Book Review: The Reckoning Stones

I adore Laura DiSilverio’s work. She writes a couple of really fun cozy series and some stand alone thriller stuff I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. The Reckoning Stones was one of many books I downloaded for my recent road trip with the kiddo.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):

After accusing the pastor of her close-knit religious community of molesting her, fourteen-year-old Mercy Asher is branded a liar and publicly humiliated. She runs away on the night someone beats the pastor into a coma and kills his wife.

Two decades later, Mercy has become Iris Dashwood, an emotionally troubled but brilliant jeweler. She thinks she’s in control of her life until news of Pastor Matt’s miraculous awakening broadsides her and leaves her unable to design. Iris returns to Lone Pine, Colorado, determined to confront her past to restore her creativity.

Iris reconnects with her mother, best friend, and boyfriend who harbor secrets she must unearth to find a killer. In the final reckoning, the truth may cost more than she anticipates. Will it bring redemption…or devastation?

 

My thoughts:

I am torn on this book. As usual Laura has a brilliant take on what makes people tick. I love that about her writing. On the other hand, I had trouble connecting with the main character of this book. And it was so dire and sad most of the time, that while I felt compelled to see it thru, I didn’t feel the love. Part of me wants to expand on what bothered me but it would be giving away parts of the plot. So I’ll just say I hated how few people did the right thing.

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The Body in the Pool Chapter 10

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series

 

