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Blood of the Dragonfly: The Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series, Book V by Hawk MacKinney (Book Spotlight)

Adult Fiction (18+), 227 pages

 
While dangling a fishing hook from his flat bottom skiff before dawn, former SEAL-turned-PI Craige Ingram spots grey-black smoke coiling above the treetops across the river in the direction of the Georgia bayous and Corpsewood Manor. Bayou or bogs, fire in the uncut cypress and pines bodes a sense that the river is no barrier to the fire that threatens his ancestral home, Moccasin Hollow. Neither are the bodies later found in the burned mansion of Corpsewood Manor. Craige wastes no time in helping his ex-SEAL buddy Lt. Graysen MacGerald who is now Head of Buckingham Homicide Investigations by unofficially investigating the bodies and an exquisite dragonfly brooch found in the mansion with a reputation for evil, hauntings, and mystery.
 
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Excerpt

Craige had known Mattie to flip-flop a few times between past and present about things and happenin’s. Mix details of what and when and turned backside forward. Her seein’s coming in jumbled threads were often hard to make sense of. She frequently had no idea what the seein’s meant, but she never wavered about describing what she was sensing. Craige unhurriedly placed his cup into its saucer and carefully unfolded the inner wrappings of the jeweler’s box, and opened the box. Crisp sunbeams slanting through the lace of the window curtains glinted across the brooch, flashing shards gleamed along the truly diaphanous lifelike wings. He hadn’t told Mattie anything about where he’d found it or about Gray’s investigation. The hovering intaglio shimmered as though hoarding its secrets, beckoning with an unreal seduction, as he laid the brooch in her palm.

Her cup delicately paused in mid-air. “How lovely.” Mild ripples trilled across the smile lines of her face. She squinted for a closer look, “There’s something carved into the shiny black jewel.”

“A dragonfly.”

“How fanciful. I’ve seen butterflies, crickets, frogs, all manner of doodads for lapel pins and lavalieres but never a dragonfly such as this. Its wings even look see-through. I’m sure—” Her words stopped.

Her pleasant expression crumpled into clouded bemused bewilderment. The sunny room seemed to feel smothered. Her teacup quivered. Ever so carefully, she placed her cup just so in its saucer. Her eyes grew wide in a pinched strained expression. She pulled back, as though some shapeless trepidation hovered about her, ready to seize her. Her hand moved up to the starched bleached, crocheted collar of her navy-blue paisley print dress. She clutched her throat, then gingerly rested her hand aside the unsettled quiver at her cheek, “How dreadful.” She stared at the brooch in her palm. As if the brooch was blistering hot with blazing embers, Mattie tentatively placed it into Craige’s outreached hand, “Such beauty to be so wicked.” In a shaded whisper, “Mister Craige, take this vile thing with its temptations.”

Craige had seen her upset by her visions, but never so abrupt. “Mattie, let’s not go any further with this if it bothers you.” He placed it back in its box.

“Ugliness and cruelty always hover about those what are vulnerable. Such occurrences do bother me, but too shy from it implies acceptance. Good people must be watchful. Malice feeds on fear; drives good folks from facing it. The poor dead creature was being burned, burning away her name so she will be forever forgotten, so no one will ever know what happened to the poor unfortunate woman. There are others. I can’t see their faces. Someone was with her—another woman either with or perhaps following her.” Mattie caught a quick, shallow breath, “You must have nothing more to do with such a bloodstained harbinger. It didn’t belong to her. She took it,” Mattie frowned, “And now she’s dead.”

“Took it from whom?”

“Evil wanted it. It is a bringer of trouble.” Mattie winced, “Someone wanted it from—” Her face puzzled, “Flames were too hot for the hand that reached for the brooch. That awful fire couldn’t wipe clean where she died.”

“She died in the flames?”

“Perhaps somewhere near? Or perhaps somewhere else. I get no feeling of where.”

