Friday, April 20, 2018

Where were you when?

In the 60s I was a kid in school. In the 70s I went to college. In the 80s I started a family. In the 90s I changed countries. In the 00s I gained a new citizenship. In the 10s I tried to be an author. And I sometimes feel old. But it's fun to read novels set in my younger days, to remember how things were, and to learn how different they might have been somewhere else. It's fun to read of earlier times too, my parents' days, my parents' world. And it's intriguing to read my way into different versions of my own present world--the lives of strangers who just might one day be my neighbors perhaps.

I guess I'd classify the books I've been reading recently as "drama," though I'm not sure that's a shelf in the library. Some of them are historical, others contemporary; but all them take to me to almost-places where I've almost been, and they're all highly recommended.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is set in the years of my grandparents and my parents. Spanning both the first world war and the second, it portrays the French countryside with evocative delight, and the awkward rules of changing and broken societies with haunting reality. It's a coming of age novel, a romance, a spy story and historical fiction, all rolled into one, and it's definitely dramatic. Enjoy with some bold, dark, intense five-star coffee.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave is set in World War II London and Malta, where the brave promise and even the weak risk everything. As convincing in its portrayal of the Blitz as in its depiction of Malta's starvation, it's a novel that raises lots of questions about social attitudes as well as about war. Unexpected, politically real rather than politically correct, it's a long slow totally absorbing read, best enjoyed with another bold, dark, five-star coffee.

Anat Talshir's About the Night begins with the world of Jews returning to Jerusalem, and again revolves around war. The central love affair in this tale mirrors the fate of a divided city, inviting readers to ponder the meaning of love and family, faith and factions, and loyalty's hope. Yes, more dark five-star coffee with this one as well.

Letting Go by Abe Aamidor offers glimpses of several wars as the son and grandson of war veterans mourns the loss of his own son in Afghanistan. Reading like a memoir, the novel's told in first-person, filling in the past of father and son, of young love and old, hope and failure, and a wonderful world. Town and countryside are richly depicted while the protagonist seeks a way forward that's not so tied to looking back as he might have imagined. Only then can he truly let go. Enjoy with some rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee.

Stephanie: Days of Turmoil and Victory: by Donna Fletcher Crow is set in the time of Vietnam War. A young woman has burgeoning political ambitions and serious doubts both about the war and about how the poor are treated in her Idaho town. But will she really be able to bring about change from inside the system? And will the change she campaigns for even result in the change she wants? Evocatively portraying a family of faith, the politics of a State Legislature, and the youth of a time not so long gone, Stephanie is an oddly absorbing romance as well, best enjoyed with some well-balanced full-flavored coffee.

The Mud Dance by Neil Grimmett depicts an age in music rather than war or politics, but it's not without its battles as bands form and break apart, dance floors fade into mud, and relationships fracture and fray. It's haunting, haunted by a well-timed secret, and powerfully convincing. Enjoy a dark, five-star brew with this darkly brooding tale.

And finally, with a very internal battle, is Room by Emma Donoghue. With it's innocent child-like voice, it turns the concept of an unreliable narrator on its head, and combines truly horrific guilt with a genuine innocence. Freedom's price is intriguingly portrayed as well, and the child's relationship with his mother is pure delight. Enjoy with some more dark five-star coffee though -- it's seriously dark.

Monday, April 16, 2018

What it Interiority?

Today I welcome Evy Journey back to my blog with another novel, Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies. She visited recently with Welcome Reluctant Stranger, and I'm happy to welcome her return today. She's going to talk about...

The Importance of Being Inner-Directed

By Evy Journey

I once did research to expand and improve the Wikipedia entry on the novel North and South by Victorian writer Elizabeth Gaskell.

Why am I telling you this? Because in my research, I learned from Jill Matus in The Cambridge Companion to Elizabeth Gaskell that Gaskell focused on the “interiority” of her female protagonist, Margaret Hale.

That piqued my interest. I am a big fan of interiority.

All my heroines from Margaret (in a N&S sequel I wrote) to Gina in Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies are high on interiority. They have rich inner lives.

But what’s “interiority”?  You have it; I have it. Some people prefer to ignore it. Some like to wallow in it. I know I do. A few even live inside their heads much of the time. No, they’re not crazy. Not usually, anyway. 

