Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"Three Strikes, You’re Dead" by Elena Hartwell

Three Strikes, You’re Dead
(Eddie Shoes Mystery Book 3)
by Elena Hartwell

Three Strikes, You’re Dead (Eddie Shoes Mystery Book 3) by Elena Hartwell

Three Strikes, You’re Dead is the third book in the Eddie Shoes Mystery series by Elena Hartwell. Also available: One Dead, Two to Go and Two Heads are Deader Than One (read my blog post).

One Dead, Two to Go by Elena HartwellTwo Heads are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell

Three Strikes, You’re Dead is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother Chava wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?
On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles upon a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for her help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?
Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie’s memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?
Book 3 in the Eddie Shoes Mystery series.

Chapter One
As a private investigator, I often deal with the misery of others. And while that’s way better than dealing with my own misery, I was still looking forward to a few relaxing days surrounded by the beauty of the Cascade Mountains. My plan was to worry about nothing more serious than whether to have a latte or a cocktail in the late afternoon.
Besides my clients and the attention they required, the circle of people in my life were demanding more and more of my time. I wasn’t sure how I felt about not being as footloose and fancy-free as I had been for so many years. Relationships require attention, and I wasn’t totally convinced I was up to the challenge.
Being a grownup wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Back in March, my mother Chava had started working security for a casino not far from my Bellingham home. She excelled in her new job, able as she was to sniff out shuffle trackers and con men with the instincts of a bloodhound. Recently rewarded for her vigilance with a hike in pay—after her three-month probationary period ended at the beginning of June—she had generously offered up a mother-daughter getaway weekend to celebrate at the newly renovated Wenatchee Valley Hot Springs Resort and Spa.
Her success was further proof that she had no intention of returning to her beloved Las Vegas anytime soon or that my guest room would return to being my home office in the near future. Apparently I now had a full-time roommate.
Currently that roommate was crouched over the wheel of her bright red Mazda 6, zooming up the road toward our destination.
“You’ve been down in the mouth ever since that thing with Dakota Fontaine,” she’d said last week when she brought up the idea. “I thought you could use a long weekend away.”
Just before Chava started her new job, an old friend from my Spokane childhood had shown up in Bellingham, bringing Sturm und Drang with her. The whole adventure had made me a little cranky.
Besides, I’d thought at the time, why turn down a mini-vacation with the added bonus I could make my mother happy? And, as the resort was dog friendly, we got to take Franklin, my one-hundred-seventy-five pound, Tibetan mastiff-Irish wolfhound cross. So I said yes.
An hour into our drive, we passed through Monroe, a town of slightly under twenty thousand souls. It had sprung up around the railroad a hundred years ago. Once we got through town, we stopped for lattes at the Coffee Corral, a small, roadside stand in the parking lot of the Reptile Zoo. One of these days I’d stop and visit Reptile Man and his animals, but today we were winging our way up Highway 2, heading into the mountains.
Road trips always felt like an opportunity for a do-over. A “restart button” to erase life’s inevitable, messy complications. Especially if my destination was a place I’d never been, a place where no one knew me. I could begin afresh. A new romance, a new job, I could be an orphan—
Chava began singing loudly to the radio and I slammed back into the here and now, her presence tethering me to my current existence, regardless of our distance from home.
Life could be worse though. I could be paying for this little getaway.
I was more excited than I wanted to admit. Chava and I had rarely been on destination vacations together. We’d visited each other in our respective cities over the years, but seldom gone to another location entirely. I’d found excuses to tell everyone I knew that we were going: my best friend Iz, because I had to cancel our Saturday morning workout session at the dojo; Debbie Buse, in case she’d been thinking about meeting at the dog park on Sunday; and Chance Parker, my ex-boyfriend from Seattle who’d taken a job as a police detective in Bellingham last December.
After several tries over the course of the week, I’d “run” into him at Rustic Coffee in Fairhaven and asked him what his weekend plans were. I figured social etiquette would make him ask me about mine.
“I’m taking a few days off and going up to Orcas Island,” he said. “Do a little carpentry. A friend’s cabin needs a new roof.” Chance was pretty good with home repair projects, so I wasn’t surprised, though I wondered about the friend.
“Should be lovely up there,” I said. “What’s the cabin like?” And more importantly, who’s the owner?
“Primitive,” Chance said, with a laugh. “We won’t have electricity or cell service. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but James is used to surviving in the wilderness, and a few days of roughing it won’t hurt me.”
I remembered James. He lived in Alaska and took people out to look at bears and walruses and live on sticks and berries.
“Very manly,” I said.
“What about you?” Chance asked, proving my expectation about social niceties. I explained about the trip Chava had planned for us.
“Sounds like fun,” he said. “You’ll have to tell me all about it when you get back.”
That was a good sign, right? Almost like asking me out on a date.
“Why don’t we get together?” I said, emboldened by his easy manner. “When we’re both back. Compare notes on our respective long weekends.”
“Sure,” he said. “We’ll figure something out.”
That was a yes, right?
“You’re smiling,” Chava said as we reached the outskirts of Sultan, the first small town after Monroe, and had to slow down.
“I’m content,” I said, a little surprised to discover it was true.
The distinctly Western Washington small towns whizzed by outside the windows. Startup, Gold Bar, Baring—places with grocery stores and ski rentals mixed in with taverns and restaurants, all of which had seen better days. Not to mention the string of funky espresso drive-thrus, including: a windmill, a barn, and a tiny brick building, all with clever names. After Google and Amazon, coffee was the most popular business in our area.
Or maybe all that coffee was why we had the tech business to begin with.
Stands of evergreens mixed with deciduous trees covered in moss stretched out along the banks of the Skykomish. The rushing, westbound river competed for space with a railroad track and the road we were on in the corridor up to Stevens Pass. We crossed bridges with the river underneath us and sped under bridges with the railroad overhead, sometimes occupied by a moving train.
I could feel my tension ease as we left civilization behind. Tee trees were green. The river was clear as glass, first reflecting the sky, then turning into rapids, then forming deep quiet pools in the eddies of a bank. Franklin snoozed contentedly in the backseat, chin tucked against one armrest, feet pressed against the door on the other side.
A green sign flashed by—STEVENS PASS, ELEVATION 4061—as we raced alongside the ski resort. Summer had turned the snow-covered paths into bare wounds with the zigzag of ski li s stitching them together. Chava hurtled over the crest and swooped down the other side, like a downhill skier setting a record. Though I’d never admit it, it was always fun being her passenger.
Off in the distance, a thin column of smoke appeared. The plume rose straight up from the dense forest before fading into a gauzy haze and disappearing altogether. A resident probably had a burn pile going—that was how many of the locals disposed of trash or yard waste. It could also be part of a planned burn, designed to clear dangerous underbrush before a spark from a careless camper or a zap of summer lightning lit the mass of tinder. The rest of the sky was clear as far as I could see.
I began to hum along with the melody of an old Eagles tune. It was going to be a perfect getaway. What could possibly go wrong?
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
Three Strikes, You’re Dead gives us another vivid adventure with the quirky, genuine private eye Eddie Shoes. As usual, author Elena Hartwell’s characters are so real you feel like you could run into them at your local dive bar. Three Strikes takes us even deeper into Eddie’s complex family relationships with her charming-but-deadly father Eduardo and hilarious mom Chava, giving us further insight into Eddie’s psyche. The laugh-out-loud moments are many in this vital third installment, and you’ll find yourself wishing you could stay longer in the world of Eddie Shoes.” ~ USA Today bestselling author LS Hawker
Three Strikes, You’re Dead is an exciting ride with a likeable protagonist and a wonderful cast of supporting characters. If you enjoy your mysteries with suspense and a touch of humor, this book is for you.” ~ Catherine Bruns, USA Today Best Selling Author of the Cookies & Chance Mysteries
“With outstanding characters and a thrilling plot to entertain them, those who are fans of sleuth mysteries will fall in love with Eddie Shoes and her outlandish family. Although it is the third book in a series, it makes a fabulous stand-alone read and is a nice asset to have in your library.” ~ Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorites
“This one was hard for me to put down.” ~ Long and Short Reviews

Guest Post by the Author
The Imperfection of Fiction Writers
Writing fiction requires a strong imagination. Authors must have the ability to create entire worlds, people who don’t exist, and situations that have never actually happened.
But we also need to get the facts right.
That may sound like a contradiction, but all fiction is grounded in a reality, and that reality has to be true.
Let me explain.
Take the mystery genre. Most books fall into a specific subgenre. Three common ones are Private Eye, Police Procedural, and Amateur Sleuth. There are others, but for our purposes, we’ll stick with these three.
When a novelist writes a fictional private investigator, they have to make choices about how much their PI acts within the law. A genuine, licensed private investigator follows specific rules and guidelines and doesn’t break the laws of their community. That’s great in the real world, but in fiction it’s a lot less interesting than a private eye who will do anything to solve their case. This does not mean, however, the writer or the character can be unaware that they are breaking the law. In fact, part of the dramatic tension can come from the reader knowing the PI could get arrested and finding out if they get away with an action or not.
This requires the writer to know the rules of private investigation and the legal system in the state or community their stories are set.
The same is true if the author writes a police procedural. While there are some writers who have had careers in law enforcement, most of us have to research how police detectives actually work. There’s also a tricky balance for writers who are experts in law enforcement. They may know how an investigation would unfold in the real world, but they may have to speed the process up for fictional purposes, to keep things exciting for the reader.
The amateur sleuth has leeway with how their characters behave. Readers are prepared to suspend their disbelief about the little old lady who slips, unnoticed, into the house to investigate the crime scene. But they may still have to be accurate with how police detectives behave as secondary characters. If a crime happens in a novel with an amateur sleuth (usually termed a “cozy” if there is no graphic sex or violence) the police who investigate may miss a clue or disregard something the amateur knows, but the cops still have to act within the framework of real life investigations.
But the legal system and the inner workings of police departments are only part of the accuracy mystery writers need to employ.
Everything we write can come under scrutiny, and while gun enthusiasts are notorious for catching mistakes in a crime novel, they are only one set of experts.
As fiction writers, the scenarios we create include a lot of real world things. Whether it’s how a tow truck operator loads a vehicle on a flatbed or how many dog breeds the AKC recognizes, there’s a reader out there who will catch an author’s mistake.
My search history on the internet probably looks like a lot of crime novelists’. I’ve researched poisons that don’t show up in autopsies, how likely it is for someone to successfully commit suicide injecting an air embolism, and various forms of blood spatter. But that’s only part of the picture. I’ve also researched native trees found in a region, the elevation and populations of cities, and the interior colors on a specific car make and model.
Those are often the kinds of mistakes a reader will catch.
One of the best sources for information is access to an expert. That’s my favorite kind of research. For book three in my series, I got to hang out with firefighters. I even got to go on a run or two, lights and sirens and all. But access to an expert isn’t foolproof. A writer can still make a mistake if they don’t ask the right question.
One of the experts I have relied on for every book to date is a police detective. We have a rule of thumb when we’re discussing my scenarios. Always, never, maybe. When I give him my fictional scenario and describe my fictional cop’s actions, we compare my description with the actions of a real-world police officer. The actions usually fall into one of three categories: always, never or maybe. If it’s “a police officer would always do that,” I know I’ve written an authentic character. If he says never, I have to rewrite and find a way around that particular action. If he says “maybe,” I can choose to keep an action because I know it’s within the realm of possibility.
Two moments in my life stand out for me for how tricky truth in fiction can be. Years ago I was workshopping a new play. We had staged a public reading and asked for feedback from the audience. After the event was over, an elderly gentleman came up to me. He said, “I’m a World War Two veteran, and I wanted you to know that I loved your play. I thought your veteran was very well written, but you have one mistake. At the end of the play, at the funeral, you say ‘there was a twenty-one gun salute.’ The problem is, there’s no such thing, it’s actually called a rifle volley.”
So now I had a problem. The character who had the line probably wouldn’t get it right either, but I didn’t want my audiences to think I, the playwright, didn’t know the difference. So I added a line to another character, who corrected the first. What stood out to me was it never occurred to me I had the wrong term, so I had never even checked. I’ve learned not to take anything for granted.
The second moment was working with a writer years ago on a short play. He had something that didn’t ring true to audiences. The playwright had been a doctor in Viet Nam, and the issue had to do with his age at the time. His character was very young, because it was based, in part, on his own experiences. The problem was, even though it was true in the real world, most people thought it was a mistake, because he felt too young to have gotten through medical school and gone on to fight in the war. Here was a place where the writer had to change what was true into something that felt true. He made the character older and the problem disappeared. It didn’t impact the plot, just the believability of the character.
Both those instances have stayed with me. Part of our roles as writers it to create fictional worlds, while remaining true to the one we live in. Simultaneously, we have to make sure things feel true, regardless of the facts they are based on.
Fiction lives somewhere between the suspension of disbelief and our reality. And the writer’s job is to figure out where.

About the Author
Elena Hartwell
After twenty years in the theater, Elena Hartwell turned her dramatic skills to fiction. Her first novel, One Dead, Two to Go introduced Eddie Shoes, private eye. Called “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct”, by author Peter Clines, In’DTale Magazine stated, “this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.”
In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches playwriting at Bellevue College and tours the country to lead writing workshops.
When she’s not writing or teaching, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their trio of cats, Jackson, Coal Train, and Luna, aka, “the other cat upstairs”. Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

Enter our giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of Three Strikes, You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell (US only).