Mortgage and Mayhem by Carol E. Ayer

About the Book

Mother-daughter real estate agents Autumn and Sierra have just found a dead body in their client's kitchen. This will have to go in the disclosures!

From the author of The HSP Mysteries comes the first in a fun new cozy series. Sierra Madison and her mother, Autumn Cassidy, have joined forces to establish a realty team in Forest Lake, a gated community in California's Sierra Nevada foothills. Both recent widows, they hope to come to terms with their grief while practicing real estate and enjoying the peace and quiet of their new community.

Autumn's best friend, Gail Redland, shows up unexpectedly one morning, begging the two to sell her house. She's clearly agitated and unable to provide further details. Sierra and Autumn agree to meet Gail at her house a short while later, but when they arrive for the appointment, she is nowhere to be found. They do find someone, though...Gail's neighbor, Jake, dead on the kitchen floor.

Gail immediately becomes the main suspect in the crime, but she can't be located. Autumn, refusing to believe her best friend would commit murder, vows to clear Gail's name and begs Sierra to help her. While the police look for Gail, mother and daughter embark on an investigation of their own. An informant who insists on playing "Deep Throat" from All the President's Men, a madcap swan boat chase, and a case of mistaken identity—put on your glasses, Autumn!—are a few of the obstacles the pair will face before they nail down the killer.

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I seldom found myself in a murderous mood, but this morning several potential victims had offered themselves up for my consideration. Right as a motorboat roared across the nearby lake, our next-door neighbor revved up his gas mower. Not to be outdone, my mother had chosen 8:00 a.m. to belt out a 60s folk song in our shared kitchen. All of this on a Monday morning was making me one cranky woman.

Stumbling down the hallway from my bedroom into the kitchen, I came upon my calico cat, Brontë, and Mom’s black American shorthair, Raven, facing each other with ears flattened and backs arched. I picked up Brontë and stroked her until she relaxed in my arms. Raven, still spoiling for a fight, lunged at us with a hiss.

“Raven, no!”

She retreated and padded out of the room. I placed Brontë onto the floor.

Mom, seemingly oblivious to the feline showdown, was steeping a teabag in her favorite flowered mug and gazing out the kitchen window to Forest Lake, the focal point and namesake of our gated community in the Sierra Nevada foothills. She finished her rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and launched into “Both Sides Now.”

“Mom, could you stop singing for a sec?”

She swiveled toward me. How were her eyes so bright and clear this early in the morning? Mine, the same grey-blue color, were barely open and no doubt tinged with red.

“Good morning, Sierra. How are you?”

“Not great,” I muttered as I found a coffee pod and positioned it in the machine.

“Why not? It’s a beautiful day,” Mom said, looking back to the window. “Isn’t the lake lovely this morning?”

“Yes, it’s lovely. But that darn motorboat is out again, Ray’s mowing, and didn’t you notice the cats fighting? Meanwhile, have you forgotten that we haven’t sold a house in four and a half weeks? Not to mention the Colonial on Fawn Place has been on the market for ages with hardly any interest.”

“I’m sure one of my cold calls will turn up a seller,” Mom said, her eyes still on the water. “Plus, our new ad in The Deer Valley Times is bound to attract a buyer or two. You worry too much.”

“And you don’t worry enough.” It came out harsher than I intended. “Sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

Mom turned to me, brushing away a piece of hair hanging into her left eye. Her wavy, dark blond hair fell past her shoulders, as it had since she was a young girl. She took a leather hair slider from the counter and bundled her locks into a ponytail.

A wannabe flower child, my mother hadn’t even turned seven when Woodstock opened. Her age hadn’t deterred her from developing a love for all things 1960s and early 70s. In addition to several 60s-style hair accessories given to her by my late father, she owned a light-blue VW bus, a beanbag chair, and a lava lamp. She wore peace signs on most of her clothing, including the sleep shirt and shorts she now had on.

“Sweetheart, it’s going to be all right. I’m sure of it.” Mom put on her John Lennon-style glasses and reached into a cabinet for a box of pancake mix. “Everything’s groovy.”

I resisted rolling my eyes at her use of the slang term, and I couldn’t agree that everything was “groovy.” I’d had a much sunnier disposition before my husband, Eric, died in a car accident on the eve of my 34th birthday. Mom had lost Dad six months later, making last year our least favorite ever. The losses had taken a substantial toll on us both, but Mom, an eternal optimist, seemed to be faring better than I.

Mom sliced butter into a frying pan. “Do you want pancakes?”

“Yes, please.” Pancakes would go a long way to improving my mood.

“I forgot to ask yesterday. Did you get our new business cards taken care of?”

“Yeah, the cards look great,” I said. “If only we had people to give them to.” Clocking her frown, I said quickly, “Sorry, sorry. You’re right. Good things are bound to happen at any moment.” I plastered a smile on my face.

At that precise second, the doorbell chimed. Brontë, who’d been washing her face under the kitchen table, skittered away. The only thing our cats seemed to agree upon was a distaste for the doorbell. Raven had probably squeezed herself under the nearest bed.


About the Author

Carol E. Ayer, a lifelong Californian, lives in between San Francisco and Sacramento with her cat, Rainn. She's the author of two cozy mystery series, The HSP Mysteries and The Mother-Daughter Realty Team Mysteries. When she's not writing, she's reading mysteries and thrillers, or watching movies and cooking shows. She visits the ocean as often as possible.

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GROUNDS for Murder (Coffee & Cream Cafe Mysteries) by Lena Gregory

About the Book

From author Lena Gregory comes a tasty new mystery with a killer twist...

Danika Delaney is thrilled to have taken over her uncle Jimmie's old fashioned malt shop on eastern Long Island and is working hard to make it her own. In an effort to increase business, Danika invites a mystery writer to the Coffee & Cream Café for a discussion and book signing. Things seem to be going well, until a guest shows up and confronts the author, accusing him of plagiarizing his work. Embarrassed by the incident, Danika goes to the inn where the writer is staying the following morning, hoping to apologize and offer him another chance to return. What she finds instead is his dead body—beside a cup of poisoned coffee! Now it's up to Danika to find out who wanted to silence the author... before the killer decides to write Danika a not-so-happy ending!

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Have you heard the saying, Anything that can go wrong will? Well, I am the poster child for that expression. Actually, pretty much all of Murphy’s general laws apply to me. My mother often joked that instead of Danika Delaney, she should have named me Calamity Jane. Truer words were never spoken.

