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It’s a cold murder mystery this week with Bones Under the Ice by Mary Ann Miller. There is nothing like solving a mystery in a blizzard and Jhonni Laurent has a doozy of a case. Let’s bundle up and head to Field’s Crossing, Indiana and figure out just what that is hidden by the snow.
More About the Book
Jhonni Laurent is the first female sheriff of Field’ s Crossing, Indiana— and now she has her first murder case
Two days after a blizzard hits Field’ s Crossing, Indiana, Sheriff Jhonni Laurent discovers the frozen body of a high school senior under a fifteen-foot pile of snow and ice. Murder is rare in farm country, and this death marks the beginning of Jhonni’ s first homicide case.
Just as the investigation gets underway, Jhonni’ s opponent for sheriff from four years ago wages a bitter reelection battle to oust her. Then, Jhonni finds another body, and further complications arise when a century-old feud between two families reaches its breaking point.
Soon, a slew of newspaper articles causes the Indiana State Election Board to doubt her credibility. Jhonni must fight to maintain her reputation, keep the small farming community together, and find the murderer at large— all while demons from her own past threaten to crush her. Can she find the killer and mend her battered spirit before it’ s too late?
“What’s going on? What’d you find?” Ralph Howard shouted. “When can I take pictures? My deadline’s in two hours.”
“Your deadline is not my concern,” she snapped back. “The internet does not get to inform next-of-kin.”
“The kid who found the body saw a hand sticking up in the pile of snow,” Ralph Howard persisted. “Can you determine the sex or age of the victim? I need to get a few shots. I’ll hold off publication until this afternoon.”
“Absolutely not. I have no idea what’s underneath that mountain of snow or how long it’s going to take to extract the body. Get back and stay back.” Laurent pointed to the parking lot. She waited until he trudged back to his car, slammed the door, and crawled out of Webster Park’s snow-covered parking lot. As far as Laurent was concerned, freedom of the press didn’t start until after next-of-kin notification. And that was part of her job.
Tucking her long braid inside her fleece-lined jacket, Laurent climbed the pile of snow, knelt once again, the ice-crusted snow cracking under her knees. She was glad she had worn the extra layer of snow gear. She’d need the warmth and moisture protection today. Laurent leaned forward and peered at the slender frozen hand—wrist broken, fingertips resting on the icy ground. Squinting against the glare, she noted the hand was blue, not black, which meant the victim had died before severe frostbite set in. She had seen this before. Frozen extremities. Fingers, toes, top of the ears, tip of the nose—all blackened with frostbite. Old man Dawson lost both pinky fingers and the tip of his right ear rescuing a baby calf and its mother in the last blizzard.
Was there an entire body encased in the snow and ice? Laurent brushed away more snow until the frozen limb was exposed to the elbow. The victim wore a white, puffy coat and purple nail polish. Female.
Laurent swallowed and blinked away tears before they froze. In the small farming community of Field’s Crossing, Indiana, there wouldn’t be a lot of women wearing purple nail polish and certainly no one over the age of forty, possibly even thirty. So young. This was going to hurt. The family, the community, herself. And to make matters worse, today was February 2. A day she dreaded. A reminder of her failure. Exactly thirty years ago she’d given up her baby girl for adoption.
Laurent rose to her feet, head pounding. She had a nasty cold. Her head hurt and she couldn’t breathe through her nose. Every time she swallowed, shards of glass stabbed her in the throat. February in Indiana. Everyone had a cold.
She slid her sunglasses down from her forehead, stomped to her SUV, and grabbed the radio, one foot perched on the running board. “Dispatch. Get a hold of Caleb Martin. I don’t care what he’s doing or where he’s at. I want to talk to him. Send Greene and Dak out to Webster Park. Tell them to bring hand trowels, ice picks, buckets, something to kneel on, and the camera. Also, advise Henry Linville we’ll need to use his refrigerator box to thaw a body.”
“Tell Ingram he’s going to have to handle everything else until we can extract the body. Call me immediately if anyone reports a missing person. Contact Starr at the village office and get her started on the welfare safety checks. Make a list of everyone who doesn’t answer. After Ingram deals with the fender benders, have him start knocking on doors. Greene and Dak should be able to give him a hand this afternoon.”
Laurent grabbed her silver Yeti from the cupholder, slammed the SUV door closed, and strode to the group of parents gathered next to an overturned picnic table. She estimated thirty children had been sledding in the park while ten adults huddled in a circle sipping coffee and chatting. She would need to be careful with what she said.
She took a sip of hot tea from the Yeti and set it in the snow next to her foot before pulling out her notebook. “Thanks for waiting, everyone. I need to get some information. First, who found the hand?”
“We did.” Two red-cheeked boys stepped out of the crowd, their mothers’ hands on their shoulders.
“I like your Spider-man skullcap.” Laurent slid a gloved hand into her pocket and rocked back on her heels. “What’s your name?”
“Danny Gibson. My mom got it for me because I got all As and Bs on my report card.”
She lifted a hand for a high five and then nodded at the other boy hopping from foot to foot. “What’s your name? You have Batman snow pants. Awesome.”
“Tyler Hayes. Batman can beat Spider-man every time.” He punched Danny in the arm.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“We were racing down the hill,” Danny said. “I got flipped over. I thought it was a rock, so we climbed back up to dig it out, except it wasn’t a rock.”
“I beat him down the hill,” Tyler said.
Laurent picked up her thermos and sipped her hot tea and tried to hide her smile. Boys. Always trying to one-up each other. “When did you get here?”
“We’d have been here earlier, but Mom said we had to wait for Field Street to be plowed all the way to the park,” Danny said.
Danny’s mom’s breath whooshed out in a long stream. “We got here around ten, and even then, none of the side streets were plowed. What’s going on? Do you know who it is?”
“I’ll know more in a few hours. Were you the first ones to arrive?”
Four heads nodded.
“Did you see anyone leaving the park when you got here?”
Four heads shook.
“How long is it going to take to dig it out? Is it just an arm or is there a whole body buried under all that snow?” Danny asked. “Can we watch?”
“Please, Sheriff. This is so sick,” Tyler said.
“I’m sorry, boys, but no one can watch. I’m not sure what we’re going to find.” Laurent raised her voice. “Folks, I want everyone to go home. No sledding at Webster Park until I say so. Build a snow fort in your front yard. Have a snowball fight with the neighbors. If I catch anyone out here, I’ll ask Principal Li to assign detention.”
Laurent finished her hot tea as kids and parents piled their sleds into minivans and pickup trucks, then she walked to the SUV, her feet squeaking on the snow, and slid behind the wheel. Her heart ached and her eyes blurred. She had been a deputy sheriff for fifteen years before being elected sheriff and had never recovered the body of a child. Grabbing a tissue, she blew her nose. Pulling nasal spray out of her pocket, she inhaled. As she waited for the cold medicine to take effect, she popped two sinus headache pills, smeared Vaseline under her sore nose, and rested her forehead on the steering wheel. Tomorrow was her day off, and she’d been looking forward to staying in her flannel pajamas, fuzzy slippers, and robe all day, binge-watching her favorite Netflix series, The Great British Baking Show. Not anymore.
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About the Author
Mary Ann Miller is a debut author, currently living in Florida with her husband, where she is working on the second novel in the series. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northern Illinois University and earned a paralegal certificate with Roosevelt University. Miller is a member of MWA, ITW, and Sisters in Crime and when not writing, can be found reading poolside or hosting family and friends fleeing the cold winters of the north.
You can find Mary Ann Miller Here.