Dead in a Dumpster

Leah Norwood Mysteries, Book #1

Cozy Mystery

Date Published: September 23, 2014

When Leah Norwood finds the body of Isabel Meeks in the dumpster behind her store, she can’t believe the police consider her a suspect. Sure, she didn’t like Isabel, but then again, neither did anyone else. Isabel had a condescending attitude and a bad reputation. As manager of the antique store, Patina, she had made a lot of enemies.

There is Patina’s assistant manager, the handsome and charming Trent. Isabel was blackmailing him. There is Patina’s owner, the aloof and influential Anthony Thorpe. Isabel was smuggling drugs through his store. And there is the entire drug dealing Cantono family. Isabel had lost a box containing heroin from one of their shipments. That is just to name a few and didn’t even include the stranger who was seen arguing with Isabel just hours before her death.

The police have too many suspects and too many soft alibis. Leah needs to prove to the sexy new chief of police that she had nothing to do with Isabel’s death.

Leah loves a good mystery. Can she find the killer before the police arrest her for murder?

Excerpt

We walked to the end of the hall and then turned left. This hallway was shorter and only contained three doors. Captain Reddish opened the first one. I followed him in and then stopped abruptly. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. A conference room, maybe, or another office. What I got was an interrogation room. It looked a lot like something you would see on a television police show. It was a small square room with a table in the middle and two chairs on either side. There was no mirrored window, but I did see a camera mounted in one corner.

My heart started pounding, and my mouth went dry. What the hell was going on? I wondered. Was I going to be interrogated? And if so, why? Suspects were interrogated not witnesses. I had told the police everything I knew last night. I thought today was just a formality. I tried to swallow but choked a little and coughed instead. I looked at Reddish. He took a step toward the table and tossed the folder in front of one of the chairs. He motioned toward the chair opposite and said, “Have a seat.”

Hesitantly, I took a step forward but stopped when he said, “I’m going to get some coffee. Would you like anything?”

I shook my head, and he walked out the door leaving me alone. I decided if he was offering me coffee, it couldn’t be that bad. Breathing deeply, I sat down. Maybe they didn’t have any conference rooms or empty offices. My nerves settled down as I stared at the folder a minute wondering if I had time to read it before Reddish got back. It had Isabel’s name on it. I glanced briefly at the camera on the wall and decided not to risk it.

A movement by the door caught my attention. I glanced over as Alexander Griggs stepped into the room. He looked at me and gave me a half smile. The indentation on the right side of his mouth deepened just a little. His intense green eyes pinned me to the seat. My heart started pounding again. Only this time, it wasn’t out of fear. I tried not to fidget as he walked over to the chair next to Reddish’s and pulled it out. What was it about this man that affected me so? He placed the chair parallel to the table and sat down. “How are you, Ms. Norwood?”

“Fine,” I replied and was pleased to note that my voice was steady and clear.

Reddish returned with two cups of coffee. He didn’t seem surprised that Griggs was present so I assumed he was expected. Reddish closed the door, handed one of the cups to Griggs, and sat in the chair opposite me before opening the folder. He took out a piece of paper and then looked up at me.”

“We have a few more questions for you, Ms. Norwood.”

“Okay,” I said cautiously.

“You stated that the last time you saw Ms. Meeks alive was when you went to confront her about the delivery truck. Is that correct?”

I paused a minute. I hadn’t used the words confront her, although that is what had happened. Swallowing hard, I tried not to sound defensive. “I last saw Isabel alive when I went to ask her to have the delivery truck moved.”

“Ask her?” Reddish said looking at me.

“Well, maybe, I didn’t actually ask.”

“I see. So what did you do?”

I didn’t like his tone, but I answered anyway. “I told her that the delivery truck was parked in my space, and she needed to have it moved.”

“According to Mr. Thorpe, you threatened to call the police.”

I looked at Reddish and then at Griggs. Both men looked back at me with no expression on their faces. It was like looking at two stone figures. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but I was beginning to get a little nervous. Was I really a suspect? I took another deep breath before answering.

“Yes, I threatened to call the police. Isabel was refusing to have the truck moved so I told her that I would report the driver as trespassing.”

“But you didn’t,” Reddish said, his tone dry.

“No, I didn’t need to. Mr. Thorpe had Trent get the driver to move the truck.”

