Join Josh's Newsletter and receive an exclusive audio book! Exclusive audio offer!

A hilarious mystery with lots of colorful quirky characters, and, most especially, really engaging main characters. This is a fantastic read from a mystery standpoint, enhanced by the sexual tension between Christopher and J.X.

Rainbow Reviews
At the urging of his agent, irascible mystery author Christopher Holmes reluctantly agrees to attend a mystery writer’s conference at a remote Northern California winery. But no sooner does he arrive then he discovers the pajama-clad body of a woman in the woods.
With a storm in full force and a washed out bridge making it impossible for law enforcement to come to the rescue, it’s practically like all those classic murder mysteries in isolated country manors that Christopher has been penning for sixteen years!

Someone was howling—a thin, breathless cry that was, in fact, more breath than cry.


Far from splitting the night, my bleat barely carried three feet, so I had no trouble hearing my attacker’s exasperated, “What. The. Fuck?

I knew that voice.

I bit off the rest of my screech and sat up, wincing as pain shot up my spine. I was sitting in a puddle, ice-cold water soaking through my trousers. The last time I remembered being decked had been a playground rumble at Our Holy Mother. I’d been thirteen. My bounce had been better back then. Now I felt like I’d wrenched every muscle in my already worn-out body. And my back… I’d be lucky if I wasn’t crippled for a month. I wiped the mud off my face.

“I am so going to sue your ass,” I spluttered.

“Well, what the hell are you doing out here?” J.X. demanded.

No apology seemed forthcoming. Also, I couldn’t help noticing, neither was help from the lodge. Were we too far away to be heard? Not a happy thought.

“What do you think I’m doing? I’m going to my cabin.”

“Crawling on your hands and knees?”

“I wasn’t on my hands and knees till you knocked me down.”

“You sure as hell were skulking in the bushes.”

“I heard something—you—and I was making sure it was safe.”

He continued to stare down at me. I wished I could see his face. His motionless outline caused my scalp to prickle. Then he reached down a hand.

His hand was warm on my chilled one. Again I was aware of his wiry strength. He wasn’t much taller than me, but he was in a hell of a lot better shape. He pulled me to my feet and dropped my hand.

“What are you doing out here?” I asked, uneasily rubbing the twinging small of my back.

“Grabbing a log for my fireplace.” He reached past me and picked up a nice stout sawed-off limb. “It’s going to be a cold night.” He picked up another log. “Here’s one for you.”

“Thanks.” I stepped out of range, trying not to be too obvious about it. Not that I didn’t appreciate the gesture, but there was something unconvincing in his manner. What had he been looking for out here?

J.X. still held out the log. I took it gingerly.

“I’ll see you to your cabin.”

“Oh. Okay. Thanks.” I remembered my minibar set up. “Hang on.”

I limped back to where I’d set down the tray. Everything was as I’d left it. I lifted the tray and nearly dropped it. J.X. stood right behind me, log in hand.

I managed to save the gin. The tonic water, ice bucket, and glass slid off the tray and landed in the mud.

“What is it with you?” I demanded and thrust the log and the tray at him. I knelt, gathering up the fizzing bottle and glass. The scattered ice cubes winked dully in the pallid moonlight.

“What the hell is this about?” J.X. indicated the tray.

“What the hell does it look like? I’m planning to drown my sorrows.”

“That’s not going to solve anything.”

“I’m not trying to solve anything.” I added pointedly, “I’ll leave that to the experts.”

“It’s your head,” he said. “Come on.” He put his hand under my arm as I started to rise, and I nearly lost the entire load again.

“Do you mind?”

“Sorry. Jesus, you’re jumpy.”

“I can’t imagine why.” I rebalanced and set off—limping—down the path.

“Do you really have a bad back?” he asked, behind me.

“No, it’s just something I say to get chicks.”

He didn’t respond, but as we reached the edge of the meadow, he caught me up so that we were walking side by side. “This way.”

I followed him down the dirt path that cut across the open field toward the cabins. The sodden clouds had parted, and a lackluster moon gilded everything in unnatural light. In the absence of the rain and wind, the stillness seemed uncanny.

Mostly to fill the uncomfortable silence between myself and J.X., I said, “There’s something eerie about the stillness.”

“It’s the eye of the storm.”

“You mean there’s more rain on the way?”

“Oh yeah. We’re a couple of hours away from another downpour.”


“Which is your cabin?”

“That one—with the lights on.”

He said sharply, “Did you leave the light on?”

“Yes.” I cast a quick glance at his silvered profile. “Why? You don’t really think I’m in any danger, do you?”


“You could try to sound a little more convincing.”

What he sounded was irritable. “You had to go around telling everyone Peaches had been murdered, didn’t you?”

“That’s it.” I stopped walking. The glassware rattled to a halt with me. “We need to have this out here and now.” I was talking to his back. “Hey.”

He kept walking. I had to trot to catch up—which irritated me further.

“Listen,” I said, “I did not tell anyone anything. Peaches was everybody’s candidate for unnatural selection. From the minute I said I found her in the woods, people were speculating about how she died.”

“And you encouraged their speculation.”

“I didn’t. I didn’t say anything one way or the other. I didn’t know anything one way or the other. I still don’t.”

J.X. stopped walking. His voice was low. “We both know she was killed.”