Mysteries to Die For was featured on that fantastic mystery and thriller blog Writers Who Kill. One of the writers who routinely kills is KM Rockwood, who contributed Best Friend to Season 4: A WORD BEFORE DYING. The featured post talks about how our podcast grew from an idea to a media forum tailor made for those who can’t resist a good mystery.
When crossing the Atlantic, few things are worse than have a ghost among the crew. The one above the Paul Henry is looking for men to join its ranks. So far, he’s acquired two souls. Dock in New York, Captain Saverfeld seeks out a pair who solved a deadly mystery on another ship, years before. Mr. Edmund Jessop and Mr. Linus Gordon have turned their time and skills to booking cargo. But they can’t resist a good mystery anymore than we can.
Listen to Mysteries to Die For and solve the mystery of The Ghost of the Paul Henry by Michael Penncavage.
Mystery lovers, have I got a treat for you.
The nine stories of this season’s Mysteries To Die For podcast are coming to a book distributor near you. What makes this anthology so much fun for us mystery lovers is that, like the podcast, there is a pause before the big reveal to give you a chance to solve the murder. I’ve included the list of suspects and summarized the clues in a page called “Deliberation.” Whet your detective skills on these made to order mysteries.
Nuts! by Judi Lynn. Laurel and Nick’s first anniversary Airbnb getaway is hi-jacked by a woman dying on the kitchen floor. “Nuts!” she tells Laurel before losing consciousness.
Finding Hiawatha by Frank Zafiro. Jameson Burrish’s health had been failing but death came for him sooner than expected. With his daughter and nephew at his bedside, he gasps out his final word “Hiawatha.” Is it the rambling of a sick man or a decree to rewrite his will? The answer falls to private investigator Stefan Kopriva.
In Vino Veritas by Jack Wolff. The rag tag team of treasure hunters is within a day of finding the mythical Domas Dei temple when their guide, Den Deadson, meets a messy end. With his last breath he tells Detective-turned-bodyguard James Delviro “in vino veritas.” Now what the heck could that mean?
The Legend of El Melena by Mark Edward Langley. People are turning up dead around a small, burned down church outside Las Palmas, NM. Paranormal journalist Eddie Manning investigates to determine if the hand behind “El Melena” are human or something other.
No Luck like Bad Luck by TG Wolff. Richard Wedgeworth died in the middle of a party, his final words to his wife were “bad luck.” He ate the same food and drank the same drinks as everyone, yet he was poisoned. Solving the mystery is Diamond’s problem. Too bad she’s not for hire.
Sue Her by Kyra Jacobs. Marissa Steele is implicated in murder when the soon-to-be dead man points to her and says “Jimmy will sue her.” A former cop, Charlie Mullins pulls out all the stops to protect his best friend’s sister and the one woman he can never have.
Best Friend by KM Rockwood. A developmentally delayed young woman is hit by a truck and killed, the case closed as a tragic accident. But her last words “best friend” mean Darlene’s older brother and a volunteer social worker aren’t so quick to close the book.
The Ghost of the Paul Henry by Michael Penncavage. Men are dying aboard the Paul Henry. The only clue to their demise is the last word uttered by one of the damned. “Ghost.” Captain Saverfeld turns to Mr. Edmund Jessop and Mr. Linus Gordon to answer the question of if there is a ghostly hand behind it all.
Fading Shadow by TG Wolff. A day of the zoo becomes work for Detective Jesus De La Cruz when the maintenance manager Warren Taylor is shot. His dying word “shadow” leaves Cruz looking hard at those closest to the man.
Continuing our dive into Colin Conway’s Backroads Bobby and his Friends, Susan Wingate brings us the story of an ass kicking lady and a tough guy wannabe in The Transformation of Buzzcut Billy. Zaine Walker knows exactly who her daddy is, and her greatest wish is to be the reason for his exodus from this world. On her way to see Handbrake Hardy Frye, she stops for a burger and that’s where things go awry.
This short story is an entertaining diversion from your day. It doesn’t have the tension of some of the other stories but that doesn’t detract from the power of Zaine Walker’s character. She is a determined woman with a ton of self-confidence that we learn is well earned.
