Orion’s Foot: Myth, Mystery, & Romance.. by @msspencerauthor is a Trick or Treat pick #cozy #romance
Title: Orion’s Foot: Myth, Mystery, & Romance in the Amazon
Author: M. S. Spencer
Genre: Romantic Suspense/Cozy Mystery
Petra Steele has just been left the altar when her brother Nick invites her to come to the Peruvian Amazon. Before she even sets her suitcase down, she's confronted with a dead body. Mystery piles on mystery in a research station peopled with a quirky assortment of scientists. She is drawn to Emory Andrews, the ornithologist, a gruff man with a secret past. Together, they encounter monsters and unravel mysteries, all in the deeply romantic, sizzling jungle.
Death of the Doctor
The two strode up the steps after Winston, Petra barely having time to take in the tapirs—large gray animals resembling baby hippos—grazing on the bank, and the blue-and-yellow macaws infesting a huge kapok tree in the center of the yard. She almost stepped on a toucan pacing the top step.
Winston swept the bird aside. “Get out of the way, Molly. Stupid bird.”
He led them into a small lobby and down one of the covered walkways to a second building. Petra glimpsed a modern laboratory through one door. Winston stopped at the next room. It was filled with men. They sidled in. Nick put a hand on the shoulder of one young fellow, a blond whose pink face was covered in freckles. “Alex?”
Alex pointed to a man with a crewcut and heavy five-o’clock shadow who knelt by a figure lying on the bed. “Aguirre brought him inside.” The man looked up, his eyes red-rimmed. “It’s Lewis.”
Nick whispered, “It’s Lewis Gordon, the doctor.”
Petra looked over his shoulder and sucked in a ragged breath. There wasn’t much left of the man. His cheeks had been torn off, leaving bloody hollows. One arm was gone, and his stomach ripped open. Whatever had done this had taken—eaten?—the organs, so the cavity was almost clean.
“He didn’t die in here, did he?”
“No.” Winston spoke behind them. “I pulled him from the river. Many, many piranhas feeding.”
Nick shook his head. “Piranhas don’t usually kill humans.”
Now he tells me.
“No. They are carrion feeders. Mr. Lewis—he already dead when they started on him.”
He shrugged. “Maybe jaguar. Maybe caiman.”
Alex spoke up. “Not a caiman.”
He must be the herpetologist.
A tall, powerful-looking man who had been standing silently at the foot of the bed added, “Nor a jaguar. Either one would have dragged the corpse away to feed on at its leisure.”
Nick turned to him. “Then it’s a good thing I asked my sister to join us, Emory. This is Petra Steele. She’s a reference librarian—one of the best.”
The man nodded absently.
Under the circumstances, Petra didn’t expect her presence to be paid much attention.
On the other hand, her brother seemed to feel the need for additional clarification. “I thought, since we all have such diverse backgrounds, she can pull different disciplines together and help in our research.”
Emory tore his eyes from the corpse and looked her up and down. Something—interest?—gleamed in his eyes but was quickly snuffed out. “Okay, Miss Steele. You can start by finding out what eats human organs and cleans up after itself.”
There was a commotion at the door. Winston made room for a pudgy fellow of about sixty, whose skin had obviously not felt the sun in years. He wore crackling new safari gear and flip-flops. He approached the bed. “We’ve got to get him out of here.”
Everyone goggled. “What on earth do you mean, John?”
“We can’t have anyone find him at the lodge.”
“Are you saying you want to hide him?”
“How do you propose to move him?”
The questions gradually died down, and they were staring blankly at the corpse when Petra decided to take charge. “First things first. Are any of you doctors?”
No one answered. Finally, the tall man named Emory said, “Lewis was the doctor.”
“Then we need to call one.”
A short man in a khaki uniform came in. “Miss Steele? I have put your suitcase in your room. I can escort you there if you like.” His flattened, dark features identified him as a local native, but unlike Winston, he spoke perfect English. His diction indicated a university education.
Nick interrupted impatiently. “Never mind that now, Hector. We need a doctor.”
“The closest doctor is in Nauta. I can radio him.”
The pudgy man named John intervened. “No! We don’t want any bad press, Hector.”
Emory huffed. “Don’t be absurd. How’s it going to hurt the institute? Lewis was killed by some kind of predator. It’s not our fault.”
Institute? Oh yes, the Institute for Tropical Research.
John inspected the body. “You sure it was an animal that killed him?”
Alex cried, “What else could it be? We’re way out here in the sticks. You think some random killer is wandering around knocking people off?”
The older man scratched his head. “I dunno. Could be one of those native ritual executions…or maybe the…you know.” He gave Petra a sly glance. “I mean, look at his gut.”
Hector made a garbled sound. Emory put up a hand. “Ribereños aren’t cannibals, last I checked. But we should probably call the police as well.” He pulled out a cell phone and tapped it. “It’s not working.”
Alex did the same. “Neither is mine.”
John started to speak, but Nick interrupted. “You need a special chip for the signal to work out here in the jungle. Here, I have—” He patted his pockets. “Now, where…?”
“We all have the cards.” Emory began to fiddle with his phone. “It should still be good. I—”
Aguirre rose from his knees. “Never mind, John’s right. We can’t afford any attention. Not now…” He stopped. For the first time, he seemed to focus on Petra. “Who are you?”
Nick laid a protective hand on her shoulder. “Maybe you weren’t listening, Tramposo. This is my sister Petra. I asked her to come help with the…research.”
Tramposo took a step toward Nick. “You told her?”
“Not everything, but we’ll need her skills. Until Ffoulkes gets here, we’ve got what—me, a photographer, and you”—he pointed at Emory—“an ornithologist. Alex is a herpetologist, Aguirre only knows plants, and John here is…” The words were clear if unspoken. Of no use at all.
Hector fidgeted. “Then what do you want me to do?”
The others faced the body on the bed. At that moment, a bell sounded. “It’ll have to wait.”
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If you could dress up as anything or anyone this Halloween, what or who would it be and why?
The Mapinguari, of course. This is the Amazon equivalent of Bigfoot—a huge hairy monster that walks upright and has a hole in its stomach into which it sucks the unwary native. It is thought to be an ethnic memory of the real land sloth that lived in the Americas as late as the 2nd millennium BC. I suppose I could use the stomach cavity to hold my treats 😊.
Explain why your featured book is a treat to read:
An exotic locale, a band of quirky scientists, strange creatures—both mythical and real—make for high adventure. Add to that a slow-moving, passionate romance and a high likelihood of murder, and you have a great read for a dark Halloween night.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Canada account to win.
Runs October 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on November 1.
Librarian, anthropologist, research assistant, Congressional aide, speechwriter, nonprofit director—M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents and holds degrees in Anthropology, Middle East Studies, and Library Science. She has published fourteen romantic suspense and mystery novels and has three more in the works. She has two children, an exuberant granddaughter, and currently divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
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