Tag Archives: hard-boiled

A day in the life of Death Investigator Angela Richman by Elaine Viets

Detective Ray Greiman called me at midnight. “Luther Ridley Delor’s house is on fire. One body so far. They’re bringing it out. Get over there now.”

My heart sank. I’m Angela Richman, Chouteau County Death Investigator. That’s like a paralegal for the medical examiner: I handle homicides and unexplained deaths.

This was the third major fire in Chouteau County, a ten-square-mile preserve for the one percent and those who served them, near Saint Louis, Mo.

Seventy-year-old Luther called himself a financier to take away the sting of how his family made a trainload of money: running a nationwide chain of payday loan companies. I wondered who’d died: Luther? His 20-year-old fiancée, Kendra? A servant?

Burn victims were worse than badly decomposed bodies. When I arrived, the scene at the fiery mansion was controlled chaos. The victim was Luther, not Kendra Salvato, his Mexican-American fiancée. Detective Greiman had already decided Kendra had killed the old man. He told me Luther spent his last night at a local bar “pounding down Dos Equis and grabbing Kendra’s ass. Popped Viagra with a beer and said he and his little ‘greaser gal’ were going home to screw and we should expect to see flames. Too bad they were the wrong kind.”

Greiman’s evidence? A half-melted gasoline container found by Luther’s door. It had the logo of Kendra’s father’s lawn service. Jose mowed the lawns in Luther’s neighborhood.

“So?” I said. “The crew lost it.”

“Right before the house happens to go up in flames? I don’t believe in coincidence.”

I tried to ignore Greiman and concentrate on Luther’s body actualization – the examination. Luther seemed smaller in death – and he really was. Burn victims could lose up to 60 percent of their weight.

I slipped on four pairs of latex gloves. I’d strip off the gloves and put them in my pocket as the examination went on so I wouldn’t contaminate the investigation with fluids or fibers from other areas. I called up the “Body of a Burn Victim” form on my iPad. The routine questions soothed me, restoring order to this hellish chaos.

Were there any thermal injuries? Luther’s arms were raised in the classic “pugilistic stance” of a burn victim, as if he’d gone nine rounds with death and lost. His arm muscles had contracted in the heat. I measured the burns and blisters on his seared flesh, then carefully covered his fragile hands in paper bags secured with rubber bands. They might crumble when the body was transported to the morgue. The heat from a fire made bones brittle, and they could fracture when the body was moved. No bones jutted through his skin. I noted that, then tore my eyes away from the horror for the next question.

Hair color? Luther’s magnificent white hair had been burned away, but I knew the color and noted the absence of hair.

Eye color? I couldn’t tell. The eyes were cooked and shriveled. I fought back my nausea. Focus. You have a duty to help Luther. He was a rich, silly old fool led around by his libido, but now he needs your skill. Local gossip said the old man had given his young mistress $2,000,000 to wear his ring and another $2,000,000 when she married him. Now he was a brittle-boned mess of kindling.

Was the victim’s clothing consumed by fire? Luther wore the remnants of white silk boxer shorts: a melted elastic waistband and enough cloth to cover his genitals. I saw no sign of other clothes and didn’t remove his underpants. That would be the ME’s job.

Was there an odor of petroleum product on the clothing? I forced myself to lean in closer but couldn’t smell either oil or gasoline.

Was the victim known to drink to excess? I had no idea how much he’d drunk tonight—or rather, last night—but it had to be a lot. If his body was too cooked to do a blood alcohol test, the ME would have to use a piece of brain.

Could the victim’s medical problems have contributed to the fire or to his/her inability to exit the fire scene? “Witnesses said the victim was extremely intoxicated when last seen alive,” I wrote. Was Luther too drunk or confused to follow Kendra’s instructions? Did she even try to save him? If she abandoned Luther, she’d still have $2,000,000 – a lot of money for a manicurist.

Was the victim heard to cry out by any witnesses? That was the question. Plenty of witnesses were still watching the firefighters. I’d seen Greiman jump to conclusions before. It wasn’t my job to investigate Luther’s death—in fact, it violated the rules.

But I did have to record the facts. And I’d do everything I could to make sure Kendra was fairly treated.


You can read more about Angela in Fire and Ashes, the second book in the “Angela Richman, Death Investigator” mystery series.