Mattie’s words didn’t surprise Craige so much as stirred a thing deep inside him, somewhere in those secret whispers between sleep and awake and an unfinished nightmare. From Frannie at PDK to Mattie’s forewarnings, Craige no longer discarded happenstances as coincidence, especially Mattie’s bit about “another woman.” He wrapped the brooch. Closed the box lid tight. “Can you see how the fire started?”

She shook her head slightly. Her expression one less of fear than trepidation, “Only the faces watching you, watching your friend.”

“Who’s watching Gray?”

“Not Lieutenant MacGerald. Your other friend, the one visiting you, the one who swims in the ocean and jumps out of airplanes and hunts with a bow and arrows.”

Her words jarred Craige. Only Gray, Fred, Mabel, and Terri knew Spinner was here. He hadn’t mentioned Spinner to Mattie or that he even had a visitor at Moccasin Hollow.

“Mister Craige, you must take extra care. That pretty bauble in its velvet box belongs to some kind of devil. Washed in blood with terrible long-dead secrets, crawling from their long-dead places. Don’t keep it near you. There is smoke and fire over your home, over that bauble from where she burned.” Mattie’s hands trembled as she reached for her cup of tea and took a long slow sip to calm herself. Her tremulous cup rattled into its saucer, “I will feel so much better once that pretty thing is rid away from you.”

He stood, “I want to let Gray know what you’ve told me.”

A bit calmer, Mattie insisted, “You must promise to not keep that thing inside your home.”

“I will take care.”

Mattie’s face strained, “I most truly enjoy the tea.”

Her hand still lingering at her throat, as Mattie stood in the doorway and waved as Mister Craige drove away. She hadn’t wanted him to know how upset it had truly made her.

* * *

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Meet the Author:
Author Hawk MacKinney
Hawk MacKinney began writing mysteries for his school newspaper, served in the US Navy for over 20 years, earned two postgraduate degrees with studies in languages and history, taught postgraduate courses in the United States and Jerusalem, authored professional articles and chordate embryology texts on fetal and adult anatomy, and is well known for his works of fiction. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel, was nominated for the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award. Both his CAIRNS OF SANCTUARIE science fiction series and the MOCCASIN HOLLOW MYSTERY series have received worldwide recognition.
 
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Death Perception by Lee Allen Howard (Book Review)

Kennet Singleton cremates the dead—and then they speak… “Avenge us!”
 
Nineteen-year-old Kennet Singleton lives with his invalid mother in a personal care facility, but he wants out. He operates the crematory at the local funeral home, where he discovers he can discern the cause of death of those he cremates—by toasting marshmallows over their ashes.

He thinks his ability is no big deal since his customers are already dead. But when his perception differs from what’s on the death certificate, he finds himself in the midst of murderers. To save the residents and avenge the dead, Kennet must bring the killers to justice.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)

 

The gift of knowing a cause of death without insider information would come in handy for specific jobs — coroner and law enforcement. However, it’s more of a parlor trick for non-detective related occupations—unless you work in a crematory and the dead seek your help for vengeance. Then, it’s absolutely a welcomed gift. 

Kennet’s super power, gift, or whatever you want to call it, really came into play during the last 100 or so pages of the story. During this portion, things started to heat up. 😀

The dead wanted vengeance. Kennet wanted vengeance. 

Spirits communicated with the living to carry out their plan, and not all the angry souls were rooting for the good guy (Kennet). 

While the cover screams horror, in my opinion, I didn’t find Death Perception scary at all. I’m pretty sure I’d be singing a different turn if spirits wanted me dead and if one (or two or more) appeared before me. 

Was Death Perception weird? YES. 

Was it creepy? Yes! 

Seriously, roasting marshmallows over ashes and then eating them is WEIRD and CREEPY!

I only wish we would’ve seen more interactions between the spirits and the living. I wanted more creepiness. More horror. More suspense.

