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February 11, mystery/adventure lovers, my debut mystery novel, THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER (Pegasus Crime) releases in trade paperback. I await my author’s copies as I type.

It’s hard to spring for a hardback novel. I admit I only do it for a handful of writers whose work I simply cannot wait to purchase in a more (ahem) cost effective form. So if you are, like many readers, not that fond of eBooks, the trade paperback offers an enjoyable reading experience (I promise!) at a more affordable price. (But if you do like eBooks, you can purchase it from all the usual online bookstores.)

I’m celebrating the book’s release all month with a special on the genesis story (“Tinkerbell on Walkabout”) from the BVC bookstore, and by telling you about my protagonist, Gina Miyoko, PI.

Booklist has said of Gina that she “sweeps across the pages like an adrenalin-fueled soul sister of Janet Evanovich’s flamboyant characters, presented in an equally biting and outrageous narrative that turns on a dime.

Publisher’s Weekly called her “A tough, sassy, and relatable investigator, Gina drives a Harley, packs a baby blue Magnum, and is trained in the martial arts. Her rich backstory and family life—her father was a San Francisco cop; her mother, a Russian émigré, plies her with oberegi and other good luck charms—adds unusual depth to a fun story. Readers will want to see a lot more of Gina.”

Well, I sure hope you will! I love this character and her quirky family. I’ve been living with them for a long time now and I’d like to keep them around and, of course, continue to share them with you. In that spirit, I’d like to share this excerpt from the book as a sort of teaser.

What is THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER about? It’s about a young private investigator named Gina Suzu Miyoko (aka, Tinkerbell—Tink for short) who solves mysteries. This is the prologue from the book, which was published in October 2018 by Pegasus Crime, and got wonderful reviews.

oOo

PROLOGUE

When you are alone in the dark, hurting and frightened—no, terrified—that the next sound you hear will be the dying scream of a friend, or a round being chambered, you find things to do.

I prayed. I checked my watch. I checked my jacket pockets. I had a little pack of Kleenex, my compass, my camera, and a hair clip. That was on the practical side. On the arcane side, I had a jumble of good luck charms: a Hopi tinu, an obereg, and a piece of wire from an old Cadillac’s taillight. And then, firmly in a class of its own—Things That Were Once Practical But Are Now Junk—was the cell phone that wasn’t much of a cell phone this deep underground.

I turned it on and was immediately mesmerized by the pale luminescence of the little screen. I hoped there was enough kick left in its battery to light my tiny world for a while. I used the wan light to check my bandages. They were fairly dry. I had stopped bleeding.

Mercy.

I shut off the cell phone-cum-flashlight and mentally checked the rest of my personal inventory. Earrings, a fake engagement ring, a watch, my Saint Boris medallion. I had a small custom tattoo on my right hip. Or at least I had before tonight. For all I knew, the bullet that had grazed my hip had cut a bypass through that neighborhood.

I prayed not. I was a bit superstitious about that tattoo. It was a Russian Orthodox “Old Believer” cross with a Buddha seated in an eight-petaled lotus in the heart of the second crossbar and surrounded by beams of light. I’d gotten it the year I obtained my private investigator’s license. Other than the tattoo artist who put it there, my best friend Rose and I are the only two people in the world who know that tattoo exists. No one else has ever seen it. Not even my mom. It’s probably the only secret I’ve ever been able to keep from her.

My reeling mind wandered to places more pleasant than the pitch-black guts of the Mayan temple, in which I was trapped like a wounded animal, aware that tons of rock pressed down on my hiding place, and that a man I had once liked and trusted pursued me with one aim—killing me.

How had I come to be here, you might wonder? Hell, I wondered myself. One day I’m chasing down delinquent dads in San Francisco, the next I’m trying to avoid becoming part of a South American archaeological site. All Cruz Veras’s fault.

A jolt of raw terror shot from one end of my body to the other; I was falling asleep.

I couldn’t fall asleep.

Okay, so the Wicked Witch of the West had routed me through her infernal oppy fields. I’d think of snow.

I pulled myself up off the stone stairs I’d been huddled on, wobbly and dizzy. My hip whinged. I took deep breaths and held them for three seconds, then let them out . . . quietly. I was in my fifth rep when I heard something that woke me utterly: a gunshot.

A gunshot.

I pressed myself to the wall and moved down the stairs one shallow tread at a time, pausing to listen. Sounds found my ears—movement, shoes on stone. In the maze of tunnels under Itzamnaaj Balam, I couldn’t tell where
it came from. All I could do was continue to move, descending slowly to even lower levels. I paused, put my head against the cool stone, and listened.

Sounds rose up from below, sounds that might have been the scurrying of mice anywhere else. But there were no mice down here. My eyes were starved for light, yet dreaded to see it. It would be him, searching for me.

Keep moving, Gina. Just keep moving.

I fell into a sort of stupor, shuffling through the shadow lands, listening and watching. So when my eyes finally saw light, it didn’t immediately register with my brain that it meant Something Bad. I found myself being drawn toward a strange, gray, faded spot on the left-hand wall of the corridor ahead. I was nearly on top of it when I realized that it was reflected light from a cross-passage to my right.

I flattened myself to the near wall and peered around the corner. Ambient light washed out of everywhere and nowhere to illuminate the narrow way. I could see clear through to its other end, where there was a wall as solid and opaque as the one behind me.

Where was the light coming from? Curiouser and curiouser.

I stepped cautiously out into the junction. And was turned to stone. He seemed to emerge from the very wall of the maze not four yards distant, his flashlight in one hand, his revolver in the other.

I gasped.

He swung slowly toward me, bringing the muzzle of his gun to bear. I stood and clutched my useless cell phone and waited for him to shoot me.

He didn’t.

“Hello, Gina,” he said, sounding like Eeyore—relieved to have found me, but depressed as hell. “You don’t look so good.”

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