Tag Archives: Winnebago County Mystery Series

What is Your Book Marketing Strategy? By Christine Husom

There are wonderful articles on the many ways to promote your books on on-line venues. Connecting on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and author blogs are key marketing strategies. Someday I hope to more efficiently tap into those markets for effective results.

The truth is, with hundreds of thousands of titles being released each year it’s not easy to stand out in the crowd. Another truth is readers like to meet authors face to face.

Here are some things I’ve learned in the last seven years about promoting myself and my books:

Obtain the names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers of the libraries and bookstores in your state, or as far away as you are prepared to travel. Send them an attractive brochure with information about yourself and your books. When I did this a few years ago I booked a large number of gigs and met some great people who have been faithful readers of mine ever since.

When you’re going to be at a library or book event, get an article into the local newspaper with all the specifics. Even if people can’t attend, they’ll know you were there and some will later check out your books.

Join a group like the Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America, specific to your genre. When you have a new release, if you provide them with the information, they will print it in their national publications. In addition to the National SinC, I also belong to the Twin Cities Chapter where I’ve been part of a number of mystery panels at libraries. We’ve even been paid a tidy sum at many of them.

Check out the arts and crafts shows, county fairs, or similar events in your area or as far as you are able to travel. Some are cost-prohibitive, others are very reasonable. I attended five this past year, but there are many hundreds in Minnesota I could have gone to. I sell a good number of books at one in particular fair every year. This year it was 45, a very successful five hours in my opinion. People at that venue now seek me out in my booth to see if I have a new book out.

Whatever event I’m at, I have an email sign-up sheet for anyone who is interested. I put a disclaimer on it promising not to spam them. My reader address book has grown to over 400. I haven’t developed any type of formal newsletter, but I send out a letter when I have a new book coming out with the book cover, back cover blurb, review quotes, and other pertinent information, and the places, dates, and times I’ll be for the book signings.

And that brings up the step I take to get the signings in the first place. When I know the book’s release date, I send a letter to the 47 bookstores and libraries I have email addresses for, about two months prior. Allow a good month to get your book launch schedule set. In addition to the signings set in conjunction with the release, I also tell them I’d love to do an event any time in the upcoming year. That offer is geared more toward libraries, but it also keeps the door open for bookstores. They may keep me in mind for some anniversary celebration or other festival they have planned.

Other great places to introduce yourself and your books known are at conventions. The largest international mystery convention is Bouchercon. Other big ones are Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, ThrillerFest, and Crime Bake. Getting on the author panels gives you increased recognition and advertisement in the catalog. Also, since five or so different panels on a wide array of writing/publishing subjects are offered almost hourly, it is like taking six or seven classes a day. And the awards banquets are both fun and educational. They cost a fairly large sum of money, so you have to weigh the benefits with your finances.

If I had to sum up my book marketing strategy advice in two words it would be: Develop Relationships. With readers, book store owners, book clubs, librarians, other authors, agents, editors, illustrators, reviewers, and anyone else connected to the writing industry.

What are things you do to market your books?

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mysteries. Secret in Whitetail Lake, the sixth in the series, was released in November.

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The Secret in Whitetail Lake 5th Installment

An old Dodge Charger with the remains of two victims has been recovered from an area lake in the latest Winnebago County Mystery. This entry picks up where the last one left off.

Doctor Patrick shook her head back and forth. “This is my first experience with remains that have been submerged for decades in a vehicle. I have two assistants who are on their way with gurneys and body bags.” She grabbed a pair of gloves out of the lab coat pocket, pulled them on without a downward glance then made the sign of the cross on her head and chest with her right hand.

“The team assigned to major crimes this week happens to be two of the guys that got called out on the dive. They’ll get here before long,” Matsen said.

“Is that Mason and Weber?” Smoke said.

“Yup.”

“You might want to put on coveralls. I got a good supply of the impervious ones that will protect your clothes from possible contamination,” Matsen said to Smoke and me.

“I’ll take a pair, also. I have some in my van, but didn’t think to grab them,” Doctor Patrick said.

Smoke and I followed Matsen to the supply closet on the back wall of the garage. He handed us each a plastic bag containing a coverall. While we tore into the bags then slipped on the suits, Matsen carried one over to Doctor Patrick. When we were all outfitted, Smoke, Matsen, and I closed in some feet behind the doctor. She turned and visually surveyed us. “Are we ready?”

I was touched by the significance of it all. “Smoke, they were your friends; maybe you should do the honor of opening the door.”

Doctor Patrick frowned and Smoke explained what Matsen meant.

She nodded. “By all means. Go right ahead, Detective.”

The Charger was a two-door model with push buttons on the handles, similar to the ones on my GTO. Smoke tried to push the button of the driver’s door with his thumb, but it didn’t budge. He put more weight behind it, but it still didn’t move. “I guess we need to try a spray lubricant and some tools. If that doesn’t work, we may have to break the window.”

“I’ve got some spray and a screwdriver and hammer right over there. We’ll give it a shot,” Matsen said and went to get the supplies. When he returned he handed Smoke the tools, and then aimed the nozzle of the lubricant at the area around the opener and gave it a generous shot of spray. When he was finished, Matsen took a step back. Smoke moved in, set the screwdriver against the button, and tapped it with the hammer. After a few tries, it went in. “Bingo,” he said. He handed the tools to Matsen, depressed the button, and pulled the door open.

I braced myself for whatever stench the vehicle might release. A fishy, lake and mud smell spilled out. I was used to it from many hours of fishing with my Gramps. Since it was tied to great memories, I actually found the smell pleasant. When the car dried out, any number of other odors would likely make themselves known. Leather, mildew, rust: from the car itself and from the shoes, clothing, and other belongings left behind by the victims.

Doctor Patrick got a phone call from her assistants saying they were outside, and requested we open the garage door. I jogged over and pushed the automatic opener. Doctor Calvin Helsing, assistant medical examiner, and Karen Sherman, a pathology assistant, were waiting with the necessary equipment. They were wearing the same type of coveralls we had on, with elastic closures at the wrists and ankles. They pushed in their gurneys with supplies and body bags atop.

I had met both of them the previous fall at the autopsy of a woman we worked diligently to identify. It was a couple of days after I’d met Doctor Patrick for the first time. We’d called her out to scene where the victim had been found, lying on the floor of a woods. Another unusual, difficult to explain, death.