Interiority is your deep, usually guarded inner life. You may not talk about it much although you may engage with it a lot. Among other things, it’s where your secrets are kept. It helps make you self-aware.

Ms. Gaskell shows her heroine’s interiority as she rationalizes her actions to herself and struggles to accept her feelings for the hero whom she initially rejects.  As she does so,  Margaret is refusing to succumb to the brutality of Victorian repression which saw women  as “angels of the house” incapable of rational thought and opinions.

Gina, in Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies mulls over her experiences a lot, assessing what they mean, learning from them.  For instance, she tries to understand why she feels responsible for her friend Cristi’s actions almost to the extent of obsessing about it. She thinks it’s guilt:

Guilt, I think, gets planted more deeply in our guts, our hearts. It endures like embers that keep giving off heat even when you can no longer see them glow.

Gina’s attempts at understanding herself and the world around her is one reason I wrote this novel in a first-person POV (point or view). As she reflects, Gina begins to make more sense of her reactions, of her passion to cook, and eventually, of who she is. She grows. She overcomes expectations by society—and also her mother who lost her desire to dream when her father was murdered—that she can’t rise above the life she was born into.

In this age of information and social media overload, interiority may frustrate modern readers impatient with the inactivity of thinking. Many of us prefer action and excitement.

Thank you Evy. I'm particularly interested in your choice to write in first person - and I've suddenly realized how well that relates to my first-person novel, Infinite Sum. I'd never heard the word Interiority, but it makes sense.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog.

And now, here's a little more information about Evy and her book. Keep reading down the page to enjoy an enticing excerpt.

Evy Journey, SPR (Self Publishing Review) Independent Woman Author awardee, is a writer, a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse who, wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.

She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.

Her latest book is Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies.



Cooking a wonderful meal is an art. An act of love. An act of grace. A gift that affirms and gives life—not only does it nurture those who partake of the meal; it also feeds the soul of the creator. These are lessons Gina learns from her mother, daughter of an unfortunate French chef.

Gina is a young woman born to poor parents, a nobody keen to taste life outside the world she was born into. A world that exposes her to fascinating people gripped by dark motives. Her passion for cooking is all she has to help her navigate it.

She gets lucky when she’s chosen to cook at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area where customers belong to a privileged class with money to spare for a dinner of inventive dishes costing hundreds of dollars. In this heady, scintillating atmosphere, she meets new friends and new challenges—pastry chef Marcia, filthy rich client Leon, and Brent, a brooding homicide detective. This new world, it turns out, is also one of unexpected danger.

Can the lessons Gina learned from her mother about cooking and life help her survive and thrive in this other world of privilege, pleasure, and menace?

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I’m alive. I’m dead. I’m in-between. In that limbo where my vital signs hover just above death. I rise above my body and look down on it, lying on a gurney. Hospital staff are rushing me along the brightly-lit hallway to the operating room. One of them holds an oxygen mask on my face. Another, a bag of intravenous fluid connected to my veins by a tube.
I’m not ready to die yet. These good people anxious to rescue me don’t know that my resolve is the only thing that is keeping me alive. No, I’m not ready to die—I’ve only just begun to live. I have yet to prove to myself, to the world, that I have what it takes to prevail.
My family—now on their way to the hospital—doesn’t know yet exactly what happened to me. And except for one detective, neither do the police. I see him now by the foot of the gurney, keeping pace with the nurses. He’s scowling, his lips pressed into a grim line.
A tall, taut, and solitary man, he has deep-set gray eyes clouded by too many images of violent death and a lower lip that hangs perpetually open in disgust or despair. So much darkness he has already seen in his thirty odd years in this world. He needs to piece together the facts that constitute the attempt on my life, events that may have led to it, and various fragments of my past to understand what brought me to this point.
The first time I met him, I fell in love with him. There was something primal about him, some paternal, animalistic instinct to save hurt or fallen victims. Like me, maybe. It gave him power and it made him irresistible to me.
But fate is fickle. It teases. It entices. One day, something quite ordinary happens to you. Yet, you sense that that ordinary something can change your life. Not necessarily for something better, but for something new. Fate is dangling before you the promise of a world that, before then, was totally out of your reach. How can you not seize it?
Now, of course, I see the end of that promise. And it’s not where I want to be.
It’s tragic, don’t you think, that the end of that promise should be right here on a gurney, with me fighting for my life? It certainly is not what I hoped for.
How could it end this way? I embraced life, took chances, but half-dead on this gurney, I wonder: Am I paying with my life? But, like I said. I’m not ready to die yet.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What might Victorian England have to tell us about the present day?

