Monday, October 31, 2022


 RHYS BOWEN:  I confess, I’m in grumpy mood.  I am not a big fan of fall. To me it means the coming of winter, darker, shorter days. Less time spent outdoors. And pumpkin spice. I am also not a big fan of pumpkin spice although the world seems to be obsessed with it. I even saw an ad for a pumpkin-spice cosmetic serum today!  I’d rather put mud from the backyard on my face.

And my next confession: I’m not a big fan of Halloween. I suppose I didn’t grow up with it and I can see that little kids think it’s wonderful to dress up in scary clothes and get candy from everyone. When I was a child in England there was no such thing as Halloween. I think they always celebrated it in Scotland but I knew nothing of it until my first year in the US. I had recently moved into our first house, just had a baby and… there was a knock on my door one evening, shortly after dark.  I opened it AND there was a child dressed as a black cat standing there. “Trick or treat” she said.  I had no idea what she meant.  She had to explain that I was supposed to give her candy.  I had to search my purse for some quarters instead.

When I think back to my own kids and Halloween I loved the early years when they were happy with store-bought costumes: princess, witch, pirate. Then came the creative years. One year Clare wanted to be a tree. Do you know how hard it is to make a tree in which a child can breathe and move?  And one year one of them wanted to be a dragon. How to attach the tail so it didn’t fall off when they walked? Much late night sewing involved.

After that the scary years: costumes with fangs and dripping blood. Not my thing. But by then they were old enough to go trick or treating alone.  But who had to carve the pumpkins? That's hard work, folks.

And every year there was the triumphant return, the tipping out of candy for mommy to inspect and toss out anything that looked suspect. Then they were allowed to choose a few pieces to eat and the rest went into the pantry where it was soon forgotten and eventually tossed out.

I don’t think we ever got wholeheartedly into the thing, making bowls of fake eyeballs or spaghetti-guts the way some families did. Perhaps I am a person who scares too easily.

I’ve been to a few adult Halloween parties but never came up with brilliant costumes like Hank and Jonathan. Only one sticks in my mind. John had a dark beard at the time so we went as the devil and a fallen angel. We got lost on the way in a dark and leafy neighborhood and stopped a group of teenagers to ask for directions. A boy was happily pointing us in the right direction when he noticed John.  “You’ve got horns” he said in an alarmed voice.

                “Yes, of course. I’m the devil,” John replied as we drove off. That was fun!

So how about you? Did you enjoy Halloween as a child? Do you still enjoy it?  And what about Pumpkin Spice????

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Aw, thank you, Rhys!  I really remember being a princess, and my mother made a pointy hat out of silver cardboard, and put a pink scarf in the point so it floated down the back. Then I had a pink shower curtain as a cape. I’m telling you, I pranced around the house in that outfit for weeks. It was the perfect princess outfit. As an adult, I once dressed up as a teabag, in brown leotard and tights,  and put a clear plastic bag from my knees up to my chin. Then I filled it with scraps of torn up construction paper (brown, orange and black,) and then  tied a string around my neck and hooked a big Constant Comment tag at the bottom. It was pretty funny. ( I don’t think any pictures exist :-)  Thank goodness.)

Then there was the year when Jonathan and I dressed up as the Arcs, Joan of and Noah. Pretty funny. (Some people have no idea what I meant by this. I think I am hilarious, but maybe it’s just me.)

Pumpkin spice? Hard no. To all. Except pie. But that’s another blog.

LUCY BURDETTE: No pumpkin spice for me either! So funny you’d rather put mud on your face than ps serum, Rhys! I have been enjoying fall in New England–, the cooler weather, the colors, the earlier nights. Until I went to the acupuncturist and he said: “Fall always brings us around to death, doesn’t it?” Yikes, I suppose but I hate to think of that!

I do enjoy dressing up too–especially for an occasion like our previous Crime Bake banquets. Though I have to say I think Hank and Jonathan won EVERY ONE OF THOSE CONTESTS. Still, it was fun to think up a costume and know it would be appreciated by all those creative friends.

JENN McKINLAY: I LOVE FALL!!! AND PUMPKIN SPICE!!! AND HALLOWEEN!!! Potentially, it’s because my well known immaturity really gets to shine during this season. Also, I grew up in the mountains of CT, where it was apple picking, pumpkin carving, and gorgeous colorful leaves dropping to the ground like autumn confetti. Glorious! What was it Anne of Green Gables says? “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers” or something like that. That’s me. 