Chapter Ten

“We need to get back out there.” Tom stood up.
“Barnes, you done with that footage yet?” Spence turned to their silent partner.
Barnes shook his head. “I can meet you out there when I am though.”
“Text me if you catch anything interesting,” Spence added. “Let’s go shake our headmaster until the truth falls out of him.”
Tom and Spence, feeling the pain of no sleep, let Melanie drive. Spence took advantage of the time to text Tess. How’s it going love?
I’m bored. How’s your case?
Spence sighed. This whole partial bed rest thing was killing them both.
Tom leaned forward. “What’s up?”
“Tess.”
“Everything okay with the baby?”
“Yeah, she’s bored at home and wants to know stuff about my work now.”
Tom laughed. “Be careful what you tell her my friend.”
Spence laughed. As if. No details. You’re supposed to be resting.
I’ve rested so long my brain atrophied.
Spence could hear that. Okay. One little bit. There was another murder.
I knew that last night you cheater.
Spence laughed out loud. I never said it would be an exciting bit.
You have until the count of 3.
Spence caught sight of the imposing and apparently useless gate outside the Academy. Gotta go love, we’re here.
Where? Don’t leave me hanging…
Spence counted three news vans parked along the fence in front of the Academy. Reporters and cameramen blocked the gate rolling B footage and waiting for the next exciting to happen.
The arrival of their unmarked squad car was exciting enough. Melanie rolled forward slowly, gesturing people out of her way. They ignored her.
Reporters shouted questions at the detectives through their rolled up windows. One of them was on the ball, catching sight of Spence, shouted, “Detective Thomas, is this another victim of the Dismember Killer? Is that why you are here? What can you tell me about this victim in light of Dismember?”
Spence ignored him. “Use the horn.”
Melanie slammed her hand into the center of the steering wheel and kept it there. Spence reached up and hit the light bar, adding the siren to the cacophony for good measure.
When they reached the guard booth, Melanie took her hand off the horn, and rolled down her window. “Detective Witlow, Sheriff’s Office.”
Spence silenced the siren.
“Is Doctor Wallsgraf expecting you?” the guard asked.
Spence leaned over. “He invited us.”
The guard stepped back into his booth, presumably to call up to the house.
Tom laughed from the backseat.
“Well, he did. Right?” Spence turned to Tom for confirmation.
Melanie met Tom’s eyes in the rear-view mirror.
“Technically he did say we should come back in the morning but it was when he was throwing us out and and under the guise of talk to my lawyer.”
Melanie laughed and then turned abruptly back to the window to hear what the guard was saying.
They drove through the gate as it swung open and parked by the main door.
“Shall we knock this time?” Spence was feeling punchy from the combination of lack of sleep and the exciting sensation that they might be gaining traction.
“No need.” Melanie nodded her head towards the door. “We have a greeting party.”
At the open front door stood the headmaster and another man.
“Expensive suit,” Melanie noted.
“Pretty shoes,” Tom added.
“Lawyer, expensive one, too,” Spence concluded.
The three detectives exited the vehicle. “Doctor Wallsgraf.” Spence nodded his greeting.
Stepping forward the lawyer effectively blocked entrance to the school. “Matt Sugden. General Council for Whispering Evergreen Academy. I assume you have a warrant to serve?” His eyes paused as they crossed Spence’s face.
Spence’s brain kicked into overdrive. He knew the lawyer from somewhere. Where?
Tom spoke to fill the interim. “I wasn’t aware we needed a warrant for a friendly chat.”
“To enter this facility uninvited you need a warrant.”
“This facility is the scene of a major crime.”
“Which you processed last night and forced statements from witnesses without counsel.”
“All of the witnesses had adequate time and opportunity to seek counsel if they desired.”
“You interrogated a minor without parental guidance.”
“I spoke to a seventeen-year-old student who insisted he did not want to call his parents,” Spence interrupted. “You’re throwing up barriers to this investigation. I don’t want to have to arrest Doctor Wallsgraf for impeding an investigation. I could on the basis of the lies he told us last night.”
“I never lied-” the headmaster blurted and then stopped as the lawyer held up his hand.
“We will stipulate to 20 minutes of questions with Doctor Wallsgraf supervised by me. The Doctor will answer only those questions I agree to.”
“Not acceptable. We need to speak to the girl, the nurse, all of your security guards, all of your board members.” Tom threw out every category he could think of in the heat of battle.