In the exclusive, gated enclave of Olympia Forest Estates, death investigator Angela Richman watches a mansion go up in a fiery blaze. Seventy-year-old Luther Delor, who owns a sleazy but profitable chain of payday loan stores, dies in the fire. Luther, a drunken, bed-hopping rhinestone cowboy, scandalized the community when he left his wife for a twenty-year-old Mexican-American manicurist, Kendra Salvato. She’s accused of killing him and setting other fires in Chouteau County. Kendra is being railroaded to death row as a gold-digging killer.

All there is against Kendra is vicious gossip and anti-Mexican rage, and both are spreading like wildfire. Meanwhile, Angela is trying to douse the flames with forensic work that’s putting the Forest on edge. After all, facts could implicate one of their own. Now, sifting through the ashes of a vicious crime—and the guilty secrets of the privileged—only Angela can get to the truth, and prevent an innocent woman from getting burned.

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About the author
Award-winning author Elaine Viets has written thirty-one mysteries in four series, including the bestselling Dead-End Job series, featuring South Florida private detectives Helen Hawthorne and her husband, Phil Sagemont. She also wrote the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mystery series and the dark Francesca Vierling mysteries. She has served on the national boards of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She’s a frequent contributor to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine as well as anthologies edited by Charlaine Harris and Lawrence Block. Viets has won the Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty Awards.

The Angela Richman, Death Investigator series returns the prolific author to her hard-boiled roots. Brain Storm draws on her personal experiences as a stroke survivor, as well as her studies in the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course at Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine. Fire and Ashes, the second novel in the series, was published July 25, 2017.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Fire and Ashes by Elaine Viets

Fire and Ashes by Elaine Viets is the second book in the “Death Investigator Angela Richman” mystery series. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, coming July 25, 2017

In the exclusive, gated enclave of Olympia Forest Estates, death investigator Angela Richman watches a mansion go up in a fiery blaze. With it, seventy-year-old financier Luther Delor, a drunken, bed-hopping rhinestone cowboy. Embroiled in a bitter divorce, Delor may have scandalized Chouteau Forest, but his murder has united it against the accused: Delor’s twenty-year-old girlfriend, Kendra Salvato, an “outsider.” With an engagement ring bigger than Chouteau County, she’s being railroaded straight to death row as a gold-digging killer.

All there is against Kendra is vicious gossip and anti-Mexican rage, and both are spreading like wildfire. Meanwhile, Angela is trying to douse the flames with forensic work that’s putting the Forest on edge. After all, facts could implicate one of their own. Now, sifting through the ashes of a vicious crime—and the guilty secrets of the privileged—only Angela can get to the truth, and prevent an innocent woman from getting burned.

This is one book that I could not put down, quickly becoming a page turner. Who killed Luther Delor? Everyone suspects his very young Mexican fiancee. Did she do it? Is she also the arsonist? Well, I have to tell you that Elaine wrote a well-executed intense drama that captured the essence of what was going on with the parties involved in this case. From the fire inspector to the detective, they already had the town convinced of her guilt. Enters Angela who feels there is more to this and once she gets involved, this becomes an all-around deeply insightful tale dealing with the aftermath of death and arson.

The narrative was visually descriptive letting me imagine the goriness that Angela faced as a death investigator but it’s her strength that prevails when all is said and done. The mystery was tightly woven with subplots that played off each other that helped enhance the telling of this tale. The author does a nice job in setting the stage in this hard-boiled thriller where scene by scene, eye-opening details are exposed and it’s the culmination of facts that involved the town’s own residents and their demons and a few strategically placed twists brought this story to a justifiable conclusion. This is an engagingly riveting read and I can’t wait to read the next book with in this gripping series.


FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author.

Cover Reveal ~ 19 Souls by J.D. Allen

I am excited to reveal the cover for the first book in the NEW “Sin City” mystery series from Midnight Ink, coming February 8, 2018.


Title: 19 Souls
Series: Sin City Investigation #1
Genre: Hard-Boiled
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Website: J.D. Allen

Private Investigator Jim Bean is a straightforward, to-the-point man. When his latest client, Sophie Evers, asks him to find her brother Daniel, Jim has no idea how complicated his life is about to become.

