Tag Archives: murder

The Witch of Delray by Karen Dybis

I’ll admit when I first saw the title, The Witch of Delay, I conjured up in my mind a story about your typical witch. The kind of witch story that I evoked in my mind involved potions, curses, and even hexes. The interesting thing is, The Witch of Delray, will take the reader into the story of Rose Veres who some saw as a witch.

I realize that opening paragraph may grip the attention of people as you ask yourself, where is Delray? Is she really a witch?

The answer to the first question is that Delray is an old part of Detroit, Michigan. The Delray area in the early 20th century saw many Hungarian immigrants call the area home. This background is shared with in the pages of the book by author, Karen Dybis. She does a great job explaining how things where in Detroit during the period of the book, mentioning everything from the Great Depression, to corruption, crime, and race riot in the 1940s.

As for Rose Veres, you must realize the period of the story. This was a period when many old fears followed immigrants from their native lands. It is where neighborhood stories could lead others to fear a woman’s piercing glare as an evil hex. It of course did not help Rose that she had a husband die, mysteriously and even some of her borders also die.  You see, Rose and her husband Gabor, took in borders and after his death she continued to take them in. It was just Rose and her children in the house along with their borders, and it wasn’t till one of them died.

The Witch of Delray will delve deeply into the reported murder of Stephen Mak. He was one of the borders, and like so many during the depression, had trouble finding work. He would help with some chores around the Veres’ house and it was on one of these occasions he met with a horrific end. He either was pushed, or fell, off a ladder while working on a window in the home. The following police investigation would lead to the multiple events within this book.

Author Karen Dybis does her homework in writing this true crime story. She had to obviously do a lot of research digging into archives and stories from the events. Dybis looks not into the primary characters from Rose Verse, son Bill, but into those who prosecuted her. Dybis looks into the history around the events, the characters and the eventual outcome.  Readers will be introduced to Detective John Whitman, Reporter Vera Brown, Prosecutor Duncan C. McCrea and female attorney Alean Rose Brisley Clutts. The book will span over a few decades and will give readers a larger picture on the “witch” of Delray.

What I really enjoyed about this book is something one will not see on the countless of real crime TV shows out there. We get beyond the story of the murder but that of parties involved. We get a chance to see how those involved either met with fame, or failure. The thing book really does is show us everything has consequences and sometimes they have far reaching impacts.

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Posted by on January 21, 2018 in Reviews


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Kindred Intentions by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

A book is something that we pick up to read and if we are lucky will light our imagination. If we are even more fortunate it, that same book will get us hooked. The reader will not want to put it down as they are afraid to miss a moment of what is unfolding in the story that is being told by those words on the page. It is not every day that a reader will come across a book like that, and it’s even more rare to have an author continually turn out books with such storylines we cannot help but want to read it cover to cover in one sitting. Author Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli really hooked me with her Red Desert set of books, about life on Mars, but has done it again with her book, Kindred Intentions.

Kindred Intentions takes the reader into a police investigation of murders that are happening at the law firm of, Goldberg & Associates. We are quickly introduced to agent Amelia Jennings who has the job of finding out who is committing those murders.  However, things never seem to go as planned and before we know it people are out to get Amelia and she has to find out who is behind this all.

The reader will also find out as Amelia runs she will have one Mike Connor along for the ride. The issue is can she trust Mike and is he who he says, well I’m sure I could say but that is giving things away.

In the previous point I mentioned, “along for the ride”, and that’s what this book is. Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli has so many twists and turns within the pages of the book you may feel highs and lows as if riding a roller coaster.  The book has spots of humor that had me laugh out loud, and get a strange look from those nearby as I read. On the other side there are points that are dark as one must recall they are after a murderer.

The story is well developed, well told and if one tried to create a murder board as seen on TV shows, the intersections and paths would be confusing to follow, at first. This is the great hidden piece of the book the way you think you may have finally figured things out only to turn a page, and realize you were wrong. It can be upsetting for sure but it also makes you dive further into the story as you tell yourself you’ll figure out who it is.

I’ll add that this was one of the complaints about Agatha Christie’s books on how she would hide things from readers that only her detectives picked up on. It did frustrate some during her time, but it’s not the case within the pages of Kindred Intentions. Instead all you need to figure things out are here but life its complex.

Now, I will add that as I read this I would have to tell myself that what I thought could be misspellings are not ones at all. The books setting is in London, England, and thus the British English is utilized in the book and to me just added more realism. I would not expect a British character to be using American terminology, and as a reminder English is not author Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli first language. It however does not matter what language you may read this in as the story in itself is what will capture your attention and suck you into the pages, be that they are digital or real. Kindred Intentions is just one well written book with plot lines that are developed masterfully and a story more twisted at times than a pretzel, but well worth the read.

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Posted by on October 28, 2017 in Reviews


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Rose Petal Haunt by Author Connie Chappell


Author Connie Chappell was kind enough to share her story “Rose Petal Haunt” for the Halloween event this year. She is a the author of the Wild Raspberries. If you want to find out more about her I welcome you to check out her website. I could go on as there is a lot of information on her site but lets get to that story.

