Book Title: Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas
Book Genre: Mystery (north of cozy, south of noir)
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Synopsis: These four novellas capture the unique aspects of the Lowcountry with stories incorporating Charleston high life and Savannah low life, island vacations and life on a boat. You’ll be treated to thieves doing good and rapscallions doing bad, loves won and loves lost, family relations providing wonderful support and life after divorce.
From “Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming” – Tina Whittle
I jogged over to Rico. “What are you doing here?”
Rico looked nervous, like something was sneaking up on him. He didn’t enjoy cemeteries—his Geechee great-grandmother had seen to that. Thanks to her, he wouldn’t eat red food cooked by a stranger or give shoes to any guy he was dating. And he didn’t truck with the dead.
“Your boss has been trying to get you. He said you’re not answering your cell.”
I folded my arms. “The battery died, so I left the damn thing back on the bus to recharge. Just because he’s too cheap to upgrade—”
There was something in his voice. “Uh oh. What’s happened?”
“It’s your cousin Derrick. He’s in the hospital.”
“You mean Derrick Burns?”
“Yeah. He’s in the ICU. And you have to go.”
I was a little dumbfounded. Derrick “Bolt” Burns was a distant cousin in some way I couldn’t track thanks to my mother’s pruning of the family tree. I hadn’t seen him in years, but I read the papers. He’d had trouble recently, the kind that ended in handcuffs, though I also knew the charges had been dropped. None of this explained why Rico was standing in front of me talking about hospitals.
I shook my head. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why me?”
“Apparently you’re his emergency contact, so it being an emergency, they tried to contact you. At the tour shop. And you weren’t there, so your boss called your cell, but you didn’t answer, so he called your roommate, what’s her name—”
“Yeah. That girl is unstable. You need to ditch her and find a new roommate, like yesterday.”
He glowered. “The misnamed Hope woke me up and yelled at me to go find you, like it was my fault you were unreachable.”
Rico and Hope had gotten along like struck matches and gasoline. This was entirely unsurprising. But I suddenly had a bigger problem.
From “The Last Heist” – Polly Iyer
He ordered a Sam Adams with the Friday special—meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans—then picked up the Post and Courier someone had left on the table. The photo of South American president Carlos Ramirez at a gala last night in New York covered the front page. But it was his wife’s diamond necklace that caught Paul’s attention. The center stone had to be close to twenty carats, and the surrounding diamonds were nothing to sneeze at. He’d seen photos of the exquisite gems before, but now they’d be in Charleston.
Diamonds were easily transportable, consistently valuable, and highly saleable if you knew how to steal them and where to sell them. Paul did.
What he wouldn’t give to get his hands on those stones.
He’d have them plucked from the setting and sold as soon as they cooled down.
Ramirez was coming to the city for a trade conference with state and local leadership. Politics sure made strange bedfellows. No surprise there. Paul read further. What a nerve. The guy was passing himself off as the savior of his country.
Savior, my foot.
Paul was basically apolitical, but it didn’t take a political junkie to know that Ramirez had padded his pockets with the profits from cocaine and oil production. His police forces—or gestapo might be a better word—suppressed any opposition at the many protests around his country. In recent weeks, scores had been hurt or killed.
Ramirez’s itinerary left little time to breathe. He and his party would arrive tomorrow morning for a two-day stay at the Oceanview Inn, the most exclusive hotel in the city. The agenda began with a twelve-thirty lunch at his country’s consulate, the conference at three, and in the evening, Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce was hosting a formal dinner at the Mills House. Sunday, some big business types had arranged a tour of the area with informal talks to discuss mutual trade opportunities. Clearly, it was okay to do business with tyrants these days.
A shiver of excitement passed through Paul. He’d never pulled any jewel heists locally or in the state, confining his activities mainly to Europe. But these diamonds were worth the risk of breaking his rules. Nothing like the thought of a heist to get the adrenaline surging.
From “Blue Nude” – Jonathan M. Bryant
He sat down and yanked off his cap, worried it in his hands.
“Can I buy you a beer?”
“Brad,” he said. “The police came by the marina.”
The waitress brought my next beer, and I pushed it over to Sam.
If he’d driven all the way down here, he must be worried. “You look like you need that,” I slapped him on the back to lighten the mood. “I can recommend a good lawyer, if you need one. What nonsense did you get yourself into now?”