I drive a lot. And when I drive, my mind often does a deep dive into the oddities of our world that catch my attention. Most recently, my wandering mind wondered about…
Cows are beautiful and produce the milk that gives us so much and, yes, they taste good. But why do they exist? They are lumbering creatures that don’t seem to have the speed or dexterity other herbivores are gifted with to outwit or out maneuver predators. So how have they won out in the survival of the fittest?
A 2012 article from University College London concluded that modern cattle are descendants from a small herd of wild oxen, captured and domesticated. The wild ancestors, called aurochs, truly were wild. They were common across Europe and Asia but did not have the calm demeanors we now associate with cows. They were much larger, too. Apparently, cattle farming was never for the feint of heart.
Interesting as that is (and the article is more interesting. Take the time to read it.) My question was more about how the cow evolved structurally and managed to survive. Maybe the answer to the second part is buried in the 2012 article. Once we bred the wild out of the cows, we humans protected them from all predators but ourselves.
Structurally, the back end bothers me. All of that weight being pulled down by gravity, pushing those knees forward. It doesn’t seem like a good design. Yet, the numbers in a 2011 article from The Beef Site pointed in a different direction. Data analysis of over 1.8 million animals that found only about 13% of the animals were treated for health issues and only 16% of those were for lameness. (For math haters, that is 0.16 x 0.13 = 0.02 or 2% of the original group) Of that 2% that were lame, 70% had foot issues. Issues in joint were most commonly associated with the front legs. Huh.
Well, I’m sure that’s farther than you ever wanted to go into cow family and frames. But now, you don’t have to wonder and neither do I.
Mysteries to Die For’s newest Toe Tag is SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY by Ken Harris. Listen to the first chapter on my website and everywhere you get your podcasts.
From July 11-August 5, See You Next Tuesday is on tour with Partners in Crime. Check out the tour link for more content and information https://www.partnersincrimetours.net/see-you-next-tuesday-by-ken-harris/
TG Wolff Review
This is a Private Investigator and grift story. The dynamic team of Steve Rochfish and Jawnie McGee tackle their first case as full partners. A line from later in the book gives the perfect synopsis. It’s a simple cheating husband case turned into a search and rescue, cult exfiltration and a wild ride that comes back to two old guys getting ripped off.
Rating See You Next Tuesday on a 5-point scale against the “perfect PI story”, I give this 5.00.
Strengths of the story. By now, you all know I’m hell on logic and Harris lives up to the bar. The actions of all the characters made sense for who they were. Rockfish and McGee drive the story, interfering with the bad guys plans, and the bad guys react, changing plans in a way that both creates unexpected twists and is totally reasonable given the change in their circumstances. Harris thoroughly developed his story, giving his detective material to work with. He worked them into a corner a time or two and let them fight their way out.
I liked both lead characters. Rockfish is older and has the mindset and habits that reflect those of us born in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Jawnie is his counterbalance, rooted in modern times in terms of technology, mindset, and vernacular. While either character could have been stereotypical, neither are and what really makes them work is the mutual respect and affection they have for each other.
Where the story fell short of the ideal. The first half of the story alternates between Rockfish’s and Jawnie’s points of view. As the story progresses, we have scenes written from the POV for their new Confidential Informant Lynn and, later, the bad guys. Information the reader gains here could not come from Rockfish or Jawnie. Often, I am not a fan of changing the storytelling style mid-book, but Harris did them very well. These changes in POV were the reason the logic and the story were able to stand up as strongly as they did. There were a few stylistic elements that were not my favorite but those were certainly personal preferences. Some minor editing misses were found, but not enough to detract from the story.
Bottom line: See You Next Tuesday is for you if you like PI’s who like to mix it up with the bad guys and refuse to quit—even after the cops tell them too.
It is Spencer Fleury’s turn in Colin Conway’s Back Road Bobby and His Friends 509 crim anthology. Handbrake Hardy Fry may be driving into the sunset, but he did a lot of damage on his way out. Lawrence Clyde Fretwell, aka Larry the Bag Man, was part of the collateral damage. His father had worked with Handbrake and Larry still holds the legendary driver responsible for his father’s death. He’s going to set this right before the old man is gone…in a school bus.
