Sunday, September 19, 2021

Book Spotlight: Hunt for a Hometown Killer by Mary Dodge Allen

About the Book:

Title: Hunt for a Hometown Killer

Author: Mary Dodge Allen

Genre: Christian mystery/suspense

Publication date: July 2021

Small towns have secrets and skeletons... what happens when a sinkhole uncovers them?

Two years to the day after Roxy Silva’s husband was murdered, a freak sinkhole drains a retention pond, exposing the car used in his fatal hit and run. The skeleton of the presumed prime suspect, the car’s owner, is found inside the trunk, thrusting the investigation in a new direction.

Detective Kyle Ransom is determined to find his best friend’s killer, and Roxy is equally determined to help. As a mail carrier, she can remain invisible as she moves around town. Using her total recall memory, she observes activities and captures images of people, vehicles and license plates, as well as the addresses on mail and packages she delivers. Roxy has no idea her amateur sleuthing will place her life in danger.

Together, Roxy and Kyle uncover a shocking trail of deception and secrets. As they work on the cold case, their relationship heats up. Kyle’s wife died years ago, and he’s ready for a commitment. But Roxy is recovering from the depression triggered by her husband’s murder and other sudden and tragic losses in her life. She’s struggling with a deep-seated fear of loss, her faith, and finding meaning in a chaotic world. Complications arise when Roxy’s first love comes back into her life, wanting a second chance. Old feelings of attraction and bitterness surface, as she confronts a long-buried secret in her own past.

Kyle identifies a new prime suspect, and the killer drops out of sight. When Roxy leaves on a ‘wilderness women getaway’ camping trip with her wisecracking friends, she finds herself in danger as the killer stalks her. She returns home, and the killer follows. Roxy is plunged in a fight for her life when she’s taken captive, and she must use her wits to survive.

Purchase Link: Amazon

Excerpt (Chapter 1):

Riverside Bay, Florida

Roxy Silva breathed out a relieved sigh as she finished the last delivery on her mail route. She was looking forward to going home and cranking the air-conditioning down to the sub-zero range. It had been a difficult day—the second anniversary of her husband’s unsolved murder. And for the past several hours, while delivering mail in the scorching June heat, Roxy couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that the person who killed Vance was still out there, somewhere.

She brushed strands of damp hair off her forehead as she walked back to her mail truck, parked near the huge retention pond at the end of Dolphin Lane. Sunlight shimmered on the pond’s rippled surface, highlighting a strange patch of swirling water a few feet offshore. The whirlpool’s funnel shape reminded her of water circling around a bathtub drain.

“Hello there, Rox!” Mae Sims waved to her from the sidewalk bordering the pond. The elderly woman was pushing a pink baby stroller, and her small poodle was riding in the stroller seat, as usual. Mae stopped under the shade of a tall laurel oak and held up a plastic Cool Whip container. “I baked sugar cookies today. Want to try one?”

Roxy hesitated. Her thoughts flashed back to last year’s church bake sale, when Mae’s banana bread sent several people to the ER. “Thanks... but I can’t, right now. I’m running late, and I need to get back to the post office.” Roxy gave the woman a smile and a quick wave.

As she unlocked the truck’s driver’s door, a loud rumbling sound rang out. The pavement beneath her feet began vibrating. A towering geyser erupted from the whirlpool near shore, spraying her skin with cool droplets, like a misty rain.

Mae let out a panicked scream as chunks of the pond’s grassy shoreline slid into the convulsing water. The laurel oak nearby cracked and splintered as it toppled over, creating a massive splash.

Roxy broke into an icy sweat. “Mae! Get away from there!” She threw down her shoulder bag and ran toward the petite woman.

Mae visibly trembled as she stood on the cracked sidewalk next to the oak’s gigantic root ball, which was still clinging to the soil at the edge of the steep muddy bank. Water dripped from her short gray hair as she stared into the hole.

“Mae! Come with me¾”

“No!” She shook her head and let out a sob. “Not without Trixie! She’s stuck in that tree!”

Roxy looked down. The pink stroller bobbed in the swirling water near the fallen oak. Something sparkled like diamonds in the oak’s leafy branches—Trixie’s rhinestone-studded harness. The tiny poodle sat wedged between two thick limbs, just out of reach. The dog’s high-pitched whimpering was barely audible over the rushing sound of the turbulent water. Roxy turned to Mae. “If you leave with me right now, I’ll come back and help Trixie. I promise!” She guided the frail woman to the spot where she’d discarded her mail bag. “Stay here, okay?”