My current dilemma—rearranging everything I’d just spent two days setting up for Fletcher Stone, the mystery author I’d invited to speak at the Coffee & Cream Café’s grand opening. Well, really Franklin Butts, as I’d found out when I wrote the check, but his assistant, Victoria Owens, had insisted (with stars gleaming in her eyes) that his pen name sounded so much more mysterious. I didn’t care what he called himself as long as he showed up, spoke about his new bestseller, and signed books for fans. And the less drama he dragged along with him the better. Sad to say, the less drama part was pretty much null and void, considering Victoria had already caused more problems than I’d hoped to deal with.

“Are you sure you want to move all the seating arrangements?” My sister, Meghan, stared hopefully, pleading with big blue eyes that most often got her what she wanted, that I say no.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. “Yup. Victoria said she doesn’t want Fletcher stuffed in the back corner. She wants him visible to his fans as soon as they enter the café.”

My best friend, Gwen Rothberg, pushed up the sleeves of the leopard print stretchy top she’d paired with yellow spandex yoga pants bright enough to blind you if you stared too long and rolled her eyes. “But you set it up this way so we could keep the line of people waiting for their books to be signed from blocking the entryway and the counter and register if anyone wants ice cream or coffee.”

“Yup.” A quick glance out the front door showed Victoria hadn’t yet returned from whatever errand she’d had to run. Good—I was already up to my eyeballs in Victoria’s demands and treading on thin ice with the woman. I didn’t need her walking in on Gwen and Meghan’s complaints, valid as they might be.

“Plus,” Meghan argued, “we strategically placed the area rugs to cover the holes from where you removed the booths to put in the seating arrangements. If we move the furniture—”

“Again,” Gwen interjected, as if I’d forgotten the past two days we’d spent getting everything set up just perfect. “We’ll also have to rearrange—”

“All right! Enough already.” I held my hands up to ward off any more badgering. My head was already throbbing. After somewhat reluctantly taking over Jimmie’s, my uncle’s failing mom-and-pop malt shop in Watchogue (a small town on Eastern Long Island, New York’s south shore) at my family’s insistence, the last thing I needed was mutiny from the ranks.

It was bad enough I’d had to close down for a week after my ex-boyfriend’s ex-wife was murdered in the basement. Now, all I wanted was to convert Jimmie’s into a hopefully enticing trendy café and ice cream parlor, which I might just succeed at if Meghan and Gwen would cooperate for a little bit longer. “I get it. Believe me, the last thing I want to do right now is rearrange this place again, but we are less than eight hours away from our grand opening, and the contract I signed specifically stated things would be set up to Fletcher Stone’s specifications.”

“Yeah, well, I have yet to see Fletcher Stone, and I don’t recall the contract saying anything about Victoria Wells being appointed dictator in charge.” Meghan used the back of her wrist to wipe sweat from her forehead.

I started to argue then bit my tongue. Meghan and Gwen had both taken a few days off work to help me get the shop ready since my minimal budget didn’t allow for labor costs. In addition to adding traditional tables and chairs, we’d removed the old red vinyl booths and replaced them with cozy seating arrangements. Sofas, loveseats, and armchairs purchased from local flea markets and yard sales surrounded old, scarred coffee tables positioned on clearance sale area rugs (at least until I could afford to replace the black and white checked tile floor with something warmer, wood maybe). End tables (some homemade) bracketed other, more intimate, groupings. And if there was a coaster or two beneath the crooked legs to keep the tables from wobbling, who’d notice?

I’d arranged everything to my vision of a comfortable place for people to relax and unwind before or after a hard day’s work. I’d even talked Harry, Jimmies’ only regular customer and my uncle’s best friend, into allowing me to recover his stool at the counter along with all the others. Now, instead of red vinyl with bacon-covered duct tape holding the tears together, they boasted a warm brown faux leather.

I sighed. Who knew? Maybe I was out of my mind. Maybe this wouldn’t work at all. Maybe I’d watched one too many Friends reruns on late night TV while lying awake contemplating my life choices. “Okay, we’re not rearranging all the furniture again. We don’t have time.”

Gwen tucked a few strands of springy pink curls that had escaped her sloppy knot behind her ear and breathed a sigh of relief I chose to ignore.

“We’ll just switch the big table from the back corner with the two smaller ones by the ice cream cases.” Even though I’d strategically positioned the big table for Fletcher to be seated in front of the brick wall that ran the length of one side of the shop. That seemed cozier to me, but what did I know?

“Fine,” Meghan huffed.

Gwen started to open her mouth then her gaze shifted over my shoulder, and she snapped it closed again, whirled on her heel, and headed toward the back of the shop.

When the front door opened, I didn’t have to turn around to know Victoria the Ruthless had returned. She strutted past me, stiletto heels click-clacking against the tile, with a brown deli bag and large to-go coffee clutched in her hand after she’d ignored the pastries and coffee I’d set out for everyone earlier. She paused then turned to me. “I thought you’d have this finished by now. I was clear about Fletch’s needs, wasn’t I?”

To enhance the fact that she’d only been gone for fifteen minutes (three of which I’d used up figuring out how to accommodate what she wanted without having to rearrange all the furniture in the shop, the other twelve spent listening to Meghan and Gwen gripe) I glanced pointedly at the wall clock over the front door then returned my gaze to her. A wide range of comments flew through my head at lightning speed, from mildly sarcastic to outright vicious. Thankfully, my clenched teeth kept any from blurting out. Instead, I offered her a smile sweet enough to cause cavities. “We’re working on it.”

“Yes, well, work faster.” She mimicked my look at the clock, lifted one perfectly sculpted brown brow, then perched on the edge of a chair (since the short, skintight skirt she wore probably didn’t allow for actual sitting… or breathing) at the front table, one of the three we were about to move at her insistence. She leaned over her deli bag, ridiculously close to spilling out of her plunging neckline, and pulled out an apple turnover.

Meghan inhaled as if to speak, and I cut whatever she was about to say short with a heel to her instep and guided her toward the back of the shop.


About the Author

Lena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island, but she recently traded in cold, damp, gray winters for the warmth and sunshine of central Florida, where she now lives with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Her hobbies include spending time with family, reading, and walking. Her love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night. She works full time as a writer and a freelance editor and is a member of Sisters in Crime.

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Christmas Lights and Cat Fights: A Jules Keene Glamping Mystery by Heather Weidner

About the Book

Christmas has come to Fern Valley, and the town’s decked out with enough glitter and sparkle for a month’s worth of celebrations, each more over-the-top than the previous one. The idyllic setting, filled with laughter, carols, and sweet treats, is shattered, along with some of the decorations, when the current wife and the ex-wife of a big-cat showman have a knock-down, drag-out fight in the center of town. Jules Keene, owner of the Fern Valley Glamping Resort, tries to keep peace among her guests and with the town council, but it turns into a catastrophe when Tabbi Morris, winds up dead in one of her ex-husband’s tiger cages.