Rose Petal Haunt

            Newt Randall grumbled, but his long strides took him Wrenn Grayson’s way, toward the old Baxter Opera House, closed now for years. It was nearly eight o’clock and already dark as dread on this late October evening in the downtown neighborhood of Havens, Ohio.

Newt remembered Wrenn’s initial explanation when he answered her call, just a few minutes earlier, in his condominium at the other end of the block. Her professor approved her senior project: a historic retelling of the opera house’s glory days. That would include the forty years around the turn of the twentieth century when it thrived. In 1906, it also played host to the mysterious death of Lillian Garrison Bethune, a popular diva.

He met the journalism major two weeks ago when he, a retired newspaper reporter, appeared as guest lecturer before her class. The calling card he handed her as a polite gesture, when she corralled him afterwards with questions, facilitated her ease of contact tonight.

No good deed, he thought.

Newt and Wrenn met up in front of the library. She told him about spending her evening reading Priscilla Baxter’s journals until the library closed.

He knew Mrs. Baxter’s journals documented daily life in the opera house. What Wrenn couldn’t possibly know was that mention of the journals sparked an unpleasant memory about a story he wrote early in his career, one that his publisher refused to print.

“Until today,” Wrenn said, “you were the last person to sign the journals out from the library’s historical archives. I signed my name beneath yours on the checkout registry card.”

“You signed a registry card? That’s old school.”

“Sure is, but, you know, in the archives section, it’s their nature to stick with the old ways.”

Back in 1966, he, like she, sat at a library table under the librarian’s watchful eye and devoured those journals. Sixty years prior, Mrs. Baxter sat to write her account of Lillian’s untimely death while performing at the opera house.

“Why did you read Mrs. B’s journals back then? Were you working on a story?”

“Before we launch into that,” he said, “let’s stick to the subject of what couldn’t wait until morning.” Apparently, there was a symbol etched in the opera house’s stone façade she wanted him to see.

“Sure,” she said, passing him her flashlight, so she could manipulate the fancy tablet taken from a coat pocket. “Look at this.”

Stored there were images of page after page of Mrs. Baxter’s journal. The journal itself couldn’t be checked out. Snapping images with her electronic doodad was the next best thing. At her touch, photos of Mrs. Baxter’s cursive slid across the screen. Wrenn paused in the chronology for Mrs. Baxter’s drawings. He gave little credence to the sketches years ago, thinking they were connected to a particular opera, like her drawings of costumes and settings for scenes.

“I did some research online, and I think Mrs. B believed these symbols have some power over spirits in the paranormal world.”

She hooked him quite smoothly with the word spirits. Mrs. Baxter claimed Lillian’s ghost haunted the opera house, the building they now faced. “What kind of power?” he asked.

“The kind that wards off spirits.” Wrenn enlarged one of the tablet’s images, took back her flashlight, and handed him the device.

From the lotus blossom image on the screen, his eyes jumped to a duplicate image caught in Wrenn’s flashlight beam. A lotus blossom was carved into the opera house’s dark stonework beside the entrance door.

“You saw the lotus blossom in the journal, then came down here and, by chance, in the dark, found it engraved?” His question dripped with skepticism for the wannabe investigative reporter.

“No. I took a careful walk around the building before dark, then I went to the library. My thought is, Mrs. B had this lotus blossom engraved after Lillian’s death.”

Newt’s heart ached and his stomach with it. Back in ’66, he thumbed past the symbols recorded in the journal. Christ, he hadn’t even noticed the carvings. If he made the same argument to his editor Wrenn now made with some research behind it, his story probably would have seen print.

While he fumed with himself, Wrenn went on about the lotus blossom’s meaning in the preternatural world. How she thought Mrs. Baxter used it to keep Lillian’s ghost inside the theater, grounded and centered.

The obvious question was, why would anyone work this hard to keep a ghost captured? Newt challenged the opinionated woman with a variation on that theme. “Oh, you think you know what was in Mrs. Baxter’s mind, do you?”

“You read the journals. It’s easy to get a sense of her. She was phenomenal. She followed the leads, spoke to people. She had an investigator’s instinct. The fact that the crime was murder didn’t stop her.”

“She didn’t solve the murder,” he said, still terse over his rookie mistake.

“We don’t know that. No one was arrested, tried, or convicted, but she may have solved it. The best part is, she wrote it all down.”

He still held the tablet. With his middle finger, he pushed through the pages. He remembered the evidence Mrs. Baxter laid out. Her version supported murder while Police Detective Winkler concluded that Lillian’s fall from the opera house balcony was suicide. The diva had, the day of her death, been ousted from her starring role in the Italian opera, Lucia di Lammermoor. The opera’s director called her temperamental, unusually nervous. Her distractions ruined one particular rehearsal when she saw a shadow at the back of the house and cried out in fear. The director reported to Mrs. Baxter that no one stood there, but still, the diva stamped out of rehearsal.

