A woman in Johannesburg returns home from a trip to Belgium. Her dark blue suitcase is mistaken for an extremely similar suitcase belonging to a man travelling to Botswana. Just before going to bed the woman, Aziza, opens the suitcase to find it is not hers, but sees on top a brown paper package containing a box of chocolates. She knows it is not her suitcase but she cannot resist opening the box and eating a chocolate.
Her body is found the following morning when she does not go to work having died from extreme cyanide poisoning.
The police realize that the suitcase has just come on a flight from London, and they trace the other suitcase, her suitcase, to the man in Botswana who traveled on the same flight as Aziza to Johannesburg. He is naturally concerned as he has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and following a visit to an Ayurveda clinic in Edinburgh has just started on a course of treatment with apricot pits, which contain minute traces of cyanide, and in his briefcase he has a half kilo bags of apricot pits!
The police contact Scotland Yard in London, who realize that there may be some connection with the recent theft of cyanide from an agricultural company in Cambridge, with the cyanide eaten in chocolate by the woman in Johannesburg.
The following joint investigation produces several “Red herrings” principally from the players in a string quartette playing in several locations in the east of England, until eventually it is narrowed down to a family in Lincoln, when they learn who purchased the fatal box of chocolates, and then they find a partial fingerprint on the sealing cellophane. But they still cannot determine a motive for the murder, and their problem is how the fatal box of chocolates managed to get into the man’s suitcase when the cities of Cambridge and Lincoln are one hundred miles apart.
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Only a vampire can solve these crimes--a vampire private eye named Samantha Moon...
Private investigator Samantha Moon is working undercover for the Fullerton Police Department’s new top-secret Vampire Crimes Special Unit (VCSU).
With the increasing number of supernatural-type crimes in and around Orange County, Detective Sherbet needs Samantha’s special talents to help solve and prosecute the real and growing threats to the citizens of Fullerton. People are dying—and some of them are already undead.
Sam’s first case for the VCSU threatens to expose her life as a vampire. When a 200-year-old mummified corpse turns up on the grounds of an Orange County mission with a note addressed to Sam, she needs to protect herself, as well as solve this case before something worse happens.
The more Sam digs into the case, the more evidence she discovers of the mission’s grisly history and scandalous past. But will there be a price to pay? What if the only way to save the people of the present from the people of the past would be to expose the truth to the public? A truth that could take down a mission that is the very foundation of a community.
To solve the mystery in the present, Samantha Moon must first solve the mystery of the past. It’s a good thing she’s a vampire. A very good thing. She’s going to need those skills…
MOON HUNT is April M. Reign's first novel in the Vampire Crimes Special Unit series, her series set within the licensed Vampire for Hire Kindle World created by J. R. Rain, bestselling paranormal mystery author.
Hearing the Voices of the dead is something Gracie Charles has endured her entire life. When the power grid suddenly fails across the globe, she finds herself alone and facing a dark and dangerous journey through an unforgiving landscape, in hopes of finding sanctuary with friends who share her gift.
The following excerpt is from a scene near the middle of Murder In Absentia. Felix finds himself on a ship attacked by pirates at night. This is one of my favourite scenes, for several reasons. First, I get to write a fight scene, and as Murder In Absentia is primarily a detective mystery there aren’t a lot of them. I have also done a lot of research into realistic sword fighting techniques, and I get to write one properly, which is always a good feeling. Second, is that as a writer I get to play with the tempo of the story. By carefully choosing words and crafting sentence lengths, I hope to evoke the feeling of urgency and breathlessness that occur within a fight. I will let you be the judge of the results.
I woke up to urgent yells from heavy slumber. Not bothering with clothes, I grabbed my dagger and ran outside to the deck. A ship larger than ours was heading straight at us under power of oars. Their crew were silent, no drums to keep pace and no shouts. That they were pirates was evident from the vessel itself. A fast and decked bireme, its prow was painted with large blue eyes, slightly slanted to give a menacing look as they stared at us. Its sail was folded and the mast down, the pirates were ready for battle and boarding. A row of men stood at the railing, armed and ready with ropes and planks.