And if the murder wasn’t enough, Jules discovers that some of the big cats are missing, but the owner and his family insists that nothing is wrong.

Curiosity gets the best of her, and she has to solve the murder and figure out if the owner of Cal’s Cats is pussy-footing around or whether it’s something more sinister before it ruins the holiday season and her business.

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“Jules. Hey, Whoohoo Jules!” A shrill voice echoed above all the noise in the town square. A svelte woman in a leopard-print ski jacket waved her arms and ran in heels toward Jules Keene.

Jules paused with her setup preparations and pushed a red curl that had escaped from her ponytail off of her face. “Hi, Tabbi. What can I do for you?”

“Your partner for this town holiday festival thingy is so unreasonable. In fact, she’s arbitrary and capricious. I paid my vendor fees, and I shouldn’t be treated like this.” Tabbi put both hands on her hips, planted her feet, and shook her long brown curls that framed her face like a lion’s mane. Her puffy parka and black stiletto suede boots projected a hipster vibe, but the tiny parentheses surrounding her mouth gave away her true age.

“I’m sorry. What are you talking about?” Jules closed the three-ring binder that had the assigned locations for all the vendors for Fern Valley’s Christmas extravaganza.

Tabbi Morris made a harrumphing sound and let out a deep breath. “That woman – Elaine is impossible. I paid to have four trailers here, and I’ve committed to having workers staff them for the entire weekend. And now, she’s telling me that I can’t use the sidewalk. She put me on the edge of the square where there’s virtually no traffic. She’s policing the grass and sidewalks. She doesn’t like my extension cords either. I told her I had to have electricity to create the right ambiance for my gear.”

Before Jules Keene, owner of the Fern Valley Luxury Camping Resort and president of the town’s business council, could answer, Elaine James waddled up to the pair. Her poofy blond bouffant added about four inches to her height. Jules smiled when she thought of Elaine’s motto, the taller the hair, the closer to God.

Elaine paused and took a deep breath. “There you are. I asked your worker, the guy with curly black hair who looks like a young Fabio to start moving your trailers, and he refused. You’re in the wrong spot. This is not right.” Elaine set her mouth, and the stare from her deep blue eyes bore into the taller woman.

“We pulled the trailers where your guy in the vest pointed to this morning. I paid for four vendor spaces, and you put us in the worst location. My team is doing our best to maximize the potential. And you’re being draconian with all these rules,” Tabbi whined and glared at Elaine.

Elaine glared back and pursed her lips. When she wagged her finger, her whole body, including her tall hair, wiggled like a Jello mold. “Those rules are important. We must have order. Besides, I told you twice that you all were in the wrong spots. You’re on Candy Cane Alley with the food vendors. Your trailers should be on the other side, on Elf Lane. You have four spots by the stop sign, two on each side of the street. It’s marked off in green chalk. Spots one through four.”

“What? You want me to move? My team has already done most of the prep work. And both of my Christmas-themed trailers, the As Seen on TV one, and the Big Cat Souvenirs took forever to get situated.”

“No, you can’t be on the food vendors’ side. It will ruin everything.” Elaine huffed and put her hands on her hips. She puffed out her cheeks and her fuzzy white coat made her look like a giant snowball. “I would think you would want the better spots.” Elaine’s eyebrows disappeared in her well shellacked bangs.

Trying not to show her impatience and hoping to keep the peace, Jules stepped in. “Maybe we could get some volunteers to help you break down and move. I think you’ll probably have better sales on the vendor side. You’ll be front and center at the entrance. That’s a coveted spot.”

Tabbi rolled her eyes but considered the idea. “I guess we can move if you think the location is better. We’ve got a bunch of top-tier merchandise. I drove all the way from Berryville for this, so I hope your festival lives up to the hype. If it doesn’t, you’ll hear about it. And so will everyone else.” The woman turned and stomped down the sidewalk.

Elaine made a face. “I told her twice that she was in the wrong place. Some people.” She threw her hands in the air and bustled off in the opposite direction.

Jules was glad to have Elaine’s help to organize the festival, but sometimes, the owner of the Birds and Bees nature store was a little prickly. Elaine brought organization to anything that needed planning, but it always came with a side of drama.


About the Author

Through the years, Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. Christmas Lights and Cat Fights is the third in her cozy mystery series, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries. She also writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series and the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries (2023).

Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Deadly Southern Charm, and Murder by the Glass, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime and active in the Central Virginia, Chessie, Grand Canyon Writers, and Guppies Chapters, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

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Thanksgiving Mysteries

Dead Roots by Nancy J. Cohen

Hairstylist Marla Shore is eager to introduce her fiancé, Detective Dalton Vail, to her extended family over Thanksgiving weekend at Sugar Crest Plantation Resort. But that was before she found Aunt Polly suffocated in bed. Is it a coincidence that her aunt’s father once owned the property? According to rumor, he met with two mysterious Cossacks who vanished right before his premature death. Their spirits are said to haunt the place, and Marla believes it when she feels a cold presence inside the hotel’s rickety elevator.

Are ghosts at fault, or could politics be playing a part? A city council meeting is being held that weekend to determine the resort’s fate. Tensions deepen when another body turns up on the nature trail. Whatever is going on at Sugar Crest, someone is willing to kill to keep it hidden. It’ll take all of Marla's sleuthing skills to untangle the clues and root out the killer, even if it means exposing her own family’s unsavory past.

“Ghost stories, secret passages, tales of gemstones and family secrets enliven this tale.” Sun-Sentinel

"A Florida resort complete with ghosts, ruins, and secret passages makes a terrific site for a mystery.” RT Book Reviews

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Thanksgiving Treachery by Tonya Kappes


New holiday, new mystery, and Violet Rhinehammer's got her notepad ready!

In the festive heart of Holiday Junction, where the turkeys are stuffed and the traditions are age-old, shadows dance with the autumn wind. The Hardens, the town's glitz and glamour, face a pie-slice of tragedy, and suddenly everyone's holding the knife!

With a dash of sass and a sprinkle of wit, it's up to our gal Violet of the "Junction Journal" to sift through the tales and tattles, from glittering pageants to art district whispers. But as the Leaf Dance Festival twirls closer, secrets simmer and suspicions brew. Can Violet serve up the truth before the main course, or will the killer come back for seconds?