I was pleased by the ending, though. If anyone deserved a HEA, it was Kennet.

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤❤1/2

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About the author

I write dark fiction: horror, erotic horror, dark fantasy, dark crime, psychological thrillers and suspense. And technical manuals. All terribly horrifying.

Lee Allen Howard has been a technical writer in the software industry since 1985. (Why do fiction writers pretend like they don’t have day jobs? I like to eat just like everyone else!) I also edit fiction and non-fiction projects. I’ve done book layout and publishing consultancy.

A long time ago I earned a BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I also received an MA in Biblical Studies from CI School of Theology and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.Pride Flag

My publications include, but are not limited to:

I’m also the founder, editor, and publisher at Dark Cloud Press (http://www.darkcloudpress.com), publisher of horror, dark crime, and psychological thrillers.

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Death Perception by Lee Allen Howard (Book Showcase)

Kennet Singleton cremates the dead—and then they speak… “Avenge us!”
 
Nineteen-year-old Kennet Singleton lives with his invalid mother in a personal care facility, but he wants out. He operates the crematory at the local funeral home, where he discovers he can discern the cause of death of those he cremates—by toasting marshmallows over their ashes.
 
He thinks his ability is no big deal since his customers are already dead. But when his perception differs from what’s on the death certificate, he finds himself in the midst of murderers. To save the residents and avenge the dead, Kennet must bring the killers to justice.

 

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Read the first chapter here.

 

 

 

Lori S.
⭐⭐     Death Perception full of clever twists
 
Kennet Singleton is a young man with one of the worst part-time jobs I can imagine – he works in the local funeral home, operating the crematorium. Being a teenager, his mind is capable of dark humor adults might not understand and Kennet decides to try toasting some marshmallows over the remains of the corpses he burns in the oven.

Okay, he’s a little strange. Then he realizes that eating those marshmallows gives him the knowledge of how the deceased died. And that’s not so bad, until he realizes that the message he gets doesn’t match the information from the death certificate. Someone is murdering people and Kennet thinks his own mother might have been one of the victims. Kennet, with the help of a couple friends, investigates the murders, leading to all kinds of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing.

Lee Allen Howard is a fine writer, with a knack for creating characters you’ll both love and hate. Everyone in the book comes to life under Howard’s skillful hands. Although the topic is a bit of a gross-out, this isn’t a disgusting book nor is it overly graphic. It’s a good book and I’d highly recommend it.

 
 
A Reader in the Mitten
⭐⭐     Death Perception full of clever twists

I’ve read a few of Lee Allen Howard’s other books, and I believe this is his best. They’re all gritty, realistic and chilling — not in a blood-and-guts way (although some details in Death Perception do spill out), but what I loved is Howard’s more-than-heroic hero. Kennet Singleton has had a rough life, and things just get worse due to some creepy people in the town – his greedy funeral director boss, the cold-hearted owner of the home care place where Kennet’s mother lives, and the half-stoned orderly who targets Kennet whenever possible. Howard does a masterful job peeling the layers in this deeply moving novel, revealing Kennet’s unusual gift of perception, plus the evil surrounding him. I cheered for Kennet every step of the way. A great, satisfying read.
 
 
Jennifer
⭐⭐ 

I’ve always enjoyed a good underdog story and Lee Allen Howard delivers just that with Death Perception. Our protagonist, Kennet, has had a hard life so why shouldn’t he enjoy some of the sweeter things? His boss may not like him roasting marshmallows on the job at the crematory but the dead don’t seem to mind. In fact, Kennet isn’t your average teen and that momentary pleasure brings him more than just a sugar rush. He soon finds he’s able to make contact with the deceased, giving him knowledge no one else is aware of. Part ghost story and part murder mystery Howard’s clean prose and spot-on timing make for a compelling read. The story is told with compassion for the less fortunate and insight into the way the world often torments the weak. But it also contains some truly laugh-out-loud scenes at the expense of the evil-doers and the ultimate triumph of the underdog. If you enjoy ghosts, revenge tales and mysteries this book is for you.
 
