The Showcase is a special feature of the Author's Spotlight. It is designed to highlight Spotlight author's NEW releases and their soon to be released novels.
The HBS Author's Spotlight SHOWCASES R.P. Dahlke's New Book: A DEAD RED MIRACLE.
Mystery Author R.P. Dahlke is the author of the Lalla Bains mystery series.
A DEAD RED MIRACLE
#5 in the Dead Red Mystery Series
Author: R.P. Dahlke
Thinking to jump start their careers as private investigators in Wishbone, Arizona, cousins Lalla and Pearlie Bains buy into it with a local P.I.
But their nifty plan starts circling the drain when his unscrupulous business practices end in his untimely death and they discover that he's been siphoning clients from their partnership.
With only a week before the state puts pulls the business license Lalla and Pearlie will have to corral a wall-climbing Apache ninja, pacify their former boss's greedy ex-wives and nail a killer. Sure Lalla and Pearlie are in a really tight spot, but all they need is a miracle or two.
Excerpt from A DEAD RED MIRACLE
With summer monsoons gusting wind and rain on my head, I opted for our cranky elevator to the second floor, backed through the wedged open door to 202A, Ron Barbour Investigations, and laid the box of printer paper on the nearest desk.
Shaking water from my windbreaker, I tossed it over the skeleton hanging on its stand in the corner.
The skeleton was a prop meant to help us ascertain where the knife, bullet, or hammer could strike. Another one of Ron's jokes since cousin Pearlie and I had yet to see a murder case come through the door. We worked for divorce attorneys, and insurance companies who needed proof against those people who made scamming a career choice.
Pearlie was hunched over a styrofoam head on her desk. I flopped into the vacant chair next to her desk. "Studying wound entries again?"
She looked up, boredom dulling her normally bright blue contact enhanced eyes. "Huh?"
"Never mind. Where's Ron?"
She went back to examining the head. "Ron who?"
"Ron Barbour, our fearless leader?"
She glanced at her watch. "He said he was going to see about drumming up some business. But since it's almost noon, he's probably cozied up to a beer."
"You should be grateful," I said. "It could be worse, you know."
Pearlie snorted. "Yeah. He could be trying for a threesome again."
I was thinking more of the times he came reeling through the door, slamming into furniture and reeking of whiskey. Ron was not a happy drunk, and since surly, belligerent and argumentative was not something we enjoyed with our workday, Pearlie and I tended not to question his daily routine.
She held up the styrofoam head for my inspection. "What do you think?"
"That depends. What is it?"
"A cap. Rather stylish, don't you think? I made it out of paper clips."
"Looks more like a contraption for torture. Don't you have anything to do?"
She grunted something that sounded like an expletive.
Technically, Pearlie and I owned the business, but because the State of Arizona required at least three years of documented experience in either state, federal police or military police, or as interns to a licensed P.I., we chose door number three. But getting anyone to accept us as interns was harder than we thought. We were over thirty, we had none of the aforementioned experience, and we were blonde. That last strike was incredibly sexist and so very annoying, but we soon realized that the best way to crack this nut was to buy into an established business. That's when Pearlie found Ron Barbour's ad in a P.I. magazine.
Our first phone call ended with Ron hanging up on Pearlie. At her second call and before he hung up on her again, he asked which of his friends put her up to this nonsense. At her third and final phone call, he reluctantly agreed to meet with us. Pearlie, never one to be fooled by a sales job done to impress, had done her homework. She knew what his business was worth and how much we should pay for it. A checkbook, a contract, and a pen nudged the grin off Ron Barbour's face.
Pearlie's airtight contract gave Ron one half of his asking price at signing, splitting expenses and profit during our time as interns, and at the end of the contract, he would write up letters of recommendation on our behalf as private investigators to the State Licensing Board and he would retire to go fishing.
We got the nominal title of Associate printed on our business cards, but not on the door or in ads. We did the grunt work, wrote up and initialed reports, and with Ron's signature, an invoice went to the client and checks came in made out to Ron Barbour Investigations. There was no mention of his silent partners, Pearlie or Lalla Bains, but since we were now a Limited Liability Corporation, there were now three signatures at the bank. Ron remained as titular big cheese, Pearlie became the company accountant handling all bank transactions, deposits, expenses, and taxes, and I did what I always wanted to do, work all day, every day as an investigator.
But before the ink was dry, Ron showed us in his own inimitable way that he regretted selling out to a couple of dumb blondes.
When Pearlie asked what we should do for desks, Ron leered and waggled his eyebrows. "Babe, as long as I have a face, you have a place to sit."