When an ear was needed, Mrs. Baxter lent hers to young Lillian. It seemed a handsome man named Oswald Stiller entered Lillian’s life in Havens. He charmed her with constant attention. Dozens and dozens of red roses were delivered to her dressing room throughout her first few days in town. By then, Lillian reported seeing a certain glint in Oswald’s eye and sensing a growing possessiveness. Her decision to withdraw from his company was met with ungentlemanly behavior. That was proven by bruises on Lillian’s wrist the next day. While the stripes of discoloration faded from purple to puce, the red roses continued in their delivery.

“So what’s your take on Oswald Stiller? Resident of Havens? Traveling businessman? Or asylum escapee?”

“Stalker,” Wrenn said.

“You believe the women’s version?”

“Mrs. B marched in and out of hotels, rooming houses, and the town’s half dozen greenhouses with the man’s description.”

The idea of marching took them on a tour around the opera house so Wrenn could show him the other engravings.

“As I recall,” Newt said, “she had no luck finding an address for Oswald, but she did find the greenhouse where he purchased the roses. Philpot’s.” It went out of business forty years ago. “No address for him there, either.”

“Which means Oswald wanted to go suspiciously undetected.”

“Philpot also told Mrs. Baxter he thought Oswald seemed sane.”

“Of course. Oswald’s mind was sick, but practiced. He knew how to fit into society. Then, after his sickness was fed, he knew how to vanish.”

She drew up to the building’s side door and trained the flashlight on an etching consisting of symmetrically curved lines, the circumference of which was oval-shaped and filled the large stone’s face.

“I researched this. It’s called a shou.” She spelled it. “I couldn’t find it in Webster’s or in an online dictionary, but I found the word was the name of a county in China. Not quite related, but interesting, because I believe all these ancient understandings have the same connection from an earlier day. Shou in Chinese means longevity. Longevity is one of the Five Blessings in Chinese teachings. The fifth blessing is a peaceful death. That seemed to link what Mrs. B tried to achieve for Lillian. Peace throughout eternity.”

Their walk around the building concluded at the alley door, beside which Newt saw another lotus blossom and gave in to curiosity. “Okay. What’s your theory?”

“I think Mrs. B had these symbols engraved at each door to keep Lillian’s spirit trapped inside.”

“Wouldn’t their placement outside the opera house keep spirits from entering?”

“But couldn’t the reverse be true? If the symbols keep spirits from moving past them, then Lillian wouldn’t be able to leave, keeping her spirit trapped. And who knows, maybe there are other engravings inside.”

“And you think spirits are limited to using doors?”

“Several how-to websites on exorcisms tell the layperson to open all the doors to the—” She waved her hand, searching for words.

“Haunted house,” he supplied.

“Okay. Haunted house, so the spirit can be flushed out. Again, why couldn’t it work in reverse?”

“I don’t know. I’m neither an expert nor a spiritual adviser.”

“But don’t you consider Mrs. B’s logic flawless? She thought it would work, and she ventured to try. Take the order of Mrs. B’s entries.” She swapped the flashlight for the tablet, then scrolled through the pages. “She talks about Lillian, their growing friendship, Lillian’s giddiness over her new suitor, then her fear. After Mrs. B’s investigation, after she argued with the detective that it was murder, not suicide, then the symbols come up in the journal.”

Newt felt his jaw clench at his inattentiveness to essential information when he pored over the journals years ago.

“I don’t think she paid for engravings on the oft-chance Lillian might become a ghost, might show herself. I think Mrs. B knew Lillian’s spirit existed inside the opera house. Mrs. B didn’t avenge her murder, so Lillian’s spirit couldn’t cross over.”

He cocked his head toward the building. “Do you think Lillian’s spirit is still in there?”

“That’s what I intended to ask you.”

As Wrenn circumvented his question, he stepped around hers. “I’ll answer that, but not until tomorrow.”

“Aw, come on. Please,” she begged.

“I’m what they call spry for being past seventy. Even at that, spry needs sleep. Meet me right here at two tomorrow.” He left her at her car, then traipsed on to his condo.

The next morning, he made a phone call to the man he happened to know owned the dilapidated opera house. That call produced a key. Wrenn already waited when he arrived at the alleyway door. This time, he brought the flashlights since the opera house boasted no electricity. Few windows would provide little daylight of their own accord.

Wrenn carried her unbridled excitement over the sill plate and into a dingy hallway behind the stage. The air inside was stale. Dust lived in every breath. He kicked something, then put the wooden doorstop to use, propping the outside door open for the wanted fresh air and sunlight.

“This way,” he said and led her around two stacks of boxes blocking the corridor. “I think these are the perfect surroundings to tell what I know about Lillian’s ghost.” Wrenn’s attention was rapt. “In 1966, I’d been on the paper two years. I worked late one night and stepped out to the street for a breather. It was around eleven. And the date was,” he paused dramatically, “March twenty-fifth.”

Wrenn gasped. “The same date Lillian was murdered.”

“Exactly sixty years later. While I used the night air to clear my head—I could go a little longer without sleep back then—a strange woman walked by. Her hair stuck out from beneath a knit cap. Her coat was tattered and dirty. But it was the small black iron cauldron she carried that prompted me to strike up a conversation.” From memory, he spoke the opening sentences from the article he wrote that was never pressed onto newsprint. “Maisie Sewell performed an incantation inside the historic opera house to free the spirit of Lillian Garrison Bethune from its entrapment between worlds. Why is unknown.”