Today I get to welcome author Donna Fletcher Crow to my blog. I'm thrilled to be able to announce the release of her most recent novel, A Lethal Spectre. It's the latest in a series of mysteries set in Victorian times, all centering on Lord Danvers and his wife Antonia. Think Lord Peter Wimsey in an earlier generation perhaps. The stories evoke Victorian England in its complicated dust and glory, portraying all sides of fascinating stories, and always including real history and real events. A Lethal Spectre


is particularly close to my heart for it's portrayal of social and political follies, not so different from those we know today. So, find a chair, pour a coffee or your favorite beverage, and meet Donna Fletcher Crow. Hello Donna!

Sheila, thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog today. And thank you so much for your amazing contribution to this book. I think we should tell your readers right up front that you have served as my editor—and a stellar job you have done, too!

Thank you so much Donna. I really loved doing it - both reading and editing your novel. As with each of your books, I feel like I've learned so much. But where do you find all this information - about time, place, people, historical events, etc...?

Oh, research is always one of my favorite parts of writing, and my experience for A Lethal Spectre was unique. I read absolutely every book I could get my hands on about the Cawnpore massacre—three of them first-hand accounts from the three survivors of the atrocity.

Since my goal, however, was to contrast the horrors of an Indian mutiny with the glamour of a London season, the London side was actually harder to pin down. Until I found an incredible website: They have scanned every newspaper published in Great Britain—which strikes me as being a very English undertaking—like the goal of having a copy of every book ever published in the British Library.

Since the site is searchable by topic and by date, I was able to coordinate events in London and events in India as the story moves back and forth. One of the things that struck me was how slowly news travelled in those days—especially after the rebels cut the telegraph wires. It’s such a contrast to today’s world where it seems like we know about events almost before they happen.

Indeed it is. Though there also seem to be just so many parallels between society then and now. Perhaps in our expectation to hear everything "as it happens" we forget to listen.

Now that I've read quite a number of Lord Danvers Investigates novels I have to ask: As the series moves forward in history, what inspires you to choose your next background topic?

Because Lord Danvers investigates is a Victorian true-crime series, the backgrounds rather find me. It all began when I read about the Stanfield Hall murders and was captured by questions about the psychology of the villain. A Most Inconvenient Death was the result. Also, contrasts fascinate me. Horrible crimes in the middle of Victorian middle class respectability or upper class elegance are something I am really drawn to explore.

 A Lethal Spectre has been a long time coming. An episode in a television documentary years ago was the first I had heard of the Cawnpore Massacre, but I knew then I would write about it someday. (So long ago, we recorded the program on a VCR.) I wasn’t able to get to England to visit the docklands (much changed today) and make a return visit to Brighton for my onsite research, which is always so important to me, until four years ago. Then I had to finish other projects before I could launch into this book.

My husband visited Docklands with his father recently. The area has indeed changed a lot.  I always enjoy that sense of really being there when I read your books. And I love that you're willing to share these photos of Brighton and London with us - thank you!

Do have plans for another novel in the series?

 That depends. I’m trying to keep three series going: The Monastery Murders, The Elizabeth and Richard Literary Suspense and Lord Danvers Investigates. It’s always a matter of which story bubbles to the top and presses me the hardest. Next will be another Richard and Elizabeth—I want to explore Jane Austen’s seashore sites with these sleuthing literature professors.

Ooh, that sounds fun!

You mentioned wanting to travel to England and see the sites before writing a Lethal Spectre: What's the hardest thing about writing historical fiction set in a foreign country? And what's the most satisfying thing about it?

 The hardest thing is also the part I enjoy the most—research! Especially the onsite research, which I insist on because one of my goals as a writer is to put my readers in each scene. I can’t do that if I haven’t been there myself. No matter how much I love it, travel is still expensive, time-consuming and exhausting. All that is made easier for me, however, because our daughter married an Englishman (wasn’t that considerate of her!). Since I now have five English grandchildren that gives me an additional excuse to travel. But in a way it also makes the research harder, because I’m torn between visiting family and taking off to do research. I guess some people are just never happy.