Hold onto your hats and pumpkin pies, y'all! This Friendsgiving, join Violet in dishing out justice in the coziest, quirkiest holiday whodunit of the season!

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At Death's Door by Karin Kaufman

Thanksgiving in Juniper Grove is a time for family, good friends, and good food. But at Nora Barberton’s home, Thanksgiving ends in tragedy when one of her dinner guests is murdered and a precious artifact disappears from her house—seemingly vanishing into thin air.

When Nora pleads for help, Rachel agrees to tackle the case. Soon she uncovers a web of deception wove by those Nora trusts most. In a race against time, and as her relationship with James Gilroy, the town’s police chief, takes a surprising turn, Rachel must solve the mystery before the killer strikes again.

This light, cozy mystery offers a clean read with a female amateur sleuth in a small-town setting. No foul language, sex, gore, or graphic scenes of any kind. It can be read as a standalone, but it will be enjoyed more as part of the series.

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Thanksgiving by the Sea by Kathi Daley

A funny and cozy paranormal mystery series set on the shore of friendly Cutter's Cove.

The luxury cruise taken by Amanda and the gang didn't go exactly as planned, but in the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, Amanda and Trevor decided to spend a few days touring the San Juan Islands. Unfortunately, before the gang even arrives back in Seattle, Amanda receives a call from Woody asking for help.

It seems that a local social worker was shot in her driveway after returning home from work. The woman is fighting for her life in the local hospital and Woody is desperately trying to figure out who shot her. Woody hopes that Amanda, who has the ability to talk to ghosts, will be able to expand that ability and speak to the woman who is clinging to life in a coma. Amanda doubts Woody's plan will work but after everything Woody has done to help her she feels she needs to at least try, so she heads home.

Once she arrives home she begins having visions of another man being shot. When the man is shot and killed just as she'd imagined she begins to wonder if her powers haven't involved to include premonitions.

~~ Amazon ~~


Murder on Thanksgiving by P. Creeden

Ridgeway Rescue Mysteries can be read in 1-2 hours. Perfect for when you're waiting for an appointment or just want a fast read. Don't miss out on this quick, clean, cozy mystery that will keep you guessing until the end!

Emma and Molly are heading to her mother's house in Richmond to spend time with her step-family over the holiday, but before Emma can even get there, she's witness to a single car accident. As things unfold, it becomes more and more obvious that it's not an accident at all, but murder... How will Emma prove that the mourning fiancé is actually a murderer?

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Face of Greed by James L'Etoile

Face of Greed by James L’Etoile Banner

About the Book


Face of Greed by James L'Etoile

Greed, corruption, and betrayal— no murder is as simple as it seems

When a prominent Sacramento businessman is killed and his wife injured in a brutal home invasion, Detective Emily Hunter and her partner, Javier Medina, are called to investigate. At first glance it seems like a crime of opportunity gone horribly wrong, but Emily soon finds there might be more to both the crime and the dead man.

The high-stakes investigation also comes at a time when Emily is caring for her mother who has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and Emily struggles to balance her job with her personal life. The city’s political elite want the case solved quickly, but darker forces want it buried.

Could there have been a motive behind the attack, making it more than a random home invasion? Emily uncovers clues that cause her to reconsider her understanding of the crime. A deadly game of greed and deception pulls Emily deeper into the shadowy world of gang violence and retribution. She has to walk the razor’s edge to identify the killer—without becoming the next victim.

Praise for Face of Greed:

"An incredible story that grabs you by the throat and tosses you across the room. L’Etoile is a gem."
—J.T. Ellison, USA Today best-selling author

"James L’Etoile is such a talented and terrific storyteller! His real-life experience in the criminal justice system gives his compelling, high-stakes thrillers an authenticity that only a savvy insider can provide. You'll be turning the pages as fast as you can!"
—Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today best-selling author

"Smart-mouthed, tough, pull-no-punches Emily will do whatever it takes to solve the case, and she and Javier keep investigating until they finally uncover the tragic, shocking truth. The suspenseful, twist-a-minute, fast-moving plot . . . make[s] this an outstanding must-read."
Booklist (Starred Review)

"Face of Greed is yet another fantastic offering from James L'Etoile, thoroughly enjoyable, a true winner—Bravo!"
—Baron Birtcher Los Angeles Times best-selling author

"L’Etoile’s long career in California criminal justice lends veracity to this page-turner—the courtrooms and precincts feel uncommonly lived-in. Admirers of strong female protagonists will be eager to see more from Hunter down the line."
Publishers Weekly

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Procedural
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: November 2023
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 9781608095889 (ISBN10: 1608095886)
Series: Detective Emily Hunter, Book 1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | Oceanview Publishing

Read an excerpt:


Emily Hunter learned to be wary of open doorways when she rolled up to a call. In the five years of her assignment to the detective bureau of the Sacramento Police Department, she knew bad things often lurked in the dark behind partially open doors. When it was the front door of your own home, at seven in the evening, the anxiety bit deep.

She crept close, listening for anything or anyone who didn’t belong. Her hand tapped the grip of the Glock on her hip as she climbed the stairs. The lights were on, and the television blared an infomercial for a product promising the end of dry skin.


Emily had moved her mother in with her four months ago after the seventy-year-old retired teacher suffered a series of memory lapses and household accidents. The advancing scourge of dementia meant Connie Hunter was unable to live a safe, independent life in her own home.

“Mom, are you there? Sheila?” Emily called out for the caregiver she’d hired to stay with her mother while Emily worked long hours as a detective.

When no response came from within, Emily’s subconscious went to a very dark place. She’d investigated a series of home invasions in the city where gangbangers targeted the homes of elderly people to terrorize and loot money and prescription drugs from the weak and powerless.

The front door hadn’t been kicked in, and there was no sign of a forced entry. Emily entered and scanned the living room—except for the missing mother and caregiver, the home appeared normal.

She turned off the television and heard the kitchen faucet running. A quick look into her remodeled kitchen found the water running over a sink full of dishes, but no one there. She shut the water off and spotted Connie’s GPS-enabled pendant on the kitchen counter. She held the tracker in her hand.

Emily heard the front door slam followed by the metallic click of the deadbolt. She heard the voices before stepping into the living room. Sheila had draped a comforter from the sofa over Connie’s frail shoulders. Her mother was wearing a light housecoat and a pair of fuzzy pink slippers. She shivered as Sheila rubbed her arms, warming her.

“What happened? Where were you?” Emily asked.

“I found her wandering down the street, near the park,” Sheila said.

Connie looked small and fragile in the housecoat, one too thin for the cold spring air.

“Mom, what were you thinking?”

“It was time to go,” Connie said with a shiver in her voice.

“Go? Go where?”


Emily bit her lip. It wasn’t the first time her mother mentioned going home, or a need to do something somewhere else. Sundowner’s Syndrome, the doctors called it. A little gift that came with dementia—confusion, a sudden surge in anxiety, and a feeling that she was lost. In a way, she was.

“Mom, this is home now,” Emily said.

“I swear, I turned my back for a second while I was finishing up the dinner dishes, and she slipped out.”

“She hasn’t pulled that one before. What happened?”

“She seemed a little more confused than usual but couldn’t tell me why. She was watching her shows, then walked out. I can’t be responsible for her wandering off. You might want to think about moving her into a facility—”

“I’m not putting my mom in a home.” Emily draped the GPS locket around her mother’s neck.

“Why weren’t you wearing this?”

“That’s not mine.”

“Yes, it is. Remember? We talked about it.”

Connie didn’t respond, but the look behind her eyes was one of confusion and uncertainty.

Emily’s work cell phone vibrated in her pocket. Calls after seven in the evening weren’t telemarketers who should be banished to a leper colony. These nighttime calls invariably meant someone suffered a beating, rape, or another murder in a city with no shortage of victims. In earlier years, she’d wondered if she didn’t answer the phone—if she let it ring until it stopped—would the crime still occur? Could she prevent another victim from ending up in some desolate field? A few hundred calls later, her naïve hope evaporated, and she came to terms with the fact the flow of victims in this city was never-ending.

She stabbed the answer button. “Hunter here.”

“Evening, Detective, please hold for the Watch Commander,” a woman’s voice instructed.

While Emily waited, she plodded to the office in the rear of her home and removed a fresh notebook out of the bottom drawer. On the first line of the first page, she wrote, “1935 hours, rec’d call from Watch Commander.”

“Hi Emily, Lieutenant Ford here. Initial report is a home invasion gone bad. One victim dead and one injured.”

“Another one? Where are we talking about?”

“The location is . . .” Emily heard rustling paper in the background. “Here it is. It’s 1357 46th Street. That’s a nice neighborhood.”

“It used to be anyway. I’ll call Medina and get there as soon as I can,” Emily responded.

“I called him first. His name was up on the rotation. Javier said he would meet you on scene. Emily, there’s something else you need to know.”

Emily fell silent.

“The Chief’s already there. He’s taking a personal interest in this one.”

“Oh sweet Jesus! That’s never a good sign.” Emily tossed the notebook on the desk.

“Gotta mean this is a high profile case. So, watch your back.”

“I appreciate the heads up. I’ll be there as soon as I tie up something.” She disconnected the call and tried to figure out how she could work the case remotely. Maybe her partner, Javier, could hold up his phone and livestream the crime scene. Who was she kidding?


Emily found her mother and Sheila parked in the living room watching a television show that was popular in the sixties. Connie had calmed, and her face was relaxed.

“I can stay,” Sheila said. “I overheard the call. I think she’s calm now. It won’t be long until she’s off to bed. I’ll keep an eye on her.”

“Thank you. Call me if there is any problem and please make her wear that GPS pendant. I’ll figure something out . . .”

As Emily changed into a fresh blouse, the thought of Chief Clark wandering through the crime scene kept surfacing. Whatever drew the top cop out to a crime scene after dark wasn’t going to bode well for the assigned detectives.

Once in her dark blue Ford Crown Victoria, Emily let the defroster attack the rapidly-forming condensation on the windshield. Sections of the window cleared and showcased the obnoxious blue Christmas lights her neighbor clung onto four months after the holiday season. They blinked on and off at once, stabbing a constant strobe into the detective’s bedroom window—another flimsy excuse for her insomnia.

As the car warmed up, Emily got out and scraped a thin film of ice from the driver’s window with the side of her hand. She stole a glance down the quiet street, gathered her shoulder length dark hair in a ponytail, and stepped back into the shadows, away from the car. She followed the fence line to the neighbor’s glowing stale yuletide shrine. Emily pulled the seventh and tenth small bulbs from their sockets and partially rethreaded the hellish electrical orbs back in the strand. The entire string blacked out, and she basked in the electric silence without the hellish current knifing out into the night. Then she returned to the car, backed out of the driveway, and wondered when her lazy-ass neighbor would recognize he’d become a victim of a drive-by-bulbing.

Emily made a right on J Street and sped to 46th, where the glow from the blinking red, blue, and yellow lights of emergency vehicles exacted some sort of revenge for her neighbor’s light display. Residents of this upscale enclave didn’t typically park their Benz, Jag, or Maserati on the street. Their precious status symbols were locked away in garages, or behind walled courtyards. She recognized the silver Crown Vic in front of her as the Mayor’s car and crept forward until her front bumper came within an inch of the Mayor’s sedan, effectively boxing the politician’s ride against a fire vehicle with a bright red and white sign warning, “Keep Back 100 Feet.”

“The Chief and the Mayor at the crime scene. Fricken awesome.”

The residence dwarfed the other homes on the block by double. A massive red brick front, coupled with heavy black iron gates to the right side of the residence, gave the place the feel of an embassy compound. Emily approached the front door, where an officer stood post, ensuring only official personnel entered the crime scene. She identified herself to the young officer in his freshly pressed dark blue uniform. After signing in on a clipboard held by the officer, Emily snagged a pair of blue paper booties from a box on the porch and pulled them over her shoes. She stepped through the front door and immediately noticed blood spatters on the marble floor, each marked with yellow plastic numbers. She grabbed a set of nitrile gloves and pulled them on before she accidentally contaminated the scene.

Emily followed the sound of voices and the strobes of camera flashes to a room down from the entryway. She paused at a large living room space where a petite blond woman sobbed on a white leather sofa. A paramedic knelt in front of her and tended to a red lump on her forehead. Detective Javier Medina sat in the chair next to her.

Javier and Emily became partners six months ago, and while he had more time in the department, Emily’s tenure in-grade as a detective made her the senior investigator. Unlike many of his fellow officers, he didn’t resent a woman—particularly one with fewer years behind the badge—holding the lead position.

Emily thought Javier possessed a natural inclination to the job. He could coax a confession from a suspect, or listen to a victim with an honest sense of compassion.

Javier nodded at Emily and pointed toward the kitchen. The Mayor came strolling out with a glass of wine, handing it to the woman.

“Thank you, Johnny.”