When he realized Wrenn no longer walked beside him, he turned. From two steps back, she shone her flashlight’s beam directly into his eyes. He raised a deflective hand.

“You are a despicable man.”

“Here it comes.”

“How could you just walk off last night and not tell me this?”

“I told you I needed sleep. I also need whatever’s left of my eyesight. Would you, please?”

She lowered the light. “Who’s Maisie Sewell?”

They walked on. “After that night, I made some inquiries. The general consensus said she was the town’s eccentric hermit and a bit off-center.” He used his flashlight to pull down a cobweb. “I followed her down here to the opera house. Along the way, she mumbled something about ‘Miss Bethune’s death’ and said she came to perform an exorcism.”

“An exorcism,” Wrenn said, enthralled. “Excellent.”

They stopped just outside the open balcony door.

“Most of the downtown workers I talked to heard stories about the opera house’s ghostly diva. It had been years since the unexplained death, but the stories didn’t fade away.” He shone his flashlight beam on the carpeted staircase. “Well, let’s go up.”

At the top, he led her down the main aisle to the front row. It would have been ludicrous to speak of Maisie now when they stood on the very floorboards where Lillian went over the balcony’s wide half-wall. As if choreographed, they shone their lights down to the auditorium. Lillian’s neck snapped when she struck the center aisle below. Newt already scanned the area around his and Wrenn’s feet and the wall’s edge. No rose petals, fresh or petrified.

Mrs. Baxter claimed Oswald Stiller somehow lured Lillian to the balcony, then “flung her over” the stone railing. Velvety red rose petals, Oswald’s trademark, were found along the top edge of the balcony’s wall. She insisted to Detective Winkler that the petals were scattered by Oswald after Lillian was pushed. Otherwise, how could two petals have ended up in Lillian’s hair? Mrs. Baxter discovered Lillian’s cold body the next morning. Detective Winkler asserted that a depressed Lillian could have scattered the petals herself. The two petals could have gone over with Lillian, whose greater weight found the floor first.

“Where did Oswald go?” Wrenn asked. “None of Mrs. Baxter’s entries spoke of confronting him, nor of Detective Winkler relaying the results of any contact.”

“I wouldn’t assume he disappeared from town. If he lived here and was never charged, his life would simply go on.” He led her back downstairs. As they honed in on the light leaking through the alley door, Wrenn’s beam searched the wall on either side of the opening. They stopped short when the faded outline of a lotus blossom appeared in her cone of light.

“Mrs. B hung an amulet there.”

“Your theory is proving itself true, young lady.” While the hair on his neck stood up, he laid out another piece of Maisie’s story. “Things grew extremely weird when I followed Maisie around to this door. She muttered things like, ‘Bewitch the spirit. Cast it out.’ She let her hand hover over the door handle, like she summoned some magical power. The door should’ve been locked when she grabbed the handle, but it turned easily. Just inside, she pulled a leather pouch and a thin strip of what appeared to be animal fur out of her coat pocket. She hung the animal fur around her neck. She got a homemade candle lit and walked off into the dark corridor. I watched, trying to decide if I had nerve enough to follow.”

“You were scared?”

“Hell, yes! There was something unearthly about the whole thing. But before I made a decision, the door slammed shut and locked.” Wrenn’s eyes bulged. “No one,” he said, “that I saw…was there.”

Her shoulders hunched with what he assumed was a shiver.

“I waited around. Then, precisely at midnight, a blinding light shot through every window and door. It could only have taken seconds. After that, everything went dark.”

“I read about bright lights like that in some of my research books.”

He walked her outside. “I stood right here when the light and that pane of glass exploded.” He pointed up to an attic window. “Shards rained down. Cut me right here.” He turned his head to show her the scar that sat high on his cheek.

“What did you do?”

“I tried the door, and it opened. I searched thoroughly. Maisie was nowhere.”

Wrenn stared at him for a long moment. “But the place is big. She could have left while you were in another part of the building.”

He shrugged. “Back then, with blood on my cheek, I wasn’t convinced.”

Wrenn tilted her head up to the window, long ago repaired. “That’s how Lillian’s spirit got around the engravings at the doors.”

“I guess I thought Lillian crossed over. Somehow, Maisie got caught in the updraft and evaporated by her own dark magic.” He shook his head. “I don’t know. It was a weird night.” Newt used the borrowed key to relock the door. “I wrote the story and took it to my editor. He deemed it sensationalism and wouldn’t print it. That didn’t sit well since I was an eye-witness. A day or two later, I realized I hadn’t really witnessed the main event. I was outside.”

“You saw the light, the shards, an empty opera house.”

“None of that added up to a story the paper would print. All I had was a ghost no one at the paper believed in, in the first place. How do you prove an opera house is no longer haunted?” Back out on the main street, Newt sighed. “A couple of weeks later, my editor told me he saw Maisie out south of town, heading down a lane into Compton Woods.” The old foolishness Newt felt reared again. A cub reporter’s folly made real by an editor’s grin. “The word was she lived in a cabin in the woods.”