The pirate ship was perhaps three hundred paces from us, and by their angle and equipment I knew that they did not intend to ram us, but rather angle next to us and board us. Piracy does not make profit by sinking treasures — these come from the robbery of goods, selling the crew to slavery and holding any notable passengers for ransom.
Our crew was frantic, everybody suddenly awake after last night’s celebrations. Margaritus was yelling orders, the sailors were hoisting the anchor and going to the oars. Aulus Didius looked particularly dishevelled, not yet recovered from yesterday’s enchantments, and seemed unable to focus on the events storming around him.
With two hundred paces between our ships and us barely moving, it was becoming obvious that they would gain on us and that we would have to fight if we wanted to escape capture. Margaritus had broken out the weapon stores, and the crew and divers each grabbed a tall oval shield and a short gladius, and braced on the side facing the pirate ship. I picked up a shield and grabbed the handle inside the shield’s boss with my left hand, though I elected to remain armed only with my trusty dagger.
Margaritus yelled at the remaining crew to put up the sail with the hope that Didius Rufus could conjure sufficient winds, as the oarsmen armed themselves instead to prepare for boarding. I stared out across the dark waters watching the moonlit vessel closing in on us rapidly. At this distance I could make out the individual faces of the pirates and the murderous intent written on them. I wondered what mess I had gotten myself into and whether I would live to see the morning.
With fifty paces to go, the pirates banked oars, grabbed ready bows and let a volley go. All of us in the front lines raised our shields and managed to absorb most of the volley. Only two of our men were hit, though from the quick look I cast in their direction the wounds seemed slight. Our ship did not have a means to return fire — it was not a navy vessel, and was designed for the specific operation of the divers. It relied on speed generated by its resident incantator, who unfortunately seemed in a state of battle shock like a green recruit. The lack of a proper night guard could only be blamed on Margaritus.
Thirty paces to go, and another volley of arrows. This time one man fell down when an arrow that ricocheted from a shield lodged itself in his neck. The deck became slick with the blood spurting from his wound. Margaritus was shaking Didius Rufus by his shoulders, yelling in his face to get the wind up.
Ten paces, and the pirates cast ropes with hooks onto our rails, dragging us closer. We dislodged the hooks and struck at the ropes, but within the space of a deep breath the pirate ship bumped into ours, shaking the deck under our feet. The two ships screeched like racing chariots colliding.
The pirates were upon us. With wild cries they jumped from their ship onto our deck, swinging swords, axes, hooks and clubs. I braced my shield, and as the pirate who targeted me tried to land his curved sword in a neat arc from above straight on my head I took a step back, causing him to miss his mark and forcing him to stumble as he landed, and immediately with my full weight behind the shield I jumped and slammed into him, forcing him backwards and the boss of the shield knocking the wind from his lungs, yet still with his back against the ship’s rail he tried to raise his sword to protect himself, but I knocked it aside with my shield and plunged my knife deep into his chest. His eyes widened and a gurgling, rattling sound came from his throat as he lost balance and fell overboard, splashing into the waters in the space between our ships.
What followed was a mad free-for-all battle. The pirates were ferocious, the deck was slick with blood and the air was heavy with the din of fighting, the shouts of enemies colliding and the cries of the wounded.
“Layna, you need to calm down. Do that breathing thing again.”
I blinked, startled to find the chair tipped over, the computer screen shattered . . . my hands bloody. I hadn’t even noticed, hadn’t felt it.
I sank to my knees, no longer caring about anything. Let Miles see me crumble. Let him have ammo to use against me. Nothing mattered.
“Layna,” he said quietly, his voice more soothing than anything I had ever heard.
My eyes flicked in his direction, surprised to see him crouched there, his hand extended through the bars of his cell. Without a clear thought, I reached out and laid my hand in his. I had never needed anything as much as that small contact.
He didn’t speak. He just crouched there with my hand in his, his eyes understanding.
The torturing hot African sun was directly overhead, beating down on the bleached, arid, dust-filled savannah. Everything it touched seemed to shimmer, radiating remorseless heat. There was no escape. This was not a place to be; only mad dogs and Englishmen were out at this time of day. The small group sheltering under the acacia bushes were neither mad nor Englishmen. But they were here. Greed the major factor for their presence in this unforgiving landscape.