Mayor Stone perched next to her on the sofa and held her hand—the one not holding a wine glass.

“It’s probably not a good idea to drink anything until we make sure you’re checked out. You took a pretty solid blow to the head,” Javier said.

“Lori needs a little something to calm her nerves, something you certainly aren’t doing,” Mayor Stone said.

Emily continued down the hallway and located the hub of activity in a well-appointed office. It gave off more of a library vibe, with floor to ceiling polished mahogany bookcases on the two sidewalls and subdued lighting through Tiffany glass lampshades. A set of French doors with large windows opened out onto a manicured garden.

Chief of Police Thomas Clark, a tall man with the weathered face of a ranch hand, stood off to one side as an evidence technician framed-up a series of photographs of a dead man, face down in a pool of blood, in the center of the room.

“I’m glad you and Medina caught this one, Detective,” the Chief said, somber with a glance toward the Mayor.

“Chief,” Emily replied with a quick nod of her head to the living room and the city politician.

Chief Clark shrugged. “Long-time family friend is what I understand. Sure seems there’s more to it than that. She called him first thing after 911.”

Emily circled behind a medical examiner’s assistant who secured paper bags over the victim’s hands to preserve any forensic evidence. A uniformed officer stood near the patio door and observed the activity.

“You first on scene?” Emily asked.

“That would be me,” the officer said. “My partner and I responded to a 911 call from the residence. We found the wife in here kinda hanging over him. She seemed pretty messed up with what she stumbled into.”

Emily scanned the overturned furniture, files strewn on the floor, said, “What were they looking for? Wife give you any indication?”

The officer shook his head.

She noticed a red smear on the officer’s gloved hand. “Did you touch the body?”

The officer held up his bloody right latex glove and explained, “Yeah, I checked for a pulse and found his throat slit from ear to ear.”

Emily nodded. “You have an ID on this guy yet?”

“Yep, sure do. That’s the homeowner, Roger Townsend. He and his wife, Lori, are the only two occupants. She came home and interrupted the suspects.”

“She able to give any ID on them?”

“Detective Medina is with her now.”

A medical examiner’s assistant unfolded a plastic tarp next to the body to contain any fibers or trace evidence. The assistant said to whoever listened, “We’re gonna roll him now.”

The body stuck on the hardwood flooring where the thickened blood adhered to Roger Townsend’s face. A sickening elastic snap sounded as his head released from the floor. When the body rolled face-up, Townsend’s dead eyes stared up at the assembled group hovering over him. One eye was puffy, his cheek welted from a blow. The body settled, and Roger’s jaw fell slack, exposing the gaping slash wound to his neck. The wound severed the major blood vessels and nearly cut through to his spine. The victim’s head remained attached only by the thick muscle bundle at the back of his neck.

Deputy Forensic Pathologist Elizabeth White knelt alongside the body. “Ward, get a shot of this, please.” She pointed to the gash in Roger’s throat.

One of her staff stepped in and snapped a series of photographs of the victim’s body in the new position.

“Our subject suffered a gunshot wound to the back, but I see no evidence of an exit wound,” Dr. White said.

“COD?” Emily asked.

“There’s no surviving an attack this severe. Exsanguination—he bled out right where he dropped.”

“Looks like he took a beating before he died. Any defensive wounds?”

“None evident now. I’ll be able to tell you more later, Emily. We’ve taken liver temps and gotten everything we can from the scene. I’m ready to transport the body. I've tentatively set TOD approximately two hours ago. You need anything else before they cart him off?” Dr. White asked.

“When can I take a look at your crime scene photos?”

“By the time you return to the bureau, they’ll be downloaded and emailed to you.”

“Thanks, Doc,” Emily said. She remembered a few years ago the same photos would take hours. A vestige of the past that labeled her as one of the last dinosaurs to leave the comfort of paper and convert to the digital age. New detectives coming on board now would never know the joys of film developing, paper map books, and carbon paper.

The Chief motioned for Emily, who had paused behind the victim’s desk over a stack of papers spread out on the slick bloody surface. She felt the papers were too neat, too tidy, in a room that suffered a tossing. Emily used her phone and snapped a photo.

“Here’s what they came for,” the Chief said and pointed to the open floor safe.

Emily approached the floor safe, squatted, and shot photos of the high-end safe and the sliding cabinet capable of hiding it from view. She ran her gloved hand around the lip of the safe. Nothing felt rough or out of alignment, telling her the safe wasn’t forced or cut open; someone opened it using the combination lock. Emily started to stand when a white smudge in the bottom of the dark safe caught her attention. A small trail of light-colored crystalline powder stood out on the safe’s black steel floor.

“Hand me an evidence vial, would you,” Emily said to one of the crime scene techs behind her.

She grasped the clear plastic tube in one hand and swept up the powder into the container with a plastic scraper. After she capped the vial, Emily used a pen from her pocket, labeled it with her name, badge number, and sequence number of the sample. “I want to make sure this is tested back at the lab. Not enough to do a field test without destroying the whole sample, but I’d swear it’s meth.”

“Then it belonged to the killer. He must’ve dropped it when he stole whatever Roger kept in the safe,” the Mayor said. So much for keeping the crime scene secured.

“We don’t know yet, Sir,” Emily answered.

“What we do know is Roger Townsend wasn’t involved in the drug trade.”

Emily stood and faced the Mayor. “And exactly how do we know that?” The irritation on the detective’s face bled over into her voice. At five-six, she needed to look up at the politician.

“Townsend held power and influence in this community. He ran my last reelection campaign and donated a significant amount of money to several prominent legislators. He had no need to be involved in drugs.”

Emily shrugged and replied, “Maybe it’s how he raised his donated cash. If he was involved in politics, then he’s dirty.”

The Chief stepped between the two, and Javier caught his partner’s eye as he stuck his head in around the corner. He had a knack of sensing Emily’s fuse of self-destruction burned short and knew to extract her before this confrontation with the Mayor exploded.

“Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, I’m done with Mrs. Townsend. I’m sure she would appreciate a moment of your time,” Javier said.

Mayor Stone’s eyes narrowed, and the muscles on his jaw tightened into thick cords on his square face. He glared hard at Emily, then turned and strode out of the room toward the front of the home.

The Chief turned to Emily. “Don’t poke the bear.”

“What? Because our victim here ran in some high-powered political circles, I’m supposed to ignore the evidence?”

“No one is saying sweep it under the rug. Make sure you use a little diplomacy and document the hell out of everything.”

A metallic rattle interrupted the conversation, and the medical examiner’s team rolled a compact folding gurney into the room. One of the two men opened up the gurney and lowered it close to the ground next to the victim’s plastic-wrapped body.

