Death in Nostalgia City

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: crime novel

Author creates a good fracking mystery; here’s how she dug up the story

1

By Sherry Knowlton

Topical issues that affect real people are a perfect foundation upon which to construct a suspense novel. And you can’t get much more topical than fracking mixed with government and corporate corruption.  The research I did into fracking uncovered environmental nightmares and much more. That’s why I chose it as the backdrop for my new Alexa Williams novel, Dead of Spring. 

I’ve long considered myself an environmentalist, so I’ve followed the evolution of fracking quite closely, both here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  In my day job, I interact a lot with Pennsylvania state government. That’s given me a front row seat to the contentious debate about whether the Commonwealth should tax fracking companies.  I’ve been concerned that the negative impact of fracking on people and the environment has been overshadowed by the drive for energy independence and economic growth.  That’s what I wanted to explore in Dead of Spring – in a suspense story context.

But what exactly is fracking?  It’s the commonly used term for a natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing.  This process is unique in that the gas wells are drilled, first vertically, and then at a 90-degree angle that can extend as much as a mile both down into the earth and parallel to the surface.  The process has opened up huge swaths of geologic formations known as shale to gas drilling.  In Pennsylvania, the region that is being fracked is known as the Marcellus Shale. 

Fracking has its pros and cons.  It has opened up new reserves of natural gas, lowering energy costs and helping reduce the US reliance on foreign oil. And advocates argue that natural gas is cleaner burning than coal and other fossil fuels.  But the drilling process uses a slurry of toxic chemicals, releases methane into the air and can degrade water supplies. The injection of the fracking waste back into the ground has caused earthquakes.  Oklahoma’s dramatic increase in earthquake activity is well-publicized. Maryland and New York have banned new fracking activity.  But, other states have welcomed fracking’s economic boost. Needless to say, fracking is a controversial issue. 

One of my most useful bits of research came when I visited a landowner in northern Pennsylvania who had leased his land to an energy company for fracking.  He leased in the early days of fracking and was unaware of the problems he might encounter.  He shared his experience by showing me his photographs of the process that transformed his property. A beautiful woodland that step by step by step turned into an acre of gravel and machinery.  Pristine drinking water that now requires constant filtering just for showers and bathing. Battles with the energy company about compensation for various problems. Although I did considerable additional research, that visit was most enlightening.  Continue Reading →

Could you disappear?

4
By Lori L. Robinett
First of two parts

Hunted, a current TV show, takes regular people and sends them on the run, hunted by professionals. Think how difficult that would be.  Even those in witness protection are sometimes found. But what if you had to hide? Imagine, you witness a murder and the bad guys know you’ve seen their faces, or you’re wrongly accused of a horrible crime.  Perhaps the authorities have confused you with a terrorist who shares your name or, like the main character in my new book, Fatal Obsession, you are pregnant and your unborn child is the subject of an experiment that holds the key to curing cancer, and a rich, powerful man is determined to harvest that research.  Could you disappear?

Consider all the interactions you have with individuals, how many contacts you have, the fingerprints you leave everywhere you go—virtual and real. And consider the sacrifices you would have to make to truly disappear. Could you do it?  The better question is, how?

Cash – Surviving requires money, and this means cash. No more credit cards, no more ATMs, no more PayPal. If you’re like most people, you might have a small amount of cash on you, but how much do you truly have available? If you had to run right now, you could hit an ATM as soon as you leave home and withdraw as much as possible, but most banks limit how much you can withdraw in a day—and you don’t have the luxury of waiting around to withdraw more tomorrow.

By going to the ATM, you’re leaving 2 trails – a digital trail of the withdrawal, plus a visual trail because there is now camera footage of you at the ATM (so the authorities now know what you look like). 

So, what else can you do? Grab things before you bug out that can be converted to cash, like jewelry, watches, cameras and small electronics. Think about things that can be sold for cash at a pawn shop. You’ll be leaving another trail there, because pawn shops keep records, so you want to pawn these things as quickly as possible, as close to home as possible, so you don’t tell your hunters which direction you’re going.

Social media –  Delete all your social media accounts and your email accounts. Delete absolutely everything. Destroy any hard drives that you leave behind. Bear in mind, deleting online accounts doesn’t actually get rid of anything. Once something is on the Net, it’s there forever. That said, you don’t want to make it easy for your hunters or have anything to show up on social media that allows someone else to tag you and thus expose you. Continue Reading →

Darkness and light in this Tahoe thriller

0
Tahoe Dark
Todd Borg
341 Pages
Thriller Press  August 2016
Trade Paper $16.95 Kindle $3.99 or free with Kindle unlimited

One of my favorite flavors of mystery is the story that includes more than one serious crime.  The reader struggles not only to figure out whodunit but also to determine if the crimes are connected.  If you think you have a line on a promising suspect, you have to ask yourself, is this person also involved in the other crime(s)?

This mystery device complicates a story in ways that draw you in and appeals to both your left and right brain.  Todd Borg does this admirably in his 14th Owen McKenna mystery, Tahoe Dark.

And it starts with a bang.  David Montrop’s son is kidnapped and ransomed.  Montrop is forced to empty his bank account by tormentors who seem to know his every move.  Next, he’s killed with something rarely considered a weapon.  

 When private detective Owen McKenna’s phone rings, it’s the Reno police telling him the murder victim left a note suggesting McKenna as the likely murderer.  That sets McKenna off on a quest to find out why he was singled out by the victim and who really killed Montrop and kidnapped his son. 

Soon, an armored car is robbed in State Line, Nev., by four armed men in menacing hockey masks.  The armored car company president hires McKenna to find the robbers and the money. 

See the connection?  Is there one?  If so, it stretches from Lake Tahoe to Reno and runs through more law enforcement jurisdictions than you can imagine necessary to patrol one lake, albeit the largest alpine lake in North America.

 One of the appealing aspects of the book, and there are many, is Borg’s creation of an engaging, complex victim/suspect.  She’s a seemingly vulnerable, impoverished house cleaner who appears to have connections to all the crimes in McKenna’s world.  In Tahoe Dark, that world includes additional victims murdered in a most unusual, original and gruesome way.  The murder scenes are as chilling as he’s written in 14 books.  Try not to visualize.

You will also learn fascinating, if gross details about maggots in dead bodies delivered by forensic entomologist, Street Casey, McKenna’s girlfriend:

“Street told me that when an animal or person dies, the average length of time before a fly finds it and lays eggs is ten minutes.” 

One of the funniest lines in the book involves these bugs.  But I won’t spoil it. There are other good lines:

“I wondered if we could find out what it [a substance with an unusual odor] was without waiting two weeks to get a lab test.  So I asked this woman at the office who’s got a killer sniffer.  You know,  the kind who can smell a scent and say it’s a Lady Slipper orchid or the cleaning solution they used on the floor at the main post office in Bakersfield.”

You expect a PI to pop off snappy lines like this, don’t you?  Borg doesn’t disappoint, even offering a line about another PI:

“The couch faced a TV so old it had probably broadcast original episodes of The Rockford Files.”

Borg fans will be pleased to see his continuing characters including Casey, Tahoe cop Diamond Martinez and of course Spot, McKenna’s Great Dane sidekick.

Borg muses on the grandeur of the lake and the Sierra providing a contrast between the beauty of nature and the ugliness of murder.  In Tahoe Dark, Borg offers both light and shadow, and he does this with assurance.

%d bloggers like this: