Sample Sunday: Death scene

From Chapter 1 of Dead Man Lying—coming soon!

A hazy sun shone hot on two women, standing on a rough low platform of volcanic rock. The air was heavy with moisture and the smell of wet soil, flowers and the unique, spicy aroma of Hawaii. Long fronds and branches hung low, weighed down by rain that had only recently stopped. Yellow tape strung from tree to tree in a rough ring around the platform drooped with the weight of the rain, too, obscuring the words “Police Line Do Not Cross.”

The taller woman was fit, with shoulder-length dark blond hair and large green eyes. She wore the office-formal blue blazer, dress pants and shoes that broadcast “FBI.” She leaned carefully over one edge of the eroded platform, where some shifting in the earth below it had opened a narrow gully. Its bottom was littered with lava boulders that matched those remaining on the platform. More fronds reached over its edges from the forest around it, as if they were also trying to see the bottom.

“It doesn’t look that deep. Maybe ten feet,” she said. FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm’s foot slipped on the wet rock and she took a step back. Why didn’t I put on my hiking shoes instead of these? She thought about the Mephistos sitting in her bag, back in her car. Her first trip to Hana had shown her the ruin the rain coast could bring to fine footwear.

She crouched down on the platform, the heels of her hands at the crumbling edge, trying not to let her pants touch the rock surface.

“It wasn’t the fall that killed him,” Maui Police Detective Nalani Ferreira answered. “The coroner feels he was dead before he fell off the edge. That’s his initial thought, anyway. It will have to be confirmed in the lab.”

Vanessa looked down into the narrow pit again. “There’s nothing to mark where the body was,” she said.

“The morning rain washed it all away,” Ferreira replied. “At this time of year in Hana, it rains every day.”

“It looks like it,” said Vanessa. The path from the compound of houses and other buildings cut like a tunnel through dense trees crowded against broad leaves that grew up from the ground, competing against vines that hung from unseen branches above. Vanessa could just make out the corner of one of the outbuildings far below. Hidden in the branches, birds twittered and peeped, and occasionally she could hear large drops of water hitting lower leaves or the forest floor. “Should we be standing on this? It being a historical artifact?”

“We really shouldn’t,” Ferreira answered. “The local Hawaiian cultural organizations are going to complain about it. But this is the only way to see the death site.”

They stood on top of the remains of a heiau, an ancient Hawaiian temple. All that was left was an uneven platform of piled lava rocks, worn by rain, maybe twenty feet across. The creeping roots of the rain forest had eaten its edges. Vanessa eyed the side that had collapsed into the gully, wondering how big the ancient temple had been when it was built.

Watching where she stepped, Vanessa carefully made her way across the heiau, toward the path through the jungle back toward the house and other buildings on the estate. “Is that typical, a historical, cultural artifact on a private estate like this?”

Ferreira was right behind her. “It’s unusual. This heiau was abandoned and forgotten centuries ago, and rediscovered only after Steve Sangster had bought the property. Now that he’s dead, you can bet some cultural organizations are going to be making a lot of noise for it to be turned over to the government or a museum.”

Dead Man Lying

Vanessa Storm is back — the FBI agent who always knows when you’re lying.

Maui is rain forest, black sand beaches and a laid-back lifestyle. The perfect retirement location for a folk singer.

But when that folk singer ends up dead, it’s up to Maui Detective Lei Texeira and FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm to untangle the web of lies woven by the dead man’s family and friends before the body count escalates any higher.

Dead Man Lying is the third book in the Hawaiian Storm mystery series, featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm—the woman you cannot lie to.

The book will be out in time for Valentine’s Day. If you would like an advance review copy, send an email to, and put “Dead Man Lying” in the Subject line.

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