C. T. Collier grew up in Seneca Falls, NY, left the area for college and jobs, and always wanted to return to the Finger Lakes. Today she lives in a beautiful small city on one of the prettiest of the Finger Lakes, not unlike fictional Tompkins Falls on lovely Chestnut Lake.
A psychic once told her, “You will always work.” That was so not what she wanted to hear; she wanted to write! Four years ago, she made a promise to “write at least one hour every day.” Within a year, she had a contract for her first novel.
Five books later, she writes at least one hour a day in a tiny office that looks out on a woods populated with fox, deer, wild turkeys, and songbirds. Her new mystery series, The Penningtons Investigate, revolves around a college because, in her career as a tech-savvy college professor she has been endlessly fascinated with campus intrigue. Tompkins College, however, is entirely fictional; it is no college and every college.
It’s Monday of spring break when Professor Lyssa Pennington’s backyard garden project unearths a loaded revolver. With no record of violence at their address and no related cold case, the Tompkins Falls police have no interest. But the Penningtons and a friend with the State Police believe there’s a body somewhere. But whose? Where is it? And, by the way, who pulled the trigger?
The Pennington’s canvass of their quiet neighborhood leads them to disturbing secrets about the family who lived in their house for decades and another ill-fated family a few doors away. No one seems to know how to contact the only sons of either family. Lyssa follows the young men’s money stories and finds twenty million dollars, a neighbor who’s not what he seems, and a long-buries rivalry. Kyle goes after homicide data in six states and finds a body. Their next surprise is a murderer who will go to any length to conceal the crime. Even kill again.
Lyssa’s fingers trembled as she worked out the knot. She loosened the drawstring half an inch, but a sense of impending doom stopped her. Enough.
She handed Bree the pouch. “If it’s something really awful, just stop, please.” She rose from the chair and took a few steps outside the circle of eager faces.
“You mean like a dead mouse?” Bree flipped the leather sack from one hand to the other.
Richie snorted, and Dick elbowed him with a grin.
Lyssa wrapped her arms around her middle and tapped her foot.
Bree explored the outside of the pouch with her fingers. “It feels hard, like metal.” She fully loosened the drawstring and peered inside. “Holy cannoli.”
“What?” Lyssa asked.
“What is it?” Dick said.
“What’d they bury?” Richie’s eager voice asked.
Bree drew out a handgun, gripping the wood handle with her thumb and two fingers.
“Oh my gosh.” Lyssa’s head and heart pounded. “Put it back. We’re done with this.” She started toward Bree, but Dick shifted on his feet and tightened the circle, blocking her access.
“Revolver,” Dick said. “It’s in good shape for something that’s been buried as long as that tree’s been there.”
“Buried is right,” Bree said with a short laugh. “It was wrapped in—what? —three layers like a mummy inside that metal box.”
Lyssa shivered and sank onto the arm of the nearest chair. “How can you joke?”
“Can I see, Dad?”
“Ask Mrs. Pennington.”
“No.” Lyssa scowled at Dick.
“I’ve shown Richie how to handle a firearm, and we’ve shot together at the rifle range.”
“Come on, Lyssa.” Bree rose to her feet and struck a pose, one fist on her hip, the gun resting on her other palm. “You’ll be very careful, right, Richie?”
“No worries.” Richie took the gun reverently from Bree, his eyes bright with curiosity.
“Son, remember it might be loaded.”