Book Review for DEADLY ADAGIO by Carole Howard

Title: Deadly Adagio
Author: Carole Howard
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1938101373

Deadly Adagio
by Carole Howard

Book review by S. M. Senden

A violin string becomes a deadly weapon in this haunting mystery set against the backdrop of Senegal. Carole Howard leads us into her tightly plotted story immersing us into the deeper social issues of western Africa as Emily, the main character unravels the death of her friend Margaret. This is a thrill ride riveting your senses leaving the reader gasping for breath up until the end.

S. M. Senden was raised in Winnetka, a north shore suburb of Chicago. From an early age reading and writing were passions as was travel. Senden has studied, lived and worked in the USA, Europe, the Mid-East and Africa, spending a number of years as an archaeological illustrator for various expeditions. S. M. Senden earned a Masters Degree and has studied creative writing, play writing and screenwriting.

Senden is the author of Clara’s Wish, Lethal Boundaries, and Murder at the Johnson and a number of ghost stories in various magazines.

Book Review for INDIAN SUMMER by Dellani Oakes

Title: Indian Summer
Author: Dellani Oakes
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing
Genre: Historical romance
ISBN: 978-1935171102
Indian Summer

Indian Summer
by Dellani Oakes

Book review by S. M. Senden

I appreciate a well researched story that not only teaches me something about the era, but more importantly takes me along and immerses me deep into the era with sights, sounds and smells that touch my senses. Dellani Oakes has done this quite successfully in Indian Summer a story of love lost and won, betrayal and coming of age in St. Augustine. Her characters are rich and have depth. I will be reading more of her books!

S. M. Senden was raised in Winnetka, a north shore suburb of Chicago. From an early age reading and writing were passions as was travel. Senden has studied, lived and worked in the USA, Europe, the Mid-East and Africa, spending a number of years as an archaeological illustrator for various expeditions. S. M. Senden earned a Masters Degree and has studied creative writing, play writing and screenwriting.

Senden is the author of Clara’s Wish, Lethal Boundaries, and Murder at the Johnson and a number of ghost stories in various magazines.

Excerpt From “Crescendo” by Deborah J Ledford

cres_137x212One murdered woman.
A missing child.
The diabolic father who will do anything to get his son back.
The female cop who risks everything to keep the boy safe.

CRESCENDO– Redemption with a bullet

As the only female Native American officer on the Bryson City, North Carolina police force, Inola Walela, must always play her A game. All bets are off when during a routine traffic stop the passenger insists her son has been kidnapped but is struck by a car before Inola can glean any hard facts. An altercation ensues and Inola’s partner is felled by a bullet—possibly from her gun. On administrative leave, fraught with guilt for allegedly killing her partner, and obsessed with the possibility of a missing child out there somewhere, she defies the force and her fiancé, Sheriff Steven Hawk. Inola sets off on her own journey to find the missing boy.


Breath catching in her throat, Inola rose to her knees. She winced as more tires screeched. Metal scraping metal added to the cacophony of noise and confusion. “Jesus,” she muttered, taking in the scene: the woman face down on the highway, arms and legs splayed, blonde hair covering her face.

“Inola!” Cody screamed.

She whirled to see her partner struggling with the driver. One handcuff was secured to the offender’s wrist, but the other swayed loose. The two men battled for Cody’s weapon.

A single gunshot split the air.

Inola jumped to her feet, drew her pistol, took a Weaver’s stance and fired. The driver’s mouth opened and closed as he uttered a deep guttural moan.

Inola ran, feeling as though she glided above the roadway. She kept her Glock trained on the driver. He shuddered. Gasped. His body went limp and dropped to a sitting position against the cruiser’s bumper. She kicked Cody’s gun from the driver’s hand and holstered her weapon.

Hand to his neck, Cody grinned shakily and croaked, “Nice shot, partner.” A trail of blood fell downward. Crimson puddled on the white line of the road. Cody emitted an odd gurgle and slid down the cruiser’s grille to plop beside the driver.

It took a moment for Inola to realize the blood wasn’t coming from the prisoner. Thick claret seeped through Cody’s fingers, staining the neck of his uniform and T-shirt, dropping to his hands in his lap.

Fingers shaking, Inola fumbled for the mic on her shoulder. “Officer down! Officer down! This is unit five-one-eleven. Three down. I need three busses.” She strangled a sob. Fury and terror took over all capacity of reasoning. “My partner’s been shot! Officer eleven-seven-four is down. Please…please help me!”

