A woman with a history of domestic abuse is missing. Her sister hires private investigators Cole and Callahan.
When the woman is found dead, her husband is charged but when a second body appears showing the same wounds, questions arise and what looked like a slam-dunk becomes anyone’s guess. The case goes to John Stark, a veteran cop and close friend of Griff Cole.
The bodies are piling up, and one person knows where the killer is. Father Francis, a priest at The Church of the Holy Child, listens to the killer’s disturbed account of each murder and wrestles with the vows that bind him to secrecy.
The case takes an unexpected and personal turn when Cole’s ex-wife goes missing and a connection to his past points to the killer.
Genre: Mystery/Suspense Published by: Intrigue Publishing LLC Publication Date: August 15th 2017 Number of Pages: 259 ISBN: 1940758599 (ISBN13: 9781940758596) Purchase Links:Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗
Q&A with Patricia Hale
Do you draw from personal experience or current events?
A little of both, I think. My life isn’t nearly as exciting as the lives of my characters, but sometimes I give them a quirk or a reaction to something that comes from personal experience. I’ve also reshaped pieces of news stories and I save interesting articles from the newspaper or on-line that I might play around with.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line takes you?
Most often I have the ending and work my way back. Sometimes all I have is what I know will be the last line in the book. I rarely have the plot worked out in my head. I just start writing toward what I know is the ending and see how I get there.
Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
None of the characters are based on me, but because the series is written in first person with Britt as narrator, some of my sarcasm shows up in her banter with Griff, and impulsivity is a characteristic (or vulnerability) of mine as it is for Britt. Sometimes I use traits from friends in my characters, like Britt’s affinity for honeyberry cigars. My co-worker smokes these on the sly and when I found out, I thought it was a great little vice to use for Britt.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I have to write in the morning and it has to be the first thing I do after feeding the dogs and making coffee. I can’t shower or get dressed before I write. If I do, I lose my mind set and creativity. I might as well just vacuum or do errands because showering or getting dressed takes me out of the zone.
Tell us why we should read this book.
The Church of the Holy Child is a mystery/suspense novel so it will satisfy those looking for a good who-dun-it. But the sub-plot of the Catholic priest conversing with the killer in the confessional offers a richer, more complex story. The priest’s ethical dilemma of whether he should go to the police with what he knows or obey his holy orders, draws the reader into considering their own beliefs and challenges them with more than figuring out who the killer is.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I enjoy reading Stephen King for his writing style. He’s a terrific storyteller. I’ve read a number of Lionel Shriver’s books. She provides a unique perspective and her detailed insights of our everyday lives always make me stop and say, ‘I wish I’d said that’. Dennis Lehane and Tana French need no explanation. And I’ve recently been enjoying Jussi Adler-Olsen’s series.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. I’ve never read him before, but I’m really enjoying this book. He takes a look at marriage, parenting and middle age through the eyes of the Berglund family with humor and often, painful honesty. His understanding of the fears, fantasies and idiosyncrasies that haunt middle-class America are right on the money.
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us about it?
The Church of the Holy Child is the first in a three book series. In the second book, Durable Goods, Britt goes undercover looking for a missing girl and ends up over her head in the sex trade industry. The third book in the series is Scar Tissue, in which Britt and Griff are hired to investigate a young girl’s suicide. In their search to find the reason why, they expose the lines parents will cross to insure success as well as revenge. Both of these will follow The Church of the Holy Child, but I don’t have release dates yet.
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
This question made me laugh because when I was thinking about what Britt and Griff looked like, I went on-line and looked at actors to get different characteristics in my head. Now… dead center on my desk, above my computer I have two pictures. One is of Hugh Jackman (Griff Cole) and the other is Natalie Portman (Britt Callahan). In the picture, Natalie has a very short, black, pixie style hair cut. My dream team!
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I am a yoga and animal enthusiast. I do a yoga routine every day and I hike in the woods with my dogs. I have a German shepherd and a Beagle mix who are my constant companions. I am also looking forward to becoming a foster home for an organization called Beagle Freedom who rescues animals from laboratory testing. Most labs use Beagles because of their size and sweet temperaments and many of these dogs have never been outside of a laboraory. I’ll provide an interim home until the dogs become acclimated to their new life and can be placed in forever homes. (I’m sure a few will find their place with me.)
Patricia Hale received her MFA degree from Goddard College. Her essays have appeared in literary magazines and the anthology, My Heart’s First Steps. Her debut novel, In the Shadow of Revenge, was published in 2013. The Church of the Holy Child is the first book in her PI series featuring the team of Griff Cole and Britt Callahan. Patricia is a member of Sister’s in Crime, Mystery Writer’s of America, NH Writer’s Project and Maine Writer’s and Publisher’s Alliance. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two dogs.
Inside the wooden confessional there’s a man who talks to God. At least that’s what my mother told me the last time we were here. But a month has passed since she disappeared so today I’ve come to the church alone. I no longer believe that she’s coming back for me like she said. Instead, I’ve become her stand-in for the beatings my father dishes out. That’s what he calls it, dishing out a beating, like he’s slapping a mound of mashed potato on my plate. He swaggers through the door ready for a cold one after coming off his seven to three shift, tosses his gun and shield on our kitchen table and reaches into the refrigerator for a Budweiser. I cringe in the corner and make myself small, waiting to hear what kind of day he’s had and whether or not I’ll be his relief. More often than not, his eyes search me out. “’C’mere asshole,” he says, popping the aluminum top, “I’m gonna dish out a beating.” If anyone can help me, it has to be this guy who talks to God. I open the door of the confessional with my good arm and step inside.