Reddish consulted his notes. “So even though the truck was moved, you were still angry.”

“Yes, I was angry,” I said carefully. I was beginning to think I might need to stop talking. They hadn’t read me my rights, but I didn’t know how much of what I said could be used against me at this point. Did I need to ask for a lawyer?

“Is that why you threatened her?” Reddish asked.

“What?” I squeaked. “I didn’t threaten her.”

“According to a witness, you were angry and threatened the victim. Specifically, you said ‘I think it’s time for someone to teach Isabel a lesson, and I’m just the one to do it’.”

Candace. Of course, Candace told the police what I said. She probably told the whole town. I sat back in my chair, stomach churning, mouth dry, fear racing through me. I looked at Reddish again. He just sat there waiting.

“Okay, so maybe I threatened her,” I whispered, “but I didn’t mean that I was going to kill her. I was angry. We all say things when we’re angry.”

“If you didn’t plan to kill her, then what were you threatening to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said looking back and forth between Reddish and Griggs. This couldn’t be happening. What was I going to do? I wasn’t a criminal. I didn’t even drive over the speed limit very often. “I was thinking something along the lines of letting all the air out of her tires.”

Griggs snorted, but when I looked at him, his face was remote. He didn’t say anything, just took a sip of his coffee. Reddish watched me, eyes narrowed, a shade of distrust on his face. He nodded decisively and went for the kill.

“Ms. Norwood, do you own a gun?”

Shit. It was definitely time for a lawyer.

About the Author

B. L. Blair writes mystery/romance stories. Like most authors, she has been writing most of her life and has dozens of books started. She just needs the time to finish them.

She is the author of the Leah Norwood Mysteries and the Lost and Found Pets Mystery Novellas. She loves reading books, writing books, and traveling wherever and as often as time and money allows. She is currently working on her latest book set in Texas, where she lives with her family.

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The Devil Whispered by Shawn Starkweather

 

Science-Fiction/Mystery/Detective

Date Published: 3/1/2021

Retired special-forces commander Jacobi Slate is drawn into a downward-spiraling vortex of fear and doubt while investigating a brutal murder committed by an old friend. As evidence mounts that someone else might be pulling strings from the shadows, Jacobi struggles to understand a developing connection to his own past, which is quickly catching up to him.

Near-future cyberpunk collides with gritty detective noir in this fast-paced thriller that shines a light on both the vast shortcomings and the noble heroism of the human condition. To unravel the mystery, Jacobi will pull on every thread while chasing leads from the squalor of the most dangerous streets to the high-tech towers of the wealthy elite on his quest to understand a truth he might not be ready to face.

 

Excerpt

Through the doorway, a shape was moving toward us, intermittently visible as the pulsing rings passed rapidly along the ceiling. It was low to the ground, and parts of it were glowing red. The lights were moving too quickly for me to fully assess exactly who or what was approaching us, until it had nearly reached the door. It was an elderly Asian man, seated in a wheeled chair, the metal of which was aglow. The colors of fire swirled within it and gave the metal the molten appearance of having just been drawn from the flames. The man looked to be in his seventh or eighth decade. His white hair was short, straight, and neatly combed. The sharp, piercing gaze from beneath his glasses belied any assumption that his advanced age might have dulled his mind. For a few moments, he quietly studied us, and I had the sense that we were being silently compared with a preexisting expectation of some kind.

I bowed then, timing it as I deemed appropriate to reflect the proper amount of deference, since I was a guest on this ship and had come seeking his assistance. Risa followed my example.

Kangei Shimasu,” he said in Japanese, bowing his head respectfully. “Be welcome, Jacobi-san.”

“You know my name,” I said, unsurprised.

He paused for a moment, as if to consider how to answer, and then nodded. “I do. I know a great many things about both of you, but before you ask, I am unwilling to fully explain the methods that we use to gather our intelligence. We should use the limited time we have to share with one another this evening to focus on less complex matters.”

“You are The Blacksmith?” asked Risa.

“Yes. Welcome to the Forge, Ms. Corbin. You, of all people, might appreciate the room in which we stand now. Do you understand what you see, I wonder?”

“I think…” she said, looking slowly around the room, “if I had to guess, considering the amount of power you have being routed to that sphere, it’s probably the central processing unit for some sort of massive neural network. AI, perhaps?”