Daniel is not Sophie’s brother. He is her most coveted prey. Clinging to the belief that they belong together, Sophie kills Daniel’s real sister to manipulate Jim into flushing Daniel out of hiding. She will create the “perfect life” for the only man she’s ever loved, no matter how many people she must kill along the way.

When Jim discovers the truth about Sophie, he’s driven to set things right before her delusional plan claims even more souls.

Pre-Order Link


About the author
J.D. Allen (Raleigh, NC) earned a degree in forensic anthropology and creative writing from Ohio State University. She’s also taught other writers on a variety of topics, including the basics of crime scene investigation and the art of public speaking.

A day in the life of Pete Fernandez by Alex Segura

I’m not hungry. This is usually a bad sign.

We’re at a table near the back of El Rinconcito—the “tiny corner”—a small Cuban place on 157th Avenue in West Kendall. It’s a warm day, the Miami temperatures clocking in no higher than 82. Balmy for the area, hellish and humid for anyone else.

My sponsor, Jack, is sitting across from me, sipping his Cafecito and giving me a concerned look. I’ve just dropped a whopper on him. I slide my half-eaten plate of carne asada toward the center of the table.

We’ve just hit our regular midday AA meeting a few blocks from the restaurant. I needed one. After touching base with my partner, Kathy Bentley, I’ve got a lot to think about. Maybe too much. Definitely more than usual.

My name’s Pete Fernandez and I’m a private investigator in my hometown, Miami. It’s taken me a few years to come to terms with that. I’ve crossed paths with mysterious mob guns for hire, raving-mad serial killers and weapon-smuggling drug dealers, but I’ve always tried to avoid the truth: that this is my gig, and I’m pretty good at it. I’m especially good at it when working with Kathy Bentley, a former colleague in my past life as a newspaper employee at The Miami Times. Even better at it when I’m not drunk. The not-drinking part is a relatively new development. Here’s hoping it sticks.

“You gonna take the case?” Jack asked before polishing off his drink.

“Not sure yet. Not sure what the case is, really.”

Jack cleared his throat. He wasn’t the biggest fan of my pre-case wishy-washiness.

“Anyone over the age of thirty knows the Gaspar Varela case,” he said, leaning over the table. “The guy killed his wife. End of story.”

“Some people think otherwise,” I said, motioning for the check. “And they’ve reached out to Kathy.”

“And she’s reached out to you, huh?”

“They want to see if they can find any evidence to get him a new trial,” I said, grabbing the billfold from the waitress. “He was an Narcotics cop. Perfect record before all this.”

“I’m just an old, overweight ex-cop myself, Pete,” Jack said, shrugging. “What do I know? But the whole thing sounds fishy to me. The case has been closed over ten years and you’re supposed to find one sliver of new evidence to save the day? There’s a needle comparison here.”

I laughed. He was usually right. But something nagged at me about the case. There was more to it than what Kathy told me and I wanted to find out. My curiosity was helpful in my line of work. It also got me into a lot of trouble. I wasn’t sure which it was doing right now.

I slipped a twenty and a ten into the fold and got up.

“Gone so soon?” Jack said.

“Gotta run and do some errands,” I said, shaking his hand. “Tomorrow’s gonna be a busy day.”

“It’s starting again, isn’t it?”

It. The case. The next obsession. The dance around the darkness, where I get close enough to maybe pull someone out, but also risk getting myself dragged in. I’m not sure I can survive another bout like the one from last year. Jack doesn’t think so, either.

I nod.

“It’s starting.”


You can read more about Pete in Dangerous Ends, the third “Pete Fernandez Miami” Mystery, out April 11 from Polis Books.

Pete Fernandez has settled into an easy, if somewhat boring life as a P.I.. He takes pictures of cheating husbands. He tracks criminals who’ve skipped bail and he attends weekly AA meetings The days of chasing murderous killers are behind him. Or are they?

When his sometimes partner Kathy Bentley approaches him with a potential new client, Pete balks. Not because he doesn’t need the money, but because the case involves Gaspar Varela, a former Miami police officer serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife – one of the most infamous crimes in Miami history. The client? None other than Varela s daughter, Maya, who s doggedly supported her father s claims of innocence.