The other challenge is getting the details right. And that’s where an editor comes in. I have been blessed with great editors—all of them English. No matter how much research I do, there’s no substitute for being a “native-born speaker.”
So that gets me to the second part of your question. The most satisfying things are the joys of telling the story and the wonderful people I meet and get to work with—including my readers!

At this point, perhaps I should include a picture of Donna and my mum in England. One day perhaps I'll be able to share a picture of Donna and myself!

Before you leave, I should probably tell readers where they can find out more about you:

For information about all of Donna’s books
and pictures from her research trips and garden,
visit her website.

You can also follow her on 
Facebook or 

To keep up on Donna’s latest news, 
including lots of free books, 
subscribe to her newsletter.

And finally, here's the book:

Antonia and Charles are swept up in the glittering swirl of a London season as they present Aunt Aelfrida’s ward to society. In India Antonia’s closest girlhood friend is caught in the most brutal massacre ‘in the book of time’. What could these disparate events have to do with murders in London and Brighton? This engrossing story comes to life with all the vivid historical detail readers expect from Donna Fletcher Crow.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Have you met the White Witch of Jamaica?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Larry D Thompson to my blog. He's touring the internet with his latest book, Researching the White Witch, and he's here to tell us about the research that led to the novel. So, thank you for stopping by Larry, and over to you.

Researching The White Witch

My son, Kel, who lives in South Florida, returned from a business trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica, talking about the legend of the WHITE WITCH. His story interested me enough that a few months later we both went to Jamaica to learn more about Annie Palmer, the White Witch,  and, also, about the Maroons. Kel had not stumbled across the Maroon story while he was there, but I did a little research about the area and learned about them. That trip let me to combine the Maroons with the White Witch to create what is certainly my best thriller to date (bear in mind that I’ll probably say the same thing about my next thriller; such is the nature of a novelist.).

We stayed at the Ritz, which was built on what was once part of the Rose Hall Plantation. We golfed at the hotel course, aptly named “The White Witch.” We toured the Rose Hall Great House where Annie Palmer lived two hundred years before and where she tortured and murdered three husbands and many more slave lovers. We learned that even today the staff in the mansion insists on leaving before dark every evening; for they fear that the White Witch may be out roaming the grounds of her old plantation. However, let me hasten to add that Annie Palmer is only a supporting character in this drama. After all, she died two hundred years ago. Still her legend is strong enough that in my story when a series of murders occur in the Montego Bay area, some with snake knives said to have belonged to the White Witch, it’s only a small leap for the locals to believe, true or not, that the White Witch must be responsible.

The real story and the conflict that created it is up in the mountains above Montego Bay, a small village called Accompong, the ancestral home of the Maroons (short for Cimarron, or “wild and untamed.). The original Maroons started escaping from their Spanish captors in the early fifteen hundreds, following game trails up into the mountains where they formed villages and lived off the land. When the Spaniards tried to re-capture them, they fought back and soon were going down from the mountains in the dead of night to attack the Spaniards as they slept. They fought for about a hundred years before the British drove the Spaniards to Cuba. The British could not understand how a band of ex-slaves could so consistently beat back the Spaniards until they tried to capture the Maroons. After another hundred or so years, they asked for a cease fire and signed a treaty with Cudjoe, the leader of the Maroons, giving them dominion over the rainforest up in the mountains, provided they would allow the British to raise sugar cane and bananas along the coast. That treaty exists to this day. Only, an American corporation was threatening  to mine bauxite in the Maroons’ rainforest when Kel and I were there. To get to the bottom of the conflict, we drove up a pothole filled road to Accompong and asked for an audience with the Colonel of the Maroons. Surprisingly, he talked to us. Only later did we learn that they did not like strangers in their village, particularly white men. Still, what we didn’t know didn’t hurt us. But it did give me the idea for the story which is really about the Maroons willingness to fight once again for their rain forest. Of course, the White Witch does make cameo appearances throughout the tale, but usually only in the imagination of some other character.

It was fascinating research that led to a very good thriller. And if you want to see the Maroon/British treaty that Cudjoe signed (with his X because he could neither read nor write), just go on line. The treaty is still there and is validity is still being debated by scholars.