Dr. Helsing was an attractive man about my age of American Indian descent whose pupils dilated when he looked at me. The same thing had happened the last time we’d met. It seemed he found me attractive. Karen was a few years older, on the plump side, with a flawless complexion that no makeup could enhance.

They both said “hi,” and joined their boss on the driver’s side of the car. Smoke and Matsen went to the passenger side and opened the door using the same spray and pounding method. With both doors open it was easier to view and assess the inside and its contents. Matsen snapped a series of photos, and I captured image after image with my mind’s eye.

I picked out a men’s leather shoe lying near the gas pedal and its mate close to the driver’s door. A leather wallet had made its way out of a pocket and was partially visible under the pelvis of the larger skeleton. A large leather purse was lying on the backseat bench. Articles of clothing clung to the bones, but items made of leather had survived with the least deterioration. A belt and bit of rusty buckle was around the larger skeleton’s middle. Leather sleeves clung to his arm bones.

“Looks like he was wearing his school letter jacket. I mentioned earlier that Tony was a standout athlete. Lettered in football, basketball, and baseball,” Smoke said.

“Their clothing no doubt helped hold them together, but be prepared that they may not stay that way when we remove them. We’ll go slowly and carefully, but it’s going to be a challenge,” Doctor Patrick said.

Doctor Helsing rolled a gurney close to the vehicle. “If we move the seats back as far as possible, it’ll give us more room to work,” he said.

“Good plan,” Smoke said. He struggled for a moment with a lever under the driver’s seat, and when it depressed, he held it down with his right hand and pushed the seat back with his left.

Doctor Helsing worked on the passenger seat, and got it moved back. Karen picked up a body bag from the gurney, revealing what looked like a giant plastic-coated bread board. She laid it on the other gurney, opened the body bag, spread it out on the gurney so it was ready to receive a body.

“Is that your version of a backboard?” Matsen pointed at the board.

“Yes, it comes in very handy at many of our scenes,” Doctor Patrick said.

Deputies Todd Mason and Vince Weber came into the garage quietly, observed the progress we’d made for a minute, then helped themselves to coveralls.

“Anything else of import turn up on the bottom of Whitetail Lake?” Smoke asked

“Nope. Warner took a couple of laps to be sure he didn’t miss anything,” Mason said.

“He’s kind of itching to get out on some of the other lakes, after coming upon that major find.” Weber nodded at the Charger.

“Mason and Weber, why don’t you help Doc Helsing there. If that’s okay with you, Doc Bridey?” Smoke said.

“Certainly,” she said.

Karen handed Doctor Helsing the board and he positioned it under the remains of the passenger’s remains. “One of you deputies can hold the end, and I’ll work to get the victim on it. Then we’ll move the gurney in, and slide her on.”

Weber and Mason took a quick glance at the other and by silent agreement decided Mason would be the one to do that. Mason had a slighter build than Weber, and wouldn’t take up as much space next to Helsing.

They worked slowly and carefully. And as Doctor Patrick figured would happen, some bones separated from their mates and made the process more tedious than I could have imagined. But we were all committed to be there, assisting in whatever way we could until the job was done.

Captain Clayton Randolph, next in command after Chief Deputy Kenner, who was next in command after the sheriff, paid the investigative team a visit as soon as he could break away from his duties. He watched the progress, but stayed in background.

Before he went back to his desk, he sidled over to where Smoke and I were standing. After talking about the impact of finding the Charger and its human remains, he changed subjects. “No one seems to know where Denny Twardy disappeared to. It is the damndest thing. It’s been four hours since anyone in the office has had contact with him.”

Smoke’s face tightened. “It’s got me pretty keyed up. Something’s not right.”

Randolph nodded. “I’m going to have communications send a message to all the road deputies asking if they’ve seen his car parked anywhere.”

“Good idea,” Smoke said.

Randolph looked at me. “You’ve talked to your mother about it?”

“I did, a few hours ago. She’s so easily alarmed that I just asked if she’d heard from him. She must be really busy at the store because she hasn’t called back to check if I’d talked to him yet.”

“You’ve sent someone to check Twardy’s home, right?” Smoke asked.

“Yes, and no luck.” He shook his head. “We all know what to do if we hear from Twardy,” Randolph said then left.

Yes, we needed to communicate any news to rest of the department.

Through the next hours, deputies and other sheriff’s department personnel came into the garage to witness the historical find. Pulling an old car out of Whitetail Lake was not a secret, but the word of who it belonged to, and who may be inside of it, was to be kept as quiet as possible until the victims were identified and the families were notified.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series

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The Secret in Whitetail Lake–Fourth Installment

The Winnebago Sheriff’s Department has recovered an old Dodge Charger from the bottom of a lake. Meantime, the sheriff is nowhere to be found. This picks up when the last entry left off.

Chapter Three

Sergeant Doug Matsen, head of the newly expanded Winnebago County Crime Lab, was waiting with the overhead door of the evidence garage open. KT Towing’s flatbed truck was backed up close to the garage, ready to unload the Dodge Charger. Smoke joined the group right ahead of me, and we all squinted against the blinding rays of the late morning sun reflecting from the glass and metal on the vehicles. Even with my sunglasses cutting out most of the glare, my eyes still partially closed from the assault.

Sergeant Matsen was in his late thirties, seven or eight years older than me. He had been on the wild side in his earlier days with the department, pushing the limits of what he could legally do to solve crimes. Word was that it had kept Sheriff Twardy on edge wondering if Matsen might cross the wrong line at some point. But Matsen had the determination and dedication that made him an astute road deputy. And when he put in for the crime lab’s supervisory position, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was the one best suited for the job.

“Back far enough into the garage to unload this precious cargo,” Smoke said.

Kyle got back in the driver’s seat and did just that. “Say when,” he yelled out his open window.

Smoke, Matsen, Ted, and I went into the garage to monitor the process.

“That’s good,” Smoke called out, and the truck came to an immediate stop.

Ted walked around to the back of the truck. “Okay Kyle, lift the front of the bed up and I’ll get the ramps in place.”

When the bed of the truck rose to about a thirty degree angle, Kyle lowered the ramps then climbed back up. He grabbed the truck bed wall for better balance as he walked uphill to operate the winch. Kyle shut off the truck’s engine and got out to watch the action. As the strap loosened, the car made its slow descent to the garage floor.

“If this don’t beat all,” Matsen said as he snapped on latex gloves and stared into the Dodge Charger that had been safely delivered to him. “When you get out of bed in the morning, you never know what the day is going to bring you.”