I love the dressing up and the passing out of candy and spookifying the house. My fave memory was when the Hooligans went trick or treating on their own for the first time - H1 was death (black cloak and scythe) and H2 was a crash test dummy (you know, the yellow mannequin thingy) - anyway, I made H1 carry my cell phone as they didn’t have their own phones yet and when they were roaming the streets trying to be scary I called them from the landline to check on them and the cell phone piped up with its ringtone “Here Comes the Sun”. *snort*  H1 reported that I killed their creepy vibe. LOL. 

And Rhys the way you recall all of those Halloweens with your littles  - I can tell you had a blast :)  

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Fall is one of my favorite seasons. I suspect you’d feel differently about it if you lived in New England, Rhys - the spectacular color on century-old trees, the amazing blue sky that only occurs this month, the perfect (in my view) temperatures - crisp and chill in the morning, pleasantly warm in the afternoon.

However, I’ve never gone all-out for Halloween. Honestly, I’m don’t really decorate for any holiday other than Christmas. So I get a few pumpkins (they were carved when the kids were young) and set a couple candles in hurricane lanterns on the porch and call it good. What I did do was make home-sewn costumes, which then evolved into costumes created from our vast, three-trunk store of dress up clothes and accessories. Leopard, witch, Batman, Glamor Witch (that was the Maine Millennial, of course) Roman centurion (reused for the church Nativity pageant!) Old King Cole, sailor (that was prescient) and several princesses. I have no digital copies of any of these, so instead I’ll share a pic of Youngest and her Shih Tzu wearing matching Halloween costumes/jammies. 

HALLIE EPHRON: I love almost everything about Halloween… except pumpkin spice. My neighbors on both sides decorate to beat the bands. This year our neighborhood has sprouted plastic blow-up tableaus with ghosts and dragons and pumpkins. I love it when little kids show up at the door in their costumes.

Pumpkin carving–or watching Jerry carve a pumpkin–was always a special treat. The faces he carved were nothing short of amazing.

For some reason (maybe I was too cheap) I would not buy store-bought costumes for my kids. They claim this caused a major trauma. A homemade Superman outfit did not compare with her classmates whose parents had bought theirs, but we managed a pretty good witch.


As adults my daughters make fantastic costumes from almost nothing. One year one of them went as Cher in her TURN BACK TIME video. I leave it to your imagination. I can’t wait to see this year’s get-ups..

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm afraid I've always been a bit of a Halloween fail. My mother didn't make costumes so I had store-bought as a child. I didn't do much better by my own daughter, but thankfully she's broken that tradition and my granddaughter has had wonderful costumes. I can't wait to see this year's! 


I do like decorating for fall but skipped it this year, with spending almost the whole of October in the UK. I'm glad not to have to worry about disposing of the pumpkins!


Lots of Halloween decorations in London, however! Here's a wonderful house on Tite Street in Chelsea.

RHYS: Great pix everyone. So who is a fan of Halloween? Of pumpkin spice?

Sunday, October 30, 2022

A Jungle Red Quiz!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Today, a Jungle Red quiz! With a prize up for grabs!

But first:

Breaking news: AND THE WINNERS of James T. Bartlett's book are KATHY REEL and KAREN IN OHIO. Please you two send your details to and tell me if you want the book signed/a message. Cheers!

And now on with the quiz. (Yes, it's Halloween tomorrow, and you can be sure we'll be talking about it then! But first the quiz!)

Just enter your answers in the comments, and you will be entered to win!  (Remember you can cut and paste. And explain your choices!)

1.  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or none of the above? 

2. Jane Marple or Jane Tennison?

3. Read a series out of order or must read the first one first?

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

5.  Mounds or Almond Joy?

6.  Newsletters or leave me alone?

7. Email or text or phone call?

8. Lark or night owl?

9. Binge watcher or  one-episode at a time?

10. Would you ever want a ferret?

Cannot wait to hear,  Reds and readers. And one lucky commenter will win of a hardcover novel that I will choose--but it will be a fabulous one! 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Rock on! What Song would YOU Choose?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: The  link between music and mystery is marvelously universal. It's storytelling, isn’t it? For a good story you need a character you care about. A problem that needs to be solved. You need a good guy and a bad guy. You need emotion. You need to lure the reader along until the irresistible end. Just like in a song.