What a fascinating background - especially for me, since I'm British by birth. Thank you for sharing it with us Larry, and good luck with this and all further novels, which I'm sure will all be your best and everyone's favorite.

I'm going to include a little about the author and the book blurb below, then, for those of you who might want to purchase the book, there's even an excerpt to entice you. Just keep reading down the page.

After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Larry spent the first half of his professional life as a trial lawyer. He tried well over 300 cases and won more than 95% of them. Although he had not taken a writing class since freshman English (back when they wrote on stone tablets), he figured that he had read enough novels and knew enough about trials, lawyers, judges, and courtrooms that he could do it. Besides, his late, older brother, Thomas Thompson, was one of the best true crime writers to ever set a pen to paper; so, just maybe, there was something in the T hompson gene pool that would be guide him into this new career.  He started writing his first novel about a dozen years ago and published it a couple of years thereafter. He has now written five highly acclaimed legal thrillers. White Witch is number six with many more to come.

Larry is married to his wife, Vicki. He has three children scattered from Colorado to Austin to Boca Raton, and four grandchildren. He has been trying to retire from the law practice to devote full time to writing. Hopefully, that will occur by the end of 2018. He still lives in Houston, but spends his summers in Vail CO, high on a mountain where he is inspired by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
His latest book is the captivating thriller, WHITE WITCH.



Jamaica is a place where the surreal is simply everyday reality. When a ruthless American aluminum company plans to strip mine the Jamaican rainforest, they send former Navy SEAL Will Taylor to Montego Bay to deal with local resistance on their behalf. But he’s unaware that the British had signed a treaty deeding the rainforest to the Jamaican Maroons, descendants of escaped slaves, over 300 years ago. The Maroons fought and died for their land then, and are more than willing to do so now, whether it’s the British or the Americans who threaten them this time around.

Upon Will’s arrival, a series of inexplicable murders begin, some carried out with deadly snake daggers that were owned and used by Annie Palmer, a voodoo priestess better known as the White Witch. She was killed 200 years prior, but is said to still haunt the island at night, and the local Jamaicans are certain she’s responsible for the gruesome murders, her form of retaliation against the new turmoil taking place in the rainforest.

And Will has been forced directly into the middle of it. After a few close calls, he’s finally convinced to leave his company and join forces with the Maroons, headed by Vertise Broderick, a Maroon who resigned from her position at the New York Times to return to Jamaica to stop the mining. Together they hire a Jamaican attorney to prove that the Maroon/British treaty is still valid to stop the mining, and they take it upon themselves to solve the White Witch murders, because the legend of the White Witch can’t possibly be true…
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Will returned to his room, too wound up to sleep. He stripped to his
underwear and flipped channels on a large screen HD television until he ran
across First Blood with Sylvester Stallone. Having lived that life for a few years,
he never passed up the opportunity to watch it again. He settled back and had
drifted off to sleep when his cell chimed. He glanced at the television to make
sure it was not coming from there and found Fred Astaire waltzing Ginger
Rogers around a ballroom. He turned off the television and reached for his


“Will, Alexa here.” It was nearly three in the morning and Alexa was still at
her desk. Smoke drifted from a cigarette in her ash tray while she sucked on a
Tootsie Pop. She was on the speaker phone. When Will answered, she walked to
her window and stared at the lights of Baltimore.

Will turned on the nightstand light, glanced at the clock, and swung his feet
into a sitting position on the side of the bed. “Yes, ma’am. Little late for a booty

“Cut the crap. Kaven was just found at Rose Hall. He’s dead.”

“What? Are you sure? I just saw him a few hours ago.” Will got to his feet
and began pacing the room. “Shit.”

“Must be those goddamn Maroons. He called me last night once he got
back from Accompong. He told me about what happened up there. By the way,
they let the pilot go. They said they had no beef with him.”

“So I heard. What was Kaven doing at Rose Hall? When I saw him, he was
going to his room.”

“How the hell should I know? I got a call from some local detective. They
found his employee identification in his wallet. When the detective called here,
the operator knew I was still in my office and put the call through to me. You need to get to Rose Hall now.
“Yes, ma’am,” Will agreed.
“And I’m flying down there tomorrow before this gets any more out of
hand. See if you can keep anybody else from being killed until I get there.”