“That’s a given,” Smoke said.

It most certainly was.

Smoke honed in on Kyle and Ted who looked like they were settling in, prepared to stay for the duration of the investigation. “Thanks, guys. We need to get to work, and I’m sure you do, too,” Smoke said.

The towing team took the non-subtle hint and left with a wave and a nod.

Matsen frowned as we bent over and stared in the windows. “Two victims, from what I can see. Was it accidental drowning? Or something else?”

“That’s the puzzle we’ll have to put together. I know this car, and who it belonged to. I’d be willing to bet the owner’s one of the victims. And the other one was his girlfriend.”

Matsen straightened and studied Smoke like he was a specimen under one of his microscopes. “You’re serious?”

“This would not be a time when I’d be kidding.”

“No. No, I guess not. Who do you think they are?”

Tony Fryor and Wendy Everton. They disappeared thirty-three years ago. It seemed at the time that they fell off the face of the planet.”

“Thirty-three years ago? Damn, that is an old case. So how do you know so much about the car and the victims?”

“They were my classmates, and friends.”

“And my mom’s and dad’s, too,” I added.

“Whoa. Here at Oak Lea High School?” Doug said.

“Yup,” Smoke said.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Matsen took a moment to have another look inside the Charger. “And they did a thorough investigation at the time?”

“Yeah, it sure seemed like it. I’ll go through the file again, but when the department hit enough dead ends, they called it.”

“What did they think happened to them, some kind of foul play?”

“No. They figured they ran off together. Maybe eloped.”

“Hmm, so it sounds like not everyone was in favor of their relationship.”

“That’s true enough. The way I remember it, Tony did not measure up to the high standards Wendy’s parents had set. Not exactly sure why. He was a star athlete, and seemed ambitious enough.

“And I don’t think Tony’s mother cared much for Wendy, given the fact that she’d had a number of boyfriends throughout high school. Everyone who knew them was questioned, back then. Including me, and Corky’s parents. I don’t know of anyone in our class who wasn’t. The classes were smaller then and most everyone knew everyone else. The detectives—and there were only two of them in the county in those days—were trying to find one person who had heard them say they were running away. And they never did. I guess now we know why.”

“Accident or suicide-homicide? That’s what we’ll try to figure out.”

Smoke drew his eyebrows together and sucked in a breath. “No, that’s what we will figure out. Now that we know where they ended up, we have a starting point anyway.”

“Smoke, are their parents still living?” I asked.

“Yeah, as far as I know. I looked through the file on them all those years ago, after I’d started here with the department. You know, I think about Tony and Wendy from time to time, kind of doing a little wishful thinking that they’d come back with a pack of kids and show everyone they were meant to be together after all.”

“A sad ending. But now their families will have closure,” I said.

He nodded.

“We know there won’t be any fingerprints. The water would have dissolved them within the first month.” Matsen said, enlightening me on that. “What time did you call the medical examiner?” he directed at Smoke.

“As soon as the divers said we had skeletal remains. She was tied up, finishing an autopsy. When she called me back, she said she’d meet us here.” Smoke looked at his watch. “Should be shortly.”

“Good. I’d rather wait for her. I’ll get some more shots of the car and the contents.”

The contents.

Smoke’s phone rang. He pulled it out of its holder, looked at the display, and pushed a button. “Cindy. What have you got for me? . . . Hmmph, his radio? And his car is gone from the parking garage? . . . . Okay, well thanks. And keep me posted.” He hung up and caught my eyes with his. A slight shake of his head told me there was still no word from the sheriff, but it sounded like he had driven off somewhere. “His portable radio is sitting on his desk.”

A growing sense of unease pickled my nerve endings. It was completely out of character for the sheriff to not answer his phone or at least let his staff know when he left in the middle of the day where he was going. And to leave his portable radio behind was unheard of. As the chief law enforcement office in the county, Sheriff Dennis Twardy was always on duty. Always. And there we were sitting with evidence of the very old, unsolved mysterious disappearance of a young couple and he was nowhere to be found.

“I’m gonna give Kenner a call, see if the sheriff stopped by to see him. And maybe has a dead cell phone,” Smoke said. Chief Deputy Mike Kenner was out on medical leave, following a surgical procedure.

“You’re looking for the sheriff?” Matsen said.

“Yeah. Nobody seems to know where he is.”

“I saw him in the break room getting a cup of coffee first thing this morning.”

But where did he go after that?

Smoke phoned Kenner, checked on how he was doing, and learned Kenner had not heard from the sheriff at all that day.

Sergeant Matsen spent the time getting photos of the car from every angle.

“I’ll try one last thing. The sheriff took his car, so he’s got that radio, if he’s still driving.” Smoke pulled out his radio. “Three-forty to Three-oh-one on two.” When there was no response, he repeated the call. Still no response. He shook his head and his shoulders lifted in a slight shrug.

As Smoke turned to me, Doctor Bridey Patrick from the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office opened the inside entrance door and walked with purpose in her step toward us. She was short and squat, and had spiked gray hair. Patrick was wearing a white lab coat over a black top and pants. She gave Smoke a look of noted appreciation, and greeted us with a simple, “Morning,” then turned her full attention to the Dodge Charger and its “contents.”

Doctor Patrick shook her head back and forth. “This is my first experience with remains that have been submerged for decades in a vehicle. I have two assistants who are on their way with gurneys and body bags.” She grabbed a pair of gloves out of the lab coat pocket, pulled them on without a downward glance then made the sign of the cross on her head and chest with her right hand.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series

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The Secret in Whitetail Lake, 3rd installment

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department has recovered an old Dodge Charger that had been at the bottom of Whitetail Lake for decades. This entry picks up where the last one left off.