She dropped to her knees and reached out to stanch the flow streaming from Cody’s neck. “Hold on, partner. Medics are on the way.”

“Gave…up,” Cody stuttered. His eyes locked on Inola’s and then he lowered his head.

She followed his gaze to something clenched in his hand. Cody waved a credit card-sized piece of plastic between his fingers.


Inola’s stomach lurched as she took the slick, sticky card. Cody coughed and frothy blood bubbled from his lips. She gathered her partner in her arms and rocked him. “No, Cody. Dammit, don’t give up. Please! Please. Don’t give up.”

Hot wetness soaked the front of her uniform. She clamped a hand over his pulsating wound. His blood oozed between her fingers. Praying for the ambulance and backup to arrive, she glanced around. Her body convulsed as she took in the accident scene that resembled a disaster movie more than a real-life scenario. Cars were parked in a line along the exit ramp to her right. Gridlocked vehicles clogged each lane of traffic, stunned citizens stood a safe distance away. The ashen atmosphere muted every color as fat snowflakes fluttered from the sky.

The sound of footfalls alerted her that danger still loomed. She eased Cody to the ground, slid her Glock from its holster, pivoted toward shuffling steps.

A man approached, a woman’s limp body draped in his arms, blonde hair streaming downward, the hem of her flowered dress skimming the pavement.

Inola assessed the situation—Cody, the lifeless driver, the woman, the stranger. She was about to yell out to put the woman down. Didn’t he realize he had just tainted the scene by moving her? But the look of horror on his face stopped her protest.

“I didn’t mean to hit her.” He lowered to his knees and laid the woman at Inola’s feet. “Please, can you help her? I think she’s dying.”

Inola eased her hand out and carefully swept aside the veil of hair. Her stomach lurched at the sight of the right side of the victim’s head, flatter than it should be. She placed a shaking hand to the white as porcelain neck. No beat pulsated under her fingertips. “I’m sorry,” she told the man.

His shoulders slumped as he mumbled a few words Inola could not decipher.

She wrenched away and hurried back to Cody, pulled him to her lap and resumed clutching his neck. Although the blood had slowed, it continued a thick path and she worried he would bleed out right there in her arms.

“Cody, open your eyes, partner. I need you to stay awake until the medics get here.”

He didn’t stir. Sirens wailed, growing louder with each beat of Inola’s racing heart. Feeling every bystander’s eyes on her, she settled her gaze on the only person who could possibly understand the magnitude of what had occurred—who, too, would suffer the consequences of this unforeseen catastrophe—the man who had also killed someone that day.


Deborah_J_Ledford-114x160Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel of suspense, CRESCENDO, is book three of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series. Other novels include SNARE, Finalist for The Hillerman Sky Award and the NM-AZ Book Awards, and the classical-music themed STACCATO. Deborah is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and her award-winning short stories appear in numerous print publications as well as literary and mystery anthologies. Part Eastern Band Cherokee, she spent her summers growing up in western North Carolina where her novels are set. Deborah invites you to visit her website:  

Excerpt from IMAGES OF BETRAYAL by Claire Collins

Abandoned by her family, Tysan works as a waitress in a cheap diner. One cold evening, a beguiling, rugged young man barges into her life. He possesses the remarkable ability to take photographs of events that have not yet happened. Ty narrowly avoids a harrowing death in a disastrous explosion, only to be drawn into a dizzying cascade of conflicts involving a new family that takes her in, Walker-her apparent savior, David-her new admirer and her own family. Kidnapping, betrayal, obsessive love and courageous lovers co-mingle in this romantic thriller.


His eyes darted to the envelope on the table. He took a drink of coffee, swallowing too hard. When he turned back to me, his eyes were haunted. He reached out, grasped the envelope, and pulled out another picture. As he handed it to me, his words registered.

“You’re supposed to keep yourself safe.”

The photo I held was taken in the restaurant. I was standing behind the front counter, the picture taken from across the room. A man sat in front of me, only the back of his head visible in the picture. He was covered in soot and ashes. Pieces of his clothing were burned away and blackened. My skin was blistered and the remnants of my hair were singed. My uniform had burned to my body, sticking to me as I stood there, coffee pot in hand. The ceiling of the restaurant was behind me, or at least part of it. Grey, cloudy skies formed a backdrop where some of the ceiling and the wall to the kitchen used to be. The pieces of the restaurant in the picture were burnt; smoke still rising from the embers surrounding me.