“Not just any artificial intelligence. Certainly nothing along the lines of those ridiculous programmed concierges you see installed in every home now. The Anvil,” he said, nodding in the direction of the sphere, “is the foundation of all of the work we do here at the Forge. I began developing it more than five decades ago, and it has since evolved into what you see before you now, a fully functioning example of the potential of machine learning.”

“What does it do?” she asked, walking closer and running her hand along the surface of the sphere.

“It manages complex medical procedures and data-mines the Evernet with astounding speed and accuracy to provide me with information. In many ways, it functions as an assistant of sorts for me, without which the work I do would take an extraordinarily increased length of time to complete.”

“And what is that exactly?” she asked. “The work you do, I mean.”

“You contacted me. That seems a great deal of trouble to go through without knowing what you seek.”

“It certainly does,” Risa said, giving me a poignant glare.

“Well,” he continued, “we do a great many things here in the Forge, mostly in the field of biological cybernetics. Our moral inclinations tend to be much looser than the places where this work is performed legally. And with the assistance of the Anvil, we can perform it in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise.”

“Why out here? Why on the ocean? A ship hardly seems the ideal place for a man in a wheelchair,” I said.

“Well, ship stability technology has made some leaps forward in the twenty years since you were in the navy, Mr. Slate. Advances in the field of magnetic internal stabilizers, as well as wave pattern recognition and prediction, have given way to a new era of onboard motion control. As you can surely see, there is a powerful storm raging outside yet barely the slightest hint of movement here within the hull.”

I hadn’t been paying too much attention, distracted as I’d been by the strange environment and the neural network, but he was correct. I bowed my head in concession to his point.

“To answer your question, it provides some amount of security, and the mobility we need to maintain our privacy. The ocean also provides a consistent, natural source of coolant that we utilize in maintaining our operation. Additionally, we have systems onboard that harness both thermal energy from the sun’s heat and mechanical energy from the tides and waves. Water, Mr. Slate, is a powerful tool when properly manipulated.”

My curiosity was sated, and I was impressed. The Blacksmith’s chair rolled forward past us, seemingly of its own violation as his hands were neatly folded in his lap. It repositioned to face us when it reached the Anvil.

“So, let us not waste any more time. Tell me, what service do you hope I can provide?”

I looked at Risa, who was watching me expectantly, and drew a deep breath.

“I need a kill switch for my head.”

About the Author

Shawn lives in Massachusetts with his wife and the handful of childhood stuffed animals that they’ve been unable to part ways with, even despite the awkward situation it occasionally puts their house guests in. He wields a coveted Associates of Liberal Arts degree from Greenfield Community college in an overly enthusiastic, flailing manner, and puts it to work writing both fantasy and science fiction stories. Using subliminal codes and hidden messaging carefully placed throughout his books, he plans to captivate the minds of his readers and insidiously manipulate them into purchasing subsequent releases.

As a novelist, musician, graphic designer, and a purveyor of fine games, Shawn is often confused about exactly who he is when he wakes up in the morning. It’s been said (by him) that perhaps he embodies all of these things so equally that a singular definition could not comprehensively impart a satisfactory description. With your support, and a sufficient demand for more novels, he secretly hopes that he’ll have no choice but to formally acknowledge the prevailing label of ‘author’ and spend the rest of his days providing a sense of wonder and adventure to everyone who helped him solidify his nebulous identity.

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The Devil Whispered by Shawn Starkweather

Science-Fiction/Mystery/Detective

Date Published: 3/1/2021

Retired special-forces commander Jacobi Slate is drawn into a downward-spiraling vortex of fear and doubt while investigating a brutal murder committed by an old friend. As evidence mounts that someone else might be pulling strings from the shadows, Jacobi struggles to understand a developing connection to his own past, which is quickly catching up to him.

Near-future cyberpunk collides with gritty detective noir in this fast-paced thriller that shines a light on both the vast shortcomings and the noble heroism of the human condition. To unravel the mystery, Jacobi will pull on every thread while chasing leads from the squalor of the most dangerous streets to the high-tech towers of the wealthy elite on his quest to understand a truth he might not be ready to face.