“You ready for us to take him?” one of the M.E.’s staff asked.

Emily turned to Javier, who nodded and responded, “Yep. He’s ready for you. We’ve gotten what we need.”

While the M.E.’s technicians bundled the body and placed it onto the gurney, Emily asked her partner, “When did the Mayor get here?”

Javier leaned back against a bookshelf. “He was already here when I arrived. And I got here twenty minutes after the first units rolled up. They caught me on my way home from a date.” He grimaced and closed his eyes immediately after divulging his abbreviated date.

“Really? A date? Ended kinda early didn’t it? I take it you struck out?”

Javier’s cheeks flushed, and he approached the victim’s desk and sorted through the documents. “It was fine, thank you very much.” Javier changed the topic. “I called the Chief and let him know Mayor Stone happened to be here consoling the widow when I arrived.”

“Yeah, good call.”

“Turns out Mr. Mayor lives a few blocks away.”

“Uh huh,” Emily responded. “What did you get from the wife?”

“Not much. She came home, found her husband on the floor, and someone clocked her from behind. When she came to, she worked herself free from a phone cord, but by then the killer had disappeared.”

“She get a look at who hit her?”


“How long was she out?” Emily asked.

Javier paused from sifting through the paperwork on the victim’s desk and said, “She doesn’t know, but it took her about ten minutes to work free from the phone cord around her wrists.”

“You buy her story?”

“I don’t know. If someone clocked me from behind, I wouldn’t have a goose-egg on my forehead.”

“You think she’s holding back?”

“I do. Perhaps not intentionally. Could be shock,” Javier said.

“Did the wife tell you if anyone else knew the combination, or what he kept in the safe?”

“No, she didn’t mention the safe.”

“Well,” Emily said. “Let’s go ask her.”

The newly widowed Mrs. Townsend parked on the white leather sofa with Mayor Stone, her hands held tightly in his. “Lori, we’ll handle everything. You need to take care of yourself now,” he said.

“Mrs. Townsend, I need to ask you a few questions,” Emily said in a soft voice. For all of her faults, the detective handled the survivors of murder victims with sensitivity and compassion. She didn’t refer to them as the “next-of-kin,” which implied they weren’t victims of the crime. Wives, brothers, husbands, and children who experienced a loved one ripped from their lives were victims. The only difference is they remained behind and continued to suffer the loss. They bore the pain of surviving.

Mayor Stone dropped Lori Townsend’s hands and said, “Detective, this isn’t necessary right now—she’s been through quite enough, I would think.”

The small-framed blonde turned in her seat and crossed her legs. Blood stained the knees of Mrs. Townsend’s spandex tights, and when she noticed the red patches on her legs, she became conscious of them and tried to cover the spots with her hands. The red polish on her right index fingernail was chipped and she seemed self-conscious about it. “I’ve already told the other detective what happened. I don’t know what else I can say,” she said.

“I realize you’ve spoken with Detective Medina, and we know you’ve been through an ordeal. I’d appreciate a few moments of your time to help us find the person responsible for the death of your husband.” Emily sat on the corner of a large white marble coffee table directly across from Mrs. Townsend.

“Detective,” the Mayor warned.

“It’s all right Johnny,” Lori responded, putting a hand on the Mayor’s knee. “Go ahead, Detective. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it will help me put the pieces together, too.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Townsend.”

“Please, call me Lori,” she responded while she pulled her blond hair together, quickly securing it back in a ponytail, readying for a fight. Her stiff posture told Emily this woman was used to being in control.

“Tell me, how many people knew your husband kept a safe in his office?”

“I really couldn’t say. I mean, he didn’t do a great deal of business here at the house. Every so often he’d hold a meeting in his office, so someone could’ve seen him open the safe.”

“I’ll need a list of those people, Mrs. Townsend.”

“Really now, Detective.” Lori let out a nervous laugh. “I’m sure Councilman Perkins, Senator Rodriguez, and the Mayor didn’t conspire to murder my husband.”

“How many people knew the combination to the safe, Mrs. Townsend?” Emily asked.

“That was Roger’s safe. I don’t think anyone else knew the combination.” Her face hardened as she thought about the question. “You don’t think I had anything to do with this, do you? Roger never gave me the combination. That was his baby.”

The Mayor puffed up and put his hand on Lori’s shoulder. “I’m sure that’s not what the detective meant. Did you, Detective?” He cut an icy glare at Emily.

“I asked if anyone else other than your husband could’ve opened the safe?”

“No, Roger was the only one with the combination.”

“What did your husband keep in the safe?”

“I know he kept some cash in there, along with business papers.”

“How much money would he keep in there?”

“I don’t know, not much; maybe ten—twenty thousand or so?”

Emily considered her response and wondered what kind of world it would be where ten grand was pocket change. She decided to throw her a curve and asked, “Did your husband keep any drugs in the safe?”

“Hunter, damn it! I’ve already told you Townsend was not involved with illicit drugs. You’re done here. Lori, I’m taking you to the hospital,” the Mayor announced as he stood and extended his hand to Lori.

Lori Townsend drew herself up from the sofa in a slow and calculated way that carried a feline quality. She stood up on her toes and kissed the Mayor’s cheek. “Thank you, Johnny, I’ve had quite enough for one night.”

As the Mayor held out a jacket for Lori, she turned her back on Emily. “Roger wasn’t into drugs. He wasn’t that kind of man.” She shrugged into the jacket. The Mayor put his arm around her shoulder and escorted her out of the room.

Javier leaned against the hallway near the living room, said, “Well, that went well.” He paused until the front door sounded. “The Mayor’s all twisted up with this one. There’s more here than some family friend connection. Trying to cover some shady campaign financing?”

Emily stood at an assortment of photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Townsend arranged on a small white enamel table. Javier picked up one of the silver frames and handed it to Emily. A group of smiling people in black tie dress; Roger Townsend and his wife, Lori, with another attractive blond woman and Mayor John Stone.

From behind them, a young uniformed officer called out, “Hey, Hunter, move your car so I can drive the Mayor home with his prom date.”

Emily tossed the officer her keys. “I’ll follow you out. Give me a minute to finish up.”

“Poor kid, I wonder what he did to deserve his assignment?” Javier asked.

The cell phone in Javier’s pocket played the first few notes of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and he pulled it out quickly. “Detective Medina.” He listened for a few seconds and hung up. “That was the Medical Examiner’s Office. They’ve scheduled the post for eight in the morning. That’s quick.”