The picture was dated two days from today.I dropped the picture like the paper itself was on fire. I didn’t want to touch it. In the photo, I stood there with a coffee pot in my hand, while everything around me and my clothes were in utter destruction. Walker snatched the picture from the table, dropping it back into the envelope.

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking my hand in his again. “Short of kidnapping you that day, I didn’t know any other way to tell you about this.”


Claire Collins resides in North Carolina and writes across many genres. She loves reading when she gets the time around her family and her work schedule. She currently has two novels available through Second Wind Publishing and is working on her third, Seeds of September. 


Click here to buy: Images of Betrayal

Excerpt From “The Sixth Key” by Adriana Koulias

By the Power of these Keys the Head of the Church will be made the Lord of Hell.’

In late 2011 a cryptic invitation leads a crime novelist to Venice’s Island of the Dead. Once there he is captivated by his host’s tale, which spans the centuries – but seemingly begins and ends in the dark days of the 1930s . . .

In 1936, a similarly cryptic invitation brings Grail historian Otto Rahn to an apartment in Berlin. Waiting for him inside is Hitler’s right-hand man, Heinrich Himmler, and Rahn’s life is turned upside down. For Himmler wants Rahn to locate Les Serpent Rouge, a notorious book of black magic written by Pope Honorius in the 14th century.

Following a trail from Paris down to Carcassone in the South of France, Rahn discovers a web of deceit and murder. Clearly Himmler is not the only powerful figure in search of the grimoire. A shadowy circle of men are watching Rahn’s every move, and they will stop at nothing to possess both the book and the legendary Sixth Key that will unlock its terrifying power . . .


‘What then shall I ask?’
‘You must begin at the beginning.’
‘The beginning! But where is the beginning?’
Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Mesmeric Revelation’

Venice, November 2012

I had fallen asleep on the bench waiting for the vaporetto and woke with a dry mouth and a crick in the neck as the boat pulled up at the Fondamente Nuove. Once we were chugging lazily over the dusk-coloured lagoon, I dared to ask the boatman where he was taking me. Luckily he spoke some English and pointed to an island in the distance, saying, ‘San Michele. The Island of the Dead . . . the cemetery of Venice.’

Well, I thought to myself. Why not a cemetery in the middle of a lagoon? It all made a crazy sort of sense – it was something the Writer of Letters, as I liked to call him, would do. It was in character. My publisher had forwarded his last letter, as always, typed on the same watermarked paper as the others. It contained these words: Perhaps it is time we meet? Together, I am certain that we can find the solution to the riddle that is perplexing you:


This time, along with the letter there was also an air ticket to Venice and instructions on what to do when I arrived. Counting this one, I had received six letters in all. At first I had thought them mildly amusing; after all, what author of mysteries doesn’t receive letters from shopkeepers, housewives, or even convicted criminals, offering interesting information? But I only realised how different these letters were when the fourth arrived. That’s when I began to wonder who this person was. At the time I had just finished a novel and my editor discovered that a Latin word, a word integral to the plot, was grammatically incorrect. This unfortunate realisation occurred just as the book was headed for the printing press and I quickly got on the phone to several Latin professors. I needed a Latin word composed of seven letters – no more and no less – that meant ‘becoming’. I was on the phone to the printers trying to delay them when the fourth letter arrived. A coincidence, you might ask? No, I’ve come to know there are no coincidences. Inside the letter I found the Latin word I had been looking for – Fiesque. Similarly, the fifth letter arrived when I was unable to source important details about an underground passage in an obscure castle on the border of Austria and Hungary. Once again, in that fifth letter I found a miracle – an essay written in the early nineteenth century by a Knight of Malta, containing the very information I needed. This was a mystery that could well have been written by Edgar Allan Poe!

So, you see, I wasn’t surprised when I received the sixth letter containing a Latin riddle that had been confounding me for months. The riddle was found on a sixteenth-century tombstone in Bologna. It was entitled ‘To the Gods of the Dead’ and translated it read:

This is a tomb that has no body in it.
This is a body that has no tomb round it.
But body and tomb are the same.