Actually, Babe became our unofficial titles. But when Pearlie and I started calling him dickhead in front of his clients, he called a truce.
That lasted for a month until he stopped bathing, shaving, or changing clothes. By this time, we were on to his antics and simply cranked up the A/C.
Next, he proposed a three-way at his place after work. Pearlie and I burst out laughing, then laughed again as his face turned beet red with humiliation. When he shouted and stamped his foot in fury at our insubordination, we pointed and laughed at his silly behavior. When he turned on his heel and stomped out of the office, we collapsed onto our chairs, gleefully giggling, and high-fiving each other in triumph.
In revenge, he had us doing every dirty, disgusting dumpster dive, all-night surveillance, and every boring fact-finding mission he could throw at us. In the process, we learned how to squeeze free information out of public records, credit bureaus, title searches, and social media. Tightwad that he was, we had to buy our own digital cameras and long distant lenses. He did let us use the beater Fords he kept for surveillance, but only if we bought our own gas. He also taught us how to mark a cheating spouse's tire at a no-tell-motel so we could come back the next morning, photo the mark on the tire, time and date it to show that the car hadn't moved all night.
And he never, ever, quit reminding us that under no circumstances were we to tell anyone of our partnership. If the clients found out he was retiring anytime soon, he'd said, they'd desert like rats fleeing the plague.
Oddly, this year's business was sliding faster than a monkey on a stripper's pole. One insurance company moved its local office out of state, another decided to accept a cheaper offer, and yet another simply went out of business. Ron seemed to spend a lot of his lunches looking for more work, and I smelled a rat. Maybe now was a good time to bring my suspicions to Pearlie.
"Last week," I said, "I presented a report to one of our clients and he asked who he should make the check out to."
"You're tired of having checks made out to Ron Barbour Investigations? Me too."
"Pearlie, I'm beginning to think…"
"You think buying this guy's business wasn't such a good idea? You read my mind. And to think, only a few months ago, the phone was ringing off the hook."
"Yes," I said. "Odd that Ron's client list is drying up right when we're less than a month away from giving him his final twenty-thousand dollar check and getting our letter of recommendation to the state."
Pearlie blinked. Was she beginning to see the light?
"I was at the court this morning. A woman was arrested for shooting her husband looked promising. She got bail, but her brother elbowed me aside and announced he'd hired a man for the job. I don't know how she could accept a man when it was obvious the case needed me."
"Us," I said, reminding her that we were partners. I wasn't about to let her forget, since this deal was her idea.
"Yeah, us, but I'm easy to talk to, you know."
"Because you're short?" Now I was teasing. The difference in our heights always got a rise out of her.
"I think it's because I'm not a threat to women," she sniffed, "on account of being a normal-sized female."
Got to hand it to her, she never missed a chance to remind me that I’m the beanpole. I'm tall and blonde, and she's short, plump, and blonde; at least she is when she makes it to her hair appointments on time.
Pearlie looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time. "Maybe Ron was right, maybe women P.I.'s don't do as well as men."
This was new. Of the two of us, Pearlie hung onto the dream of having our own P.I. firm with the clenched jaw of a pit bull. "You are depressed. You'll feel better after lunch," I said, knowing Pearlie could be easily distracted by food.
She smiled, pushed out of her fake leather executive chair and grabbed her purse. "I hope you're buying; I'm almost broke."
When it came to money, Pearlie Mae Bains would be the last person to be truly broke. Still, she hated the thought that her bank account had dipped below the water line with no prospects of a refill. Someone was going to have to hit Ron's list of old clients or we were going to be starting our new business with two dollars in our account.
"Of course I'm buying," I said, opening the door.
Pearlie's face lit up and I gathered that there was either a pizza delivery or a good looking man standing on the other side.
He wasn't wearing UPS brown or holding a pizza box, so maybe this was a potential client.
He was about five-nine, early twenties, with coppery muscled skin and the distinctive epicanthic fold of a Native American.
I smiled and motioned him inside.
With only a nod to acknowledge the two of us, he strode into the office taking in the shabby furniture, the dim overhead fluorescent lighting and the ancient file cabinets behind the WWII issue metal desk. "Where's Mr. Barbour?" he demanded.
"Pearl Mae Bains," she said, pumping his hand. "And this is Lalla Bains. We're Ron Barbour's associates. How can we help you?"
The young man pulled his hand out of hers and said, "If you don't mind, I'll take it up with Ron."
The kid wasn't exactly rude, but he sure was single minded.
Pearlie had that perplexed look. The one that meant that her clever mind had snagged on a thought. I could only hope it was the same one I'd been considering. I waited, studying a corner of the office while she worked it through to its ugly conclusion.