How many stories are written as songs? From the doomed love of Greensleeves (Alas, my love, you have done me wrong) to Miss Otis Regrets (She pulled a gun and shot her lover down, madam); to Frankie and Johnny, when Frankie walks into the bar room, and pulls out her old .44. The Ode to Billy Joe, when Billy Joe McAllister throws something off the Tallahatchie Bridge. In the Cher classic Bang Bang, it’s all about murder. (Isn’t it?) Oh, and in the sprightly Copacabana, right? A murder mystery (and psychological thriller) in three verses and three choruses. And, in my teenage years at least, we learned you won’t come back from Dead Man’s Curve, and understood that if you dated The Leader of the Pack, it would not end well. And poor Teen Angel.

And if you are laughing now, and singing in recognition, that’s exactly the point. No matter when and where we grew up, it was the music that brought us together. And it still does.

That’s why I was so delighted (and incredibly honored) to be asked to write the introduction to the Triangle Chapter of SIsters in Crime’s new short story anthology. It’s about–well… Here's the wonderful Karen Pullen to give you the scoop. 

Rock, Roll, and Ruin Makes Three

by Karen Pullen

A loooong time ago (2014), the Triangle chapter of Sisters in Crime produced our first short story anthology, Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing. Our sex-themed collection. I had the honor of editing it, and even wrote a Jungle Red post about our anthology journey. (Ever notice how every activity is a “journey” these days?) I swore I’d never do it again because it was a lot of work and I am lazy.

In 2017 we produced a second anthology, Need, Greed, and Dirty Deeds (the drugs collection), edited by Nora Gaskin Esthimer, but I stayed out of the fray for that one.

Fast forward a few years, and certain Triangle chapter members (I won’t name them) pestered asked me to do it again. The chapter had, after all, promised a trilogy of anthologies around the three themes of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. I caved; it was now time for our musically-themed anthology.

Write a crime story about rock and roll. That was the guidance we gave to prospective authors, either chapter members or Sisters in Crime members who live in the Carolinas. The rock & roll theme was to be interpreted loosely and could include any form of music. Music is so significant in our lives. It can raise your mood, contribute to relaxation or excitement. It can provide an escape, or increase tension, as in a movie. Most importantly, music like lullabies or romantic ballads or the rock & roll of your teen years will trigger memorable emotions. Music truly is the soundtrack to our lives.

Dozens of writers submitted original, never-before-published stories around a musical theme. A blind judging selected the finalists, and then the fun began: the back-and-forth of revisions. The final result? A collection of twenty-seven musically-themed crime stories around situations as unique as your fingerprints. Carolina Crimes: Rock, Roll, and Ruin, edited by me, with an introduction from the inimitable Hank Phillippi Ryan, published by Down & Out Books on October 3, 2022.

 I wish I had room in this post to include each author’s name, title, and logline. Let me just say that the musical score to murder, malice, and mayhem includes Elvis, church music, tribal drumming, a Broadway show tune, bluegrass, opera, the Stones, Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks, and, of course, the Beatles.

Why does a SinC chapter undertake such a project? For some chapters, it might result in revenue. For ours, an anthology offers a publishing credit and opportunities for fledgling writers. We are particularly proud of three who were brave enough to submit their good work, resulting in their first-ever stories in print:  Pamela Raymond, James Michael McGuffey, and David Goldston. Remember their names!

Tell me in the comments about your first published short story—whether in an anthology, online, or in a journal or magazine. Was it fun to write it, easy to work with an editor, thrilling to see it in print?

In one week, a lucky commenter’s name will be drawn at random, to win a copy of Carolina Crimes: Rock, Roll, and Ruin.

HANK: Or an alternative question: What  song is your anthem? What song changed your life? What song would YOU like to write a short story about? (You don't have to write it, even better!) Right now, I’m going  with Defying Gravity. But wait, that's not rock ‘n roll. Okay–how about–The Waiting?

How about you, Reds and readers?


Karen Pullen is a proud founder of the Triangle chapter of Sisters in Crime, celebrating ten years in 2022. She edited the Anthony-nominated Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing. Her first story in print won a Derringer award; her story collection Restless Dreams was published by Bedazzled Ink. She has also published two mystery novels, Cold Feet and Cold Heart. She lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Hollywood Story that Shocked America

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I offered a prize package in an auction recently, and the winner lives in Alaska. I took this huge box to the post office, and the guy weighed it, and said: “That'll be eighty dollars to go first class.”