“You went looking for her!” Wrenn’s green eyes shone.

“Sure. I wanted the rest of the story.”

She grabbed his arm. “So you know where the cabin is! What did she tell you?”

“I swear, I saw intelligence in her eyes.” His reflective tone calmed Wrenn’s ardor.

“You thought she faked madness?”

“Let’s just say, I expected to hear the echoes of an unwell mind. The woman literally came out of the dark to exorcise a ghost!”

“Why did she take up this cause? Because it feels like a cause.”

He considered the young woman. “You’re the expert on women’s feelings. Why?”

Quite poised, Wrenn said, “Given the fact she probably kept her own company for years, she built her confidence and convinced herself to do it. She heard and believed the stories about a ghost. She wanted to help, not unlike Mrs. B, whose sanity was never called into question. We don’t know Maisie’s upbringing, but it doesn’t sound like the white-picket-fence variety. I mean, the real question is, did it work?” In the same breath, she shifted gears. “Newt, let’s go out to the cabin. You know where it is. Please, take me to see it.”

He complied. Arguing would equal both a second folly and a losing proposition.

Newt and Wrenn emerged though tall evergreens into a small clearing. Maisie’s lifeless gray shack sat fifty yards away. In the late afternoon, the flashlights they carried remained off, although much of autumn’s light was filtered and failing.

“Are we working on the probability that she’s dead?” Wrenn asked.

“Long dead.”

Underbrush crept from the woods toward the cabin. Newt’s and Wrenn’s progress proceeded at the same pace. Wrenn kept her eyes on the prize: a glimpse into Maisie’s life. Hearing about the cauldron, animal fur, and incantations were not enough. Wrenn joked about the leather pouch containing eye of Newt. When they first walked down the muddy lane into the woods, he found levity in the quip. Now, it felt like an inescapable premonition as his eyes constantly searched the sidelines for predators.

“It was right here,” Newt said, stopping, pointing toward a tree on his left. “The day I spoke with Maisie, I never got any closer to the cabin than this scraggly cypress.”


“She came out to meet me. She dabbled in divination, crystal balls, fortunetelling, and such.”

“She knew you were coming?”

“Yeah.” He cocked a mischievous eyebrow. “I guess you didn’t get a look at the name signed in above mine on the library’s registry card? It was a scrawl.”

“Whose was it?” Instantly, her mouth gaped. She reasoned the answer. “Maisie’s? You’re just telling me now?” Her questions came in a loud whisper.

“Timing in journalism is everything, my dear. Yes, we were standing right here when she put me on to the journals. She was not the nutcase everyone thought.” Suddenly, a yellow light caught in his peripheral vision.

He turned toward the cabin. A porch light he hadn’t noticed before hung next to the door on a cabin isolated from electrical service. The cabin door either unlatched itself, or someone inside stood in shadow. Newt felt inexplicably drawn toward the tumbledown shack. He took a step, but Wrenn held his arm.

“Did you see that?”

“I think it’s an invitation.”

“But from whom? Lillian, I’d guess, wouldn’t you? By the time you found Maisie, did she let on that Lillian was with her?” Her tone said she figured he kept another fact under wraps.

“No, and I didn’t think to ask.” He layered his reply with sass.

“After you read the journals, did you come back to ask Maisie if she got the story from Lillian? Did Oswald push her? Was Mrs. B correct?”

He knocked lightly on her head. “Hello, Wrenn. I didn’t know Lillian was here to relay the story, if it is, in fact, Lillian enticing us to visit.”

“Someone or something is in there.”

“So, do you want to go talk with a ghost?” he said, better defining their host.

Their elbows bumped as they eased toward the cabin. The door creaked open another few inches at the hand of a wispy breeze. They stepped up to the planked porch. Wrenn and a baffled Newt froze.

There, sprinkled where a welcome mat might lay, were fresh rose petals, one of them seemed to rock on a current of air. Newt read it as a warning.

Oswald Stiller. A possibility he hadn’t considered. By now, Oswald would be a half-century past spry, so he must be dead. But he had not intended to be forgotten.

Newt raised an eyebrow to Wrenn. She answered his question with a serious expression and a quiet nod. He swung the door open further and went inside. Wrenn followed, close on his heels.

When his pupils adjusted, it surprised him to find a distinct lack of clutter. Furnishings were sparse. A chair angled toward the cold hearth. A cot against the wall. A planked table. A stool beside it.

Wrenn sidled toward the cauldron on the drain board and looked inside. Her footprints trailed behind her in the dirt on the floor.

On one wall, a long shelf held apothecary and canning jars. He couldn’t even hazard a guess as to the odd assortment of contents. Some held powders. It felt more like Maisie practiced medicine, not a dark art, then he spotted the crystal ball on the ledge. A small burlap bag leaned against it.

