I love a good mystery. Mysteries and thrillers were some of the first adult-targeted books I remember reading, and I still find myself going back to them.
Mikel J. Wilson’s Murder on the Lake of Fire is exactly the type of mystery I tend to gravitate toward. Based on what I’ve seen of the novel so far, it has exactly what I’ve come to expect from books in the genre: a murder I can’t wait to figure out, hints of romance, and a main character I’ll enjoy reading. All in all, it seems like my kind of book.
Today, I’m quite happy to be sharing an excerpt with you. Plus, Mikel is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. Go ahead and enter, then come on back to take a look at that excerpt.
About the book
At twenty-three and with a notorious case under his belt, Emory Rome has already garnered fame as a talented special agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. His career is leapfrogging over his colleagues, but the jumping stops when he’s assigned a case he fought to avoid – to investigate an eerie murder in the Smoky Mountain hometown he had abandoned. This mysterious case of a dead teen ice-skater once destined for the pros is just the beginning. In a small town bursting with envious friends and foes, Rome’s own secrets lie just below the surface. The rush to find the murderer before he strikes again pits Rome against artful private investigator, Jeff Woodard. The PI is handsome and smart, seducing Rome and forcing him to confront childhood demons, but Woodard has secrets of his own. He might just be the killer Rome is seeking.
With the confidence of a man who loved his job, Emory Rome entered the Knoxville Consolidated Facility of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Dressed in a battleship-grey suit, the twenty-three-year-old special agent glided past rows of desks in the auditorium-sized office, nodding and half-smiling at the occasional co-worker who made eye contact with him. Without stopping at his own desk, he continued to the back of the room until he stood in front of a desk that was askew from the others, just outside the door to the only private office.
The fiftyish woman tapping on her computer keyboard smiled with genuine sweetness when she saw the handsome man and greeted him with her usual, “Mornin’ Emory.”
Emory matched her smile. “Good morning, Fran.”
“I have something for you.” She handed him a large thermos. “Sassafras tea. It’ll help you sleep.”
“You shouldn’t have gone to the trouble—”
Fran looked like she was swatting at an invisible fly as she brushed off his concern. “Lord, it’s no trouble.”
“Well, thank you. I appreciate it.” Emory locked his brown eyes on the closed door. “I got a message she wanted to see me first thing.”
“Wayne’s already in there.”
He held up the thermos. “Can I leave this here until I come back out?”
Emory placed it on Fran’s desk and took a deep breath. He rapped on the door a couple of times before entering the office and closing it behind him. Seated at her desk, Eve Bachman glanced at him without breaking from her conversation with Wayne. Like a tic that spasms once a day, her eyes darted to the red digital clock on her desk. Emory was never late, but she checked the time whenever she saw him. He didn’t know why.
Bachman was the special agent in charge of this TBI division, and she left no doubt to those in her purview that she was, in fact, in charge. Humorless and direct, she had two tones to her voice – informative and invective. When she paused for breath, Emory greeted them both, removed the wool satchel strapped to his shoulder and took a seat next to his partner. “…You must be at the courthouse at 1 p.m.”
“I’ll do it, but it’s a total waste of a work day,” Wayne Buckwald grumbled. He had been partnered with Emory when the younger agent started more than a year ago, and while their working relationship clicked for the most part, they were not friends and did not socialize together. Any personal conversations they had on the job revolved around Wayne’s life only, as Emory was a master of deflection.
Wayne’s response evoked clenched lips from Bachman before she redirected the conversation. “Both of you take a look at these.”
Wayne reached his stubby fingers across the desk for the photos she produced from a file, and he handed each to his partner after he viewed them. Emory tried to conceal a wince when he saw the first one – burned human remains on a bed of snow at the edge of a lake. The blackened parts of the skin glistened with a sickening sheen formed when the body was pulled from the lake and the clinging water froze before it could evaporate. Another picture looked to be a yearbook photo, and it revealed just how beautiful the victim had been.
Bachman explained, “These photos were taken in a little mountain town sixty miles southeast of here called Barter Ridge.”
Emory perked up at the town’s name. Did she say Barter Ridge? Aloud he asked, “ID?”
“Her name’s Britt Algarotti. She was a figure skater shooting for the Olympics. According to her father, she left the house at five-thirty in the morning to practice her routine at the lake before school. The local sheriff fished her out yesterday evening. Their prevailing theory is that someone attacked her when she arrived yesterday, burned her and dumped her in the lake. No known motive.”
With his dark brown hair now dipping over his eyes, Emory looked up from the photos. “Could be sexual assault.”
Wayne proposed with a smirk, “Maybe someone Nancy Kerriganed her.”
“What’s that?” Emory asked.
“Not what. Who. Nancy Kerrigan. That skater who was clubbed in the knee by her rival so she wouldn’t be able to perform.” He looked at them both, but neither responded. His attempt at humor was lost on his youthful partner and stoic boss.
Examining the photos, Emory pointed to one of the lake. “It’s not frozen over.”
Wayne scoffed at his observation. “Of course not. The killer wouldn’t have been able to dump her body in the lake if it was covered with ice.”
“Why would she go to the lake if it weren’t frozen over? She’s not a water skier.”
“She could’ve been killed somewhere else and taken there.”
Emory turned his attention to Bachman. “Any tracks in the snow?”
“Plenty. The sheriff had half a dozen people all over the area before anyone thought to preserve the crime scene.”
Wayne snorted. “As much as I’d love to help clean up their mess, couldn’t someone else handle this one? We just closed the Danner case yesterday and haven’t even finished our report, and now I have to prepare for a court date.”
“I’m with Wayne on this.” I can’t believe I just said that.
Bachman interrupted their protests to say in her most invective tone, “Well, Emory, the sheriff asked for you by name.”
Wayne joined Bachman in glaring at Emory, whose face turned bright red.
About the author
Mystery and science fiction author Mikel J. Wilson received widespread critical praise for his debut novel, Sedona: The Lost Vortex, a science fiction book based on the Northern Arizona town’s legends of energy vortexes and dimensional travel. Wilson now draws on his Southern roots for the Mourning Dove Mysteries, a series of novels featuring bizarre murders in the Smoky Mountains region of Tennessee.
Murder on the Lake of Fire, the first novel in the Mourning Dove Mysteries series, will be available December 1, 2017.