Saturday, March 23, 2024

Book Spotlight: A Storm of Doubts by JPC Allen

About the Book:

Her dad said nothing could hurt their relationship. But what if he isn’t her dad?

Summer gets off to a rocky start for twenty-year-old Rae Riley when the ex-wife of family friend Jason Carlisle claims their youngest child isn’t his and Rae’s con man uncle Troy returns to Marlin County, Ohio. Rae is already at odds with her father, Sheriff Walter “Mal” Malinowski, over her desire to help people in trouble. When she extends that help to Uncle Troy and Jason’s ex-wife, Ashley, she and Mal clash even more.

Then Ashley disappears, and Jason and his brother Rick are the main suspects. As Rae and her aunt Carrie, a private investigator hired to protect Jason’s kids, work to discover what really happened to Ashley, Rae wrestles with Troy’s insinuations that she may be calling the wrong Malinowski “Dad.”


"Just stop it!"

The shout made me jerk and get poked by a dead branch of a honeysuckle bush.

Wasn't that a woman's voice? Not a girl's, not my cousin Coral's.

Swiveling on my hips, I sat higher and caught strands of my dark gold hair on the bush. The fox cubs or kits or whatevers I'd been photographing leaped and rolled over each other between muted beams of sunlight, undisturbed.

Two voices, one higher, one lower, slipped through the budding understory shrubs and bushes .

Who would be out in the woods on the morning of Memorial Day between my cousin's farm and my dad's? If we were still on family land. Coral knew exactly where we were, which was why I'd asked her to guide me after she told me about the fox babies. But Coral didn't care much for civilization and nothing at all for ridiculous things like property boundaries.

"Coral?" I called, long, white honeysuckle blossoms brushing my cheeks, their thick Easter-y scent clogging my nose.

When had she left me? I couldn't have been photographing foxes that long. Although she was the guide, she was only twelve, and I was just a day short of twenty. So it was my responsibility to return Coral home in pristine condition.

The voices continued, but too quiet for me to catch any words, their murmur blending with the faint rustle of leaves in the morning breeze.

So Coral might have met someone. But she knew not to talk to strangers.

I collected my camera and the small tripod it sat on and eased myself backward through the thicket.

Did not talking to strangers still apply if you met one in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a county as rural as Marlin County, Ohio?

"Coral?" I ticked up the volume.

"Leave me alone!" The woman's voice again. She sounded desperate, not angry.

"Did you call me, Rae?" Coral seemed to pop out of the morning air. She could move like a ghost in the woods.

"I wondered where you were." I closed my tripod. "Did you hear that yell? It sounds like somebody's in trouble."

Removing her baseball hat with a galloping horse on the front, she wiped copper bangs from her sweaty forehead. "Naw. Just some rich chick and her boyfriend."

My cousin Amber had mentioned that high school kids used an abandoned bridge as a party site.

"Did you talk to them?" I placed the camera inside my padded backpack.

"Nope. I just heard voices and followed them to see what was going on."

The distant hum of conversation continued to glide through the cool morning air.

"You stay here." I tucked the tripod into a pouch on the outside of the backpack. "I'll go see if the girl or the woman needs help."

"She looked more like a woman. But I said she wasn't in trouble."

"I know, but ... well, I'd like to see for myself. I mean, if I were in a lonely spot in the woods with someone upsetting me, I'd want help. Can you lead me to them?"

Coral squinted at me like I was a new species she'd stumbled across. Then she shrugged and headed for a short slope overgrown with young trees and dense stands of pawpaws.

An engine roared to life. As it pulled away, another one turned over.

"Hold on, Coral." I unzipped a pocket of my cargo pants. "It sounds like they—” Looking at the time on my phone, I gasped.

"Coral, can we get back to your farm in twenty minutes?"

"What's the rush?"

I stared at her. "Amber and Dad are marching in the Memorial Day parade. He won't be upset if we miss him, but Amber will be. I promised her I'd take pictures."

Coral rolled her brown eyes. "Oh, yeah, I forgot. But she won't care if I don't come. She can't stand me."

"That's not true." At least, not completely true. The fights Amber and Coral had were more intense than the spats I'd witnessed between my three half-brothers. "Can we get back in time to ride into town with your parents?"

Coral studied a slug on a rotten log, a frown puckering her pretty,freckled face. "I don't think so." Now she looked worried, probably thinking that Uncle Hank and Aunt Jeanine would believe she

deliberately wandered away to miss her older sister's performance with the band.

She raised her head. "We're not far from Walter's place. Do you think he'd drive us?"

My anxiety notched a few degrees higher.

That all depended on what kind of mood we found our great-grandfather in. And Dad and Uncle Hank and Aunt Jeanine would not approve of us going over there without one of them. We never knew

which outlaw relatives might be hanging around Walter's house.

But if there was trouble, Coral and I could escape to the woods. Once Coral was in her natural habitat, chances of anyone keeping up were slim.

"Okay." I hitched the shoulder straps of my backpack higher. "We'll go to Walter's."

About the Author

JPC Allen started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo and has been tracking down mysteries ever since. Her Christmas mystery “A Rose from the Ashes” was the first Rae Riley mystery and a Selah-finalist at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2020. The first Rae Riley novel, a YA mystery, A Shadow on the Snow, released in 2021. Online, she offers tips and prompts to ignite the creative spark in every kind of writer. She also leads workshops for tweens, teens, and adults, encouraging them to discover the adventure of writing. Coming from a long line of Mountaineers, she's a life-long Buckeye. 

Follow her to her next mystery on her website, newsletter, and at Facebook, Instagram, Bookbub, Goodreads, and Amazon.

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