He made his first move toward the heart of the cabin. Behind him, the door moaned. He watched. It seemed to waver, undecided. He thought back to alleyway door, so long ago, that slammed shut on its hinges. Across the cabin, Wrenn whispered his name. He saw a look of awe on her face. She raised a tentative hand. It pointed toward the opposite corner. Even as he turned, rotisserie slow, he sensed the chill of a presence. That sensation presented itself as a sphere lit from within and hanging in the shadows about shoulder height.

Over the eerie course of several breathless seconds, the bubble of light stretched. It formed a woman wearing a gown that met the floor. Long curls draped her shoulders.

Newt’s heart jumped and he muffled a shout when something touched his arm. “Christ, Wrenn!” She stood beside him now, having made the trip with uncanny stealth.

“Sorry,” she breathed. “It’s Lillian. Do you see—?”

“Yes, I see the rose petals.” Dried rose petals appeared to be caught in her hair. The crimson was visible against the spirit’s iridescence.

Newt stepped away from Wrenn. “Lillian, this is Wrenn, and I’m Newt. Do you remember me? Maisie and I talked outside, shortly after you came here. We’re not here to frighten you.”

That was a switch. He thought about his words. The humans scaring the ghost. But it seemed to him, the essence of Lillian cowered. In death, she feared the same thing she feared in life: Oswald Stiller.

Realizing that, Newt became the man very few people knew. Rarely in his career, and only when facing a most trembling of victims, did the gravelly reporter soften to the caring person who spoke to Lillian.

“We know Oswald’s been here,” he said. “We saw the rose petals. We can only imagine how long this stalking has gone on. But you don’t need to stay here. You’re making it too easy for him. I can only hope that Maisie shielded you for as long as she could. Lillian, you can fight back. At least, leave the cabin. Locate another place for yourself. Dig deep. Find your strength. Promise me.”

Throughout Newt’s pep talk, he observed Lillian closely. When he nicked comments about Oswald, rose petals, and stalking, Lillian’s translucence dulled. His strummed words of encouragement caused the being’s embodiment to brighten.

By this method of gauging her translucence, he thought they could distinguish an answer to the age’s-old question: Was she pushed, or had she jumped over the balcony wall? But that was no longer the issue, not in his mind. The issue was the terror this woman suffered for decades at the hands of a stalker. That crime deserved a fitting punishment. If Newt ventured a guess, he’d deduce that Lillian jumped, though. Oswald would never have pushed her. He’d want her alive. For around her, he could harness his vile sociopathic power.

A long moment passed. There was no change in the spirit’s aura by which to discern her feelings and, therefore, her willingness to adopt his plan. He urged Lillian again. “Promise me.”

Newt stared hard. Still, her illumination remained steady. Two pulse beats later, the door hinges groaned. “I guess we’re leaving,” he said.

“Do you think you got through?”

“Don’t know.”

They both gave Lillian one last look, then stepped through the portal.

Once outside, Wrenn rushed to grab an ancient broom that leaned against the porch railing, its wooden handle bleached a weathered grayish white. Each brushing motion that swept the rose petals out of sight intensified more than Wrenn’s last; so did her contempt for Oswald Stiller. “It’s a sickness. A sickness that doesn’t die with death. How did that man escape hell?”

Newt agreed wholeheartedly with her sentiment.

Her task complete, they stepped down to the forest’s floor and out into the clearing. Suddenly, the most beautifully melodic voice bade them farewell.

They spun to see a figure framed in the cabin’s doorway. More human than ghost for her performance, Lillian appeared composed of a thin pearly layer. Newt, not a patron of the arts, suspected she sang a scene from Lucia.

Wrenn and he stood as still as statues while the image bowed deeply, then crystalized into something resembling digital pixels, and dissolved.

“Where did she go?” Wrenn said, inching forward.

Newt held her back. In front of them, he saw a rippling current of air coming. It hit him. His arms billowed out.

“What happened?” Wrenn spoke with sober concern.

“She passed right through me.”

“It doesn’t feel like she’s inside you? Permanent like?”

He didn’t believe that was the case. “No. She stayed just long enough to make a promise.”

Up at the cabin, the ghostly porch light went out, but his heart was charged with the epic the storyteller within would write.


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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Short Stories


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Chase and Charlie by Jessica A Scott

Chase & CharlieOne never knows how siblings will act together as they grow up and mature. They can either become best of friends, or complete strangers. The fact is that although they may be related there is no real reason to for them to like each other. One of the big differences is when the siblings are of the opposite sex. It seems that brothers and sisters have a closer bond with each other and if the boy is older he feels he needs to watch out for his little sister.

This brings me to the book, Chase and Charlie, by author Jessica A. Scott. I will admit when I first saw the title I thought of many businesses and even TV shows that had similar names to the book. I think maybe I was sensing something when that analogy came to mind as the book makes use of old TV shows. I of course did not know that at the beginning but that’s what makes reading and discovery what’s in the pages so enjoyable.

Chase and Charlie will introduce the reader to brother and sister pair that seems more like an old comedic act. I write this as Chase is a gentle giant as we learn the boy is 6’6 and weighs 310 pounds. Charlie, on the other hand, is petite and seems to be an average height for a woman coming in at 5’5. I have to say when I read those descriptions I thought of Laurel and Hardy, or Abbott and Costello. I realize some reading this may not know those classic comedic teams but I digress as this is about the book.