Tsavo National Game Reserve was either hot and dry or wet and flooded. Full of wildlife: from the giant Rothschild giraffes (with their extended necks and distinctive orange and brown fur), to the gangs of unruly warthogs running through the bush, with their twenty offspring chasing each other's short, wiry, curly tails. The current season was the hot one. Everything stood still. The heat was intense, burning the red dusty soil, making it so hot your head felt like it would burst. Water was scarce, down to a few soured, mud clogged pools. But change was in the air. Huge black clouds gathered in the far distance over the Taita hills. When it finally broke, the deluge would come, washing the heat away, changing the dust to thick red mud. Flowers would rush to enjoy their short time to bloom. The watering holes would fill, and the great migration to the south would start. But now there was no respite. The deserted plains carried on forever in every direction, small stubby bushes and acacia trees the only haven from the intense sun. The savannah was as quiet as a graveyard at this time of day. Everything that walked, flew, or slithered knew to stay still and hide away until the sweltering ball of heat in the sky moved through its arc. Only later would there be some relief.
Under the cobalt blue, cloudless sky a nearly seven-foot-tall, gaunt, ebony tribesman was standing stock still. Perched on one leg, motionless. Frozen in time. Thick plaited curled ringlets of hair covered in cow grease hung down his back. A red and black tartan robe was draped over his shoulder and secured at the waist with a long leather thong. On his hip hung a fourteen-inch, brown, battered, hide scabbard, holding a razor-sharp blade. His feet were wrapped in sandals made from old car tires, with more leather wrapped around his ankles. From head to toe, this formidable warrior was covered in beads of many different colors: wrapped around his neck in bands, plaited into his dreadlocks, around his wrists and ankles, all making for a very impressive site. Finally, in his right hand, was a wicked looking spear with a six-foot-long, worn mahogany shaft and a blackened steel point. He was standing with his eyes closed, head cocked to the left and mouth slightly open. The puffs of wind gusting across the arid savannah had suddenly changed direction, veering almost 180 degrees. This could be trouble. The Masaai warrior was not concerned for himself. He had carefully smeared buffalo dung all over his body before they had left. It was the Muzungus, the stupid white men, that would cause the trouble. If he could smell their sweat, the prey, about 40 yards in front of them, would pick up the scent in seconds.
Bruno runs to the platform between the train cars chasing Jack and smashes him across his face with the big pistol. Jack falls back against the rail separating the cars and slumps to the steel floor. The train lurches and Bruno stumbles backward against the door trying to keep his balance. He grabs the door to steady himself and charges back toward Jack. The train slows and then speeds up as it crests a hill. Bruno stumbles on the uneven steel plates of the platform. He is off balance again and comes toward Jack with his head down and his arms outstretched to catch his fall. Jack pulls his knees to his chest, his feet catch Bruno in the stomach. Using Bruno’s own momentum, Jack pushes his legs up and vaults Bruno’s helpless bulk over the rail. The scream abruptly stops as he plummets under the thundering steel wheels.
Maddy bursts through the door and helps Jack to his feet.
“I was sure he was going to shoot you Jack, he seemed to go over the railing in slow motion and then get sucked under the train. That was awful but I could not take my eyes away.”
Jack puts his arms around Maddy and hugs her to him tightly. “It’s ok now baby, we need to think about getting off this thing before we get to the next station. We can’t be far from the border now. We’re coming into another turn let me see if I can see what’s up ahead.”
As the train goes around the turn, Jack can see past the line of cars.
“We are going up another hill with a turn at the top of it. The train will be going pretty slow as it makes the turn. It looks like a hay field on the outside of the turn. That should make for a pretty soft landing. Make sure you clear the road bed.”
Maddy looks down as the countryside flashes by at what seems to her to be an impossible speed. She looks back at Jack with her eyes wide. “What, Jack? Do you think I am going to jump from this train?”
“We’re gonna have to jump off this thing. Don’t think about it, just jump when I tell you. Let’s go, Maddy. Roll when you hit the ground. Come on, get ready it’s slowing down. Jump!”
“I don’t want you in jeopardy. Is that so hard for you to understand?”
