Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik

The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik Banner

The Bone Records

by Rich Zahradnik

January 30 - February 10, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik

NY Police Academy washout Grigg Orlov discovers an eerie piece of evidence at the scene of his father's brutal murder: a disc-shaped X-ray of a skull. It's a bone record--what Soviet citizens called banned American songs recorded on used X-rays. But the black-market singles haven't been produced since the sixties. What's one doing in Coney Island in 2016?

Grigg uncovers a connection between his father and three others who collected bone records when they were teenage friends growing up in Leningrad. Are past and present linked? Or is the murder tied to the local mob? Grigg's got too many suspects and too little time. He must get to the truth before a remorseless killer takes everything he has.

Praise for The Bone Records:

"The Bone Records grabs you by the throat on the very first page, then never slows down as it takes you on a wild ride through New York City streets filled with Russian intrigue, underworld crime, police corruption and a man’s desperate quest to avenge his father’s murder. Shamus Award-winner Rich Zahradnik has written a taut, terrifically exciting and thought-provoking thriller."

"The plot is not only timely, but utterly unique—a tale of cultures colliding, often with sudden and unexpected consequences, as lonely city claims-adjuster Grigg Orlov spends his long nights chasing down leads on the mysterious disappearance of his father... This is a compelling read, highly recommended."

LA Times bestselling author Baron R. Birtcher

"A fast-paced thriller set around Coney Island during the tumultuous lead-up to the 2016 presidential election… The Bone Records is a well-crafted mountain of intrigue and non-stop action."

"A wonderfully flawed protagonist and a complex mystery combine with current events in Zahradnik's best novel to date. The Bone Records had me hooked from page one."

Elena Taylor, award-winning author of All We Buried and the Eddie Shoes mystery series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: 1000 Words A Day Press
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 338
ISBN: 9798985905649
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Friday, August 19, 2016

Grigg’s reunion with his father was brief—eight minutes to be exact—and ended when a man with a nickel-plated revolver shot Dad twice.

Three hours before the violence began, Grigg struggled through the crowd on the Coney Island subway platform. He was the last to reach the stairway to the station’s exit. Again. Even the old folks were gone. His wrecked knee held him back.

Outside the station, Deno’s Wonder Wheel turned slowly, towering over the amusement park that took its name from the ancient fifteen-story ride. The wheel’s spokes glowed a hot neon white. Hazy coronas surrounded all the lights.


Grigg had started wearing his father’s Timex soon after he had gone missing. He put the watch up to his ear, as he’d done too many times before. It wasn’t loud enough to be heard. The clockwork noise was in his head. Maybe a reminder to keep looking. Maybe a reminder that six months was already too long in missing persons cases.

His father’s watch read 8:18 p.m.

He limped away from Coney Island’s amusement parks toward his house on West 28th off Mermaid Avenue. As he did, the street darkened. He checked behind him more than once. The neighborhood became far less amusing as night came on—and the farther you went from the fun parks. Mugging wasn’t the thrill ride Grigg needed. He didn’t want any more trouble. He had a lifetime’s supply. His long days pinballed him between two jobs and the search for his father.

But despite Grigg’s best efforts, the minutes and hours and days kept spinning off the Timex, found by the police in a Howard Beach motel room, the last place his father was seen before he vanished into the thin March air. Their empty house waited to reflect Grigg’s loneliness back at him. His mother had died when he was eighteen months old. His boss at the city’s claims adjustment office rarely talked to him outside of giving orders. All of his connections—he couldn’t really call them friends—in the neighborhood he owed to his father. Dad, like the rest of them, had immigrated from Russia. Unlike the rest of them, he’d married a woman from Jamaica, a union that guaranteed Grigg would always be on the outside in Little Odessa.

The rubber soles of his cheap dress shoes slapped the wet pavement. A thunderstorm had blown through while he was on the subway, leaving behind the sticky-thick humidity. His messenger bag tugged on his shoulder.

He went over the lead he’d uncovered tonight. Going door-to-door in a Midwood apartment building full of Russians, he’d talked briefly to a tenant named Freddy Popov, who recognized Grigg’s father when shown a photo. Popov said a man—maybe a cop—had been canvassing the building with a picture of Grigg’s dad four weeks earlier. Inside the man’s apartment and shielded by Popov, someone said something in Russian. Popov got hinky, then said he didn’t know anything more and slammed the door. Grigg banged on it until a woman across the hall threatened to call the cops. He left with only the knowledge that someone else—maybe a cop?—was also searching for Dad. Still, that bit of info was his biggest lead to date.