I had long been certain that it held the solution to one of the most important mysteries of our time – the mystery of life and death – and I had resolved to make the solution to this riddle the pivotal theme of my next novel. When it proved more than difficult to solve, I took comfort in knowing that it had obsessed and exercised the wits of better minds than mine: men like Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Jung and the French writer Gerard Nerval had also wrestled with it. But as time dragged on, and the deadline for delivery of the manuscript loomed, I began to wonder what had made me imagine myself capable of solving it.

The timely arrival of that sixth letter was compelling evidence that its writer was either intuiting my thoughts, or indeed, perhaps even inspiring them. Of course I had to accept his invitation. How could I refuse? By coming to Venice I would be solving two mysteries – the identity of the Writer of Letters and the solution to the inscription.

Now, as I looked out from the vaporetto towards that cold island overhung with Cyprus spears, I marvelled at the ingenuity of the creator of those letters. He had orchestrated a scene straight out of the Egyptian Book of the Dead: I was travelling on the boat of Isis, sailing over the river of souls to the Underworld. It was brilliant!

When the boat came to the landing stage on the northwest corner of the island I climbed out, paid the man what I owed him and watched him pull his vessel away into the foggy evening. Above on the upper landing I saw a light moving in the darkness – it was a monk carrying a lamp. The monk turned out to be a rather pleasant Irishman. He made animated conversation as he led me through dark arches and cloisters, beyond which lay a world suspended in a mercurial solution of fog and Carrara marble.

‘Will you be staying the night?’ he asked.

‘Actually, I’m not certain,’ I said, feeling ridiculous.

‘Well, it’s good you’ve come before the Day of the Dead.’

‘That’s in three days’ time?’ I hadn’t thought about the Day of the Dead, an important holiday for Venetians, and so appropriate – I couldn’t help but smile.

‘Yes, the vaporetto is free all day for those who want to visit the graves of their relatives. The cemetery ends up full of flowers and aswarm with people.’ He leant in. ‘The definition of bedlam if you ask me! For now, it’s serene, thank God!’ I looked around, taking in the size of the island. ‘The cemetery doesn’t seem big enough to service all of Venice.’ ‘You’re right: the buried only stay here twelve years. After that, the bones are exhumed and the remains are moved to the Island of Bones, Sant’ Ariano. Venice is built on water, you see, and there can be no catacombs, so, over the centuries a lot of thought has gone into what to do with the dead. One could even say that Venetians are obsessed with death. Did you know they once used the bones of the dead to refine their sugar! I won’t be getting diabetes living here, that’s for certain.’ He gave an easy laugh. It sounded strange, given the present setting.

Beyond the monastery’s cloister now, we entered a dark, labyrinthine corridor that led to what looked like a library. I followed the monk over oriental rugs to two winged chairs set by a great fire and here my breathing paused. After six years the moment had come, and I could hardly believe it. I had tried many times to imagine the Writer of Letters. Sometimes I conjured an image of a middle-aged hermit with a crooked back, a hooked nose and a lined face. At other times he was the handsome head librarian of some illustrious library, a man of letters who liked to read mystery novels on the sly. I even imagined a beautiful, erudite woman – a modern version of that Alexandrian philosopher Hypatia. Now, when the man stood and offered his hand, I couldn’t have been more surprised.


Adriana Koulias was born in 1960 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At the age of nine her family migrated to Australia, she travelled extensively throughout her youth and was fifteen before finally settling down in a small country town outside Coffs Harbour. In 1980 she began nursing studies and became a registered nurse three years later. At this time she formed a band that toured New South Wales for two years wherein she met her husband James. In 1984 she and James moved to Sydney and she began eight years of study with Janice Light, formerly of the Australian Opera Company on voice. In 1989 Adriana began a study of Anthroposophy, Philiosophy and History and also embarked on a career as an artist, selling work to various art galleries and participating in several mixed exhibitions. Adriana now lectures regularly on History, Philosophy and Esoteric Science. She has two children and lives in Sydney.


Excerpt From “Winter’s Captive” by June Bourgo

Georgia Charles travels to the Yukon to distance herself from a cheating husband. While struggling with the idea of her newly discovered pregnancy, she’s kidnapped by bank robbers who flee to north-western British Columbia. Here, she escapes into an area known as the last frontier.

Hopelessly lost in this vast, undeveloped wilderness, she pushes her way through a raging snowstorm and discovers a cabin. Georgia’s happy to have escaped her captors, but she’s trapped by days of blizzards and becomes a prisoner of Mother Nature.

