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FALCON’S BEND SERIES BOOK 1: DEGREES OF SEPARATION

(Review written after reading a previously published version)

Book 1
Revised and Reissued!
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural
ISBN 978-1-922066-12-1 (electronic):
978-1-922066-70-1 (trade paperback)

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Blurb:

Who is killing the midnight ladies?

Falcon's Bend is a small, sleepy town in Wisconsin that owns more taverns than churches, but fills both on the appropriate days. Teenagers talk of escape from a one-horse town like Falcon's Bend because nothing ever seems to happen...until one fateful night when a dancer from the town's scandalous strip joint is found strangled. It soon becomes clear to Investigators Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent that the close-knit "family" at the nightclub is a bizarre breeding-ground for unbalanced feelings and obsessions. Pete and Danny race to peel away layers of bitterness before another girl falls victim to the dance of death.

Review:

Yes!  A new series for my collection.

Ms. Wiesner describes her and Ms. Spindler’s new series the following “None of the Falcon’s Bend Series books are cozies.  They’re all Mystery/Police procedurals.  All are whodunnits except….” I’ll keep you in suspense as to the “except.”

I agree completely.  There is something gritty and basic about Falcon’s Bend.  While set in Wisconsin, Falcon’s Bend, isn’t some cliché filled “one-horse town.”  Lieutenant Pete Shasta and his partner Danny Vincent are not bumbling, overly polite, happy go lucky, perfect officers.  They’re cops.  They have a murder (or two) that needs solving and like dogs with old bones they’re not letting go.

They are flawed; they are human.  Pete’s failed first marriage haunts his new marriage…will he get past that Lisa isn’t his first wife.  Lisa understands and supports Pete, she may not like Pete’s long dedicated hours, but she knew this when she married him.  Danny’s the ladies man (a nice guy ladies man, but a ladies man) but when he falls for a suspect, well that just might cause some trouble.

I like Pete and Lisa and the challenges facing them.  Pete and Danny have a presence here, but it's subtle and knowing there's four other books my gut tells me the complexity of the characters will show more as the series moves along.

“Degrees of Separation” surrounds the murder of a stripper.  Nothing unusual or different, right?  Have you ever heard of a men’s club where all the strippers live with their boss and his wife?  That one stripper, Cherry, is the wife’s twin sister?  Why did they all move from Los Angeles to Falcon’s Bend, Wisconsin?  Their parents really named them: Cherry, Teresa (okay this one doesn’t count) Deidre aka Dee (okay same here) Vanessa, Lacey, Sugar, and wife, Melody?  All right, their names might not be that out of it, but come on--they’re all twenty-one?

Boss, Andre Trelawney is guilty of something, but is it murder?

Something strange is going on at the Danse de Minuit.

One character’s abuse history did get to me, pushed my comfort levels, but not enough to turn me against story.  Sadly, it was needed for this character’s realistic development.  Behind every face there’s a story and reason why they are who they are and how the monsters find them.

Did I solve the murder mystery?  Sorta.  Given the quality of writing, I knew Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler wouldn’t throw their readers an out-of-the-blue-unwarranted solution.  However, they offered enough evidence that I could have been wrong.

The ending left me well satisfied.  As the title might suggest to you, “Degrees of Separation,” we’re all linked and our lives change by degrees.  Take a left here; make choice A over B; one misunderstanding and our lives change.  Each solution fit the individual with only the minimum fairy tale ending.  Hey, even a realistic police mystery deserves at least one happy ending.

A potentially strong series that I suspect will have a few surprises.

I’m visiting Falcon’s Bend again and again, but you’ll have to come back for those.

 

 

 

 

TEARS ON STONE: FALCON’S BEND SERIES, BOOK 2

(Review written after reading a previously published version)
Book 2
Revised and Reissued!
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural
ISBN 978-1-922066-20-6 (electronic);
978-1-922066-71-8 (trade paperback)

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Blurb:

Is murder ever justifiable?