Her blue eyes darkened and her mouth went tight. Yep. She's seeing it now. Here was a real, live paying client, standing right in front of us. Just not one we knew about.
"I'm sorry," she said, her sweet sounding words belying the tight line of her mouth. "He retired and we bought his business."
The young man's eyes widened. "Retired! But he just called me."
"He called you today?" she asked, fluttering lashes that could cut glass. "He must've forgotten, on account of being in a hurry to leave. But we have all his files. If you'll just give me your name, Mister…?"
He shoved his hands in his pockets and glared at Pearlie. "Sorry, but I'm not talking to a couple of associates."
Pearlie lifted her chin and pulled herself up to her full five-foot three inches. "Well then I'm sorry for you, buster, 'cause if you want that information, you're gonna have to talk to us."
He shuffled from one foot to the other, and said, "I was training in the mountains and didn't get his message until today. He said he had a name and I have his check," he said, waving the check at us. "I called him back but it went to voice mail. If you're his associates, how come you didn't answer the phone?"
Pearlie and I looked at each other. Ron was giving out his cell phone for new business? We were going to have to talk to him about this.
Seeing Pearlie's hair trigger temper was about to let go, I pushed in front of her. "If you couldn't reach him, it's because you were calling his cell, not the office. He handed over the keys, and said he was going fishing."
"Did he say where?" the kid asked, desperation causing his voice to raise an octave.
"Sorry, no," Pearlie replied. "But like I told you, we own the business and we're certainly capable of handling your case."
"This is just wrong. Why would he call and then run off like that? A name?all I need is a name."
I thought it more likely that Ron Barbour had found a gullible client.
Seeing that the kid was waffling, she tried nudging again. "You can help by telling us the case name, or your name."
We held our breath, waiting to see if he would bite.
The kid, however, wasn't interested in our explanations. "You tell him he'd better call me or the deal's off!"
And before Pearlie could make a grab for the check, he turned on his heel and left, the door slamming shut behind him.
"That went well," I said. "Lunch?"
"That lazy, good fer nothin', lyin'… that sleaze bag Ron." Pearlie's face was flushed and there were tears in her eyes. "He's been hidin' cases from us!"
"The thought had crossed my mind." I was tempted to say I-told-you-so, but if I waited, Dad, Caleb, and Aunt Mae would do it for me.
Pearlie wiped away a tear, and tossing her purse on the desk, went to the file cabinet. "I'm going to look for this guy's files."
"Pearlie," I said, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I know it's hard to take, but if Ron's been siphoning off clients, he's got the file with him."
Pearlie rounded on me. "Then let's saddle up and go find that polecat."
She was right. It was time for a showdown with Ron. "As long as you promise to leave your Pearlie special in the car!" I called after her as she clattered down the wet metal stairs.
"Sure," she said. "Who needs a gun when I can strangle him with my bare hands!"
A nondescript beige sedan sat in her parking spot.
"What's this?" I asked.
"Tight-ass Ron wouldn't let me borrow one of his precious surveillance vehicles while Gypsy gets her oil changed, so I had to rent a car."
Pearlie saw her move to Arizona as an opportunity to tour around her adopted state. But since most of our work was in Tucson, the miles she would've spent touring in her nice new Jeep Grand Cherokee were racked up in miles on the job, and it was beginning to show.
"Get in," Pearlie said, through clenched teeth.
I got into the rental car and sniffed. "Is it just me, or does this car smell like cat piss?"
Instead of answering, she turned on the radio and started flipping channels. "Why is it that all we get is Country Western or Mexican stations?"
"In case you haven't noticed," I said, "Sierra Vista is spitting distance from the Mexican border. So, let me guess-the local agency heard about your reputation for breaking rental cars?"
"Now you're just picking on me."
"Admit it. Your track record has caught up with you."
"Fresno was not my fault. You were there. It was a hit and run."
"If the perp had stuck around, you might've had a case."
Pearlie gave me a satisfied nod. "That's one less killer the feds have to worry about. He's just lucky my aim was off that day or he'd be pushing up daisies instead of sitting in prison."
"I'm sure he thanks you in his prayers."
"Ha-ha. As for rental car companies, I'm sick and tired of them. Soon's I get some money, I'm going to buy me a nice big truck."
"You have the Jeep."
"I don't want to get it messed up," she said.
I laughed. "Of course not. Sure you don't want a Hummer? They can take a beating."
"They cost a fortune. Besides, we have to keep a low profile. Ron always says a vehicle common to the area, something neutral, like a white or grey sedan."
