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Murder by Design
Murder by Design
The Tito Prescott Mysteries
A Novel by Joyce Holland
Tags: Key West, Detective, mystery, exotic locale, amateur sleuth, romance
Release: July 2012
Editor: Fiona Young-Brown
Line editor: Valerie Haley
Cover Designer: Suzannah Safi
When Claire hires Tito Prescott and his partner, Harry, to find her missing father, love was not on her agenda. But a hot-shot, ex-mercenary pilot has different ideas. One look at Claire and it’s love at first sight. Unfortunately, Jake is not the only one chasing her, and the other guy isn’t looking for love, he’s looking for blood. Claire’s.
"No?" he said it like a question. "So, you’re a river girl?"
Claire shook her head, amazed by where she now led him. "Far from it. But my father took me there once, long ago. My mother had recently died and I was inconsolable. He’d read about the flooding in the paper and he thought seeing nature in the raw might help me to put things in perspective."
"Interesting idea. Rather odd as grief therapy goes, but decidedly interesting." Harry’s eyes lit up as he shook his napkin and placed it on his lap. "And were you consoled by the rivers at flood stage?"
Charlie interrupted by arriving to take their orders. Claire resisted the urge to reach out and squeeze Charlie's arm. Her world felt suddenly fragile and he seemed a familiar refuge. She’d regressed into her past with little or no provocation and she needed reassuring. When she looked up at him though, she read it in his eyes. He’d heard she’d been in Karl’s room taking a shower. He didn’t look judgmental, just different. A wave of heat passed over her. She hadn’t blushed so hotly since high school. Inwardly, she knew his opinion meant nothing. In a week she would never see him again. She simply hated to disappoint people for no good reason at all.
"You were saying," Harry prompted.
Claire sighed. "Oddly enough, yes, in a way it did console me," she continued when Charlie left, giving in to the impulse to unburden herself. A zany and dear friend, Annie, once told her complete strangers made the best shrinks, because you could just walk away and never see them again, leaving no guilt or embarrassment to haunt you later. Of course, Annie unburdened herself to everyone who would listen, with unfettered gusto.
"At first I screamed," Claire said, dispensing with caution. "I saw half-submerged houses, ripped from their foundations. Whole trees roared past. The noise of it sounded like a jet engine. I shook all over at the sight and struggled to cover my eyes and ears. I wanted to leave. I pleaded to leave, but Dad held me there, with his arms wrapped around my shoulders from behind. He talked to me the whole time, hollering into my ear. He said the rivers were like life, ever changing. Sometimes they flooded. Mother’s death was like that flood, he told me, inevitable. She suffered for a long time, trying to hold on. He said there were eddies and whirlpools in life too, and there always would be. Then, all of a sudden, just offshore from where we stood, a huge red buoy erupted from the water. It must have shot fifteen feet into the air. The currents had sucked it down, but it snapped back up. We watched it happen several times. It was awesome. I forgot my fears in the excitement of waiting for it to pop up again. And I listened to him."
"Your father was a wise man." Harry poured wine for her and club soda for himself.
Claire didn’t remember the wine or soda arriving, she was so caught up in her recollection, but Harry’s use of the past tense bothered her. "Is a wise man,” she corrected, “not was."
Harry shrugged. "Okay."
"Dad said he was like that big red buoy, and whenever there was a flood, or a whirlpool, or an eddy in my life, he would always pop up." She smiled. "And he said to remember floods leave fertile plains behind, that there’s a reason for everything."
"And did he always pop up?"
"Always," Claire said, and laughed aloud. "Once in school, we were asked to draw pictures of our fathers to make Father’s Day cards. I drew a big red buoy floating down a raging river. I drew a happy face on the buoy." She leaned her chin on one hand and blinked away tears, picturing it. "Dad framed the card; it still hangs in his office."
“…Joyce Holland has crafted an engaging twist on the traditional private-investigator template. Instead of Tito Prescott, the professional, becoming involved immediately in the suspicious disappearance of a banker, the man's distraught but resourceful daughter begins looking into the case on her own. MURDER BY DESIGN has pitch-perfect scenes set everywhere from Turkey Creek, Illinois, to Florida's unique Key West. A great journey with interesting characters.”
Jeremiah Healy–Author of the award-winning John Cuddy series.
James W. Hall–“Master of suspense” (New York Times book Review)
"…Joyce Holland creates a keep-you-up-all-night read in MURDER BY DESIGN, the first Tito Prescott mystery. A gadget-loving James Bond wannabe, a romantic tryst, a diabolical plot, settings to die for (literally!) and nothing close to a dull moment, conspire to make this a fantastic start to a promising new series!"
Vicki Hinze–Best-selling author
“…Joyce Holland does it again. Lose yourself in the pages of her latest murder mystery. Follow Claire Desmond and Tito Prescott as they race from the tip of the Florida Keys, to the far reaches of the Okefenokee Swamp–with a serial killer on their trail. Mesmerizing.
Bill Campbell–Renowned author and columnist, Northwest Florida.
About the Author:
Joyce Holland is the author of three novels and over two dozen short stories. She is a former newspaper columnist, past president of Emerald Coast Writers, and is currently an associate agent with D4EO Literary. She and her husband, Tony, live on a small barrier off Florida’s Emerald Coast, but frequently travel the rivers of America on their trawler, Code One.
Author's Other Works:
Associate Agent, D4EO Literary Agency, 2009 – to present.
Columnist for the Northwest Florida Daily News, 2005-2006
FIGMENT, a novella, serialized in every issue Futures Magazine during the year 2000
MY, MY, MYRA (Sex, Lies, Money and Murder on Florida’s Emerald Coast) True Crime, 2003
“Long John Jones,” Anthology of Flash Mysteries, BULLETS, 2004
“Eva’s Eyes,” Intrigue Press Anthology, “Blondes in Trouble.” Edited by Serita Stevens 2004
1997 Honorable Mention in Mystery Writers of America, Florida Chapter Contest for, "Gator Bayou."
Winner of three prizes in the 2002 Florida State Competition, 3 categories, a 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
Regular speaker at MWA’s Sleuthfest
Chairman for Emerald Coast Writers annual conference. 2005 -2009
President Emerald Coast Writers 2007-2009
Derringer Awards Coordinator for Short Mystery Fiction Society 2008
“Bad Day at Blue Rock,” SOUTHERN SIDE UP, Spring 2009
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