Falcon's Bend Police Department Investigator Pete Shasta's brother Jordan is recently divorced and intent on putting his life back together for himself and his daughter. Jordan discovers that people have moved into the house next door to him and one of them is MaryEmma Gold, who'd lived in the house he now owns when he was a boy. Jordan soon finds that his shy "Marigold" has become an even more withdrawn woman. MaryEmma's sister Shelley sleeps all day and parties all night. Seeing bruises all over MaryEmma's arms, Jordan asks his brother to check into her past. Pete and his partner Danny Vincent discover that Shelley's husband died in a fire only a week before they came to Falcon's Bend. The women left their jobs and lives behind abruptly. Meanwhile, Shelley's new boyfriend is found near the dam, bludgeoned to death. As they uncover murder in the form of a conspiracy, Pete and Danny can't help noticing that Shelley Wilson leaves a trail of dead men behind her wherever she goes...and Jordan may be next.

Review:

Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler ask, “Is Murder ever justified?”

I do not know.  After reading, “Tears on Stone” I still do not know.

This time around we visit Lieutenant Pete Shasta’s brother, Jordan.  Jordan’s childhood crush, MaryEmma Gold, is back in town and something is definitely wrong.

MaryEmma has secrets.  Ever since her, her sister, and their mom left Falcon’s Bend MaryEmma has been beaten.  First by her stepfather, then brutally attacked by her brother-in-law.  After their father’s death, school counsellor, Pam Garland became their guardian.  She tried to protect ‘her’ girls, but Shelley (MaryEmma’s sister) was only happy on a man’s arm, any man…the wrong man.

“Tears on Stone” is disturbing.  Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler quietly explore the issue of abuse while putting the spotlight on recognizing and surviving abusive relationships.  But, what happens when one sees abuse around each corner, in every relationship, with every man?

Is there a link between MaryEmma’s and Shelley’s father’s death and the death of Shelley’s husband?  Is there a link between the deaths of known abusers whose wives are members of SOS (Society of Survivors)?  Is Pete’s partner, Danny Vincent, becoming too controlling of his new wife, Melody?

Is murder ever justified?

Reading “Tears on Stone” I felt the underlying pain and new found happiness of the characters.  The lostness of MaryEmma’s niece hurt this mother’s heart.  Do I believe Shelley?  Sadly, I do.  I have known those women who measure themselves successful, happy, worthy only when with a man.

“Tears on Stone” is a part of the Falcon’s Bend series; however, it does not fit the standard mystery series.

“Tears on Stone” is a powerful standalone novel.

 

 

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FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES VOLUME I: (THE EARLY CASES)

(Review written after reading a previously published version)
Revised and Reissued!
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural Novella Collection
978-1-922066-25-1 (electronic);
978-1-922066-69-5 (trade paperback)

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Blurb:

Bugs: A partially digested body is found in the oxidation ditch at the Falcon's Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant. Was it an accident...or is new Falcon's Bend Investigator Pete Shasta facing his first murder?

Fixated: Someone has been following new Falcon's Bend citizen Risa Nitzberg for the past few weeks. Victor Brooks, her neighbor from across the street who's become fixated with Risa from afar, steps in when Risa's creepy stalker decides to get up close and personal.

Broken Wings: Just two months ago, a runaway daughter Keith Pierce never knew he had landed on his doorstep. Seventeen years earlier, Keith Pierce had a brief, intense affair with a woman on the lam. When Keith returns to Kat's hometown of Falcon's Bend to find his daughter's mother, he discovers that Kat disappeared shortly after giving birth to Quinn. Investigator Pete Shasta solves a decade and a half old missing-person case that's about to turn into murder.

