/home/

 



On the Law and Fiction blog, Leslie Budewitz, author of Books, Crooks and Counselors, will tell you whats going on with the Supreme Court, at the state court level…or you might just get a Saturday writing quote.


Law and Fiction.  http://www.lawandfiction.com/blog/

 
A blog I find myself going back to repeatedly is PoliceOne.com. You can find so much info here from breaking police news to article on the police wife and a policeman’s life. http://www.policeone.com/police-blogs/


If you need to know what’s going on with the Supreme Court of the United States, you can’t beat the SCOTUS blog sponsored by Bloomberg Law. http://www.scotusblog.com/