“EIGHTY DOLLARS!” I yelped. “How much to send it a cheaper way?”

He consulted his computer, and said: “Ground is twenty dollars.”

“Great,” I said. “How long will that take?"

He paused, calculating. And got a funny expression on his face. “A month? Mayyyybe?” he eventually said.

“A MONTH?” I yelped again.

He shrugged.”It’s Alaska.”

I said, “Well, yeah, but there are airplanes.”

And he said, “True. But this is ground shipping. You are thinking of sending something overland from Boston to Alaska. Good luck with that.”

We both paused, as I imagined that.

“How long for first class?" I finally asked.

“Three days.”

And so it went.

(And if you are curious, UPS was MUCH MORE.)
So, Alaska. Faraway, unless you are already there. And it’s where the intrepid James T. Bartlett found a riveting and compelling true crime story--which he developed into a fascinating book: The Alaskan Blonde: Sex, Secrets, and the Hollywood Story that Shocked America.

Oooh, right?

(And read on for the giveaway!)

Your Favorite Deadly Place


James T. Bartlett

 When you’re writing fiction, particularly a mystery or thriller, you can choose an obscure place for a corpse to be discovered. It can even be a selling point you can construct the story around.


It’s the opposite for true crime, where you have to deconstruct the story around where the victim was found. You could cherry pick one with an especially “cool” murder site, but often a real-life case grabs you by the throat and compels you to investigate, no matter where it took place.


Once you’re hooked, the fact that it happened in a town, state or country you have never heard of, or that it occurred in 1953, 1902 or 1817, makes it more interesting and challenging.


This happened for me in relation to Alaska.


I loved The Terror, and I devour books about the search for the Northwest Passage and the agony and ecstasy of expeditions led by Scott, Shackleton, and others. So, it was rather a disappointment to learn that Fairbanks, where my murder happened, was right in the center of interior Alaska.


It’s at least 500 miles from open ocean too, which meant that I was more likely to see a grizzly than a polar bear, let alone be savaged by one.


The closest I got were taxidermy examples at Fairbanks airport, where I soon learned that my idea of a research trip timed to the October anniversary of the murder was a misstep. Locals repeatedly told me “winter is coming” without irony, and I quickly had to adjust from 75 degree California to 25 degree Fairbanks.


I also began to wonder why Alaska didn’t feature more regularly in true crime books.


It’s often top of the charts in violent crime statistics, and arguably it’s a killer’s paradise, no matter how stunning the Aurora Borealis looks swirling in the night sky. Vast, gun-heavy, largely uninhabited, often inaccessible, and subject to strange and dangerous weather conditions that can twist the mind, it seems to have been made for malicious intentions.


My murder however was of the standard domestic variety: successful businessman Cecil Wells was shot in his bed at the fancy Northward Building in Fairbanks, and his glamorous, blonde wife Diane – some 20 years younger than he – was beaten unconscious.


Diane said that two masked men had broken in, but then police got a tip she’d been having an affair with Johnny Warren, a married, Black musician, and the story exploded out of what was then a largely-ignored US territory.   


It scandalized Jim Crow America with the film noir-stylings and illicit (for the time) sex talk, and made the pages of Life, Newsweek, Ebony and more. The pulp magazines thrilled over it too, and it hit the headlines as far away as England and Australia.


To add extra pressure, Alaska was trying hard to become a state, and such lawlessness was, to use a modern phrase, “not good optics.” I found territorial records were often shambolic, and that after attaining statehood, officialdom hadn’t been keen to look back into the past. No wonder the Wells family hired private eyes, and felt Cecil’s murder had been swept under the carpet, despite Diane and Johnny both being accused of first-degree murder.


Alaska is however a popular backdrop for fiction, and several US states have miles of dusty desert or endless acres of dense woods and forest. There are plenty of lakes, rivers and lagoons to choose from too. So, imagine for a moment you had some dark deeds in mind: which location would you choose, and why?



HANK: I’d still adore to go to Alaska–by air, not ground. And I cannot even imagine how big it is. And I loved The Terror, too.


SO, as James asks, where would you imagine a dark deed? And have you ever been to Alaska?


AND! He’ll sign and mail a copy of The Alaskan Blonde to two randomly-picked commenters. 