 
 
 

 

About the author

I write dark fiction: horror, erotic horror, dark fantasy, dark crime, psychological thrillers and suspense. And technical manuals. All terribly horrifying.

Lee Allen Howard has been a technical writer in the software industry since 1985. (Why do fiction writers pretend like they don’t have day jobs? I like to eat just like everyone else!) I also edit fiction and non-fiction projects. I’ve done book layout and publishing consultancy.

A long time ago I earned a BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I also received an MA in Biblical Studies from CI School of Theology and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.Pride Flag

My publications include, but are not limited to:

I’m also the founder, editor, and publisher at Dark Cloud Press (http://www.darkcloudpress.com), publisher of horror, dark crime, and psychological thrillers.

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The ‘Janey McCallister Mystery’ Series by Beth Barany (Multi-Book Showcase)

She wanted to make her mark. How hard could it be?

In 2130, at Bijoux de L’Etoile, a high-end casino orbiting Earth, you can get anything you desire.

Newly-hired as an investigator, Janey McCallister wants to solve her first big case—the theft of a priceless gem.

When her case of theft escalates to murder and points to the seedy underbelly of world affairs, Janey has to rely on her new team and trust the mysterious insurance investigator, Orlando Valdez—before a killer escapes into the black.

***

Into The Black is perfect for fans of J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas books and Killjoys and CSI. It contains a slow-burn romance, enhanced humans, cool high-tech gadgets, a futuristic vision of the Earth, and a tough heroine with secrets.

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Her implant flagged a quick movement in the crowd. Out of place, a shadow shifted. She clicked on her video. She’d get irrefutable evidence this time. Hope and determination fluttered in her chest.

A short, grey-haired man wove his way through the crowd, shoulders hunched, barely jostling people. Her implant flashed an ID: Mortimer Xang. His hotel record showed he’d arrived via space jet a week ago, and he had a room in the mid-priced level. No others in his party. He was leaving on the next transport Earthside in a few hours. Payee: Xang Enterprises.

One minute left.

He looked innocent enough, except for how one corner of his mouth quirked up in a faint smirk even though his gaze was downcast. His arms seemed pasted to the side of his body, and he took tiny steps as if to make himself even smaller.

Classic moves of a thief. Suspicious, though not evidence.

Her vid was recording, but all the other thefts had happened under the casino cameras and had not been detected.

She’d always trusted her intuition and her ability to read body cues before. But since she’d come to the station, she’d gotten it wrong twice. Should she wait for another sign that Xang was guilty? No, her gut told her he was up to something. She trusted that.

If she waited for the pickpocket to strike tonight, they could be here all night and still come up empty. She had to act now.

But if her instincts were wrong again, she’d be looking for a new job tomorrow.

“Got a possible,” Janey said to her team. “Shawhan, guard the exit. Lane, converge on my position. Kou, take our six.”

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At Bijoux de L’Etoile, the high-end casino orbiting Earth, anything can happen.

It’s a quiet day for L’Étoile lead investigator, Janey McCallister, until a young woman runs screaming through the blackjack tables. She looks like a victim of abuse, but when her boyfriend turns up dead the next day, she becomes the prime suspect.

Determined to investigate every angle, Janey searches for clues and uncovers a world of high-priced escorts and human trafficking—a world just like the one that took the life of her best friend long ago.

When Orlando Valdez, inspector for Sol Unified Planets, shows up with a new suspect, Janey isn’t sure she can trust the mercurial man who stopped returning her phone calls. But as the threats escalate and she unravels a deeper conspiracy, Janey and her team will need all the help they can get. If they fail, it could be the end of everyone on L’Étoile.

