Champion German shorthaired pointer Juliet demonstrates her abilities as a cadaver dog, which makes her the perfect pet for private detective Roger Bowman, in the newest Roger and Suzanne mystery novel. The setting is a winery in a small town in Northern California’s Central Valley. Why did the client’s husband, a California winery owner, disappear just a couple of days after his wedding? The answer launches another suspenseful case that will entertain mystery fans, dog lovers, and wine aficionados alike. As in all the Roger and Suzanne novels the language is clean, the sex is offstage, and the books can be read in any order so readers can begin the series with this novel.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
We own a German shorthaired pointer named Jolie who serves as the model for cadaver dog Juliet in this novel. I wanted to take advantage of the locale, the Yolo County wine country in Northern California, where we live as a setting for the book. As I got into this premise the novel began to write itself.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The regulars are series characters I've used before in nine Roger and Suzanne novels. The characters specific to this book are pirely figments of my imagination except for some of the physicians, who are modeled after real people I work with every day.
“Ssshh,” Jason whispered to Sherry as he pulled the keys she’d given him out of his pocket. They both winced as the lock made a loud click, or at least it sounded loud to them in the darkness of the isolated building. Jason pushed hard against the large door, which opened reluctantly as it squeaked on its hinges. A moment later they were inside the winery with the door closed, his LED flashlight leading them past barrels stacked in racks to the high ceiling and the loading area. The narrow beam of light illuminated the narrow tunnel between shadowy barrels and less well defined objects.
“There could be an army waiting to jump out of those shadows,” whispered Sherry urgently. “This is one spooky place after dark!”
“Sssh,” Jason reminded her. “I think we’re alone in here, but let’s not press our luck.”
Passing the hulking shapes of the fermenters, visible only as darker shadows against the blackness of unseen walls, they walked through the winery itself. After a substantial fraction of eternity had passed, they came to the office. The building felt empty to Jason who couldn’t see or hear anybody else there. But the shadows were still deep, dark, and menacing beyond the narrow cone of light his flashlight beam illuminated.
“We can talk now. I think it’ll be safe to turn on the lights. They shouldn’t be visible from the road.”
Sherry walked over to flip the switch turning on a bank of fluorescent lights over the desk that illuminated the rest of the small office as well. Jason, and especially Sherry, embraced the comfort from the office lights, which afforded a most welcome change from the darkness and shadows of the main winery. The walls, bare of adornment, had been pressure washed like the walls in the fermentation area. A single straight-backed chair sat in front of the desk’s top, cluttered with stacks of paper seemingly in random piles. Drawers on both sides of the desk probably held more papers.
The only adornment on the desktop was a calendar, with various random looking dates encircled with a black Magic Marker. Absent were any personal or family photos. Various tools, especially large wrenches of different sizes, were lying on the floor against the otherwise bare walls.
“I’ll take the desk, Jason. Can you crack a safe?” Sherry asked teasingly, pointing to a large floor safe in a back corner of the office.
“As a matter of fact, I can,” he replied, walking back to the dull black safe and squatting in front of it.
Sherry shook her head in amazement before starting to go through papers, folders, and books on top of the desk and in the drawers. Jason pulled a small electronic device out of his pocket, stuck it magnetically to the door just above the large combination lock, and started rotating the dial clockwise.
The first two rotations were rapid and the third slow while he paid attention to the output of the electronic device, a needle and gauge backlit for ready visibility. The needle jumped forward as he ever so slowly crossed the number 12. He immediately reversed the rotation to counter-clockwise, one rapid and one slow rotation until the needle jumped again at 34. The third and last slow rotation clockwise ended at 5. There was a loud click, which alerted Sherry to the opening safe door.
“What was the combination, Jason?”
“12, 34, 5,” he answered.
“Of course!” she exclaimed. “Simple to remember. How typically pragmatic of Wally!”
Jason quickly checked the contents of the safe, finding a substantial amount of money, other personal papers belonging to Wally including his passport, and a set of ledgers that looked like the winery’s books. He returned everything except the ledgers to where he’d found them.
“Have you found anything interesting, Sherry?” he asked.
“Not especially,” she answered. “A lot of routine paperwork, mostly related to specific tests of different batches of wine in the fermenters or stored in barrels. There are also stacks of paid and unpaid bills. How about you, Jason?”
He carefully closed the safe door, pocketed his electronic device, and spun the combination lock away from the final number. “I think I found the ledgers we’re looking for, Sherry. It’s probably time to get out of here.”
She turned out the office lights, following Jason and his flashlight beam across the dark, shadowy, but still seemingly empty, winery.
When they got to the front door he turned off his flashlight before opening the large front door a crack to check outside. All clear! Turning back to Sherry he whispered, “I think we’re OK now. I feel a lot safer leaving the place than I did when we came into it. This winery is one spooky building in the dark!”
They went out into the dim light provided by a half moon, Jason pausing to lock the door behind them. The night was filled with shadows and blackness as their eyes slowly adapted to the darkness with the flashlight off. Suddenly Jason pitched forward as if propelled by a strong push in the back.
Several seconds later, Sherry heard a shot, the sound of the powerful rifle muffled by distance. She’d been around guns and hunters all her life, so knew enough to dive to the ground, just in time to avoid a second bullet whizzing by overhead that buried itself in the winery wall. The muffled sound of this shot followed a few seconds later.
The author is a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California's Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California. Jerry, a two-time winner of The Indie Book of the Day Award, writes fast paced “tweener” mystery books (tough mystery stories that follow the cozy conventions of no graphic sex and no cussing), all published as e-books on Amazon Kindle with four also published as paperback versions. Several of the books introduce the readers to South America, a region where he has lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers. He and his wife Elaine lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay. Jerry and Elaine breed prize-winning German shorthaired pointer dogs; Elaine also provides technical advice for Jerry’s dog-related novels like The Deadly Dog Show, Hunter Down and Abra Cadaver, as well as editing for all of the books.
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