The Soul Searchers Mysteries Book 1 by Caryn Larrinaga
Genre: Cozy Paranormal Mystery
Print Length: 290 pages
Publication Date: April 5, 2019
Ghosts. Psychics. Murder. Just another day in Donn's Hill.
Mackenzie Clair needs a fresh start. The death of her father and a broken relationship rendered her old life unlivable. What better place to build a new one than Donn’s Hill, the most haunted town in America and her favorite childhood vacation spot?
But returning to Donn’s Hill awakens more than nostalgia. As memories resurface, so does a lost psychic ability to talk to the dead... a power the poltergeist haunting Mac’s apartment is eager to use.
Aided by her new roommate—a spirited Tortoiseshell cat named Striker—and the ghost-hunting crew of the Soul Searchers, Mac struggles to control her newfound talents. She’d better get a handle on them fast, because someone in town is hiding a deadly secret. If Mac can’t divine the truth, Donn’s Hill will never be the same.
First in a new series, this cozy paranormal mystery was the 2017 winner of the League of Utah Writers Silver Quill award. "A genre-bending gem of a book, cozy meets horror meets cat fancier in a unique town of psychic tourism and ghostly secrets." -Johnny Worthen, award winning author of THE FINGER TRAP, THE BRAND DEMAND and WHAT IMMORTAL HAND
Look for all of Caryn Larrinaga's spooky mysteries featuring psychic Mac and her spirited tortoiseshell cat, Striker!
Someone was sitting on my bed.
The thin motel mattress shifted as the weight of the intruder pressed down near my side. My body wanted to roll toward the sunken edge of the bed, but I held myself in place, not wanting to touch him. He—and I was sure it was a “he,” though I couldn’t say why—smelled foul, like rotting garbage. But he hadn’t harmed me. Yet. He must be waiting until I wake up. Silence, then, was key. Eyes closed, I held my breath to keep from screaming. I strained my ears for any sound that could explain who’d broken into my room, but only heard the hum of a car passing on the highway.
The quiet pressed into me with crushing force. There should’ve been some noise. He had to breathe, right? Or maybe he was holding his breath as well. Maybe we’d unwittingly entered into some kind of lung capacity contest, and the loser would be the one who passed out first.
My thigh muscles burned with the strain of holding myself in place, and any second now he’d notice the change in my breathing. I couldn’t keep this up for long. I needed to move while I had the element of surprise.
Questions pounded through my mind in time with my thumping heartbeat: Who is he? What does he want? It couldn’t be anything good. People who want to do good things usually knock.
Taking a chance, I opened one eye into a narrow slit. The motel room was pitch-black. With my arm under the covers, I crept my left hand toward the nightstand. Slow and steady.Don’t make a sound.
Ten minutes seemed to pass before my hand reached the edge of the mattress. Once there, I hesitated—another inch and I’d be exposed. Meanwhile, my stinky burglar was completely invisible. And he’d been sitting in my room for who knows how long, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. He’d see me the instant I left the safety of the sheets, but I had to chance it.
In one motion, I let out my breath and shot my hand toward the lamp switch, flooding the room with light. I sat bolt upright in bed, blinking rapidly as my eyes tried to adjust. Alert and ready to fight for my life, I balled my hands into fists and raised them in front of me, planning to punch the intruder right in the face.
My eyes adjusted, and I saw… no one. My heart pounded. Where was he?
I stood up and leapt off the mattress. As soon as my feet hit the carpet, I dashed forward toward the squat dresser against the opposite wall, putting as much space as I could between the bed and myself.
When I turned on the light the intruder must have rolled beneath the bed, where he was probably planning to grab my feet and drag me under like some kind of boogeyman. To be completely sure, I crouched down and leaned sideways until I could see underneath. A few dust bunnies rested on the dull gray carpet, but no one was lurking in the shallow space between the box spring and the floor. I straightened up and swept the room with my eyes. There was nowhere else he could be hiding; the thick, brown curtains weren’t long enough to conceal someone’s feet. Damn your cheapness, I swore at myself. If I were staying at a cozy B&B in town instead of in this dump, this wouldn’t be happening. If I end up murdered over the price of a hotel room, I’ll be furious.