Chase and Charlie opens innocently with an introduction to the characters and their unique love of movies. At the same time within that first page the reader will learn that Chase is accused of murder and Charlie will try to clear his name.  The supposed murder takes place after the two go to Chuck E Cheese and win enough tickets for a life-size Chuck E Cheese Doll. The two do get many looks from younger patrons, and their parents, for the win but this is a special night. The plan is to catch the latest Star Trek movie, and one last night out before Chase graduates college. However, they will never see the movie as a blackout happens within the theater and when the lights come back up someone is dead up front and Chase is standing there.

The book will take off from this point and some readers will find the book hard to put down. The reader will get to experience all the things Charlie will do to free her brother. She will go as far as attempting to break into a mental hospital which will leader her to meeting Hogarth, who offers to help her. Hogarth is a janitor of sorts at the hospital who suspect things are not right there and the two will find out how right he is. As they work on showing Chase’s innocence they will uncover so many secrets about the hospital while they race to hide from those who eventually want Charlie stopped from her snooping.

Chase and Charlie uses a wide range of analogies within the book, and references to pop culture. One of my personal favorites is a nod to the old show Hogan’s Heroes which I watched as a kid. The book uses many others which are well timed and show Charlie’s sarcastic character. There are moments of high suspense and danger running throughout the pages. The book is written through the eyes of Charlie which leads to unique perspective on the events as they happen. This will also make sure we know what she’s thinking and what she plans to do to clear her brother. There will be those who find the book to be hard to put down as they begin to read it due to how it’s written. In any case those who enjoy some pop culture mixed in with a suspenseful mystery will enjoy the book. I will advise do not ask questions about where are the parents as that may cause you to over think the situation. Their absence is explained within the pages as well. Readers should just sit back and enjoy the ride you will be taken on within the pages. The book is published by Black Rose Writing.

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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Reviews


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Why 319? by Author Mark Love

Why 319Detroit has names such as Motor City, Motown, Hockey Town, and for me birth town. I write that as I was born in one of the suburbs of Detroit many years ago now. It is one of the major reasons that when going through the Black Rose Writing catalog I stopped on this book and knew I must read it.  The book I’m referencing is Why 319? by author Mark Love. I will do a note to football fans the book has nothing to do with a set of numbers often yelled by a quarterback in the NFL.

Why 319? is set within the mean streets of Detroit and does include some of the suburbs of the city.  This setting plays a factor in the book as in large cities police within burbs do not always communicate together and a potential serial killer can go unnoticed for a long period of time. It’s fortunate that the murders catch the attention of the right group of police. They start putting together the settings of how each of the three women are found and realize there is a serial killer lose in Detroit. The question now is will they be able to find the killer before another woman is found dead.

Jefferson Chene is one of those police officers who is involved in the investigation, and in fact outside of his boss is the team leader. The character, like all in the book, is well written and not perfect. They have flaws, can be dark and brooding at times but it fits the harsh reality of what is Metro Detroit.

Mark Love takes his knowledge of Detroit and does use real places in the book to help the reader connect to this city. You get an idea of the bleakness of Detroit but at the same time how people love the city. The main question will be, how will they get this killer off the street.

The book opens with a prologue giving the reader insight into the killers mind. The actions and thoughtful planning being done to determine who will be next is chilling. The cold calculating way in which we are introduced to that mind shows the reader what to expect from the book. As the first chapter begins it’s a crime scene and an investigation begins. It is during this opening not only is the reader introduced to Chene but the title of the book will become apparent. As you continue with the book the police procedural takes place and you will get more than you asked for within the pages.

Author Mark Love delivers a great book that uses the mean streets of Detroit in a great way. Those who know the city may know, or remember, some of the actual places mentioned in the book. Those fans of crime procedurals will enjoy the methodology and techniques used to find the resolution to the murders. The key thing is the book is a great read and do not go thinking you may have an idea who it is as this isn’t TV and a guest star isn’t the guilty person so it will not be obvious. The plot will grip the imagination and so will the joy of reading this great book.


Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Reviews


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Peril & Getting Out of Dodge both by Ruby Barnes

PerilWe learn in school of the Newton’s law of motion that tells us that every action has an equal opposite reaction. This law can be applied in physics but also in real life. It is our decisions and what we do with them that could come back and impact out life. This is just something you’d think is common sense, but there are those who do not believe it.

One such character is a man who loves his drink, his wife, other women, and just life in general. He’s the type of man that will take opportunities to watch women walk by and decide if he’d “do” them. The problem with his mindset is that he needs pharmaceutical help when that moment comes, but that doesn’t stop him.  He’s also the type who wouldn’t give a beggar a dime if the man was dying. This man’s name is Gerard (Ger) Mayes and he’s in for a rude awakening on how actions have opposite reactions.

Ger is the main character in the book Peril and it’s follow up Getting out of Dodge by author Ruby Barnes. The books combined tell a great story and is the reason why they are being combined in the review for the books.

