Sunday, December 27, 2020


 Did you get at least one holiday present this year which was a dud? You know what I mean—a sweater that is two sizes too small or is in a shade of orange that makes you cringe. 

Just wait till you read about the "present" Sara Almquist got. It was about a pound of animal guts and made an alarming ticking sound. Did I mention it was contaminated with the bacteria that cause the plague?

In the medical thriller A POUND OF FLESH, SORTA, Sara Almquist receives a mysterious box of animals guts. The police suspect  gang leaders are trying to threaten Sara and prevent her from testifying at their upcoming trials. As a scientist, Sara wonders whether the packet might be a plea from a rancher fearing another outbreak of the plague in the Southwest. 

Soon all suspect the package is a clue needed to solve a suspicious series of accidents.

Why not gift yourself with this book and spend a day or two immersed in a real mystery/thriller? Then you can ignore all the boring presents you got.

P.S. Plague occurs almost every year in the American Southwest causing the death of many livestock and occasionally a few human deaths.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Does this sound like the memory of a spy?

Sara Almquist is in a lackluster love affair in I SAW YOU IN BEIRUT. Then an agent who has been undercover for thirty years in #Iran sends an email: "Help. Contact Almquist." As Sara is drawn into the plan to identify and rescue the agent, known only as F, she is forced to re-evaluate characters from her career as a globe-trotting #scientist and rethink what matters in #romance and her life in general. Available at:


This excerpt from Chapter 3 of I SAW YOU IN BEIRUT, an international #thriller, is based on a real incident and a real Iranian student in the U.S. in 1978:

“I don’t remember how I met her.” She (Sara Almquist) noted the Major continued to tap the table. “I only remember… three incidents with Farideh.” She gulped. “I guess I’m ready. I’ll start with the most revealing. I hadn’t worked for Doc Steinhaus long. So, it must have been a Saturday in September or early October of seventy-eight.”


The day was hot. I heard a roar of the crowd at a football game in Camp Randall Stadium as I entered the almost empty, red brick Horticulture Building.

Four of Doc’s graduate students were in the workroom when I delivered printouts from the computer lab in a nearby building. Three hardly lifted their heads to acknowledge me. I knew why. Danny was yipping in his high tenor voice about inconsequential departmental gossip as he looked at his near empty desk. The other three politely refrained from telling him to shut up.

I sat down by Mike and waited for instructions. I had a bit of crush on Mike. As was the fashion then, he had a thick unruly beard. He muttered, “Think of a way to shut the fool up. Doc should be here shortly. He wants you to enter data for me at the computer center.”

I got up and sliced a thin sliver of chocolate cake for myself from a tired-looking birthday cake on the table in the center of the room. The grad students had celebrated Mike’s birthday the day before. Most of the cake was gone, but wax candles were strewn on the table. “Danny, do you want a piece of cake. It’s still moist.”

Danny drew a freckled hand through his carrot red hair and blinked his brown eyes at me in apparent surprise. “The baby talks.”

I ignored the insult and placed a big slice of cake on a napkin and was handing it to him when Farideh slammed into the office. As usual she wore hip-hugging, frayed blue jeans, the bell-bottom type. An off-white knit ribbed top, which showed her slim waist, clung to her torso. Despite her dark hair and black eyes, I doubt most would guess she was from Iran. She was about five-seven and moved with long, smooth strides.

Danny talked as he stuffed cake in his mouth. “Did you do your daily protest march against the Shah around the Bascom Hall?” Chocolate cake dribbled from his mouth. “From what I hear, he’s been good for Iran. That’s why you and your husband are in grad school here.”

Mike kept his head down. “Danny, leave her alone.”

Farideh plunked in her chair. “We were followed today by men in suits. I think from SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police.”

“You’re hallucinating,” said Danny.

“Don’t display your ignorance.” Farideh strode to the table and sliced the cake.

The three other grad students kept their heads down, as though they expected a blow-up.

“Hey, doll cut me another piece,” said Danny as he swallowed the last of the cake I’d given him.

Surprisingly, Farideh did. As she cut the cake, Danny rose to stand behind her. He rubbed his hands from her waist to her hips. “What a waste to cover this with a burqa, or I guess you’d say a chador in Iran.”

She dropped the slice of cake and rammed her elbow into his gut. Hesitated a second, before she picked up the knife. “Don’t touch me.”

Mike ran from the office. The mouths of the two other grad students hung agape.

Farideh turned the knife in her hand.

Danny, who about three inches taller than Farideh and quite muscular, laughed, “Doll, you know I can take the knife from you.”

Everyone gasped as the door opened and Doc rolled in, followed by Mike. Doc was obese, and he panted when he walked at a normal speed. Today he gasped from having hurried in the heat. “Farideh… come… to… my… office.” 

Danny squealed, “You’re in trouble now.”