Grigg limped up to the small, two-story brick house—kitchen, living room, two bedrooms over a garage—a duplicate of the other attached homes on the street. He unlocked the steel gate, then the front door, and stepped inside.

The thunk of the door closing echoed through the house. Two days ago, Grigg had moved everything out except for the sleeping bag in his bedroom of twenty-seven years and a blue duffel, readying the old house for its new owners. He turned the deadbolt.

He shouldn’t be staying here tonight. He’d spent all his free time on the search for Dad, right up until the closing on the sale of the house. Even at the end, he’d hoped for a breakthrough that would save him from selling. He’d signed the papers yesterday, writing a check for $1,650—most of his savings—because the house was underwater on a second mortgage his father had taken out. Grigg knew the out-of-state buyers wouldn’t be moving in for three weeks, so he’d kept a copy of the key.

Trespassing in my own house. Inviting trouble when I already have too much.

The plan was to use the next three weeks to find an apartment share, but the lead from Popov tugged at his thoughts. Would it pull so hard that he’d spend his free time searching for Dad and end up homeless? He ducked his own question and instead pictured going back to demand Popov tell him more. He shook his head. He could barely keep his mind on his housing problem for the space of a single thought. He took a beer out of the refrigerator, went up to his room, and rolled his sleeping bag into a fat pillow to lean against.

Grigg popped open the 90 Years Young Double IPA. Nine percent alcohol. The strong stuff he’d dubbed “floor softener.” He downed two sixteen-ounce cans, and the ache faded from the muscles in his damaged leg.

He took out his phone. He’d run through his data allowance last week. Three days until the new billing cycle. At least he had his music. He played the Decembrists, their songs about revenge and ships at sea set to jangly indie rock. He followed with the Killers, then Vampire Weekend.


His father’s watch read 11:20 p.m.

He opened his notebook and wrote down “Day 191” along with what he’d learned. It was longer than any previous entry—yet not long at all. So many days. The silence in the house chilled him, sending goosebumps in waves over his arms and thighs. He got up and turned down the air conditioner. It wouldn’t help. He missed his father’s voice, the way it had warmed their home. They could talk about everything and anything, a lot of anything, but such interesting anything. Dad was always there with his questions, his curiosity, and his deep interest in whatever Grigg was up to. There were days his father was more intrigued by Grigg’s job than Grigg was. Even that helped.

A fourth beer. He floated on the wood floor of his empty bedroom. Slept.

A thump. The floor hardened underneath him. Another thump. Half buzzed, halfway to a headache, Grigg opened his eyes. He heard it again. Not a dream. On the roof. He followed the steps above him to his father’s empty bedroom. He was about to switch on his phone’s flashlight when legs—silhouetted by the glow from the street across the way—dangled over the room’s tiny balcony. They descended slowly, inching, hesitating, as if the intruder were no expert at this sort of move. The toes stretched to touch, and finally, the person dropped, stumbled, and landed on their knees.

Grigg didn’t know whether to laugh or arm himself. If this was a robbery, then the joke was going to be on a thief who’d picked a house with nothing in it. Grigg decided discretion was the better part of whatever, returned to his bedroom, and pulled the stun gun from his messenger bag. Ever since he’d been attacked when he was in the police academy—suffering the knee injury that forced him to drop out—he hadn’t felt safe unless he carried the weapon.

He placed the messenger bag next to his duffel in the hallway in case he needed to get out fast. In the kitchen, he grabbed his second six pack as a backup weapon.

Of course, he could escape by the front and leave the intruder for the police to deal with. But if he did, then the buyers would be notified, and he’d lose the three weeks of temporary housing he’d been counting on.

He crept through the doorway into the main bedroom.

The figure, whose face remained in deep shadow because of the streetlight glow from behind, rattled the handle to the single balcony door, used his elbow to smash in the square pane nearest the knob, reached in, and turned the simple metal lock. As he pushed the door open, Grigg stepped forward, hit his phone’s light, and thrust forward the stun gun.

“Get the fuck out of my house!”

The figure froze. “I’m not going to hurt you, Grigg.”

Grigg moved closer.

“Dad? Dad!”

Full beard and longer hair, but it was him.

Grigg didn’t know whether to hug his father or scream at him.

“I came to say goodbye,” Dad said.