As Pete and Kathy wade into a case that no one wants, they also find themselves in the cross-hairs of Los Enfermos, a bloodthirsty gang of pro-Castro killers and drug dealers looking to wipe Pete off the Miami map. As if trying to exonerate Varela wasn’t enough, they find themselves entangled in something even older and more surprising–a bloody, political hit ordered by Fidel Castro himself, that left a still-healing scar on Peteand his dead father’s past.

Fast-paced, hardboiled and surprising, Dangerous Ends pushes Pete Fernandez into a battle with a deadlier, more complex threat, as he tries to shake off the demons haunting Miami s own, sordid past.

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About the author
Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. He is the author of the Miami crime novels featuring Pete Fernandez, Silent City and Down The Darkest Street. The next Fernandez mystery, Dangerous Ends, will be released in April 2017 via Polis Books.

He has also written a number of comic books, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed Archie Meets Kiss storyline, the “Occupy Riverdale” story, Archie Meets Ramones and the upcoming The Archies one-shot.

He lives in New York with his wife and son. He is a Miami native.

All comments are welcomed.

Dangerous Ends is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.

A Day in the Life of Angela Richman by Elaine Viets

Brain StormI’m Angela Marie Richman, death investigator in Chouteau County, Missouri, home of the one-percent. At a death, the DI is in charge of the body. Police handle the crime scene. I work for the medical examiner. I was at the home of Ben Weymuller, ninety-two. He’d died at the bottom of his basement stairs. Ben’s daughter, Lucille, found him an hour ago. Now she was a murder suspect.

Ben lived in Toonerville, the snobs’ name for the community where the workers lived. Ben made carvings for chichi shops.

I hauled out my DI kit. I was shocked to see sixty-seven-year-old Lucille caged in a patrol car. A uniform wouldn’t let me comfort her.

To examine Ben’s body, I snapped on latex gloves, then fired up my iPad. The stomach-twisting odors of death overpowered the scent of fresh wood.

Ray Foster Greiman, my least favorite homicide detective, said, “Goddamn basement’s been trampled by a herd of buffalo. The daughter called EMS, and those assholes tried to revive him, even though he was DRT.”

Dead Right There.

I let him rant. EMS had to try to save Ben. The fine-boned old man lay on his back in a dark-red pool crisscrossed with footprints and dotted with medical debris. I photographed the scene, then moved in for closer shots.

Ben wore khakis and beige socks. His chest was burned by the efforts to restart his heart. IV lines trailed from his hands. I documented them and left them in place. His plaid shirt had been ripped off and tossed on the floor.

Ben’s snowy hair was matted with blood. The left side of his face and chest were purple-red. After Ben died, the blood pooled in his body: livor mortis. He must have died on that side.

I sketched the basement, diagramming the stairs splitting it between the storage and the workshop. Ben kept a neat basement.

“The daughter did him,” Greiman said. “She said, ‘It’s my fault.’”

I wasn’t sure that was a confession. Family members often blamed themselves for a loved one’s death.

“Why did Lucille say that?”

“She carried on, but I finally figured out she’d stopped by yesterday to bring her father lunch. She was in a hurry to go to the church volunteers’ lunch to get some two-bit award, and forgot to go downstairs to get him more canned soup. She says the geezer probably went downstairs himself about six. She thinks he fell because he wore those slippery socks.”

The stairs were made of reddish wood streaked with honey. “Why don’t the steps have treads?” I asked.

“He made the stairs himself. Thought treads would ruin them. Stubborn old coot. Ben had a bad heart, and she checked him daily. I figure she got tired of the demanding old guy and pushed him downstairs before she left for lunch. Those stairs are a death trap.”

“No!” I wanted to shout. But adult children did help demanding parents pass prematurely.

“They do look slippery,” I said. I counted the steps—twenty-four— and noted their slick surface and the forty-watt bulb that lit them.

I jiggled the handrail. It was sturdy. I photographed the blood streaked and spattered on the stairs, and measured the blood, including the clots painting the corner of the fourth step from the bottom.

Then I started the examination. Through the thick, crusted blood, I saw many bruises and scrapes on Ben’s scalp and face, and a “triangular-shaped indented defect” on his left temple.

“Did you see this blood on the fourth step, Ray? It looks like it matches the indentation in his head.”

“Not sure it’s a match,” he said. “If the daughter didn’t shove him, she clobbered him with a piece of wood. The tech is checking every stick.”

I photographed the bottoms of Ben’s socks. They were slightly gray, as if he’d walked around his house without shoes. I described the plain wedding ring on his liver-spotted left hand.

I took the room’s temperature, then made a slit below his ribs and recorded his body-core temperature, circled and initialed the cut in his skin.

A grumpy Greiman helped me turn Ben’s body, and I photographed more contusions and blood on his back, as well as the expected livor mortis on his left side.

“You done?” Detective Greiman asked. “Time to call the meat wagon.”

As the morgue attendants rolled Ben’s body to the van, I heard fresh sobs from Lucille.

Ben’s long, useful life had come to a violent end. But unlike Detective Greiman, I was sure Ben was killed by his own creation, not his only daughter.


Brain Storm is the first book in the NEW Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery series, published by Thomas and Mercer, August 2016.

The ultrawealthy families of Chouteau Forest may look down on a woman like death investigator Angela Richman, but they also rely on her. When a horrific car crash kills a Forest teenager, Angela is among the first on the scene. Her investigation is hardly underway, however, when she suffers a series of crippling strokes. Misdiagnosed by the resident neurologist, Dr. Gravois, and mended by gauche yet brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt, Angela faces a harrowing recovery.

It’s a drug-addled, hallucinating Angela who learns that Dr. Gravois has been murdered. . .and the chief suspect is the surgeon who saved her life. Angela doesn’t believe it, but can she trust her instincts? Her brain trauma brings doubts that she’ll ever recover her investigative skills. But she’s determined to save Dr. Tritt from a death-row sentence—even if her progress is thwarted at every turn by a powerful and insular community poised to protect its own.

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About the author
Bestselling mystery writer Elaine Viets has written 30 mysteries in four series. In Brain Storm, the first Angela Richman Death Investigator mystery, she returns to her hardboiled roots. Elaine passed the Medicolegal Death Investigators Course for forensic professionals to research the series.

She’s written short stories for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and anthologies edited by Charlaine Harris and Lawrence Block. The Art of Murder, featuring South Florida PIs Helen Hawthorne and her husband, Phil Sagemont, is Elaine’s 15th Dead-End Job mystery. She’s won the Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty Awards. Elaine is director at large of the Mystery Writers of America. Connect with Elaine at www.elaineviets.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Brain Storm. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end August 5, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ Brain Storm by Elaine Viets

Brain Storm by Elaine Viets is the first book in the NEW “Death Investigator Angela Richman” mystery series. Publisher: Thomas and Mercer, August 2016

Brain StormWhen The Old Money Façade Fails, The Lies Comes to Light.

The ultrawealthy families of Chouteau Forest may look down on a woman like death investigator Angela Richman, but they also rely on her. When a horrific car crash kills a Forest teenager, Angela is among the first on the scene. Her investigation is hardly underway, however, when she suffers a series of crippling strokes. Misdiagnosed by the resident neurologist, Dr. Gravois, and mended by gauche yet brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt, Angela faces a harrowing recovery.

It’s a drug-addled, hallucinating Angela who learns that Dr. Gravois has been murdered. . .and the chief suspect is the surgeon who saved her life. Angela doesn’t believe it, but can she trust her instincts? Her brain trauma brings doubts that she’ll ever recover her investigative skills. But she’s determined to save Dr. Tritt from a death-row sentence—even if her progress is thwarted at every turn by a powerful and insular community poised to protect its own.

All I can say is “wow!” This book immediately grabbed my attention with that first sentence and from that moment, I could not put this book down until the last page was read. The raw emotions contained in this narrative kept me riveted to what was going on as this multi-plot scenario captured Angela’s recovery and the investigation into the “favored” doctor’s murder. Superbly written, this fast-paced drama had me quickly turning the pages as I had to know how this will all play out. The author did a great job setting up this mystery with plenty of suspects and when I thought I had nailed the killer, the author changed direction with some intriguing twists that enhanced the telling of this tale, a twist I did not see coming. Elaine draws on her own experience as a stroke survivor and the depth in which she illustrates the recovery is testimony to the engaging tale that will leave you with awe and triumph for both Angela and Elaine. This is a terrifically gripping read and I look forward to more stories with Angela and her death investigations.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) book from the author.