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A rash of animal mutilations and a vicious poison pen campaign directed against an ambitious young lawyer lead to murder in a rural Pennsylvania community. Dan ‘Sticks’ Hetrick, retired police chief, and Flora Vastine, a novice officer, team up and encounter false leads, a series of dangerous episodes and
another murder before the case is resolved.
Cresting Snake Hill, Flora Vastine downshifted and eased off the accelerator. The patrol car’s headlights barely pierced the rain, which was bowled along like a living thing in a westerly wind sweeping across the bare fields and rattling through the trees along the road.
Water and mud cascading off the steep banks and carrying clusters of sodden leaves ripped from the trees spread treacherous surprises for an unwary driver on a night like this. But Flora was a good driver who’d been trained by five brothers who brooked no deference for their only sister’s sex. Her ability behind the wheel was one of several skills that had won her the respect of her fellow officers on the Swatara Creek police force. And her skill at driving was one factor leading, finally, to her upgrading from the dubious rank of special officer to patrol-person. Flora had worked hard to earn her rank and now, having cleared the final hurdle of her Act 120 certification, she was almost ‘one of the boys’ to the men—if not to Chief Brubaker—and she had no intention of screwing it up by totaling the prowl car on her first night of solo duty.
It was nearly the end of her shift and, though it had been a totally boring night, astute concentration and the weather had combined with the unaccustomed hours to sap her vitality. Flora was dog-tired, anxious to get back to base, file her meager report, run home and jump in the sack.
Despite weariness hanging on her like a heavy weight, Flora knew one mistake was all it would take to put her back on permanent desk duty. She wasn’t so naïve she didn’t realize it wasn’t her abilities alone that had earned her this chance to prove herself. The chief never would have relented from his opposition to female officers had it not been for the support of Harry and Mister Hetrick. She appreciated their support and didn’t want to let them down. And, damned if she wanted to be a desk jockey for the rest of her career. So, Flora exercised extra caution as she drove, just as she’d followed correct procedure in every aspect of her assignment on this long night.
The rain beat upon the hood and rolled in a steady flood across the windshield. The wipers thumped a repetitious refrain making her eyelids heavy. Flora leaned forward, wiping with one hand at the mist obscuring the glass. She adjusted the defroster again but the fog wasn’t lifting as fast as it should. It was like opening your eyes and trying to see underwater. It was like trying to get Harry’s attention.
Harry. He was always on her mind.
For more than a year, two goals took precedence over everything else in Flora Vastine’s life. One was acceptance as a full-fledged police officer. The other was to have Corporal Harry Minnich recognize her as a woman.
The first had been simple in comparison to the second.
Her brothers helped her achieve the first goal. Steve, a trucker who raced stock cars on weekends, took the lead in honing her driving skills. Bill and Tom taught her to tune an engine, and other mechanical crafts. Ed drilled her in Karate. And Donnie, the youngest, had made her an expert marksman with pistol and rifle. She remembered Donnie’s advice: “If you want to compete with a man, you’ve got to prove you’re as good—if not better—than he is.”
Well, all of that had helped in getting on the police force.
But she wasn’t a man and there was no one to train her in how to be a woman. She had no sisters and the mother who might have helped had been lost before Flora entered her teens. She’d enjoyed growing up surrounded by men, being protected and loved by them. She understood men and their needs, admired them for their strength, confidence and determination. In fact, it probably was her admiration of Ed and Donnie, both of them state troopers, which spawned her own desire for a law enforcement career. It was something she’d wanted and now had accomplished.
“Combining the threads of a disturbing mystery, domestic violence and at least two potential romances, this second novel in the series from author J.
R. Lindermuth weaves a complex and very enjoyable cozy read full of murder, deceit and greed. Along the way he provides a revealing glimpse into a small town with characters just as real as your neighbors next door.”—Kevin Tipple, Crime and Suspense magazine
“Lindermuth develops a plot slowly, pulling the reader into the story as if they were one of the characters, building the tension as the investigators work to unravel the problem which continues to mount. I’m happy to highly recommend this tale as one that will please any mystery buff and have you looking for his other books. Enjoy. I sure did.”—Anne K. Edwards
“Sticks Hetrick, retired police chief, returns in this second in the series.
Retirees get no rest. He is called in to consult with the new chief who has considerably less experience. Animal mutilations, poison pen letters, lawyers, and the police all mix for a great read.”—Vero G. Caravette, Mysterical-E magazine
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 250
Paper Weight (lb): 10.6
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