“I’m leaving. For Russia. I don’t know when I’ll be able to return. It’s the only way.”

“I don’t understand.” Any of it. “You said you’d never go back.”

“It’s the only way to fix things.”

“Things? What things?” Popov’s suggestion about a cop. “Are the police after you?”

A click came from the front door, and Grigg spun. Seeing his father and not an intruder had put the brakes on his fear. Now, his heart raced. He squeezed the handle of the stun gun with a sweaty hand. Keep it together.

The knob turned.

The front door flew open. 

Chapter 2

Friday, August 19, 2016

The man was tall and red haired with a short beard and a flattened nose. He held a long-barreled, nickel-plated revolver. Looked like a .357 magnum.

“Shit.” Grigg grabbed his bags—there wasn’t time to recover the sleeping roll from his room and stuff it in the duffel—dropped back into the bedroom with his father, and shut and locked the door, though it wouldn’t hold for long. “Guy’s armed. Is someone after you?”

“Yes. But no, not now. That’s why I came across the roof.”

Grigg’s thoughts spun like he’d boarded the Tilt-A-Whirl at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. This was fucking nuts. His dad came back and moments later they were under attack. His stomach flipped as if he were actually on the ride.

A hundred questions.

A thousand.

Something hit the bedroom door hard.

No time for any.

“We’ll go out the way you came in.”

“I can’t make it back on the roof. I barely made it down.”

“I’ll boost you.”

They were on the balcony in seconds. Grigg grabbed his father’s thighs and lifted upward, bearing as much of the weight as he could on his good right leg. It wasn’t enough. He nearly fell over; instead, he leaned against the iron railing to regain his balance and shoved until Dad was able to drag himself onto the roof.

Another crash from the bedroom door.

Grigg tossed his duffel down into the backyard for later retrieval.

The bedroom door gave way after the third blow.

Grigg ripped free a can of 90 Years Young and hurled it hard into the shadowed darkness of the room. The man yelped in pain.

Grigg didn’t wait to learn more. He moved to the side and climbed onto the balcony railing. Two loud gunshots, the weapon aimed at the space he’d vacated. He dropped the remaining beers and started pulling himself onto the roof. His arms were strong, but the left leg slowed him. Scrambling with all his strength, he made it up.

Below the asphalt roofing, in the attic, was the weapon he really needed, a registered .32 in a gun safe. No way to get it now.

Should’ve been better prepared.

“Run!” Dad whispered.

Run was right. There’d be time for should-haves later. Right now, Grigg had pissed off the gun-wielding asshole who was after his father for reasons unknown.

He went as fast as his left leg would allow, which meant he and his sixty-eight-year-old dad kept about even. They dodged around the boiler chimney and an AC unit. Neither structure looked tall enough to block a clear shot. They needed something bigger between them and that nickel-plated revolver. Like now.

They crossed to the roof of the next attached house and the next.

“How’d you get up here?” Grigg gasped, trying to picture a way down to street level and coming up empty.

“The Kiev Bakery at the corner has a fire escape.”

That meant winning a block-long race over rooftops. Against bullets and a faster runner.

“Stop!” came a deep voice from behind them.

“Why’s he after you?”

Instead of an answer, the report of the gun, then another.

Dad grabbed his side, groaned, and slowed but kept running, slewing off to the left. Grigg stayed with him.

“Get to Katia. Katia Sokolov—”


Dad jerked and spun nearly in sync with the sound of the third shot. Hot blood sprayed Grigg’s face.

His father listed hard to the left, veering toward the edge of the roof and the backyard two stories below.

Grigg grabbed for his dad’s arm, but his hand slipped on blood.

He reached again to get a hold, but his father, as if driven by the red jet from his neck, took two more steps.

And disappeared off the roof.

Grigg stopped.

Stared at the twisted body below.

The next gunshot lifted the messenger bag hanging from his shoulder.

Shock made way for raw panic. Flee or die. The fire escape. Too far. He had to get down the way he came up. He dropped to the balcony of the house beneath him, then repeated the maneuver to reach the ground, bad knee screaming from the punishment of the twin blows, shirt drenched in sweat and blood.

His father’s body lay face up with an arm under his back and the right leg bent at an unnatural angle. A two-story drop wouldn’t necessarily kill you. But the neck wound …

“Stay there or I will shoot you.” The killer began taking Grigg’s route to the ground.

The man had one shot left before he needed to reload. Or had he reloaded already?

Grigg knelt. Pressed his hand to his father’s neck where the blood pulsed.