I bent over close to Smoke so I could talk quietly. “Mother is going to freak out if it turns out to be your friends. And she’ll have a very good reason, for a change.”
Smoke lifted his eyebrows, wrinkling his forehead. “No doubt. Think of their families who have wondered all these years.” He straightened up and so did I.
“Oh my, yes.” Having a loved one disappear, never to be heard from again, was one of the most difficult things for a person to cope with. I glanced around at the sheriff’s department personnel who were on the scene and thought of the obvious one who wasn’t there. “I’m surprised the sheriff shown up.”
“Cindy hasn’t been able to locate him just yet.”
“What do you mean?”
“She called me during the towing process to let me know. Truth be told, it’s got me a little concerned.”
A shiver ran up my spine. “I’m sure he has a good reason for being wherever he is.”
Smoke’s shoulder lifted a couple of inches then he went back to his perusal. The other deputies made quiet comments about the car, the bodies. All were wondering how in the hell the car had ended up in the lake in the first place without anyone seeing it go in, or at least noticing damage from the tire tracks on the hill, or on the bank of the lake.
I walked over to where Zubinski and Ortiz were stationed and called them aside. “Go over and have a look, you two. It’s something we’ll never see again in our careers, I’m sure. At least I hope.”
They murmured their thanks and joined the others who were looking in and at the car from all angles. Mason had gotten his camera and was capturing the scene in still shots. The man who had asked Smoke for information earlier jogged over to me. “How long has that car been in Whitetail, and how did it get there in the first place?”
“What’s your name, sir?”
“Harry Gimler.”
“Mister Gimler, we don’t have any information to give out just yet.”
“People are wondering if there are bodies in that car, or why the deputies keep looking inside like there is.”
“There are doing a good visual sweep, and then we’ll take the car to our crime lab and see if we can get some good answers for when and why it went down.”
“I’ve fished in this lake for years, and you’re telling me all this time there was an old car sitting on the bottom.”
“We’ll do our best to figure all that out. In the meantime, if you’d be so kind to watch from over there.” I pointed to the guardrail. “It sounds like they’re ready to load the car on the flatbed.”
Gimler’s eyes darted from me to the Charger like he was considering whether he could make it to the car for a sneak peek before he was apprehended. Instead, he followed my directive and joined the group who was watching from afar.
When Zubinski and Ortiz returned from their look-see, I walked back to check the loading process.
Kyle pushed wheel ramps from the truck bed to the ground, and Ted adjusted them. “Let’s move the side winches back to get them out of the way,” he said and Ted jumped up on the truck to help him. They loosened the straps enough so they could accomplish the task. After the equipment had been repositioned, Ted jumped off the truck and the Charger was pulled up the ramp and onto the truck’s bed in no time, leaving behind more mucky water on the way.
Smoke addressed Warner. “Are you going out for another look around the lake?”
Warner blinked and his lips turned down at the corners. “Hmm. I hadn’t planned on it, but as long as I’m here, it may not be a bad idea.” It looked to me like he’d rather get off the lake. And the sooner the better.
“I was thinking you and the divers should go back where the car was sitting. You could check if there happened to be any other evidence. Most likely not after all this time, but who knows?” Smoke said.
Warner nodded and waved his hand back and forth at the divers. “We’ll need two of you to stay, in case we need your diving skills again.”
Mason and Weber volunteered to be the two. We all watched as the tow truck prepared for the journey back to the county shop where the Dodge Charger would be coaxed to give up every secret it had been keeping.
Smoke walked over to Kyle’s driver’s side window. “I’ll meet you at the shop.”
No one from the crowd of spectators moved until the tow truck was heading east on County Road 35. Harry Gimler puffed his way over to me. “Will you let me know what you find? I mean, it technically was on my property from the looks of it.”
“I will do that. I’m sure we’ll be talking to all the neighbors.”
His eyebrows squeezed together. “So you’re saying there was something in that car. Or someone.”
I smiled at his persistence, despite my intention not to. “Mister Gimler, I’m not at liberty to say anything about this investigation yet.”
He gave me a once over, taking in my street clothes, the Glock in its holster on the right side of my belt, and my badge clipped on next to it. “You look too young to be a detective.”
“I’m not that young and I’m not a detective. I’m Sergeant Corinne Aleckson.”
“I thought you looked familiar. I’ve seen your picture in the paper.”
I didn’t enlighten him on the fact that I lived not far from there. It wasn’t that he was creepy. Exactly. He struck me as cagey more than anything, and I planned to look him up in our department arrest and calls for service files when I had a minute. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to shove off.”
I caught up with Smoke who was giving instructions to Zubinski and Ortiz. “You can get back on the road as soon as all the snoopers leave.”
“Will do,” Mandy said.
I nodded at the two deputies. “Thanks, Mandy and Joel for doing crowd control.”
“You bet,” Joel said. Mandy smiled then they headed to their squad cars.
I turned to Smoke. “I’ll meet you at the shop.”
“It’s your day off, little lady.”
“Not anymore.”

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series

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Sneak Peek at The Secret in Whitetail Lake by Christine Husom

Sergeant Warner, Winnebago County Boat and Water Division is testing out his new sonar equipment on one of the county’s deeper lakes when he makes an unlikely find. He assembles his dive team, and Sergeant Corky Aleckson goes out to Whitetail Lake to see what Warner’s found.

“Ready, team? We have to be careful about not going too far down. If the bottom is stirred up, we’ll have zero visibility,” Mason said.

Mason and Carlson put on their goggles then the three of them affixed their masks in place. Their vests were equipped with regulars, and inflatable options. The oxygen tanks would supply them for well over an hour, even if they exerted, or got nervous and sucked in air faster than normal. Warner and I guided them over the side of the boat and they dropped in the water then drove into it.

We watched them on the sonar; my first experience doing that. My cell phone rang a minute later. I looked at the display and hit talk. “Hey Smoke.”

“Are they out in the water yet?”

“They are. I’m on the boat with Warner and we can see the three of them getting close to the sunken treasure. It looks like an old car. Maybe the same vintage as mine.”

“A car? And an older one to boot. Now I wish I had taken Warner up on his offer to ride along. I’ll be out there in a few minutes.”

I hung up and refocused on the three divers. They were making their way around the car, looking in the windows. Mason lifted his arm and Carlson started his ascent. When he surfaced, he gripped the side of the boat with one hand and lifted his breathing mask from his face. His face, reddened from the cold water camouflaged the freckles on his face. “It’s an old Dodge Charger and there are at least two sets of skeletons inside.”

“What?” Warner and I said together.

I leaned closer to Carlson and studied his face to see if he was kidding. The normal dancing twinkle was absent from his blue eyes and he looked like he’d seen a ghost or two all right.

“Damn,” Warner said and looked at me like I should know what to say.

“You call Sheriff Twardy; I’ll call Detective Dawes.”

“Damn,” he repeated and took another moment. “Carlson, we’ll need to figure out the steps to proceed with the recovery. In the meantime, get some shots from every which way you can down there.” Warner retrieved an underwater camera and waited while Carlson repositioned his mask then took it.