Her will to survive is tested as she struggles through a harsh winter in the wilds. Faced with a lack of survival skills, she reaches the brink of emotional breakdown. She’s forced to confront her fears of childbirth alone and the possibility of complications. She envisions an angel, imaginary or real, who helps her discover her inner power.

Can Georgia unearth a maternal strength to save her life and that of her unborn child? Or will she perish?

A compelling, heroic story of one woman’s survival against all odds.


Escape. That thought repeated over and over in my mind like the rhythm beat of a perpetual drum. But where could I go? Desperation took desperate measures. I would run at the first opportunity. This was a matter of life or death—mine and my baby’s.

Gary watched my every move. Late afternoon, we pulled into a gas station at the first town since turning onto this highway. A place called Dease Lake, surrounded by hundreds of miles of wilderness in any given direction.

“Hey, bitch…” Gary said, “… lie down. Bobby, you fill up the tank and I’ll go get some snacks. Lady, if you so much as twitch, I’ll shoot the first person I see in this hole.” He patted the gun in his jacket pocket. “Then, I’ll kill you!”

My heart pounded. There were people here that could help me, but they might as well be on the moon. Tears welled in my eyes. Don’t panic. Stay calm.

We were back on the road in a matter of minutes. Gary threw a can of pop and a bag of chips at me.

I finished them off in short order, only to keep up my strength. Great nourishment for a pregnant woman. Not that it mattered. This may well be my last meal.

“Isn’t that the road we go down to reach Uncle Pete’s cabin?” Bobby asked.

“Uh-huh. There’s the sign to Telegraph Creek.”

The van climbed up steep grades and dropped back down to valley bottoms. It was a rough ride on the gravel road, full of twists and turns on a washboard surface. My recent snack sat like a brick in my stomach and once again, I quelled the urge to vomit.

Hang on, girl. Now isn’t the time.

The further we travelled, the more I panicked. Soon, escape must be soon. It would be over for me when my captors reached their uncle’s cabin.

Gary mumbled to himself. Finally, he screeched to a halt, pounding the dash. “We’ve gone too far. That old bridge up ahead is miles past our turnoff. We’ll have to turn around and go back. Keep your eyes open for the turn. These damn logging roads all look the same at dusk.”

He swung the van around and sped back in the direction we just came. Five minutes later, a popping noise sounded and the van veered to the right.

“Sounds like a flat tire,” Bobby said.

“No shit.” Gary pulled the van over to the side of the road. “You get the jack and tire iron and I’ll get the spare.” He told me to get out. I dragged my weary body out the side door and a cold wind hit me in the face.

The front passenger side tire was flat all right. This was it. My moment to escape. There wouldn’t be any more opportunities. “I need a break, please,” I said, pulling my jacket collar up around my neck.

Gary glared at me and turned to Bobby. “Take her. I’ll remove the tire.”

I followed Bobby up a trail until he pointed out a spot for me and turned his back. “Now, don’t you run on me, missy.”

“Run where? And it’s getting dark.”

I squatted down, quickly scouting my surroundings. The path continued into the dense forest. Gary cursed down by the van.

It’s now or never.

“Hurry up! I need you,” Gary yelled.

“You done yet?” Bobby asked.

“No, not yet.”

I could hear metal hitting metal. Gary was having quite a temper tantrum. “Get down here. These lugs are stuck.”

“Hurry up, lady. Jesus! Gary’s real angry; you don’t wanna make him madder.” Bobby fidgeted.

“I’m sorry, you go down and help him. I’ll be right there.”

“What? I can’t just leave you. Gary’ll kill me.” Bobby started pacing in front of me.

“What’re you doing up there?” Gary yelled.

“I’m not done yet, okay? It’s a pregnancy thing. I’m not going anywhere, I promise. Anyway, pregnant women can’t move very fast. That’s why Gary caught me in the lane in Whitehorse so easily. Remember?”

Gary’s yelling and swearing grew louder. Any minute he would come running into the bush after us.

“Okay. I’ll go down and help Gary. You come as soon as you’re done.” Bobby ran off down the path. “I’m coming . don’t have a shit fit.”

I didn’t believe it. He actually left me alone? Go … now.