Will’s cell went dead. He put it on the nightstand and picked up the hotel
phone. Pleased to find it working, he punched the key for valet parking.

“Good evening, Mr. Taylor. How can I be of assistance?”

“Bring my company Land Rover to the front as quickly as possible.”

Getting assurance that it would be there when he got downstairs, Will hung
up and walked to the bathroom. Five minutes later he was met at the hotel
entrance by a valet.

“Can I give you directions, Mr. Taylor? It’s a little late at night.”

“No thanks. I know exactly where I’m going.” Will got in the car, fastened
his seat belt, and left the hotel.
When Will got to Rose Hall, he turned onto the road they had just come
down the evening before. At the top of the hill he could see the mansion, now
well lighted. He dodged tree limbs and utility wires and parked among several
other vehicles. Police cars were positioned so that their headlights focused on the
steps of the mansion where Will could see the yellow police crime scene tape. He
walked up a path from the parking lot between the police cars that faced the
mansion to the yellow tape where an officer stood watch. The officer came to
attention as Will approached.

“Sorry, mon. I can’t let you past here. We’re investigating a murder.”

Will kept his voice even but controlling. “I know, officer. That’s why I’m
here. Name’s William Taylor. I’m head of security for Global American Metals.
Here’s my identification.” Will tried to hand him an ID. The officer just shook
his head. “Officer, the dead man is one of Global’s employees. Can you get
someone in authority to let me up there?”

Before the officer could reply, Miles Harper, the St. James Parish Chief of
Detectives, approached. Harper was a lean, fit man with a shaved head and a no
nonsense manner. He was dressed in a brown suit, yellow shirt, and matching
tie. He looked like he just stepped out of GQ Magazine, even at three in the

“Mr. Taylor, I’m Miles Harper, Chief of Detectives in this parish. I was
told by your company to expect you.”

Will extended his right hand. Harper ignored it. Instead, he nodded at the
officer and motioned for Will to follow him. Harper went up a dozen steps and
turned to Will as he stood beside Kaven’s body, sprawled on his back with dagger in his chest. Will bent over for a closer look and found that the handle of
the dagger was in the shape of a snake. At the top of the handle was the snake’s
head. The snake’s eyes were two bright rubies.

“Shit,” Will muttered, “He was almost killed because of one snake on the
road today and now someone finished the job with a, what would you call this, a
snake dagger?”

“That’s as good a name as any, Mr. Taylor. My officers reported what went
on up in Accompong and the incident with the boa.”
Will continued to study the body. “Looks like he’s been dead a couple of
hours. I last saw him about ten last night. Who found him?”

“The hotel has a security guard that roams the mansion grounds and up to
the club house in a golf cart. He spotted the body.”

“Where’s your coroner?”

“He’s a local Justice of the Peace, not a medical doctor. He won’t set foot on
these steps until morning. My men here won’t go past the tape either. They
believe the White Witch did it.”

Will shook his head in disbelief. “Come on, Chief, this is the twenty-first

“Old beliefs die hard, Mr. Taylor. Come on. Let me show you something.”

Harper stepped around the body and climbed the steps with Will behind
him. Entering the ballroom, Will said, “I was just in this room yesterday evening during the storm.”
Harper turned to study Will. “Would you care to explain?”

Will covered the details of the previous day and their time in the mansion
while they waited out the storm. “You know a woman named Vertise?”

Harper nodded his head. “She’s a local. Works for the paper and tends bar
for the hotel. Since you were in this room a few hours ago, come over here.”
Harper led Will to a glass display against one wall with pictures of two snake
daggers above it along with the history of the daggers. The glass had been
broken and the daggers were gone.

“You see this case when you were up here?”

Will studied it and thought back to the day before. “Can’t say I did, Chief.
It was pretty dark in here, lit only by candles since the storm knocked out
power. I wandered around the room but never glanced toward this case. And I
don’t believe anyone else mentioned it. Now that I think about it, Vertise told
us the legend of Annie Palmer and her using a snake dagger to kill an overseer.
evening during the storm.”

Harper turned to study Will. “Would you care to explain?”
Will covered the details of the previous day and their time in the mansion
while they waited out the storm. “You know a woman named Vertise?”
Harper nodded his head. “She’s a local. Works for the paper and tends bar
for the hotel. Since you were in this room a few hours ago, come over here.”
Harper led Will to a glass display against one wall with pictures of two snake
daggers above it along with the history of the daggers. The glass had been
broken and the daggers were gone.