Mae nodded. Her wrinkled face wore a dazed expression.

Roxy ran back and stood next to the huge mass of tangled roots and soil. She took a deep breath as she gripped a thick, dirt-caked tree root with her sweaty left hand and stepped off the sidewalk’s broken concrete. Her steel-toe athletic shoes sank into the damp, unstable dirt. Roxy tightened her grip on the root as she leaned down and stretched out her right arm toward Trixie. She gently slid her fingers under the sparkling harness and felt the poodle’s rapid heartbeat beneath her soft fur. “It’s okay, girl. I’ve got you.” Twigs snapped as she freed the tiny dog.

The dirt under Roxy’s feet abruptly shifted, and she lost her grip on the tree root. She held the small dog in the crook of her right arm as she slid downward. Branches scraped her left arm as her hip slammed against the trunk. She realized she was pinned against the limbs that had held Trixie.

Adrenaline surged. Roxy’s heartbeat accelerated as she grabbed a thick branch with her free hand. Using all her strength, she pulled herself up the slippery dirt wall and scrambled over the crumbling sidewalk. She ran toward Mae and picked up her shoulder bag before escorting the frantic woman further away from the sinkhole. When Roxy finally stopped, she was gasping for breath and trembling almost as much as the poodle in her arms.

Mae reached for Trixie and cradled her tiny dog like a baby. Tears formed in her eyes as she tenderly plucked stray twigs and leaves from Trixie’s dirty white fur. “She doesn’t look injured, but I’d better take her to the vet to make sure.” Mae looked up. Her lips quivered as she said, “Thank you.”

Roxy nodded and smiled, still too out of breath to speak. She heard the sound of voices and turned. Residents had gathered in the street, several feet away. She knew all of them well, since they had been on her mail route for years. A few waved to her, but most of them wore shocked expressions as they stared at the sinkhole. Mae hurried over and joined her neighbors.

The ground shook again. Roxy turned back to the pond and let out a sharp cry as the oak’s root ball slid out of sight, along with the cracked sidewalk. The pavement under her mail truck’s front tires disappeared. The truck slid forward and abruptly stopped. Its rear tires gripped the edge of the hole.

“Someone needs to call the police!”

Roxy startled, as if she’d been awakened from a trance. With shaking hands, she reached into the torn pocket of her postal uniform shorts and pulled out her phone. She hesitated when she saw the spider web of cracks, and then she whispered a quick prayer as she double-tapped the damaged screen. Relief surged when her phone lit up. She pressed a familiar speed dial number. When Kyle answered, she blurted, “A sinkhole opened up in Riverside Bay Estates! You need to send officers out here! My mail truck slid into the hole, and it’s caught on the edge¾”

“Rox! Are you inside the truck?” Kyle sounded panicked.

“No... I’m okay. Sorry, I should have told you that first.” She blew out a shaky sigh, as her heartbeat thundered like a jackhammer.

“Is anyone hurt?”

“No... at least I don’t think so. But my mail truck fell halfway inside the sinkhole. You need to send a tow truck.”

“Where exactly did the hole open up?”

“In that huge retention pond at the end of Dolphin Lane. Part of the shoreline is gone, but the sinkhole isn’t near any homes, yet. The water level has gone way down.” She stopped, as something on the opposite shore caught her attention. “Kyle! You need to send another tow truck! I see a black car stuck in the muddy bank across the pond, near the entrance to the wildlife refuge.” Her words caught in her throat as she made the connection. Two years ago, a witness saw a black Mercedes sedan speeding away from the scene of her husband’s fatal hit and run.

“Is it a Mercedes, Rox?”

“I don’t know. The front of the car is still underwater... but it’s definitely a black sedan.”

About the Author:

Mary Dodge Allen is the recipient of two Royal Palm Literary Awards from the Florida Writer’s Association. She and her husband live in Florida, where she has served as a volunteer with the police department. Her childhood in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, sparked her lifelong love of the outdoors. She’s been a Counselor and Social Worker and she worked as a USPS mail carrier during a college break. Her quirky sense of humor is energized by a passion for coffee and chocolate.

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1 comment:

  1. This sounds so interesting. Sinkholes are scary even when they don't expose a murder!