Twenty-three years later
His breath was warm on my neck, his lips hot and dry. His tongue searched the delicate skin below my ear. Heart quickening, back arching, I rose to meet him.
The phone on the nightstand vibrated.
“Shit,” Griff whispered, peeling away from me, our clammy skin reluctant to let go. He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and flashed me his bad-boy, half-smile. “Cole,” he said into the phone.
At times like this, cell phones rate right alongside other necessary evils like cod liver oil and flu shots. I leaned against his back and caressed his stomach, damp dunes of sculpted muscle. Not bad for a guy north of forty. Griff still measured himself against the hotshots in the field. But in my book he had nothing to worry about; I’d take the stable, wise, worn-in model over a wet behind the ear, swagger every time.
He pried my fingers from his skin and walked toward the bathroom still grunting into the phone.
I slipped into my bathrobe and headed for the kitchen. I have my morning priorities and since the first one was interrupted by Griff’s phone, coffee comes in a close second.
Twenty minutes later he joined me dressed in his usual attire, jeans, boots, tee shirt and sport jacket. Coming up behind me, he nuzzled my neck as I poured Breakfast Blend into a travel mug. Coffee splashed onto the counter top.
“Gotta run,” he said taking the cup from my hand.
“Not sure yet. That was John. He said he could use a hand.
Griff flinched like I’d landed one to his gut.
“Sorry,” I said. “Cheap shot.”
“Woman found dead early this morning.”
“When’s he going to admit that he can’t run the department with a pint of scotch sloshing around in his gut?”
“The job’s all he’s got left, makes it hard to let go.”
“I’m just saying that he shouldn’t be head of CID. Not now. I’m surprised Haggerty has put up with it this long.”
“There’s a lot going down at the precinct. Internal Affairs is having a field day after that meth bust.
They’ve got so many guys on leave right now that a bottle of Dewar’s in John’s desk is the least of Haggerty’s problems.”
“I just don’t want you to get sucked into CID.”
He slipped his hands inside my robe and nuzzled my neck. “No chance of that. Nobody on the force feels like this.”
I pushed him away halfheartedly.
I’ll call you when I know what’s going on.”
The door closed behind him.
I sank onto a kitchen chair and flipped open the People magazine lying on the table. Griff and I had just finished an investigation for an heiress in the diamond industry whose sticky handed husband had resorted to blackmailing her brother as a way around their pre-nup. The ink on her twenty-thousand-dollar check made out to Cole & Co. was still wet. And being that I was the & Co. part of the check, I’d earned a leisurely morning.
The phone rang just as I was getting to the interview with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell on the secrets of a long-term relationship. Caller ID told me it was Katie Nightingale, our go-to girl at the office. Katie kept track of everything from appointments to finances to take-out menus.
I lifted the phone and hit ‘answer’.
“Britt?” Katie spoke before I had a chance, never a good sign.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“What makes her missing? It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours.”
“The woman who called said her sister was leaving an abusive husband and was supposed to let her know when she was safe by ringing the phone once at seven-thirty. The call never came. Now she can’t get hold of her. She said her sister carries your card in her wallet.”
“What’s her name?”
“The woman who called is Beth Jones. Her sister is Shirley Trudeau.”
I nodded into the phone. I can’t remember every woman I encounter, but Shirley’s name rang a bell. Since giving up my position as a Family Law attorney with Hughes and Sandown, I’d been offering free legal aid for women who needed advice but couldn’t afford it. Mostly I worked with wives trying to extricate themselves from abusive marriages. Given the reason I’d abandoned my law career, it was the least I could do. Shirley hadn’t been living at the women’s shelter, but she’d spent enough time there to have Sandra, the shelter’s director, hook her up with me.
“And Beth thinks Shirley’s husband found her?”
“That’s what it sounded like once she’d calmed down enough to form actual words.”
“I’m on my way.”
I set the phone down, making a mental note to call Sandra. She’d upgraded from a caseworker in Connecticut to Director in Portland, Maine a few months ago. I’d stopped by her office to introduce myself when she started and left my business cards. Our paths didn’t cross that often but we respected each other’s work and always took a few minutes to chat. I knew she’d been on the swim team in college and that she could bench-press her weight. We were close in age and like minded when it came to the politics of non-profits. No doubt Beth Jones had called her too.
After a shower and a quick clean up of last night’s wine glasses, Chinese takeout containers and clothes that we’d left strewn around the living room, I locked the apartment door and began my fifteen-minute trek to our office on Middle Street. I savored my walk through the Old Port, the name given to Portland, Maine’s waterfront. The summer heat that a month ago had my shirt stuck tight against my back was a thing of the past and the snow and ice that would make walking an athletic event had not yet arrived. The cool, crisp air was like a shot of espresso. As long as I didn’t let my mind wander to what nature had in store, I could enjoy the rush.
I hit “contacts” on my phone and scanned the names for Sandra’s.
“Sandra, it’s Britt,” I said when she answered. “I wish this was a social call, but it’s not. Shirley Trudeau is missing.
“I know. Her sister called this morning. I’m on my way in now. How did you find out?”
“Her sister hired us to find her. “Was someone helping her leave?”
“She had a caseworker, but I wasn’t in on the plan. I’ll know more once I get to my office and talk to the person she was working with.”
“Okay if I call you later?”
“I don’t know how much I’ll be able to tell you. You know the rules. If she was on her way…”
I stopped mid-stride and lowered the phone from my ear. Sandra’s voice slipped away. That dead body that Griff went to look at… my gut said, Shirley Trudeau.