Journalist James T. Bartlett has written for over 130 publications including the Los Angeles Times, BBC, Westways, American Way, Hemispheres, Crime Reads, Real Crime, ALTA California, Atlas Obscura and others. His latest true crime book, The Alaskan Blonde: Sex, Secrets, and the Hollywood Story that Shocked America, is available now. Find out more at .


Nicknamed "the most beautiful woman in Alaska," 31-year-old Diane Wells was bruised and bloodied when she screamed for help in the early hours of October 17, 1953. Her husband Cecil, a wealthy Fairbanks businessman, had been shot dead, and she claimed they were the victims of a brutal home invasion.


Blonde, glamorous and 20 years younger than Cecil, police were immediately suspicious of Diane’s account, and after an anonymous tip the investigation turned toward her alleged lover, Black musician Johnny Warren, who had left town the night of the murder.

The scandalous mix of money and sex in Jim Crow America saw the story hit the pages of Newsweek, Life, Ebony, Jet and the pulp detective magazines, and nearly 70 years later, James T. Bartlett uncovers new evidence including an unpublished memoir as he re-examines the FBI files. He also tracks down and interviews the people close to Cecil, Diane, Johnny, and the mysterious “Third Suspect”, dance instructor William Colombany, to reveal the story of what was called “the most notorious and baffling murder in the history of Fairbanks.”

Thursday, October 27, 2022

California Dreamin'

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: One of the coolest parts of living in New England is the beach towns. The elegant Marblehead, the hip Swampscott. The clamor of Hyannis, the Kennedyesque Osterville, the literary Truro, the wonderful P’town. The traffic, yeah, it can be a real pain, but there’s always a dunkin’s along the way.

But California beach towns–well, they’re different, aren't they? As mystery author Terry Ambrose (such an early pal of Jungle Red!) knows all too well.

Location, Location, Location
 by Terry Ambrose

I’ve always been a bit of a nomad. It started when I was six. Okay, I admit, it was my parents who moved us about every two years while I was growing up. But after graduating college, all the moves have been on me (my wife usually just sighed and went along on the next adventure). I’ve lived in Southern and Northern California, Arizona, Idaho, and Washington. But, for me, Southern California beach towns are my favorites.

The beach towns have their own distinct personalities. Some, like San Diego, try to be all grown up. (“Look at us, we have museums, sports teams, and a convention center!”) While others, like Pacific Beach, are still reveling in their beachihood (“Hey, man, come hang out on the boardwalk and hit the waves!”)

Carlsbad also has its own personality. We live only a few miles from this North San Diego County town. In fact, when we moved back to Southern California from Arizona, we wanted to live in Carlsbad. What we discovered was that Carlsbad zip codes carried an outrageous premium. (“Sorry, dude, you crossed the street. Price went up 50k.”) Yes, the Carlsbad dream cratered, but we landed not that far away.

I can see why those zip codes carry such a high price tag. There’s something special about Carlsbad. Maybe it’s the attitude. Maybe it’s just the near-perfect climate. For whatever reason, a ton of people visit this funky little town each year. The cool thing is all those visitors get to be pretend-locals for a week before they have to go home.

One of the unique things about Carlsbad Village is that there are no chain stores. Yes, there’s a Starbucks. And a few fast-food places. But actual shops? No way. Instead, the streets are lined with boutiques and galleries you won’t find anywhere else. In fact, there are even a couple of private investigators with offices on the outskirts that little geographic gem.

Among Carlsbad’s many attractions is the sea wall. It’s a hugely popular walk along the ocean with two options. If you’re the kind who likes to get close to the water (like me!) it’s a bit of a steep descent down to sea level. But, once you’re down there, a paved walkway meanders along the shore for about 3/4 of a mile (one way). For those who are more inclined to enjoy an overlook without the climb, there’s a sidewalk along Carlsbad Boulevard. Either walk offers spectacular views of the ocean, a chance to watch the surfers bob out in the ocean, and that wonderful sea breeze.

Carlsbad felt like the ideal location to situate my new Beachtown Detective Agency series. Located in the midst of a huge metropolitan area, it still feels unique and small. It’s one of those places that makes you want to stay and wander.

Of course, there are plenty of those kinds of places, and I’d love to hear about some of your favorites. Leave a comment to let me know!

HANK: I realized when I was checking this for typos, that instead of Marblehead, I had typed Marplehead. TOTALLY different place!
How about you, Reds and readers. Do you have a favorite beach town? Or one you’d love to visit? (I just read a scathing article about Positano, did you see that?)

