Following a near death experience, twenty-five-year old Arie Stiles decides she might as well take the job nobody else wants: a crime scene clean-up technician. It’s good money, which she could use, and death doesn’t hold a lot of mystery for her.
Or so she thinks.
Arie isn’t on the job long before discovering she’s been “gifted” with a new psychic talent—the ability to scry. Whether she wants to or not, Arie can read the memories of the dead in their blood.
When she is assigned to clean the crime scene of Marissa Mason, the socialite author of the best-selling gold-diggers' bible, Arie finds herself haunted by blood visions day and night, and to her shock discovers an unexpected family connection to the victim. With her brother suffering the unwanted attention of the police as the primary suspect, can Arie face her fear of the blood visions long enough to follow the trail of clues left in the murdered woman's memories and find the real culprit?
The small room felt like a coffin, hot and stifling, all the air used up in the swelter. People always talked about Wisconsin as if it only had winters, but summer, though as fleeting as a butterfly kiss, also carried a punch.
If there was any air conditioning in the office, Arie couldn’t feel it. The one small window had two file cabinets jammed up against it. Dusty manuals and three-ring binders piled on top killed off any hope of fresh air. Arie angled her arms away from her sides, irrationally hoping for a stray breeze to offset the dark circles forming there. Another trickle of sweat slid down her spine, pooling along the waistband of her skirt.
The man sat silently across the table from Arie. Basil Gallo wore his cropped black hair short, tight to his scalp, broken only by a crescent-shaped scar over his left ear. The scar trailed across the side of his head like a little pink worm.
Arie tugged at the scarf she’d used to hide her own wound curling at the base of her throat. The fabric was itchy and didn’t help matters with the heat, but with only a few months having passed since the attack, the gash was still puffy and an ugly dark red. She hated it.
Gallo’s leg jiggled manically as though he was trying to siphon off an overflow of energy. Darting black eyes scanned the wad of papers he clasped.
Arie couldn’t help staring at his hands. When not scrutinizing papers, he gestured wildly, accenting every statement with emphatic jabs of his stubby fingers. Dark patches of silky hair scattered ever so lightly across his knuckles, adding shadows to the movement. His hands were so clean. Her gaze returned like a cognitive tic to stare at his hands, wondering how he got them so clean. Nobody else would notice or even care, probably, unless they knew what this man did for a living.
She needed this job. And considering the nature of it, she hadn’t thought there would be a lot of contenders for the position. But the stack of applications next to the guy’s elbow was disconcerting.
Arie cleared her throat nervously. Gallo looked up sharply, but she had already plastered on an appropriately pleasant expression. Her left eye twitched at the effort. She faked a cough into her fist, using the distraction to scoot back in the chair. Her pantyhose were in full mutiny; one side half-twisted clockwise in an attempt to cut off the circulation to her leg, and the other surrendered to a snag that, despite a blob of iridescent Tango Mango nail polish, threatened to uncase her thigh like an over-boiled sausage. She silently cursed her mother’s relentless indoctrination in “how to be a lady.” What other twenty-five-year-old wore pantyhose these days?
He pronounced it “Airy,” an image she would never relate to.
“It’s Arie, like the initials R. E. Arie Stiles.” They were the initials for her given name, which Arie told only to the IRS and God. She tugged at the scarf again.
“Fine. Arie. What makes you think this is something you can handle? It ain’t like TV. I don’t care what you see on those stupid crime shows. There’s nothing exciting about death.”
Arie was tempted to tell him just how familiar with death she really was, but she wasn’t sure whether that would make her appear more qualified or just weird. Instead, she merely said, “I know it’s not. Blood doesn’t bother me—other people’s, that is.”
She didn’t think it did, anyway.
“Blood is the least of it. Wait ’til you go home and find someone’s brain stuck on your shoe. Besides, it’s the smell that gets to people.”
She swallowed hard. “The . . . um?”
“Smell. Death has a smell. It gets in your clothes, your hair, your mouth, everywhere. You’re gonna be tasting it days later. I’m tellin’ you. It gets inside you.” Smiling, Gallo tapped the cage of bone that protected his heart, assuming he had one.
“Providing this kind of service”—his eyes held Arie’s, as though daring her to challenge the euphemism—“is not for the weak. We take care of the problems no one else can handle.” His hand—that clean hand—cut through the air, sweeping the “problems” away. “Don’t kid yourself that this is just some small-town outfit. We’re right here next to the I-94 corridor. We run jobs from Madison to Milwaukee and wherever else we need to. We go in; we handle the situation. We’re what you might call the specialists of death.” His fingers twitched quote marks over the last few words.
“It’s nice that you take, um, pride in your work.” An errant, sweat-dampened tendril of brown hair flopped over one of Arie’s eyes.
“What d’you expect? It’s a business.” Gallo squinted at her. “That’s what you gotta keep telling yourself. A business. Keep the emotions out of it. And what you gotta ask yourself is: Can you do it? Can you handle it?”
Arie cleared her throat. Could she?
“Don’t forget,” he added. “If you work up to full time, after a year, you get three sick days and a week’s vacation. Also health insurance. It’s crappy, and the premiums are killing me, but still.”
Thank goodness. Death had benefits.
Scrying Shame is a unique and funny romantic suspense. Arie (pronounced RE) is a survivor, literally. She's died and come back, yet she bounces back. She's takes everything in her life and turns it around best she can yet still getting herself into trouble at almost every turn. She's her own comic relief and had me giggling right when I needed it in the story line. At the beginning the story was a bit slow for me. However, when you're building a series that happens and the author has to lay the base for the whole set. Scrying Shame is a quirky, gut wrenching adventurous romantic suspense with a touch of paranormal I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre.
I give Scrying Shame...
I give Scrying Shame...
Donna White Glaser is the author of The Letty Whittaker 12 Step Mystery series and the Blood Visions Paranormal Mystery series. She is a psychotherapist and lives northwestern Wisconsin. As if that weren’t enough, she and her husband own a residential construction company where it’s Donna’s job to deal with any overly emotional, what-do-you-mean-you-can’t-put-roof-trusses-up-in-a-thunderstorm? clients. Strangely enough, she often comes up with ideas for creative murders and hiding bodies during business hours. Currently she is at work on the fifth Letty Whittaker 12-Step Mystery, THE LIES WE TELL and is plotting the second in the Blood Visions series, SCRY ME A RIVER. Donna would love to hear from you via her website at www.donnawhiteglaser.com or on Twitter: @readdonnaglaser.