When Carlson dove back in, both Warner and I kept our eyes fixed on the unexplained find on the bottom of Whitetail Lake and the deputies who were investigating it.

Warner phoned the sheriff, but it went to voicemail. “Sheriff, we’re sitting on top of a possible crime scene on Whitetail Lake. There’s an older car on the bottom and it appears there are skeletal remains inside it.”

Per department policy, the sheriff was notified of any unnatural death, or suspicious death. Being submerged in a vehicle in a small lake fit both sets of criteria.

When Warner hung up, I said, “Are you going to call his cell phone?”

“I’ll wait a few minutes. When I talked to him earlier, he said he was going to be in his office all morning catching up on paperwork. A citizen could have stopped by to ask about something, or he’s in the biffy.”

I nodded and phoned Smoke. “I’m just about there,” he said.

“Good. I’ll see if Warner will troll over to pick you up on shore.” Warner nodded and gave me a thumb’s up signal. “He says ‘yes’.”
We hung up. “Our divers should figure out we’re making a run, and not abandoning them. And we’re only about a hundred yards,” Warner said.

“I know the sheriff mentioned purchasing those diving helmets with the communications capability built right in, depending on the cost.”

“That will be the next big purchase if we find a bunch of stuff with this new sonar system, and need to increase our dives.” He turned on the engine and shifted into low gear to safely clear the area, then sped up to reach the opposite shore. He eased against the landing area.

“Smoke’s here. Man, his day just got a lot more interesting. And not in a good way.”
“Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Smoke jogged to the boat. He was wearing a light tan jacket over his shirt and tie, black pants, and black shoes polished to a gleaming shine. Not the usual fishing attire. But this wasn’t a normal expedition. “What’s up?” he asked. I leaned over the boat and offered my hand to help him in. “You guys look like cats that swallowed some canaries.”

“It’s bigger than that,” I said and took a step back to give Smoke a place to stand.

He gave my hand a squeeze then released it. “Bigger, how?”

“The guys found skeletal remains in the vehicle.” Warner said as he back the boat away from shore.

“Get out of here.” He pointed at the steep hill that rose up from the lake on the south side. “How in the hell would it get there? It’s not like they were driving down a road at high speeds, lost control, and wound up in the lake. There’s no road to drive off.”

He was right, and neither Warner nor I had an answer. We reached the site, and Smoke planted himself in front of the sonar’s screen to watch the action. The three divers rose to the surface. Carlson swam to the boat and lifted the camera. Warner bent over and scooped it up. The other two tread water while Carlson climbed the rope ladder up to the boat then followed suit.

We were hovering over the burial grounds of two or more unknown people and the momentary hush in the air seemed to be our sign of respect for them. When Weber and Mason had boarded, the divers all pulled off their masks and shook their heads. Warner clicked on the pictures captured by Carlson, and Smoke and I crowded in behind him.

“They’ve been down there a long time,” Smoke said.

“And in all my years with the department, I can’t recall anyone last seen in an old 1960s era Dodge and disappearing,” Warner added.

The blood drained from Smoke’s face. “I can.” His voice was quiet and a little shaky. “Not since I’ve been with the department. Long before that. Back when I was in high school two friends of mine went missing. Tommy Fryor and Wendy Everton. His folks gave Tommy their old 1966 Dodge Charger to run around in.”

The air went out of my lungs when Smoke said their names. I reached over and touched his arm. “Wendy was one of my mom’s best friends.”

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series. The Secret in Whitetail Lake is the Sixth in the seris.

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A Second Excerpt of A Death in Lionel’s Woods by Christine Husom

A Death in Lionel’s Woods will be released later this year by Second Wind Publishing. I first posted an excerpt in April. Detective Smoke Dawes, Sergeant Corky Aleckson, Deputies Vince Weber and Amanda Zubinski are at a death scene in a private woods next to a public county park. This picks up as the medical examiner arrives.

The four of us turned at the sound of an approaching vehicle. The Midwest Medical Examiner’s van turned onto the field road and continued to where the mobile crime lab sat. The van stopped next to it. A short, stocky woman with gray hair moussed into a spikey do got out and walked toward us with deliberate steps. “Bridey Patrick,” she announced before the rest of us had a chance to greet her. Her small brown, not quite beady, eyes narrowed on Smoke. “Detective Dawes.”

“Doctor Patrick. Thanks for making it out here so fast. Team, introduce yourselves.” The three of us gave her our names and got a quick nod in return, then the doctor turned her attention to Ms. Doe. Whatever she was thinking, she kept to herself.

“You photographed the deceased?”

“Yeah, from all angles,” Weber said.

Doctor Patrick pulled on protective gloves and then leaned down and touched the inside of Ms. Doe’s wrist. “She’s as cold as the earth she’s lying on.” Her initial examination was brief, as she ran her hands over the body, looking for obvious signs of what caused her death. Her hand stopped in Doe’s mid-back section. “There’s something underneath her.”

“We didn’t see anything–”

“No, her sweater’s covering the part that’s sticking out. Could be a large knife, or some sort of tool. Let’s turn her over.” Zubinski and Weber had crime lab gear on, so they moved in to help Patrick. Any one person could have completed the task alone, but Zubinski and Weber carefully slid their hands under Doe’s shoulder and hip and rolled her on Weber’s count of “three.”

“What the heck? She was laying on a garden trough?” Weber said.

Smoke and I took a step closer then we both leaned in, almost bumping heads. “The ground is disturbed under the leaves,” he said.

“She was digging something? Weber, where’d you put your camera?” I asked.

“Back in my squad. Front seat, on top of the pile there.” I left to retrieve it.

“Grab an evidence bag while you’re at it,” Smoke called out. I didn’t know what supplies were in the trunk of the squad car I had driven. Since I’d been assigned to office duty, I’d been driving my personal vehicle back and forth to work. The squad car I had previously shared with two others had picked up a third deputy in my absence. I wasn’t sure what would happen after today. Only God knew that. I found the camera where Weber said it was, then I popped open the trunk of the borrowed car and dug through a box of evidence bags until I located one large enough to accommodate the trowel.

I returned with the camera and handed it to Weber who snapped photo after photo from various angles. Zubinski took the evidence bag from me and waited for Weber to finish. When he handed the camera back to me, Zubinski opened the bag and Weber reached down, lifted the trowel, and dropped it in the bag. Zubinski sealed it, and then carried it over to the crime lab where she would date it and give it a number.