Up like a shot, I bolted along the path in the other direction, securing my jeans as I ran. Bobby and Gary were yelling at each other, probably about me. I knew it would be Gary who would come. And if he caught me, I wouldn’t make it back with him.

Pounding feet sounded behind me. I glanced over my shoulder, almost tripping, but saw no one. My lungs gasped for air. Gary gained ground, the sounds of his obscenities getting closer. Get off the trail, now. My eyes searched for a place to hide. The near darkness provided deep shadows in the trees. The pathway rose up a small incline. I flew over the top and down the other side, where the path veered off to the right. To the left, an old game trail barely visible meandered through the trees.

I slowed and glanced around me. A tangle of fallen trees and branches on my left looked like a good spot to hide in. Branches scratched my face and caught in my hair as I pulled myself over the decaying trunks. I tumbled face first into a hollow under a log, filling my mouth with dirt and leaves. The smell of musty, rotting debris turned my stomach.

Gary charged over the top of the incline and came to a dead stop. Damn. I hoped he would miss the game trail and keep going.

“Alright, bitch. Come back now and I’ll let you live. If I have to chase you, you’re dead! Got it? D-E-A-D!”

Let me live? Sure you will. Oh God … I felt like a trapped animal. Terrified he would hear my raspy breathing, I tried to control my gasps. There was nothing I could do about the pounding of my heart.


June V. Bourgo is a semi-retired, self-employed graphic design and sign maker whose incredible journey has taken her down many different paths. From years of working in marketing/sales for a major telecommunications firm, managing a physiotherapy clinic, living on a houseboat in Victoria harbour, to working at a gold mine on a remote mountain in the Yukon, she chose to turn her experiences—good and bad—into life-changing lessons. Her debut novel, “Winter’s Captive”, shares with the reader what she learned through the fictitious story of one woman’s struggle to enlightenment and empowerment.

Born and educated in Montreal, Quebec, she now lives in the British Columbia interior surrounded by ranch lands, with her husband and two head of cat; Marbles, a calico diva and Picasso, a subservient tabby. June is currently working on a sequel to her debut novel.

Links to read more about the Author and where to purchase book:

Click here to read an interview with: June Bourgo, Author of Winter’s Captive

Excerpt From “The Ambivalent Corpse” by Jerold Last

The Ambivalent Corpse is set mainly in Montevideo, Uruguay. Our heroes find parts of a dismembered corpse on a rocky stretch of beach in Montevideo, apportioned equally between the Memorial to a German cruiser sunk in World War II and the Memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust. Because of the murder victim’s strategic location shared between two antithetical monuments, the Uruguayan press names her “The Ambivalent Corpse”. Private detective Roger Bowman and his girlfriend, scientist Suzanne Foster, find themselves traveling through Uruguay, Southwest Brazil, and parts of Paraguay and Argentina to help solve the case. Along the way they experience the local tourist attractions, lots of intrigue, and a complex murder mystery that Suzanne and Roger both play essential roles in solving. The plot races along at a rapid pace that makes this book very difficult to put down once you’ve started reading it. Start early if you want to get a full night’s sleep. This fast paced mystery has plenty of action, atmosphere, and sense of place. While the novel is basically a hard-boiled mystery story, it bends the genre slightly so that it should also appeal to readers interested in travel, romance, Indigenous creation legends, and South American food and wine.

Chapter 1. The Ambivalent Corpse Appears

We found the corpse on a rocky stretch of beach in Montevideo, about a mile east of the harbor. Pieces of the body were apportioned equally between the Graf Spee Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial, which are side by side on a grassy knoll overlooking the Rio de la Plata shore facing Buenos Aires to the south. Because of her strategic location shared between two antithetical monuments, one to the German warship scuttled near Montevideo Harbor in 1939 and the other to the victims of Nazi genocide in World War II, the Uruguayan press named her “The Ambivalent Corpse” (“El Cadáver Ambivalente”). But I’m getting ahead of myself in telling this story.

Early the morning after Suzanne and I arrived in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, we began a long run to start adjusting to the 4-hour time difference from California. Hopefully, the run would help us make up for only 4 hours of sleep. When dinners end at midnight as is typical for Uruguay, people sleep as late as they can the next morning. Thus the streets were mostly deserted. I better understood why the tradition of the siesta, or noon-3PM nap, became institutionalized in Spain and Latin America hundreds of years earlier.

