Date Published: August 3, 2021
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Emory Rome is back in A Light to Kill By, the third book in the Mourning Dove Mysteries series – a follow-up to the international bestsellers Murder on the Lake of Fire and Death Opens a Window.
Moments after construction tycoon Blair Geister’s death, a mysterious wandering light kills someone else on her Southern estate. Is the avenging spirit of the millionairess on a killing spree, or are other forces threatening those in her inner circle? As the will is read, suspicion and jealousy arise, and fingers point to the heirs of her fortune. Private investigator Emory Rome and his Mourning Dove partners accept an invitation to stay at Geisterhaus and unravel its secrets before more lives are lost.
As he struggles with the consequences of his last case, Emory must unravel the inexplicable death of a federal employee in a Knoxville high-rise. But while the reticent investigator is mired in a deep pool of suspects – from an old mountain witch to the powerful Tennessee Valley Authority – he misses a greater danger creeping from the shadows. The man in the ski mask returns to reveal himself, and the shocking crime of someone close is unearthed.
I know who the killer is.
Juniper Crane’s yawn morphed into a gasp as she watched the masked ripper slash the throat of a young girl, silencing her screams.
Great, I’m never going to be able to sleep now.
The fiftyish woman with flowing brown hair reached for the joint in the Dollywood souvenir ashtray on her nightstand. She relit it and sucked the flame down to her coral-painted nails before returning it to the ashtray. Her exhaled smoke drifted up to the light smog lurking beneath the ceiling of her bedroom – one of the smallest at the Geisterhaus estate.
I need to turn this off. Grabbing the remote next to the ashtray, she instead set the sleep timer for the TV mounted on the wall. As the masked villain chased down another victim, Juniper sunk deeper into the gray flannel sheets of her bed and closed her hazel eyes. The movie’s staccato score tensed her grip on the downy quilt clutched at her neck until the violin flourishes distorted into static.
“What happened?” Juniper unclenched her eyes and saw the screen go blank. “Is the cable out?” The middle of the screen bulged out. “Oh my lord!” She jerked up in bed. “What is that?”
A volleyball-sized sphere of white light bubbled out from the screen and separated from the TV. Dozens of tiny tendrils reached out from the orb at random points along its surface, giving it the appearance of a miniature sun.
Juniper screamed and kicked out of the sheets, backing herself into the headboard.
Her bedroom door burst open, and a dark-haired man in flannel pajamas bolted inside. “Ms. Crane, what’s…” Tommy Addison’s voice trailed off when he saw the reason for her fear. “What the hell is that?”
The orb floated across the room toward the door, and Tommy approached it, extending his hand.
“Tommy, what are you doing?” Juniper jumped off the opposite side of the bed. “Don’t touch it!” Her warning came too late.
Two tendrils reached out to Tommy’s fingertips, and an enormous POP! followed a flash of light.
The force of the explosion shoved Juniper’s back against the wall before dropping her to the floor. Ears ringing, she pushed herself up enough to peek over the bed. It’s gone.
“Tommy?” She rose to her feet and shuffled over the hardwood floors, looking around the room. “Tommy, where are you?”
Once on the other side of the bed, she spotted a body in the hallway just beyond her open bedroom door. “Tommy!”
The man’s body settled into stillness, and his vacant eyes locked onto the ceiling – although Juniper felt them watching her as she rushed to his side.
“No, no, no, no.” Juniper cupped her mouth as tears dripped from her cheeks. She retrieved her phone and called 9-1-1. While imploring the operator for help, she hurried up two flights of stairs to her employer’s closed bedroom door. “Ms. Geister!” Her knuckles thumped against the solid oak. “Ms. Geister, it’s an emergency!” Hearing no response, she turned the copper knob and rushed inside.
“Ms. Geister!” Juniper shook the shoulder of the unresponsive woman lying on her side within the gold bedframe, and yet she didn’t respond. She clicked on the nightstand lamp and pulled the sleeping woman’s shoulder to roll her onto her back.
As Blair Geister’s head turned on the overstuffed pillow, a final breath whistled through her gritted teeth.
Award-winning mystery author Mikel J. Wilson draws on his Southern roots for the international bestselling Mourning Dove Mysteries, a series of novels featuring bizarre murders in the Smoky Mountains region of Tennessee. Wilson adheres to a “no guns or knives” policy for the instigating murders in the series.