“We’re in a war. I’m a criminal. Is that so hard for you to understand?
We’re fresh out of those bubbles you like to put me in.”
“You don’t have to help them hurt you, Lareina. You don’t.”
“No. I can get to them first.”
“That’s what I’m for.”
There was nothing to say to that. They were silent.
Silas knocked once and let himself in. If he cared what they thought of his intrusion, it didn’t show. “I’m here to interrupt your little powwow.” He directed his conversation to Christian. “I know you’re a big man, all scary and shit. But that don’t mean a damned thing around here.” He slapped two pills down on Lareina’s nightstand. “Your antidote. You better take it within the hour.” He ignored her raised eyebrows, keeping his focus on Christian. “You’ll need one of those every night for at least a week. Here are your choices…You can be a part of the solution, or you can wake up and start chasing us again. But I have to say you really are shit at it. You ain’t that hard to elude. So give it a good think.” He turned to leave.
“Silas!” Lareina wanted to laugh. She sooo wanted to laugh. She put a restraining hand on Christian. “You drugged us?”
Silas glanced back, unrepentive. “My way is effective, decisive and keeps you out of the mix. You can’t think straight with him around, anyway. Maybe you need to be asleep.”
“Boy, I’m going to beat the snot out of you.” Her uncontrolled grin nixed the threat.
“When I’m in the market for a mosquito bite, I’ll let you know.” He let himself out.
Silas was Silas. Lareina knew that when she collected him. She created him. Damn, he was good.
Christian was another matter altogether. He hadn’t said a word. That was never a good thing. “Christian?”
It took a minute before he responded. When he did, it was devoid of emotion. He snapped his eyes at her, deeply sincere with his intent. “You might want to start getting unattached and resign yourself to knowing I’m going to kill him. I’m informing you now, so when it happens you will be able to recall I warned you.”
Lareina felt a chill.
The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of . . .
When private detective Rick Bailey is hired by the exotically beautiful and outrageously wealthy Princess Nora, he thinks it'll be easy money. Escaping from her rebellion-torn kingdom, the princess has lost her handmaiden, Lores: the only person who knows how to find the hidden royal jewels.
But when his search for the equally lovely Lores turns deadly, Bailey realizes that there is more to this case than it first seemed. When someone tries to kill him, he discovers that the roots of evil run deep.
With his own set of values and sense of honor, Bailey must keep one step ahead of murderous mobsters, secret government operatives, and a genetically enhanced Lores as he races across the galaxy in search of the truth. The only things he knows he can trust are his eight-foot-tall ladybug-like girl Friday and a powerful weapon that responds to his thoughts.
Will Bailey find the treasure of the black hole in time and will he survive long enough to discover why it is something worth killing for?
When an attempted hijacking rattles a sleepy California coastal town, teenage detectives Dalton Fraser and Maddy Kane spring into action. With the help of a super-smart dog and a trained U.S. Navy dolphin, the teens investigate mysterious clues that lead them to uncover a smuggling ring. After their story is declared unbelievable by the small-town sheriff, Dalton and Maddy form a daring plan to catch Nico, the notorious ringleader, and lead the sheriff to his arrest. But the plan backfires and the young teens find themselves in more trouble than they bargained for, and Nico doesn’t want witnesses!
“Let him go! No! stop! Pull him back in! Pull him back in!” yelled Jemma. She struggled but was firmly pinned against the rock face by Bollo. Jemma was up against the back wall of the walkway behind the waterfall. She watched helplessly as Todda and Jud held her best friend under the white torrent of water. Each of them was holding an arm and Gonga was spluttering and struggling to breathe, desperately trying to get out from under the force of the water. Todda and Jud were older and much stronger, so Gonga’s struggles were in vain. Bollo laughed even louder as Todda yelled, “Let’s see if we can wash this stain off once and for all!” referring to the white splash of hair in the centre of Gonga’s chest. He was the only gorilla in the entire band that had one, and was tormented mercilessly for it by Todda and his gang.