She gripped the knife and lunged at Danny.

“Farideh!” Doc howled.

She stabbed the knife so hard into the cake that she broke its blade on the table. Then she stalked out of the office.

As he closed the door, Doc said, “Danny, try to keep your mouth shut until I return. And Sara, here’s what you need to do.” He handed me a stack of papers.


Monday, November 9, 2020


When I visited India a couple years ago, I met several people who said seeing the Taj Mahal and visiting #India were items on their bucket list. Those two items were never was on my bucket list, but I admit the #Taj Mahal is breathtaking as it appears among the mists rising from the #Yamuna River at sunrise. 

Here's one reason why seeing the Taj Mahal wasn't on my bucket list. As the sun rises you also see the Yamuna River, one of the holy rivers of India, is polluted. In fact, some Indians have described it as an "open sewer." The #pollution of the Yamuna Rivers made me think. Experts say the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers are among the ten most polluted rivers in the  world, but then so is the Mississippi. Considering the importance of water for life itself, maybe more of us should include "doing at least one activity that reduces pollution" on our bucket list.


My other problem with the Taj Mahal are the crowds. Think of the crowds leaving the stadium of a Big Ten school after a football game. I saw the Taj Mahal during the Diwali (a Hindu festival) holidays with probably twenty thousand people. However, the groups of fifty to two hundred school children each at tourist sites were amazing. Each clump of children were identifiable by their clothes, particularly the girl's uniforms. For example, one group of several hundred girls wore leggings with long jumpers almost to their knees in shades of green. Although all the groups were noisy when they left their buses. They were quiet and organized and with the smallest in front and the tallest at the back of the group by the time they reached the entrance to the sites. The children reminded me that all of us should include on our bucket list at least one activity that improves the welfare and education of #children.


I usually think that the "native" song and dance performances that tourists are treated to are hokey. However, I thought the snake dance performed by tribal women in #Rajasthan was one of the most sensuous performance I'd ever seen. It made those seen in movies look like bump and grind routines. That also made think. The best parts of travel occur when you least expect them. Perhaps, the most important item on any one's bucket list should be "to learn to appreciate the arts and skills of others."


I suppose this blog is too preachy but it's my long-winded way of admitting that visiting India should be on more people's bucket list. I suspect that is not an achievable goal for most, especially with the pandemic. So, the alternative is: read a novel with scenes depicting modern India. You might consider DIRTY HOLY WATER.


Blurb for DIRTY HOLY WATER: Sara Almquist is about to become engaged and leave for a vacation in India when she becomes a suspect in the murder of a friend. It's unnerving for Sara because she's used to being a trusted forensic investigator with answers, not a nervous suspect. Surprisingly, Sara finds insights into her feelings and into the murder as she becomes immersed in Indian culture.


Paperback and ebook at:

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Trick or Treat with Gifts of Books

 #Halloween is coming. Most of us have already gained weight during our distancing period for COVID. More candy and cookies is the last thing we need. Why not make your treats this year-BOOKS? They could be new or used.

Here are two books published in 2020 that might make great Halloween treats. Both are scary (at least a little bit) but in different ways.

The first is DIRTY HOLY WATER. Life is complicated for Sara Almquist in this #romantic #mystery and psychological thriller. She's about to become engaged and leave for a vacation in #India when she becomes the chief suspect in the murder of a friend. Only the friend and her family, well to put it politely, have a couple of dark secrets. 
Sara soon realizes the difference between a villain and a victim can be small - alarmingly small, especially in a dysfunctional family.

The second is A POUND OF FLESH, SORTA. In this #thriller, Sara Almquist receives a mysterious box contaminated with the bacteria, which causes the plague. FBI agents consider it a threat from gang leaders because Sara is a key witness at an upcoming racketeering trial. As a #scientist, Sara thinks the packet might be an attempt to focus attention on a potential for plague in the Southwest. Soon all suspect the package is a clue needed to solve the suspicious death of one employee in a meat packing plant and the disappearance of another man maimed in an industrial accident.

       P.S. Prairie dog die offs in the #Southwest really are caused by the plague and a few people in the Southwest die of the plague each year.