“Do you need the deceased while you conduct the rest of your investigation here, Detective? She’s been out here alone for two days, by my estimation. I’d like to take her to the office.”

“No, we’ve got what we need from her. I’ll help you with the gurney.” He followed Doctor Patrick to her vehicle.

“I don’t want to know how uncomfortable that was, laying on that thing,” Weber said.

I stared at Doe’s face again, but her blank expression hinted at nothing. If anything, she looked at peace. “For sure. Something went terribly wrong somewhere. We just have to figure out what.”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re here for.”

Is that what I’m here for? I’ve missed having that strong sense of purpose these past months. The belief, the assurance, that I used to take for granted.

Smoke and Bridey Patrick rolled the gurney to about four feet from Doe’s body. Patrick unzipped the bag as Mandy returned from the mobile crime unit. “We’ll get her for you; she can’t weigh eighty pounds,” Mandy said and nodded at Weber. Ms. Doe didn’t protest in the least when they scooped her up and laid her in the body bag. Patrick zipped her in, unlocked the brake on the gurney, and Smoke pushed it to the back of the van.

“Put her clothes in paper bags and we’ll pick them up later.”

“Right. I’ll call you when they’re ready,” Doctor Patrick said.

“She’s as serious as Melberg. Seriouser,” Weber said after Patrick drove away.

“I love it when you make up words, Vince,” Mandy said and frowned, negating her statement.

“Patrick’s like Melberg at crime scenes and autopsies. Both of them are extremely focused. Some guys can joke, release some steam to break up the tension. Others can’t I guess. Or won’t. Melberg and Patrick fall in the latter category.” Smoke got on his hands and knees. “Let’s scoop up the leaves she was lying on and bag ‘em up. There may be some kind of trace evidence or transfer from her clothes. Or somebody else’s.”

Zubinski retrieved a small shovel from the van and Weber waited with a large evidence bag, open at the top as far as he could stretch it. Mandy bent over and scooped a small amount of the leaf matter, dropped it in the bag, and scooped another, taking some dirt with it.

“What have we here?” Smoke asked. He bent over for a closer look, then used his pen to push a few leaves aside.

“She buried something here?” I asked as I leaned in myself.

“Photo man, we need some more shots,” Smoke said, needlessly pointing at the ground.

Vince sighed as he handed the leaf-filled bag to Mandy and then lifted the camera that hung from a strap around his neck and rested on his chest.

The disturbed area on the floor of the woods was about twelve inches by eighteen inches. The dirt appeared to have been dug out, then put back, and patted down.

“Curious,” Mandy said.

“And curiouser,” Vince said. “And I didn’t make that up. It came from something I read as a kid.”

“You read Alice in Wonderland?” Mandy’s eyebrows squeezed together.

“I don’t know. Maybe,” he mumbled and hitched a shoulder up.

Mandy smiled and I shook my head.

“Let’s see what might be in this rabbit hole,” Smoke said. He held out his hand for the shovel which Mandy handed over, and then set about carefully digging around the edges of the “rabbit hole.” After he’d had dug a little trench around the perimeter, he knelt down and started brushing away some dirt from the surface. He stuck his pen in the ground a few places. “There’s something here.”
Mandy, Vince, and I leaned in even closer, growing cuiouser by the second.

Smoke stood and used the shovel to scrape thin layers of dirt from the site. “I got something.” He uncovered a gallon-size plastic bag, then bent over and lifted it from its burial plot, shaking off the bit of soil that clung to it.

“What the heck?” Vince said.

“Bags of money in there?” Mandy said.

“That’s a little on the strange side. But I have heard of people burying money before,” I said.

Smoke gave a quick nod. “We’ll need two of you take these bags, one by one, and count to see how much is in each bag. First let’s see just how many we got here.”

“I’ll get another evidence bag so we can transfer them as you pull them out,” Mandy said. She was gone and back in a flash.

Smoke reached in and withdrew one sandwich size baggie after the next and handed them to Mandy who kept count, then dropped them in her bag.

“We should be able to get fingerprints, find out if there are any other ones on them besides our victim’s,” I said.

Altogether, there were nine bags of varying thicknesses, depending on the stack of bills in each one of them. On the bottom of the gallon bag was a single picture in its own baggie. It was the last baggie Smoke removed. He studied the front of it for a long moment. “I’m guessing it’s our Miss Doe, but she has a whole lot more muscle and tissue on her body. She’s with two little kids.” He flipped the bag over and read out loud what was written on the back. “Looks like M-A-I-S-A, Maisa, L-E-L-A, Lela, S-E-S-E, Sese. And Georgia. Georgia, I’m guessing that’s where they were when the picture was taken.” Smoke looked at me and handed the photo over. “Those sound like Swiss names to you?”

“Could be I guess. I really don’t know.”

“Swiss names?” Mandy asked.

“Our sergeant here thought maybe Miss Doe was a member of the Swiss Apostolic clan in Kadoka.”

“Huh. Are those the ones who wear those kinda drab colored dresses and have those head coverings?” Vince wondered.

“Yeah.”

He jutted his chin out. “Oh. I thought we had a little group of Amish around here somewhere, but never asked nobody about it.”

“I think they’re mostly in southern Minnesota near the Iowa border. Around Harmony,” Mandy said.

“Peace loving people that they are, they musta picked that town for its name,” Weber said.

“There’s a fairly large population northwest of here too, in Todd County,” I added, my eyes fixed on the photo.

Weber shrugged. “Had no idea.”

“Any of you guys been to Georgia?” I asked.

“When I was a kid,” Mandy said.

“I’m trying to remember my geography. They have mountains there?”

“Sure, the northern part of the state,” Smoke answered.

I admired the setting. “Picturesque. Woman holding a toddler, another little one at her side, standing in front of some trees with the leaves about a hundred autumn shades of green and red and orange and gold. The mountain peak behind them in the distance.” I handed the photo to Mandy who held it up so Vince could look at it with her.

“Kids have regular clothes on, shorts and tee shirts, but the woman looks kind of old-fashioned in that dress,” Mandy said.

“How old do you suppose she is there?” Vince asked.

“Twenty-five, maybe younger,” Smoke said.

“The little girl can’t be two. The boy maybe four, five?” I said.

Smoke reached for the photo and nodded. “I’d say that’s about right.”

A small wave of sadness rolled over me. “They look happy.”