Something creaked in the bathroom. My ears twitched toward the sound like a cat who hears its prey. Of course!He’s hiding in there. I tiptoed toward the back of the room, begging the floor to stay silent beneath my feet and grabbing the iron from the open garment rack as I passed it. It felt sturdy and heavy in my hands; it could do a lot of damage if I brought it down on somebody’s head. The thought was comforting yet terrifying.
I reached the back corner and stood in front of the bathroom door, trying to keep my heavy breathing as quiet as possible. My heart banged against my rib cage like a claustrophobe in a closet. This was it. When the door opened, it would be him or me.
Channeling my inner Bruce Lee, I raised the iron above my head, kicked the door open, and screamed, “Argh!” which hadn’t been part of my plan. Oh, well.
The flimsy door slammed open so hard that the narrow handle stuck in the wall. Just like under the bed, no one was waiting for me here.
To be on the safe side, I stepped into the bathroom and opened the cupboard beneath the sink. I didn’t imagine it was big enough to hide a full-grown person, but who knows, maybe a kid could have crept into my room in the night. Or a very flexible ninja.
Yet again, I found nothing. I sighed and left the bathroom, deciding it must have been one of those dreams that bleeds into reality—like when you dream that your boyfriend cheated on you, and you wake up with an irrational anger that sticks with you all day.
Then I saw them.
Two wet footprints lingered between the bed and the wall, right beside where I’d been sleeping. My hackles sprang up. Those footprints definitely didn’t belong to me; they were way too big to be my feet. The carpet was matted and soaked where the prints were, as though the intruder had been sitting there for a while, but I saw no other footprints leading to or away from that spot.
Donn's Shadow The Soul Searchers Mysteries Book 2
Print Length: 311 pages
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Return to the most haunted small town in America...
Mackenzie Clair finally has this whole ghost-hunting psychic thing figured out. The Soul Searchers are a hit, she’s got pet-parenting down, and she even has a plan to banish the poltergeist running amok at a lakeside cabin. Best of all, Donn’s Hill feels like home. But not everyone loves the town as much as Mac.
A world-famous paranormal debunker thinks the psychics in Donn’s Hill are lying about their abilities. His determination to destroy the Soul Searchers threatens Mac’s livelihood, and when a killer strikes, the sheriff’s suspicions threaten her freedom.
Mac needs all the help she can get to find the real murderer and clear her name… even if that help comes from beyond the grave.
A shout from behind us cut off my question. “Penelope!”
I twisted in my seat. Kit was marching across the lobby toward us so quickly that I swear her green hair was flying behind her in a streak. Her eyes narrowed in fury, and I cringed away from her. Kit didn’t get angry often, but when she did…
She reached us and slammed her hand down on the table. “Raziel Santos? Are you kidding me?”
She lifted her hand, revealing a small flyer. A man about my age with severe cheekbones glared up at me from the sheet. He was doing something Kit’s father Yuri often did, looking over the top of his glasses at the camera as though he didn’t even need prescription lenses. His cold, light eyes looked almost as angry as Kit’s. Below his photo, blue ink proclaimed RAZIEL SANTOS, FILMING LIVE FROM DONN’S HILL THIS OCTOBER!
“Who is Raziel Santos?” I asked.
“He’s that jerk magician I told you about,” Kit spat. “He’s gotten famous on the back of the occult community. Specifically, by being a prick to psychics and the people who ask for their help.”
“He’s a world-renowned magician,” Penelope said, pointedly turning toward me as though to exclude Kit from the conversation.
“And paranormal debunker.” Kit snatched up the flyer again and whipped it with the back of her hand. “Why would you invite him here? He’s the opposite of everything Donn’s Hill stands for.”
Penelope shook her head. “That’s not true. The town has a long history of inviting skeptics to the Afterlife Festival. Houdini’s visit did wonders for our reputation.”
“Raziel Santos is no Houdini,” Kit growled.
“Your father seems to think so,” Penelope said. “It was his idea to invite him here.”
“We got to talking one night and…” Penelope tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear and looked away from us. “And he recommended I reach out to Mr. Santos to invite him here.”
Kit’s nostrils flared, and crimson heat crept up her face from her collar. “If that were true, he would have told me.”