Monday, June 1, 2020


I'm starting June with a guest blogger. Marilyn Meredith is a prolific #mystery author.  If you haven't read one of her books, read her new one, End of the Trail, after you read her blog below.  This is a #police procedural with heart. Let's hope this novel isn't the end of the trail for Marilyn's writing.
Right now, we are all experiencing something new. I’m not going to discuss the pandemic as such—I’ll leave the current event to Janet, my host, who is far more knowledgeable about such diseases. 
Any author knows that what is going on now has changed what we can do to promote our books. We can’t go to bookstores to do talks and signings, and book fairs and conferences have been cancelled. What is left? Mainly social media and visiting blogs like this one.
There wasn’t even a hint of what was to come while I was writing End of the Trail, the latest in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. My main ideas for this book came from family—one from a distant relative living in a most unusual lifestyle, and another from a much closer member who is preparing for any coming huge disaster whether it be a biblical Armageddon or a war of some sort. (I have a huge family, and believe me, they are all different. You should hear their varied and controversial views on the pandemic!)
When I began writing I was able to attend the weekly meetings of my critique group and hear their suggestions and feelings about each chapter. Because they also write their corrections on the copies of the chapter I brought, I can use or not use what I want when I get home. And, of course, these in-person meetings have been cancelled. 
Though I had plenty of time to write, it was hard to get motivated to do so. I really did want to finish, but as I was writing, I began to wonder if this might be the last book in the series. Was that really what I wanted to do?
Even now, with the book done and available on Amazon, I am not sure. In fact, I have a new idea bouncing around in my brain.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Pound of Flesh, Sorta

 Are you tired of TV reruns, why not  read a new novel - a medical mystery entwined in a western #thriller.

Pound of Flesh, Sorta starts when a a ticking package with the guts of animals is delivered to Sara Almquist. The police doubts it's a prank because Sara is a key witness in an upcoming trial of gang leaders. Scientist Sara Almquist thinks it might be plea for help after she learns the guts are contaminated with the bacteria that causes the #plague. Read the book and see who's right.

PS Prairie dog die-offs regularly occur in the American #Southwest and are caused by the plague. A few people in the Southwest die of the plague most years.

Here’s the start of the A Pound of Flesh, Sorta.
CHAPTER 1: Sara Almquist on Wednesday
Sara Almquist looked at the white parcel in front of her door. A brown UPS delivery van careened around the corner away from her home. This was typical when the doorbell rang at this time of day. She never reached the door before the delivery guy was climbing into his truck. Today she was either a little slower than usual or he was a little faster. 
The box was clearly marked with her name and address. She didn’t remember ordering anything recently, but she sometimes forgot orders. Maybe Eric Sanders had sent her a surprise package. Red “PERISHABLE” stamps were on the top and sides of the package. She guessed it must be food. Bug, her black and white Japanese Chin, was smelling the carton intently and waving his plumed tail. He seldom gave boxes left at the door a second sniff. It must be special.
She carried the package, about the size of six shoe boxes, to the counter in her kitchen. It was odd that the label listed the shipper as “New Mexico Industries,” but didn’t show a return address. She didn’t know a company with that name. She pulled a utility knife from her tool drawer and slit the silver duct tape connecting the two flaps of the box. A Styrofoam carton was tightly wedged inside. Sanders had sent her something fragile or that needed to be kept coldmaybe it was tropical flowers or gourmet cheeses?
She cut the tape around the lid, lifted the lid, took out two blue gel freeze packs, and screamed. The shock passed quickly, and her innate curiosity and scientific training took over.
A firm-looking ivory mass with streaks of pink and ridges lay in the box. It was probably the tissue of a large animal. It was not squishy like brains or squiggly tubes like intestines. It looked sorta like the tripe sold in rural meat markets, but this blob had big linear ridges, not a honeycomb of ridges. It was most likely the stomach of an animal. Several red, almost black, spots dotted the creases between the ridges. 
She wasn’t going to touch it. It might be laced with a poison. This wasn’t a gift from a friend. Someone was angry with her.
Four months ago, Sara had helped local police and the FBI identify the butcher at a carnicerĂ­a in nearby Mercado as the killer of homeless veterans who interfered with his drug business in Albuquerque. It had been a complicated case and her friend Eric Sanders, then assigned by the State Department to the embassy in Cuba, had tracked an assassin hired by the drug syndicate from Havana to Miami to Albuquerque. Now the butcher, his wife, drug kingpins from Miami, and a number of former members of the Albuquerque Police Department awaited trial for murder and drug trafficking. They would be tried in federal court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as the “RICO” Act. Sara would be a key witness for the prosecution.
The mass didn’t look like it would explode or emit dangerous gasses, but it was covered with plastic film. As a scientist, she’d seen many disgusting samples over the years. As Sara put the ice packs and the lid back on the carton, she thought she heard a ticking noise. Her imagination was probably working overtime, but she saw no reason to tempt fate. She carried the carton out of her house and placed it in her driveway. If it exploded, the house wouldn’t suffer too much damage. She didn’t think the package was big enough to contain a lot of explosives, but it wouldn’t take much with the right ones.
Rather than call 9-1-1, Sara punched the button for Mercado Police Chief Gil Andrews. She had his cell phone number on speed dial because they had worked together on several cases during the last couple of years. “Gil? I have an emergency. Just received a package of… tripe or something like it. Anyway, it’s ticking.”
“What do you mean ‘tripe?’ Ticking?”
“The carton is in my driveway so it won’t blow up my house.”