“It would’ve been nice if she had put the year on it, too. Give us some idea of how old the kids are now,” Mandy said.

“They might not be hers. Do you suppose they’re from Georgia, or were they on vacation, visiting someone there?” I asked.

“It’s a puzzle, all right. And we still got the question of why she had all these bags of money,” Smoke said.

Vince elbowed Mandy’s arm. “Speaking of which, let’s go count, Zubinski, see how much she was protecting when she died.”

Zubinski gave me the baggie-protected photo and I reread the names. Maisa, huh? And Lela and Sese. Unusual names, all right. Maybe they are Swiss.”

“We’re a melting pot nation.”

Smoke’s phone rang. “Dawes. . . . Okay, Doc. I’ll have someone from our office there, too. . . . Right, bye.” Smoke closed his phone. “Doctor Patrick. She got Miss Doe scheduled for autopsy tomorrow afternoon at two. They’re going to work on a computer sketch of what she might have looked like at a normal weight.”

“How’d she get that done so fast?” She can’t have gotten to Anoka yet.”

“I’d venture to guess she was conducting business over the phone on the drive over. Let’s check on our team.”

Smoke and I went to the doorway of the mobile crime lab and watched them work. “These stupid gloves slow down the operation,” Weber said as he fumbled to lift a five dollar bill from one pile to set it on the waiting pile on the narrow counter.

“One hundred and sixteen,” Mandy said and wrote it down on the outside of an evidence bag. She was the one who spoke the numbers out loud as she and Weber finished counting the bills in the bag they were on. She wrote the agreed total on the bag. Then she replaced the bills in the original baggie, slipped it inside the larger evidence bag, sealed it, and put her initials over the seal. “Two down, seven to go.”

“A hundred-forty-three bucks in that bag. How much in the first?” Smoke asked.

“One thirty-six smackeroos,” Vince said.

“Different amounts, so not consistent that way.”

“No.”

“Largest denomination was a twenty in the first bag, a ten in the second,” Mandy added.

“And what would be the reason for all the smaller bags inside the big one? They weren’t marked, like the one-forty-three was for the electricity bill, and the one-thirty-six was for groceries,” I said.

“Yeah. Huh,” Vince agreed.

“Until we can find her family and or identify her, I think we’re stuck with way more way more questions than explanations,” Smoke said. “Weber, Zubinski, carry on here. Get your evidence taken care of, but I’ll keep the photo to show some folks. Aleckson and I will start talking to the neighbors in the area.”

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A Death in Lionel’s Woods excerpt by Christine Husom

This is an excerpt from the fifth book in the Winnebago County Mystery Series.

Chapter One

“You killed my friend.” I hit the 2 on the phone to replay the message. “You killed my friend.” I’m sorry. So very sorry, I mouthed. It was the fourth time that morning I had been drawn back to the muffled voice that accused me, held me guilty, with four short words. You. Killed. My. Friend. The caller–I couldn’t tell if it was a male or a female–didn’t name me specifically, or say who he or she was. But the message was sent to my voicemail and was personal nonetheless. I felt compelled to keep it to myself for a while. More correctly, between the caller and me. You killed my friend. Did he or she somehow share in the same grief I couldn’t shake?

My sadness was persistent, and at times I was afraid it would consume me, swallow me whole. It had been months since I had blindly led the man I was dating to his death, but that tragic moment in time was never far from my conscious, subconscious, or unconscious thoughts. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live with the burden.

Many people assured me, some over and over, that time was the great healer. And I had to believe the weight of guilt would lessen, but I knew my life would never be the same. The other thing people tried to drum into my brain was that it wasn’t my fault. I almost believed that on one level, but on another level, which caused persistent gnawing at my heart and gut, I was convinced my police training and innate skills should have alerted me of the danger ahead. By the time I sensed something was hinky, it was too late to stop the rapid chain of events that resulted in the death of two men. Eric Stueman’s was at the hands of an evil man. The evil man died by mine.

It was like watching the videos of Twin Towers going down on 9-11. I knew it would be exactly the same no matter how many times I viewed it. Yet the part of me that didn’t want to believe it had really happened hoped if I watched it one more time the ending would be somehow different. That’s the way it was every time my mind’s eye watched Langley Parker shoot Eric. No matter how much I willed for a different ending, it never varied one iota. The images in my brain had become my nearly constant companion, along with the smell of fresh salty blood mixed in with sweet blossoms in the warm late Spring evening air.

Winnebago County Sheriff Dennis Twardy had pulled me off the road as a supervising sergeant, and assigned me the special duties of helping in the evidence room, checking outstanding warrants on offenders, and any number of other details the department was backlogged on. When I was at work, I forced myself to be focused. When I was with family and friends, I was coaxed from my grief for short periods of time. When I was alone, I fell apart as often as not.

I had added Doctor Kearns, my psychologist and new best friend as number 8 on my speed dial. The only professional–or his voicemail, at least–I had access to by hitting two buttons. Since I hadn’t slept through the night for months, he’d talked me into getting a prescription for a sleeping aid from a medical doctor. I’d done as he suggested and had the unopened bottle sitting in my bathroom cabinet, in case. I chose to self-medicate with wine in the evenings instead. A glass or two or three dulled the pain, but didn’t allow me slip into a dreamless, guilt-free night which I didn’t feel I deserved anyway. I had no idea what I had to do, or how long it would take to pay the penance that would get me out of my personal prison. I hoped one day Doctor Kearns would pull a rabbit out of a hat, something brand new, and he’d say something that would magically help me forgive myself.

My cell phone rang midmorning. It was Detective Elton Dawes, my mentor and dear friend. I forced myself to sound mildly cheerful so he wouldn’t pry into what was wrong. “Hey Smoke.”

“Got a lot going on in Warrants?”

“You know it never ends around here.”

“Tell me about it. You heard Weber call me out to his suspicious circumstances call?”

“I did. How suspicious are the circumstances?”

“I’d go with quite suspicious at this point. We’re don’t really know the extent of what we got. I’d be obliged if you’d come out here. We’re up to our eyeballs and it seems that half the guys I usually count on are off deer hunting.”

A wave of panic rolled through me. “Smoke, I . . .”

“Sheriff says you’d be putting your talents to better use on this case than in the office. If you’re ready to get back out here, that is.”

“What have you got?”

“A woman. Dead a couple of days, it looks like. Skin and bones. Waiting on Melberg and the crime lab team which is only Zubinski, with Mason out today. The chief deputy hasn’t found anyone to reassign yet, but he’s still working on it. Weber will fill in as long as he can.”