Obsessions: A newborn baby is stolen from Falcon’s Bend Community Hospital's maternity ward...and Lt. Pete Shasta’s only lead is to the Liace Adoption Agency, which set up the open adoption of the unmarried mother’s baby. Case Representative Lisa Mercer is as suspicious and defensive as she is beautiful. Pete finds himself breaking the cardinal rule of investigation—never get emotionally involved with anyone even remotely associated with a case. With a kidnapper who seems to believe there’s nothing left to lose and potentially everything to gain, and his own uncontrollable feelings for Lisa, Pete’s about to learn just how dangerous obsessions can be.

Blind Revenge: For the first three years of her life, Lindsay Bronwyn had nightmares about a witch who wanted her eyes. Nineteen years later, those nightmares have come true when she's found murdered on her kitchen floor, her eye sockets empty. Falcon's Bend Investigator Danny Vincent faces the supernatural to get at a chilling flesh and blood truth.

 Review:

I’ve mentioned before that reviewing anthologies, short story collections, or any short story is different and slightly more difficult than reviewing a larger piece. The reason being with less material there’s a greater chance of giving the story and ending away.

Now, less material does not mean less story, less impact, less craft. No, there are times when a short story will pack more punch than any full length novel.

I discovered Falcon’s Bend a few years back through a previous publisher and am glad to see the series thriving and growing. Listed as a Mystery/Police Procedural this series as the feeling of a cozy…coming home to a familiar setting and character-friends. The difference between Falcon’s Bend and cozies is its boldness.

The authors have found a balance of small town closeness and strong edged crime, murder, and mystery. With a touch of the extra…see story Blind Revenge.

Other aspects of collections/series are the similarities within each story. Not that authors copy or repeat themselves, but plot patterns can be found, story rhythms felt as you read each book. Falcon’s Bend doesn’t quite fit this scenario. The main characters follow their established behaviours and so far they haven’t veered off illogically. The plots vary. However, the action centres on the main police characters more than anyone else in Falcon’s Bend. It’s not the community I know, it’s the detectives. Well, the exception might be in the short…Fixated. Here we visit through the other side of the crime.

With this all said and done, the bottom line is…when you’re searching for a solid police character driven mystery, Falcon’s Bend is the place.

For me, it’s been too long and I’m glad to be back. What’s even better is I have a few more books, a few more stories to visit.

 

 

 

THE FIFTEENTH LETTER,
Book 3
Revised and Reissued!
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural
ISBN 978-1-922066-57-2 (electronic);
978-1-922066-72-5 (trade paperback)

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Blurb:

Sins of the father...

For the past fifteen years, on the anniversary of his arrest for armed robbery, Zeke Carfi has received a threatening letter signed by the wife of his deceased partner in crime. Zeke's daughter Amber, Falcon's Bend Police Department's newest patrol officer, has spent fifteen years holding onto a secret that could further condemn the father she'd worshiped as a child. When Zeke is released on parole, Amber finds herself questioning everything she's ever believed. Is Zeke the good man she once knew? How could the father who'd made her the center of his world for the first seven years of her life be a criminal? Is it possible to turn from a life a crime, or is it true that once a criminal always a criminal? Their reconciliation is cut short when Amber discovers the fifteenth letter...and the key to a fifteen-year mystery that could lead to murder.

Review:

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ROMANTIC NOTIONS,
Book 4
Revised and Reissued!
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural
ISBN 978-1-922066-94-7 (electronic);
978-1-922066-95-4 (trade paperback)

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Blurb:

Love--and murder--is in the air.

Falcon's Bend Police Department Patrol Officers Amber Carfi and Warren Jensen are partners on the job, and lovers off-duty. The relationship is so new and fragile, neither of them are willing to come out in the open with it. But sometimes love can't be hidden any more than secrets can be kept... The nude body of a young woman is discovered in her bed, shot through the heart. Lying between her breasts is a single red rose with an exquisite wedding band. Also at the scene of the crime is a chilling quote: "What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil." In order to find the killer, Lieutenants Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent decide to put Amber undercover. Amber's assignment goes from dull to deadly when she discovers a murderer harboring romantic notions...

