Dying on Edisto
The Edisto Island Mysteries Book 5
by C. Hope Clark Genre: Cozy Mystery
One death. Two detectives. And unexpected backup.
A Callie Morgan and Carolina Slade crossover! (A standalone mystery)
When a renowned—and now dead—travel blogger washes ashore on the banks of Indigo Plantation, Police Chief Callie Morgan of Edisto Beach agrees to head the investigation as a favor to the county sheriff, whose reasons are as questionable as the death itself.
When death turns to murder and a watchdog from the county makes her investigation difficult, Callie reluctantly turns to Carolina Slade and Wayne Largo, vacationing agents with the Department of Agriculture. Because poison is growing on this plantation, and someone knows how to use it well.
"Page-turning...[and] edge-of-your-seat action...crisp writing and compelling storytelling. This is one you don't want to miss!" —Carolyn Haines, USA Today bestselling author
"Her beloved protagonist, Callie, continues to delight readers as a strong, savvy, and a wee-bit-snarky police chief.”—Julie Cantrell, NY Times and USA Today bestselling author
BODIES WEREN’T foreign to me, but they weren’t commonplace either.
Trying to keep my feet out of the water, I stooped over, not too much, to study the corpse floating face down about three feet away. The ears were chewed on by some kind of creature. A denim shirt clung to a pudgy back, and the torso gently rocked though no boat stirred the South Edisto River.
The last body I’d discovered in Newberry, my most recent major case, made me vomit my breakfast burrito, and if I hadn’t skipped lunch today, I’d have upchucked here, too.
We were supposed to be on vacation. Or rather, I’d been ordered by my boss to take a vacation.
“Go take basket weaving or something,” he’d said, his way of telling me to get out of his hair for a while and quit finding investigations where there were none. Sorry, but when I thought there was a case, there usually was a case. My record proved it. He sort of pissed me off.
So I’d Googled basket weaving and South Carolina Lowcountry, and made reservations for a week at Indigo Plantation. I was from this piece of the state, and revisiting would be nice. Plus, I planned to make the biggest, gaudiest basket in the world, and set the damn thing on his desk when I returned.
Patiently, Wayne had stood guard on dry land, while I searched for the right grass for a basket, along the edge of the river. But as I waded calf deep in the water, a heavy something bumped me from behind.
Imagining a gator, I screamed, teetered, and fell, making the lawman come running.
Wayne saw the body before I did. “Don’t touch it, Slade!” he’d yelled.
From sitting waist deep in brackish water, slick mud under my butt, I scrambled like a crab at surf’s edge, putting distance between me and the dead man. “It touched me first,” I yelled back.
Gently but quickly, he rolled the man over and checked for a pulse.
I’m sure my eyes rolled. Skin color and missing eyelids told us what we needed. I couldn’t stop staring though I was sure I’d regret it in my dreams.
“Stay here and guard the scene,” Wayne said, in his federal agent voice, the boyfriend in him gone. “Don’t disturb anything. And don’t let anyone else disturb anything.”
Then off he waded to shore and left me. Just like that. Before I could ask what to do if the body tried to float off.
C. HOPE CLARK has a fascination with the mystery genre and is author of the Carolina Slade Mystery Series as well as the Edisto Island Mysteries, both set in her home state of South Carolina. In her previous federal life, she performed administrative investigations and married the agent she met on a bribery investigation. She enjoys nothing more than editing her books on the back porch with him, overlooking the lake, with bourbons in hand. She can be found either on the banks of Lake Murray or Edisto Beach with one or two dachshunds in her lap. Hope is also editor of the award-winning FundsforWriters.com.
My family is binging on the series Breaking Bad right now. Many aspects of the story are dark. My husband retired from 29 years as a federal agent, having spent a major chunk of his life dealing in the reality of human beings, and this is the first show I’ve ever seen him watch where he openly spoke about relating to the character. “He’s willing to do anything for his family. Anything. I get that.”
My jaw dropped. Here is a man who absolutely never suspends belief. There’s life and there’s entertainment. Never the twain shall meet.
Stories become more real and readers more eager to read them (or watch the show) when they can insert their being into the tale and exist there. When the character says what you are thinking. . . when the setting is so real you want to drive the streets and find the murder site. . . when tears roll down your cheeks because simple words touched your heart, the author has entwined fact and fiction and made them one.
It takes lots of practice to write realistic fiction. Anyone can tell a story, but to carve the dialogue and shape the setting such that the reader feels possessed, takes tons and tons of practice. And hours and hours of reading good books.
I’m not one to believe that reading bad or so-so books teaches you how to write better. If immature writing makes me stumble, it’s barring me from falling into the story and making it my world. I toss it. As an author, I want the more brilliant material embedded in my head. I want those stories that snatch me into the middle of the telling to take up residence in my brain. We don’t hire bad teachers. We don’t seek slack mentors. We learn best from the best.
And my goal in each and every book I write is to plant the reader in the place, make them walk alongside the protagonist, or even the antagonist, and want to be right there. Being there as a character, on vacation, wades into the dark water she fears in order to find the best plant to make her basket. Be there as the floating body bumps her calves and she falls beside. There as the body is rolled over and the eyelids are eaten away. Adrenaline pumping on both sides of the page.
“Don’t touch it, Slade!” he’d yelled. From sitting waist deep in brackish water, slick mud under my butt, I scrambled like a crab at surf’s edge, putting distance between me and the dead man. “It touched me first,” I yelled back.
Or right there as a character is surrounded by a horde, sniffling, shaking, “trying to stiffen with resolve. A weighted warmth in the air promised more rain. Light waned as evening approached with gray, sagging clouds.” I want the reader sweating by the end of the page.
Experiences mold us. They dictate our behavior, reactions, likes and dislikes. They define us in how we respond to stimuli in the future. They warn us about dangers from dangers we’ve weathered in the past. They warm us because of positive moments that gave us pleasure.
When a piece of fiction cuts into our psyche such that we respond to events in our lives from experiences we had in reading a book, that author has turned fiction into fact, and vice versa. Exactly what a reader is hungry for.
Fiction becoming fact is what makes someone keep a book on their shelf to be read again.
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