His father’s eyes were open. With the slightest of movements, he patted at his blazer pocket. The jacket was no surprise. Dad always wore blazers. Weekdays and weekends. All seasons. Why the hell does that matter now? Tilt-A-Whirl thinking. A black tube protruded from the pocket. Grigg pulled it out.

Another shot.

Dirt leapt inches from Grigg’s foot.

The gunman stood on the second-floor balcony and looked to be reloading.

Warning bells almost drowned out the unending ticking in Grigg’s head as he held the tube up for Dad to see. “Is this what he’s after?”

Dad’s eyes didn’t move. Stared upward. Locked in on something. Or nothing. His mouth was a black hole ringed with blood and spittle on thin lips. Grigg checked for a pulse. Neck first, then ear to chest. Nothing.

The gunman hung from the balcony, preparing to make the drop to the ground.

Fighting the nausea creeping up from his gut, Grigg ran as darts of pain shot from his left knee into his thigh. He climbed over the fence into the opposite yard, then into another next door, and found a shed to crouch behind.

From two backyards away, the gun went off.

A kill shot when Dad was already dead.

Grigg heaved up what was left of his dinner and the beers. Heaved again. Too much noise. Ground down his teeth to stop. He spat quietly to clear the taste of puke. Failed.

He couldn’t see or hear the shooter, but he didn’t dare move. Grief, anger, and fear threatened to swamp anything like clear thinking. A tidal wave against a rowboat. He needed to save himself. He needed to be a coward. Five minutes, then ten ticked off on his father’s watch as he looked at the fence. Shadowed darkness. A deep purple oozed across his vision from staring too hard at the wooden slats.

Finally, he ordered himself to leave.

Be practical: the duffel bag.

He crossed two more backyards until he could approach his house—what used to be his house—from the other side. He saw no one in the yard where the body lay, looking from this distance like a dark mound. But the killer could be waiting somewhere to take him out. He inched with his back up against the wall (it was darkest near the houses), grabbed the bag, and slipped out to the avenue without incident.

His destination: the Conquistador Arcade in the Coney Island amusement area. He worked there most evenings. He had a key.

Cleaning the blood from his face and arms and out of his hair took an hour. Might have taken less time, but he kept scrubbing long after his skin was clean. If only he could scrub tonight away. After searching for six months, he’d had mere minutes with his dad before the attack. Grigg was too exhausted to cry. He knew the shirt was a write-off but left it soaking in the sink anyway, now the least of his lost causes.

He needed to go to the police. He knew that. But they hadn’t given a shit when Dad disappeared. Grigg had been the only one looking. Murder was different than missing, right? Then again, he knew of too many unsolved killings in Coney Island.

He found it hard to think. Ideas, memories, discrete facts were fireflies inside his head. They whirled, collided, and spun off into the darkness. The lights led nowhere. Connected nothing. Would it help if he could catch them all in a jar like he had on an upstate trip with Dad? Or would that only mean the same confusion jammed in a smaller space?

He exited the bathroom of the arcade, which had closed hours ago, and moved to the Skee-Ball machines against the back wall. Rows of blinking arcade games shielded him from the front windows. He sat down. It was ironic. No, just sad. Grigg had dreamed of becoming a cop since he was a kid. The police academy hadn’t worked out. Worse than that, it’d cost him his knee. Failed. Failed to find his father. Then Dad found him too late. Another failure. Exhaustion pressed down on him like the air had thickened, had weight. Maybe he’d lie down in the lane of this machine. He absently pulled out the black tube he’d taken from his dad’s pocket. The shock again. He’d forgotten all about it. He took off a blue rubber band. The flimsy, plastic-like material unrolled: a super-thin black disc with a hole in the middle, like an old record. One of the arcade games flashed, and Grigg caught sight of something in the translucent black material. Film? He played his phone’s light through it from behind, and the image of a skull materialized. He held the light closer. An X-ray of a skull, though like no X-ray he’d ever seen. For one obvious reason, it was circular; on closer inspection, the edge was uneven, like it had been cut by hand. The disc bore handwritten Cyrillic lettering. Grigg couldn’t read or speak the Russian language, but smaller English script had also been written on the film: “Not Fade Away,” right above the skull’s eye sockets. He tipped the disc sidelong and scanned the surface. Wait … are those grooves? Grooves, three inches’ worth, cut into the X-ray disc, but only on one side.