"You're going to have to stop talking about Ron Barbour or I'm going to vomit on your cat-piss smelling seat covers."
"I know," she said, her voice going soft. "He's a rotten bastard, but he does have some redeeming qualities."
"You mean besides stealing our clients? If he's stealing clients, he might as well skip out on writing that letter of recommendation to the state for us."
"Ohmygod. I think I must be depressed or sumpin'."
More than likely, she was hungry again, but food was going to have to wait. I did not envy Ron when my cousin finally got him by the throat.
Mystery, Romance, Humor
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I sort of fell into the job of running a crop-dusting business when my dad decided he'd rather go on a cruise than take another season of lazy pilots, missing flaggers, testy farmers and horrific hours. After two years at the helm, I handed him back the keys and fled to a city without any of the above. And no, I was never a crop-duster.
My Lalla Bains series is about a tall, blond and beautiful ex-model turned crop-duster who, to quote Lalla Bains, has "been married so many times they oughta revoke my license." Lalla is no Danielle Steele character & she's not afraid of chipping her manicure. Scratch that, the girl doesn't have time for a manicure what with herding a bunch of recalcitrant pilots and juggling work orders just to keep her father's flagging business alive.Note: Beginning with A Dead Red Alibi, Lalla and her family will reside in South East Arizona where she will divide her time between a fledgling P.I. business with cousin, Pearlie Bains, and volunteering as a team member with Cochise County Search and Rescue.
My romantic sailing Mystery Trilogy start with A Dangerous Harbor, and continues with Hurricane Hole. Both now up on Kindle and if you liked my Lalla Bains series, I know you'll love this book: More romance, more suspense, an exotic location with nastier bad guys and a bald parrot!
Author's Book List
A DEAD RED ALIBI
- The Dead Red Mystery Series Book 4
A successful, but reclusive young artist with a secret life.
A wannabe lawman and his dotty gun-toting granddad.
An abandoned mine pit, a curious dad and the local police chief found with him.
When Lalla and her dad take a trip to Arizona to inspect her new property, Dad disappears. But when Lalla enlists the help of a local tracker she's relieved to find him unharmed, but in the bottom of a mine pit.
Unfortunately, he's got company--a local police chief, and it looks like he's been murdered. Then too, a young woman artist living nearby has also been murdered. What're the chances that these two murders are going to be related? Well, if you're Lalla Bains, you don't guess, you start looking for the killer!
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The Dead Red Mystery Series - Boxed Set
Over 198- 5 STAR reviews total for this humorous mystery series--A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Heart, and A Dead Red Oleander
Here's what reviewers are saying:
A Dead Red Cadillac:
"A Dead Red Cadillac may be Dahlke’s first published work, but it doesn’t read that way; the author is assured in her storytelling, crafting a witty, breezy, and thoroughly-entertaining lark peppered with interesting characters in a unique setting... and even tossing in some (much-appreciated) surprising twists along the way Wise-cracking detectives--from the rank amateurs who somehow stumble into the practice of investigating, to the licensed professionals with their fancy gizmos and snazzy Yellow Pages listings--are a dime a dozen in mystery novels... but a wise-cracking, ex-fashion-model, crop-dusting sleuth? That puts a quirky new spin on the genre, in R.P. Dahlke’s peppy debut, A Dead Red Cadillac".
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- #2 in Pilgrim's Progress-A Romantic Sailing Mystery Trilogy
While anxiously awaiting confirmation on the renewal of her TV contract, Leila Hunter Standiford, opts for a sail on the boat she and her sister co -own in Mexico. But when she impetuously invites a family friend, and fugitive from justice, Gabe Alexander, as crew, she has no idea of the trouble that will follow. Now, at the end of her vacation in Puerto Felice, all she wants is to get Gabe off her boat.
Then a beautiful vintage Alden sails into the anchorage, and though she admires the boat, and the handsome captain, she doesn't realize the lovely yacht will soon burn to the water line, or that a dead body will be found below, or that the captain, who may or may not be the killer, might also be the man of her dreams.
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"The main protagonists and all the supporting characters, have larger than life personalities, which lend themselves to some great dialogue exchanges and some pretty strange and esoteric action scenes. In preparation for the couple's forthcoming nuptuals, Lalla's relatives have arrived in California, from Texas and now the fun really starts!!"
When a late in the season emergency forces Lalla Bains to accept a greenhorn ag pilot for her dad's cropdusting business, she sighs in relief . After all, he comes highly recommended, his physical is spotless, and with a name like Dewey Treat, what could possibly go wrong?