Emily nodded. “Everything about this case is quick—too quick.”


Excerpt from Face of Greed by James L'Etoile. Copyright 2023 by James L'Etoile. Reproduced with permission from James L'Etoile. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

James L'Etoile

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his award-winning novel, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, and director of California’s state parole system. Black Label earned the Silver Falchion for Best Book by an Attending Author at Killer Nashville and he was nominated for The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. Dead Drop garnered a Lefty and Anthony Award nomination, and a Silver Falchion Award, and a PSWA win for best novel.


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Laws of Annihilation by Eriq La Salle


Martyr Maker Series, Book 3

Mystery & Thriller / Literature & Fiction / Religion & Spirituality

Date Published: 10/24/23

Publisher: Sourcebooks

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"Eriq La Salle has emerged as a terrific writer with unique gifts." ―Don Winslow, #1 international bestselling author


A war is brewing in New York City, and no one can stop it.

With grit, relentless action, and twists you'll never see coming, Laws of Annihilation is the third installment in the highly-acclaimed Martyr Maker series by Eriq La Salle.

It's another blistering summer in New York City, and a sweltering heat wave stifles the area. Hostility between the Hasidic and Black communities has been steadily increasing since a tragic incident left a Black teenager dead. When two rabbis are killed in a gruesome attack on their synagogue, it has all the signs of retaliation.

The entire city is on edge.

Through it all, Agent Janet Maclin's dreams of becoming the FBI's first female director come crashing down when she receives some devastating news. In spite of it all, she's determined to help NYPD detectives Quincy Cavanaugh and Phee Freeman find the rabbis' killer as more hate crimes put the city on the brink of all-out war. As the body count climbs with the temperature and the tensions, time is running out for Maclin in more ways than one. 

Apart from his critically-acclaimed thriller titles, La Salle is a masterful mystery/crime storyteller. He may be best known for his acting roles in productions such as ER, Coming to America, and Logan, but his background in crime fiction was finely honed as he directed and executive produced countless episodes of popular shows such as Law & Order, Law and Order SVU, Law & Order: Organized Crime, CSI: NY, and Chicago PD with Dick Wolf.



Praise for Eriq La Salle's Martyr Maker Series

"Laws of Wrath is all thriller; no filler―a white knuckled treat." 

―James Patterson, New York Timesbestselling author

"Laws of Depravity is a gritty crime thriller, spiritual quest, and love story all woven into one compelling tale." 

―Publishers Weekly

"Fast paced…Characters are richly textured [and] none is without faults."

―Kirkus Reviews, for Laws of Wrath


In Hell.

It was the only way to describe the hottest summer on record. Even under the daily clamor of city life, if one listened

intently it was still possible to hear the faint echo of the Devil’s joyful laughter. He was the only one who could have taken any pleasure in the torturous heat, the ungodly stench, and, of course, the gorge of hatred.

It felt like the cruelest summer ever. New York was taking gut punches from a punishing heat wave that showed no signs of easing. The Big Apple was in dire need of relief. It was thirsting for summer rains, cool merciful drops that fell from somewhere at least in the proximity of Heaven. Of all of the East Coast cities that were being strangled by the heat, New York was choking the most.

FBI Special Agent Janet Maclin drove down to the Big Apple from Washington, DC, where it was also hot, yet much more tolerable. She suffered through the slow roast of being in Manhattan because her trip was mandatory. Of her numerous visits to the city, it was the first time she had come to New York and hated it. What she hated most was her reason for having to come.

From the time she was a child, Agent Maclin had had grand dreams of becoming the first female director of the FBI. She’d entered the Bureau knowing that as a woman she would have to run faster and jump higher than her male counterparts just to be considered half equal. Fueled by her dream, she outran and outjumped the best of them. Though sexism had hindered her at numerous turns, it was good old-fashioned bureaucracy that left her dream all but wilting on the vine. It didn’t matter that seventeen years into her career she had acquired quite the reputation, as not just a rising star but a bona fide standout. She had certainly accomplished more than all of her peers and most of her superiors. Bringing down two major serial killers within a month of each other was just one of the many achievements on the impressive résumé she had built on the journey toward her lifelong dream. Ultimately, none of it really mattered because, even though she had entered the Bureau as a young attorney, she had blossomed into a talented field agent and not a bureaucrat or politician, which, throughout the history of the FBI, had been the traditional path to directorship.

It was public knowledge that the long-standing, current director of the Bureau was being vetted as the heavily favored vice-presidential replacement after the current VP had suffered irreversible brain damage from a severe stroke just five months into

the current administration’s incumbency. Now that the director was more than likely leaving, all types of rumors were spreading. There was speculation, thin and unsubstantiated, that he was aggressively looking for a woman to succeed him. Although she knew, both logistically and realistically, she didn’t stand a chance, the spark, however faint, still reignited the flames of her most desired dream. Under normal circumstances, she wasn’t the type to allow herself to get caught up in things she considered highly improbable. But for once, she embraced the distraction of hope—because, unfortunately, the current circumstances of her life were unfolding as anything but normal.

She’d started the day with a stomach full of butterflies. By the time the receptionist ushered her into the penthouse office on Park Avenue, they had mutated into angry dragons that were currently wreaking havoc on her intestinal fortitude. She wore her favorite navy-blue pantsuit with a crisp white collarless top beneath. She wasn’t much on jewelry. She wore no earrings, bracelets, or rings— just a simple, rose-gold Lady Bulova and a silver hamsa necklace barely peeking over the second button of her blouse. 

About the Author

Actor, director, producer, and masterful storyteller Eriq La Salle is best known to worldwide television audiences for his award-winning portrayal of Dr. Peter Benton on the medical drama ER. Educated at Juilliard and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, his credits range from Broadway to film roles, starring alongside Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, and Hugh Jackman in Logan. La Salle has maintained a prolific acting career while also taking the helm as director for HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon Prime, ABC NBC, Fox and CBS productions. His craft as a crime writer was honed over his many seasons as a key member of the Dick Wolf Entertainment team, which include four years as executive producer and director on Chicago PD, in addition to directing episodes of Law & Order, Law and Order SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime. He is also executive producer, director, and one of the lead actors of Dick Wolf's “On Call,” out in 2024 on Amazon Prime Video. As a writer, La Salle is the author of several critically-acclaimed thrillers published by Sourcebooks—Laws of Depravity (2022), Laws of Wrath (2023), and Laws of Annihilation (2023). His episode of The Twilight Zone recently made WGA’s list of 101 Best Written TV Series. He lives in Los Angeles, California.


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