Title: Empty Handed
Author: Jo A. Hiestand
Genre: British Mystery
One dark night artist Craig Saxton went missing from his village. His body was found thirty-two hours later in the river, floating like a bobber on a fishing line.
Rumors swell like tidal waves: did his ex-wife or his fiancée’s father kill this likeable young man? Or was it simply a case of jealousy by the village’s other artist? Now, two years later, Craig’s fiancée hopes ex-police detective Michael McLaren can find out.
From speaking to villagers, McLaren quickly realizes that what appears to be a straightforward investigation is fast becoming as tangled as fishing lines. Are the fish poaching incidents, the reappearance of the local ghost, and assaults on him merely to muddy the investigative waters, or are they connected to Craig’s death?
McLaren has his hands full. They become even fuller when a nemesis from his past appears one night, bent on revenge. And the inevitable struggle opens a new future for one man…and leaves the other empty handed.
Charlie Harvester sat in his car, consciously controlling his breathing. He’d made it to Linnden in good time, it taking just under a half hour from his house. Fortune or the gods were smiling on him, for he’d found a place to park along the village’s main road, between a light cross-country lorry and a Range Rover. Bookending them were a Toyota Previa and a Ford Tourneo Courier. No one would notice his little Ka.
He’d arrived slightly ahead of McLaren and had sat there, fearing that today of all days McLaren wouldn’t show up. But seven minutes later McLaren arrived. Harvester scrunched down in his seat. It was habit, now, from spying on McLaren’s house and keeping obbo the other day in the village.
Harvester watched McLaren as he parked under a tree, exited his car and walked toward the bridge. His heart rate jumped. He was getting in a muck sweat, now that he could practically smell victory. Besides, it was now nine minutes since McLaren had walked over the bridge. He took a deep breath, and mumbled a prayer.
He got out of his car, grabbed his torch and the piece of wire, and strolled toward the bridge. It was time to see what McLaren was doing on the other side of the river.
* * *
McLaren stood in the doorway of the fishing cottage, the beam of his torch sweeping over the building’s interior. Nothing had changed since his last visit—at least not that he could tell. The chair and table were still there and, judging by the lack of scuffs and footprints on the floor, hadn’t moved in the interim. The wooden cask crouched along the wall. All looked unvisited, which was good.
He walked over to the cask and shone the light inside. The white material was gone. He couldn’t prove what he’d found earlier. Neither could he prove the torn bit of fabric caught by the thistle was just that: left there by the ghost instead of him ripping a piece from the fabric at the house. He could say anything he liked about where and when he found the two lengths of material, but he couldn’t prove it. Still, the fabrics could probably be forensically linked as coming from the same bolt of cloth or mill, or sport her DNA, so perhaps she’d stop her foolishness.
He stepped outside. As before, the cottage door wouldn’t close completely. He didn’t struggle with it. The elements and animals could hardly damage the contents much more than had already occurred. He angled the torchlight ahead, toward the path, and headed toward it.
The trees seemed to jump out of the night as the torch’s beam panned over them and the path. The river babbled as it always did, seemingly content and unconcerned about McLaren’s errand. But he was concerned about Tanya’s ghost fabric. He had no idea who to approach first, but logic told him to talk to Jamie.
He was a dozen yards or so from the fishing cottage, heading back to the bridge, when a branch snapped. McLaren halted, shining his light in the direction of the sound. He hesitated, wondering if an animal had stepped on the dry wood, but some sense told him an animal would have to be very large to accomplish that. He shielded the light from his eyes. “Anyone there? Do you need help?”
Silence greeted him.
He waited another few seconds, then continued on.
A loud thud froze him mid-stride and he turned toward the river. “Hello? Are you injured?”
This time a voice answered. It was downstream, closer to the bridge. “Not I, Mate, but you will be.”
McLaren held his torch out, moving the light over the area. “Sorry?”
“What are you, hard of hearing, McLaren?”
The voice was low, barely audible above the splashing river, yet McLaren had no trouble hearing it. Neither did he mistake the edge to the words. Or the speaker. Charlie Harvester.
McLaren’s heartbeat pounded in his throat. The man was standing in the dark wood, no torchlight illuminating his path. The conclusion was obvious. McLaren took a step forward, lowering the light. “Harvester. What do you want?”
A laugh answered him. “Good evening to you, too. I’m more convivial than you…which is just another example of your inferiority. But you asked what I want. All right, I’ll get to the crux of the matter. I want you dead.”
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What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
I can’t remember which one, but it was one of the P.G. Wodehouse novels featuring Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. Wodehouse’s verbs are hysterical, and of course the problems that Bertie gets into are mind boggling. I couldn’t get enough of Wodehouse, so I bought a huge omnibus of a dozen novels and read through them in about a week. They still are one of my favorites.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
If you like my ex-police detective character McLaren, I think you’ll like this book. He deals with his old nemesis, Charlie Harvester, while trying to solve a cold case of murder. I have alternating chapters of the story told from McLaren’s point of view and then Harvester’s. I think that’s interesting, and one I haven’t used before. Also, the ending is rather dramatic.
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Runs August 1 – 31
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Jo A. Hiestand grew up on regular doses of music, books, and Girl Scout camping. She gravitated toward writing in her post-high school years and finally did something sensible about it, graduating from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. She writes a British mystery series—of which two books have garnered the prestigious N.N. Light’s Book Heaven ‘Best Mystery Novel’ two years straight. She also writes two Missouri-based mystery series that are grounded in places associated with her camping haunts. The camping is a thing of the past, for the most part, but the music stayed with her in the form of playing guitar and harpsichord and singing in a folk group. Jo carves jack o’ lanterns badly; sings loudly; and loves barbecue sauce and ice cream (separately, not together), kilts (especially if men wear them), clouds and stormy skies, and G.F. Handel. You can usually find her pulling mystery plots out of scenery—whether photographs or the real thing.
Social Media Links:
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