Excerpt: Dead of Summer
Zeke pulled into the back of the strip mall lot, nosing his 1974 Chevy Nova under a light at an end cap space. Less risk of scratches away from the bevy of cars parked closer to the store.
He’d purchased the vintage auto a few weeks ago from a retired chiropractor in Evansville who’d asked $700 for the “blue beauty” on Craigslist. A well more than reasonable price, but Zeke didn’t have that much to offer, and apparently no one else had nibbled. He talked the seller down to $300, the amount his uncle had given him for high school graduation.
Said uncle drove him to pick up “Serilda.”
Zeke had settled on the Teutonic name when perusing a “what to call the baby” website. It meant “a maiden in battle armor,” and he figured the car was close to a tank; fitting. Rear-wheel drive, three-speed manual gearbox, she averaged seventeen to eighteen miles a gallon when the wind was favorable.
Serilda was a gorgeous metallic blue—not the original paint; had nearly three hundred thousand miles; a supplanted V8 engine that Zeke intended to eventually replace with a standard ss six-cylinder she would have come with; relatively new tires; and a few large patches of rust—including a spot on the front passenger side floorboard that was eaten through to the point he could glance over and watch the street whizzing by. Zeke never let anyone sit up front with him for fear they’d lose their feet. Not that the passenger-side door was useable anyway; the chiropractor had welded it shut because the hinges were mangled.
Serilda boasted bench seats, and Zeke could cram five thin teenagers in the back if he ignored seatbelt laws. The rusting out trunk was huge, a good “three body trunk” the seller had called it, adding “with the right driver, this baby could beat a Trans-Am off the line.”
Zeke planned to wholly restore Serilda over the next few years and flip her for at least twenty grand. His boss’ boyfriend, Nang, ran a quick mart in Fulda and had recently opened a full-service garage. Nang was an automotive whiz and had agreed to help with the restoration at no charge if Zeke purchased all the materials. Zeke was trying to save up for that; if he could just stop spending money on comics and cards, he’d manage. To that end he’d stuffed only thirty dollars in his wallet tonight, not allowing himself to spend a penny more.
Serilda sparkled under the mercury vapor light—those parts of her that showed between the rust spots. He touched the hood for luck and eyed the lot. A good number of cars, a few motorcycles; there was a strong turnout for the Loot the Castle prerelease gala at Silver Age Sam’s. The crowd gathered in front of Owensboro’s only comic and collectible card shop. Zeke guessed there were close to fifty players. There needed to be an even number, divisible by four; that’s how the tournament was set up. So forty, forty-four, forty-eight, and fifty-two would work … the leftovers would have to watch or jump into pick-up games.
Zeke wasn’t worried. He’d preregistered and so was guaranteed a place at a table. He waved and caught Aggie’s attention. She was a runt-of-a-girl, just shy of five feet, but she was a fierce Loot the Castle competitor and Zeke hoped he didn’t end up at her table in the preliminary rounds. He really wanted a chance to win tonight, or at least advance to the final.
“It’s the Geek!” Aggie’s soprano voice cut across the asphalt. “Zekester Geekster! Four shades of awesome sauce.” She ran to meet him halfway and wrapped him in a bear hug, then tugged him toward the assembly. “So glad you made it. This is my last tournament before I lose my freedom!”
“Freedom? What?” Zeke was perplexed. Aggie was squeaky clean and no-way would get arrested. Did she mean she’d got a nine-to-five job somewhere? Like him, she’d sworn off college.
She squeezed his hand, pulled out her cell phone, and took a picture of him. “I thought I’d told you. I leave for Camp May next week. One of those spur of the moment decisions. I joined the Coast Guard. Camp May, New Jersey. Basic training. Me in the Coast Guard. Bet you didn’t see that coming.”
Zeke couldn’t imagine someone so short being in any branch of the military. But his boss, Sheriff Piper Blackwell, wasn’t much over five feet, and he knew she’d been decorated for some big-deal-heroic thing she’d done in Iraq or Iran or somesuch with the Screaming Eagles.
“Congrats, Aggie. You’ll do amazing and—” Before Zeke could get anything else out, the crowd—mostly teenagers and twenty-somethings—chattered to him rapid-fire.
“Zeke the Geek! Were you at the fair?”
“Was there a lot of blood?”
“I heard these new Loot the Castle packs will have foiled bronze gorgons.”
My Review of Dead of Summer
Buckle your seatbelts! Just when Sheriff Piper Blackwell thought she’d seen the worst—a deadly Spencer County Fair ride incident, leaving a trail of death and destruction—her summer gets a bunch more complicated.
The first-term sheriff, fresh from a stint in the military, including deployment in Iraq, can’t catch a break when a gruesome crime scene pulls her attention away from the fair tragedy. Her small department is stretched to the limit when a local businessman, comic book collector, Sam Silver, is murdered in horrific fashion. Who would want to see Sam, dead? He’d been a popular institution around those parts for twenty years. More to the point, who had the motive to attack him, so viciously, with an ice pick?
New department detective, Basil Meredith, previously with the Chicago Police Department, thought moving to the sleepy Southern Indiana county would offer safety for his family, and less stress for himself. But, here he was, back in the soup with death and injury at the county fair, in addition to several unexplained murders. When a couple of strangers begin stalking some of the victim’s friends, the mystery expands. Basil, and the rest of the department, have their hands full.
Piper had replaced her father as sheriff when he declined to run for another term due to illness. Chief Deputy, Oren Rosenberg, had hoped to replace the former sheriff, but stayed on to insure the young and inexperienced, Piper, would stay out of trouble. While Piper counts on her department, the local coroner, and her dad, now Chief of Police, for advice, she knows the buck stops with her.
Dead of Summer is the third book in the series. I hope there are more! Jean Rabe not only weaves an excellent mystery, she paints pictures with her dialogue and prose, making the characters jump right off the page for the reader.
I was gifted a copy of this book in order to give an honest review. I love the characters, the mysteries, and the excellent writing in all three Piper Blackwell Mysteries. Highly recommended to all who love exciting mysteries.
Jean Rabe … Mysteries, Suspense, and Uncozy Cozies
I WRITE…A LOT.
And I write with dogs wrapped around my feet. I get to wear sandals or bedroom slippers to work, and old, comfortable clothes. When the weather is fine I get to write on my back porch. I love summer. I am working on promotions for The Dead of Summer right now, the third in my Piper Blackwell series. It has a nifty cover … which fits where the story kicks off. The first two books in the series are The Dead of Winter and The Dead of Night. Yeah, someone ends up dead in each book. Gotta have a death to make it a murder mystery. and I put a good amount of death in this latest book.
I started getting published when I was 12, studied journalism at Northern Illinois University, then went to work as a news reporter…eventually for Scripps Howard, where I managed their Western Kentucky bureau. Getting itchy feet, I moved to Wisconsin and went to work for TSR, Inc., the then-producers of the Dungeons & Dragons game. I dipped my itchy feet into the fiction pool and wrote Dragonlance novels for several years.
I’ve written forty SF, fantasy, mystery, and adventure novels (including a couple of ghosted projects), more short stories than I care to count, and I’ve edited magazines and anthologies.
Right now it’s all about mysteries…thrillers, suspense and uncozy-cozies. I had to change genres from SF and fantasy ’cause my feet were itching again and I needed to do something different.
I attend game conventions–as I am a geek about boardgames and rpgs, work as a mentor for graduate-level writing students, and toss tennis balls for my cadre of dogs.
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