“The nurse?” Doctor Wallsgraf asked at the same moment the lawyer asked, “All of the board members?”
Melanie smiled. “The deceased has been positively identified as Harold Paulson.”
“Strange you didn’t recognize him last night, Doctor, even after we suggested he might be one of your board members.” Spence said hoping to prod the headmaster into unguarded speech again.
“Perhaps they should come inside,” the headmaster tentatively suggested.
Matt stepped back to allow them into the hall. Clearly left over from when the building was a home, the entry hall soared up forty-plus feet high, capped with a rotunda of glass. It would have been an oddly round room if not for the various doors and hallways that jutted out on all sides like the tentacles of an octopus. Matt directed them into one of the close rooms. Eight by ten, elegant antique furniture, and an original parquet floor.
“You may conduct your interviews here.”
“It would be more effective if my colleagues could interview the others while I speak to Doctor Wallsgraf here.”
Matt shook his head no. “I need to be present at all interviews.”
This guy was working Spence’s last nerve. “It is not the fault of the police if counsel did not bring adequate support staff, as I did.”
The standoff lasted 84 seconds.
Then the headmaster cleared his throat. “I think I can answer their questions on my own.”
Matt shook his head. “The board was very specific with their instructions.”
Spence was starting to wonder if Matt’s head worked in any way other than to shake no.
Tom sat down in one of the chairs. “Let’s get this going.”
Spence took the chair next to Tom, leaving Melanie standing in the background. She pulled out her cell phone and started working the keys.
“Doctor Wallsgraf, why did you fail to identify Harold Paulson?”
Matt held up a hand. “That is a leading question which implies my client had knowledge. You’re attempting to force an incriminating statement. I won’t allow it.”
Spence swallowed a nasty retort.
Melanie took advantage of the break to step forward, “I’m getting terrible throughput in here. I’m going to step outside.”
“I can’t allow that.” Matt shook his head, again.
“I know you don’t mean to imply you’re holding an officer of the law against her will,” Melanie said with a sweet tone to her voice.
The headmaster spluttered, “I’m sure that’s not what he meant. Of course, you can leave.”
Matt sighed. One point to the sheriff’s office and he knew it.
“Why thank you, Doctor.” Melanie smiled as she exited the room, carefully closing the double doors behind her.
“Doctor Wallsgraf, were you shown a picture last night?” Tom was playing it like they were front and center in a court room.
The headmaster looked to Matt before answering. “I was.”
“How many times were you shown the picture?”
“Two or three, I’m not sure.”
“Did you recognize the man in the picture at any of those viewings?”
“No.”
“Were you told the man had been tentatively recognized as a member of the board of Whispering Evergreen Academy?”
“I need to stop you right there.” Matt held up a hand. “Was the man tentatively identified as a member of the board last night?”
“He was,” Tom asserted. “Were you asked at any point if the man might be a member of the board?”
The headmaster swallowed. “Yes.”
“And what was your response?” Tom asked.
“That he wasn’t.” The headmaster’s voice was very quiet.
“You do see how this looks? A member of your board is murdered on school grounds. You are one of the first people on the scene. You deny the identification, even when prompted as to whom he might be. What are we to think?” Tom’s voice lowered to match the headmaster’s level, building an illusion of connection.
“My client lives on the grounds, of course he was early on the scene. And the discovery of the dead body put my client into a state of shock. There was no malicious misdirection.” Matt squashed the intimate conversational state with his matter of fact tone. Point for the lawyer, and he knew it.
Spence picked up the questions. “What was Harold Paulson’s role on the board?”
“He was the treasurer. Our accountant.”
“That was done through his firm, correct?”
“Yes.”
“Was the board satisfied with Mr. Paulson?”
“You are fishing, detective. Do you have any more direct questions?” Matt interrupted the flow yet again.
“I assume you will want a warrant for us to examine the Academy’s financial records.”
“You assume correctly.” Matt smiled.
Spence pulled his phone from his pocket, “The boss. Excuse me.” He stepped out of the room and quickly texted Melanie. Wrapping up, get your ass back here.
Spence stepped back in the door. “Shall we go see the girl, Stacy?”