Grigg would have sworn he was holding an old-fashioned record album—if an album were thin, translucent, and had a skull X-ray on it but no proper label.

He turned it over again. Connections came together in his head. The sting of memory going back six months, the night before his father disappeared, the second to last time Grigg had set eyes on the man.

Dad had stood in the living room, whistling and sorting through the mail: a couple fliers, a bill, and a manila envelope. He had opened the envelope, and Grigg had glimpsed a black thing—maybe disc shaped—slipping from it.

Was it a disc? Maybe he only wanted it to be. It seemed so long ago.

The way he remembered it, Dad froze, stopped whistling, then turned away from Grigg to hold the object over a table lamp before hurrying to his bedroom. His father hadn’t come out again—no goodnight, no nothing—and was gone when Grigg awoke the next morning.

In the aftermath of his father’s disappearance, he’d forgotten about the envelope and the black thing.

Grigg reached further into his memories but could find nothing else. That period had become a blur. He’d been overwhelmed by the search—plus two jobs and money running out fast. Finding his father had seemed more important than figuring out why he’d left. Maybe he had gotten it backward. Maybe the why came first.

He looked at his phone, useless as a tool to identify the object for certain. That would have to happen in the morning. And on the chance it played like a vinyl record, he needed to listen to it before he turned it over to the cops.

The strange disc generated enough adrenaline to further clear the fog in his brain. His father’s last words: get to Katia Sokolov. If his thoughts hadn’t been scrambled by the murder, he’d have wondered at that name sooner. First, probably. He couldn’t talk to the cops until after he spoke with Katia, something he hadn’t done in more than a year. Still, there was no way he’d sic a pack of homicide detectives on her. He owed her that much. More.

Thinking of how he’d lost Katia took him to losing Dad for good and wrenched sobs from him for twenty minutes, a half hour. He wasn’t sure.

God, I so need sleep.

Grigg risked the chance of being seen, snuck out, and bought a four-pack of strong ale at a bodega on Surf Avenue.

He was asleep midway through the second can.


Excerpt from The Bone Records by Rich Zahradnik. Copyright 2022 by Rich Zahradnik. Reproduced with permission from Rich Zahradnik. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Rich Zahradnik

Rich Zahradnik is the author of the thriller The Bone Records and four critically acclaimed mysteries, including Lights Out Summer, winner of the Shamus Award. He was a journalist for twenty-seven years and now lives in Pelham, New York, where he is the mentor to the staff of the Pelham Examiner, an award-winning community newspaper run, edited, reported, and written by people under the age of eighteen.

Catch Up With Rich Zahradnik:
Instagram - @rzahradnik
Twitter - @rzahradnik
Facebook - @RichZahradnik



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My Take: This book has it all, history, mystery, Russian Mobsters and non stop action from beginning till the end. I was really interested in the Bone Records as I had never heard of them before. I found the story very engaging and it kept me wanting to keep reading which is the sign of a good story. I recieved a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Book Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Dark of Night by Colleen Coble

Dark of Night

by Colleen Coble

January 9-February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Dark of Night by Colleen Coble cover

The law is about justice—not grace. But perhaps ranger Annie Pederson can find a way to have both.

As if the last few months haven’t been hard enough—complete with threats on her life and the return of her first love, Jon—Annie has to figure out whether or not to believe a woman who claims to be her sister, Sarah, who was abducted twenty-four years ago at age five. Annie’s eight-year-old daughter, Kylie, has plenty of questions about what’s going on in her mother’s life—but there are some stones Annie doesn’t want uncovered.

As Annie grapples with how to heal the gulf between her and her would-be sister and make room in her daughter’s life for Jon, she’s professionally distracted by the case of yet another missing hiker in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A woman named Michelle Fraser has now been abducted, and though the woman’s estranged husband is at the top of their suspect list, Annie and her colleagues will need to dig deeper and determine whether these recent mysteries are truly as unrelated as they seem.

In this second novel of bestselling author Colleen Coble’s latest romantic-suspense series, Annie and Jon must fight for the future—and the family—that could once more be theirs.

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: January 2023
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0785253742 (ISBN13: 9780785253747)
Series: Annie Pederson #2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Should she even be out here alone? Michigan’s U.P. was a whole lotta wilderness. Michelle Fraser’s shoulder blades gave a tingle and made her glance back to see if anyone was following her. No one there. But in spite of seeing no movement in the trees and bushes, she couldn’t discount her gut instinct. She’d been spooked ever since she left the safety of the women’s shelter.