I sucked in a breath and blew it out, mentally ordering the feelings of fear and anxiety to leave with the expelled air.

“All right.”

“The closest address is twenty-two-nineteen Quinton Avenue, in Swedesburg Township. We’re in a private woods next to in the Jeremiah Madison County Park off County Two, a quarter mile in. A guy found her after the morning deer hunt.”

“Man. Okay. I’ll be out there in about twenty.” I disconnected and glanced at the clock on the office wall, hoping reading the time would give me a sense of urgency that would propel me into action. Ten-fifteen, Friday morning. The start of a long, sad weekend for the victim’s family. That thought spurred me and got me moving.

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Writers Write by Christine Husom

Writers write for many reasons. For some it is personal therapy, laying their thoughts and feelings down to sort through and analyze. Some like maintaining a diary of activities, a record to later refer to. Others keep a log when they travel to record details they may otherwise forget. There are technical writers who spell out detailed information in various manuals. There are textbook, non-fiction, screen play, musical lyrics, advertising, and greeting card writers. Written words are everywhere.

People may write solely for personal reasons, having no intention of ever getting published. For others, that is their main reason; getting published so others will read what they wrote. Whether it’s a poem or a play or a book of fiction, they want to share their written words. The audience may be small and specific or worldwide and astronomical. Again, there are a myriad of reasons. If it’s an expose on a botched murder investigation, the writer may be seeking justice. A biography may be written to tell the world what a great person, or total jerk, the subject was. The writer may feel compelled to share a philosophy or to simply entertain. He or she may want to tell of a personal journey to offer hope to others who are faced with a similar circumstance.

Many years ago I read formula romance novels purely for entertainment. My children were young and when they went to bed, instead of settling in front of the television, I read. I digested about five books each week for a couple of years. Along the way I told myself, “I can write a romance novel. I have the formula memorized and can come up with a decent story.” So I wrote two romance novels. I made a weak attempt at publication, but life was busy with my husband, four kids, career, and volunteer work, so I let it slide. And I had quit reading formula romance sometime before then. In fact, I had gotten bored with the genre and was reading anything but. I had switched to mainstream and mystery for the most part.

In addition to the completed romance novels, I have a number of manuscripts for mainstream novels that I started writing and never finished–like a lot of writers. I have completed plays, poems, short stories, and notebook pages full of ideas for others. I am a writer, but one who has not always actively written. A writer who is constantly creating stories, scenarios, characters, dialogues, but one who gets only a small percentage of those things on paper. I quit telling myself I’d remember a snappy bit of dialogue, or a cool way to describe a person or place or emotion, a long time ago.

When tragedy struck my family sixteen years ago, I had no way of knowing it would give birth to a mystery series. Without a satisfying explanation for my father’s death, I wrote Murder in Winnebago County to tell the story of what my imagination thought could have happened. When I entered the book in the “search for the next best crime writer” contest on-line, I had no idea I would meet the man who would become my publisher. That was five years and four published mystery novels ago.

As I work on the fifth book in the series, I know the reasons I’m writing it: I like my Winnebago County characters and am curious what they are up to; my readers are waiting and asking when it will be released; I learn a great deal of new information doing research for each book; and it keeps me connected to a community of writers and readers.

My goal as the author of a mystery series is not to write the great American novel. And that’s what most of the other authors I converse with tell me. My hope is to entertain, to share some police procedural information, to take my readers on a journey that will take them away from their workaday world to Winnebago County where mystery, romance, and all sorts of unexpected things continue to happen.

Please tell us what you’re looking for as a reader or writer.

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery

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The Unsolved Crime Behind Buried in Wolf Lake by Christine Husom

The second book in the Winnebago County Mystery series, Buried in Wolf Lake, is based on an actual crime that happened in my home county in the mid 1990s. A dog brought home a woman’s dismembered arm he had found in a nearby lake. The victim was identified, and most of her body parts were found in the area over time. One was discovered by a pair of duck hunters as they walked through a swampy area. Since her body parts were scattered, were they dropped from a small plane flying over the area? Why would a person drive around the rural area, throwing body parts in different places?

The victim was an African American prostitute from a Twin Cities suburb. Prostitutes are often targets, and the circle of potential suspects is exponential. Had Ms. Bacon been in the area before she was killed and dismembered, or was her body brought there to be disposed of? Again, why? Was the area chosen for a specific reason, or was it a random choice?

Unsolved crimes trouble me. I think of the victim and wonder what thoughts were running through his or her head as something unthinkable was happening. Did she know the person who was hurting her? Was she a complete stranger? Did he even know what hit him? Did she experience sheer terror, or feel calm and hopeful things would be okay?

Then I think about the person or persons who committed the crimes. What motivation pushes someone to victimize another? I know there can be no true justice in this imperfect world, but the fairness factor that runs through my veins has trouble accepting that. I want to know what happened and why. Not for myself, but for the victim (if she is still alive) and for the victim’s loved ones.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Minnesota Department of Corrections, along with state law enforcement agencies, created a deck of cold case playing cards. These cards highlight 52 violent unsolved homicide, missing person, and unidentified remains cases that have occurred throughout Minnesota in the past fifty years. Their hope is that they will get tips and information to solve the cases.

According to the BCA’s website, “The BCA sent a request to more than 500 Minnesota law enforcement agencies, requesting nominations for cases to be featured on the cards. The BCA Cold Case Unit Review Board reviewed submissions and selected 52 cold cases to be featured in this initiative. Written permission and photographs were then collected from the families of victims, and the cards were assembled using victim photos and details of the investigation.

The card decks have been distributed to all 515 Minnesota police departments and sheriff offices, plus 75 county jail and annex facilities. In addition, over 10,000 decks have been supplied to Minnesota state prison inmates.

Sometimes people come forward with information years after an investigation has gone cold. Forensic evidence collected and preserved from crime scenes can be tested with modern methods to prove guilt or innocence in many of those cases. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough.

When I wrote Buried in Wolf Lake, although it is a fictional tale, I had a hope deep inside me that someone would read it, recognize the actual crime it was based on, and feel compelled to give some information about what really happened to Ms. Bacon. When I speak to groups, I talk about the actual crime, and the fact that I can’t stand unsolved crimes like hers. And maybe–just maybe–the person who did the unspeakable will someday open his mouth after all.

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, And Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery

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