***

Lured By Light, the second book in the Janey McCallister Mystery series, is perfect for fans of J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas books and Killjoys, and CSI. It contains a slow-burn romance, enhanced humans, cool high-tech gadgets, a futuristic vision of the Earth, and a tough kick-ass heroine with secrets.

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She said good-night to Faizah and stood up to go. Just then, from deeper in the casino, a young woman in a short, rainbow-sequined, barely-anything-there dress dashed past the bar. Fear tightened the young woman’s mouth, her olive skin splotched red. Her short brown hair flopped in her bloodshot eyes as she pushed through the crowd, saying something Janey couldn’t hear above the clamor of the huge room.

The young woman made barely a ripple in the boisterous, game-playing crowd, but Janey noticed her. She was trained to notice anything out of the ordinary, but this was more than different. This was startling. The young woman bore an uncanny resemblance to her best friend, Christine, who’d been dead for over four years now.

Time to intercept and find out why the young woman was in such a hurry and so distressed.

Janey rushed to interrupt the woman’s trajectory toward the casino exit.

She strode through the crowd while her ocular implant ran a facial rec and dished her the woman’s name and hotel registration: Amelia Gain. Her check-in date was seven days ago, her hotel registration and premium room service paid for by the Eshe Kamal Coffee, a corporate city-state inside of the Independent Empire of Ethiopia. She looked young, no more than twenty-three, but corporate often sent their staff to L’Étoile as a corporate perk or for bonus vacations. And five to ten percent of L’Étoile’s guests came from Eshe Kamal Coffee.

Amelia’s heart rate accelerated and her breathing shortened, all details Janey registered in a flash on her ocular implant in her right eye, which scrolled data continuously across the top of her visual field.

Janey was two arm lengths behind her, then one. Close enough to hear what the young woman was saying under her breath.

“Oh my god, no! No more. I can’t…He can’t…I won’t…” Amelia’s words burst out between sobs.

Near the slot machines at the casino entrance, Janey reached out to touch Amelia’s shoulder to slow her progress and get her attention. “Can I help you?”

Amelia flinched from Janey’s outstretched hand and shook her head. Tears streaked her cheeks. “No!” Her strident voice carried above the whine and buzz of jangling slot machines.

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Coming April 14, 2021

L’Étoile’s lead investigator Janey McCallister faces her hardest case yet.

On the eve of the hotel space station’s twentieth anniversary celebrations, Janey must discover who robbed the casino’s vault, killed one security guard, and left another badly wounded.

Since the casino has only a day’s worth of cash on hand, she needs to solve the case before the theft creates a mass panic and puts the casino-hotel out of business—and before the criminal strikes again.

During the search for those responsible, Janey and Orlando Valdez, her on-again off-again lover, and undercover cop for the Sol Unified Planets, are kidnapped in mysterious parts of the station.

Not only does Janey have to work together with Valdez to get free, but she’s faced with a terrible choice between saving the life of someone she cares about and protecting the hotel casino guests and staff. Janey must face enemies from within and outside unexpected quarters.

***

Gone Green is perfect for fans of J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas books and Killjoys and CSI. It contains a slow-burn romance, enhanced humans, cool high-tech gadgets, a futuristic vision of the Earth, and a tough kick ass heroine with secrets.

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 Janey McCallister Mystery series
Into The Black (Book 1)
Lured By Light (Book 2)
Gone Green (Book 3) – Coming April 14, 2021
Red Running Deep (Book 4) – Date TBD

 

 

Award winning author, Beth Barany writes in several genres including young adult adventure fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction mysteries. Inspired by living abroad in France and Quebec, she loves creating magical tales of romance, mystery, and adventure that empower women and girls to be the heroes of their own lives.

For fun, Beth enjoys walking her neighborhood, gardening on her patio, and watching movies and traveling with her husband, author Ezra Barany. They live in Oakland, California with a piano and over 1,000 books.

Sign up here to be notified about once a month of book news and special events: http://bethb.net/itbnews.

 

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