Review:

 

 

FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES, Volume II
Revised and Reissued!
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural Novella Collection
ISBN 978-1-922066-89-3 (electronic);
978-1-922066-99-2 (trade paperback)

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Blurb:

Murder on the Heartstrings: Lieutenant Pete Shasta takes his lovely wife Lisa on a romantic vacation, promising her no mysteries, no crime, and certainly no murder. But, not long after arriving in the middle of a blizzard that has shut down the entire town below the luxurious inn, a body is found stuffed into a janitor's closet. Lisa's only resort is to join her husband in sleuthing so she can get back to her Valentine's Day agenda.

Flashback: In the midst of planning for the birth of his first child, Lieutenant Danny Vincent is called away because a person missing for seven months has suddenly, and suspiciously, dropped back from out of nowhere. Lucinda Staub was thought to be dead. Now that she's returned, her husband Ryan wants nothing to do with her--even seems afraid of her--insisting she'd bested Old Scratch himself down in the swamp. Lucinda claims to have lost her memory...so how did she know how to get home? And why is she back now?

Double Take: Victor Brooks, celebrated artist and owner of The Brooks Gallery in Falcon's Bend, contacts local police about a missing painting. The very next day, two more pieces of art are stolen. Patrol Officers Amber Carfi and Warren Jensen stake out the gallery, hoping to catch an insatiable thief.

Retribution: The subdivision FBPD investigators Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent live in becomes home to a very hot young mama...and their wives Lisa and Melody aren't too happy about all the men in the neighborhood moonlighting as Peeping Toms. But it isn't until the beautiful young woman disappears, leaving her two young children alone, that Lisa realizes crime is firmly afoot.

Up In Smoke: Lieutenant Pete Shasta is struggling to find the perfect Christmas gift for his perfect wife. His agonizing is interrupted when FBPD Dispatch receives a call from the neighbor of a local Christmas tree farm--which has just burned to the ground. Owner Mitchell Ferrara is officially out of business for the holiday season. But was the fire an accident...or the means to cover up evidence of a crime?

Ghost of the Past: After an exhausting day, patrol officer Amber Carfi is looking forward to dinner and going home to the love of her life, Warren Jensen, who's been acting strange and secretive lately. When she stops at a local restaurant for take-out, she's surprised when a woman at the counter pushes a note written on a napkin over to her. The hastily scrawled correspondence says that someone has been following her all day and he’s now in the restaurant. Sixteen years earlier, Ericka Callister gave birth to a baby she didn't want. Young and scared, she wrapped the baby in a pillowcase, then threw him into a dumpster before fleeing. She's about to discover the hard way that mistakes have a way of haunting the guilty no matter how far they run and no matter where they hide.

 

Review:

 

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AS PATIENT AS DEATH,
Book 5
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural
ISBN: 978-1-925191-01-1 (electronic);
978-1-925191-06-6 (trade paperback)

Available now from Writers Exchange E-Publishing
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Blurb:

Until death do us part…

Lisa and Falcon’s Bend Police Department Detective Pete Shasta are enjoying roles as Mommy and Daddy to their adopted baby boy. Despite the radical adjustment, they’ve never been happier or more fulfilled as individuals and as a couple. Seeing the contrast of her own marriage and that of her neighbor’s, Lisa can’t help sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong—and not for the first time…

Sweet, ever-hopeful Eva has suffered the ravages of cancer for most of her life. Just after she was diagnosed with recurrent cancer, she met Jerome Boca and he’d swept her off her feet in a whirlwind romance with a fairytale wedding to follow. A little more than a year ago, the newlyweds moved into the subdivision Lisa and Pete reside in Falcon’s Bend. Eva believes in being a submissive wife to her husband and Jerome is Mr. Charming—to the point that Lisa doesn’t trust him one little bit, especially when Eva opens up to her and admits he’s not everything they’ve both portrayed him to be. Lisa knows there’s something criminal going on, but Pete refuses to get involved in private domestic matters. In her own sleuthing, Lisa discovers that, not only has Jerome taken out an immense life insurance policy on his dying wife, but he’s been married twice before…in both cases, to terminally ill women. But that’s only the beginning of Lisa’s fears. Unexpectedly, Eva gets the good news that she’s in remission. Will a man who’s been as patient as death with his wife’s suffering become a killer when the goal he’d been waiting to be realized is thwarted?