After school, Gonga met Jemma and they were enjoying a leisurely stroll past the three big boulders, under the old tree they affectionately knew as ‘Old Bow-Legs’ and up to the walkway behind the waterfall. It was easy to see why they nicknamed the tree because if you looked at it quickly out of the corner of your eye, it looked like a bow-legged old man. The walkway behind the waterfall was about halfway up the cliff, and enjoyed a good view over the pool and river at the bottom of the waterfall far below. As they were halfway through the walkway, the gang closed in – again! Todda had blocked the exit in front of them, while Jud and Bollo blocked the entrance behind them. As the three advanced on them, Todda yelled, “Time to wash you off, freak!” and grabbed him by the arms.
Now Gonga spluttered and gasped as the monumental force of the water knocked almost all the breath from his battered body. Gonga clung desperately to the ledge with his toes while Todda and Bollo stood laughing. Gonga was leaning back precariously, his chest, shoulders and face taking the full weight of the waterfall. Every time Gonga tried to pull himself back in, he was pushed backwards under the curtain of water again. Looking up, he could see the water falling down onto his chest like a relentless, white-water guillotine. He could vaguely hear yelling and laughter coming from the other side of the water curtain but was too scared to take much notice. Just as he thought he was about to die, he was yanked back through the heavy, stinging water and shoved up against the rock wall next to Jemma.
“Leave him alone, you cowards,” she screamed. Gonga’s legs felt like jelly, but Todda held him up, a vice-like grip around his throat.
“No boys. It looks like it’s permanent after all!” shouted Todda above the roar of the waterfall and punched Gonga on the white spot in his chest. Gonga slumped to the ground as Todda let him go.
Gonga ambled through the thick undergrowth down to a pool at the river’s edge. As soon as he arrived, he sat down and studied the water. He was the first to the water this morning, so he had to be extra careful. A few months ago a small gorilla had been caught by a crocodile, never to be seen again. Gonga sure didn’t want that to happen to him, so he scanned the water very carefully for any signs of movement. The adults had built a fence and placed it underwater at the back of the pool, but that was no guarantee of safety. He stood up and moved toward the water, but a movement in the trees above caught his attention and he stopped. He thought he had seen something grey coloured, and was just peering up when he glimpsed it again and a branch came crashing down into the pool. Just then, a huge crocodile jumped up out of the water, snapping its jaws loudly at the intrusion. The croc settled slowly back into the water, until only its eyes and snout were visible. It watched Gonga for a short while before turning around and heading to the back of the pool, where it swam straight out into the river and disappeared downstream.
Gonga waited until the pool was calm again, and thought about how lucky he was that the branch had startled the croc, checking his hands to see if they were still shaking. He threw a few pebbles into the brown, murky water, and said “the fence must be broken”, to no-one in particular. Once he was satisfied it was safe, he walked in up to his waist and, shivering slightly, started washing his face in the chilly water. “I wonder where my friends are?” Gonga thought to himself. “They’re normally here by now.”
Just then the water next to him exploded and he was absolutely drenched! Gonga jumped sideways and screamed loudly, thinking that the big croc had returned. He scrambled toward the side of the pool and looked back to see Todda in fits of laughter. Todda had swung out over the pool on a jungle vine, and bombed Gonga, landing in the water right next to him. Jud and Bollo were hiding behind a tree and howled with laughter at Gonga, who was still trying to wipe the water out of his eyes.
Todda and his two friends started pelting him with mud, saying to each other, “Aim for the white target, boys!” Just as Gonga was getting pelted, his friends came to his rescue. Splat! Splat! They peppered Todda and his gang with some of their own medicine. Thonk! Bollo howled as he was hit in the ear by a hard piece of mud.
“I didn’t know there was a stone in it! Honest!” said Jemma, but a sly little smile afterwards told Gonga and his friends otherwise. Jemma was always up to some sort of mischief!
“That’s enough!” shouted Mrs Brackengood, freezing everyone with her stern voice as she walked into a chaotic classroom. Everyone went silent, waiting to see what would happen next.
“Okay,” said Todda, casually throwing the hairpin over Jemma’s head, and out of the classroom.