Then her quirky relatives arrive from Texas and things go south in a hurry: Dewey Treat drops dead, his tearful widow claims he was murdered, clobbers Sherriff Caleb Stone with his own gun, and makes a run for it. Lalla, convinced the widow is innocent, sets out to prove it--against the express wishes of fiancé Caleb Stone.
Feds, local law, suspicious ag-pilots, nutso relatives, and her daddy's new sidekick, Bruce the goat, make life a living hell for Lalla. Will her nosey nature solve the crime and save the day? Or put them all in mortal danger?
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"This is an engaging, well-written mystery with characters that took up residence in my imagination; moving in with all their baggage and quirks. I found them incredibly difficult to dislodge even several days after I had finished reading the book. I loved the setting; the beauty of the waters and the lovely hillsides existing alongside the abject poverty and ugliness of the slummy, sleazy habitats of those less fortunate. The day to day uncertainly of life is realistically portrayed in an area where powerful drug cartels operate from shadowy positions in almost all levels of government..." LauriJ's Reviews for Night Owl Reviews Reviewer Top Pick
"Take a San Francisco police officer who is on leave for shooting a man who threatened her sister, send her on a sailing trip into Mexican waters where she finds the body of a murdered teenage girl, and you've got the mix for an intriguing mystery. Add an irresistible Mexican-Italian man who happens to be the lead investigator on the case and the romance begins to sizzle. I loved the vivid descriptions of this coastal Mexican town, and the methodic way in which officer Katy Hunter helps with the investigation. A satisfying ending in which all the threads come together into a neatly plotted book." - Connie Shelton, author of the best-selling Charlie Parker mysteries and the new Samantha Sweet mysteries
Here's the set-up:
Bleary-eyed and sleep deprived after a long overnighter into Mexico, solo sailor and SFPD police detective, Katrina Hunter, thinks the mermaid twenty yards behind her thirty-two foot Westsail is nothing more than a sailor's hallucination But everything she knows about floaters convinces her to turn her boat around for another look.
Now, alone and isolated in the Mexican port's police station for six hours she's convinced that reporting a floater to authorities was a mistake. Even the arrival of a handsome, if somewhat dour, Mexican/Italian investigator does nothing to dispel her growing anxiety that she's about to be charged with the murder.
Chief Inspector, Raul Vignaroli, is as surprised by the attractive solo-sailor as he is to find that she's a respected member of the San Francisco police force, and after some well-placed phone calls he's sure that he's found the perfect partner to help him solve a murder, if not the cure for his broken heart.
Released, she's free to go. But leaving the police station hits a snag when two policemen march in, dragging a listless prisoner between them. But before Katy can dodge them for the exit, the prisoner raises his head and a startling pair of aquamarine eyes meet hers.
He straightens his back, wincing at the angle of his cuffed wrists. "What the... Whisper?"
Suddenly, the sound of the ceiling fan is terribly loud. Blood pounds in her ears, her mouth goes dry, her palms are damp and her feet are nailed to the floor. In a knee jerk reaction, she hisses, "Don't call me that!"
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A DEAD RED HEART
- The Lalla Bains Series
When a lovesick, homeless veteran litters her vintage red caddy with paper snowflakes, Lalla Bains, Aero Ag pilot figures it's time for a showdown. Unfortunately, someone else has the same idea leaving Lalla with a dying man at her feet, and only his strange last words, "The more there is, the less you see," as a clue to his killer.
Compounding her life her tightwad, widowed father becomes a born-again ladies man, a disreputable competitor tries to push her out of business, and last but not least, her antennae twitches that the sultry redhead in Modesto's police department may be vying for Sheriff Caleb Stone's affections.
It soon becomes crystal clear that the police are totally off base on this murder investigation and someone else is going to have to suit up to solve this case. Someone who is just exasperating, pushy, and tenacious enough to get the job done--and that person will be none other than:Ms. Lalla Bains.
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A DEAD RED CADILLAC
"I've been married so many times, they should revoke my license," says NY model, and reluctant pilot Lalla Bains.
Running her dad's Crop-Dusting business in Modesto, California she's hoping to dodge the inevitable fortieth birthday party. But when her trophy red '58 Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask why a widowed piano teacher, who couldn't possibly see beyond the hood ornament, was found strapped in the driver's seat.
Reeling from an interrogation with local homicide, Lalla is determined to extricate herself as a suspect in this strange murder case. Unfortunately, drug running pilots, a cross-dressing convict, a crazy Chihuahua, and the dead woman's hunky nephew throw enough road blocks to keep Lalla neck deep in an investigation that links her family to a twenty-year old murder only she can solve.
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