 

I’ve been thinking Thursday: Joy

I’ve talked briefly before about how uncertain I am that I have the emotional where with all to be a writer. It’s not the writing or the editing ability that I lack, it’s the ability to roll with the constant rejection. I keep trying to explain it to other writers, to get their feelings on the process, in order to process my feelings on the whole mess that is publishing.

Recently an article came out on Writer Unboxed called Keeping Your Hustle Joyful by Anna Elliott. A few quotes from her delightful post….

“…I’ve written because quite simply, however hard life feels in that moment, however hard it is to pick myself up and sit down at the keyboard, not writing would be harder still.”

“I wanted to write because I love it.”

“It’s always easier for me to write than not write.”

I’m jealous of her. The green eyed monster is in the house. Because I’ve lost that loving feeling, now it’s gone, gone, gone, whoa-oa-oa.

The Body in the Pool Chapter 9

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series

 

Chapter Nine

They walked Mrs. Paulson through headquarters and down to the sub-floor morgue. The morgue had its own front desk receptionist, not a police officer.
Spence waited with Mrs. Paulson as Tom leaned in to talk to the young woman. She nodded and picked up the phone. Tom nodded to Spence.
“This way Mrs. Paulson.”
“Are you sure this is my husband? I really don’t want to have to see some other dead body.”
Spence caught Tom’s eye. This woman was weird. “Yes, ma’am.” Spence gestured down the linoleum hallway. They turned the corner and Spence opened the door marked Observation.
Mrs. Paulson stood stone still in the four by four room, her hands clasped in front of her of chest. A light to the right of the large, curtained window turned green.
“Are you ready?”
Mrs. Paulson nodded.
Spence pushed the button below the light and the curtain opened. On the other side of the glass was a body, the pool man’s body, covered by medical drapery to his shoulders.
“Oh,” Mrs. Paulson mewed.
“Is that your husband?” Spence asked, following the routine he designed to distance himself from the grief of others.
Mrs. Paulson nodded and Spence hit the button to close the curtains. This was the tricky part. Some families cried and begged him to leave them open longer. Others cried incessantly and he couldn’t get them into a car and on their way home.
Spence opened the door to the hallway and Mrs. Paulson followed him out into the hall.
“What will happen now?”
“We’ll investigate your husband’s death.”
She nodded.
Spence walked her back upstairs to the main lobby. The desk sergeant called, “Fredericks is out front.”
Spence smiled to himself. Thank you, Tom. “Let me walk you out.” He opened the front door and waited for her to walk through. The coat did not look like it should be touched. Neither did the woman in it for that matter. No tears. Maybe she was stunned or cried out from earlier. “Officer Fredericks will drive you home, ma’am. Thank you for coming in. We will be in touch.”
“In touch? About what?”
“Your husband’s case.”
“Oh. I’m not sure I want to know anything more about that.”
Spence nodded. “Of course.” He opened the door of the cruiser and after she slid in, closed the door. He leaned in through the driver’s side window. “Up in Shadow Brook. 912 Reindeer Lane.”
Officer Fredericks made a face and then nodded.
He slapped the roof of the car once and then headed back inside. They had a confirmed identification. Time to see what that got them.
Spence double timed it up to the fourth floor office. “Widow confirmed the ID.”
“Maybe the medical examiner can finish the autopsy now.” Melanie turned from her computer. “The start of our background information came in.”
“Give it to me.” Spence poured another cup of coffee and waited.
“Mike Hunter. Gulf War One. Chicago PD. Broke his back when a perp got the drop on him and sent him off the roof of a four story building. Pushed out on disability. Retired out here on a partial pension. Working at Whispering Evergreen Academy ever since. Where do they get the names for these places?”
“That matches up. What else you got?” Tom said from the doorway.
“Where you been?” Spence looked over.
“Had to make a phone call.” Tom blushed lightly as those with fair skin are prone to do.
“The new lady? Tess has been bugging me about it, wants you two to come over for dinner.”
Tom harrumphed. “I’ll see what I can do about that.”
Spence shook his head at Tom, then looking back to Melanie said, “Go on.”
“Bobby Tasker. College kid. GPA sucks. Lost his scholarship. Working at the Academy four months.”
“That lines up with what he said.” Tom nodded.
“What about the headmaster with bad eyes?” Spence asked.
“He moved around a lot in the beginning of his career. This gig is the longest one he’s had by years. Not married currently, one divorce. No kids. Divorce lines up with him taking this job.”
“Something to be said for getting away from the ex.” Barnes contributed from the television monitor.
“Alright, what more did you get on dear, dead Harold?”
Melanie switched paper stacks. “Harold is a CPA. He runs a very large accountancy firm. A number of big money clients. Several he provides with auditing oversight are huge.” Melanie widened her eyes to demonstrate how huge.
Spence nodded and gestured for her to go on.
“Married Arlene twenty years ago. No kids. Moved into Shadow Brook five years ago.”
“He insured?” Spence thought back to the pricey items at the house.
“You’ll love this part. Fifteen million, all to the wife.”
Tom caught Spence’s eye. “All those snazzy goods.”
“People been killed for a lot less than 15. Does she get control of the business, too?”
“Still delving into that but it looks like no. Harold had an odd set up with his investors where ownership of the company remains in the company. In other words, the wife gets a small portion of stock. Controlling interest will be divided among the five biggest stockholders.”
Spence said nothing. He absentmindedly stuck the stir stick for his coffee in his mouth and chewed.
“You haven’t even heard the best part. Guess who was a client?”
Tom slapped a pencil down on his desk hard enough to break it. “Whispering Evergreen Academy?”
“He’s on the board there.”
“You’d think I’d done this before,” Tom said with a wink.

Book Review: The Uninvited Corpse

More cozy mysteries. Seems like ten new ones get published every day. The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Sennefelder is the first in a new series.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Leaving behind a failed career as a magazine editor and an embarrassing stint on a reality baking show, newly divorced lifestyle entrepreneur Hope Early thought things were finally on the upswing—until she comes face-to-face with a murderer . . .

Hope’s schedule is already jam packed with recipe testing and shameless plugs for her food blog as she rushes off to attend a spring garden tour in the charming town of Jefferson, Connecticut. Unfortunately, it isn’t the perfectly arranged potted plants that grab her attention—it’s the bloody body of reviled real estate agent Peaches McCoy . . .