Peril is the opening “salvo” in this series. The book takes you into Ger’s life and the opening helps set the seen on what is to come within the pages. The opening begins with a drunken fight Ger has with a beggar on the street demanding money. Ger is broke after drinking the money away that night and has no time for this foolishness. The Romanian beggar is persistent and a fight breaks out where it becomes obvious this is to the death.

The book then steps back in time and introduces the reader to the bulk of the main characters at a dinner gathering. There is Ger’s wife Jo, his best friend Tom, Jo’s friend Renee, and Aunt Mary. During the dinner the conversation turns to the recent increase in beggars in the area and the merits on helping them. The conversation is rather interesting and well written and gives a glimpse of what you will find throughout the book not just in writing style but the characters.

In Peril, Ger is forced to live by the decisions he makes and must face the consequences of each of them. The strange thing is the whole disaster starts the day he gives one of those beggars he sees some money going against what he had preached at dinner. This will lead Ger into the underworld of blackmail and drug smuggling and will help him find out more about his friends than he ever knew.

Peril is a great read as Ruby Barnes ties together this “scoundrel” of a man who has no problem sleeping with his wife’s best friend.  A man who drags his best friend into the whole torrid affair to only find out there could be more to Tom than he ever knew.  Of course with what will occur within these pages, the police will come calling. The elements of dark humor will involve these men just as well as some of the one-liners Ger delivers. One such instance is what I called “The Case of the Missing China.”

Peril ends leaving the reader to wonder what truly became of Ger, and the book Getting out of Dodge is more than happy to fill in those gaps. The biggest question answered as you start the book is where Ger spent the last nine years.

The re-entry into society shows that Ger has not learned much while being out of the “loop”. He finds himself falling hard back into old routines and his libido continues to rule much of his actions. It doesn’t take long for him to get involved with a few women and eventually those same people that took him down in Peril.

Here again we the reader is introduced to a new set of characters that fit like square pegs into Ger’s life. He seems to not have learned much from his first adventures with some of these same types of individuals as he welcomes them in with not much in the way of a fight. In fact he welcomes some of them in with open arms it will appear to the reader.

Peril2As in Peril, Getting out of Dodge, will take Ger back into the underworld and lead him into a lot of trouble. A few old foes and a “friend” reappear in this book and the main difference with Ger is he’s 9 years old but not the wiser. A person can get that feeling when he is found on a bench, beaten and holding a bag with a head inside. This of course does not paint a pretty portrait but somehow the reader will feel for Ger and will continue to hope he somehow comes out on top.

Ruby Barnes does a great job of using Ireland as a great setting for both books. Those who have not gone to the country will find themselves imagining the locations that Barnes puts into words. The other great thing is although the books appear dark; there are spots of brilliant dark humor. There are jokes that may cause an audible laugh when you come across them while reading. This is one of the reasons a reader will find themselves in Ger’s corner no matter how STUPID the man appears to be.

Those fans of suspense, murder, mystery and crime novels will enjoy these two well written books. They also have a small sense of the classic Noir stories that set many a dime store crime novels flying off the shelves back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The stories are set in a modern world but the mixture of elements works in a Noir setting.  These are two books that are well developed although could stand alone the best way to enjoy them is read them in order.

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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Reviews


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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

graveyard-bookHow many stories are out there about a child escaping their parent’s house and the police are called to find them? There are also stories of a child being found wandering the streets by people and you always are scared for the child. You also will wonder about the parents and how they could let their child out of the house that way.

The problem is that just maybe that the child is escaping a dangerous activity happening in their home. It’s highly possible that some mad man, let’s call him Jack, and is in the home silently going around killing everyone in the house. The only person this “Jack” misses is the young boy that nobody sees crawling up the street and into the cemetery. The cemetery becoming his salvation as this mad Jack is stopped at the gate from entering, and killing the child.

This is the starting point of the Neil Gaiman book, “The Graveyard Book”.

The book takes the reader into the life of a young child who has quite the unique childhood. He is raised by a very caring family of “ghosts”. Yes, I wrote the word ghosts and as a community the ghosts give the boy a name, Nobody Owens.  Owens being the name of his new “ghost parents”.

The young boy is raised in the cemetery and as the book evolves you learn more about those who care for him. Bod only really has one real “human” interaction for much of the first years of his life coming from the man Silas who originally turn the man Jack away that fateful night.  Silas making the bargain that he will help care for the child and if he must leave will find a proper replacement while Silas is away.

The great thing about the book is how Gaiman framed the book and its different chapters. Each chapter could be pulled out of the book and treated as a short story as they work greatly as their own individual stories. The fact that they help keep you involved with the ever growing and advancement of years that Nobody goes through in his life.

The book is one that will find fans in many genres. Those into suspense, murder, the supernatural, and even children’s books should enjoy this book. The aspect of getting to read along as the character grows from a child of youth to a young man with his own sense of being will help teach lessons as well.

The Graveyard Book is a novel that may throw readers at first but as you read you find a well written story. The story will engage readers who find the multitude of topics found within the book to be interesting. The writing that Neil Gaiman shows within the pages helps to show how Gaiman became such a loved author.

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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Reviews


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