I’m giving this one a solid four stars. This unpredictable story has a lot to offer. Larry isn’t exactly lovable but you feel for the guy. First, he’s driver whose ankle is pinned together so he can drive a school bus but not a getaway car. Second, the kids he drives are jerks! Larry is tenacious, both in his resolute belief that Handbrake is responsible for his father’s absence from his childhood and in his determination to not make it easy for the cops. Run, Larry! Run!
Driver Giddy Up Derrick is trying to live up to the expectations her grandfather set. The only problem is her uncles won’t let her out from behind the reception desk. When the legendary Handbrake Hardy Frye is rumored to be on his deathbed, Giddy Up decides to make the trip to pay respects. Two eighteen year old girls, 1,800 miles, and enough ramen for a week. What could possibly go wrong?
The next story in Colin Conway’s Back Road Bobby and His Friends belongs to me. I thought about skipping this one. You know, recusing myself, and then decided nahh.
This story is has a different tone than the preceding episodes. Giddy Up and her friends Angel and Marcella deal with some grown up problems. Giddy Up isn’t given the chance to live up to her potential simply because she was born female. Angel is a domestic violence victim. First by her step-father, then by her boyfriend. Marcella is an illegal immigrant kidnapped from her family and forced into the sex trade. Real and heavy stuff. Giddy Up and Angel live dangerously by deciding to make the trek to Spokane. Along the way, they save Marcella from the men holding her.
Is this story for you? If you like darker stories, then probably not. It wouldn’t surprise me if you found Giddy Up and her friends silly. If you like dark stories with the potential of a happy ending, then yes, I think you’d enjoy the antics of three girls ready to take on the world.
In Trey Barker’s contribution to Colin Conway’s Back Road Bobby and His Friends, Jesse is ready to leave the world behind and live off the grid. But to do that, he needs some cash. A carefully placed question or two connects him with Wobble Wheel Wooley, a man on a quest for a pile of money hidden by Handbrake Hardy.
This call-and-answer style story has two men whose paths become crossed. Jesse isn’t fussy about where his next pay day comes from, just that it comes. Wobble Wheel is on a Coronado quest for the mother of all payouts. Unpredictable, Wobble Wheel drives the story, dragging Jesse along for the right. A clean, straight-forward story, I give this 4 stars.
There is a lot to love in Nekesa Afia’s debut mystery Dead Dead Girls. This book is an amateur sleuth-style mystery. Our sleuth is 26-year old Louise Lovey Lloyd. A Black woman in 1920s Harlem, she works as a waitress in a café over a kinda sleezy speakeasy by day and dances her feet off in the best club in the neighborhood at night. On her way home from a late night of music and drinking, Louise and her companion Rosa Maria discover the body of a teen in the cafe’s doorway. Louise feels for the girl who reminds her of her younger self, of her younger sisters. With a spine of steel, Louise works with the New York police to go into the one place they can’t, the homes and businesses of Black New York.
Rating Dead Dead Girls on a 5-point scale against the perfect mystery, I give this 3.5 stars.
Strengths of the story. The lead character is vividly imagined and brought out on the page. You can the pride and frustration that would come with being friends with the smart and courageous woman. The setting is equally well drawn out, letting us feel the pulse of the band as Louise dances the Charleston. I simply love the language. I do not know how much research Ms. Afia did, but it was worth it. The slang is a key part of being transported to this neighborhood, at this point in time. The story is well told in the noun-verb-noun sense and is well edited, as you would expect with Berkley Prime Crime.
Where the story fell short of ideal. Ms. Afia weaves a complicated plot for her debut novel and with that intricacy comes the opportunity to make leaps in logic and leave string hanging. It is the type of story that at the end you think ‘ok, fine. That’s good.’ And then the questions start popping up. What about this and how was that managed. Beside the mystery itself, this happens with the apparent constant threat Louise is under. For readers who tend not to dissect the logic of a story, I am confident you will be delighted with this one.
Bottomline: Dead Dead Girls is for you if you like dynamic amateur sleuths and the under explored time of 1920s Harlem.