One of the tour guests committed murder, and all eyes are on Hope’s older sister, Claire Dixon—who, at best, saw Peaches as a professional rival. And suspicions really heat up when another murder occurs the following night. Now, with two messy murders shaking Jefferson and all evidence pointing to Claire, Hope must set aside her burgeoning brand to prove her sister’s innocence. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer intent on making sure her life goes permanently out of style . . .

My thoughts:

Sigh. I suspect this is simply a style mismatch for me. The author is repetitive in her writing, which some people probably like as a reminder of what has already happened. It just rubbed me raw. I felt like putting the book down every time I reread the same phrases. Then, the amateur sleuth didn’t actually solve the crime. She survived several attacks by the killer and one large confrontation where she had to be rescued by a dog and eventually the police. I don’t like that kind of mystery. If you don’t have the brains to figure out the solution, at least have the balls to rescue yourself. But I can imagine this will be a very popular series. The protag is a reality show failure, divorced because her hubs cheated, and now making it as a blogger. People will love it.

The Body in the Pool Chapter 8

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series

 

Chapter Eight

Spence and Tom drove carefully out of the city, observing the grueling traffic heading the opposite direction until they reached the tree-lined lanes of Shadow Brook. The morning sun was struggling to burn through fog at the higher altitude.
“Look at these houses, man. Can you imagine the mortgage on four or five thousand feet?” Tom stared out the window at the mansions set half an acre back from the road on plots that stretched five acres or more.
“Not only the mortgage I don’t want to think about. Can you imagine how long it takes to mow all that grass?”
Tom laughed. “These people have a yard service. A gardener maybe?”
“Why have land if you aren’t going to take care of it yourself?”
“I’m not Tess,” Tom said shortly.
“What’s that mean?” Spence replied, annoyed with the direction this discussion had taken.
“You’re rehashing the whole why have kids if you’re not going to raise them yourself question.”
“I wasn’t-” Spence stopped abruptly. “Yeah, sorry.”
“Between us, I agree with you man. Tess is a baker though, it’s not like she’d be going off to war if she goes back to work.”
“She lost all her clients with this bed rest thing. I don’t blame them, no choice, they had to get baked goods for their own businesses to succeed. She’d be starting over from scratch with a new baby.”
Tom nodded.
“I want her to be happy, I do.” Spence let out a frustrated sigh. “I don’t want our kid raised by strangers so Tess can be happy.”
“Is that it?” Tom asked.
“Pretty much.”
“No, is that the house?” Tom gestured and Spence slowed the car.
The house in question was smaller than the average on the mountain, perhaps two thousand square feet on an acre. Spence made a slow U-turn and pulled into the circular drive.
He turned off the car and faced Tom. “On the count of three.”
Tom nodded.
“One, two, three.” Spence slammed out his fist. “Rock.”
Tom whipped out a flat palm to meet him. “Paper.”
“Crap.” Spence sighed. Loser, loser, tell the wife her husband is BBQ chicken dinner. He exited the car, straightened his coat, adjusted his cuffs, and checked his breath. Then decided he needed to pop a mint before heading up to the door. Tom followed behind him a step slower. Spence rang the bell taking in the pumpkins on the step left over from Halloween. These were no choppy eye hole and gaping tooth mouth deals. These were artful pumpkins: a delicately carved skeleton and an arched cat. The door opened immediately as though Mrs. Paulson was waiting inside the door for him to push the bell button.
“Yes?” She asked coolly.
“Mrs. Arlene Paulson?”
“Yes.”
“I am Detective Spencer Thomas with the county sheriff’s office. This is my partner Tom Harding. We need to speak with you regarding your husband.”
“Please come in.” Mrs. Paulson opened the door wider and stepped back to allow the detectives into her home.
She gestured over to a formal seating area off the front entry. A small arrangement of furniture in front of the fireplace. Spence chose a very upright and firm chair. Tom stood in the background. With a calm demeanor she sat across from Spence on a settee. He gave a brief moment wondering how anyone found this chair comfortable and then set his face on his compassionate facade. “When was the last time you saw your husband, Mrs. Paulson?”
Spence though he caught a momentary flicker of something in the woman’s eyes before she smiled and replied, “Last night in bed of course.”
“What time was that?”
“I believe it was quite early. I want to say 8:30 or so.”
“He was gone when you woke up this morning?”
“He had an early meeting at the club, I believe, and then he went on to his office.”
“I see. You had no reason to be concerned, then?”
“Of course not, Detective. What is this all about?” A touch of irritation was beginning to creep into Mrs. Paulson’s tone of voice.
“We have reason to believe your husband did not make it to his meetings today. A body matching his description was found late last night.”
“Matching his description? That could be anyone.”
Spence was struck by her comment, Wallsgraf had said essentially the same thing. “The fingerprints match your husband, ma’am.”
Mrs. Paulson said nothing as large tears rolled down her cheeks. Spence was quiet, allowing her to process the shock to her system. She would have questions, they always had questions eventually. Mrs. Paulson brought her hand up to her mouth and focused her large eyes on Spence. Tears continued to roll out like a spring storm with the volume turned off.
“Are you sure it’s him?” Her voice quivered.
“Yes, ma’am. Fairly certain. We would appreciate it if you could come down to the office with us and make a formal identification.”
A small sob escaped her. “He’s not at the hospital?”
“No, he’s not at the hospital.”
There was a beat before she spoke. “Is Harold dead?”
He was drowned and had his penis cut off, that was certainly dead in Spence’s book. It would not be smart to say that to the widow. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Should I come with you now?”
“That would be preferable. Of course we can do this tomorrow if that would be easier on you.”
“No, no, I want to make sure please.” Her voice cracked on the word sure.
“Can I call a friend or family member to accompany you?”
For a moment Mrs. Paulson said nothing and then she replied, “I don’t know.”
Spence waited while she presumably thought about it.
“No, I think I would rather not have to explain this to anyone right now.”
That was an odd sentiment. Spence filed it away in the part of his mind that was always analyzing. “Shall we go? We can drive you.”
Mrs. Paulson nodded. “I need my coat and bag. I’ll be a minute.” She bustled from the room and Spence heard her feet on the stairs before he spoke to Tom. “You called the tears.”
“It’s an easy call to make.” Tom showed Spence his notebook. On the page were Chippendale, Oriental, and first editions. Spence nodded and looked around the front room identifying what Tom was referring to. Money.