Review:

 

PRETTY FLY,
Book 6
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural/Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 978-1-925191-37-0 (electronic);
978-1-925191-58-5 (trade paperback)

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Blurb:

Will you walk in, pretty fly…and will you walk out once you’re trapped inside the spider’s lair?

Shayna Vincent returns home to Falcon’s Bend after her romance turns disastrous. When she and Gage Keveris became a creative design team at the prestigious Bethany Advertising Agency, she’d had no idea he was married to a career-ambitious woman who traveled more often than she came home. Over the last year and half, Shayna found herself falling in love with her partner and friend without a clue what he was hiding. Now that she knows the truth, she can’t bear the pain of being near him when they can’t be together.

While staying with her little brother Danny, a Falcon’s Bend Police Department detective, she meets up with an old crush from high school. Shawn Futrell has been widowed twice, his third wife is missing, and he’s the father of a sixteen-year-old from his first marriage. When Danny finds out his vulnerable sibling has been in contact with Futrell, he tries to put a stop to it by telling her that Shawn’s wives’ deaths were more than a little suspicious—regardless of whether or not the police have been able to find any evidence to pin on him.

But bad boy Shawn is still movie-star gorgeous, and Shayna can’t stop recalling how besotted she was with him as an impressionable teenage girl—one Shawn never took seriously back then but seems intent on making up for lost time now. What pretty fly could resist the invitation of such a seductive spider?

Review:

 

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FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES, Volume III
by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Mystery/Police Procedural Novella Collection
ISBN: coming soon (electronic);
coming soon (trade paperback)

Coming October 2018 in paperback and download
from Writers Exchange E-Publishing

Blurb:

First Sight: Patrol Officer Amber Carfi and her partner on and off the Falcon’s Bend Police Department, Warren Jensen, are facing some major life changes. They eloped a month ago, and Amber's not keen on telling her father why she'd deprived him of being present for the event--namely that she was tired of the heated “nuptials” competition with her father’s bride-to-be Cora. Additionally, following an on-the-job injury that’s left him unable to do his work properly, Warren is retiring early from the force. On this, his last day on the job, Amber and Warren are called to the Falcon's Bend High School. Sloane Oligney and high school math teacher Chad Martin (from “Blind Revenge”) are two of the unfortunate hostages of a troubled, violently dangerous student "JZ" who blames Sloane for his girlfriend Laura breaking up with him.

Sloane's daughter Laura is the picture of popularity--good grades and a cheerleader. She'd been tutoring JZ this school year and flirting with him, not realizing how much he's fallen in love with her until it's too late. Laura uses her mother as a convenient excuse to end any potential romance when JZ tells her how he feels. But a furiously angry JZ won't let it end at that, not when he discovers that Mr. Martin has asked Sloane to speak at their Careers class.

Sloane has been blind since birth but she hasn't let her disability slow her down. She's an inspiration to those around her. Still, the one mistake she believes she'd made was falling in love with the wrong person. While Laura came out of that ill-advised union and her daughter has been the best kind of blessing, she doesn't believe in "love at first sight"--certainly not the ungrounded type JZ is convinced he holds for her daughter. Nevertheless, when Sloane hears Chad’s voice as he talks her down and helps her through their precarious situation, she wonders if “love at first sound” is possible…and whether they’ll make it out alive to find out for sure.