Terry Ambrose
has written fifteen published mysteries. His series include the McKenna Trouble in Paradise Mysteries, the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mysteries, the License to Lie thriller series, and the Beachtown Detective Agency mysteries.

The Amorous Assailant has frustrated police for months. His MO is
always the same. He binds his victims with red silk, kisses them, and leaves them with a red rose. Women throughout the city are worried they’ll be his next victim.

Novice PI Jade Cavendish isn’t one of them, though. After inheriting the Beachtown Detective Agency, she’s worried about landing a paying client. Any client. She’d even settle for a dognapping.

Gina Rose, a wealthy young heiress, has a problem. Her new husband, a man she thought was her perfect match, is bleeding her dry. When Gina hires Jade to prove her husband is defrauding her, Jade quickly learns he's a terrible businessman. His investment properties are oozing money like open wounds.

On the surface, it appears Gina simply has bad taste in men. But Jade refuses to give up on her client so easily. Her investigation pulls her into a world filled with greed, one where secrets are a way of life, events are not always what they seem, and lies conceal deadly realities—including the Amorous Assailant’s true motive.

“Ambrose’s mystery is thrilling and unpredictable…An entertaining and suspenseful detective tale.” — Kirkus Reviews

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Do You Believe in Angel Numbers?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: If I had a dollar for every time I see 9:11 on the clock, or 12:34, or 11:11, I’d be so rich! I see my birthday, too, 10:17. SO often!

Is it that I just don’t remark on the other numbers, and only remember the special ones?

My parents had a tradition that when either saw 11:11, no matter where they were,they'd think of each other. Jonathan and I do that, too.

Do you see certain numbers?

Do you think it’s random or coincidence or selective notice?

Angel Numbers

Judy Penz Sheluk


Has it ever happened to you? Everywhere you look, you seem to see the same sequence of repeated numbers. Wake up in the middle of the night, it’s 4:44. Glance at your cellphone: 4:44. Walk the dog and notice a car drive by with a license that begins or ends with 444. At first, you dismiss it as coincidence, but then it keeps on happening. There’s a brochure for the new pizza takeout in your mailbox and their address is 444 Pine Street. And you begin to wonder, could it mean anything?

That depends. To believers of numerology, every number, from our date of birth to our house number, has a unique meaning and holds significance in our everyday lives. And because we are surrounded by numbers, those who believe in spirit guides also believe numbers allow them to communicate with us, which is why they are referred to as “angel numbers.”

Of course, not everyone believes in spirit guides, and skeptics have been known to call numerology a pseudoscience—a practice or belief that claims to be factual but is incompatible with scientific method.

They will tell you that angel numbers are nonsense, or that your repeated sightings of 4-4-4 are nothing more than coincidence created by confirmation bias. In other words, you are looking for, and therefore noticing, incidents of 4-4-4 in the same way you might be noticing white Honda Civics after buying one. That there were always plenty of white Honda Civics, but you just didn’t pay attention because there had been no reason to do so before you owned one.

In my latest Marketville mystery, Before There Were Skeletons, my protagonist, cold case private investigator Calamity (Callie) Barnstable finds herself seeing a whole lot of 5-5-5s. Could it be some sort of sign?

She’s not superstitious by nature, but business has been slow and she’s willing to grasp at any straw.

And so, she emails Misty Rivers, a self-proclaimed psychic and Tarot card reader who has helped her with cases in the past, but has since married and moved to British Columbia, two thousand-plus miles away.

Misty answers promptly, providing an explanation of both numerology and angel numbers, and, to her credit, the admission that some folks view the latter as confirmation bias, but concludes with the following message: “Just as in Tarot, there can be many interpretations for the same sequence of numbers. In the case of 5-5-5, however, the most likely message is that significant changes are coming your way.”

Misty goes on to remind Callie that change is inevitable and that without it our lives would be stagnant, and concludes with, “Facing change and new opportunities with an open mind will allow you to view things from a different perspective.”

Callie’s not sure whether she sides with the skeptics or the spirit guides, but she’s about to find out one thing: plenty of changes are coming her way, and they all start with a single cold case.


Do you believe in angel numbers?

HANK: You must notice, at least, right? Tell us what you see! 


About Before There Were Skeletons

The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons.

Universal Book Link:


About the Author

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. She lives in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Find her at