When she returned Mrs. Paulson was wearing a full length chocolate brown fur coat. Spence wasn’t savvy enough to know what kind of animal died to provide this bit of luxury, he guessed it had cost a pretty penny though. As she locked the front door, Spence noted the Gucci bag on her arm. As he followed her down the steps to the his car, he noted the red bottoms of her shoes. Even without all the details Spence knew enough to estimate Mrs. Paulson was wearing clothing costing more than he made in a month. He wondered how the Paulson finances were doing and if Mr. Paulson was heavily insured.

I’ve been thinking Thursday: Charisma

No, I doImage result for charisma carpenter attackedn’t mean Charisma Carpenter, although we have been introducing the kiddo to Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately. LOL.

I mean the other kind of charisma: charm that inspires others.

I went recently to a seminar, I’m going to be a little cagey about the when and where because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. This is about my thought process.

So seminar with 2 speakers. One, I adore. I was so looking forward to what this speaker would say, sure it would epic. The other I had never heard of but hey why not hear that one too.

Turned out, the unknown to me speaker was amazing. This speaker actually provided me with tools to improve my writing. Things I had not heard before, ever. Things that actually seem functional and helpful and will improve my editing process. Woohoo!

The adored speaker was boring. Badly, badly boring.

And thinking about that on the drive home I came to the a couple of conclusions.

A) Being brilliant does not make one a brilliant speaker with charisma.

B) The newness of ones material contributes highly to how fab one’s presentation is regarded.

So all this kind of makes me wonder, every year I teach a new class, with a new curriculum I develop. I always thought when I got three or four classes developed I would just start rotating through those. But will the spark be gone if I do that? Is the new material I develop each year what makes me such a fab speaker?

Crap.