Maybe it was just knowing she was out here with no backup that had her on edge.

The heavy scent of rain hung in the twilight air as she set the last of her wildlife cameras in the crook of a large sugar maple tree. A northern flying squirrel chattered a warning from its nest. The glaucomys sabrinus’s agitation made Michelle pull away in time to avoid being nipped.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, and a spooky mist blew through the forest. The sooner she was out of here, the better. Her last set of cameras hadn’t turned up the elusive mountain lions she’d been searching for, but a hunter in neighboring Ontonagon County had snapped a picture of a large male reclining on a rock. If she could acquire more data, it would aid her research for the magazine article proving mountain lions inhabited the area. And she had to have pictures.

She’d been obsessed with big cats for as long as she could remember. Even the various names held a fascinating mystique: catamount, puma, cougar, mountain lion, panther.

A mosquito landed on her arm, and she swatted it. Her hands came away with a drop of blood on her fingers. Yuck. She wiped the residue on her khaki shorts and turned to go back to her ATV. A sound erupted to her right, and it sounded like either a puma or a woman’s scream. The hair on her neck prickled, and she moved that way.

The scream pealed again, and she removed the lens cap on the camera slung around her neck. Her palms dampened, and her breath came fast. Walking toward danger might not be the smartest thing, but Michelle couldn’t help herself. She yearned to see a puma in the wild in all its power and beauty. Her knees shook as she pulled out a bullhorn from her backpack to frighten away the cat if it sensed her as prey.

Queen pumas would be protecting their litters in June, so she needed to be careful. Her lungs labored as she rushed in that direction. Her black belt in jujitsu wouldn’t do much against the speed and power of a puma. She seized a large branch to make herself seem bigger as she advanced through the forest. Evergreen needles clawed at her arms as she forced her way through a thick stand of white pine.

She paused on the other side and caught the glimmer of water. Lake Superior’s waves lapped at the rocky shore, and she spotted a yellow kayak riding the swells in the shallow surf. A discarded backpack bobbed beside it.

Her sense of unease grew as she observed the scene. Glancing around, she approached the water and snagged the backpack from the lake, then pulled the kayak onto the rocks. Her gut told her someone was in trouble.

Should she call out? If it was wildlife threatening the woman she thought she’d heard, Michelle could scare it off with a flare. But if the attacker was human, she didn’t want to give away her presence and put the woman in greater danger. She scanned the area for bear or cougar scat but found nothing.

The sound of oars slapping the water came from her left, and she ducked back into the shadow of the pines until she could tell the intent of the boaters. Two figures partially shrouded in mist paddled a large canoe around a rocky finger of the shore. The glimpse of broad shoulders through the fog indicated they were probably men. She strained to listen through the sound of the wind and water but couldn’t hear much.

She couldn’t put her finger on why she didn’t want them to see her. Maybe because they were men, and Brandon might have sent them after her.

“I know she ran this way. Trying to get to her kayak, eh.” The man’s heavy Yooper accent carried well over the water.

“Can’t see her through this mist,” the other man said. “I don’t know why I let you talk me into this. Your love life isn’t my business.”

“You owe me. Let’s try on down the shore. There’s a deer trail toward the road she might have tried to take.”

Their voices faded as their canoe moved past. She didn’t get a good look at their faces. Was a woman out there trying to escape an abusive ex? Michelle had seen plenty of that kind of trauma this past year and had experienced abuse personally.

Once they were out of sight, she stepped back into the clearing. “Hello,” she called softly. “Is anyone here? I can help you.”

She walked across the green mossy clearing, searching for a sign of an injured woman. The bushes to her left shivered and rustled, and she stepped closer. “Hello? Do you need help?”

The leaves parted as the mist swirled along the ground, and the pale oval of a woman’s face emerged. Long blonde hair hung in strings along her cheeks, and her eyelids fluttered as though she might faint. Michelle rushed forward and helped the young woman to her feet. She was in her early twenties with a slight build. Mud smeared her khaki shorts and red top, and she was barefoot.

She seemed familiar, and Michelle reached down to touch her forehead. She nearly recoiled at the heat radiating from the young woman. “Wait, aren’t you Grace Mitchell?”

They’d met when Grace first arrived at the shelter, but Michelle hadn’t immediately recognized her with the mud and dirt on her face and hair. The woman’s fever alarmed Michelle. “You’re burning up. We need to get you to a doctor.”

“I-I’ll be fine. Do you have some way out of here?”

“My ATV is this way.” Michelle put her right arm around the woman’s waist and helped her stumble toward the trail. “What are you doing out here?”

Grace paused and wiped the beads of perspiration from her forehead. “I spotted my ex driving past the shelter, and I knew he’d found me. That day we met, you mentioned a remote area you liked with a great camping spot, and I decided to try to find it. You know, hide out until I figured out where to go to get away from Roy. But I stopped by to get camping gear from my parents, and he must have followed me here. He’s out there somewhere. He and a buddy.” Her blue eyes flashed with fear. “I can’t let him find me.”

They reached the ATV, and Michelle got Grace situated, but it was a tight squeeze on the vehicle meant for one person. Michelle got water out of her backpack and helped Grace drink some. She grabbed her phone, too, and took a quick photo of the traumatized girl before she dropped it back into the pack.

Michelle started the machine and pulled out onto the trail back to the cabin where she’d been hiding out. She should have gotten out of here earlier since the weather had caused darkness to fall sooner than expected. It would be slow going on the rough trail with only the headlamps pushing the darkness back a short distance.

After only a few minutes, Michelle realized she’d gotten off the trail. She stopped the machine and looked around. Which way should she go? She consulted her compass and decided to push due west. They’d only gone a few feet when the ground gave out under the machine, and they went flying into the air. When Michelle hit the ground, something in her right leg snapped, and the excruciating pain was instantaneous.

She bit back a scream but couldn’t stop the moan as she pulled her knee to her chest. The swelling was already starting four inches above her ankle, but at least it didn’t appear to be a compound fracture. “I-I’ve broken my leg. Are you all right, Grace?”

When Grace didn’t answer, Michelle felt along the ground until she touched her thigh. “Grace?” She felt up the young woman’s body to her face.

Grace wasn’t breathing. “Oh no,” Michelle whispered. She checked her out in the dark as best as she could. No pulse.

Michelle dragged herself to the machine but it was on its side, and she couldn’t right it with her broken leg. No one would be searching for her out here, so she had to find shelter. But how?

The pain made it hard to think. She froze at the sound of movement in the vegetation. Something big was crashing toward her. A deer? A mountain lion or bear?

A man’s shoulders moved into sight, and his expression sent shivers up her spine. When he reached down to lift her up, the pain intensified in her leg, and her vision went black.


Law enforcement ranger Annie Pederson sat at a table by herself in the small interrogation room at the Rock Harbor jail and waited for Taylor Moore to be brought in for questioning. Maybe it was Annie’s imagination, but it seemed as if the beige paint on the walls reeked with the guilt and despair of countless years of interrogations. Even the clean scent of the disinfectant used in the area didn’t dissipate the unpleasantness. She didn’t like this space and wished she could have talked to Taylor at the coffee shop or somewhere more pleasant.

But this meeting might be the end of her lifelong search, so she would have faced even tigers in this place.

The door opened and Taylor entered. Several weeks ago Annie had hired her to help out around the Tremolo Marina and Cabin Resort and with Annie’s eight-year-old daughter, but the woman had been picked up for questioning about the necklace found belonging to a murdered girl. Her claim to be Annie’s sister, Sarah—kidnapped from Tremolo Island twenty-four years ago—had turned Annie’s every thought on its head. According to Taylor’s ID, she was twenty-nine, three years younger than Annie, so that detail matched Sarah.

Annie’s heart squeezed at Taylor’s ducked head and stringy locks. The bright-red hair dye was fading, and glints of her natural blonde color showed through. Her jeans and tee looked like she’d slept in them for days, and the scent of stale perspiration wafted from her.

Taylor glanced up, and Annie bit back a gasp at the defiance gleaming in those vivid blue eyes that matched Annie’s eye color instead of the muddy brown Annie was used to. Jon Dunstan had claimed Taylor was wearing contacts to change her eye color, and it seemed he was right.

Annie had prided herself on her ability to read people in her line of work. She’d always thought she could detect a liar with no problem. Taylor had completely snowed her. After Taylor’s impeccable references, Annie had trusted the woman with her child.

Sheriff Mason Kaleva ambled in behind Taylor. He gestured to the chair across the table from Annie. “Have a seat, Ms. Moore.”

In his forties, his husky form brought solace to Annie. He’d always been there for her and his town, and his kind brown eyes swept over her in a questioning gaze. She gave him a little nod to let him know she was okay.

Taylor’s eyes narrowed. “It’s Ms. Vitanen. Sarah Vitanen.”

A wave of dizziness washed over Annie, and she bit her lip and eyed Taylor closely. “You claim to be my sister, but do you have any proof?”

The chair screeched on the tile floor as Taylor pulled it out before she plopped onto it. “I should have expected you wouldn’t welcome me with open arms. After all, you did nothing to stop my abduction.”

Heat swept up Annie’s neck and lodged in her cheeks. “What could an eight-year-old do to stop an adult? If you’re really Sarah, what was the name of your favorite stuffed animal?”

“Cocoa,” Taylor said without hesitation. “It was a brown kitten. I couldn’t have a real one because Mom was allergic.”

Annie’s eyes widened. She caught her breath as she studied the other woman across the table. “Let me see your left knee.”

Rebellion flashed in Taylor’s blue eyes, and she leaned down to yank up her baggy jeans, then stood with her tanned knee exposed. A faded two-inch scar just below her kneecap matched the one in Annie’s memory. Sarah had gotten snagged on a large metal hook under the dock at the marina. It had taken fifteen stitches to close the wound, and Annie had helped her sister hobble around for several weeks.

But was that proof? Kids had scars from all sorts of things. She wanted to believe her sister was still alive, but was Taylor really Sarah?

Her breath eased from her lips, and Annie couldn’t speak for a long moment. “You really believe you’re Sarah? Did you research all that and make sure the details matched?”

Taylor just stared back at her with that same defiance. In Annie’s dreams, finding Sarah meant a tight embrace and happy tears, but Taylor’s stance with her arms folded across her chest and her jutting chin warned Annie off any displays of affection. Not that she was feeling any warmth toward the other woman in this moment.

When the other woman plopped back in her chair and didn’t answer, Annie licked her lips. “Why didn’t you tell me when you first showed up looking for work? Why the fake name? I’ve been searching for my sister for years.”

“Have you? Have you really?”

Annie glanced at Mason. “Ask him if you don’t believe me.”

Mason shifted his bulky form and nodded. “I’ve been helping Annie search. We’ve sent DNA samples numerous times over the past ten years. Her parents searched for Sarah, and even hired investigators, until their deaths.”

Annie hadn’t known that. Her parents’ business, the Tremolo Marina and Cabin Resort, operated on a shoestring, so they must have taken much needed money to try to find Sarah.

Annie shifted her gaze back to the woman across the table. Taylor twisted a strand of hair around her finger in a coil. Sarah used to do that too. If this was a scam, it was an elaborate one. With all her heart Annie wanted to believe it, but she couldn’t quite accept it. It was so sudden, and the circumstances were bizarre.

Mason cleared his throat. “We’ll need a little more proof. We can get the DNA back in a week or so.”

“I have nothing to hide,” the other woman said.

Annie had spent twenty-four years agonizing over her failure to save Sarah. The guilt had nearly swallowed her alive, though everyone told her she couldn’t have done anything. Until a few days ago, she hadn’t been able to recall much about that awful night. Maybe she hadn’t wanted to remember how she froze in fear when the kidnapper grabbed Sarah.

Annie fingered the scar on her neck where the attacker had wounded her with a knife. She’d been left for dead in the cold waters of Lake Superior, and while logically she knew she was no match for the gruff woman who’d snatched her sister, Annie had struggled to believe it.

“Were any of the things you told me about your life true? Those things you said about your m-mother?”

“I had a rotten life, if that’s what you’re asking. All those things I said about my mother were true. And it was all your fault.”

There was nothing Annie could say to counter that when her own conscience condemned her too. She was only too glad when her boss, Kade Matthews, texted her with a new case. Mason could continue the questioning about the necklace.


Excerpt from Dark of Night by Colleen Coble. Copyright 2022 by Colleen Coble. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean's Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series.

Connect with Colleen online at:
BookBub: @colleencoble
Instagram: @colleencoble
Twitter: @colleencoble
Facebook: colleencoblebooks



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My Take: This was a great second book in this series. We pick up right where we left off from the first book in the UP of Michigan. Annie and Jon are still struggling on how is the best way to navigate their rekindled love and how to let their daughter Kylie know that Jon is her biological father. Also they are waiting for the results on if Annie's sister has returned after 24 years after being abducted. There are also some mysteries about a missing hiker and if her abusive husband is resposible. I look forward to continuing this series. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Book Tours and was not required to write a positive review.