Jemma’s eyes widened and, stepping on a log, launched herself high into the air to catch it, before it was lost forever. She caught the hairclip, but landed awkwardly on the side of a log. This sent her flying into the railing at the edge of the classroom. There seemed to be a split second where it held, but then the wooden posts shattered spectacularly, and Jemma dropped out of sight down the side of the cliff!
“No!” yelled Gonga, scrambling to the spot where Jemma had just disappeared. “Don’t go near the edge!” shouted Mrs Brackengood, but it was too late. Gonga was already flat on his belly, peering down the cliff face. He saw Jemma a little way down the cliff, her eyes wide with fear, clinging desperately to a narrow ledge with both hands. The broken railing made a nasty scraping noise, as it swung back and forth across the cliff face next to Jemma.
“Jemma, Are you okay?” yelled Gonga. Jemma nodded shakily as she clung to the ledge.
“Can you reach the railing?” called Gonga.
“No!” she grunted, breathing hard from her efforts. Gonga grabbed the broken railing and tried to swing it back and forth to reach Jemma. It was heavy and difficult to swing with just one hand. No matter how hard he tried, he was just not able to get it to swing close enough for Jemma to grab. The rest of the class was shouting encouragement, but it was just a vague background noise to Gonga and he was tiring out quickly. Just as he put all his effort into one last swing, he saw a grey arm appear from a crack in the rock face and give the railing an extra push in Jemma’s direction. Gonga was surprised, but only had time to think about it very briefly before the railing reached Jemma. She grabbed at it with one hand, the other still clinging desperately to the ledge. The wooden post snapped almost as soon as she grabbed it, sending the railing swinging wildly in the opposite direction. She scrambled and clung to the ledge again with both hands.
“Grab the leathervine part, Jem!” shouted Gonga. As the railing swung back toward Jemma, she grabbed one of the leathervines and wrapped it around her wrist. The railing jerked as its swing came to a sudden stop, almost pulling Jemma from her grip on the little ledge. She tested it to see if it would take her weight. There were loud cracking noises as the rest of the railing threatened to pull free from the cliff face.
Everyone in the classroom yelled, and Gonga shouted, “Help me! Grab the railing!”
Jemma looked at the mist-covered river below them and found that she couldn’t see the other bank. The mist enclosed their rope about halfway across the river.
She eyed this warily and said, “I’m chickening out. You go first!”
“Okay,” said Gonga with an adventurous twinkle in his eye. He climbed onto the vine, hanging upside down by his hands and feet. “Be careful!” said a nervous Jemma, but Gonga had already started across, their rope bouncing as he moved along. He was soon over the middle of the river and disappeared from Jemma’s view into the morning mist. All she could see was the bouncing of the rope. It gave a few big bounces and then went still for a while. Jemma’s heart almost stopped, but she heard no splash. The leathervine soon resumed its normal, gentle and rhythmic pattern of bounces. She waited anxiously for some signal to know that it was her turn. It was only once Gonga had disappeared into the mist that she thought about the fact that he didn’t have a safety rope in case he fell into the river.
Gonga’s heart was pounding as he moved hand over hand across the leathervine, despite his show of bravado in front of Jemma. Once he reached the middle of the river and was swallowed up by the mist, he found the vine even more wet and slippery. It was harder going now and he was straining to see through the mist. Suddenly a bird flew right past his face. It was such a shock that he instinctively put a hand up to protect his face and caused his other hand to slip off the wet vine. The vine bounced wildly up and down as he held on with his feet. He was hanging upside down over what he could only assume was the middle of the river, unable to see anything except for white mist. It had been great to see the mist over the river in the mornings, but now the mist was not so pretty anymore. Once the vine was still again, he slowly reached up and grabbed the vine with his hands again and started moving. He inched across through the mist, gripping the leathervine much harder than he probably needed to. He was relieved when he finally exited the mist, seeing that he was almost over land already. He sped up slightly and was soon in the branches of a large tree where he found the hook neatly lodged in the crook of two branches. Relieved, he sat there a short while, his chest heaving until he caught his breath.
Jemma waited anxiously on the other side of the river. There had been no splash and the leathervine had stopped moving now. She wondered if Gonga had reached the other side safely. Just then she heard a small splash. She couldn’t see anything except the ever-widening ripples where something had landed in the water below her.
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