Excerpt

My consciousness snapped online with abrupt decisiveness. I had the acute feeling of being alone in a world that was wrongly serene, like the silence of the dead. I’d been dreaming of something horrifying, but the details were dancing just outside the boundary of my ability to recall. The panic I’d woken with was caught in my chest. It held me frozen to the sheets as my mind reconfigured to the safety and familiarity of my apartment. Though the context of the dream was faded and surreal, the fear was vivid and raw. It was a visceral terror, compounded by a deeply rooted aversion to vulnerability.

As I lay there, waiting for the sensation of cold dread to die away, the room was unceremoniously lit up by the glow of the wide monitor that comprised the wall opposite my bed. Shielding my eyes from the sting of the sudden light, I heard Ava, my virtual concierge, ask if I would like to receive a call.

Who’s calling?” I asked with what little energy I’d mustered.

A Pavel Volkov is awaiting your response.” Her voice was always the same, mildly empathetic with a touch of encouragement.

I wrapped the sheet around me and grudgingly pulled myself up to sit on the side of the bed. Looking out from the tall windows that constituted the eastern-facing wall of my bedroom, I saw that it was still deep in the night. The only radiance beyond the panes was generated by the city itself; from the broken lines of luminous code emanating from the trickling streams of traffic far below, and the windows of the high-rises that towered above them – light and dark, the ones and zeroes of a binary skyline.

Yeah, okay.”

Then, Pavel’s finely kempt visage was smiling keenly at me from my wall. He was standing on a rocky beach, and waves were lapping at the shore behind him. He wore a white silk suit and a bemused expression that seemed inappropriately unapologetic.

It’s late, Pavel.”

Good morning, Jacobi. My apologies for contacting you at this hour, but I thought you’d want to know that I’ve located the target.”

Where are you?”

I’ll send coordinates to your CUBE.”

Pavel Volkov was a liar and a thief. He’d conned so many wealthy aristocrats that he’d become one himself, but he stayed in the game for the sake of his own twisted entertainment. He was an artist, who specialized in painting perfect illusions. Deception was his medium, but I’d worked with him for long enough that I trusted him when it came to getting the job done. Traces of malaise from my restless sleep were lingering, so the notion of lucid wakefulness was a welcome one.

I’m on my way,” I said. “End call.”

Pavel’s smirking face faded as the monitor went dark, and I was left with only my thoughts and the reiterating cycles of light from the softly glowing city outside. In the silence, I heard the faint percussion of fiery horse hooves falling away as the nightmare visiting me surrendered the assault and retreated to the depths of wherever dark dreams were designed.

About the Author

Shawn lives in Massachusetts with his wife and the handful of childhood stuffed animals that they’ve been unable to part ways with, even despite the awkward situation it occasionally puts their house guests in. He wields a coveted Associates of Liberal Arts degree from Greenfield Community college in an overly enthusiastic, flailing manner, and puts it to work writing both fantasy and science fiction stories. Using subliminal codes and hidden messaging carefully placed throughout his books, he plans to captivate the minds of his readers and insidiously manipulate them into purchasing subsequent releases.

As a novelist, musician, graphic designer, and a purveyor of fine games, Shawn is often confused about exactly who he is when he wakes up in the morning. It’s been said (by him) that perhaps he embodies all of these things so equally that a singular definition could not comprehensively impart a satisfactory description. With your support, and a sufficient demand for more novels, he secretly hopes that he’ll have no choice but to formally acknowledge the prevailing label of ‘author’ and spend the rest of his days providing a sense of wonder and adventure to everyone who helped him solidify his nebulous identity.

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Dark Secrets of the Bayou

Mystery, Suspense

Date Published: November 2020

Publisher: Raven South Publishing

Catherine “Tink” Mabrey, an up and coming attorney, is shocked by her recent inheritance from her estranged family on the bayou. After her mother died during childbirth, Tink’s father had quickly relocated them to the big city of Atlanta, Georgia. With no memory of her mother, she is determined to learn more about her lineage and decides to visit the bayou town of Kane, Louisiana. Candace, Tink’s co-worker and best friend, agrees to make the trip with her.

Before she has time to explore her family’s history, or decide what to do with the declining property, local murders plague Tink’s homecoming. She quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a multiple murder investigation – and quite possibly, the prime suspect. When Candace retreats back to Atlanta, Tink, with the support of an unlikely cast of characters, sets out to discover clues that have haunted and tormented her family for generations.

Could a concealed crime from the 1800’s, or the family’s estate itself, harbor keys to unlocking the past? The more they learn, the more they question whether some secrets are best left buried.