“You see this case when you were up here?”

Will studied it and thought back to the day before. “Can’t say I did, Chief.
It was pretty dark in here, lit only by candles since the storm knocked out
power. I wandered around the room but never glanced toward this case. And I
don’t believe anyone else mentioned it. Now that I think about it, Vertise told
us the legend of Annie Palmer and her using a snake dagger to kill an overseer. Surprising that she didn’t show us these daggers when she was telling the story.”

“Interesting,” mused Harper. “You have any idea why your man would
come up here in the middle of the night?”

“Not a clue. Have you checked his cell phone? He always carried it.”

“Yeah. The last calls were with you yesterday afternoon and one with Ms.
Pritchard later in the evening.”

Will nodded. “He called me from Accompong, warning me of trouble up
there. I should have gone with him.”

Harper shook his head. “Whether you were there or not wouldn’t have
made any difference. Just would have been one more person that was in my
police car that rolled, assuming, of course, you didn’t take a bullet up on the


“How did you get in the mansion?”

“Vertise said she knew where a key was hidden and let us in.”

“Strange that she could get into the locked mansion. It was my
understanding that only the manager of Rose Hall had a key. He locked it and
left when the storm was hitting. The hotel spent a fortune on period pieces to
recreate how it looked two hundred years ago. One of his jobs is to make sure
they are not stolen.”

“Any signs of a break-in?” Will asked.

“This is not for publication, you understand, but when I got here the
mansion was locked and the lights were off.”

“So, you’re saying that someone got into the mansion, stole two daggers, let
themselves back out, killed Kaven, and left no trace.” Will paused to absorb all
that he had just said. “Wait a minute. If someone wanted to kill Kaven, why not
just use a gun? Why go to all the trouble of getting that dagger to do it?”

“I’ve been wrestling with that very question,” Harper said. “It’s illegal for a
private citizen to own a gun in Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean they are not
available if you know the right people. My working hypothesis is that the killer
or killers wanted the public to think voodoo was involved, or maybe even the
White Witch. The only other possibility that comes to mind is that the Maroons
are trying to send a message to Global. They tried to kill Tillman in Accompong
and failed. Maybe the message is that they finish what they start. Either way,
someone is trying to make trouble for your company. I have another problem
that may not be apparent.”

Will looked quizzically at the detective.

“As you can see, there were two snake daggers in this case. One’s accounted
for out on the steps. The other is gone. Nearly everyone around here thinks that
they are voodoo daggers with magical powers. They were found in an overseer’s
grave during the restoration of the mansion thirty years ago.”

“Does ‘everyone’ include you? Looks to me like the killer or killers are just
trying to mess with the minds of my co-workers, maybe keep some locals from
hiring on with us.”

Harper stuck his hands in his pockets. “Not up to me to decide if they’re
magic or not. I’ve got a murder with one of those daggers. My job is to solve the
murder and along the way, find that other dagger before someone uses it.”
Will’s eyes searched the room in a futile effort to see any clues to the crime.

Then he focused on the chief. “Look, I’m going to need a gun. My company is
obviously under attack. I’m licensed to carry back home.”

“No way, Mr. Taylor,” Harper exploded. “Foreigners are not permitted to
have guns in Jamaica. For that matter, as I just told you, neither are Jamaicans.
And I want you to stay the hell out of my investigation. We don’t need your
help. Understand?”

“Yeah, I understand. You know that each of our mines on this island is
permitted a certain number of guns for our guards. I’ll just get one of those.”

“The hell you will. Don’t you dare go behind my back. Those guns never
leave mine property. I have an officer that inventories them. If one turns up
missing, I’ll confiscate every damn weapon that Global has and put you under
house arrest. Clear, Mr. Taylor?”

Will clinched his fists and tried to hold back the anger that was apparent in
his face. Without another word, he turned and stormed out of the mansion,
pausing only to gaze at Kaven and say a prayer for him and his family. At the
bottom of the steps, he got in his car and glanced toward the mansion. The
lights from his car somehow caught the ruby eyes of the snake, making them
appear briefly to be alive. Will shook his head, put the car in reverse, and
returned to the hotel.

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