“Listen, this is serious stuff.” He lifted the beer and took a sip, appraising me over the lip of the mug. “You’ve heard about Judy?”
“Judy? Police? What are you talking about?”
“She’s missing, Brad. Judy’s just plain missing, been gone since March. Almost four weeks. The police asked me all kinds of questions about her and you. Did you two still see each other? Did she cheat on you? Did you cheat on her? They especially wanted to know if you held any grudges.”
“Grudges?” I said. “Hell, every divorced man holds grudges against his ex-wife.”
“Yeah, but they were talking like you’d done something to her. You know, asking me if you were violent, did you own a gun, had I ever seen you lose your temper, ever known you to steal? Stuff like that.”
“Four weeks missing,” I mused. “That’s just about when I saw you last.”
“I’m sorry. I told them that before I knew what they were after. They asked where you were now. All I told ’em was you lived on a sailboat, and that your boat could be anywhere along the coast. You came and went, didn’t have a cell phone. You might even be in the Bahamas, I said. As soon as I could, I drove down to find you.”
From “Low Tide at Tybee” – James M. Jackson
The day we saw the thief was a Monday. Because it was March, Tybee wasn’t crowded even on a cloudless day with temperatures well into the seventies. Water temperature was still fifteen degrees cooler: not a problem for a kid Megan’s age, a month and a half past her sixth birthday, but darn nippy for an old fart like me. Megan and I had been wading for more than an hour through pools of water left behind after the tide pulled the ocean away from the shore. My feet had become so cold they were numb.
While Megan chased a group of sanderlings across the flats, mimicking both their frenetic steps and their halts to probe the sand for treasures, I used binoculars to spy on a dozen brown pelicans settled on a sandbar south of us. As though an unseen coach blew his whistle, they sprang into the air and glided north in a line, remaining no more than two feet above the water. An occasional lazy wingbeat propelled their glide.
Megan tugged at my shorts. I leaned down and caught the unique scent of suntan lotion.
“Grampa Seamus? I need to tinkle.”
I smiled at the lilt in her voice that put a question mark after my name. As a youngster, she had struggled to say it correctly, pronouncing it Say-mus. Now her perfect Shay-mus would make any Irishman proud, especially one like me, born and bred in Boston.
It had only been fifteen minutes since the last time she “really had to go,” and we were to meet my mother at the car in twenty minutes. If I could convince Megan to use a blue porta potty we’d pass on the way to the car, I could leave the cold water and warm my feet on the beach sand. “It’s time to leave anyway. Can you hold it until we walk back to the car, or—”
She vehemently shook her head and pointed to the ocean. “Now!” She dramatically crossed her legs to prove how desperate the situation was and contorted her face into a pout.
Jonathan M. Bryant is an award-winning historian of American law. His most recent book, Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize. For more than forty years, Dr. Bryant has been fascinated by and enjoyed the Georgia coast. He lives near Savannah, Ga. Check out his work at jonathanmbryant.com
Polly Iyer is the Amazon bestselling author of eight books of suspense. A former illustrator, importer, and storeowner, she embarked on her fourth, and last, career as an author, giving her carte blanche to spin her fantasies into novels of excitement and romance. Her novels include Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Kindle Scout winner Indiscretion, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series: Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash, with a fourth book coming in 2017. Visit Polly’s website at http://PollyIyer.com, and you can read her blogs monthly on The Blood Red Pencil
James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series: Ant Farm, Bad Policy, Cabin Fever, Doubtful Relations, and Empty Promises (2017). Jim has also published an acclaimed book on contract bridge, One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge, as well as numerous short stories and essays. He splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the open spaces of Georgia’s Lowcountry. You can find more information about Jim and his writing, read his blog My Two Cents Worth (Before Inflation), or sign up for his newsletter, at http://jamesmjackson.com.
Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver mysteries—featuring intrepid gunshop owner Tai and her corporate security agent partner Trey—have garnered starred reviews in Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Published by Poisoned Pen Press, this Atlanta-based series debuted with The Dangerous Edge of Things in 2011; the fifth book—Reckoning and Ruin—was released in April 2016. A two-time nominee for Georgia Author of the Year, Tina enjoys boxing, sushi, tarot cards, and spending time with her family (one husband, one daughter, one neurotic Maltese and two bossy chickens). She is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and serves as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories.