In The Snows of Haz Author:Maxine Janerka Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
When a wealthy stranger from the capital is murdered in the isolated, snowbound town of Haz Gate, suspicion falls on a local boy. When she jumps to his rescue, schoolteacher Linna Nyx has to dig through deceptions thicker than the snow in midwinter to piece together the truth, and comes face to face with a killer who would destroy not only her own peaceful existence, but the very order of the Empire itself.
The dead man lay in a pool of blood. His throat had been slit from one ear to the other, and his face was frozen in an expression of horror and surprise. The corpse was covered with a thin layer of morning frost, indicating that it had lain there a while. A number of Peacekeepers were keeping the horrified and curious crowds away. Linna, Esmine, and their escort walked right by them, though. The head Peacekeeper looked up, and his Hazi lilac eyes widened when he recognized Linna.
“Professor Nyx! What a surprise. I could not imagine what would bring you to a crime scene as gruesome as this one.” He spoke Imperial with a distinct Hazi accent. Linna smiled grimly.
“Peacekeeper Lem. I have heard that one of my students is being accused of this crime; why wouldn't I personally come to make sure he is cleared?” Esmine helpfully chose that moment to materialize from behind her and wander over to the corpse, again. Peacekeeper Lem winced.
“Well, you do know how gossip spreads in a town, and we had not had the chance to examine the body properly at that point...”
“He was assaulted from the front with a sharp knife. His attacker cut his throat like so, with his right hand– you can see where the cut is deeper on the right side...” Esmine explained miming cutting the corpse again. Lem looked bothered, but nodded.
“That is in agreement with our analysis. This man was surprised and overpowered by his attacker–”
“A person he knew,” cut in Esmine decisively. The Peacekeeper shot him a nervous look. Linna gestured at the boy to shut up, not that he ever listened.
“R-regardless, he was overpowered and murdered, and the attacker took advantage of the road to escape without leaving much of a trail. We are still looking for the murder weap–”
“It's a thin knife and you'll probably find it buried in the direction of the town square.”
“Esmine, that's enough!” Esmine glanced up at her blankly.
“But I'm helping him, Professor.”
“I– well– thank you, anyway. We are still looking for the murder weapon, and quite honestly, we are doing all we can. It would help if we could identify this man, but he looks to be from out of town, so the chances are slim that many people will know him.” The Peacekeeper sighed in exasperation. “A Southerner dressed like that, up here in Haz Gate?”
“Maybe he was visiting someone,” Linna offered uncertainly. “His clothes look expensive, so perhaps Fenin manor?”
“We thought so as well. There are two Peacekeepers up the road as we speak gathering the household. If we are lucky, one of them will be able to identify him.” The Peacekeeper glanced over his shoulder. “You can rest assured, Professor Nyx, that this investigation is in good hands.”
“Thank you, Peacekeeper.” She smiled. “Please, keep me informed.”
She had to double back to get Esmine, who had gotten distracted by the corpse's hands. That boy would, if one pardoned the morbid expression, be the death of her someday.
Maxine Janerka is a writer and a freelance journalist currently based in Penobscot, Maine, though she has lived in New York, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. She is the author of In the Snows of Haz and Academy of Disaster, and has three more manuscripts that are currently being torn to shreds by her editors. A lifelong lover of mystery who graduated from the University of Oklahoma with degrees in political science and international studies, she always aims to include both mystery and political schemes in her work.