After walking south and east from the hotel to the Rambla as a warm-up we ran east towards Punta Carreta at a pretty fast pace. Traffic at this hour was light. The Rambla was deserted at this hour except for a few older folks walking their dogs. Since everybody in Montevideo lived in an apartment, the dogs were small. So were most of the people at the end of the leashes.

Our run lasted only as far as the park with the lake on our left and the Maritime Museum, the Graf Spee Memorial, and the Holocaust Memorial on our right. Beyond the Museum was the Rio de la Plata. Far out of sight across the river was Argentina. Suzanne and I were the only live people visible anywhere in this area. It was impossible not to see the pieces of dead body lying by the two Memorials so we stopped and checked things out. Pieces of body were apportioned half and half between the Graf Spee Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial. The victim was a young woman who had almost certainly been murdered.

The Graf Spee Memorial features a six-inch cannon salvaged from the wreck and an explanatory plaque. The body parts were carefully placed around the concrete base the cannon is mounted on. Beside the Memorial was almost half of a dismembered corpse: a jean-covered leg beside an arm covered by the sleeve of a sweater, and the top half of the torso minus its head. The half-body was dressed in what was left of a turtle-necked sweater and obviously had belonged to a woman. She looked to have been young and in pretty good shape. There was very little blood visible, just the body parts.

The Holocaust Memorial is a large inscribed chunk of rock sculpture pulled away from a 350-foot long wall. The rest of the body parts were placed symmetrically around the base of the plaques. Next to the Memorial was the remaining half of the dismembered corpse: the other jean clad leg, the other sleeved arm, and the bottom half of the torso from the waist down to the groin area. This half-body was dressed in what remained of her jeans and matched the top half in gender and size. The parts would fit together like the pieces of a life-sized jigsaw puzzle.

Lying precisely between the two halves of the corpse was its head. The victim had long dark hair and was mid-20s to 30-ish and good looking. From the overkill brutality it seemed that the murderer was really pissed off at her.

Despite my years as a homicide detective in Los Angeles and the many dozens of murder scenes I’ve investigated the brutality and the cold-blooded theatricality of this murder scene caused my stomach to lurch. Years of training kicked in to make me seem a lot calmer than I actually was.

Suzanne turned a pale shade of green. I turned her gently away until she was no longer looking at the body.

“Take a couple of deep breaths,” I said. “Her suffering is finished. Think of it as if you were taking your old gross anatomy lab. What can you learn from what you see? Let your brain take over. You can handle this.”

She buried her face in my chest and trembled for a few moments while I held her tightly against my body. Then she tilted her head back and looked up at me.

“I can do that,” she said in a barely audible whisper, took a deep breath, and said again, this time in her normal voice, “Yes, I can do that.”

We had to find a telephone and call the police. I flagged down a passing empty cab from the wide boulevard by the Rambla. Fortunately the driver had a cell phone and contacted the police almost immediately. The first police car was there within 3 minutes. Within 20 minutes a crowd of cops was standing around staring at the remains. Suzanne and I stood out of the way and waited for the detectives. I looked at the scene carefully and observed all of the details I could.

Things were much too clean for this to have been the site of a bloody dismemberment. Obviously the body parts had been moved here after they were cut into seven different pieces. They were carefully arranged and displayed to send someone a message. The killer, or more likely killers, obviously thought their message was important enough to take some serious risks. Transport of body parts and setting up the display was very risky because the nearest place to park a car was at least several hundred yards away. I guessed that forensic evidence would be non-existent.

I couldn’t see any obvious wounds. A pathologist would have to determine cause of death. Drowning was a possibility, but no shark or marine animal could have dismembered a corpse so neatly. Time of death might also be difficult to determine if the body had been in cold water. The clothing looked wet. Either the corpse had been in the river or the clothes were wet from early morning dew. Forensic analysis of whether the water was brackish or fresh would decide this since the Rio de la Plata at Montevideo is a tidal estuary of the Atlantic Ocean. It fills with fresh water when the tide goes out and becomes a mixture of fresh and salt water when the tide comes in.

The detectives got there several minutes later and we became the guests of honor.


Short Bio: Jerold Last says, “I believe my strengths are in inventing interesting plots, paying attention to story details, and entertaining the reader. The science I sprinkle into the books is authentic; I have a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry and am a Professor at a large university medical school. The locales are authentic; I’ve either lived in or visited all of the places my characters visit.”