“He knows how you feel about Mr. Santos. He thought—”
“Oh, so you two are talking about me now?” Kit threw her hands up into the air. “Great. That’s great.”
As they argued, I pulled out my phone and searched for Raziel Santos. The internet seemed to be as divided about him as Kit and Penelope. The top few results were fan pages that called him “mysterious and sexy,” but there were also news reports of defamation lawsuits being filed against him and lots of angry forum posts. I clicked the link to his official website and scanned the homepage.
“Raziel Santos,” proclaimed the silver script across the black background. “The truth is right here.”
Striker rubbed her jaw on the lower corner of my phone. I reached down with my free hand to scratch between her ears. If I didn’t pet her quickly enough, she’d bite my phone to get me to put it down.
“Kit, please.” Penelope gestured to the empty chair beside her and held up a single finger to the barista. “Won’t you sit down and talk about this rationally?”
“What is there to talk about? This guy is literally trying to destroy my father’s show and everything we’ve worked for. And you’re throwing him a freaking cocktail party?”
I raised an eyebrow at Penelope. “Cocktail party?”
She sighed and narrowed her gray eyes at Kit. “It’s a reception, the kind you throw an honored guest. Mr. Santos and his team graciously agreed to film their next special here. We can’t buy that kind of publicity.”
Kit snorted and looked away, but I studied Penelope. Her cold eyes and pinched brow made her irritation clear, but she pulled her shoulders backward and kept her spine straight. She exuded confidence, same as she had in nearly every encounter I’d ever had with her. She was a smart woman. Or was shrewd the better word? Either way, I had a feeling she was right.
Penelope turned toward me then. “Speaking of which, dear, I was planning to invite you before you left here. Light hors d'oeuvres and drinks, Friday night at The Enclave.”
I glanced at Kit, who was shooting daggers out her eyes at me. “Oh, Friday? Uh… Kit and I were going to—”
Penelope held up a hand. “No RSVP needed. Casual attire is fine if you attend.” She stood, cradling her coffee cup in one hand. “If you’ll excuse me, I have some paperwork left to do in my office here and then a monstrous pile of tasks waiting for me at City Hall.”
I moved to stand as well, but Penelope waved her hand at me.
“Stay and finish your coffee,” she said. It was one part invitation, one part order. She left us with a final wave, disappearing behind a door near the coffee counter marked PRIVATE.
Kit threw herself into the chair across from me with a huff, reached over, and stole my coffee. She sipped it and scowled. “Of course it’s amazing.”
The young barista, as though on cue, hustled over to our table with a fresh mug. I reached for it, but Kit slapped my hand and slid my original cup back across the table.
“You ruined it with too much cream,” she said.
“I thought it was ‘amazing.’”
“Yeah, so I expect it to be mind-blowing when you treat it right.”
“So. Want to explain why you’re so pissed off at Penelope?”
“What, did your ears fall off? She invited that prick—”
“Come on, Kit,” I said. “You told me yourself, your dad loves this guy. He was asking ScreamTV to sponsor a joint episode, right? Is this big special the thing he was asking them to do?”
“No.” Her eyes flashed. “He wanted our teams to do something together. Here’s the bottom line: Penelope put the idea into Dad’s head. She’s a manipulative, controlling psycho.”
I blinked, taken aback. Her voice was much harsher than it’d been in the van, and her words were razor sharp. “You don’t mean that.”
“Oh, I mean it.” She pushed back from the table and stood up. “Everyone looks at Penelope like she’s the queen of this town, but the truth is, she’ll be the death of it.”
With that ominous proclamation, Kit stormed out of the inn, coffee cup and all.
Caryn Larrinaga is an award-winning mystery, horror, and urban fantasy writer. Her debut novel, Donn's Hill, was awarded the League of Utah Writers 2017 Silver Quill in the adult novel category and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist. Watching scary movies through split fingers terrified Caryn as a child, and those nightmares inspire her to write now. Her 90-year-old house has a colorful history, and the creaking walls and narrow hallways send her running (never walking) up the stairs. Exploring her fears through writing makes Caryn feel a little less foolish for wanting a buddy to accompany her into the tool shed. Caryn lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and their clowder of cats. She is an active member of the League of Utah Writers and the Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association. Visit CarynLarrinaga.com for free short fiction and true tales of haunted places.