Other Books By Kim Carter:

Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle (2017)

Murder Among The Tombstones (2017)

No Second Chances (2017)

Deadly Odds (2018)

And The Forecast Called For Rain (2018)

When Dawn Never Comes (2018)

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About The Author

Kim Carter is an author of suspense, mystery and thriller novels. She was a finalist in the 2018 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and recipient of the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for her book Murder Among The Tombstones. This is the first book in her Clara and Iris Mystery series. The characters in this series are a couple of overly curious widows who become private investigators and were inspired by Kim’s mother and her mom’s best friend.

Her other titles include: When Dawn Never Comes, Deadly Odds, No Second Chances, And The Forecast Called For Rain, and Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle.

Kim’s writing career started after she suffered an illness that made her housebound for a couple of years. An avid reader of mystery novels, she embarked on writing as a means of filling her time. Kim shared those early writings with friends and family who encouraged her to pursue writing professionally. Her health struggles and successes have been chronicled on The Lifetime Television in early 2000, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Women’s Day Magazine, and Guideposts.

Prior to her illness, Kim worked in many different capacities in county government ranging from Park Director with Parks and Recreation to the Grant Department with Human Services. But, ultimately, it was her job as a correctional officer that provided her the opportunity to interact with a variety of people from all walks of life. Her experiences ran the gamete of inspiring success stories to tragic endings, much like her mysteries.

She self-published her first book No Second Chances. One of the guest speakers at the launch party she had at the Performing Arts Center in Newnan, Georgia included her close friend retired Atlanta Police chief Eldrin Bell. This connection would become helpful as she started doing more research for other books, this time working with a small publishing house.

Kim started networking and made connections with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her research has taken her many places including morgues, death row and the occasional midnight visit to cemeteries.

She is a college graduate of Saint Leo University, has a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Sociology. Kim and her husband have three grown children and live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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Storm Warning

Davenport Series, Book 6

Conspiracy Thriller, Action Thriller, Thriller

In this book, the Rickter Plague has descended onto the world, wiping out populations across the globe. Civilizations are no more. Some people are naturally immune. Most are not. A serum is on every survivors mind. But without laws or the ability to enforce them, the lawless have also descended onto the world. Some have even planned for it. Before unleashing the plague, Stan Rickter had purchased several properties—outposts—all across the United States. These staging areas, like the abandoned Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital in New York State and the Seaside Sanatorium on the Connecticut coast, would be the starting points for a new world controlled by his extremists. Guided by a manifesto, and with the dollar value all but decimated, these rebels have established trade markets. Nothing is off limits. As their growth grows, they continue to acquire more resources and properties. One, though, they don’t have, but very much want. The grow fields—once controlled by the New York Syndicate for decades and hidden in the rugged Debar Mountain range—has produced billions in revenue in growing illegal drugs over that span. It would also be a key piece of revenue in the future, given the state of the world and its lack of replenishable medicines. Maria Kaylor knows this too. The sixteen year old is in charge of the grow fields, her knowledge of growing the illicit drugs unmatched, and her clever mind, unprecedented. To acquire the coveted property, Mel Belegore, one of Rickter’s extremist’s, will do anything, including kill, to get what he wants. A battle ensues: Maria and her ragtag group against a powerful juggernaut with extensive resources, including men, guns, ammunition, and even helicopters. This will bring Tom Spears, her father, an assassin known as the Shadow, out of retirement to find her. He has one goal and cares little about who gets in his way.

 

About the Author

Author – Brett Diffley

Born in Anchorage, Alaska

Raised in Tri-Cities, Washington

Attended Finley High School

Living in Covington, Washington

Adventure lurks in the soul of each of us to varying degrees, and there are some of us that seek it out, making us better for it. It’s his experiences that give him insights as a writer, and it’s his overwhelming creativity that makes him a great story teller. He’s a fixed-wing pilot, commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor, and also has been a commercial diver, professional dog trainer for retrievers, self-employed entrepreneur (patented his own line of water toys, and also a wakeboarding trainer-board), commercial crab fisherman in Alaska, and commercial fisherman in several areas. Most recently, he is the author of the Pinnacle Award winning Davenport Series. His 6 books include: Perfect Plan, Perfect Plan II, Black Tide, Black Dawn, Safe Passage and Storm Warning.

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