Identity: With his own adopted young son to guide him, Falcon's Bend Police Department Investigator Pete Shasta has been working on a relationship with both of his parents after their traumatizing divorce during his childhood. They’re closer than ever before when his father is diagnosed with end-stage cancer. Pete and his brother Jordan know for sure that their younger sister Crystal, whom they’d all lost touch with years ago, should be here with them. When Pete’s own investigation into her whereabouts comes up empty, they hire a private detective to find her. Unfortunately, by the time she’s located, it’s too late. Their father is gone, leaving an immense inheritance for all of them to share. But their sister is no longer the girl any of them remember, proving the hard lessons Pete’s been learning of late: that a person’s identity changes as they get older and priorities shift for better or worse. But is his sister’s homecoming too little, too late…in more ways than one?

Cupid’s Romance: Falcon's Bend Police Department Investigator Danny Vincent is always wary when his partner Pete leaves town for any reason. In the past, he’s gotten some of the strangest cases when he’s on his own, and, after Pete and Lisa take leave to receive the newborn baby they're adopting, Danny and his temporary partner, Patrol Officer Amber Carfi get a doozy. Dispatch takes a call from a separated-and-on-the-verge-of-divorce newlywed, complaining of a stalker, and Danny's bad premonition gets worse. Rye Iverson doesn't know the person following him, watching his house, sending him strange little notes signed “Cupid” that insist in no uncertain terms that the Iversons continue the happily-ever-after brought about by the winged messenger of love with its Golden Arrow. Does Rye Iverson know much more than he's divulging?

Out of Mind: Out of sight is not out of mind for Falcon’s Bend Patrol Officer Amber Carfi, who’s long-time partner and new husband has retired and she’d not sure what to make of his replacement, Fergie Giles. She knows the chief was pressured into hiring a woman, and she can’t see any other reason why the defensive, closed-book Fergie would have been hired…until they get a case of a woman who insists she's being pursued by her childhood kidnapper. Hailing from Minnesota, Molly Keane is found hiding on a farm in rural Falcon's Bend and is admitted to the hospital. Though the woman insists she's running from the same kidnapper who tried to take her as a child and her journal gives a vague description of the person in question, Amber and Fergie can’t find hide nor hair of the perpetrator. The woman's father tells them this event is fabricated in Molly's very confused head. Since she was five years old and fell down a steep case of stairs, hitting her head and causing a violent concussion, she's suffered from anterograde amnesia and her brain can't form any new memories for longer than 24 hours. The only thing she seems to remember is a kidnapping that never took place. Just as abruptly as she'd been discovered hiding, Molly disappears again. Amber and her new partner, who suddenly has a lot to say, begin to piece together the fifteen-year-old tragedy of a child who may never escape her trauma.

Lonely Hearts: Lisa, wife of FBPD investigator Pete Shasta, is trying her hardest to avoid mystery in her very full, busy life. But when her sister-in-law confides her worries about her sister Shelley Wilson, who’s had nothing but bad luck with men and has all but abandoned her daughter, Lisa also becomes worried and then downright concerned about Shelley's involvement in a “lonely hearts” support group, where she falls in love with a man accused of fraud and murder. Is Shelley again a victim or an accessory to organized crime?

Assassin: FBPD investigators Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent have prayed mightily to have seen the last of FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Lock. But when he shows up in Falcon’s Bend at Christmas-time, they find themselves involved whether they like it or not. A pseudo Christian doomsday cult believes that the World Wide Web is evil. They’ve set up multiple cells around the world focused on bringing down the internet beast. According to Robert, their ringleader is the most unlikely terrorist in the world—a mouse of a man who actually runs his own successful internet business in Falcon’s Bend. Robert is determined to destroy the cult from the inside out…to protect his wife Azure, the daughter of the FBI’s Associate Deputy Director, who's not only involved in the cult but has been sent to prove her loyalty to them by killing him…

Status of this book: Research and outlines complete; planning to write in April-June 2017, revise in August 2017, and polish in October 2017.